Heading north to Montserrat

I have not written a diary style blog post for a while now, mainly as there has been very little to write about, and rather than write a post for the sake of it, I thought it best to wait until something worthwhile happened!

We headed north after Las Fallas, in the general direction of Barcelona, as we had plans to visit our friend Tiina and her family in Sitges! As it turned out, there would be no chance of doing any activities in the last few days as the weather was utter crap. Crazy strong winds followed by a couple of days of non stop rain, meant we had a few days down time, so much so that we started to feel lazy.

In a sunny spell in between I managed to get out on the sea front of Sitges for a run! It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run and really enjoyed it. It’s a bonus that the sun was setting and the sky turned purple, it was beautiful! It was nice to be sitting by the beach, although not so nice to be aware that this might be the last time in a while that we would be near a beach (we did manage another run on a rainy day, but next to the beach in the rain does not have the same feeling). Either way it felt good to be doing something active for the first time in a while!

We spent a few days popping in and out of tiina’s house, having a proper shower, using WiFi, and just lazing about chatting, sometimes it’s nice to be normal for a bit. We eventually left after the weekend and headed out towards Montserrat. We went via Vilafranca, and noticed a mountain range in the distance with jagged spikes forming the ridge line, both me and jess did what most climbers do, and questioned whether there was any good climbing there? As it turned out the satnav took us closer and closer to this, until it dawned on us that this was our destination.

We parked up way outside the monastery parking, as it was 6.50 a day, which is crazy money when there is free parking up the road. Unfortunately the closest parking we found was a forty minutes walk away, which is fine by me, as I’d rather walk that put money into the pockets of greedy people! We took a walk in and got some info from the nice people at the information centre about what Climbing areas were out of bounds and how to get to the others. We camped where we parked for the night and was glad to not be bothered!

The next day we eventually got up and got ready. Now we did the 40 minute walk to the monastery with backpacks and then another 50 minutes to the top of the hill. This was turning into some serious training with some amazing views. Once at the top of the hill, we could see a whole bunch of towers, and knew we was in the right spot! Unfortunately, the guide that I had transferred to Jess’s phone had uploaded to the iCloud and left a bunch of smudgy crap, so I could not tell what tower was which, another total fuck up for apple products!

As it turned out we saw a couple of climbers and headed in their general direction, they had a guidebook and allowed us to photograph pages. We ended up photographing loads of it and took the piss a little, oh well it was better than anything else we had. By this time it was already lunch, and after eating we set off on our first Climb.

This route started with a crazy steep section, and even crazier was the rock. On ukc it’s called cobblestone, I would call it compact pebbles and other stuff, it reminded me of my nan’s garden path, just vertical. It was horrible, no good holds and this was the first move! In the end I aided past and the rest of the pitch was equally unnerving, although much easier to climb. As we were so close to one of the main paths we felt like minor celebrities, with most passerby’s taking our photo!

The rest of the route was rather plain and similar to everything that came before it. I still could not feel safe and secure pulling up or weighting minor outcrops of pebbles, it felt so unnatural! At the top I found a dodgy down Climb and not long after starting we were back down.

We took a walk to the summit of one of the peaks, and on the way up happened across another group of climbers abseiling off one of the towers. I proceeded to have a broken English/Spanish conversation, but still found enough information to know what they had climbed and how to get to the start. We set off in search of the foot of the climbs and finished the afternoon finding the start of the route we would be doing the day after, which resulted in no messing around the next day!

Initially I planned to climb a 6a route, however my flailing on our first 5+ route here, made the decision for me, and so I didn’t fancy climbing above that grade. We did the same approach as the day before, so another hour and a half or so of slogging uphill ended at the foot of the Climb. To be honest after about five hours walking the day before and a climb, plus a couple hours the day before that, I was starting to feel super tired and still had 170 metres of Climbing to go!

The initial part of the route was uber easy slabs, I linked the two pitches. Jess followed this with a pitch that started to gain steepness with every move. The style of Climbing was exactly the same as the day before. Apart from the arena in which we were climbing, which was pretty amazing, with loads of towers rising all along the ridge. I could imagine climbing here being somewhat monotonous if you climbed here for a long time!

My next lead was the crux pitch and again I found it hard. Not like yesterday’s hard start, but always thin and shitty. I think this is partly due to me not trusting anything, holding onto pebbles that look like they’ve been stuck on does not inspire confidence! I managed this pitch with a lot of moaning, luckily it was well bolted!

The final pitch was as similar as the rest, once at the top I was both glad to had climbed it and glad it was over! We remembered to take a summit photo, something we keep forgetting to do! As soon as we arrive at the top, I automatically start the process of descent, and in doing this often forget to take the obligatory summit photo. We abseiled to the same place where we had spoken to climbers the day before. It was only now that we remembered we had not brought up our shoes for the walk off, and so started an uncomfortable walk back down in our tight climbing shoes!

Another long walk from the cliffs back to the van and me and jess were spent. We left Montserrat in search of a camper stop so we could have a deserved rest day with all the luxuries of showers. As a place, Montserrat is really beautiful, I would happily walk around the National Park to take in the sights, however to climb here to has been great fun. The rock is weird, however it is great to test your skill on a variety of rock types as it can only improve my climbing knowledge. If I’m ever in or near Barcelona this place will be on my to visit list again!

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