Rodellar!

Ever since arriving in Barcelona in January I had heard about Rodellar, a climbing sector in the province of Aragón, west of Catalunya.  Rodellar sounded like the type of Spanish sport climbing I saw in all of the climbing videos; it features long tufa lines stretching down huge overhung limestone caves and has more than 200 routes graded 8a (holy shit!!) In fact, in the UKC climbing website they call it “the land of lactic acid” due to the sheer angle of the walls. Rodellar is a spring/summer crag, however, so I had to wait until the end of April to visit it.

Before coming to Rodellar I was a little bit nervous because- while it seems like heaven for the elite climber-I wasn’t sure if there would be any good routes below 7a+ that I would be able to at least try.  In fact, this is the story of my life here as a mediocre climber trying to climb with the big dogs in Spain- “warm up” has been pretty much removed from my vocabulary list. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to warm up on a 6b (10d) or 6b+ (11a), both of which are harder than anything I’d ever even tried to lead in the states. In the beginning of my climbing career in Spain this was good for me; the first time I went climbing outside I was in Montserrat and warmed up on a 6a and a 6b, without really knowing what the grades transated to. I even onsighted a 6c, (second weekend of climbing, still at Montserrat), so literally within 2 weekends here I was climbing at least 2 grades harder, just because I was daring to try- win!

starting up Billy el rápido, and my feet
are already cutting on the first move/boulder
problem of the route!

But, at the same time, warming up is essential for me for my body and my mind. If I don’t warm up well I’m always way more nervous when I’m climbing and consequently climb like a desperate idiot. I also overgrip and pull way harder than I need to, something my body doesn’t appreciate. So, I tend to fall off of the first route or two and sometimes it can taint my whole day. In Rodellar, the first route I got on was a 6b+  on the left side of Pince Sans Riere. The climb didn’t look too bad, it was definitely steep but from the ground I could spot a bunch of jugs and figured I would be fine if I climbed quickly. However I was in for a rude awakening as I got to the top pumped out of my mind and screwed up one of the only technical moves on the route. It was easy but I was too nervous and couldn’t deal with maintaining the pump well so I climbed pretty badly, locking off for way too long trying to figure out the move. It wasn’t the best introduction to Rodellar, but this is generally what happens when I don’t get to warm up on something on which I don’t have to try hard at all. After a warmup, 6b+ is my favorite grade… it’s challenging enough to be engaging but not so challenging where I’m pretty sure I won’t fall. Soon after, however, I was able to onsight a 6c right next door (see photo), which made me forget all about my 6b+ screw up.

Colleen climbing the arc at Frontales, which has
the famous 7c+, El Delfin, passing underneath it

After my friend Chris got on some ridiculously hard lines on the right side of Pince we headed over to Camino, which where everyone goes to warm up at because it has a variety of problems and is on the way to almost every other sector. We did it backwards this time and went there last. I hung-dog a bouldery 7a climb there called “Billy el rápido” which starts with a bouldery overhung start to a ledge. You start on some decent crimps but some polished feet and then have to throw for an edge that isn’t bad on the left side, but is terrible on the right. Afterward you have to move your feet up and make another throw for a great ledge to get to the second bolt. The rest of the climb is pretty similar- move off of small crimps or slopers to throw for some big jugs. The crux for me came after the second bolt, where I grab a sloper with my left hand to move up to another sloper with my right. Afterward I go for a small but decent crimp and then throw for a huge jug right next to the bolt. I fell here a few times (usually when moving off of the slopers) but whenever I got the footwork right the move went, though it’s pretty mental to be throwing for a jug when the next bolt is an inch above your head. The whole route is just very, very pumpy and I never actually red-pointed it though I got very close and know that I could do it.

cabra de montaña!! (mountain goat) right outside
of Kalandraka. Such a happy moment for me.

We got back around 10 PM to Kalandraka, the climber’s refugio in Rodellar. This place is great; the staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, the beds are comfortable and there is a great vibe that is infectious and gets you psyched on climbing more the next day even though your body feels trashed. One morning I woke up early to do some work (yes, I actually sort of work while “studying” abroad..) and ran into a bunch of mountain goats behind the property, which I had never seen before. In addition, Rodellar as a town is absolutely gorgeous. It sits on top of the canyon formed by the river Macsun (where you can swim in on hot days if you’d like) that houses all of the immaculate limestone. It’s one of those places where you just have to park your car and never return to it until you want to leave; all the climbs are accessible via hiking through the valley. During the trip we also went to Ventanas (where the famous arch that the 7c+ “Delfin” is located) and cueva de los cazadores.  Overall it was a great trip though I did not climb very well as I was not accustomed to the style and I definitely did not have the strength nor endurance to be on constantly overhung walls. At the end of the fourth day I was trashed and only did 2 routes (which might also be due to the fact that we got a bit lost). But, in terms of the entire experience- the refugio, the location and the convenience- Rodellar is definitely one of my favorite places that I’ve been to in Spain, definitely on par or better than El Chorro. I’m looking forward to getting pumped there again soon.

(by the way, thanks to my friend Jason Bossert for all of the photos!)

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