Week 4 & 5 – Albarracin

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It has come time to move on to our next destination, the orignal plan was to more on to Costa Blanca, but we decided to change our plans and head to Albarracin next. Albarracin is our first bouldering stop, which is something we’ve both been wanting to do since before we left for Europe, so we decided to leave El Chorro a week early to spend some extra time there.

It was a 300 mile drive, which took us about 7-8 hours in the end, with a quick stop and McDonalds, and 4 deer out in the road en route. The climbing here is in a forest, theres the town on Albarracin on one side, and then not much else for a good few miles. We arrived at about 1am on the other side of the forest with no idea where was best to stay, despite Beth spending most of the journy over on the internet trying to find some information that would be useful. It probably would have been better if we hadn’t bothered. Lots of talk of issues with staying in certain places, but no recommendations of alternatives, or if there was it was very vauge. First place we saw when we arrived was a 24 hour car park on the edge of the forest, there was one car there, and nothing else, we put it down as a maybe and carried on to the GPS co-ordinates for the parking area that we’d be using when heading out climbing, no-one there, we carried on til we reached the town, and found two motorhomes parked on the side of the road,no chance of staying here either. At this point we were so tired we figured the first place was probably our best bet, and we’d just have to home we didn’t get in any trouble. By the time we got back there it was about 2am, so getting to sleep was pretty easy.

We’d set our alarms fairly early just in case, so we were up and gone before 8, less chance of us getting into some kind of trouble. We decided to go have a drive around again, in the day light, see if we’d missed anywhere. There were a few more options that looked promising, and one place with a lot of signs, which usually ends up meaning you shouldn’t really stay there. Turns out we had that completely backwards this time. After speaking to a couple from New Zealand we found out that this parking spot is the most common place for people to stay in vans etc. So with that sorted we decided to have a look at the climbing.

The climbing here really is fantastic, the boulders come in all shapes and sizes, and at every angle imaginable, almost every sector has a great spread of grades, there’s tonnes of problems within 10-15 minute walk of the parking, or if you want a bit more peace and quiet you go walk a bit further out and the quality is fantastic, and it can feel like you’re the only people for miles. The one thing almost all of these problems do have apart from amazing friction is slopey, “font-style” top-outs. This often means that getting over the top of the boulder is usually the hardest part, and doing so with any kind of grace is even more difficult. It’s safe to say there has been a lot of hand slapping, feet scrambling, belly flopping action going on since we arrived!

We’ve both had new high points grade wise since arriving, Beths had her first 6A and 6A+, with a few 6Bs which are close too. I’ve had my first 6C which wasn’t a dyno, and my first 6C+, with a 7A and 7A+ which are close to being done. Although it’s not all been easy. The grading here can be a bit all over the place, and the style of the problems varies a lot, so there has been a lot of disapointment for both of us with things we think we should be able to do, but just can’t, not yet anyway. But there’s plenty of time to change that. We’ve also had a near miss with one of my fingers, I caught a hold all wrong and ended up loading just my third finger with most of my weight for a split second, seems fine after a few days off so we don’t think it’s a problem.

After the first two days of climbing we decided to take a day off as the weather was looking a bit wet, to find water and toilets, and a few other bits in town, we managed to find a tap and toilets in the same car park in town, so we head down there quite often to either fill up, or drop off, depending on what’s needed. The weather here has been completely different to El Chorro so far, but we knew this was going to be the case. So far the warmest it’s been is maybe 10 degrees, not shorts and t-shirt weather even by my standards. The evenings have been very cold, as low as -1, so the heater has been on most nights. We’ve also had a lot of rainy days. Never heavy rain, just enough to make the top of a lot of the boulders wet. Thankfully there are some sectors which have a lot of problems that are either roof problems, which by there very nature tend to stay dry, or they are problems with roofs above them, so they don’t get wet. Walking back and forth in the rain isn’t too pleasant, but at least it gets us out of the van.

Rest days because of this have been landing on the wetter days, which means a lot of time stuck in the van. There’s been a lot of TV watching, 3DS playing and book reading going on in this time. I’ve even had enough time to start making some plans for a little coding project Beth came up with.

Overall, it’s an amazing place to be spending time, completely different from our first stop, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time I’m saying that either.

 

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