Sunday, May 17, 2009

Camarasa, the New Infatuation

We went to Camarasa for sport climbing this w-end. I did not have many expectations, as we have driven past the spot, and I have wondered several times where the climbing could potentially be. But then again, by car, you quickly enter into a tunnel, and do not really realize what the whole canyon is about. Below is the view to the dam from the top sector of la Selva (there is a climber in the top right corner) :

Finally, this w-end we realized - and there goes my favorite sport-climbing destination in Cataluna so far (probably closely followed by La Mussara) - Camarasa the beautiful. Like many crags around here, it has undergone several waves of development, the most recent one by Albert Cortes and friends. They actually discovered two brand new sectors on the top part of the canyon, named Fashion and la Selva, that they cleaned from the bush, provided with a via ferrata access, and numerous bolts. Now there are about 250 fully bolted routes in Camarasa - and, as usual, no up-to-date guidebook. The place has been made popular by Escalar, Desnivel's magazine, with some high-profile pictures of high-profile Spanish climbers having fun with the rock there. A big thanks to Albert for showing us around - and, what's more, doing the hard and merciless work of crag development. Below, the team exploring the routes:

Below is the picture of one of the lower zones, La Pasarela, where you belay from the walkway along the lake over the dam, with water effects and cool exposure as your perks:

Down below, near the road, is another sector, where we started the experience of agujeros, the pocket world!

That's the story - and here are the pictures. First try that left a lot of good taste in my mouth. An upcoming visit has to happen soon!!! Here is the wanna-be sport climber in action:

Lastly, a view of another neighboring wall, Pared de Dol, an intriguing sign of the endless adventure land, the beautiful Cataluna en primavera! (most pictures by Chris and Cathy)

Kudoos to Marc and Armin!!!

Good job, guys, and thanks to Tom Evans for live pics :)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Cuando uno se enamora las cuadrillas
del tiempo hacen escala en el olvido
la desdicha se llena de milagros
el miedo se convierte en osadía
y la muerte no sale de su cueva

enamorarse es un presagio gratis
una ventana abierta al árbol nuevo
una proeza de los sentimientos
una bonanza casi insoportable
y un ejercicio contra el infortunio

por el contrario desenamorarse
es ver el cuerpo como es y no
como la otra mirada lo inventaba
es regresar más pobre al viejo enigma
y dar con la tristeza en el espejo

(M. Benedetti)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pared de Cataluña, or big wall Catalan style

This w-end saw some of our ambition come true as we headed for Montrebei. The naming is very confusing in this part of the world, so to get is straight, the pre-Pyrenees range going from Terradets gorge to Montrebei gorge is called Montsec Oeste or Montsec d'Ares, it includes such walls as Pared de Begasses (Terradets), Font Freda, Pared de Ager, and finally Pared de Cataluña (Montrebei). I suppose that the range stops an Pared de Cataluña (to the right in the picture above, a closer look in the picture below), although I am not exactly certain.

Nevertheless, on the other side of the gorge there is Pared de Aragon, another equally big wall, already part of Aragon, but also part of Montrebei from what i gather (picture below). Cataluña or Aragon, both walls form a gorge and are very attractive to a climber's eye. They involve around 400 meters of vertical to overhanging terrain, mainly adventure style, with numerous aid and trad lines going up this immense sea of limestone. Moreover, these walls go on for kilometers on one side of the gorge and another. Yes, this country is a rock paradise, and please correct me if anyone is more advanced than myself with the naming game!

Anyway, we climbed a route on Pared de Cataluña, called Diedro Gris. It is one of the two easiest routes up this impressive wall whose description mercifully does not include the use of pitons or any other extended aiding technique. We even did not include the recommended friend 4 in our material list after several climbing parties told us we did not really need it on the route (and true, we did not). The approach starts with the walk-in down a spectacular man-made path through the gorge, a popular hiking destination for its own sake. It looks something like this (path in the middle left of the picture) :

The full view of the walls comes in after the gorge (when approaching from the North), displayed in the inverse order in this post. Then the business of actually getting to the top of these monsters has to begin, and it is as intimidating or more as it looks, even for the easiest route out there! Also, the Cataluña wall is in the shade until at least two, so our first pitches were pretty cold, painful and laborious. Here is Cathy with full clothing following the 6th pitch, another very impressive 5+. That is basically when we began taking pictures, meaning that sun finally hit us and our mood significantly improved.

Below is Cathy two more pitches up, getting slowly undressed and starting to enjoy the experience, exposure, and view, the perks of the climbing trade. I liked the second half of the climb very much. The 6a crux of the route is an amazing side-pull-bridge-and-don't-get-scared roof on gear, nicely led by Cath just before this pic, hence the big grin:

And, this is the view from the top, with snow-capped Pyrenees fading through the over-exposure of my camera - but they are there, waiting for the conqueror, god, or just a lost tourist, believe me, i know!

PS - some pictures (the best ones) are courtesy of Cathy