Preparing the climb for this project was a challenging task. By climbing this route on Mount Oujdad (Baraka-680 m, 7b), Claudiu and Jaggi wanted to inspire young people with disabilities to overcome their predicament.
Claudiu is a former Balkanic champion at bouldering, a very strong climber and very sport oriented person. Unfortunately he got ill with chronic rheumatoid arthritis and he had to stop his competition climbing career. His joints are still affected and can not support hard, long or sustained climbing.
Jaggi is a lawyer from Delhi, India and we became friends at the Climbathon a year before. He was born with a congenital defect and has a fused left elbow and an underdeveloped shoulder but he is passionate about climbing aand mountains and a very optimistic person.
Along with Cosmin we started to prepare the route. We were planning for a long climb with 2 nights to spend on the wall. It took us 2 hours to get a part of our heavy equipment at the base. We carried a double portaledge, 2 static ropes, 2 dynamic ropes and lots of quickdraws, carabiners, jumars, pulleys and the most important of all: water.
I led the first pitch on the first day at afternoon. I remember I could not trust the quality of the rock. Back in Romania this color of limestone is usually very loose and poor quality. Here, in Taghia it seemed to be very compact and solid. Until I got used to it I fell twice on the short crux from the first pitch. Then Cosmin led the second and just before sunset I finished leading the third pitch, placed a fixed line here and abseiled. This last pitch was extremely nice and long, mostly vertical and with a small overhang, good holds but slightly long moves. The plan was to get back the next day with the entire team and let Claudiu and Jaggi taste the beginning of the route.
I knew our task was more than just being guides on this route or to ensure the safety of the participant and filming crew (Nora Dorian:) .We had to figure out if this route could be actually climbed entirely under the given circumstances and these guys condition. We had to be always on the wall to help where it was needed, and to set everything in place for a quick descent in case something happens. Contributing to form a partnership between the two and rely on each other’s complementary skills was important as well.
The climbing began slowly and pulling up the gear was even slower. But everybody was confident and we were impressed to witness a team’s desire to give it’s best. This time, Nora was also on the wall, shooting and filming. The climbing continued during the night and Claudiu and Jaggi reached the highest point which was previously equipped. I felt tired after hauling the bags up the wall and Cosmin started to mount the portaledge. Claudiu and Jaggi endured well the last part of the day in the wind and the cold that came along with the nightfall. Their physical drawback has been doubled by inner strength during moments in which most of us would have given up, exhausted. For Jaggi this was a new experience and he handled it remarkably.
After midnight I got back down at the base of the wall and I fell asleep among the rocks which served as pillow and mattress. Claudiu and Jaggi spent the night in the portaledge. The next day everybody woke up late and we felt that a decision had to be made. There were still many pitches left to climb and at this pace we probably needed two more days and two more portaledges to be carried up. Time was short so the entire team decided to get down. But the climbing was not over yet. Neither Claudiu, nor Jaggi wanted to go home without at least getting to the top of Oujdad. Both of them were tired but they managed to overcome this state. Their strength motivated us all and the next day we chose to climb Oujdad again on a faster and easier route on the opposite part of the mountain. Hours later we reached the top. The true meaning of getting there was to give hope, to prove that overcoming what seems to be impossible is the key and i remember Jaggi’s words while standing on top : ” never give up”.
We got back to the village and we enjoyed the food and the shower. There was this peaceful feeling to wake up in the morning at the sound of chicken and donkeys and have a hot mint tea. We gathered a little bit of energy and for our last day in this place we went climbing again on some short sport climbing routes.