So for the first time in ages I had to put in a request for holidays instead of just quitting and going away for months. And we had so many options!
Initially we wanted to go to Costa Blanca in November, but I didn’t get those holidays. So I got holidays in late September. We thought of the Dolomites, but it was looking like it would be too late, already cold, snowed in. Verdon would be fine but maybe too hot? After researching a lot, we opted for Riglos, which would be a long drive, but broken down with a few days in Font on the way down and up. It had been very rainy in Glasgow since July, and it was a big relief to drive into France with the European late summer sun.
As we drove towards Spain, it started getting hotter. Euro summer like I hadn’t felt since Chamonix. I’ve climbed all over in Spain but there’s a few classic places I hadn’t been to, and Riglos was one of them. After we crossed the border it took us a few more hours of driving through the Pyrenees to finally have our first look of the Mallos, the immense conglomerate towers that shoot high towards the sky above the wee town of Riglos. We were baffled by the views!
Riglos is very welcoming. You can park the van in a parking lot right in the middle of the village. There’s a fountain about 5 minutes walking uphill, and the refuge across the street is open year round, with really good food and views of the Mallos, especially after a climb, when you can sip on beer/whine/whatever and just chill while listening to everyone’s stories of the day.
Because it was so hot, we decided to get up really early for our first climbs. Not only my shoulder was bad, I was quite out of shape, so I told Sean I’d probably not be able to join him on Fiesta de Biceps, but he was welcome to climb it with someone else. But to warm up, we went for Moskitos, in La Visera, a 6b/+ that follows many corners and has a super aerial traverse on one of the higher pitches. Starting at the same time as us, there was a couple on Zulu Demente and another on Fiesta. Our route allowed us to stay in the shade longer than them, but once the sun hit, it hit everyone quite hard. Lucky for us, after the crux on one of the last pitches it was easy to the top. I dropped my chalk bag around that time. And although I don’t use chalk much, it was really missed in the following days. So we reached the summit, took our pictures and then walked back to the refuge to watch other parties finishing their climbs and some start their climbs later in the afternoon.
The following day we went for the normal route (6b) on El Puro, the very distinct needle in front of El Pisón, the largest and highest of the Mallos. We thought, no need to start that early, since it’s shaded all morning. However, once you change sides and starts climbing the needle, it’s been on the sun all morning and it’s so freaking hot! The first pitches are steep chimneys, but then you move to face climbing which can be done in just one pitch, but since there was one rope team ahead of us, we had to pitch everything. After this route it was clear that any route here, easy or not, was going to be pumpy, demand endurance, and lots of athleticism. After we finished, which was around midday, Sean went for some sport routes on the shaded side of Pisón, and then we headed back to chilling time at the refuge, where we spent quite a lot of time trying to decide which route we’d climb the next day.
Chopper (6b) was the chosen one, and Sean was really wanting to go for Chooperior, but my shoulder was aching and feeling very weak. So we got up early again and went for it. The first pitches were alright but as we neared the harder parts, it turned out to be bulge after bulge of really athletic overhangs. Now this was definitely the hardest 6b of all we had climbed so far, but maybe because it builds up and the pitches get harder. I was suffering a bit but in my mind considering going ahead to Chooperior (6c), so that we could do the beautiful 6a 50 m pitch in the end, and summit. As I was there in an overhang, seriously considering that option, something colorful fled by me, bounced on one of the overhangs and fell between the bushes at the base of the route. “What the hell was that?” I thought… and then I heard Sean “Oh no! I dropped one of my shoes!” And there it was, we weren’t gonna climb Chooperior. I arrived at the top of the route, and the 6c looked quite daunting for someone wearing just 1 climbing shoe, so we had no option but to the rappel the route (Sean did consider it going shoeless though…). Luckily enough, we easily found it once we reached the base.
A final afternoon of chilling and munching on snacks, chatting with people and helping lovely Maria get her van started, and then we decided we were too tired to climb anything else. Let’s head to the beach! The next morning we drove to Donostia, and then back up to Font for a few more days of bouldering. It was three really intense days of climbing in Riglos, and although very far, we were happy to have gone. I really learnt to appreciate the sun! Next visit will require more fitness and being injury free.
DONOSTIA (SAN SEBASTIAN)
I love Donostia (San Sebastian). It is the heart of Basque Country and Spain and one of the best places in the world to eat elaborate, sophisticated, and super fresh sea food. Cheap. With Crianza wine. And there’s good surfing as well. So we had to stop here. The idea was to surf a bit and have a night out, but the forecast was quite shitty, so we just had a night out. In front of the sea there’s a free parking lot for camper vans during the night, just 5 minutes walking from the old town, so I took the chance to show Sean the pintxos (as tapas are called in the Basque Country, mind I’m using the Euskerra spelling here) and Basque bars, which I enjoyed so much some years ago when I first came here. Needless to say, we chugged tons of really good wine and ate like there was no tomorrow.