Last year Louie and I took a trip to France to celebrate our honeymoon. We have the fortune of knowing two wonderful people who lived in France then, and now in Spain. Together Bruce and Alisa run Raison d’Art, a summer retreat for youth and adults. Their programs include Spanish language emersion, art, culinary, rock climbing, and yoga. Bruce and Louie have been climbing together for decades. We were invited out for a climbing trip as part of our honeymoon, and since we all got along fabulously, Louie and I came back again this year to Spain!
YOUTUBE TRIP VIDEO
(A few highlights from our trip to France last year)
Love Lock Bridge and The Eiffel Tower.
Saint Antonin where Bruce and Alise used to live, and Russan climbing crag.
Coliseum in Niemes, one of the world’s best reserved.
One of two ways in to Russan. The other is a walk around… boring!
New besties, Bruce and Alisa.
Bruce and Alisa’s home in Saint Antonin, and us the love birds outdoors!
Sixteen days of traveling in Spain is still not enough time to climb even the tiniest fraction of rock in the specific areas we were in. Bruce and Alisa live in the Catalunya, near Girona. The first leg of our trip was centered around their home.
Jet lagged, catching up on the 8 hour time difference.
Pinxtos are the epic and Catalunyan version of tapas.
A night out in Girona, good eats, good wine, and excellent company.
Our first crag was Sardernes. It is located in the North eastern part of Catalunya in a Espacio de Interes Natural, similar to a National Forest. It’s about 50 minutes to an hour from their home. Many go there to hike the trails, camp, and enjoy the outdoors. There are lots of well kept dirt roads, old homes, an ancient church, and the local hostel with a restaurant. The flat hike in on a wide road follows the d’Escales River, and routes begin immediately on the left.
Wise sending words.
One of the many bridge crossings in the area.
Heading to the first wall in Sardernes.
We started on the left wall, a walk of about 5 minutes to Castell s’Espasa. I’ve never been on Spanish Limestone before, and wasn’t sure what to expect from the many descriptions I’ve heard. It’s a sedimentary rock, mostly formed by skeletons of marine organisms. In certain conditions water can erode the rock, leading to leaks and drips on tall walls, long bands of tufas, and deep caves just to name a few spectacular finds this trip. In the Sardernes area long sections of climbing walls stretch high above where the river cuts through.
Castell s’Espasa wall in Sardernes.
On the same route you can find spiny holds that stick to your fingers with prickly barbs, and slick eroded water treated feet. The first few warm ups were in the mid 6 range to help me acclimate. As I soon found, Limestone offers an incredible variety of climbing on each wall and each route.
Fantastic routes in all grades. Louie on a warm up.
Further down this wall were more difficult climbs. Bruce and Alisa picked out the best lines for us, and they had great beta to share. I sent Calandra, 7a+ on lead, first go. A longer line, a little steep at the end, and a quick send before the rain came. My mind was set and strong on taking each opportunity to climb as a chance to reach my potential on this trip. And, per my last blog, to not create any more ‘missed opportunities’. I really surprised myself the first day, and I felt like the trip was off to the best start possible. Louie would say he had no doubts, and I started to see his point of view. Everyone had a great first day of climbing, and sending!
Calandra, 7a+ with a storm brewing in the hills.
Our second day of climbing we traveled to Bellavista. This area is (mas o menos) more or less directly East of Sardernes. It has the same back roads feel as heading to Sardernes, with a little more of a rural appeal to it. A short moderate to steep hike up to the wall ledge is filled with trail traverses, trees that hug the path, a small amount of easy boulder clambering, and ends with offering a spectacular view (hence bella vista or beautiful view). The wall feels a little more exposed, as you are perched up on a cliff band with a reasonably wide foot path. Mostly you can be lowered down to the ledge, but some awesomely overhung areas lower you into the bushes just below.
The Bellavista crag and it’s walls. Bellavista wall in top center.
Emerging from the trees on the hike to the wall.
The Bellavista wall rising before us.
I started this day off with a bang too. I roped up right away, lead the first climb, and placed all the draws. I tend to let my husband lead first, but it is good practice to place your own gear. I sent Blues is Here, 7a first go. It was a fantastic climb. The lower section is a tough boulder problem. The fun starts with your feet comfortable on a ledge and your hands on a round bulb at the lip of the overhanging bulge. Moving up there is a right hand side pull, tiny feet tucked up high, and a mono pocket for your left hand. Luckily, I was able to get two fingers into the pocket, which made the long move right to a large crimp and then moderate jug a bit easier. After this section you really put your feet to work. A short nervous left traverse is complicated by slippery feet glazed by water dripping from above. But without the water there would be no glorious tufas ahead to climb. The middle section of the route follows the back stepping, feet stemming, pumpy line of tufas that carry you near exhaustion. If you can keep your cool the top eases up a bit, with larger but sharper holds, some with prickly spines. A complete package on one route.
The view from the wall, and what a beautiful view it is!
The lower section of Blues is Here, 7a.
I wish I had more brilliant sends to report on this day, but alas, mother nature and my “lady time” got the best of me. I wouldn’t even mention it, but I know a few strong gals out there reading this, and all I can say is I sympathize with the agony and exhaustion that is brought on. A serious buzz kill!
Mid section of Blues is Here.
Just before moving into the tufa section on Blues is Here.
Bruce and Louie worked the line Bellavista 7c with gusto. A bit steeper and more aggressive, this is a powerful line I could definitely come back for.
A much needed day of rest followed the first two of climbing. I didn’t realize how much it was needed until our second leg of the trip when the wear and tear really set it from a two week long climbing trip. Giving your body time to recover is vastly important. Bruce and Louie traveled to France on an errand, and I slept in. It was a good day to sort through the GoPro footage. There was a short trip to the Mediterranean beach on a hazy day.
Stonewear Sprinter Capri and Dryflex Double Cross Top.
The Mediterranean Sea.
Took the dogs for a beach romp.
Feeling restored we all returned to Sadernes the next day. We climbed at Cova Del Bisbe, which is the right wall and opposite the one we climbed the first day. The drive and approach on the main road was exactly the same, except we had to cross the river to reach the wall. The slippery rocks in the river were a fun challenge. There’s not much of a base to speak of, as the trees crop the wall closely and the base drops sharply away into the bushes. You kinda make camp where the flattest area is, and rope up on the sloped rock base. It’s a long wall actually, and walking up and down it through the winding tree filled path takes some time. Higher up on the left side of the wall is a few moderate slabby climbs to warm up on. After those we all aimed high and sent harder. I climbed Lliure 7a+ and Louie sent the same right after me.
Fun river crossing that changes with the water and seasons.
Surprisingly steep wall once you are at the foot of it.
Lliure dished out a surprise ending for me. The beginning was gentle, yet technical. The scoop it starts on quickly turns vertical. The steepness sneaks up on you before you know it. As I peered up at the last 20 feet I was sure the send was mine. Then all the features disappear leaving you with an exact sequence. I was hesitant to move quickly, not wanting to blow the redpoint. Right hand diagonal crimp, left hand horizontal hold, feet high, and move for the jug in one dynamic push. My first attempt was very uneasy, so I backed down before the toss. Now I was gripped. As best I could I shook out both my arms, staring worriedly up at the sequence. Then I saw a thin, vertical, crimpy flake. I was recharged, knowing I could squeeze my little fingers behind it. I used the flake to gain a few more vertical feet, and was able to see more options. It appeared I could shuffle my hands across a slopey section to the jug instead of throwing for it. The send was mine, and I was so proud that I outwitted my own nerves!
The couple that climbs Lliure together…
A beautiful route, on a steep wall.
Sunday Day 6 in the afternoon we all four traveled to Pals. This Medieval town dates back to the 4th century. It’s know for its Torre de les Hores, Tower of the Hours clock at the town’s center, and the four square towers on the perimeter were used for defense. One of the many pleasures of traveling in Europe is the ancient buildings still sturdily standing today.
View from Pals, overlooking the valley.
Tower of defense.
Lighting the streets, old school style, fire!
Strolling the streets of Pals.
Day 7 we embarked on our second leg of the Spain Expedition. The Lleida region borders the left side of Catalunya. The city of Tremp is at the epicenter of a crag explosion. Team Anderson headed out!
A note on my mental progress to date. Ratings are really subjective. In the states the system is based on the Yosemite Decimal of 5 (5.10, 5.11, 5.12 etc.). This system doesn’t line up nicely with the European rating system. Basically, reaching a new grade level, for instance moving from 5.11d to sending 5.12a is monumental, and likewise 6c+ to 7a. However, 6c+ is 11c and 7a is 11d. Not until you reach 7a+ do you cross over into 5.12a. What I’m saying is… climb your own level. I spent seven days on this trip not asking what route grades were because what did it really matter, and to whom? I top roped many climbs. Some I found so inspiring I had to pull the rope and lead it. I also peered up at routes that energized me with inspiration, and so I climbed those on lead too.
Feeling optimistic after the first few crags and climbs!
I tried to stay in a grade range to help challenge myself, but challenge is a subjective word too. What challenges me doesn’t necessarily challenge someone else. I lead toward my strengths (overhung, bouldery, powerful) because I haven’t spent much time on crimps or falling on vertical walls wile leading. The latter actually used to be my strengths, but opening a bouldering gym has given me power in new areas, and hindered me in others. Just like my struggle to balance running and climbing. Training is give and take, and you have the power to decide where you dedicate your efforts and to what means.
While I focus on rope climbing, specifically leading sport, I find myself at a new frontier. Projecting. I’ll write more about that struggle, and the real fear of climbing with my next blog entry about the second leg of our trip.
*****Mad Rock Gear: Lotus and Lyra climbing shoes.
Stonewear Gear: Venus Dress, Serie Top, Fuse Tank, Sportee Shirt, Liberty Capri, Sprinter Capri, and Dryflex Double Cross Top.