After a well earned rest day, we needed a venue for a final day of heat-wave before a forecasted break in the weather. Having been scorched off the crag for much of the last 10 days, we decided on an east-facing venue (slow learners!) and wanted somewhere local as we’d be moving on in the coming rain.
We’d ignored Las Devotas in the German “selected climbs” book we’d been using, as the hand drawn topo and only mildly enthusiastic description hadn’t got us very excited. However I’d just stumbled across a local French topo which made it look much more appealing, and it was 15mins drive and would get afternoon shade. Ideal!
What a crag! Steep orange rock lines either side of the deep Devotas gorge, which contains the main trans-Pyreneean artery in this part of the world, through the tunnel north of Bielsa. At this time of year it’s a sleepy backwater of a road with barely a car to be seen. Just a few minutes walk up the well made path zigzags you above the tree-line to the base of the crag, at which point a neck-brace might be advisable for viewing the top. This is steep territory. Standing 10m out from the base of the routes, the occasional drip from high-up tufas reinforces the point.
At first sight, the rock doesn’t look too great – there are few extensive tufa pipes but instead a chaos of short columns, stalectites, bulges and tufa pockets stirred in with a bunch of what look to be loose blocks. Actually, these have been well cemented in by eons of dripping calcite, and provide really interesting and often juggy sharp holds which contrast nicely with the pinches and lay-aways on the tufa. The mixture allows some very steep territory to be covered at a remarkably amenable grade.
We warm up on a juggy 20m 6a, pumpy but great fun. Then a 30m 6b which is more of the same. The next couple of routes are amongst the best I’ve done all trip – La Balade and Personne both start with a 20m pitch of 6b/6b+, at which point you can bail and bank the tick, or roll the dice and press on for another 20m of steep thuggery and get a 7a. 🙂 Really chuffed to get both in the bag!
Moving left I decided to try my luck again and make it a three 7a day with “Talia” – partly motivated by the beautifully painted route name at the bottom. I made it to the top clip, but ran out of juice and plopped off, eyeballing the chain.
A route too far!
The forecast for the next day is heavy rain from 11am – the first crappie day since Galicia almost three weeks ago. We’re a bit frustrated, having had a rest day in the sunshine after Jim’s visit and the prospect of only one day climbing in four (I know – another very spoilt sulk). What we need is a great crag, near the road, and with an built-in 15m umbrella…. Luckily we knew just the place!
Back to Devotas and the first drops of rain are arriving bang on schedule. We make it to the shelter of the crag before it starts in earnest. Warming up on a 30m 6a+ which covers completely unfeasible ground for such a reasonable grade. Then it’s a revenge meeting with Talia – I arrive at the crux after 35m of unrelenting steepness, but this time feel really fresh – the poor flake that I couldn’t hang the day before feels like a jug, and I motor through the tricky move to the belay without drama. What a difference a good rest makes!
Gazing out across the gorge, the moody maelstrom continues beyond our ‘umbrella’ adding to the special feeling of being in the right place at the right time.