Anyone who has cast an eye over the climbing news feed over the last few years will have noted the dominance of Spanish sport climbing. The Catalunya region is a particular hotspot and these days it’s widely regarded as the epicentre of world sport climbing. The inexorable rise of the region has been due to a combination of the seemingly endless supply of rock and the many top climbers who either base themselves there or visit regularly. Throw in a near perfect climate and it is easy to see why this area hosts more 9th grade routes than anywhere else on the planet. I was lucky enough to visit recently and while I was there I got a chance to test out the new selective guide to the Tarragona area by Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada. This is what I made of it...
Dani Andrada is probably the best known developer in Catalunya and for this guide he has teamed up with photographer extraordinaire Pete O’Donovan. With Andrada’s detailed knowledge of the crags and routes and POD’s eye for a good photograph I can’t think of a better duo to document this destination. The result it a visually impressive book that has a great level of detail and route selection. Page upon page of orange limestone really does wonders for the depleted enthusiasm brought about by a long British winter.
There are 12 crags/ areas in the book, including the world renowned Siurana, Montsant and Margalef areas. These big names alone make the book a good investment as it will be useful for multiple trips; furthermore many of the lesser know crags look equally stunning. Many of the crags have their own low-tech locally produced topos which help fund bolting and local climbers’ refuges. Writing a select guide like Tarragona Climbs is therefore tricky, as no one wants to stop people buying the locally produced topos. One of the very good aspects of Tarragona Climbs is that it explicitly aims not to make the local topo’s obsolete, but instead draws climbers to the area and suggests they get the local topo as well. To this end, several sectors are not documented here meaning that this guide and the local topo’s sit together nicely. There is certainly enough routes listed in each area to keep most people going for a trip or two, but many will want to spend the 8 Euro’s or so on the low tech topo to find out more about “that amazing looking cliff above the approach road”.
It seems somewhat harsh comparing the quality of the topo’s in this guide to some of the British ones - the Spanish ones have the advantage of a good supply of sunshine to make sure all the faces are well lit. They have done a very good job though, and routes are clear throughout. The action shots are up to scratch, and importantly this is true for the whole spectrum of routes. It might not be difficult to make the latest 9a look great, but is can be harder to get the ‘wow’ factor with the 5’s and 6’s. A good example of the photo doing justice to an easier route in the photo is Migranya (6b+) at Margalef (p.314).
We found getting around using the guide to be easy, though being in Margalef where most crags are near a road this isn’t exactly a great challenge! Generally speaking, the maps and diagrams seemed clear and easy to follow. I would have liked a bit more information about the village itself and the kinds of supplies available. For example, opening times for the shop – and a warning that it doesn’t seem to sell anything that would be classed as fresh food! On the other hand, perhaps some things are better left for exploration.
Tarragona Climbs is a worthy companion to the area’s impressive roster of classic routes. It is inspiring and easy to use, and it is one guide that is guaranteed to get repeat usage!