Now that’s a crag I bet you’ve never heard of. Olvena is a very typical Spanish crag, perched above a gorge about a mile outside the village of the same name. Immediately above the road, a ridge of limestone heads up the hillside, turning from grey slabs to a steeper orange tower.
A short thrash through wild rosemary and thyme, plus prickly pear, bramble and other spikey undergrowth, brings you to the foot of the crag. We haven’t got a guidebook (often hard to find and anyway, can you imagine how many we’d need! ) so we start eyeballing bolt lines to guess grades and quality. Occasional painted names on the rock offer the possibility of later identification – if Google is up to the challenge. …
After a couple of warm ups on the slabs we turn our attention to the orange stuff and I end up doing a bit of weaving to avoid a particularly tricky bulge in the steep wall. Next it’s the soaring crack in the wall to the left. All very pleasant routes, and time for a lunch break.
Left again an ancient chain bolt hanger and the name “Cristina” mark the start of our next objective – a steep bulging groove giving access to the soaring 30m arête that marks the left of the big grey wall. What a belter! Tiny fingery holds and sustained bridging get you through the bulge and onto the arête proper, which looks blank from below but yields surprising finger-sized slots at 3ft intervals, just where you want them. By now we’ve been joined by a Spanish team and they point at the route “bonita?”. “Si, me encantada” I reply in my limited Spanish.
It can be pretty frustrating, and occasionally scary, operating without a topo, but it’s sometimes fun to discover a 3* classic without being pointed at it by Rockfax – especially as you’ve got the crag almost to yourselves, rather than having to form an orderly queue.