Sport Climbing experiences from Ireland: Climbing in Chulilla and Gorge Du Tarn
My sport climbing year started off this April with a two week trip to Chulilla in Spain. There is currently no guide to the area as there are so many new routes being bolted but there is a topo at El Altico and you can buy a photocopy in the village shop / tobacco store. There is also an online map that is frequently updated with new routes at ClimbMaps.com. There is also this website Chulillaclimbing.com where you can find some more information on the area.
We flew into Valencia and from there we rented a car and drove to El Altico in the village of Chulilla. The village is about 40 minutes from the airport.
Where to stay:
El Altico Refugio/Hostel is run by a lovely spanish couple Pedro and Nuria [Neal: they are deserve much of the credit for all the recent new routes which have been bolted]. It is pretty cheap to stay there and there are options of double rooms and dorm rooms. It also has a small swimming pool, climbing wall and amazing view. We spoke to other climbers who rented apartments in the village so if you are with a group this sounded like a pretty cheap option also.
Food and Drink:
There is a town close by to Chulilla called Losa del Obispo with a pretty big supermarket for all necessary groceries. There is also a little shop in Chulilla for smaller things, like bread, cheese, milk, snacks etc
There is lovely square with several small bars to choose from, all right beside the small market store and tobacco store that sells guidebook.
Prior to this trip I trained for about 12 weeks. Due to issues with my shoulder I had lost a lot of strength and power over the Winter. I spent the first 6 weeks of my training focusing on getting fit again, bouldering, power endurance, core strengthening and regular yoga practice. I used the training beta set programmes and found them good from the perspective that it gave me something set to follow, I could adapt it where I felt I wanted/needed more or less and I particularly liked their Crossfit style workouts with multiple exercises/sets for time and the inclusion of running.
The 2nd 6 or so weeks of my training, I incorporated more fingerboard work, I follow the Eva Lopez transgression plans. I also included longer boulder circuits and 4 x 4’s.
We climbed predominantly at the Oasis Sector, El Alagarroba and El Balconito as there were so many routes there of amazing quality at the grades we wanted. It was also in the shade all day.
The style was vertical to slightly overhanging, crimpy and some of the higher 7’s and 8’s were more Tufa style.
I found the transition to the type of climbing here very short. I felt I was able to climb well on grades I was used to within the first 2 days. The routes were long so having some fitness getting there definitely helped.
An 80m rope is necessary for a lot of the routes, especially in the sectors we climbed at. This also means there are lot of bolts! We brought 30ish draws and this was enough to have one project and just about enough for warm ups etc but having more draws if you wanted two projects may be no harm.
Below is a list of some of the routes I liked the most, I climbed mostly in the range from 7a-7c.
- Gargola 6b
- Magnestoresistencia 6b+
- Nazgul 6b+
- Pas ajeros del Silencia 6c+
- Plan Z 7a
- Top of the Rock 7a
- Richar Line 7a
- Miguel Gomez 7a+
- Sendero Sinuosa 7a+
- Super Furry Animal 7a+
- Animula Vagula Blandula 7b
- Danos Colateral 7b+
Coming from Ireland, and after having a long break from ‘real rock’ (8 months) and an injury where I didn't climb for 2 of those 8 months, I found that my fitness came back really quickly and my ability to onsight and feel like I was moving well. As most of the routes required finger strength on crimps, I also felt pretty strong coming from training and the angle was not too stressful on shoulders or core.
My on sighting level was the same as last year and I red pointed the 7b+ on my 3rd attempt. I tried 2 different 7c’s and found that the physicality necessary for these grades just took a little longer to adapt to when I am not used to trying those grades at home. What would definitely help here is training more at my limit and getting used to the feeling of having to pull hard for many moves and multiple sequences (something I need to work on!)
Gorge Du Tarn
We flew into Marseilles and rented a car from Europcar. The drive to Les Vignes was about 3 1/2 hours.
Where to stay:
Camping Beldoire is the closest campsite to the climbing areas and very reasonably priced.
There are a lot of shops in Millau which is about 35-40 minutes drive away and we also found a shop in Severac Le Chateau which is closer, about 25 minutes up the mountain roads.
The climbing sectors in the Tarn are spread out and having come from Chulilla where everything was so compact this definitely took a few days to get used to.
We mostly climbed in Sector L’Oasif, Trezor Du Zebra and De que fais Aqui.
Having come from the 2 week trip to Chulilla, I had fitness and time on rock which definitely gave me more confidence and I felt more comfortable climbing.
In the L’Oasif Sector it came as a bit of a shock to climb on the steeper more pocketed limestone. The climbing was more sustained than Chulilla. (If you are climbing around 7a this crag as about 6 of them in a row and all really nice routes.) This area is in the shade until about 1pm if it is a sunny day.
The Trezor Du Zebra has some lovely warm up routes and quite long, as it is in the shade in the mornings, it works well to go there and then somewhere else in the afternoon.
The De Que fais Aqui Sector has a lot of new route development and all the new routes are in the latest addition of the guidebook (you can buy this at the Pas de Soucy souvenir shop or at the campsite). There are some amazing new longer routes, really beautiful views and great climbing.
I had been to the Tarn previously so below are some of my favourite new routes that I climbed;
- Honkey Tonche 6c+
- Cosmopolite 6c and 7a direct start
- Flexion 7a
De Que Fais Aqui
- Azyerol 7a
- Les Couilles au cul 7a
- Fuck the Curve 7a
- Cure Riological 7a
- Marie 7a+
- Hector est Mort 7b
As my first trips of the year I was happy with my fitness, my overall on sighting level and ability to read rock.
As my time sport climbing is pretty limited, I like to climb as much as I can and love the feeling of on sighting and enjoy that type of climbing.
I did as I mentioned try some routes at 7c which were a bit harder for me, I was very close (within inches!) to one in the Tarn.
Some tips I feel I came away with!
- Training hard! What I mean here is being familiar with the intensity that you need to execute moves and sequences and the ability to that in succession. I am naturally more endurance able and lean towards this type of training, it serves me well on lovely long routes but when it comes to pulling hard for a few sequences in a row I power out. Training this at home would mean it comes quicker on trips. Your strengths and weaknesses may differ so analyse what they are for you and make sure to dedicate time to all areas.
- I would recommend as regards projecting on shorter trips, to never underestimate how much rest you need, double rest days can be hugely beneficial. (I only took single rest days and feel another rest day towards the end would have made a huge difference)
- Take time to get some on sighting in and getting routes quickly which can be great for your body and your confidence. (In between projecting I think its important to enjoy climbing and feel like you are moving more naturally rather than remembered sequences)
- Warm up specifically for red point attempts ( The route I tried in the Tarn was particularly finger intensive and it may have improved my efforts if I had warmed up on a crimpy route prior to my red point attempts)
- Project Choice- if you are choosing a project on a trip, choose wisely. Find one that suits most of your strengths, that way you wont have too much adaptation time and can enjoy each attempt.
If you are thinking of going to either of these locations and you would like any other information or route recommendations, let me know.