Climbing in Siurana
Posted on March 9, 2014
The fairytale hamlet of Siurana is perched on a clifftop, just below the remains of a Moorish castle. In winter the narrow cobblestone streets are crowded with lost mountain winds but bereft of people. Wandering alone through the little lane-ways you’ll soon find the solid and stark grey stone Church. A little more wandering and you’ll come across the refugi, a true refuge here from the cold and swirling damp.
Climbing-wise, the area is famous for it’s sport routes and considered (according to the guide book) as one of the best climbing areas in the world. The first routes were established in the 1980’s and new routes are still being established today…beware of enthusiastic new-routers cleaning rocks off onto the ground below. There are over 23 sectors which offer a reasonable mix of grades as well as options to climb in the sun or shade or sheltered from the rain.
There is not much to chose from if you are only interested in low grades. As The Climber put it: “It’s not a wife friendly area.”. Obviously, wives who can actually climb would be excepted from this general statement. In addition, as you would expect in such a popular area, the easier routes tend to be a bit polished and on weekends you’ll have to queue for a turn. I quite enjoyed climbing at Grau dels Masets – Esquerra and top roped all the easy climbs and even led a few (don’t tell my mum though!). I became slightly obsessed with sending Charlie II (a reasonably tricky 6a) but failed…repeatedly.
For the serious climber, this is heaven and there are a plethora of terribly difficult routes, including the world’s first 9b – Golpe de Estado. The Climber enjoyed a bunch of 7a’s-8a’s, most of which seemed to involve belaying in sub-arctic conditions. Perhaps the most memorable ascent was his beautiful onsight dance up L’Imbécile (7c), much to the disgust of the French climber who had spent two days projecting the route and was kind enough to belay.
In terms of accommodation there is the refugi, a fancy hotel (the Mirador) and a campsite. The campsite could be a really great place to hang out but there are a number of annoying small things that make it not so great. The free wifi is only available in a little computer hut and not in the restaurant or through the rest of the grounds. The washing machine isn’t cheap at €5 a load and the showers are very basic and often very cold. We only had one meal in the restaurant and it was tasty but expensive for the size and quality of the meal (although, to be fair, The Climber did as usual choose the most expensive thing on the menu). There also isn’t a kitchen for campers, easy water taps for filling containers or any grassed areas for tents. None of these are a big deal of course, but when you can camp for free out on the road and use the toilet and wifi at the refugi cafe you start to wonder why you’re paying €7 per person (€10 if you’re only staying one night) basically just use a cold shower.
After a few days of wondering we moved to park up on the carpark just near the village. We also stayed a few nights in other places in the area. We had no problems barring some very loud Polish partiers in a nearby van one evening (we just drove off to sleep somewhere else – as did everyone else in the area). The carpark near the village is particularly convenient as you can easily walk into the village to fill up your water containers at the free tap and use the free toilets. I had a few jug showers up in the carpark in my bikini as well as a hair wash, assisted by The Climber. I can’t say I’d recommend the experience in winter. The combination of icy water and frigid clifftop wind makes for an uncomfortable bathing experience and the manic giggling of your husband as he watches you shiver is deeply irritating.
There is an awful lot of rubbish and toilet paper around the carpark (indeed in the whole area) and it’s important to not be a feral and to take your rubbish with you and dispose of it thoughtfully. Even if the locals don’t particularly care (they seem to do their fair share of littering), it’s a terrible shame to filthy up such a scenic spot. And it really is magnificent.