Thursday, 5 April 2012

It Never Rains...It Pours By Jen Wilby

It Never Rains...It Pours
Firstly I'd like to apologise for my poor spelling on the previous blogs. I'd like to blame it on the fact that after 3 months in Spain, my brain has forgotten Englosh and is now 100% Spanish. However that would be a lie. Also - there are a lack of photos due to poor internet connections! Photos will be uploaded once I get some speed.
So far the road trip has taken us to the following places:
El Cogul
Santa Linya
Tres Ponts
St Llorenc de Montgai
Also De Balaguer
After leaving Margalef with screaming tendons, it was time to do some mileage at Tarterau near Lleida. It is a great little crag, with blind climbing. Which suits me as I don't know whats comming next so I can't get freaked out :)
The 2 stand out routes for me were Anima Negra and Anima Blanca. I had tried Anima Negra last year, however the crux move is my nightmare! Its off a huge rounded ball, with your feet beneath you. My poor little hands don't seem to get any contact strength on rounded holds, no matter how large they are! With brut force and ignorance it went - very enjoyable route.
We decided to check out Tres Ponts which is near Oliana. We very nearly didnt make it due to a fantastic food market being held in nearby Organya. Within minutes I had lost my climbing partner in the sea of stalls and people. I figured I had better join in the free tasting bonanza! A few euros lighter and a few pounds heavier we arrived at Tres Ponts - AMAZING!!! The rock is nothing like what we have enountered so far. Its a steep wall of grey limestone with minimal tufas and a lot of undercuts and side pulls - very much reminding me of Malham. The most striking line is Els Inconformistes, which cruves along the middle of the crag.
The only issue we had with Tres Ponts was how cold it got post mid day. It got cold - very cold. We set up camp pretty much next to the motorway (thank goodness for the investment I made in ear plugs!) and managed to stick the cold out for a few days.
With the cold - Tres Ponts gave me a new personal low - falling off a 6a+ due to freezing cold hands! (I probably shouldn't advertise this fact but I thought I'd mix the personal highs up with the personal lows!).
The highlight of the last few days was putting my clips in a 7b. A route with big holds and big moves. I physically couldnt do the crux move which involved getting my heel pretty much in my face and rocking up to a huge undercut. Following a period of anger and cursing, I clipped to clipped it and retreated as quickly as possible off the rock. ANGRY was the term :) I planned to try it the next day - but by then we were ready to leave the cold weather and my psyche was low. However - I had to get my clips back - oops. Wierdly the route went, first go, with no warm up. That was the best way to get my clips back!
As we were parked so close to the motorway, we couldnt help but notice the number of very expensive cars driving through from Andorra. It was only 20km away - so we thought "why not?". Believing we would not need our passports, we had an amusing time trying to dig them out of the van at the border. They were not amused! We entered Andorra and was greeted with cheap fuel and duty free shops. A world away from our usual spanish retreats.
Andorra is beautifully located in the mountains, with nothing else to see. We filled outselves with pancakes and beer, the van with cheap petrol and headed to Oliana. Not before border control asked for our passports again - realised it was us and promptly said "its OK keep going!".
RAIN RAIN RAIN when we woke up at Oliana so we retreated back to Terradets in the hope the weather would improve - it didnt just rain, it poured. We had one of the biggest rain storms I have ever seen for 3 long days! Thankfully we found refuge under the shelter at the abandoned train station in Cellars, which soon turned into a car park:
Train Station at Terradets during the rain storm
3 long days it rained for and for 3 long days after the rock was wet. We had a small light of hope that the Cova Gran would be dry - how bad can it be?! Its steep and we are in Spain. Error! Clear blue sky and the cave was raining inside. The seepage was unreal. My heart sank. I had to close the chapter on my projects there.
We searched for dry rock and heard Ager might be dry - it was!!! HURRAH! However, for us it was not an inspiring crag. The setting is phenominal and you often get to see paragliders making their way down the hillside - but the climbing was not for us. We decided to continue the search. On the drive out of the field we had 2 options 1) drive on the dry part of the field 2) drive through the muddy part of the field. For reasons still unknown to me, the driver chose option 2!!! We got stuck! Thank you to the nice Spainish man who towed us out using an inventive tow rope (quick draws!).
We retreated to the St Llorenc caves which are 2 impressive caves which were dry. After the steep walk up, we saw everyone leaving...turns out after mid day it gets phenominally hot. What a confusing day this was turning out to be!
We had friends due to arrive for a weeks holiday - most of which were injured, including one member injuring himself at Barcelona airport! Names and blame shall not be made public! So we eased into a week of eating menu of the days - amazing 3 courses with vino and bread for around 10 euros!
We spent a few days at Terradets as it was finally starting to dry out and I finally finished Jam Sessions which I tried last year in heat which I am sure was hotter than the sun! Its an amazing route starting up a tufa and then finishing on the orange head wall.
Getting pumped on Jam Sessions F7b
Jam Sessions 27m F7b
We made a brief visit to Fotbulin to try a bouldery 7b called Colera, which is a cool route.

Knee bar Spanish Style
Van life at Fotbulin
The O'leary clan left and holiday mode was over. With more rain forecast we drove north to Rodellar - its rained since we got here! Oddly the rock stayed dry for the first day so we headed to Las Ventanas to be greeted by the biggest birds I have ever seen, which I believe are Vultures. They were nesting right above El Delfin and perched on the walkway. I'll be the first to admit - I'm not a fan of birds with their beaks and claws so I was a little nervous. To avoid the pecking we avoided the actual nice path and bush wacked up the scree slope - delightful. We arrived alive - only to then watch the Americans walk straight up and the Vultures to fly away. (I'm still convinced they wanted to eat me).
Rain is forecast for the next few days - so we'll investigate the crags and see if anything stays dry. If not - well - I believe there are Dinasour fossils close by!
Happy climbing, updates to follow once the heavens have closed.
PS: Since writing this, we investigated the crag - Las Ventanas was mostly dry = excited. Only to be met by the risen river which was unpassable without getting wet! Plan for tomorrow - cross it bear foot and take a this space!
PPS: UPDATE: After a night of rain we headed to Ventanas - hmmm small section of rock dry...very high river which I refused to cross. So we headed to another section which was dry just below Ventanas which still involved a river crossing...sketchy but I survived. Thunder storm followed, with a quick retreat back across the swelling river to be met with snow. RESULT: We're heading to Albarracin in the morning :)

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