Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ViIlanova, New Affection

Above is the photo of one of the nicest walls close to home - Roca dels Arcs in Vilanova de Meia. It has recently become one of my new favorites in Cataluña climbing. Pictures from climbing Rampas Invertidas and the first three pitches of Pasatgers del Vent below:
Have to come back there, spring season is calling! There is a climber on the picture below (crazy French throwing stones for all the numerous hours they spent on the route...)

Bajame una Estrella

Miriam Garcia Pascual is one of the shadow women of the climbing community worth a thought. I just finished reading her short and only Bajame una Estrella. She died climbing in the Meru Norte, in India, at 26, in an avalanche. The book is a kind of a diary with pictures from her trip from Yosemite to Patagonia, passing by Cordiliera Blanca. Familiar and unfamiliar grounds - and good, inspiring and emotional writing. Not sure how relevant it could be to the non-climbing herd, but it definitely speaks to the rat inside of any self-respecting climber...The paradox of the freedom call, the pleasure of risking one´s life - this actually is an interesting compliment reading with Fukuyama´s "End of the World" i´m into right now. Anyway, there goes a though for Miriam, looking up to her estrella.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Madrid - Patones

To rest our mind, we also stopped at Patones, the sport limestone paradise-crag. This was closer to what i understand as proper climbing, with big (should i say huge...) holds and pleasant bolting. We loved the place so much that we kept coming back - and have to come back more. It is a paradise for people leading 6s, although apparently Andrada also trained around here. Below myself on a brilliant 6a+, Eperon Elisa, on the Parking wall.

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!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Vilanova de Meiá or Girls Can Climb

This w-end was a perfect spring, or is it already almost summer, time had with good friends on the rocks. After last-minute changes we finished in Vilanova de Meiá. The first day we sampled our skills with Amatista on Pas Nou wall (a good overview of the area here), a sustained 6a on big shiny bolts. Here is Cathy finishing one of the pitches:

With the gained confidence, the second day saw an all-feminine ascent of Wild Planet on Roca dels Arcs, following a very appealing line in the center of the main wall, through some impressive orange overhangs and huge roofs. We were very satisfied and used each other´s strengths well to manage this route in a well organized and executed ascent - Olé to Silvia, Cathy and myelf :)! Below is the view in the middle of my aid lead of pitch 2, down on the happily belaying team:

A team was following us, this is the view on the impressive overhanging wall from the belay after pitch 3´s traverse:

And this is Silvia in a movie-like setting mastering the aid on pitch 3, hey, girls can climb!!!

The weather, the climb, the setting - everything was perfect, i can´t restrain from posting more pictures, this is the team following the dihedral of pitch 5:

And, finally, the way down, with the view on Paret de Zaratustra and the impressive shade of just-climbed Roca dels Arcs:

And here is the original topo with the new rebolting in 2008 of the aid sections (still hanging on a couple of alliens required on pitch 3). And - don´t take Vilanova´s 5+ gear run-outs lightly, even if girls can do it!

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Thought for the Mouton

A thought for the fox, baobabs, and the mouton.
Anyway, very nice online version when you need a break here.

An interesting information I was not aware of from the all-knowing Wiki:

"In March 2008, a former Luftwaffe pilot, 85-year-old Horst Rippert, told La Provence, a Marseille newspaper, that he engaged and downed a P-38 Lightning on July 31, 1944 in the area where Saint Exupéry's plane was found.[12][13][14] According to Rippert, he was on a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean sea when he saw a P-38 with a French emblem behind him near Toulon.[15] Rippert says he opened fire at the P-38, which crashed into the sea."....

Monday, March 02, 2009

Col de Nargo

This w-end reminded us again we were still in winter, although it was its almost last day. Col de Nargo has mainly one-pitch routes, but it is a great setting for taking pictures. Here is the village of Col de Nargo itself below, with a not-to-miss climbing bar that holds topos of the surrounding Perles, roca Narieda, and Col de Nargo itself:

Here is Cathy still believing it is spring:

And Gonzalo showing us how it is done:

And me failing on another climb because not believing it is spring anymore: