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Lleida

Lleida (Catalan spelling, or Lerida for the Spanish) is one of the largest cities in Catalonia with a population of over 100 000, although far behind Barceona metropolitan area. Close in size to Tarragona, it is much less of a tourist attraction due to the absence of the sea coast, its limited size and sightseeing opportunities. However, it is a very strong climbing center hosting such stars as Dani Andrada and Chris Sharma among its denizens, and even more starry and shiny climbing areas as close as 40 minutes to the North of the city.

The sport climbing North of Lleida is definitely worth much more fame than it currently has. Maybe this is due to Rodellar being relatively close-by over the Aragon border, maybe the earlier absence of good up-to-date guidebooks has something to do with it as well. Hopefully this is all about to change with the great new Lleida Climbs guidebook by Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada.

In Catalonia overall, and Lleida and Alt Urgell regions in particular, it is often the case that only the locals can get through the language and information blockage and find the actual topos dispersed in Desnivel magazine publications, various blogs, and climbing bars. Climbing bars represent one of the crucial Catalan traditions. They are these dim, smoke-filled places, usually occupied by old men playing domino, reading the newspaper, or having their coffee with Whiskey for breakfast. Somewhat surprisingly, they are also places where topos are deposited by the first-ascencionists, where the piada (boasting about the hardest route sent) takes place after a good day, and where beer is drunk and pan con tomate, jamon o queso consumed in admirable quantities by hungry and dirty climbers. The topos oftentimes lack precision and specialize in naked women and/or fantasy drawings rather than such information as where exactly the climb is located or what material is necessary, – they have to be seen to be believed. For this unforgettable cultural experience, try for instance the topos in Vilanova de Meia or Puente de Muntaniana climbing bars.

Back to the climbing, the Lleida region offers mainly sport climbing and long routes in the pre-Pyrenees that torment its horizons. It is sometimes difficult and confusing to get the names right as they can be based on the name of the nearest village (Vilanova or Cubells), mountain chain (Montrebei) or the name of the wall (el Peladet) or a local crag (La Pauta in Vilanova). I will attempt a classification below, basically going from East to West. Artesa de Segre can be considered as a separation, what is North and West from there enters the Lleida region, everything East is Alt Urgell.

Montsec de Rubies is the mountain chain that includes walls usually referred to also as Vilanova, as they are closely located near the village of Vilanova de Meia. There is both, sport climbing and long routes in this area. The most famous sport climbing is around La Pauta and La Cupola (both recently reequipped and NOT completely covered by the Vilanova guidebook) although many other crags are located near-by. The long routes are most worth-while on the Roca dels Arcs – the biggest wall in Vilanova, around 200 meters and 6-7 pitches long vertical to overhanging, roofy limestone. There is also Roca Alta, Pilar del Segre, Pared de Zarathoustra etc. if you want to spend more time in this enchanting landscape. There are several camping spots and a fountain on the road below the main walls heading to the Vilanova village. Most crags are South-facing, and best approached in autumn, winter, or spring.

Montsec d’Ares is the continuation of the pre-Pyrenees to the left (West) after Vilanova and all the way to the Aragon border. The next big climbing area there is known as Terradets (also the name of the guidebook), that has some of the longest bolted multi-pitches in Catalonia (maybe second to Pared de Catalonia in Montrebei) – what about 500 meters of bolted limestone 10 minutes from the car? Yes, this is possible, with actually two huge walls one after the other, Pared de les Bagasses, and Roca Regina offering incredible amount of routes. And if this is not enough there is Peladet on the other side of the road, and the whole Font Freda and Ager chain going over numerous kilometers all the way to the next big gap, Montrebei. There is also a lot of one-pitch sport climbing around, most famous probably being Les Bruixes. Les Bruixes offer a huge concentration of 8s and several 7s on a South-facing wall for hard-core amateurs, just imagine that many of them have been equipped by Andrada himself – it does not get better than this!

For the less motivated fanatics, a drive down the road brings one to the lower part, with all the following climbing areas located close to the name-sake villages: Camarasa, Sant Llorenc de Montgai, Cubells, Os de Balaguer, Tartareu, Santa Ana, Santa Linya, and the currently developed crags North of the Ager village. Some of these crags are covered in the Salvatge Oest guidebook, others remain hidden jewels, such as one of my favorites, La Selva crag at Camarasa. Adventure climbers could be satisfied by the visit to the remote Pared del Doll or the walls above the St Llorenc village, known as Mont Roig.

There are several climbing areas to the North of the town of Tremp, such as Collegats or Sierra de Sant Gervas, the topos for which are even harder to get. There is both, sport climbing and long multi-pitch in Collegats, topos available at the climbing bar of Pobla de Segur. An actual guidebook has been promised for some years now – and remains on the waiting list so far. Sierra de Sant Gervas is known for longer, adventure-climbing routes.

All the way West, at the border with Aragon, is one of the wildest walls of Catalonia, Montrebei, or Pared de Catalonia. Another appealing monster, Pared de Aragon, is situated in front of Pared de Catalonia, separated by the river-canyon, and the border between the two provinces. The ascent of any one of the two walls has a fame of being a serious undertaking, with most routes pretty hard, mostly semi-equipped, exposed, and demanding on technical and mental skills. The approach and descent should not be taken lightly either. But the panorama is worth the effort, especially when there is still snow lying on top in the near-by Pyrenees. The absence of a guidebook is also very evident and painful for people not totally familiar with this spot.


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