Heading across the border near Braganza we drove via Zamora to Salamanca for the night. We had a vague plan to explore the climbing in the Sierra de Gredos, but our planning session revealed a major flaw with that idea: most of the climbing is between 1,500m and 2,000m and the weather was turning chilly -5C overnight in Salamanca and that’s “only” 1,100m. We’d successfully managed to climb a few kilometres from a ski resort a few days before, but it was completely out of the question here.
We needed to lose a major chunk of altitude if we were going to get any climbing done over the next few days (or even be able to sleep comfortably) so we convened a strategy meeting and a plan B was swiftly hatched,
which involved a three hour drive south into Extremadura. Glorious scenery passing the Gredos, then winding lower into through more granite landscapes to the sparsely populated plains of Spain’s western frontier. Extremadura is famed for its bird life and we were soon accompanied by swooping red and black kites along the road. Further south, as we passed Caceres, every available tree, pylon and building had been turned into a crane’s nest – apparently 70,000 of them migrate through here each year. Finally, arriving at our destination of Alange, just south of Merida, the Vultures started soaring overhead.
Alange is a quartzite crag situated above a reservoir, just next to the dam. If that sounds a bit industrial you’d be mistaken – the crags are in a protected area (climbing is banned on the north faces through the first six months of the year for nesting raptors) and the setting is idyllic (at least in the sparkling sunshine)
Unlike the Serra do Passos, the quartzite here is very smooth (a combination of the geology and more traffic) and even the slabby climbs are quite testing. The first sector you encounter is named “Gotcha” and we warmed up on a good looking easier line on the baja) crag (not in our guide) which turned out to be straightforward but very pleasant.
We then did the eponymous route which takes the right hand line on the triangular tower – it’s easy at first until the holds run out… “Gotcha” indeed, where a stiff pull and smear are required. It’s given 6a and feels stiff on the unfamiliar rock. The central route, just right, is Ves menos que un pez frito also 6a and also has a tricky move low down and another over the higher roof.