Words & Photos by Quin Browder
Spain is known for its beautiful limestone climbing, with world famous crags that draw climbers from all around the world. I was lucky enough to be able to visit three of these crags, sampling the rock climbing at each. I found completely different styles of climbing at each, and I’d love to discuss them!
Rodellar was a beautiful place in general, with gigantic caves dotting the cliffs and tufas streaking down the walls of the caves. Along the creek in the middle, a lot of blackberry bushes and fruit trees grew, providing fresh snacks for the hungry climbers. The town was beautiful as well, with ancient buildings dating back to the 17th century. The style of climbing was unique, with gigantic limestone tufas and blocky jugs, making every climb exhilarating. Some of the climbs were long and pumpy, over 40 meters in length, while others were around 15 meters, short and bouldery.
In Rodellar, we gained fitness, getting used to the lifestyle of The Climbing Academy and outdoor climbing in general. By the end, we all felt super strong! I went from falling on 6bs to sending 7bs all in the span of 6 weeks! Seeing rapid progression as I got used to the style of climbing was an exhilarating feeling. The picture above is of one of the coolest climbs I had ever pulled on, just giant tufas up a big overhang to the anchors.
When we traveled to Ulldemolins, we were placed right between two world class crags: Margalef and Siurana. Ulldemolins is a beautiful town overlooking the endless cliffs, with Catalonian flags flying in every doorway. The culture is strong here, and the people are wonderful. Almost everyday I would buy cookies from the store down the street which is run by a 90-year old man named Jaime (pronounced “Haime”) and his son. Every time I tried to communicate with him, I struggled since my Spanish is limited, but I had fun at least attempting to communicate. Every other day we would head to the crag, making the 30 minute drive to Siurana or the 50 minute drive to Margalef, getting stoked with music blasting from the bluetooth radio.
Siurana is a stunning area, with never ending cliffs of limestone stretching to the perfect height for rock climbing. Siurana truly is majestic the first time you see it, driving up the curving roads and famous boulder problems along the side of the road. Blue streaks run down the walls, interspersed with the yellow rock, creating perfect lines for climbing. The climbing at Siurana is mostly vertical to slabby climbing, with crimps lining the gigantic walls. All of the routes here are long, most of them surpassing 30 meters. Many reach up to 40, requiring an 80 meter rope to climb.
Margalef was also beautiful, but in different ways. It has beautiful streaks of yellow limestone underneath black cliffs of younger limestone, creating layers of gorgeous cliffs. The climbing itself was amazing, and brutally painful, with mono pockets and two finger pockets making up every climb. I cut my hands open every time I tried my project, Mágic Festival, but found myself loving every minute of it. In contrast to Siurana, Margalef was overhung and shorter, although still pumpy. There were numerous kneebars and heelhooks on the walls, and every climb was burly.
Falling is a huge part of climbing, especially when projecting at your limit. I took countless falls at every area we’ve been to, and every one of them makes me a better climber. As I like to say, if you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard. At first, falling was scary, the rush and the prospect of trusting a tiny rope with a big dynamic fall seemed like a terrifying prospect for me, but as time went on and I took more falls, it just became a part of climbing, inevitable and even kind of fun.
For two weeks in Margalef, I pushed my limits on the best route I have ever done. It was pure pocket pulling, a steep, hard section to a slightly overhung pumpy section, where you could get a kneebar and some good rests, then pulling into a crux move, where if you pulled through, you could clip the chains. By the end of the climb, you were pumped out of your mind, as it was a long climb, about 25 meters. It took me countless tries, but one day as I pulled into the crux move, about to fire it again, I was able to stick it and clip the chains. That’s what climbing is all about, the feeling when you finally finish off that project that was at or past your limits and get that rush of dopamine. It’s what drives me to keep trying, even when I’ve fallen on that same move 10 times.
Words & Photos by Quin Browder