An inspirational journey to climbing in Spain
"Welcome to the center of the universe" were the first words my friend Felipe Camargo greeted me with as I cross through the arrival's gate at the Barcelona International airport. Obviously he was referring to the center of the universe when it comes to climbing and indeed it is true. Why is Spain, especially the Catalonia region consider to be the best sport climbing area in the world? Well, there are thousands of bolted sport climbing lines in a 3 hour drive radius from Barcelona, many of the world's best sport climbers live here including "the King" Chris Sharma, and prolific route developer Dani Andrada. Also many of the world's hardest routes are located here, in one sector alone I counted 7 routes graded French 9a or harder. Also in and around Barcelona there is a great diversity of rock and climbing styles from crag to crag making it highly attractive to all elite climbers around the world. For these reasons many of the world's elite climbers flock to Spain in the winter season when temperatures are low and "sending" conditions are perfect!
In my "short" month spent in Spain I got to visit and climb in quite a few different areas and climb with some of the world's most talented climbers. I was fortunate also to go around with Chris Sharma who was kind enough to show me his future projects and introduce me to some really cool crags with extremely interesting rock. The first place we went was a small crag named "Cova del Ocell" where one of the world's hardest route “El Bon Combat 9b+” is located. This crag is a short hour drive from Barcelona located on top of a hill. The rock is some sort of conglomerate mix with sandstone and it provides for some really unique holds and features. The style of climbing is quite steep with many roofs. This area is also a quite famous for a boulder problem recently climbed by Chris Sharma named "Catalan Witness the Fitness 8C". My Friend Felipe was able to do the 3rd ascent of the boulder while we were there. It was awesome seeing them try such a difficult and high end climb. I was both in awe and inspired to train harder....I know I might not ever be able to climb at such high level, but I will sure as hell try!! Since our mission was to get strong we moved to a crag famous for its aggressive and dynamic style. Margalef.
Margalef is made up of a very unique kind of rock and that makes the climbing there very specific. It is made from conglomerate rock where millions of pebbles were pressed together forming perfect slopers and pockets. Lots and lots of pockets! The climbing is very steep and the pockets can be extremely sharp. Usually after a day or two of climbing the sides of your fingers would be cut from the sharp pocket edges. Bleeding fingers were a common occurrence. I found a couple of really nice routes while in Margalef. We climbed in a sector called “Tenebres” where it is famous for its enormous roof. I got on a great 8b called “402” on a 15 meter horizontal roof. Even though I did not have time to repoint this line, it was a great experience trying something that is completely opposite of my climbing style. I am always searching for ways to improve my climbing and I think there is no best way to improve than working on your weaknesses. Another great line I tried was “Sativa Patatica” 8a it was very sustained climbing with a small roof then another 20 meters of very steep climbing on pockets to a dyno. Such a great mental route, trying to keep your pump in control while doing so many hard and dynamic moves. A very memorable route.
While in Spain I was sick for almost 2 weeks of the trip, even though I was not able to climb as much as I'd like it was still a great place to go to get inspired and motivated by all of the climbers around. To see so many strong and passionate climbers increases my passion for the sport and drives me to train harder. I can't wait to go back to "the center of the universe".