Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Spain Recap

As many of you know, Lindsay and I travelled to Europe on the 28th of October for three and half weeks with our friends Matt and Katy Garvin.  The trip was as spectacular as anyone would imagine: amazing food, even more amazing rock, funny (& sometimes frustrating) travel issues, a full on "European experience".  This post is overdue as we've had numerous requests for photos and stories, I take full credit for the tardiness in writing this, however settling back into our "real lives" has been a struggle.  True to the stereotypes we hear about, the Spanish live their lives with a sense of ease that we just don't see very often here in the USA.  Everywhere we went we noticed a more relaxed atmosphere and general feeling of calmness.  No one is in a rush, a glass of wine or beer is enjoyed before starting the work day, everybody's always laughing and talking with friends, they take time to enjoy all the aspects of everyday life regardless of the tasks at hand.

We fell into the rhythm of Catalunya very quickly.

When in Rome...

We arrived in Barcelona and headed northeast toward France with our final destination being the small village of Carentino Italy.  Jet lag does funny things to a person and can cause their rationale to stray from true center at times.  I experienced this when we picked up our rental car.  Despite not really speaking much Spanish and having absolutely no clue which way to navigate towards, I took off out of the car park like a bat out of hell - fueled by the excitement of having finally started our European climbing trip.  Twenty minutes later our GPS was squawking at us in Japanese, Lindsay and I were screaming at each other, all while being engaged in what I can only call NASCAR style driving in downtown Barcelona at 100 kph.  Lesson learned; take your time, you have all day.

After what seemed like a week in the car (it was only about nine hours), we found ourselves at the country house of my "aunt" Wanda.  Nestled in the rolling valleys of the Piedmont, her charming farm house could be the setting of any foreign love film or post card- "gorgeous, beautiful, wish you were here..."   We spent the next couple of days eating delicious meals owing their heritage to the fields and farms of the region.  Locally raised beef, locally grown wheat pasta, local wines from local grapes, each meal seeming more rich and flavorful than the last.  We laughed a lot trying to learn Italian from my cousins nine and four year old children, "mandiblo" means Jaws (like the shark) that's about all I retained.  It was a cherished experience to spend time with my family.  Despite the subtle language barrier we relaxed in an atmosphere of welcoming and contentment, our time in Italy was a blessing.

We left Wanda's after a few short days and headed back to Barcelona to pick up Katy and Matt (who flew in three days after us).  After joining forces and drowning some jet lag, we pointed the car towards the Catalunyan interior and the stunning mountain village of Siurana.  I had visited the area in 2004 and it was just as I remembered, endless cliff lines weave in and out of deep ravines and hillsides scattered with rosemary bushes and scrubby pines.  To the east a faint view of the Mediterranean sea, to the west a panorama of the La Morera de Montsant, a cliff line 400 feet tall that stretches beyond your eye's reach.  We had arranged to stay in a bungalow at the climbers campground and we called that little wooden shack with paper walls our lovely little home for the next week.  I have always likened the climbing of Siurana to that of Smith Rock in Oregon.  It's a very old area as sport climbing goes and it's age is reflected in the style typically found on many of the cliffs, slightly off vertical walls comprised of bulletproof, orange and blue streaked limestone.  Boasting over 1400 routes there's never a shortage of projects or lines to throw one's self at.

We sampled climbs at various cliffs during our stay, trying to stay focussed with the plethora of routes to try.  Lindsay and I found ourselves drawn to the Can Piqui Pugui sector, an older area notorious for its stiff grades and small holds.  Matt and Katy sampled more of the valley crags enjoying sunny cliffs like Siuranella Centre, a newer area comprised of beautiful orange limestone. At night we drank Cap de Ruc wine and had slideshow presentations of the photos taken that day.  Rest days included scampering around the seemingly ancient village of Siurana (the last Moorish stronghold that was conquered in 1154) and the quaint little village of Cornudella de Montsant in the valley below our ridge top abode.  After a handful of days shredding our tips and fueling our psych, we decided to move north to an area known to climbers simply as Terradets.

Upon our arrival at the Hotel Terradets we realized very quickly we had made the right decision.  We mentioned that we were climbers and instantly we were treated like VIP guests.  With a discounted rate on our rooms, they included breakfast and a three course meal each night (complete with wine)!  Needless to say our basic travel needs were met, feeling like we had stumbled into the lap of luxury all we had to do now was enjoy the famed tufa climbing Terradets is known for.  The sweeping wall of Bruixes catches many hours of sun and offering routes from 15 meter power problems to 35+ meter enduro-pump-fests, there's something for everyone.  We spent the majority of our time at sector Bruixes but also sampled the rope stretching steeper wall known as sector Regina (named for the towering 600 meter wall across the valley).  Tufas abound on nearly every route in Terradets, from tiny fins that look like ribbons glued to the wall to massive columns and pinches that stick out from the main wall as far as two or three feet.  The style of climbing is unique to anything we have here in the states and required us to adapt quickly or find ourselves hanging on the end of the rope with our throbbing forearms to blame.  Our Maple training from the summer however seemed to pay off and we were both able to send routes like El Latido del Miedo, a brilliant 8a at Bruixes.  The name means - "the heartbeat of fear", they even name their routes better than we do!

The remainder of our trip was spent basing out of the hotel.  We said goodbye to Katy and Matt on the 17th (they headed to France to try their hand at the bouldering in Fontainebleu) but remained in the area to finish off a couple of routes and explore the nearby crags of St. Llorenc de Montgai.   The area around Cellers (the small whistle-stop our hotel was located in) is nothing short of breathtaking; in truth, the same could be said for nearly every basecamp and town we stayed in/passed through.  The old-world town of St. Llorenc is maybe the single most perfect place I could ever imagine living, perhaps that's why climbers like Chris Sharma call this little paradise home.  We had the good fortune to stop in and see our friends Joe and Colette in St. Llorenc, Joe recommended we check out the Disblia caves outside town, an "old school" area that at one time boasted some of the harder routes in Spain but is now just a training crag for the elite climbers living in the area.  It was a joy to experience the routes there and our one day put so much into perspective for us.

Those particular caves are passe and now considered "not worth visiting" by the who's who of climbers in Spain.  If those two caves were in the USA they would be top destination areas despite their relatively small size.  Basically Spain's shitty little crags are just as good if not better than many of our primo areas here at home, perhaps notions like this are what help conjure up thoughts in my head like "I think I was born on the wrong continent..."  Combined with all the other spectacular areas within an hours drive, it's no wonder why the region of Catalunya has become one of the biggest destinations world wide for hard sport climbing.  The region will certainly see us visit again, hopefully sooner than later.

Like all adventures however this one too had to come to an end.  We said our goodbyes to the staff at the hotel Terradets on the 21st of November and headed back to Barcelona to see some city attractions, shop, and enjoy some Mediterranean cuisine before we headed back home.  We spent our last night in Barcelona drinking spanish wine, eating seafood, laughing and regaling one another with our favorite highlights from the past few weeks.  All in all, our trip was nothing short of a smashing success.  We all commented numerous times how good our trip Karma was.  We had perfect weather for nearly a month, and other than a couple of small dings in the rental car traveling was quite easy and drama free.  We met so many great people along the way and I forgot how much I relish the opportunity to converse with people not hailing from the USA.  We ate delicious food and drank more wine than any of us knew we could.  Undoubtedly we'll go back to Spain and Catalunya, we're already hatching plans for an extended trip in a couple of years.  Enjoy the photos, all told we took over 1400 pictures, these are some of my favorites~

Apartment building in Alessandria, Italy

It's artistic and European...

Wanda's farm house in Carentino, Italy

Wanda and Lindsay in downtown Alessandria

A castle viewed from the autoroute in France

We knew we were going to climb hard when we saw that the water in Spain is "fatless"

"...this is so good, just gimme a fist pound for the hell of it!"

Lindsay on Hostia 7b, Siurana

Flashing Hostia, Siurana

Enjoying our first sunset in Spain

The Panta de Siurana seen from Can Melafots

So psyched on being in Spain

The kitchen/living room of our bungalow

Yeah for not sleeping in a tent!

Katy giving us the grand tour

The church in Siurana

Lindsay in Siurana
Columns on the church in Siurana

Rest day fog

On the way to the valley crags

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Outback 7c+, Siurana

Matt throwing down an impressive onsight on a 7b in the valley, Siurana

Just another night in the bungalow

Reviewing the days photos

The dining room in the bungalow

Fresh produce in Cornudella de Montsant

Cornudella streets

The church in Cornudella

Not sure what these trees are called but we loved the bark

Cornudella rest day activities





The terribly impressive wall of Can Piqui Pugui

Lindsay standing in front of "the most perfect pitch of 5.13 I've ever been on", Souxie 7c+

♥ Espana

The view of the Pyrenees from the Hotel Terradets

Lindsay on Energia Positiva 7c+, Terradets

Looking down the wall at Bruixes

The breakfast view from our hotel

Hiking back down from Bruixes

The stunning El Latido del Miedo 8a, Terradets

Rest day in Tremp

The fun boulevard in Tremp

Old Spain and New Spain, Tremp

Cafe con leche's all around

Lindsay and Katy, Tremp

Cocktail/Game time at the Hotel Terradets

"dun't suck here 'tall"

Matt crushing a lap on Orient 7c+, Terradets

Matt on Orient 7c+, Terradets

Hero shot of Matt Garvin on Orient 7c+, Terradets

The training facility outside the hotel, right next to the train tracks

Matt working on his knee bar skills 
Lindsay working on her motocross skills

Looking across the Panta de Terradets towards the mountain village of Llimiana

Organic Climbing's Japanese distributor on El Latido del Miedo

Rest day exploring in Llimiana

The church in Llimiana

Built to last, Llimiana

The lovely Matt and Katy Garvin

The group shot

What they all really wanted to do instead of the group shot

Miscellaneous wall on the way to Regina, not a single route exists on this wall

The "big boy britches" sector Regina


Paret de les Bruixes

The view from Joe & Colettes apartment in St. Llorenc de Montgai
Interview in St. Llorenc

The panoramic view from the Disblia caves, St. Llorenc

Chaxi begging because skinny dogs aren't cool in Spain

Hiking down from the Disblia caves, St. Llorenc

Lindsay at the Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

Parc Guell, Barcelona

This dude didn't move for like 15 minutes, not even an eye blink, kind of creepy

Spanish tag
Our last meal in Barcelona, seafood and Montsant wine

My most favorite person in the whole world, so thankful I got so enjoy this trip with you!