Placas del Sol

For once Placas del Sol didn’t live up to their name. A light blanket of cloud in the afternoon made the day, although hot, very bearable turning this latest visit into my longest session at the crag.

I had joined a couple of guys who were staying in Casa Quiros after they’d chosen the crag to make the most of the morning shade. With a pretty impressive plan of starting at Placas then going on to Planeta X I was psyched to meet up and climb with Conor and Sean.

I had recommended Placas for its brilliant routes, general lack of traffic and the fact that it’s always shady until about 1.30.

Being Brits Conor and Sean were already stuck in to the ‘warm-up’ when I arrived promptly (well just after 10), though to be fair they’d had 10 minutes drive from Quiros while I’d been an hour in the car. Psyched I stomped up the hill and arrived out of breath just as Sean descended, so I tied on and scooted up the ‘Minimum’ 6a+ for the third time.

Conor, strating well on Empezamos Bien..

Sean, starting well on Empezamos Bien..

They’d both enjoyed this tricky, but fun, slab and, enjoying being ‘ringmaster’ I set them off on the next route, the beautiful groove of ‘Empezamos bien’ 6b+. They were both pretty keen, Conor going first, and although I warned him about the thin, techy start he got out of sorts and slumped rather inelegantly onto the rope.

‘Drat’ he said (I may be paraphrasing) then got back on and scooted to the top. Mood improving as he really seemed to enjoy the delights of the climb Conor topped out happier. Sean’s more measured approach paid dividends and he ascended pretty smoothly making light work of the start and only pausing briefly in the middle section. I followed and doing it for the third time still found the start hard, but got up OK.

Bit's of rope on bolts should always be a warning...

Bits of rope on bolts should always be a warning…

Next it turned out to be sandbag time as I set Conor off on a pretty brutal 7a+ called Ojos caprichosos…I’d been pretty much spanked on it but presumed Conor leaner physique and lack of years would triumph…Hmmm, not be. Equally chastened on the grim pocket pulling start Conor quickly bagged it off and we retreated to the more favourable angle of Distrito Apache a very good 7a on the first buttress

Distrito Apache...

Distrito Apache…

Having done it before I put the clips in and watched as Conor managed somehow to drop it on the last few moves (actually understandable as it’s a bit thin and unobvious) and then Sean ‘suaved it’ afterwards for a pretty good flash.

It was my turn to actually put some effort in next and I was desperate to slay a mini-nemesis in the shape of Karicaturas, 7a+, a brilliant pitch which takes a very blunt tufa to a challenging headwall and move that had repelled me about 20 times on the previous go. This time went better on the tufa below, which is remarkably sneaky, and I was fully psyched to make the move above, though very pumped, and caught it spot on; latching the crozzly crimp well enough to get through. Very pleasing.

After that Conor decided to finish Distrito and smoothly sent it while Sean dozed beneath…it was packing up time more or less when i was suddenly shocked by the fact that a route I had always fancied – that took a great line through a roof was actually a 7b not a 7c.

Me on the first roof

Me on the first roof

So sod it, off I went on an ‘eyes bigger than belly’ on sight attempt and after sending the first roof with a lot of effort I found myself in a ‘no-mans land’ trying to rest in a  big hole. Not getting any less pumped I decided to soldier on and little by little with some big pulls and breathing like a cow giving birth arrived under the top roof.

In the big hole after the roof...

Just after leaving the big hole after the roof…

Just one move to go and I would have on sighted my first 7b of the year – only a week after doing my first 6c of the year!! Gingerly i flet round the roof and at first couldn’t find anything, but, calming my breathing and looking a bit harder a small slot appeared and I was able to grab the top jug.

This was a very good day out and for once as the placas didn’t live up to their name and frazzle us after 2pm we could have a full day there and enjoy everything it had to offer!

Quirós – La Cubana – Short and (mainly) sweet

La Cubana is one of those sectors that’s got a bit of everything – from your first 5 to an 8a+ roof – and because of that it seems a lot bigger than it is.

It’s actually a pretty small sector but because there’s quite a bit to go at and the routes are short, I always tend to have a good time there. However, this is also probably because most of the routes are really good, and in fact there are two or three that are ‘must do’ routes of Quiros.

La Cubana

La Cubana

Lying a little bit above La Selva there’s a bit of a steep slog uphill on a pretty rough path – but at least it gets the blood pumping. In summer La Cubana catches the sun a bit later than the rest of the crag and its angle means it’s late to leave too, getting rays until around 5.30…

The slight downside of its position is that there can be a wind which is funnelled up to the crag which can make it chilly. It was like this when we were there recently and the fact we were climbing in a three meant that fingers took a bit of punishment on the start of each route.

Den and my partner Mary had got there first and had already sent Mao and Tao, two great little 6a pitches on the high-quality grey limestone that bounds the left had part of the sector. And when I arrived Den was just setting off the classic Sol y Nieve, 6c, which takes a line of thin holds up a vertical wall. Balancy and delicate there´s a couple of hard pulls and it’s a bit of a vertical puzzle.

Denise Mortimer does the crux of Sol y Nieve...

Denise Mortimer does the crux of Sol y Nieve…

I followed, leading the route for about the 4th time, and although I knew it, the off-balance nature of the climbing and the delicacy of the moves means it’s never in the bag until the chains are clipped.

Suitably flash pumped I decided it was Den’s turn again and sent her the brilliant Corazon Salvaje (Wild Heart), 6c+. This is an unusaul route for Quiros and one of the best there, involving some burly pulls on an ever steepening tufa. Sharp and committing  Den almost had it but just failed to latch the key part of the tufa. Cold hands and sharp holds almost certainly playing a part!

Ruben Trabanco Corazon Salvaje, 6c+, La Cubana, Quiros.

Ruben Trabanco Corazon Salvaje, 6c+, La Cubana, Quiros.

I did the route quickly after Den and emboldened by warm hands, and owing Den a favour, I offered (was persuaded) to put the clips in the very fingery 7a, Brutus. Like a thin version of Sol and Nieve Brutus is, well, brutal! Luckily on the attached video you can’t see my poor efforts where I fell before the crux but this gives you an idea of the nature of the climbing.

Anyway hats off to Den who sent it first go, flashing it and ending up very pleased with her days haul. Another great day out, a mite cold but some sweet routes in the bag.

Remember if you are coming to the Roca Verde area we have just opened a new guesthouse www.casaquiros.co.uk