Montgrony 

This has been a year of climbing in spectacular spots, high up in the hills and accessed only thanks to centuries of work in constructing snaking tracks to access a perched monastry. Meteora, Elona and Saint Nicholas in Leonidio and now Montgrony – they certainly knew how to pick a great view to while away their monastic lives; I half suspect them of being climbers.

Montgrony was developed as a sports climbing venue very early, and had been on our radar for 30 years. Perhaps we’d left it a bit late, as the walls of tumbling tufa that guard the monastry now have a reputation for being quite polished (despite having largely fallen out of fashion in recent years). In any event, everything was seeping from the rains earlier in the week, so instead we walked up through the ancient stone buildings, following narrow stone staircases to reach the meadow above, where a further 10 minutes walk accessed the crag of Pla de Sant Per – yet another impressive wall set in an alpine environment but a short walk from the car. 

The views over the Pyrenees to the iconic Catalunyan peak of Pedraforca, with its characteristic twin peaks are worth the trip alone.

We warmed up on Free Girls, a two pitch V+ which goes the full height of the crag on generally huge flakey holds (easily done in one with an 80m rope) – it would be stupendous if not for the severe polishing that much traffic has left behind, but still very good. 

We picked Kashmirgualas next, harder (6b) and looking less travelled, we figured it would have suffered less from overuse. In fact we didn’t contribute much to the wear and tear ourselves, as I bailed after about 10m with tough moves above an ancient “coke can ring pull” bolt. Instead we did GEM, 6a, following a long groove with a tricky start (again!) By then we’d used up our entire supply of gout d’eau mojo. 

After a quick mooch around the now much drier sector Pla de la Freixa next to the car park (it was 18C at over 1,400m!) we were on our way… 

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