Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a small crag a few miles south of San Sebastian – not a destination venue, but a super-convenient spot nonetheless. Think Witches Quarry or Hartington if you want to get a UK equivalent. Here’s the view from the parking (through the van roof window!) and you can be climbing literally a minute’s walk up the hill.

And it’s easy to navigate your way around the 100 or so routes, thanks to this thoughtfully provided topo sign in the parking area…

… and the occasional tiny route name label.

The climbing itself is also very reminiscent of The Peak (maybe Wildcat?) with strong crack lines on mostly off-vertical rock and trickier fingery routes between. Unsurprisingly it’s also a bit polished – you can’t plant such an obvious crag by the road and not expect people to use it!

Here’s Helen on Tres, V

… and me on Txubaskeiro do Pito, a two-pitch V+/V which you can easily run together with a 60m – 3* Peak HVS.

We also did Malestar, 6a+ (challenging at the grade!)

and Ainhoa, 6a.

As the day started to perk up, the one major flaw in an otherwise designer stop-over crag was becoming evident – they’ve gone and plonked it facing the wrong direction. With a northwest aspect it doesn’t get the sun until 4ish by which time (in January at least) it’s disappearing behind the neighboring hill. No doubt welcome in summer when it would be a perfect after-work location.

Chilly by then, we retired for a brew and watched a couple of locals make the most of the vestiges of sun on one of the steeper test-pieces (there are routes from IV+ to 8a+)

A worthwhile visit was made unforgettable by a bit of local excitement. Our arrival at the crag coincided with “the Great Santa Barbara Boar Breakout” as a couple of sizeable pigs escaped from the adjacent field and we looked on from the crag as passers-by and a couple of local climbers herded them safely back into captivity. Then we got into a long conversation with a chap who, on hearing we from Manchester, delighted in telling us about his pilgrimage to Old Trafford (among other iconic English football grounds) complete with photo album. “Bobby Charlton, 1966” transcends all cultural barriers.

A twenty minutes drive brought us to the coast and our first official campsite of the trip, with stupendous views of the sunset.

Pais Vasco has a lot to offer!