Valle de Isabena & Alins

Valle de Isabena runs parallel to and to the west of the main thoroughfare from Lleida to France – in fact Google maps routed us along it on the way from Huesca to El Pont de Suert. It’s a quiet, winding back-road through a spectacular narrow valley, which incidentally seemed to be doing quite a good job of retaining the winter snows. However, our faith in the combination of south-facing rock (even at 1,300m) and unbroken sunshine saw us pulling into the parking spot for the Pena del Serradillo with the aim of checking out the amusingly named Sector Flaps-Potamo.

One of the quirks of the guidebook is that the crag location maps don’t necessarily have North at the top, nor do they give any indication of where it might be, so look out for km marker 4 to be sure you’re in the right spot.

You can make out the crag from here, but the path is a bit indistinct, so we ended up with a bit of bushwhacking. You need to take a couple of left zags of what feels like the main path to find the route of least resistance to the foot of the crag.

Annoyingly, when I came to record our return track to save you the bother, it turns out that these zags are pretty well marked on Open Street Map – Topo Map I use.

We warmed up on Aligator, another candidate for the toughest V+ of the trip, but good climbing.

I had a go at Familia Felix, but didn’t get very far, and it’s fair to say that neither of us was especially taken with the crag. Time for a two-crag day…

Actually the other crag we planned to check out was only about a km away and about 150m further up the same hillside, but has a completely different approach from above. The resulting 30mins drive to get there was absolutely no hardship, zigzagging up onto a high ridgeline with views over snow-crested mountains, before reaching the village of Laspaules and the turning to the hamlet of Alins (spot the clue that there might be some climbing to be had)…

After 7km of more pretty windyness you arrive in the church square perched precariously atop the cliffs we’d been climbing on earlier (oddly it felt considerably warmer, sheltered from the breeze and away from the river-cooled valley floor).

No problem finding the path this time – it’s a full blown GR and a one of many pilgrimage routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela.

Sector Camino comes quickly into view and is reached in about 5 minutes.

A dozen routes of about 20m from 6a to 7a.

Se Quien Eres is an enjoyable, good quality 6a. At the right of the crag the rock steepens, turns yellow and gets a bit crumbly – think Cheshire cheese. KM 50 Year Old, 7a (there must be a story there!) isn’t the best route but it was a hard-won lead on fragile holds.

That left just long enough for a quick recce of the next sector along and further down the hill. El Templo del Metal has around 20 routes from 6b to 7b and up to 50m long. The route names are homage to iconic Heavy Metal bands, and there are some stunning lines up huge corners and grooves. Definitely worth a proper visit!

Iron Maiden, 7a
Van Halen, 6c+, Les Suaves, 7a, Scorpions, 6c+
Here’s an overview of the sectors we visited so you can see just how close they were!

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