Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Madrid - La Pedriza

A strong, familiar smell of fur trees. Crisp and cold morning, holding the promise of an adventure, pleasant to wake up to with a cup of coffee. Birds, loudly preparing for the mating season, appeared to appreciate the setting as much as the suspicious and overly numerous two-legged visitors. The cordially flowing stream looked just right, and the granite, the eternal stone, was all around us. La Pedriza, Spanish version of Yosemite in the US, Eldorado in Switzerland, or Val di Mello in Italy, generously shared its priceless spring moments with us.

Although not very high, granite school it is, only 1h north from Madrid, in the Sierra de Madrid, or Sierra de Guadarrama, part of the central mountain chain in Spain. This incredible country seems to have mountains close to any city you might visit! It is also one of those places where climbing has started early and boldly. The classic routes here are classic not only for the climbing, but mainly for the run-outs and dare-devil features, head game for both, leader and follower, as many are famous for endless unprotected traverses.

Above is the view of one of the main formations, the Pajaro (top left). We started the reconnaissance with the Este route, or Via Pedro Ramos, opened in 1959. It remains a test piece famous for the second pitch, unprotected Columna de Hercules, rated at 5+ (that famous 5+ grade, as disconcerting here as in Chamonix...). Here is me, already scared enough starting up the first pitch:

Menos mal, as say the Spanish, we had a local guide with us, Gonzalo, that spearheaded the second pitch, and kept us in solo mood for the remaining slabs to the top of the tower. Next, we headed for the neighboring classic, the Sur route, first done in 1935. Apparently, when these routes were opened, pendulums were originally done instead of the scary traverses so in fashion today. Below is myself on the beautiful Escudo - sword - pitch, before i started aiding it (normally free at 6c).

Cracks and more cracks, Cathy following another one on the polished walls:

We also paid a visit to the Hueso, or the Bone. It is named so for the feature on the picture below. It is also famous for the Espolon de Hueso, or La Fulgencia (for Fulgencio Casado) route, opened in 1972-73 by some more young and bold climbers. The frist pitch climbs the chimney (if done on the outside) or offwidth (if, as usually, done on the inside by the scared leader-the gallina). There is only one, old and rusty, bolt, about 40m from the ground...We dared only a top rope to pay our chicken dues.

We headed instead to Tito Rollin Bus, 1976 wonder, on the left of La Fulgencia route, exhibiting some more bolts - and unforgiving granite slabs. This reminded me very much of the Crest Jewel route on the North Dome in Yosemite. I had enough head power to do the second and third pitch in one long 50m, and we successfully rapped after examining the prospects of the traverse (usual 5+) pitch without gear on the following pitch...Below Cathy following:

One of the lessons from La Pedriza - do not get on Galvez routes, that guy was too strong, and as Spanish say, sometimes he just forgot to put an extra bolt...Seeing pictures of him with old torn shoes on 7b in the 80ies makes you understand why some friction moves might have felt different to him than to all other humans.

La Pedriza still holds many jewels, such as the Caballo Blanco route on Yelmo - but that´s when i grow up enough cojones to lead - the traverse, or find someone nice enough to lead it for me! Below the true and capable inhabitants of the rock:

To know more about this place, there is a book, Pedriza: Historia de 32 sends de la vertical from Desnivel, very nice historic picture-filled account of the crazy first ascents going on in Spain.

(most pictures here and in the next post by Cathy!)

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