So, my original intention after the Picos was to go to Ordessa / Monte Perdido and keep on with the big limestone. And indeed Seb and I met possibly the most enthusiastic spanish climber ever, Viti, who was headed in that direction. But by that time I had a very friendly invite from Lee to visit Cavallers, an area I had not previously heard of, but seemed to have a reputation for very high quality granite. So I bade Seb farewell in Santander, and off I went to hone my rusty granite skills.
Cavallers is an excellent, concentrated climbing location. Its based around a reservoir, so you do need to get used to the brutalist bulk of the dam in your view, but around this the rocky valley forms a perfect horseshoe of crags. You can run from shade to shade as the day progresses should you choose (as long as you are organised enough..). There are single pitch sport routes, and multipitch mixed bolt/trad outings. There are no huge continuous faces, but good buttresses up to 4 pitches. With a little imagination routes have been created up to 800m, linking lots of discontinuous climbing!
Van-camping by the river under the dam was easy (note – there is a 2m vehicle width restriction in the park due to the narrow single-track roads) and we rather lazily used Lees car as a shuttle to the high car park, from where the first sectors are only minutes away from the dam.
Lee was an excellent host, knowing the area well, and in return I allowed him to get onto some routes that would perhaps have been beyond his usual set of partners. A decent exchange I think.
Highlights encluded Lee setting off on what he thought was a 6b slab, only to realise later that it was a rarely-climbed 7a (no wonder it felt hard). The characteristic slab feature of ‘mushrooms’ led to some very pleasing, technical flow. Salam Alekum (6c) being perhaps the epitome of this. The final pitch of Triana (6c+) on the Sandanista slab was definitely the highlight of the route and well worth getting up to – a long sustained technical slab but with very varied climbing styles.
The long leaning diedre P2 of the surprisingly remote Christie Sandwich (6c+) was full of great 3d trickery with a spicy trad finale. The subsequent pitches of this route were a real challenge in the full sun (south facing) with some A0, a short 7a section, and then where the book suggested it should ease to V+ I found a stopper move! Each attempt involved another foothold blowing off, so I can only assume that it used to be easier to reach up to the good finishing holds. I think unless you are over 6’2″ and/or climbing 7b its best to call it another A0 move and get on with the route before you become Crispy Sandwich in the sun. The last 6b pitch is thuggy and awkward so dont underestimate it. Luckily there is a small trickle of water in the gully below this route, so once the abseils were done (2 lengths of paired 60m just reach the ground, or there is a slightly hidden intermediate rap-anchor under an overhang, 30m directly below the 3rd belay).
The final day was going to be up on the high dome of Agulla del Comalestorres, a steep but well-marked hike up from the dam it had been crowning the western skyline since our arrival (well, probably long before that too). Our goal was Omaita, an 185m 6c+ with a reputation for feeling harder. As I got stuck into the 2nd (crux) pitch the wind picked up and rain started to blow in. The hanging groove is surprisingly physical, despite being on a slabby face. Finally the invisible footholds, pumpy sidepulls and conditions took their toll on my brain and body, I took a wrong turn, and trying to reverse my mistake, took my best diving whipper of the trip. We battled to the top of that pitch but the rain was just getting worse, so we bailed, almost jamming the rope in the process (perfect timing). Down we scurried and left the mountain to the toads.
All in, a very enjoyable break from the large – in good company, shared meals, interesting craik, and crystal clear waters to drink and bathe in. Thanks Lee!
So now, amazingly I seem to be up to date. Im sitting in the van at the head of El Pas de la Casa in Andora. Im off soon to meet up with Em (woop!) and go to the Dent d’Orlu, home of the classic Les Enfants de la Dalle 6a+ 900m 24pitches. Im hoping we can give it a good go – while certainly not being a ‘big-wall’, and mostly being technically straightforward, its a healthy length of route! And there are thunderstorms threatening….