Monday, 4 November 2013

Our Trip So Far

Cath in a sea of spanish limestone heaven

We're Off

So in August Cath and I both quit our jobs, rented our house out and headed off for 15 months of climbing…….. Woohoo!

We're off!!!!! Woohoo!

First stop Nowra

Not the most obvious choice for a long climbing trip but our good friends Neil and Kathy had decided to tie the knot in Kangaroo Valley, a very beautiful spot just near Nowra.
We spent a couple of days climbing little sport routes there, which was fun and we stayed in a lovely little town called Greenwell Point. Nothing too notable, except dinner at the local pub while the local darts teams were in action! Who knew darts teams still existed!

Neil raps in on his wedding day

Neil And Kathy's Wedding

We relocated to Kangaroo Valley and Neil being Neil, we all went climbing the morning of his wedding at Point Perpendicular, known for its easy access and straightforward climbing (NOT).
All went smoothly however and Neil even managed to bolt a new pitch and still got back for the wedding in time, which some others only just managed.

The wedding itself was wonderful, set in a beautiful natural rock amphitheater and full of lots of unique Neil and Kathy touches. The ceremony was followed by drinks watching the sunset, an amazing dinner, and dancing (not so amazing when I was involved).

Neil And Kathy, such a beautiful day

Our last night in Oz

Back to Greenwell Point and dinner at the local bowels club. Wow it’s been a while since I have been to a country bowls club and they never fail to disappoint. Roast of the day, cheap beer and wine, friendly people and a meat raffle! What more could you ask for? But wait there’s more - in the random trivia question Cath won a free drink by being the first to guess the name and artist of the song they played (Billy Joel’s Piano Man). Oh yeah... leaving Oz with a BANG!


It takes a long time to get to Spain. All up 40 hours door to door from Nowra to Abella de la Conca. We arrived in Barcelona, rented a car, and drove 2.5 hours to Abella de la Conca where my friend Nick lives, and who we will be staying with on and off for the next little while.

It was great to catch up with Nick, meet Ella properly and meet their two kids, Illian and Owen.
It had been about 10 years since I saw Nick, and the last time was in Morocco, where we were getting slapped about by and old Moroccan man in his tighty whiteys in the guise of a massage, but that’s another story.

Abella de la Conca

The beautiful town of Abella de la Conca

Abella is a beautiful old town perched on a cliff side. The church at the top of town is 11th century, which to us Australians seems particularly old! It's a great place to be based for visiting some world class climbing areas around Catalunya including Terradets, Oliana, and Villanova de Meia among many others with the added bonus that Nick knows all the short cuts and bata!

Nick and Ella’s home is a wonderful old stone house, which they are currently renovating and should be amazing when finished. Their 2 kids, Illian and Owen are delightful. Illian is very energetic and at 2 and a bit knows almost 4 languages.

Isona is the closest town with shops and the small grocery sells seconds from the chocolate factory nearby in big slabs. Cath was very happy.

It was still quite hot in northern Spain and with most of the crags south facing, we needed to chase the shade. We spent a few days in Abella on some challenging techy routes - who says Spain grades are soft! A real highlight was walking the canyon below Abella, swimming in the pools at the bottom and playing on the natural water slide.

Owen had his first bithday while we were there, and just let me say, we need more first birthdays if they are all that good! We drank champagne and ate chocolate cake until all hours - long after the  birthday boy was asleep in bed!


Due to the heat and because Nick planned to go there for his birthday we headed to Margelef.
There is a lot more shade here and some softer ticks for us!! J

Check out those guns!

We spent two weeks in Margalef with our first week staying at the Tres Pins Hotel where we were introduced the the Spanish Plats Combinats. This consists of salad followed by a slab of meat, eggs and chips and some sort of dessert to finish off. After six nights this was becoming somewhat monotonous, especially as breakfast was much the same - eggs, bacon, bread and cheese.

The rock is conglomerate and the climbing involved mostly pulling on pockets where the pebbles had fallen out. The climbing is generally fun up to around 7a+ and then the pockets start to get small, shallow and the routes steep. This meant that our fingers started to get sore!

We had a lovely rest day in Taragona – looking at an old roman coliseum, church and other ruins, followed by some nice tappas for lunch. We guessed from the menu and had plate of cured meat and a tomato salad.

Nick's birthday weekend in Margalef was loads of fun. We all got lots of climbing done and lots of merriment afterwards ( plus more champagne!)

Chillin' with a Catalan beer with lemon at Roca de Finestra
After our week at Tres Pins we moved to the Roca de Finestra hostel, hosted by the friendly Jordi. We were able to cook our own meals here and escape the Plats Combinats!

Another rest day was spent exploring Sirruana, and having lunch in a cliff top café where we stuffed ourselves silly not realizing how big plates of food would be.

Our last day climbing at Margalef was a particularly good one. Cath ticked 7a! her first of the trip and a good sign of things to come!

We then had a day climbing a Sirruana – wow I wish we had spent more time here.
I did my favorite climb of the trip up to this point onsighting to the first anchor of Rauxa 7a+ and almost getting the to the second anchor (7b) at L’Aparador.


From Sirruana we headed to Cavallers in the foot of the Pyranees. On the way we stopped at a sheep cheese place that Nick recommended and I bought nearly a kilo of cheese. So tasty!

The dam and granite cliffs around Cavallers, this was truly a magical spot to go climbing and hiking!

Cavallers is a beautiful mountain area, with more 11th century churches, which are Unesco listed.  The landscape is a stunning alpine granite area.

On our first night we stopped for a glass of red at a small bar with great view, which turned into a bottle and a three-course meal. Best food so far (except for Nick’s cooking!) Green apple sorbet, local sirloin steak and braised pork cheek.

Our first full day we headed out climbing. The climbing was on immaculate granite sport slabs with features and we had a blast of a day! The next day we walked the Marmot trail, which provided us with stunning views of the valley and mountainous areas, all the time passing mountain cattle with giant cow bells, creating a true alpine soundtrack.



From Cavallers we headed to Rodellar. Wow what a place - so many steep caves and tufas, it’s amazing. We camped at Muscun campground, which was nice and quiet as we were apparently in off season, but conditions were great.

The climbing was great, although the easy stuff was quite polished. We both got a bit of a slap in the face on the steep tufas and were determined to learn how to climb them more efficiently and use the knee pads! We visited a more vertical wall called La Polermo where I onsighted 7b and Cath did a 7a second shot. 
Big caves at Rodellar

Picking grapes with CJ
I then discovered a route called Pince Sans Rire (7b+) which is amazing tufa climbing involving a large amount of pinching and a few run outs. My best effort on the route was falling from the  jugs just below the  anchor having skipped last clip (couldn’t let go to clip it). Amazing climbing, and a definite learning experience in tufa climbing.
Cath got shut down on a bouldery 7b – after which she purchased a ‘panic’ stick clip, which is already getting some use.

While at Rodellar we bumped into CJ and Anna and hung out with them at Kalandruka hostel. Simon Young also turned up a couple of days before we left. We had a good day climbing with him and then had a nice dinner cooked for us. He needs to turn up more often where we are climbing!!


Park Guell

After a week in Rodellar, we headed to Barcelona where we planned to meet friends from home Bec, Duncan, Meg and Mark. At dinner out in Barcelona, Duncan (who is vegetarian) ate the best olives he has ever had and surprisingly they are stuffed with anchovies. 

We spent the day wandering around town and visiting Park Guell. That night a storm rolled in and we got an amazing lightening show over Barcelona from the hostel balcony. Just as the rain stopped we made a beeline for dinner, going to a place called Tappas 24. We got a table outside, which was perfect timing as while we ate we watched a queue form around the corner of people wanting to eat there. The line was justified, as the food was simply amazing, and some of the best we ate in Spain.

The next day we planned to visit the Sagrada Familia early to beat the massive queues we saw there the day before. Unfortunately I woke up with a bad cold and stayed in bed while the others went. L

That afternoon we said goodbye to the bustle of Barcelona and drove back to  peaceful Abella for the annual town festival – “festa major”. All the towns in Catalunya have an annual festival, which each have their own character. Abella's festival included dinner, which is plate after plate of MEAT. Bec (who is currently vegan) indulged her weakness for blood sausage much to our amusement. After dinner there was lots of waltzing through the night to an accordion player, which was loads of fun. One of the local women tried to set Bec up with her son Sergio – Bec gracefully declined after a couple of waltzes!!

The next day after a necessary sleep in we all climbed in Abella and went up to the impressive arches, the harder lines and projects here look amazing!!

Finally the weather started to cool slightly (sort of) and we headed to Terradets, such a cool crag. We do a bunch of 7a-b’s and I spied Occident (7c) which I’m super psyched to return for.

Giant croissant - delicious!
Marks hip is playing up after his Nose in a Day attempt in Yosemite, So Meg and him head to his parents early. Was great spending time with them, pity it was so short. On the way to dropping them at the train station we stopped at an amazing bakery in Artesa de Segre and bought the biggest croissant you can imagine. And it is awesome. The bakery also has so many other amazing good to try including a huge variety of pizza slices.

On our second day at Terradets I had my first try at Occident. It felt hard but doable. I had 3 burns and was totally wasted but returned two days later and sent it first try of the day, so stoked!

Another great crag we visited was Collegats  (la Pedrera) where there are some great long routes including a three star  45 metre 7a+. Adding to the fun of the day was the access which involved a tyrolean over a river.

Rest days – Rest days in Abella staying with Nick usually turn out to be not so restful as he easily talks us into helping with the renovations with a sly french smile! This can involve anything from concreting, which Duncan and I now know very well, to lacquering a floor or anything else he sneaks in on us! Its all good fun though to see his and Ella’s dream coming together in a beautiful eco refugio. We can’t wait to see it all finished as it will be beautiful.

We all spent a day at Tres Ponts, where the climbing was good and interesting, although the easier stuff wasn’t the most amazing.  I managed to onsite a 7b+, by the skin of my teeth!
That night we had a fun camp stove dinner with with Bec and Duncan in a little kids park on the outskirts of a small town near Tres Ponts. We bid farewell to Duncan and Bec as they slowly make there way back to various flights to different parts of the world.

Cath and I decided to finish off this part of the trip with an “easy” multi-pitch day at Vilanova de Meia. We did a route called  Musical Express, which was 6 pitches (6b+ crux pitch). It was very high quality rock, consistently fun moves on mostly good holds, and all up a great day out.

Barcelona part 2

Sagrada Familia

For our last two days in Spain, Cath and I returned to Barcelona for some rest and to visit the Sagrada Familia, which we missed last time as I was sick.
On our first night we went down to Barcelona beach which was a bit of a tourist debacle, but on the way home we stumble across an excellent burger joint and indulged in a large burger each! Cath got the 'Aussie burger' with beetroot to remind her of home.

The next morning we got up early to beat the queues to the Sagrada Familia. I’m not religious but the Sagrada Familia is amazing and the architecture and scale of the build is mind-boggling! They have been building it since 1882 and still don't have a finishing date.

On our final night we stumbled across a food and wine festival and sample loads of amazing food from all over the place and some very nice wine and beer as well.

All in all an excellent last day in Spain – Culture and Food!!

Next morning we are up and begin the journey to Kalymnos, a Greek island and climbers paradise!

For more photos of our adventure please click here Spain Photo's

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