We’re back on the road again! We caught the Portsmouth – Santander ferry, and after a delayed departure (7 hours due to bad weather in the Bay of Biscay) we rolled off the ferry around midnight and drove half an hour to our favourite local stop-over at the Cabarceno wildlife park. Sunny the next morning (amazing that you can be whisked here in only 24hrs) and we’ve clearly caught up with the rest of the great post-Christmas migration…
We’d planned / expected to blast on South towards the sunny fleshpots of Costa Blanca, but a toasty forecast prompted a re-think to linger and check out some of the nearby cragging in Cantabria. The decision to hold back on the driving was reinforced by my really dodgy shoulder, which materialised out of nothing (I blame the 20 miles bog-trot on The Rucksack Club Marsden to Edale the previous weekend) 😦
Time to crack the spine on the latest edition of Donde Escalar, updated in 2018 and now with over 1,200 climbing areas throughout Spain.
I reckon we’ve visited about 150 in the last 5 years, but there are 236 new areas since the last edition – we’re falling behind! Time to get a move on!
Ramales de la Victoria is one of 74 featured crags that merit a full page and sample topo (rather than a paragraph or two) and gets a 5 karabiners rating (out of 6). Seemed like the obvious spot, especially as it’s only an hour from the ferry.
You approach up a winding pass from the coastal autoroute and catch sight of the looming walls on your left as you arrive at the brow of the hill. What an impressive crag!
Parking is shared with the UNESCO listed Cueva de Covalanas, famed for its 20,000 year-old cave paintings. As it’s Sunday the place is rammed with tourists and climbers but we managed to squeeze in.
There are at least half a dozen major sectors with about 250 routes, many of them 40m and more, and some much longer, with evidence of lots of new developments and re-bolting. There’s even a couple of via ferata if that takes your fancy.
There are a couple of free downloadable topos eg http://www.sdtorrelavega.com/sdt/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ramales.pdf but there’s also a brand new paper guide which has a tonne of new stuff (and all the new lines make the old topo quite hard to follow).
We started off on the crags to the left / west of the parking, which are slabby to vertical white limestone covered in flakes and goutes d’eau – you could be in Provence, if it weren’t for the absence of polish (okay, much polish). Sector Camino is easily accessed in a few minutes stroll down an ancient cobbled track and catches all the rays going – a real suntrap!
Patri y Marta, 6a+, was a fun 25m introduction, with a 6c extension that wasn’t doable by a one-armed invalid.
A few tens of meters down the hill we were pointed at a 40m 6b that turned out to be pretty amenable, then finished off the day with Infierno de Cobardes, a 40m 6a+ with a pretty tough corner at around half height (somewhere to the right of the strong local on the orange wall below):
We were in no hurry to leave the area and a check on Park4Night came up with the perfect spot to spend the night – only a couple of miles further up the road, just into Pais Vasco (Basque Country), the enchanting village of Lanestosa sees fit to provide a purpose-built aire, complete with toilets and shower in a little Wendy house – no charge, or a few euros if you want hook up.
Next day we figured we should check out the Premier sector at Ramales: Pared del Eco. This is a seriously imposing wall about 100m high and overhanging the whole way – allegedly perma-dry though happily there was no opportunity to verify this.
The guide suggests there are a handful of token 6s in amongst the stellar-looking 7s and 8s but unsurprisingly they turned out to scruffy, polished, short affairs – certainly not worth worsening my dodgy shoulder to flail on. Back to Sector Camino for the excellent Greim, a 20m 6a+ followed by a stiff bulge and stunning headwall extension to rack up a 37m 6b+. Outstanding!
Dropping further down the hill we settled on Sector Escaleras and another 40m of goute d’eaux pulling
We decided to quit whilst we were ahead, and catch the sunset at our cosy aire, and contemplate our next move.