Sport Climbing In the Winter sunshine in Spain - trip report and photos December 26 2014
Fabulous 6b+ (21) at Arboli, with Siurana village in background and Monsant in far distance
Hola from sunny Spain. After a year of planning, my daughter Jemimah and I are finally here for 5 weeks of clipping bolts in the winter sun. While researching for the trip, I was staggered at the amount of rock and number of world class climbing areas in Spain. After agonizing over which areas to leave out, I decided on the following itinerary: fly into Barcelona, 8 days in Siurana, 6 days in Chulilla, 10 days in Costa Blanca, 10 days in El Chorro, then fly out of Madrid.
Some practical stuff: STA travel were very good to deal with and found us cheap flights with Qatar Airlines, which had a good layby arrangement to pay the airfares over a 6 month period. I pre-booked accommodation in all the places – Siurana Camping, El Altico at Chulilla, Orange House at Costa Blanca and La Finca Campagna at El chorro. On average we are paying 30 euros a night for a private 2 bed room with shared bathroom. I hired a car from Do You Spain for 590 euros for 35 days. I also bought all the guidebooks we needed a few months ago, to build the psyche, get a tick list and concentrate on the crags that had lots of routes in our grade range, mainly 6a (18) to 7a+ (24/25)
Jemimah insisted on a day of sightseeing per 2 days of climbing, but I said she could sight see out the window of the car on the way to the next crag. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the 2 nights in Barcelona and the La Sagrada Familia cathedral, still under construction after 100 years. It was well worth a visit.
Two hours drive from Barcelona brought us to the 11th century castle and village of Siurana, perched most unlikely on a cliff bound promontory. Several kilometres of unbroken, beautiful looking orange cliffs drop down from the plateau surrounding the village, and across the valley is another massive line of cliffs at Arboli, and the gobsmacking continuous line of conglomerate crags on the mountain of Monsant, a climbing paradise.
The accomodation and facilities at Siurana Camping, run by local legend Toni Arbones, were excellent. Toni has himself, bolted over 1000 routes in Spain. Just this week he bolted and led another 7 new routes. We bought food in Reus, 25km away, and occasionally stocked up at the limited local supermarket in Cornudella, plus treated ourselves to the delicious paella at the camp restaurant.
Jemimah at Siurana
We did 11 routes in 4 days at Siurana, 2 routes at Margalef, 3 routes at Arboli and another at Monsant. The best crag and best quality rock in the region was El Falco at Arboli, a glorious 40m sweep of perfect orange limestone, and the sustained excellence of one of the 6c’s (22) was memorable. Some of the rock at Siurana looked terrible on appearance, like compacted orange mud, but the climbing was terrific and the rock excellent and solid. Typical routes in our range were crimpy and a bit sharp, with the occasional surprising pocket. A highlight was watching Dani Andrada working a 9a (grade 35) project and his mate next to him on La rambla (9a+ - 36), one of the most
famous routes in the world – stratospheric. Funny though that every man and his dog seems to be climbing near that level in Europe. In Australia they’d be rock stars, but La rambla gets ticked pretty regularly by Joe Bloggs from Russia or some other place. One truly world class sector was at Monsant, a continuous line of conglomerate cliffs extending for 10km or so on a high mountain ridge. We did a 6b+ (21) at El Raco Missi, a 30m pitch of steep, sustained pockets the whole way – brilliant.
The crag we climbed at Margalef - Raco espadelles
El Raco Missi at Monsant.
7a (24) at Arboli
The cliffs are pretty much grid bolted, and they have bolted a lot of rubbish here, stuff I wouldn’t bother with back home – some wouldn’t get a star at Cataract Gorge – but I guess there are so many climbers visiting from all over the world, they have catered for people of all abilities. At one crag, we shared the cliff with people from Germany, France, Belgium, Norway, Russia, England, Spain and America. There is a vast amount of brilliant sport climbing here in Tarragona province, but it has also made me appreciate what we have in Tassie. While there is nowhere near the volume of routes, cliffs such as Bare Rock at Fingal, the Star Factory, Mt Brown, Organ Pipes, the Tyndalls and even some of the routes at Hillwood, really stack up well in terms of rock quality and excellence of movement.
Cliffs at Monsant
I’m writing this article at Chulilla on xmas day, about 3 hours south of Siurana. Literally a stone’s throw from the kitchen door of our hostel, is one of the most mind blowing climbing areas I’ve ever seen, an astonishing limestone gorge with a continuous line of 80m high orange cliffs with over 800 sport routes. Stay tuned for the next installment of our adventures in Chulilla. Buenas noches and a Merry Christmas