Category Archives: Climbing

New videos and new YouTube Channel

After having a bit more free time I have started to make some short videos about the climbing in Roca Verde territory.

Here’s the first one I’ve done – it’s me on one of the super cool routes at the Sector Las Ardillas, at the crag of Quiros in the heart of Asturias. 

I’ll be making plenty more videos from now on – and hopefully learning more on the way – and you can see more at my YouTube channel.

RocaVerde YouTube channel…

I’ve also started to collate as many videos about Asturias as possible in one place so you can see what else there is on offer.

There’s about 30 videos that I have found – of varying quality – that show some of the climbing in Asturias and beyond.

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

Muro Techo – shelter from the storm!

After a bad couple of months for me in terms of injuries (bad back, bad leg, deep cut on my middle finger) it was a pleasure, even on a cold day, to get out climbing. Even more special was to be able to show our first guests at Casa Quiros ( some great routes at one of the sectors that maybe they wouldn’t have gone to. Muro Techo is a great crag (looking much like the UK’s Kilnsey crag) and yet, because it’s a bit of a hike (20 mins), it’s sometimes forgotten.

I’ve climbed there a lot, and especially in summer when its orientation means it doesn’t get the sun until around 1.30pm so you can have a good few hours shady climbing. However, on a cold day (or when there’s a bit of rain), it can also come into its own as it is both sheltered and, due to the jutting roof that guards it, virtually never gets wet. In fact you can basically climb in the pi**ing rain there and have a great day. And on this day, mid-March is was both cold and rainy so we headed up there to sample the delights!

Nicola Basset on the brilliant Llagartu Verde 6a,  with a good view of the massive roof behind…

Nicola Basset on the brilliant Llagartu Verde 6a,  with a good view of the massive roof behind…

In general the rock at Muro Techo is very good, and tending towards the slabby it’s a technical and delicate climbing style. And with a preponderance of routes up to 6c on the main walls there’s plenty to go at.

As usual we warmed up on the short and sharp 5+ first pitch to Ambigut – a steep crack, it’s a good way to get the arms working. I then took Nic and Rodger over to the Clasica de Muro Techo 6a, 6a+. Even upgraded to 6a the first pitch is a tricky proposition and a bold layback and difficult clip adds meat to this good route. However, with the clips in Nicola stormed it but appreciated my warnings of the potentially stopper move!

The tricky clip on Clasica del Muro Techo...

The tricky clip on Clasica del Muro Techo…

Just after this my friend Ramon pitched up and bizarrely enough had been climbing next to Nicola only a couple of months before at El Chorro. Introductions were made and then Ramon headed up to try Ambigut – this time the 2nd, 7b, pitch. And although a lot of Mure Techo is slabby at the right hand end there’s plenty of steepness with a series of routes of ever-increasing difficulty though some tough roofs. Ambigut V+, 7b is the most accessible of these and Ramon attacked it with gusto – only coming unstuck on a particularly fierce mono move near the top.

Ramon Alvarez on Ambigut

Ramon Alvarez on Ambigut

Our team then moved onto Llagartu Verde, a sweet little 6a, 6c whose first pitch is a superb exercise in slab climbing. This time I took photos while Nicola sent the first pitch without too much trouble and came down singing its praises!

The first pitch of Llagartu verde 6a

The first pitch of Llagartu verde 6a

Finally, it was my turn to climb and I chose to finish on Hierro y Fuego, 6b, a great little route which wends its way up the centre of the main part of the crag. With two tricky sections and some rock which is a little ‘different’ it’s quite a challenging route. I just held on at the top when some evil slopers come into play and after a couple of months out was suddenly feeling the strain.

Lost in a sea of rock, Nicola on the crux of Hierro y Fuego...

Lost in a sea of rock, Nicola on the crux of Hierro y Fuego…

Nicola followed me and finally came unstuck as a combination of a cold day and a couple of pumpy layback moves did for her! However, she was not downhearted and both her and Rodger, who had been surprised to be able to climb on what was a pretty miserable day, were pleased to get out and tick some pretty cool routes and visit a different crag!

As we walked down, we christened it a ‘British/Spanish day’ and headed off to enjoy a very, very thick cup of chocolate in San Martin below!

Esplanada: a route falls – and so do some rocks!!

La Esplanada at Teverga is one of the most popular sectors at this crag and one we return to plenty. And it’s not hard to see why: some superb routes across the grades, shade until 1pm on a lot of it, shade again in the evening and a big grassy area that’s perfect for Jack and other kids to play!

However, there is a downside and as I point out in the book it’s rockfall – importantly, not over the whole area, but on some the routes right on the Senda very occasionally it can be a dangerous place and helmet is recommended.

We returned to Esplanada recently and after a break of some time I decided to warm up on the classic Woman del Callao, 6b+, which as always provided plenty of entertainment – but this time not just because of the testing nature of the intricate climbing! About 5 bolts up a whizzing sounds pricked my ears and the thud of rocks hitting the ground next to Mary shattered our evening peace.

It was for this reason we hadn’t done this route in a while and that I’d recommend helmets for the few routes on this slab as, once in a while, following heavy rain or when the goats are above this part of the Senda is a like a firing range. For one reason or another i stuck with it and finished the route (it’s actually pretty safe tucked right in on the rock) but even as i did some more, bigger stones crashed to the ground.

The author on Momo, 7b+, Esplanda..

The author on Momo, 7b+, Esplanda..

Deciding to move to a calmer route we shifted our gear into the main part of Esplanada to where the steep walls above guaranteed that we wouldn’t be disturbed…

I had a mission and that was to tick off an old enemy, Momo, a burly and technical 7b+ that I had tried a few years previously and been somewhat put off by dint of not being fit enough to try it! LOL

Anyway, this time things flowed better and after a quick ‘dog’ to put the draws in, the redpoint adrenaline (possibly from the previous adventures) seemed to get me through the steep and pumpy crux to a delicate rockover move on the final slab. Easy I thought, having dogged it a few minutes previously, but this time, first go I almost fell. Shaking slightly I committed and was relieved to find my foot stick on the rounded boss and a jug come into my grasp…

So from a somewhat dodgy start the evening ended well and a little itch was scratched…as well as a reminder that even sport climbing isn’t 100% safe!!

Asturias has it’s first 9a…and it’s totally natural!

A few days ago I went to see for myself the first 9a in Asturias. It’s in Teverga, the ever expanding climbing paradise, but on an out of the way buttress which sports a selection of super routes.

Established over 15 days by Madrid climber, Pablo it’s a 28 metre gently overhanging wall which very unusually goes without resort to chipping or sica!! A fantastic effort!!

Jairo on the first hard section of Clandestino

Jairo on the first hard section of Clandestino

Arriving at the crag it was pretty obvious this wasn’t an evening for sending: the ‘Indian summer’ was continuing and it was around 25 degrees and very still. Jairo and Ignacio Mulero (a very strong youth who was projecting the route) were already there and it was incredibly inspirational to see Isaac ‘warming up’ by smoothly climbing through long sections of the route despite the sweaty humid conditions.

Ignacio Mulero on the 9a

Ignacio Mulero on the 9a

Unfortunately for me the crag’s easiest route is a 7c+/8a, called Alien and so after warming up as much as I could with a theraband I gamely gave it a go!!

Me warming up

Me warming up

Way steeper than it looked, I got thoroughly spanked first go and lowered off from what I thought was the crux as a sweaty mess. Second go I felt better and arrived at the ‘crux’ and after a few dogs got through it…however, as ever a bit of misunderstanding doesn’t help and I realised with horror that what I had done was a preliminary bit and the crux was yet to come.

Steep enough? Alien, 8a...

Steep enough? Alien, 8a…


Rio Seco – Steep and savage…

After a gap of about two years I returned to Rio Seco for a session with Arturo and Adri. And although conditions were against us (it was still about 25 degrees when I arrived) I was still surprised by how fierce the routes were. Never a spot for beginners I was still taken a bit aback by the steepness, especially in the central part of Diamante where I’d never climbed.

Adrian Gonzalez on La de Sergio 7a/+

Adrian Gonzalez on La de Sergio 7a/+

Sector Diamante is perhaps the hardest of the sectors at Rio Seco and takes no prisoners – especially in the heat. I started on a route I’d done a few times as a warm up Nozalina, 7a, and promptly rested three times and came down running with sweat…it was worse than I’d thought!!

Fortunately Adri had left the clips in the next one, the ‘much steeper than it looked’ La de Sergio, 7a/+. This took a very steep but mercifully short tufa line up to a chain which allowed you to warm up without the obviously brutal move that the extension of the route took at an undergraded 7c+…

On the finish of  La de Sergio 7a/+

On the finish of La de Sergio 7a/+

Adri and Arturo then introduced me the next level on the very bouldery, Viciosilla, 8a. One very hard move leads to a difficult slab and between them, the moves, with tiny crimps, proved impossible in the heat.

Arturo on Viciosilla, 8a, Sector Diamante

Arturo on Viciosilla, 8a, Sector Diamante

Importantly I also met up with I also met up with David Acido who has taken on the task of cleaning up and re-equipping the almost forgotten crag of El Condado. Close to Pola de Laviana this was an important proving ground in the late 90’s but due to the road being moved it has made it a less accessible and almost forgotten spot.

David has taken on the task of cleaning and re-equipping and so with money from the Roca Verde bolt fund I provided him with a load of stainless steel bolts and some belays too. I said I’d also help him Hopefully we will also produce new topos for the area and re-vitalise this one popular spot.

David with the material provided by the Roca Verde bolt fund.

David with the material provided by the Roca Verde bolt fund.



Gijón Climbing World Championship – Ondra Triumphs

Once again the best men and women won, such is the nature of competitions but there was much more to it at a tense, exciting and inspirational climbing IFSC World Championship held in Gijón in northern Spain last weekend. And although a partisan crowd on Sunday didn´t see their favourite, the diminutive powerhouse Ramonet, win, an equally vociferous (though smaller crowd) on Saturday did see their new hero, Urko Carmona, crowned world champion in his para-climbing class as the last act of a long and inspiring day.  

Urko Carmona on his way to a win. Ph Richie Patterson

Urko Carmona on his way to a win. Ph Richie Patterson

The World Championships which were in Asturias in northern Spain for the 2nd time featured Speed Climbing, Para-Climbing and Lead Climbing were well attended throughout. And although some felt there was a slight lack of competitors in the main categories due to scheduling between boulder comps there was strong field and the finals had most of the big names.

Interestingly, the Speed climbing, though it was the first time it had been in Spain was over with early on with the Para Climbing taking pride of place on the weekend. Speed climbing was on Friday and this was the first time any Speed Climbing had been seen in Spain meaning that mouths hung open as the crowd realised what speed in climbing actually meant. The world record, recently broken, fell again in the men´s final as the Ukranian, Danylo Boldyrev, overcame the Russian challenge (things to come?) to take 1st. The womens’ went to form with the strong Russian Alina Gaidamakina beating two Poles and keeping it pretty much an eastern Bloc muscle –fest!

See the speed here

The GB Para Team

The GB Para Team

So Saturday instead was Para-Climbing and the British team did superbly. A big team went and managed to claim  6 top three placings – a testament not only to their dedication but to the work put in by the BMC in making sure their cause is pushed so that para-climbing gets the same status and ‘game-time’ as the able bodied version.

In many ways the para day proved the highlight of the competition especially because the large mainly Spanish crowd got the see their man win. A long and tiring day in hot conditions took it out of the climbers but the reaction and size of the crowd made it an event to remember for most and there were several stand-out performances that really raised the bar (and roof).  Fran Brown cemented her place at the top table with a very close win, adding a world masters to her current world champion status on the last hold; Koichiro Kobayashi the Japanese climbing brilliantly in the B1 category (visually impaired); and Urko sealing an emotional day with his top out in the amputee class.

Urko’s win provided the proof that Para Climbing can sit of the same stage and be equally thrilling as any other category. Hearing the crowd chanting Urko’s name signalled that they were 100% in accord with the competition and not in a way that suggested platitudes: this was a climbing comp and they wanted to be part of his win!!

This was a very well-attended event, with para-climbers from as far afield as Iran, Japan and the USA, being exciting and inspirational in equal measure. In the end the full British team results were: Alex & Phil 6th & Adam 7th,  Dave 4th , Fran 1st , Sianagh 3rd, Nick 2nd , John 3rd , Esme 3rd  & Reanne 2nd. A brilliant set of results and Wild Country is very proud to have been able to support this talented bunch.

You can relive the finals here:

Finally came the lead comp and a big crowd braved an enormous thunderstorm to pack the pavilion. The women’s competition seemed close at first as height was gained incrementally, climber by climber, but no-one seemed to have the key to the 8b climb. But then out strode Jain Kim, the final competitor,  and with a precision, fluidity and strength unseen so far she simply blew everyone else out of the water; topping out in a style that had everyone in the crowd on their feet.

Jain Kim takes the title


Jain Kim takes the title

Jain Kim takes the title

In the Men’s final it seemed as though everyone was waiting for the stars and although the competition was fierce it wasn’t until the last two appeared that things really hotted up. A partisan crowd were obviously all for Ramonet but this didn’t mean they were exactly anti-Ondra and his smooth ascent past Scahi Ammi’s high-point to latch-and-leap from the penultimate hold brought cheers from the crowd. Cheers which then turned to roars as Ramonet stepped up.  His contrasting ‘locky’ style seemed initially at odds with the route yet as he edged higher the unbelievable athleticism of the tiny figure became obvious and, making it look easier than anyone, he looked destined for the triumph the event fervently wished for.

Ondra takes the penultimate hold…


Ondra takes the penultimate hold...

Ondra takes the penultimate hold…

Yet at the same high point as Ondra his trajectory changed, and unlike the formers leap to claim his ‘plus’ the Spaniard found himself on the end of the rope without having persuaded the judges he had the same control as Ondra, leaving an emotional Adam as double world champion!

Overall this was a solid rather spectacular World Championship with a smaller field in the main event due to scheduling. However, Urko’s triumph will be remembered by everyone who was there and para-climbing getting the Saturday spot and almost equal billing proved to be a great idea.

The highlight for me, however wasn’t the climbing, but what the climbing did. It was brilliant listening and talking to climbers who were exiting the para event, quite obviously inspired, and hearing them discuss training and how they could try to utilise the skills of para climbers to learn to climb better (training with one arm, one leg, blindfolded) rather than mouthing platitudes of sympathy or a ‘oh didn´t they do well’ attitude.

Climbers inspiring climbers – the true meaning of a World Championship!


Quiros – Sector Eclipse new, old and ignored…#1

There are some places I just love to climb and Sector Eclipse at Quiros is one of them. Now I don’t understand why but this is a sector ignored by most and I have  never seen anyone there. However, for me it has a great mix of routes, there’s a decent spread of grades and possibly the best 6c+ in Asturias. (Controversial!!!)

Oh, and one more thing I should mention, it also gets into the shade at around 1.30, a blessing for a keen climber in the summer months. Returning there after a break was a treat for me for a number of reasons; firstly I completed my project, secondly I warmed up on a route which felt pumpy as hell on the last visit and finally I had the same feeling repeating a route as the first time – which is rare.

Amanita, 6c+, a really good route with a bit of everything...and OK at the grade!

Amanita, 6c+, a really good route with a bit of everything…and OK at the grade!

First visit, with the ever patient Den (who seems to get stuck with me in project mode) I warmed up on Amanita 6c+, a really good (and long) route which takes a burly crack for fully 35 metres. Certainly easier the second time there’s big moves, finger jams and intricate slabs and was happy that I felt solid all the way. Reason being I’d returned to finish a route I’d bolted about two years ago.

Called Chorrera Negra I’d tentatively graded it 7a and put it in the guide even though I’d not had time to complete it. I’d had the time after bolting to top rope it and although very tired had just about done it in one go. So feeling good I thought I’d just whip up it quickly and get it ticked.

Pumped in mind body and legs with a long wa y to go!!

Pumped in mind body and legs with a long wa y to go!!

However, I hadn’t counted on the fact that A. I hadn’t cleaned it brilliantly and the intervening 1.5 years would leave it worse. And B. it was pretty badly bolted with spaced bolts meaning you had to do hard moves above them and C. it was bloody hard!!!

Starting up an existing route, El loco de la colina, it zips straight up the wall above the start via a series of pockets, flakes and some very small and indistinct holds to join the belay of Luz de alba (another very good route).  Almost immediately after leaving the start of the first route I was stumped – I’d put the first bolt on my route high to avoid any conflict and instantly it was a nervous clip. Then again after clipping things didn’t get much better as teh crux seemed desperate, above the bolt and with a ‘gripper clipper’ for the next one.

Up, down, up down, I got pumped and more pumped. – feet on nothing much, dirty hand holds and fear keeping me down. Finally I committed and managed to push on – brutal – but a decent crimp got me clipped and a carried on. Phew, crux done! I didn’t remember anything else hard until the last few feet so felt a bit happier. But, I was once again subject to memory failings as almost isntantly the territory became thin, precarious and very, very unobvious. Sketch by sketch I advanced and slowly but surely i was going to be mine. By the end I was totally pumped with cramping feet and it was will power nothing more (and the threat of having to come back) which got me up it.

Very relieved I snagged the belay and lowered off pleased as punch but damn tired.  I was very proud of my route and my determined effort, whilst acknowledging it’s failings and vowing to come back and clean and add a bolt or two to my ordeal.

On the very thin crux of Chorerra Negra now a healthy 7a+

On the very thin crux of Chorerra Negra now a healthy 7a+

So overall, maybe my first new route on the Queen of Asturian crags isn’t the greatest but it’s intricate and fun (in an old school way). I upgraded Chorrera Negra to 7a+, I am going back soon to ‘sort it out’.