Many of you will be familiar with our favoured reference source for exploring Spain (at least in print) – Donde Escalar has inspired numerous happy finds over the years, and it’s come up trumps again! Calcena is one of the additional “featured crags” included in the latest edition, with a coveted 5-carabiner rating and a couple of topos to give a taste of the 400 routes on offer.
Situated to the west of Zaragoza, in the southern foothills of the Moncayo Natural Park, it was also forecasted to benefit from a decent couple of days weather in an otherwise bleak meteorological outlook across much of Spain. It seemed worth taking a flyer to investigate, despite it being a 3-hours drive in the wrong direction (ie not on the way home) – the alternative was a day in Lleida watching the rain.
Driving in from the south, Google Maps reckoned the last 13kms from the A1503 would take us 20mins, which was spot on, as the sinuous single-track road didn’t encourage speed – but nor did the scenery. Rocks and greenery punctuated by blossom trees and perched villages meant that the time passed quickly. Distant views of a crenelated skyline and freshly fallen snow in the Moncayo hills had us wondering if we’d misjudged things,
… but a couple of kilometres before the village we started to wind through a magical valley dotted with pinnacles and crags on both sides.
The glint of bolts suggested we’d found ourselves somewhere in the Zona de Escalada so we stopped to explore.
The first routes were just a couple of minutes from the van – we’d got a few topos from this very helpful site:
… but nothing quite matched up, so we picked an amenable looking line up an attractive conglomerate tower and quested upwards. 35m of fun, sunny YECTOYD later, and accompanied by a sky-full of vultures, we’d already decided that the journey had been worthwhile. [a retrospective review of a guidebook suggested we’d done Okupa, V]
Onwards to the village and we pulled into the van parking area at the Albergue / Refugio. Not a bad spot, sandwiched between the crags (and vultures)…
… and the picturesque village.
… and even more charming when it turns out to be free to park overnight (there’s even access to the toilets in the Albergue – showers also available for a modest sum).
Next morning we picked up a copy of the brand new guidebook (published 2022) – only €20 and clearly assembled with a great deal of thought and love.
The 400 or so routes are scattered across numerous walls, towers and pinnacles on both sides of the road, with sectors facing all directions to accommodate your preference for sun or shade, and all in a really compact area little more than a kilometer square, starting just 500m from the Albergue. You could easily base yourself there without a car (they have bunkhouse type accommodation, a bar and restaurant too) and walk to any of the crags in at most 20mins, but there are also handy parking spots at various points along the road making numerous sectors practically roadside.
Tercer Puente certainly fits that description and basks in the morning sun making it the perfect spot to start the day. About a dozen routes ranging from IV+ on the road left to 7b on the right, and 3 extensions through the upper headwall – we worked our way through most of them over the course of 2 visits.
I also had a pretty decent stab at Berberecho, 7a, up the grey streak up the middle of the front of the buttress.
Swapping sides of the road for the afternoon shift, Aguja Sninfo has a bunch of south and west-facing routes. The hugely featured hueco face has an devious 6b up it as well as an 8a+, but I tried Corazonada, 7a, on the orange / grey wall to the right, which I can’t really recommend – a bit crumbly at the bottom and thin at the top.
Round on the west face, Helen really enjoyed Boa Constrictor, 6a
You can just about make out a vulture photo bomb in the shot below (on the same day that Hazel Findlay also got photo bombed by a vulture on her 9a tick!):
A bit further up the hill is Aguja Pillar Bolea, where I managed to break my Calcena 7a duck with Urgencies para Julia, only to find that it’s been downgraded to 6c+ in the new guide (which I’d quite liked until then!)
Another good afternoon option is Zurrute de la Hornera, opposite Tercer Puente and only 5mins up a good path.
Another good sector with a range of grades. I had a couple of unsuccessful battles with the two 7as up the orange wall.
Helen had more success with Acampada Social, 6a…
… and also enjoyed El Diedro, V.
Big rain forecast for tomorrow but maybe back for more Calcena climbing if it perks up after that – if not, we’ll certainly be back for a future visit. It’s a fab spot!