Photos Johannes Fiedler
The end of December was in sight. Christmas had come and gone. Now all that was left was brief days and interminable nights spent working on the ambulance treating drunken revellers. I had the mid-winter blues and something had to be done. Uneasy with my questionable relationship status and depressed from a vitamin D deficiency, I contacted everyone I knew that might be Spain. Within a few days I had booked a one-way flight to Valencia. Destination: Chulilla. I had conned Max, a happy-go-lucky Belgium climber that spends the winter months traveling Spain, to host me in his van. We had met in Spain the year before.
Standards gradually slid. That slow but inevitable descent into hobo-ism that comes from living in a van. I forgot the last time I had a shower, what day it was, even the time became secondary. 'Hey Max, why is it suddenly busy with these non-climbers?' I asked. 'Must be the weekend’. Sure enough it was a Saturday, and Valencian day trippers were parking town cars amongst the hulking transits. I was cleansed of my pretenses of fashion, style and hygiene. In a place where it's still acceptable to have mullets, anything goes.
The New Year's Eve party was a pleasantly nutty, hazy affair. The smell of marijuana mixed with that of beer, b.o. and dreads. The barmaid handed out champagne flutes of grapes and I started eating them. 'Non non non' she chastised, wagging her finger. They were intended to be eaten at midnight, a grape for each hour of the bell toll. Imagine a bar packed with climbers off their heads, shoveling grapes into their mouths. Now I've seen it all. It was at once surreal and hilarious. I stumbled back to the van after the sound-system over-heated for the second time. It was some time between 2 and 4am. 'Jerome, on va escaladé dur cette année!' Was the last thing Max hollered at me before passing out.
Jerome Mowat Climber and writer. Based in Sheffield and London.