Escaping the rains of Catalonia: Part 1

Barcelona may have been a little urban adventure but M and I were longing to get out the city and back into the mountains.

We found a bus to Reus, where we rented a car that felt more like golf cart. Our tiny black and chrome (fake) hair-dresser wagon whined and groaned under the weight of our bags with such resentment it was comical. Nonetheless, It feebly dragged it’s pathetic self up the first hills to the mountains of Monserrat. The overpriced hairdryer may have made us look like noobs but we were en route to a place that I’d dreamed about for so long, plus having my playful and beautiful partner in crime (or climb) made it special.

Siurana is the queen-bee of Catalonia. The long sustained sports routes towering high above a vast rocky landscape of olive plantations and golden fields gives it a wild feeling of exposure. Yet, what makes this area particularly unique is the little pueblo that sits on the very top of the tallest hill above all the cliffs. It was once a military fortress against the Spanish-Arab invasion and then it became a prison for politicians and aristocrats. It’s definitely the most charming little village I’ve ever seen.

We arrived as the sun began to fall and we were welcomed to a gusting icy wind that covered us in fine black dust. We stayed at the camping of Siurana and it’s not kitted for the modest folk that camp in tents. If you have a camper or you’re part of the #vanlife generation then it’s manageable (just), but for the humble tent goer it’s far from comfortable. Nonetheless, we had not come all this way to sleep but rather to climb epic Spanish limestone. We woke the next morning, brushed the thick layer of dirt out of our hair and teeth and we stumbled down the escarpment to a crag that avoided the crowds and gave us our first taste of the climbing.

The limestone was bulletproof but the smooth, almost polished holds with the countless little pockets was something neither M and I had ever experienced. I flopped around in less than an elegant fashion, but the valley below and having found a quiet spot out of the wind allowed me to start absorbing the moment and get into this new adventure.

We found another crag later that day right next to the village of Siurana where we climbed until we were the last two illuminated figures in the last orange beams of light.

We felt positive that night and, at least for myself, the dusty freezing camp felt a little more manageable.

It wouldn’t be an adventure if things didn’t start going wrong. I woke the next morning, as per usual, under a heap of dirt from the previous nights wind but this time I had headache, the chills and an unpleasant niggle in the back of my throat, “shit, please don’t say I’m coming down with something”. I took an ibuprofen for my head and we went off to a new crag and in good fashion M and I took a “short-cut ” to get a new crag, which inadvertently turned a 20 min approach into an hour and a half. We scrambled up loose shale and arrived at countless dead ends and drops. In the heat and strong freezing winds, I began feeling sicker, weaker and more sluggish. We arrived and looking up at the 35m routes that would normally have made me giddy with excitement but we both felt overwhelmed and flat. The weather later that day started to turn so we went hiking around the area. We decided that the forecast of rain, sleet and hail was something to avoid so we escaped the hole of Siurana’s lavish camp site for another area of magnificent pockety lines on a beautiful lake, Margalef.

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