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The Climbing Club • View topic - Sport Climbing in Spain - Patones and Sierra de Toix

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 10:35 am 
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Rodrigo
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In case you haven't already read any of Craig's posts (still not posted at this time), we took a trip to Spain together. At the end of the trip we agreed that he would write about our alpine adventures and I would write up some of our sport climbing adventures. So, here it goes.

Over the course of our trip we went sport climbing at a few different crags in two parts of the country. The first area is near Madrid and the second about an hour south of Valencia just outside of Calpe (where we climbed Penon de Ifach). Throughout the course of the trip we enjoyed the company of my girlfriend (Pau) and her car.

I'll start with Madrid. Around Madrid there are quite a few different places to climb. We only chose to climb in the area of Patones because we were able to track down a book. There are quite a few places to climb both in Madrid as well as in the rest of the country (http://www.climb-europe.com/RockClimbingSpain.html). Another place that was regularly suggested was Pedriza. It sounds like fun if your idea of fun is endless granite slabs (I'm looking at you Michelle).

So, on to Patones. Patones is less than an hour due north of Madrid on nice roads. The area has hundreds of mostly short limestone pitches that are well bolted. If you want a book on the area it's called Patones y Alrededores and goes for about 16 euros. It's a pretty nice good book except for some of the poor map drawing skills. The route descriptions don't tell you anything about the climbs except the ratings (French system). That said, most of the routes are short so a normal set of 10 draws or so will be fine. The one exception is some of the big walls (relatively) that I will mention later.

This crag and pretty much everything else we looked at in Spain is pretty spicy. A very small fraction of the overall climbs in the area go at 10b or less. To really be able to climb a significant amount of stuff in the area you would want to feel comfortable on solid 5.11s and to be able to climb a majority of the routes in the area you'd need to lead 5.12s.

Anyway, we checked out two different locations. The first area is right outside of the small town of Patones. From this town you can see the skyscrapers in Madrid. You are also climbing right under an aqueduct built by political prisoners under the Franco regime. If you take a short hike uphill you can arrive at Patones de Arriba which appears to be a nice old Spanish town buried in the hills. The primary reason for our trip to the area that day was to review some basic skills with my lady friend and perhaps climb. We drove in and parked less than five minutes from the cragging and did our short review. After I roped up I lead the easiest climb I could see (we didn't have the book at this point). The name of the crag was Morgana and the route remains nameless (5.10a, 6a). To me this seemed much more like a 5.8 with good but elusive holds. It was a nice short fun pitch on nice limestone but we decided to call it a day. Everything else looked a lot spicier in the area and we had already accomplished our goal of reviewing basic skills. After purchasing the book I looked back at the area. The vast majority of routes in the area go at 6b to 7b (5.10c - 5.12b).

This is one of the only pictures of the first day of cragging:
Image

Later in the trip we returned to the Patones area to go to a different area called Ponton de la Oliva. This area has many crags with 18 uniquely named sections. Again we went for the easiest climbing in the area. One particular crag called Zone de Arriba has six routes ranging from 5.6 to 5.10b. The adjacent crags (2 minutes walk or so) are all 5.10a and 5.10b. Needless to say, the three minute approach to this turned into an epic two-hour (I'm not sure how long but certainly more than 90 minute) ordeal. The map shows the crag separate from another and further down the valley. Due to lots of hiking trails we got entirely lost before figuring out that we could have walked to it in about five minutes. That said, I lead some climbs for us on some fine limestone with lots of fun finger pockets, side pulls, underclings, and what not. The harder pitches were well protected and had some thought provoking moves. Good times. The routes have no names but in the book they are numbered routes 1-7 in the Zona de Arriba area. From a grade standpoint I think I would put the ratings on par with Prospector in Mazama. I would love to go back to this area again.

Me teaching Pau how to clean an anchor:
Image

Pau following the 5.10a:
Image

The same zone (Ponton de la Oliva) contains 17 other distinct areas and is probably still under development. The valley goes of for well over a mile with limestone cliffs (decreasing in size) as you move further from the dam around which the crags are centered. Across the valley from our chosen crag is a set of vertical face climbs that are about a full rope length (at least 50 meters). These appear to be walk-off but I am not sure how they are typically climbed. That said, most are spicy and go at at least 5.10a and most are much harder. I think it would be fun to climb this stuff…if only I was more solid on lead. Note also that finding beta for sport climbing in this area is difficult, especially in English. Even in Spanish it isn't quite as easy as back in the US.

Some of the big walls at Ponton de la Oliva:
Image


So, the trip is now a bit out of order because Ponton de la Oliva was after our trip to the coast. After our big trip to Puig Campana and before our Penon de Ifach adventure the three of us went cragging at Sierra de Toix. This area is spectacular. The whole cragging area rises vertically out of the Mediterranean with wonderful views of the coast, surrounding mountains, and neat little cliffs (don't forget a mini little caste thing here and there). There are lots of climbing options here at Sierra de Toix just minutes from cheap housing if you have a car. You can also get here even if you don't.

Anyway, Sierra de Toix and pretty much the entire region are covered in the RockFax - Costa Blanca book which should be the gold standard for climbing books…seriously. Anyway, at this place you can choose between multi-pitch (2 to 5+ pitch climbs in the moderate to spicy range) and single pitch climbs ranging from 5.4 to as hard as you want. Short approaches (< 10 minutes) and lots of climbing with great views make this a worthy destination.

The following picture is from a climb Craig would have covered in his post. If you look in the center of the picture along the water there is a small peninsula. That is Sierra de Toix.
Image

Our first day there we chose to climb at the crag classed Far Oeste (I think). Either way, it's on the lower west side of the crags. The previous day we had put down 13 pitches on Puig Campana so we took it easy. We climbed 5 pitches in increasing difficulty from about 5.5 to 5.10a. Names, Asombroso (5.4, guess), Costilla (5. 8), La roja does (5.7), La Roja tres (5.9), La roja sees (5.10a). Ratings are seemed to me to be pretty good to me (not too easy, not too hard). The rock here was also really fun with really cool pockets and features from runnels. Another day we came back here and climbed another 5.10a called Presto. This was just a slab lacking features followed by fun solid climbings on mini-roofs. We don't have any pictures of climbing in this area.

Note, there are lots of routes here that aren't in the 2005 Costa Blanca book. The 2012 version may have them. That said, unless you see anchors I wouldn't head up them unless you know better. I ended up having to down climb a full 30+ meters (on easy climbing) because a relatively easy route that was not in the book appeared not to have anchors that would work for anything less than an 80 meter rope.

So, let's really it for the sport climbing. Let me put in a plug for the Costa Blanca area. The weather was awesome. Not a day of rain in 5 or 6. The book is amazing and can help you climb what you want. Finally, trashy English people help keep the place cheap. Along the coast are cheap touristy towns. Because lots of other Europeans go there to get trashed there are lots of hotels. In the office season you can keep a place that sleeps three to four with a kitchen and a nice balcony overlooking the ocean for 30 dollars a night. The climbing is fun. In short, it was a good time. Don't forget to see Craig's posts on Penon de Ifach and Puig Campana. Really, that's what the trip was all about.



Also, should you come to Spain there are many urban bouldering options. See my other post about that.

One final note, I have a Patones and Costa Blanca book that I am happy to lend out if you promise to return them to me.


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:03 pm 
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Mountain Rhombus
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Good times!


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:31 pm 
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UW Climber
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