Heading east, we drop over the tail end of the Cantabrian range and stop briefly in the southern Basque country, or Pais Vasques. Everything changes, from landscape to architecture, and the language becomes unrecognisable, full of Ks, Xs and unusual vowel combinations.
We’d planned to climb at Villanueva de Vadegovia, and stop at the charming campsite in the adjacent village. An evening recce run along GR1 to explore the crags leaves me excited about the climbing, but a little dizzy – this is steep territory on tremendously pocketed rock.
Unfortunately we wake to a chilly and misty day, and forecast isn’t very promising, so instead we press on another hour down the road into La Rioja. As soon as we cross the border, the vinyards are evident everywhere. Still in full leaf, but just starting to turn into autumnal colours, the hillsides are dashed with vivid reds on green, set off by striking yellows and golds from neighbouring trees. It’s a very pretty place – with “The Colours” every bit as vivid as the southern US where we were this time last year.
Quickly dropping the “house” bit of our campervan at a handy campsite, we head to Clavio, one of the recommended crags in Donde Escalar. This is a large conglomerate lump, topped by stone fortifications and towers, that must have provided excellent protection to those on top in days gone by. We’re not huge fans of conglomerate climbing, and it takes a while to acclimatise to the different features and nagging anxiety about bits falling off, but we had a very pleasant afternoon’s sport.