Anyway, Rodellar. The land of of the steep, the home of the pump. I have heard so much about this place over the years and I really wanted to travel back to Spain after finally getting my first trip to the country smashed in back during the Spring, I decided to book flights and see what all the fuss was about. Stories and dreamy pictures of endless cliff faces jutting up out of a mind blowing gorge, dripping with tufa and enough routes to last a lifetime, was all too tempting. That coupled with the knowledge that all of this was within a maximum 20 minute walk from the famous refugio that is Kalandraka, had me fairly convinced that this would be a pretty sweet trip.
I love a good crag walk-in but the prospect of getting up in the morning and having the climbing smack bang in front of you was rather mouth watering.
Ceuse is fantastic, world class and probably my most favourite place on earth (at the present) to climb. But the approach, after a few weeks starts to mentally beat you up. What I was after this time around was somewhere that you could put your entire concentration into the actual rock climbing.
Joining me was the young Buster Martin, fresh from finishing his schooling and exams. After not climbing much for a year or so he was really eager to get back into the swing of things and I was relishing hooking up with the youth.
It was going to be hot, we were prepared for that. June + Spain means it is inevitable. But so many people go here during this time that we figured it'd be just fine. Besides it was such a cold winter for me, and bearing in mind just over a month ago I had a hand warmer stuffed in my chalk bag while climbing, the idea of sun, heat, blue skies, shorts, vests etc etc was extremely appealing.
Nothing could have prepared us though for the scorching 40 degree record temperatures that we actually ended up getting! Don't get me wrong, it was pretty nice, especially at first, but I have never felt such intense heat like that before in MY whole life. Even the locals were virtually dying and saying how crazy it all was. You could literally fry an egg on every surface you touched. Even the areas in the shade!
After getting record rainfall during my first trip to Spain back in March, I was now in the middle of a record heatwave on my second trip! Us Brits just can't win! ;)
The heat unfortunately meant that we both had to lower our expectations and re-access what was actually going to be possible. At times even just getting up to fetch a glass of water felt like a chore and physically draining. We had to time our sessions quite accurately and show a huge degree of patience. One morning we even got up at 4.30am to try and catch the cool temps! Not only were we greeted with darkness, being much further south than the UK, (surprise, surprise) but it was also already 25 degrees!
I very quickly decided that I would just treat this trip as a good time away from home and more of a relaxing climbing 'holiday' than anything too serious. These routes ain't going no where and it would have been a shame to spoil some of them when we can easily come back in the autumn with cooler temps.
I was more than happy enough just to be abroad, climbing on some whacky rock, chilling by the river, catching a decent tan and eating tasty fresh bread, straight from the oven, first with chorizo and then with dollops of nutella.
By the end of the trip we had checked out most of the main sectors and worked out which crags were best to climb on at particular times and developed a good knowledge of when the shade would begin to come around. The dominate style here is arm busting pumpfests up steep steep terrain. However you'll still find a whole range of types of climbing, even sketchy slabs with the odd big runout for those that like to live on the edge a little...
Probably the most famous route in Rodellar... El Delfin, 7c+
The whole 'patience is a virtue' thing was definitely taken to new levels for us both. There was a lot of down time spent hanging around the refugio, snoozing, watching Wimbledon and generally trying our best to keep the boredom at bay. With so much quality rock and amazing routes constantly in your face, beckoning and crying out to be climbed, it was quite frustrating. But we were in Spain after all, and not the UK, which I kept having to remind myself. I am pretty lucky and fortunate getting to travel to some of these places. Each morning I would sit on the balcony, having breakfast in silence, surrounded by endless rock and scenery, trying to soak it all in as much as possible. Whats to complain about!?
As always on these trips it is not all about the climbing but the culture you immerse yourself in during your stay and the different people you meet along the way. Once again it was cool to hang out with some folk from all over the world. People from all walks of life, America, Japan, Israel.
For me a climbing trip isn't a proper climbing trip without meeting these people. You can learn so much from different cultures and ways of life. It is all rather fascinating, especially when you get to sit down with these guys and swap stories, lifestyles, jokes etc. I always find it amazing how even just a single phrase can have a totally different meaning in another culture or language. Sometimes good, sometimes bad but always amusing to find out these things nevertheless. It also always puts me to shame chatting with others about not being able to speak another language. Pretty dam lazy and something I would really like to start putting right. It literally opens so many doors, being able to speak even a little fluent in just one forgien language and certainly makes travelling in general a heck of a lot easier.
Anyway to all the guys n gals we met, I hope we'll all bump into one another again sometime in the near future and there is always room for you all to come visit the UK anytime you wish. Just hit us up!
Despite all of this we still managed a short tick list. Lots of onsighting and just general tufa pulling fun. With one or two fairly decent hard ish sends along the way.
My favourite by a country mile has to be 'Les Chacals'. A fantastic long 8b on a beautifully carved out cliff face, high above the gorge and river below, with a selection of some of the most perfectly sculptured holds I have ever climbed on. From running tufa, fat and thin, to crazy pockets and dripping stalactites. It was probably the only day of the trip when we got lucky with both the shade and temps. My perfect sort of route and I was over the moon to get it in the bag. I'd say that it instantly made the top 10 of my all time favourite routes and is one that I'd highly recommend to anyone looking for a quality route at around this grade. You will not be dissaspointed. Muy bien!
Andreah Hah, high up on Les Chacals
Our last night in Spain was spent wandering the streets of Barcelona, picking our way through the crowds and the hustle bustle of the famous La Rambla and dining on authentic Paella. It is a crazy city, packed full of history, shops, food and general craziness. A little smelly in parts though... Next trip we will hopefully get to spend a little more time here to explore the place properly and drop by the beach too!
A huge thankyou has to go out to our Finnish homie Joonas who gave us the tour before dropping us off at the airport in the early hours. Hope to see you again soon man and return the favour!
|Homies for lyfeee - Buster n Mari|
|Final day pump!|
On returning home I had the weekend to chill before a busy week away route setting down south. Rather annoyingly I seriously injured my ribs Monday evening while having a brief session at the wall. Long story but basically running at a climbing wall, and smashing your ribcage against solid resin holds is rather painful. In fact, the worst pain I have EVER experienced in my entire life.
Somehow and rather miraculously I managed to fight my way through the remaining days of setting and get back home to rest. I guess I should be thankful that it didn't happen before we were due to fly out to Spain!
It is definitely on the mend and after getting a quick x-ray yesterday to confirm nothing was broken or badly damaged, my mind is at rest and with a bit of a luck I should only be out of action for a week. Frustrating but these things happen and you just have to suck it up. Easy to say when you know you won't be out for long, but I cannot imagine what it must be like for the people that have months and months of rehabilitation ahead of them. I should be and I am pretty thankful to be honest.
The idea of climbing such a showpiece route such as this, is for me rather mental. My climbing has come on a long way within the last couple of years, but it still feels all a bit surreal when I get to tie in and try such a hard and historic route, straight up the middle of one of the most impressive and arguably best bits of rock in the UK. Psyched to get stuck in, back into project mode and having fun with the process again.
Then come the autumn time I would absolutely love a return to Rodellar for round 2 and this time with my Dad in tow. I think the vast scenery and chilled Spanish lifestyle whetted his appetite so it'll be cool to show him around as well as try some of the routes that we saved from this trip.
A trip to Gorge du Tarn is also currently in the early stages of planning... Another place never visited before but somewhere that has been on the radar for quite a while. Plenty of my friends have been and all have said how much we need to visit. It'll be good to cruise on down through France again roadtrip style!
We should be heading here with a small 'film crew' so keep your eyes peeled for more info on that. I know that the location will look incredible on camera so we are all pretty excited by the prospect of this mini project...
Some sponsor plugging here but I would just like to give a massive shout out to Scheckters Energy who very kindly sent us out a couple of crates of drinks with the help of Gourmet Bio Natural. Delivered straight to Kalandraka! They went down an absolute bomb in the heat and were honestly a bit of a life saver.
Lastly a big up to the guys at Kalandraka for providing such an awesome place to stay! My kind of scene and we'll see you all again soon for sure. Maybe next time I'll even try to stay up past 1am for the flamenco!