There’s something about the Spanish language, Spanish culture, Spanish landscapes… that has stolen my heart. The interactions I have had with the people of Spain and the multitude of various landscapes of the relatively small country draw me in with every excited nerve in my body. I’m reading George Orwells book, Homage to Catalonia, I have a handwritten chart of Spanish grammar hanging above my pillow, I got ‘a talkin’ to’ at my previous job for studying Spanish on the job - I just cannot seem to get enough.
Along with my love for Spain is a love (obsession perhaps) for climbing. Put these two things together and it’s real hard to get me down. In 2017 I traveled through Northern Europe and Spain with Katherine for two weeks, and then continued my journey in Spain for another couple weeks. In April of 2018, Shawn and I hopped on a plane to explore the climbing of Spain for a month. It did not disappoint.
In April, 2018 we arrived in Madrid to visit our friend Cristina who wins at being a human and a friend. If we were to go on a walk through Madrid, she would know at least a dozen of the people we pass, would give money to local charities whom she agrees with if they were to ask for money, is the best host, and is basically an all around super human. Everybody loves her, for good reason.
Having a rental car in Madrid is not the way to go. I repeat: DO NOT GET A RENTAL CAR IN MADRID. Within 24 hours, we managed to get ourselves two parking tickets. There is plenty of public transportation and we learned the hard way to use it (we also left Madrid, came back weeks later for 12 hours to say hello to some friends, and got a third parking ticket).
Cristina and a group of friends took us to La Pedriza (pronounced: la ped-ritha because the Spanish accent is the best) which is a nearby climbing crag with loads of slab sport climbing and beautiful hikes. We were surprised by snow at the top!
We started making our way south, first stopping in Costa Blanca, Valencia. I will say, this stop was a surprise as it has been built into a tourist empire. The geologic fortune of this place is high but it seemed as though it has been turned into a cement jungle for travelers. Unfortunate, but we came for the climbing, and the climbing remained spectacular. Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea of crystal clear waters and warm climates, I see why this place has been bombarded by humans, but it is sad to see such a beautiful place hidden under patios, roads, abandoned hotels, and cement walls.
Costa Blanca, Valencia
Continuing south, we had borrowed some trad gear from a friend in Madrid, who recommended we stop in Leiva, Murcia (pronounced: mur-thia) to climb, so that was our next destination. Murcia is a small town with not a lot of grocery store options, but we finally found a store, grabbed some bread, crackers, cheese, and jamon (the essentials), and headed up the windy road to Leiva (some people spell it Leyva, not completely sure which is correct). At the top of the hill it seemed to be a deserted national or state park of some sort. It seemed a bit haunted with an old playground, a couple homes that were definitely not inhabited, and not a soul to be found. We found the climbing the following day, and it sure was beautiful (and hard). The hike up was about three miles up a fire road, and then straight up a steep cliff. Luckily on our way out of there, we caught a ride with two fellow climbers who happened to be rangers of the forest so they knew their way around. I think they were surprised to see two Americans out there - seems like a very local spot.
Granada was on the list, not for climbing, but for a quick tourist stop-over. Also a place I highly advise to ditch the rental car and get around on foot. The cobbled streets are large enough only for pedestrians, we learned this the hard way. Following Granada we stopped in Cordoba, and then decided to make the long trip back up north to the Basque Country (this was when we stopped in Madrid for a couple hours only to receive another parking ticket). Eventually we made it all the way up the the northern tip of Spain just next door to France, in San Sebastian. We rented boards, surfed until the sun began to set, played tourists for the rest of the day and began our trek to Riglos, my very favorite place in Spain thus far!
We stopped in Rodellar during a massive storm in hopes there would be a break in the weather, but to no avail. Headed back to Riglos to climb with some new friends, and then made our way to Barcelona for a day before flying home.
I love this country so much, and I cannot wait to go back and spend more time here.
All my love, Espana!