I would never get bored climbing in Catalunya. We were back again, eager to discover new places we haven’t seen or climbed and find extraordinary sport climbing routes and landscapes to wow you off. With the new “Tarragona climbs” Guidebook in our hands, it was even more exciting to see if Dani Andrada could meet up with our taste for climbing venues with his selections. But of course, we knew he would.
Just as we passed the spanish border, the question broke the silence after 16 hours of driving for a possible stopover. And while we were debating on the different venues, we came closer and closer to Barcelona and realised suddenly that Gelida was just a few minutes away.
Gelida – Barcelona’s outdoor climbing gym
Situated just in the outskirts of the metropolitan city Barcelona, Gelida is the perfect local crag to climb after work or in the evenings. This is the recreation area for the jogger, the mountain biker and the city climber in the afternoons. The central sector is mostly frequented. It’s not a wonder since there is a dense mix of grades ranging from 6a to 8a on a slightly overhanging wall with some really powerful moves and good routes. For a moment, I envied the locals who were so lucky to have this place in their backyard.
Sector Izquerda starts of with a few athletic routes in the 7a/b range. Facing south-east, it is the first sector to receive sun, and is fairly more protected from the cool winds in spring. Routes like La Merda de la Serra 7a+, Ka No 7a and No Hose 7a+ were all a favourite amongst the locals and were also constantly occupied. Rebolting this sector would be a good thing to do. Many quality routes with old bolts prevented us from trying them all at once. To the right of this sector lays the central area with harder grades from 7c+ to 8a. The grades gradually decreases with a few 7a+s and 6a at the end. We decided to look further and continued along the wall that lead us to the next sector. Long sunny routes with sparkling new bolts were winking to us, looked terribly inviting. And eventually, we settled to climb them. The 6b and 6c (no name) were pumpy, filled with ledges and slopers. What a great warm up to this trip.
Coll de Nargó
We moved on the next day and headed straight to the areas in Coll de Nargó . There’s Oliana, Tres Ponts and Perles to hit for. All gem areas, so serene in the setting. Oliana. I suppose every climber would have heard once of this famous massive, frequented by rock stars Chris Sharma or Adam Ondra and many other strong climbers who travel the world to position themselves in one of the many difficult routes. La Dura Dura 9b+, Mind Control 8c+, Chaxiraxi, Pachamama 9a+ are some names which made it often to the headlines this year. Not only the boys have all the say in this area, but power girls have proven themselves to be just as strong as their male competitors. Indeed an experience to come here and see this place with your own eyes once, and feel that magical aura. Sectors to the left and right offer much easier, quality routes with small holes and pockets. But come here with a skin in tact as the holes can be relative sharp and leave you looking forward to a forced rest day for your fingertips.
A Pearl in Perles
Perles lies off in a secluded road to St. Lorrenc de Montruny and offers climbing on a south-easterly side of the crag. It offers routes with a dense lower middle grade. The attraction of this area is definitely the Pont de l’Arc fully bolted from the front and back. The routes in the little gorge are more technical than the rest and with a good 28m route: Ferderic Balsara 7c right to the top of the arc. Technical in the first pitch, athletic in the second. In the cooler evenings, you will be surprised how suddenly routes like Escalatamasters 9a and Bella y SinAlma 8b as well as all it’s possible variantions gets occupied by the locals. Indeed, the best time for climbing in the areas of Coll de Nargó is in the late afternoons, when the sun leaves the best routes in the cool. Sector Roc de Bertiu offers routes in the lower middle grades and is in the shade in the afternoons.
It must have been once an adventure to climb here with hardly anything below your soles, except the strong gush of the river which makes you hope your climbing shoes will never fall in it or anything else that you have in your hands. Ever since the commune restored up the place with 3 wonderful bridges and a wooden pathway, climbing here is now a childs play. The Kings pathway in El Camino del Rei in El Chorro could have taken a good example from here. With now an easy access, traffic is inevitable in the high season or weekends in good weather. Climbing here is … a dream. The routes are all fantastic.You won’t find many routes that are rough, but there are a few. There is a fantastic 50m 7a+ route (2 pitches) and some really good 30m 7b+ s waiting to be climbed. You can climb in the sun in the mornings, or choose to work out in the shade at the opposite sector Bon Combats. There are 3 newer routes, 50m on the left of this sector which makes it really a good workaround to climb here until the main sector hits the shade in the afternoon. A strong breeze usually comes around midday, making the area a pleasant place to climb even at the hottest heat in the afternoons. The best time for climbing here is from late spring to mid autumn, the other seasons are ok too if you have an absolute windproof beanie and jacket and an elephant skin to cold winds.
Back in Taragona
When the weather forecasts tells you it’s going to be wet, you’d probably find better weather in Tarragona. It’s near the sea and the strong winds usually blows all clouds back into the mountains behind. Well, that was at least our theory. Nevertheless, lugging an injured shoulder topped up with persistent motivation to climb, we proceeded to Margalef for a few days of pockets and perfect bolted routes before the big rain came. The temperatures started to drop, perfect for sunny sessions softrocking the routes in the sun. And I found many new projects to return for.
On our rest day, apart from spending most of our money in Scala Dei’s winery, we made a trip to Mont-Sant, eager to taste and see what the area has to offer. We hiked through the adventurous Grau de Carrasclets which starts from the sector Barrots, taking you through breathtaking views from 200 m above the ground. It then leads you across the buttress and down again, passing through 3 chimney access with some iron rungs. Sometimes secure, and sometimes not. It’s something you should do without a big backpack on your back and you should be free from fearing high altitudes and exposure. Those chimneys are at some point so tight you’ll have to wriggle your way through. It’s not accessible for dogs or little children without any Via feratta experience either. In any case, it was worth the days “tour” to catch a glimpse of those long wonderful sectors like La Falconera, Els Barrots, the superior and lower walls of El Carrasclet waiting to be climbed once the strict bird ban (01.01 – 15. 07) would be over.
But then the rain came and didn’t stop. Temperatures dropped to just 2°C with snowy winds threatening us each time we glanced out of our newly scavenged chalet in Villanova de Prades. There were a few rain protected sectors in Siruana, but we knew that these areas would be over crowded. The last climbing day took us to El Dard in Arboli. A climbing area so old, that it was so deserted when we arrived. So that was when we had the whole area to ourselves and took our chance to try out a few moves in the 40m El Marginao 7c, which was a fantastic line with really cool moves. As we left the crag that evening, the weather showered us with all the water it had left. Thank goodness we brought our brollies along.
I love Catalunya. It has all the elements that makes the climbing trip a success. The people, food, rocks, no stress, no panic…just you and your environment. There’s so many routes, sectors and different types of climbing to make you want to discover new places each day. And if you want the sea, beach and sun, it’s just an hours drive away. There’s no place like this, not even southern France could beat all the features Catalunya has to offer. It’s no wonder, this place is a pilgrimage for climbers from all over the world, a true haven for Climbers, a climbers paradise.
General information and logistic
- “Lleida climbs” from Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada, 2010
- “Tarragona climbs” from Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada from 2012 (distributed in 2013)
- Camping La Valldan (5 km from Oliana)
- Camping Oliana (by the main road!)
- Camping Ogern (10 km before Oliana)
There’s a SPAR supermarket which is quite well sorted in Oliana about 400m away from the main road. Otherwise, there’s a few others situated on the main road in the town. Coll de Nargó and Organya has many bars and restaurants to hit for.
In Tarragona, small supermarkets in Cornudella, otherwise find bigger Markets in Reus, or MontBlanc.
Best time to climb:
Whole year through, though the best time would be in early spring and winter. Most of the crags are in the sun, but be prepared for icy cold winds in the winter.
70m is a must, 80-100m if you love combining 2 pitches in one or hitting those 38m routes. 16 quickdraws would be fine for longer sport climbing routes, though 14 is the minimum.
- Bum out at one of the reservoirs
- Romaine Church of Coll de Nargó
- Watch your skin grow again
- Polish up up your catalan and have a dialog with the locals.
Gelida: Font Fredda at the foot of the climbing area, or Font corbera de Llobregat (stronger pressure)
Margalef: Parking lot of Raco de la Finstra
There are numerous sources around the country if you keep a look out. It’s always good to know where these sources come from, or where it is situated before you fill up your tank. They usually have tap water quality, but you’ll never know if they are contaminated or not.