Sunday, 14 November 2010

Lunar Obsessions

La Luna from below

After a good, if slightly lazy, day on Pericondrio Tragal we decided to hit up one of the longer routes in the area – La Luna, a dramatic line of a fairly consistent grade, right up the centre of a very narrow buttress in the Maimona canyon. Details here!

Imposing walls well over 200m overshadow this great rock prow and it's well worth the walk in (all 30 minutes of it) to reach Plaza des las Catedrales – easily the most atmospheric area we visited in Montanejos.

We were congratulating ourselves on being up and at the crag before 10am, until we heard the gentle clink of carabiners... Apart from one couple we had seen a few hundred metres off, a few days previously, we hadn't seen any other climbers in action in Montanejos - until we picked this 8 pitch route to do and then we found them on our route. Bastards :). Maybe it won't be so bad, we thought – we still need to gear up, and they've already started so maybe they'll be well ahead of us. We'll just check them out.

We kept sauntering along keeping an eye on the guy leading off. As he fell off. Hmm. Falling off the opening move wasn't a good sign for the rest of the climb, but maybe it was a tough move and maybe his partner would be nailing the crux pitches for him. Hold on... A third helmet appeared out of the bushes. Damn - they were a party of three, and the leader still wasn't off the ground. So we gave up then and started looking for other options.

Nearby was another 8 pitch route (Obsesion- details here) which averaged out at around the same grade, although it had a couple of pitches 2-3 grades harder and wasn't quite as scenic as La Luna. But it didn't have a party of three on it, so off we went.

Swinging leads we dispatched the first few pitches, with Jen snagging one of the funnest sections across a short section of craggy (lunar?) rock. Then we hit the second hardest pitch which turned out to be face climbing, with good (if pumpy!) holds, and not nearly as bad as we'd feared. However, the rock quality from here was less than stellar, with quite a few loose patches. As the bolting was quite friendly, we figured we should at least be able to aid the crux pitch if we got stuck. A greasy, overhanging corner and through a short roof and we were past halfway without trouble, and another pitch had us tasting the top (and the lunch it would bring).

At this stage we started having doubts... could the topo really be right? Two more pitches? It didn't seem like there was enough cliff left to squeeze two more pitches in and there was an extra line of bolts there, maybe it should have been seven pitches with a choose-your-own-adventure finish? Mark wandered off (on the more straightforward looking line) to find out what was going on ... and was quickly shut down: the topo was right about that crux pitch... After a lot of tentative approaches and testing (and finding that extra two finger pocket) he finally wobbled his way through the crux, glad to find that the pitch was a bit of a one or two move wonder and backed off after that, but he was still pretty impressed with himself for managing to fight through it cleanly. Jen quickly cleaned up after him and led the final pitch. After lunch we rapped off pretty pleased with ourselves and wandered off home to Fred.

Happy to be on the route - Jen on P3.
But we weren't satisfied. We'd missed out on the prime line... straight up that buttress, in the photo above. So - we came back, with intentions of being the first on the route. We woke early and managed to hike into the base of La Luna a whole ten minutes earlier in the day to find... no-one. Well, a few mountain goats. Great, we could jump on La Luna.

Mark started on the first pitch, eager to see if their assumptions about the party of three had been right... and almost popped off. Maybe we had been too harsh – the first pitch felt very stiff for the grade. But up we went, skirting around the edges of some moonscape-like rock, which looked like it should have been a choss-fest, but actually felt quite solid. Swinging leads we dispatched the first few pitches, finally coming to the designated picnic ledge – complete with picnic bench. Really! 

It's one thing to bolt a multi-pitch route; it's quite another to add furniture ...
After a quick bite, Jen took the sharp end again for a scenic traverse out onto the centre of the prow, and we kept heading up, skirting round some nice overhangs and listening to the rocks falling across the valley, triggered by goats wandering carefree along cliff edges.

Jen traversing out - the grandeur of the Plaza des las Catedrales behind her.

Jen managed to get perhaps the most memorable (though definitely not the best) pitch of the day when we hit a band of rotten rock... and were presented with 12-15 staples to ladder our way to glory, but then we were back on solid rock and two more pitches of nice climbing led us through to the top.
Mark on belay, as Jen clips the staples.

All in all a great day's climbing, and the most memorable route and venue of the area … plus a few staples and a picnic bench.
Rapping down ...

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