Val de Cinca and Orange Snow

With Storm Celia lashing much of Spain with rain, we headed north into the Pyrenees once again, which was counter-intuitively forecasted to have better weather (better but not necessarily great!) We based ourselves in the Val de Cinca, which runs parallel to and west of the Val d’Aran where we enjoyed some “Roca Caliente” a few weeks ago.

Ainsa is the main resort town, and not too far away the crag at Foradada del Toscar promised some reliable, sunny, roadside cragging. We’d visited once before about 5 years ago, and had the place to ourselves on a scorching day

Foradada de Toscar

This time we’d got company, including a couple of friendly Guardia lads who were fitting in a bit of cragging (this seems to be quite a regular occurance – I’m not sure if it’s some kind of “training” or they’re just bunking off!) There’s now a “no parking” sign at the foot of the crag (which obviously doesn’t apply to the local boys in blue!) but there’s ample parking and a picnic spot on the main road only a couple of hundred metres away.

There’s a topo available online, though most of the routes only have numbers rather than names…

Helen led Cacho Pan, V, and #18, 6a+, and we also did #23, a 35m 6b that runs the full height of the crag – recommended.

Over to the left the crag is pierced by a spectacular through-cave, and the walls either side are home to a bunch of harder routes. Unfortunately many of these post-date the “croquis-antiguo” as a couple of locals described our info source after I ended up bailing of something in the 7b/c range thinking I was on a 7a. I covered the ground on #3, 7a+, but not in great style, so it wasn’t the most successful day. To make up for it, here’s a shot from our previous visit of me on #4, a stupendous 6c.

The following day we headed further north towards the French border to check out the climbing around the tiny hamlet of Revilla. This is a tortuous but spectacular twisting drive about 20 minutes off the main valley road, but well worth it for the scenery alone. You literally drive until the road runs out, where there’s a viewpoint which would make a great overnight spot.

Great views into the Pyrenees and the Ordesa and Monte Perdido National Park – shame about the overcast sky. If Storm Celia was depriving us of blue skies it was making up for it with the more unusual phenomenon of orange snow – check out the photos below where dust from the Sahara has coated the snow then been topped off at higher altitudes by a more recent fresh coat of the more useful white stuff.

The climbing is easily accessed in a 5 minutes stroll up through a couple of terraces, and is quite a mix with a couple of dozen routes from 5a to 8a – something for everyone including a few good looking tufas. Sadly, much of it was wet after a few days of rain, but we managed to find a few routes to amuse ourselves on.

We’ve got a French Val de Cinca guidebook (covering both sides of the border) but there’s been a fair bit of new development and it’s worth checking out to make sense of the routes.

Here’s Helen on Tobogan, 5b

… and me on “No Name 7” 6b and good but pretty tough (especially with a few soggy holds).

I also had a bit of a recce to check out Cueva de Liasva, which is a major hardcore venue a couple of km down the hill (again only 5mins from the car). It’s an extraordinary cirque / horseshoe of very steep tufa-strewn rock, opening to the south but giving all-day chase the sun / shade options depending which order you tackle it in. Around half a dozen 6c/7a offerings and then you are quickly into 8s – unfortunately it was all very wet, or else I’d probably have ticked the crag 😉

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