Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Routes in Andalucia

The high mountain areas of El Torcal. Villanueva del Rosario and Villanueva del TRabuco have seen a lot of attention this summer as the summer heat has made the low lying crags unclimbable.

First off the impressive walls on the left hand side of El Corral at Villanueva del Rosario received attention from Bernabes Fernandez - Bernabes has been injured for some time and was looking for a project to keep him busy.

El Corral had already been breached on it's lower central section with a dozen 35m routes in the grades 7b - 8a and by a couple of multi-pitch routes at 6c level routes that exploit weaknesses and weave their way up the wall, but the left side was a lot blanker.

The upper walls of El Corral (El Paso de Viento) had been bolted last year with 8 routes accessed via a narrow rock gangway a via ferrata safety line. Bernabes used this safety line to as his anchor points to create 6 monster 60m piches between 7b and 7c+. The routes can all be split at a halfway point just before the rock becomes super steep and this gives 6 pitches that are 30m long betwween 6c and 7a+.

Over in Villanueva del Trabuco the local council are keen to improve the area in the eyes of climbers and have provided local climbers with the resources to create both a new via ferrata and new rock routes. The new routes om El Puente del Roca are quite technical on rock that is quite smooth - more details to follow.

The development at El Torcal has continued and the new areas are fantastic - very unlike the "gritstone" type limestone that is found near the summit visitor centre.

Even the Ventana area at Villanueva del Rosario has received more routes.

These high areas have been brilliant this summer - I left the village yesterday thinking that it was too hot, but climbing comnditions at Ventana were perfect - I needed a fleece for belaying, but the friction was amazing.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Via Ferrata at El Torcal

Via Ferrata routes are being constructed at a fast rate in Andalucia - in addition to the routes at El Torcal a new route has been constructed at Villanueva del Trabuco just 5 miles from our base in Villanueva del Rosario.

Plus we have received news that another 3 via ferrata routes are being built near Ronda just to the north of us.

The via ferrata at Villanueva del Trabuco does not look quite finished - all of the rungs are in, but the safety lines are not installed yet. The route is quite short, but steep and impressive taking a direct line to the summit of the highest rock summit on the Puente Roca.

Via Ferrate has become an increasingly popular choice for clients and last week I took Bastien and Emilie from Seville to Antequera and El Torcal to do the first half of the via ferrata route there.

The route at El Torcal is comprised of two parts; the first tackles a steep pillar that sits on the flank of Camorro de las Siete Mesas . This part of the route kicks off straight away with some vertical climbing to reach a platform. An exposed traverse with a couple of tricky steps then leads to the base of another steep wall and more vertical climbing. A further short physical section gains a steep slab and easier ground. A slightly exposed ridge traverse then leads to the famous tyrolean traverse across the gap that splits the pillar from the Camorro de las Siete Mesas. Pulling acroos this quickly leads to the far side and the last pitch on via ferrata rungs.

A short scramble then leads to a broad shoulder where it is possible to unrope. A lot of people finish here and traverse past the various goat herds back to the starting point. This section takes 3-4 hours depending on how confident the members of the party are in tackling exposed ground.

The second part of the route involves a steep 90 minute walk to gain a group of pillars that guard the summit of the Camorro of the the Torcal Alto - at 1336 m this is the highest point in El Torcal. 3 good pitches of via ferrata including a great traverse lead to the summit. The walk down is long. but overall it makes for a fantastic day out.

Overall the local authorities seem to be recognising that tourism is a key method of getting the Spanish economy back on its feet and are putting a lot of resources into establishing walking routes, via ferratas and new climbing areas. The Villanueva del Trabuco development includes both the via ferrata route, new rock climbing routes and a series of trekking routes that connect into the GR7.