Lleida Climbs, Spanish Sport Climbing
The Lleida region of Catalunya is recognised within Spain as one of the best climbing areas in the country. British climbers have visited in small numbers for many years but the lack of an English language guide and confusion about seasons, weather and where to stay have kept the hoards at bay; many preferring the predictability of multiple trips to the likes Calpe and the Costas. This guide will make a difference, but possibly not for the unadventurous. There definitely ain't any fish & chips, full english or Watneys Red Barrel in this essentially rural region of northern Spain. Don’t rely on anyone outside the airport speaking english. Catalan is the principal language but most people speak castilian spanish as well. In my opinion these factors are what make a great climbing trip. I don’t want it all on a plate and DO want to explore, experiment and get lost in rural villages trying to buy a loaf of bread. ‘Lleida Climbs’ will make it a lot easier to visit the region but it still leaves plenty of areas untouched and huge scope for further exploration. For example, a good selection of routes are covered in Vilanova de Meià and Cavallers, enough for days and days of climbing, but as you explore you will notice huge areas of undocumented rock. You are invited to buy the dedictaed guide to know more and in doing so you will support the opening and equipping of routes by multiple channels and help to break down the long entrenched stereotype of visiting foreign climbers, taking all and contributing nothing. ‘Lleida Climbs’ is materially supporting local activists in the equipping of new routes and re-equipping of existing routes. I was lucky enough to have Pete O’Donovan drag me around many of the areas in the guide back in the early 90s. I say ‘dragged’ because I was often struggling to second some desperate multi pitch face route, taking big whippers or getting chased by killer mules (the latter being a story for another day). These were memorable trips. Fast forward 18 years to October 2010 and I was set to make a return visit with Cynthia Grindley and Colin Moody. Pete generously supplied us with some prepublication chapters of the guide and with perfect timing the weather cleared up and cooled down to give us a week excellent of climbing.
There’s no doubt that the design and layout are extremely good. I’m sure many will make direct comparisons with the Rockfax guides but there are some fundamental differences in style and presentation. To appreciate these differences you have to understand that this book is aimed as much at a Spanish audience as it is a British one. Both Pete and Dani live full time in Catalunya and are intimately involved with the local climbing community. Don’t expect the full, hand holding, every possible detail, backed up with online databases approach to route information. Climbs are listed as a single line with name, grade and a tick box, as you would expect in most Spanish guides. None of the pumpy, technical or star rating icons that we have all grown accustomed to. I’m sure some people won’t like this minimalist approach to route information but I find it refreshing. Too much information can stifle experimentation and unreasonably concentrate traffic onto routes with the most star ratings. Remember, we are talking sport routes after all, so its not difficult to make an assessment of the quality and style of climbing from the ground and, if things don’t go to plan its easy enough to retreat. Personally I prefer this clean and simple format. Where the guide really does excel over similar productions is in the quality and composition of photography. The crag shots are truly inspiring as are the action shots. Pete has clearly gone to a lot of effort to set up really good action shots on multi pitch routes where the logistics of getting into position must have been complex.
The limestone crags range from relatively low level cliffs suitable for bleak mid winter days to inspiring escarpments in the foot hills of the Pyrenees. There is one granite area; Cavallers where it is not possible to climb in the middle of winter. Here is a summary of climbing at the areas we visited: Coll de Nargó
A mixture of multi pitch and single pitch routes situated high on a ridge above the village. A beautiful setting in sub alpine terrain. Perles
Our favorite crag. Like Coll de Nargó but with better quality rock and routes. A must for any trip. Esciatamàsters 9a, Pont de L'Arc, Perles. Chris Savage Climbing. Vilanova de Meià
The highlight is the impressive Roca dels Arcs which has a wide selection of well equipped multi pitch routes. There are short routes close to the road but not of the same quality of some of the other areas in the guide. If you want more there’s lots of climbing on the cliffs at the entrance to the valley, just above the village; Documented in the dedicated climbing guide to the area. Cavallers
Superb granite climbing on slabs, steep faces and cracks. Many routes are fully equipped but you will be missing out if you ignore routes that require a small rack. Again there is lots more climbing documented in the dedicated guide to the area as well as some impressive looking multipitch routes on the limestone south of El Pont de Suert. Cubells
A good crag for a first day. Not too intimidating with a good selection of routes from 5 upwards. Serak Esquerdat 5c and Arc de Sant Martl 6a are nice routes to get going on. It should be said that one or two of the other routes seem a little under graded. Camarasa
Lots of easily accessible short routes. The most aesthetic sector is Crestes de Conill. The road side sector at Marcant Estil is a bit scruffy but ok if you need to pad the day out with a couple of extra routes and don’t feel like walking further than the boot of the car. St. Llorenç de Montgai
Not much easy stuff here. Paret de L’Os has just one 6a on it and grades are fairly meaty on all the routes at this sector. There is a good looking multipitch route, Esperó Remacha at only V+ and more adventurous routes on the conglomerate walls of El Cilindre. If you’re looking for hard test pieces from 7b upwards the impressive cave of Disblia should be on your hit list. Salvatge Oest de Catalunya also covers several important areas around St. Llorenç de Montgai Terradets
Lots of multipitch routes, some at relatively reasonable grades. This is an impressive gorge and the overall ambience may play a part in your motivation to get out of the car if you're not used to big imposing walls. There are lots hard single pitch routes in the 7th and 8th grade on beautiful walls. There is a dedicated guide available to Terradets.
The climbing areas are widely spaced so there isn’t any obvious point at which to base yourself. You could easily spend weeks climbing at one of the principal areas such as Terradets, Cavallers or Vilanova de Meià. Like us, I’m guessing most people will want to visit several areas over the course of a trip, varying the location depending on weather and energy. There is a good campsite just down the road from St. Llorenç de Montgai at Camping La Noguera. For 2 people and a car it was just over €20/ night. There are good facilities here including hot showers and a bar. The restaurant is a bit pricey but there is an excellent and very reasonable restaurant/bar a short walk up the road in the village of St. Llorenç. If you prefer a little more comfort I can highly recommend the Hostal Roma at Cubells. This is a fairly basic hotel situated over a busy commercial restaurant/bar; a kind of a Spanish transport cafe, but don’t let that put you off. The food is excellent and at €12 for a three course meal, very reasonable. You’ll see lots of every day Spanish life and will have plenty of opportunity to brush up on some language basics. A room with three single beds cost €50/night for a seven night stay.
Hostal Roma, Cubells
Both Camping La Noguera and Hostal Roma are located within an hour and half of most of the climbing areas with some cliffs such as Cubells and St. Llorenç de Montgai being right on the door step. Hostal Roma is better situated for accessing the excellent climbing up the road towards Coll de Nargó which is about 45 minutes drive. Hostal Roma - A great place to stay! There is Carrefour supermarket a few KM down the road from Cubells in Balaguer; slightly difficult to find, its located on an industrial estate on the road into town from the main C26. (see map below). View Balaguer Area in a larger map
There is a climbing shop in Balaguer: Radical Sport Carrer Barcelona, 40 -42 BALAGUER 25600 BALAGUER Lérida Tel: 973 44 89 60.
The most obvious place to fly to would be Reus. Ryanair and some of the other budget airlines fly there from all over the UK. Driving time from Reus to Cubells is about 1 hour 30 minutes via Tàrrega. Barcelona airport would probably take an extra 30 mins of driving.
Leave a comment
Comments will be approved before showing up.