Arboli – sector El Falco 

We had  a dull but dry day in prospect, however, the wind had dropped and the temperature of 8C was enough to have teams heading in all directions for the penultimate day of the trip. Everyone had successfully and eventful days…

Charlie led an exploration of El Penitent, preceeded by “an E9 drive” which involved pushing the car at times (surely that makes it A5?) 

At Montsant, Bill almost gained global fame and a movie deal when his foot slipped, leaving his finger jammed in a crack – impromptu chiselling by John L meant that amputation was avoided. 

And over at Arboli, John J’s search for his lost guidebook was successful with only mild sogginess after a couple of nights out. 

With the cloudy skies, I was finding it  hard to muster the enthusiasm for climbing (not a phrase I’ve often used) but got bowled along in the wave of everyone else’s psyche. Helen, after maxing out in Margalef, was lined up for belay duty so we headed for Arboli sector Falco. 

Spuz had recommended this as  “one of the top ten crags he’s climbed on” and I hate to admit it, but he was right! Just the view of the 40m vertical orange wall backed by the Panorama of the Siurana cliffs and village made the trip worthwhile. 

The entry grade here is fairly stiff, and we warmed up on the easiest route De qué vast, 6a+, at the far right hand end of the crag. Normally you’d expect this to be a polished crappie horror show, but actually it’s excellent; following a natural line of cracks and groves, first left then right. It wouldn’t be out of place as an E2 on Pavey Ark. 

Dropping down onto the main wall, you know you’re on a major crag – 40m of plonk on vertical orange limestone with about 40 routes from 6b to 8a; the vast majority at 6c to 7b.

We bumped into a pair of Brits, George and Rachel, who were also on an extended road trip. They were just finishing off on Borinot, a 3* 7a with the added bonus of a 6b+ tick for making the first lower off at 20m, and raved about the quality. What a stupendous pitch – the first 20m go steadily on good but spaced holds (and with only 6 bolts it pays to have a bit in hand). The first crux arrives soon after the 6b+ lower off; a high step into a thin groove. A bit more steady climbing leads to the true crux – a very thin layaway sequence followed by a looooong reach for a flakey jug, then a romp to the top. YeeHaa – probably the best route I’ve done all trip. Here’s Helen on the lower half of Borinot and George on Chanidangers, the 7a+ to the left:

That was so much fun that I decided to go for Per Tutatis, the 7a+ to the right. This turned out to be much more sustained, with fingery climbing right from the ground and no real let up (turns out you get a 7a tick for making it to the mid point lower off). There’s then an extended thin sequence of on/off climbing (thankfully just “on” in my case) which finally leads to easier ground and the belay. 

By now, the grey day had brightened way beyond the forecast and it was positively toasty. 

I’d normally be happy to call it a day with a couple of 7as in the bank (3 if you count the halfway tick on the last route) but George and Rachel were insistent that the 7a+ to the left, Chanidangers, was even better (and more importantly easier) than Borinot. I couldn’t resist the temptation, and they were right on both counts – much more sustained but without such a cruxy move – I fought my way to the chains despite being completely knackered. What a fab day! 

Here’s Rachel leading Haber Pedido Muerte, 6c+, also visible in the final crag Panorama below. 

Outstanding crag … remind me to ask Spuz what the other 9 of his top 10 are. 

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