Monday, September 29, 2008

Montserrat Cavall Bernat

Montserrat is mainly known to tourists as the mountain where the 11th century abbey of the Black Virgin is. It is also a climbers´ paradise to the North of Barcelona that is filled with Aguilles of various shapes and sizes, with walls of up to 300 meters. The rock is a very compact conglomerate, that in places reminds of Riglos de Mallos, and in places looks like pure yellowish limestone.

There are supposedly over 4000 climbing routes in Montserrat and several guidebooks. Still following the 100 best routes in Cataluña guidebook, we chose the first one on the list - going up the most outstanding Aguille in Montserrat called Cavall Bernat (picture of Cavall below).

The route is called Punsola Reniu and is truly very enjoyable. It starts with a couple of easy pitches to get one into the conglomerate spirit, and than ends with outstanding 6b pitches on the top vertical part. The exposure gets tremendous very quickly as Montserrat is a stand-alone mountain (similar to Montagne Sainte Victoire in France for example), and the view looks something like this:

The surroundings offer numerous possibilities for exploration, hiking, mountain biking, and certainly more climbing - view of the conglomerate labyrinth below:


After my last math classes on Saturday i just had enough time to get out for an afternoon of climbing in Garraf natural park. It is a very relaxing spot South of Barcelona, on the road to Sitges and with a nice view of the beach for added value:

First we did the Reversa route on Puig Martell, an easy 4-pitch undertaking mentioned in the 100 best climbs of Cataluña book. It said to bring trad gear along, but it was hardly needed as the route is well bolted today. This is the wall with the route going in the middle left of the picture, following the dihedral and than the obvious roofs:

We finished the day with one-pitch climbs at Penya Ginesta area, 5 min from the car (directions here) on very good quality limestone of moderate difficulty to please all involved! Last evening look at Casteldefels beach and time to go home:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Barcelona Merce

Barcelona celebrates its day on September 24, and the fiesta usually goes on for a week around that date. The celebration is recent, dating back to only the nineteenth century. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Merce, that supposedly saved the city from plague during the Middle Ages. It comprises different carnavals, fireworks, wine tastings, concerts, giants parade and other usual ingredients of a fiesta.

The most interesting and unusual tradition are the Castellrs - human castles built by teams from different neighbourhoods of the city that go up several floors with 2, 3, or 4 people as a base. This is a purely catalan tradition that originated somewhere in the 18th century. The participants range from biggest men on the bottom and children on top (see below photo of prepartion for the castel).

The result looks like the pictures below and the success is complete when everyone gets safely back to the ground. Sometimes the Castell does collapse, but there are so many people down low that rarely anyone gets hurt.

One of the most difficult figures we saw at the Merce - Castel of eight floors with a base of two (apparently it can go up to 10 floors):

And to finish this Barna-love post, here is a portrait of a goose, another mascote of Barcelona. Eulalia, the official patron, became a martyr when only 13 during the persecution of christians in the roman times. As she used to keep geese before the persecution started, these fat specimen are kept at the cloister of the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia to remember the saint virgin.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pedraforca, Pollego Infrerior

Next stop has been in the vicinity of Berga (very good pastry shop in the center square), - Pedraforca. It is one of those stand-alone wonders with breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys. Located near the village of Saldes, this mountain is very popular with hikers and mushroom-hunters as well, given that there is a welcoming refuge at around 15 min from the road.

We did not stay at the refuge, but only tried the Chors Pienque route on Cara Sur del Pollego Inferior. I say try because we only managed the first 4 pitches, all rather sustained friction climbing on slabby limestone and whimped out of the last 6c pitch.

We finished the day hiking up to the summit col and back down to the road.

The most picturesque Milka-cows were waiting for us to take a picture in the forest below:

St Llorenç de Munt

Since Ren came over to visit, we bought our first spanish guidebook, 100 best climbs in Cataluña, borrowed some maps and talked to Spanish climbers (thanks, Jorge!) - all that with the objective to go out and explore the neighboring gardens of pleasure.

The first stop, one hour from Barna, has been the park of St Llorenc de Munt, on the north side of Montserrat and Matadepera village. Only 10 min walk from the car, these towers greeted us:

And offered first experiences on conglomerate before even starting with Montserrat.

The route, La que Faltaba on the Pared de la Falconera, is only 4 pitches long, but provides for very nice views and exposure. The road makes for some noise - but that is the price to pay for the 10 min approach and 5 min walk-off...

Travel Resume - Spain Special

TOURISM - my new home
- Barcelona and its song and its fiesta la Merce
- Granada and again
- Madrid and Prado and again and again
- Toledo

Around Barcelona (1hr Radius):
      * Garraf limestone
      * Gelida, and more, best limestone of Penedes, many 6s, even more 7s...
      * Aiguafreda, sandstone paradise of Grau dels Matxos
      * St Llorenç de Munt multipitch (La que Faltaba), and sport climbing

Montserrat Cara Norte:
      * La Punsola en Cavall Bernat
      * Fraguel Rock en Aeri 
      * Valentin Casanovas en Aeri
      * Sanchez Martinez en Pared de Diables
      * Cade en Agulla del Centenar, Frares

Montserrat Sant Benet

Montserrat Cara Sur:
      * la Desdentegada sport and again
      * la Rush and again
      * la BuscaBrega
      * el Vianant and again
      * Sprint Final
      * Lourdes

Heading North:
- Montgrony and again in Ripolles
- Coronas
- Gran Fajol in Ripolles

- Riugreixer close to Berga
- Pedraforca, closest "mountain" to Barcelona 
- Narieda, Alt Urgell, multipitch
- Col de Nargo, sport climbing in Alt Urgell
- Pared Bucolica, Obaga Negra, multipitch and sport in Alt Urgell
- Perles, sport climbing
- Tres Ponts, sport climbing and again

- Vilanova de Meiá in Montsec
- Cubells
- Camarasa the beautiful
- Raco del Segre
- Ager sport climbing
- Terradets in Montsec
- Bruixes
- Collegats
- St Llorenç de Montgai
- Os de Balaguer
- Ager

- Montrebei, Pared de Cataluna - Diedro Gris, the most serious and engaged multipitch in pre-Pyrennees

- Val de Boi, Cavallers sport climbing, and more on African Wall
- Ventosa
- Aiguestortes/Capucin Deja-Vu

Heading South:
- La Mussara and Montsant
- La Mussara again and Vilaplana de Prades
- la Riba
- Raco de Misa
- Masriudoms

In Aragon:
- Mallos de Riglos multipitch
- Rodellar and again and again

Other Spain:
- Sella, Costa Blanca, close to Alicante
- Chulilla
- La Pedriza, Madrid
- Patones, Madrid
- Naranjo de Bulness, Picos de Europa

- Formigal (ski resort, Aragonian Pyrenees)

Here is the list of various useful climbing links for Cataluña and Spain:

Climbing sites- good intro to Cataluna climbing in English with pictures here but also under development new project by Par, ClimbInSpain
- Desnivel - the best climbing journal in Spain
- MadTeam - general, forum
- Escalador - general, forum
- Rocsandpics - general
- Ressenyes - Cataluña summary
- Desnivel topos for various regions
- CaraNorte - more general, forums, piar
- OnaClimb - good selection of info on Cataluña and Spain
- FEEC - gov't agency for Cataluña, refugios page, also forums available (catalan)
- Kpujo - Montserrat topos, forum, and even a webcam from the Monestary
- Amador - has copies of Costa Brava and other topos in "otras zonas de escalada"
- Coronn has info in English on El Chorro and Prades
- Centellas access blog
- Alt Urgell blog
- Col de Nargo blog
- Gelida topos (easy right) and the harder left side
- St Llorenc del Munt topos
- Pared de Cataluna and other topos

- Climbat - bouldering gym, Barcelona
- Freebloc - bouldering gym, Barcelona
- Fess - bouldering gym, Barcelona

- transportation in Barcelona TMB- train FGC, Barcelona cercanias and RENFE
- bus from Barcelona to alrededores Alsea
- bus service Andorra-Barcelona
- Weather MeteoRed
- Weather Cataluña
- Shoe resoling, Barcelona

Friday, September 12, 2008

Barcelona (Giulia & los Tellarini)

I have not seen Woody's new movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but i hear the soundtrack is really good - and it talks about my new home city :

Giulia & los Tellarini's MySpace page here with more pieces, like Buenos Aires or Mi nina.

And here are some views of the modern Barna in the sun as i see it:
Via Olympica

Port Forum on rollerblades

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Narieda, Alt Urgell

I have started exploring the Barcelona alrededores, it is a beautiful countryside with perfect weather.

Cathy has shown me around and told me some interesting stories about her previous experiences. Her photo of the Urgell valley of the pre- Pyrenees below:

And here is a very useful blog for the Alt Urgell region and the topo of the route we did :

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hokusai and Hiroshige

Wondering through Barna, I stumbled upon this exhibition at la Pedrera of Japanese wood prints from the Ukiyo-e school (Edo period, 17-19th centuries). Brought to the light from the dusty shelves of Bibliotheque Nationale de France, these prints are incredible in their mastery of execution and strong feelings they manage to convey with a lightness of a pen stroke. They create an atmosphere of refinement and fantasy, and are based on totally different premises than art in the West.

Two painters that both worked in the first half of the 19th century summerized the beauty of this trend, derived from caligraphy, and that has a distant relation to symbolism and romanticism that was going on in Europe at the same time : Hokusai and Hiroshige.

Hokusai, who started painting at around six, and used over thirty different names during his life, is most famous for his series of thirty six views of Mount Fuji. The sacred Japanese vulcano obsessed him like lillies, hay stacks or cathedrals did Monet. He also published a very famous book of Mangas (12 voloumes of comic sketches) that has influeced modern Japanese manga production.

Hiroshige became famous soon after Hokusai and continued ukiyo-e tradition after Hokusai died. Hiroshige, a favorite of Van Gogh´s and other impressionists, started first as a royal fireman, and devoted his life to art the year Hokusai published his series of Mount Fuji views. One of his most famous work is a series illustrating his journey from Edo to Kiyoto, the so called Tocaido road. More of this series here.

In a nutshell, the exhibition is definitely worth a stop, it is still on until September 14th, and it is free!