La Sportiva team trip to Spain

In 2009/10 I spent a year climbing rocks around Europe. In a year spent sport climbing, bouldering and pastry eating through (in order) Poland, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, France, Switzerland, Spain, France and Poland the fun-est place I climbed was Rodellar, Spain. It was so good I went twice and spent something like 8 weeks in total there. I did my first ever routes graded 8a+(30) and 8b (31) there so I have had great memories of the place for the last 10 years. When Tassie pal, Grug, suggested we should go there to try “the best looking limestone route I’ve ever seen” Cosi Fan Tutte – I didn’t take much convincing. It turned out neither did half of Blackheath. 

The Nowra season was spent dreaming about Spanish limestone and frothing over how we’d get fit for the inevitable savage pumping. As October approached hard boulder sessions turned into soggy lactic loops and campusing gave way to kneebarring plastic (when no one was looking anyway)

What is climbing like in Rodellar?

Rodellar is a village with a population, according to the sign of, 30 people. Its at the end of the road in the foothills of the Pyrenees near the border with France, about 3 hours drive from Barcelona. Its is a beautiful small tightly packed village with stone cottages and a church spire that stands proudly on the hillcrest formed by a bend in the Mascun river below. Great - but really, who cares?! In that river valley there are seemingly hundreds of huge limestone caves deliciously dripping with tufas, jugs and pockets – if you like getting pumped on steep terrain it is paradise. That is something to care about!

In 2010 it was heaving with Europeans, British and Americans. Rodellar was one of the most popular crags in Europe at the time. It was in fashion. 10 years on there were still climbers but the peak seemed to have passed. Still, walking up to one of the biggest crags, Las Ventanas de Mascun (the windows of Mascun) on the first day, I was psyched that the first person I saw was British strong man Neil Mawson who I hadn’t seen since Rodellar 10 years earlier when we had van camped next to each other for weeks. It still amazes me how small this climbing world can be.

That first day on the limestone was a slap in the face. Apparently limestone is different to plastic boulders and even a bit different to Nowra. For those of us with Euro limestone experience it took a few days to get into the style and feel comfortable on the long pitches and steep terrain. For those without experience it was a slower process involving learning how to climb a long way, upside down on easy-ish moves without hard cruxes – not something Australia has much of.

Cosi Fan Tutte was certainly a thing of beauty, it climbs above a pristine clear pool in the stream and is a truly outrageous line. But at 55m long, 45 degree+ overhung and with a one hour approach it’s not super convenient. It’s also freaking hard! Grug and I went bolt to bolt up it to see what it involved. I was really impressed by the difficulty of the climbing encountered at 40m+ off the ground. Australian frother-legend, Nathan Hoette, apparently did the route a few years back but only after falling off the very last moves to the anchor, which I can confirm are heartbreakingly stout – especially after 55m of climbing!

Tail firmly between legs we retreated to the popular crags which was no real compromise. After all we were there to climb rocks and with so many undone classics a 15 minute stroll from the village and team Blackheath tearing it up, who wouldn’t want to be part of that?!

The style turned out to be somewhat different to my memory of free flowing pumpy climbing on jugs and tufas. The new school tactics of kneebaring (and especially rubberised kneepads) reduced some routes to juggy boulder problems between rests - albeit core sapping, knee-exploding, suffer-rests.

The style turned out to be somewhat different to my memory of free flowing pumpy climbing on jugs and tufas. The new school tactics of kneebaring (and especially rubberised kneepads) reduced some routes to juggy boulder problems between rests - albeit core sapping, knee-exploding, suffer-rests.

A month flew by and suddenly we were counting down days and attempts left on projects. Some had bitten off more than others and started to feel real redpoint time pressure. Kerrin and Jake sent their multi week projects on either their last or second last possible attempts of the trip. Both had to modify their sequences to avoid wet holds after some rain.

I had a mini project myself that I tried on the 3rd last day there and fell off frustratingly close on our 2nd last day. On our last day we had to leave at 1pm to make the flight out of BCN that evening. I figured that gave me a time for a couple of final attempts on Pepes Malins. The route was super fun, combining some of everything Rodellar has to offer, steep thuggy climbing on tufas with a crux dyno to a hidden jug… and of course stacks of kneebars. After warming up my first go ended quickly when a tufa at the first hard move came off in my hand. Next go I was repelled by a seeping hold which had been getting progressively wetter over the previous 2 days. With two modifications to my sequence and the clock ticking I psyched up for one final tie in of the trip. I told myself I didn’t care and that the route was so fun and we’d all had such a great trip that it didn’t matter if I did this route or not. I did though. Really I would have been pretty gutted to have not stuck that final crux dyno that go and snuck my way to the top.

That experience of squeezing every moment out of the trip just put the icing on the cake of an experience that reinforced Rodellar as probably the fun-est place I’ve ever climbed rocks (except perhaps Nowra).

Doug McConnell