"Pequeño, pequeño," Ana marvels at the small holes in the gray limestone and checks the skin on her fingertips. Until a few days ago, the 21-year-old Spaniard thought she would spend the entire summer training indoors in Madrid. Now, with a broad grin on her face, her boyfriend Simon drops her off in the heart of the Krottenseer Forest, thrilled that she embraced his spontaneous idea. The rugged terrain and the Franconian caves suit her taste perfectly. This is her first rock climbing experience beyond the borders of Spain!

Ana Belén Argudo Marugan and Simon Padin live in their 20-year-old, petrol-blue VW van, and climbing is their life. Both have dedicated years to competing in international youth competitions. However, two years ago, partly influenced by the pandemic, they decided to focus exclusively on rock climbing. Simon visited EDELRID headquarters in early summer to take part in a photo shoot for the upcoming season. He chose to combine this with a day of route setting at the E9 bouldering gym in Nuremberg. And what better way to complement this passion for climbing than a trip to the birthplace of redpointing?

Simon originally hails from Argentina but has made Spain his home for many years. Even during his teenage years, he was acquainted with the renowned Franconian Jura. In this picturesque region, he first encountered climbing videos featuring his idols daringly challenging gravity on the demanding Franconian routes. Back then, the idea of visiting this place and attempting climbs of such difficulty seemed utterly unimaginable. "For us, it holds immense significance to journey here and ascend some of the classics spread across these countless climbing areas. Particularly because this region has witnessed the creation of so much climbing history," he remarks after spending a few days in Franconia. Ana shares his enthusiasm, no longer yearning for her indoor training sessions. "I love the Franconian Jura. The surroundings are beautiful, so many fields, meadows, flowers, and small villages, not to mention those traditional inns with their not-so-small portions and huge pieces of cake," she laughs and continues: "And what we especially like is the forest. We feel right at home here!"

Their primary objective for this trip is undoubtedly climbing: tackling challenging, fissured, overhanging routes. "The rock is similar to our home climbing spots of Cuenca or Margalef, but not as abrasive and therefore a bit kinder to the skin," says Ana. In 2022, in Cuenca, she achieved a monumental milestone by conquering her first 9a route, Cordia Maleficarum. This remarkable accomplishment marked her as only the second climber, following Alex Garriga, to ascend the route founded by Dani Andrara. During her month-long projecting, Simon, despite being injured at the time, provided unwavering support. He ingeniously borrowed a different car from a different cousin for each day of climbing throughout March, as their own van required repairs. Simon would drive Ana two hours from Madrid to Cuenca for each session, offering belaying, motivation, beta assistance, and then tirelessly chauffeuring his exhausted girlfriend back to Madrid in the evening before returning the borrowed car. There were instances when they made the lengthy trip in vain, misled by inaccurate weather forecasts that rendered climbing conditions unsuitable. Yet, no matter the obstacles they faced, surrender was never an option. Even today, reflecting on this journey, both of them radiate joy and motivation, cherishing the memories they created together.

Motivation plays a big role in their life. Since his youth, Simon has had a mantra: EAM—escalar a muerte. This means "give it all" or "go big or go home!" For Simon, it means not only giving everything for his goal on a route but also for the trappings of life in general. "This mantra has been my guiding principle for a long time. For a while, I classified nearly everything as either EAM or non-EAM. If I drank water, it was EAM. A big slice of Franconian cake would have been the complete opposite of EAM," he exclaims cheerfully. "Ana has instilled the try hard mentality into our relationship from the very beginning. She always finds a way to motivate me, whether it's for projects or overcoming an injury."

On their trip through the Wiesent, Trubach, and Pegnitz valleys, the couple discovered a good blend of small-scale challenges, iconic classics, and enjoyable climbs. They retraced the steps of Kurt Albert and climbed Sautanz (7b+ | 9-) and the photogenic Supernase (8) in Gößweinstein. Ana impressively flashed Wolfgang Güllich's Slimline (8a+ | 10-) and took only two days to conquer Roof Warrior (8c | 10+/11-), even in the scorching summer heat. Simon had come across the legendary tale of Jerry Moffat's barefoot first ascent of Ekel, the first German 9+ (7c+), in Moffat's book Revelations. This inspired the two to venture to Obertrubach and tackle this iconic roof.

"For us, it wasn't solely about pushing our limits or projecting specific grades or routes. We wanted to follow in the footsteps of our idols, get to know the area and the cultural peculiarities," says Simon, with Ana adding, "It was so cool to be able to climb some of the routes that weave the narrative of sport climbing, the same ones we read about extensively back home. This trip together was very special for both of us, and one thing is certain—we will be back, perhaps sooner than expected!"