Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Climbing in Lleida

Lleida is one of the most famous sport climbing areas in Europe, and is in our very own Catalunya!  This area was one of the factors that intrigued me when thinking of moving to Barcelona, as it's only a 2-3 hour drive from the city (or a 1-hour fast-train ride away as I learned yesterday!) 

Sadly, I haven't been able to cavort as much as I'd hoped to in this region.  You really do need a car to get out and climb loads in Catalunya. And climbing friends that know where to go!  I had even resigned to the idea of selling my unused Lleida guidebook back to the used bookstore before leaving town, when an opportunity to see it arose!  

I recently joined a group of nice international & local climbers that climb together through an the Barcelona Hiking & Climbing MeetUp group, and meeting them led me to Lleida on a random Tuesday I had off from school. The holiday? "Worker's Day."  

I took the train to Lleida in the morning, got picked up by a caravan of climbers in cars and headed to the first crag.  Crag #1 was in the area called Camasara, one of the closer places to the city of Lleida, and one of the first established in the region with over 20 years of climbing development behind it.  The cliffs are spread along the River Segre. The first sector we went to was called Marcant Estil. Some nice warm-up single pitch routes.

 Here's Lili on the rock:
Here are some spring flowers growing out of the rock.  If you're wondering what colors are in this spring, it's purple with a hint of yellow.

We couldn't have picked a better day weather-wise.  
The next area we drove to was called St. Llorenc de Montgai. My friends wanted to do a multi-pitch climb, but as I haven't climbed multi-pitch in a few years and it was only my second day out this season, I listened to that little voice in my gut that said "not today" and took a walk through the gorgeous countryside while they completed the climb. And gorgeous it was!  Holy smokes!

Before heading out, I eavesdropped on a quick refresher about creating belay stations:

Then followed the poppies... as usual.

I headed down the country road, but snapped pictures of the crag as they made progress.  The first climber sets out:
As I was walking, a little old Catalan woman stopped to talk to me on her evening walk. She asked where I was from and how I learned about this place, and when I told her I was an American but stuttered in Catalan trying to explain how I leaned about Lleida, she asked, "Chris Sharma?" with a very cute Catalan accent.  

Chris Sharma is an American climber, supposedly the best sport climber in the world in terms of climbing the most difficult route, and he made Lleida a famous climbing area when he bought a home here and dedicated himself to spending half the year here climbing.  When I said, "Si, Chris Sharma," she told me that he lived in her village -St. Llorenc de Montgai- which we could see in the close distance.  She said his house was between us and her village pointing just downriver.  I have to admit, I got a little starstruck.  So this was Chris Sharma's playground.  And this was the valley he got to stare at for a large chunk of the year.  Wow.
Continuing my walk towards the village, I stumbled upon this protected archeological dig. Some signage told me they had found evidence of a Neanderthal settlement here from 50,000 years ago.

The road to Sharma's village :)
 A little anti-dictator sentiment...
This panorama kills me it's so beautiful! My friends were climbing a route in the middle of it.
 The town of St. Llorenc de Montgai.

Though tempting and warm enough, a sign told me not to swim even in good weather for risk of flooding due to the dam and power station.


Here they are on the multi-pitch route:

I am definitely not selling my Lleida guidebook to the used book store.  I would love love love to return to this climbing area for much more than a day of climbing, camping, and exploring! Maybe an annual trip :)

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