La Pauta – Small but perfectly formed

This was a “new to us” crag, even though it appeared in the first edition of Lleida Climbs. I guess the reason we hadn’t visited previously is because its sweet spot is 6c to 7b, with only a solitary route below 6b+. Happily, Helen was keen for a rest day but happy to be a “belay bunny”. Unhappily, the gloomy weather that we’d been successfully dodging for the previous 4 days had finally arrived with a vengeance.

We thought we’d take a look anyway, without any great expectations!

The first thing to say is that La Pauta is in an idyllic location – high up in the hinterland between Alos de Balaguer and Vilanova de Meia. The last few km are dirt track, but the friendly variety (don’t be sucked into the “similar ETA” route from the north suggested by Google – it’s a lot rougher and goes through a tiny hamlet with narrow streets and low balconies – lucky on both counts that we’d left the “house” bit of our setup at the campsite).

The crag is very attractive too, and the advertised flat walk in 10mins is a comfortable stroll. 40 or so routes with more than half in the 6c-7b range – vertical to gently overhanging wall-climbing, with a few cracks thrown in, to typically 30m. Fab!

If only it wasn’t 8 degrees C and starting to drizzle 😦 Unperturbed (or bloody-minded) I set about Alvalle del Gaspatxo, a 30m 6b+ crozzly crack. Outstanding – it’d be a 3* E3 in Pembroke!

The drizzle hadn’t really let up, but at least on the steeper bits of crag the lower section was staying dry. Homo Sapiens, looked like a great 7a, with the bonus of a half-height loweroff. This doesn’t get a separate grade in the guidebook, but thought it was 6b+. It might have been the cold – not great for the thin crimpy moves – but it felt tough. Arriving at the intermediate loweroff you get a decent rest, and the route changes character completely – steepening up into an overhanging crack, so I decided to press on. This was much more compatible with frozen fingers, and didn’t feel much harder than the first half. Overall it’d probably be a soft 7a in decent weather but I felt I fully earned the tick.

With no sign of an improvement in the weather it seemed sensible to quit whilst I was ahead, but this is definitely somewhere we’ll return to – a belting little crag (and there looks to be a lovely van overnight spot at the nearby Ermita Sant Bartomeu).

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