Coll de Nargo – Sector Coll Pique and Samarkand 

A major deluge throughout Saturday prompted a much needed rest day and a change of scene, so we headed over the hills to Oliana. Great views of the world’s second hardest route (La Dura Dura, 9b+) from the campsite, but that was its only redeeming feature. Otherwise Camping Entrellacs is one to avoid.

More rain on Sunday and it was looking like a double washout, but we tootled up the valley to at least check out Coll de Nargo in the drizzle. With the rain abating and the thermometer showing a “toasty” 8C we went in search of dry rock for a token YECTOYD route (You Either Climbed Today Or You Didn’t). Enric Crek, 5c, was just the job – dry enough between the wet bits and better climbing than we’d expected.

That prompted the hazardous spiral into “maybe we should just do one more…”

Sanglas, 5c, was also good (with the bonus of the 6b extension) 

and we went on to also do Peus de Moix, 6a (excellent) and Es fa Fosc, 6a (also very good) in improving conditions.

By the time we’d got back to the van for a spot of (late) lunch, the first spots of rain appeared and half an hour later it was chucking it down – we really got lucky with the weather window! Luckier still was a brief lull in the downpour allowed me to capture this fabulous rainbow without getting soaked. 

Justin and Chris arrived in the midst of the deluge and we enjoyed a few beers and a chorizo stew. 

Monday dawned sunny if chilly, and we spent a couple of hours basking in the sun, waiting for the crag to dry, and watching the spectacular aerial display being put on by the Griffon Vultures. There were a couple of dozen or more, making forays from the Paret del Grau down the valley in search of carrion.

We finally judged it to be prime conditions at about 11.30 and wandered along to Sector Samarkand, which was pleasantly warm but with a fair bit of seepage. We settled for warming up on Pels Pels, and combined the two 5c pitches to give a huge 50m outing – great (though tricky). We then did Sikaldur, 6a+, also good but tough, with the circling Vultures on hand to add a bit of atmosphere. 

The air was literally thick with these fantastic creatures, in what is apparently known as a “kettle” of Vultures. 

I then had a go at Sa Mare Canta, a very technical and run out 7a on the left of the sector (6 bolts in a little over 20m). Very absorbing climbing up a grey rib, taking a wandering line to link up just enough holds, via a number of sequences where you just have to trust that more holds will appear as you teeter a couple of meters above the last bolt. This all culminates in a really tricky crux section, heading way out left from the final bolt on shallow pockets with almost nothing to stand on, you then pull up on smears and a poor edge. Over-committed and without anything obvious to lunge for, I warned Helen “I’m off” and whizzed downwards. Bugger! Next go I stuck with it, got my feet high on more “no holds” and cranked for good holds just below the chain. Should have done that first time. Here’s a strong Spanish lad pondering the crux.

Back on Coll Pique we catch up with Justin and Chris again and they recommend a couple of good routes on this conglomerate section of crag. Samanrampa, 6a+

…and Dinabolt Tahussa, also 6a+, which by common consensus was the route of the day. 

A great couple of days in a truly fab spot! 

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