Margalef: 20 Years of Quality Sport Climbing

by Holly Bean Jan/2016
This article has been read 17,501 times

The Catalan destination of Margalef is well known throughout the world for its awesome steep walls and super hard routes, hence its popularity for hard first ascents and repeats. Perhaps less well known is the huge variety of easier climbing within the 57 currently developed sectors containing just over 1000 routes. Whether you are looking to repeat First Round, First Minute 9b, planning your first ever sport climbing trip or looking forward to that first cerveza at the end of your climbing day; Margalef will not disappoint.

photo
Can Torxa
© Holly Bean

Climbing in Margalef began in 1996, when Jordi Pou found the new climbing area he had been searching for. He discovered two valleys with stunning conglomerate walls; the Panta Valley and the valley of Sant Salvador.  Jordi saw enormous potential and to his disbelief there were no established routes, so he set about developing the first sectors. Amongst them Can Llepafils, Can Torxa and Can Pesafigues gave routes between 4+ and 7a and are still very popular approaching 20 years on.

Together with friends such as Joan Ribera and Toni Albero, Jordi continued to develop areas of increasing difficulty which attracted the best sport climbers the world had to offer. Ramon Julian, Dani Andrada, Chris Sharma and Iker Pou all began to open projects and create visionary lines of their own.

Jordi not only began to develop what was to evolve as a world class climbing destination, he also reformed a property in the village and opened the first refuge “Can Severet.”  As popularity increased for Margalef, Jordi embarked upon another project and in 2012  “El Raco de la Finestra” was finished and the new refuge was ready for business.

Approaching its twenty year anniversary, Margalef is still growing with new quality sectors and routes popping up in each valley. One man who began bolting in 2008 deserves a special mention, as since his arrival he has not stopped creating new lines and sectors. You may meet Vincent Palau working in the refuge, climbing new routes or emerging from esoteric areas with twigs in his hair and a smile upon his face!

photo
Cami de L'ermita as the sun sets
© Holly Bean

With all this development taking place it is not just the higher end climber that can get the best out of Margalef. Whole sectors of 4’s, 5's and 6's exist and are never far away from some harder 7's 8's and 9's making it possible for any combination of people to team up and achieve at their level. The quality and quantity of lower graded routes is huge, making Margalef truly a superb choice for beginners, intermediate climbers and children. Children of all abilities seem to find Margalef a great place to climb, finding that routes suit them due to the sheer volume of pockets for both hands and feet - a small 2 finger pocket for an adult could well be a resting jug for a child!

Due to the varying orientation of the crags, Margalef has prime conditions from autumn all the way through to the end of spring! During the summer months it is possible to enjoy the climbing if you take advantage of the many sectors in the shade and climb in the morning or late afternoon.

Investment in the future of climbing in the area has been made with the development of two parking areas with facilities, thus enabling the environment to become cleaner, safer and how nature intended. 

It has to be said that it is not just the beauty of the national park that stands out; the smiles on the villagers' faces, their warm welcome and how they have embraced the climbing community makes this a very special place to visit.

photo
Punta de Espadelles...always growing
© Holly Bean

Selected Sectors

photo
Camilla's first day of climbing at Cami de L'ermita
© Holly Bean

If you are after 4’s and 5’s why not take a look at Can Llepafils; this south facing sector situated in the Panta valley offers 37 routes up to 6b. With eight routes in the fourth grade, fourteen in the fifth and plenty of low grade sixes this is a great place to start.

Suggested additional sectors for those operating within this grade range are “Can Mansettes” and “Bloc del Porc."

For those climbing 5’s and 6’s the stunning “Cami de l’ermita” is a must. Situated at the top of the valley of Sant Salvador, this sector offers superb quality climbs, views and sunshine! The 30m routes “Flors I violes” (6b+) and “Seca I meca” (6c) follow beautiful features up this impressive conglomerate wall and should not be missed.

Suggested additional sectors for this level are: “Can Torxa” and “Can Pesafigues”.

Finally….6’s and 7’s…..here we have to mention the two biggest sectors; “Raco de la Finestra” and the never ending “Raco de les Espadelles”.

“Raco de la Finestra” is a north facing sector of approximately 80 routes, situated in the valley of “Sant Salvador”. Check out “Magrana” (6b+) and “Montgronyeta” (7b+)

“Raco de les Espadelles” is an ever expanding sector, with the recent development of “Punta de Espadelles” and “Espadelles Extension”.  The crag is perfect for winter climbing with crisp air and blue skies.  There are approximately 200 routes from 5 to 9a to choose from. 

Logistics

Where to stay?

There are a number of different options for accommodation in Margalef, including the climbing refuge “El Raco de la Finestra”, the parking areas “El Pont” or “La Presa”, if you have a camper van or tent and “Casa Catalunya”, a newly renovated, self-catered house in the village….to name but a few….

Refuge “Raco de la Finestra”

The refuge, run by Jordi Pou has a number of dorm rooms of different sizes and sleeps up to 34 people. There is a large communal area with a bar which serves various meals and tapas available for both guests and members of the public.  A great place to meet people, use the Wi-Fi, watch climbing movies or update your topo with the latest new lines.

The basic price for a night at the refuge in a dorm room is 11.50€, this does not include bed linen or towels, and they are available for hire (3€ per day) if you do not wish to bring your own. There is also one private double room with bathroom, the price for this is 31.00€ per night.

Jordi also offers a very reasonably priced half board option (sleeping, buffet breakfast and evening meal) for 29.50€/night.  If you choose to cook for yourself, there is a designated cooking area; however you must provide your own pots, pans, gas and camping stove.

There is currently no website for the refuge, so to make bookings/enquiries contact Jordi by email: refumargalef@yahoo.es or phone: 0034 977 819 008

Pont & Presa

 “El Pont” is situated a few 100 metres from the village and within walking distance of the Sant Salvador valley.  Here you will find services such as toilets, showers, sinks for washing up, drinking water, rubbish and recycling, an area for emptying chemical toilets and a bar with Wi-Fi (open both mornings and evenings).

“La Presa” is situated 4.5km from the village, at the foot of the dam, very close to many climbing areas. The facilities include toilets, sinks, picnic and BBQ area, however anyone staying on this parking can use all of the facilities at El Pont.

Prices vary depending on which parking you choose to stay on, size of vehicle and number of people per vehicle, as a rough idea a night costs between 2€ and 9.50€ per person. Discounts of up to 50% are offered for long stays. Payment must be made at the bar situated on the “El Pont” parking.

Casa Catalunya

Run by English climbers Mac and Holly, Casa Catalunya offer self-catered accommodation for 2-6 people. The property dating from the late 1800’s has been recently renovated maintaining many of its original features and is situated within the heart of the village of Margalef.

The house has an open plan living area and large kitchen. Amenities in the house include dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer, central heating, Wi-Fi throughout and an Infrared sauna to help you relax at the end of the day. Prices are between 18€ and 30€ per person per night, depending upon group size and season. To book or make an enquiry check out the website: www.casacatalunya.com or email info@casacatalunya.com

Other Amenities

The village shop run by the wonderful Anna sells everything you may need from groceries and vegetables to gas and chalk. Fresh bread is baked daily and you can purchase local olive oil, cheese, meat and wine.

The village has an ATM

There is a Pharmacy and Doctor available 3 days per week.

Additional places to eat and stay are Cafe Vernet, Ca Calbet and Tres Pins.

How to get here

Flights to:  Barcelona  2.5 hour drive

                    Reus          1.5 hour drive

Car hire is advised as there is no train or regular bus service.

Which guide should I buy?

There are two options: “Tarragona Climbs” by Pete O’Donovan and Dani Andrada, this is a selected guide for crags in the Tarragona province including Margalef, neighbouring Siurana and the Montsant range. The guide has a good number of sectors for Margalef that would keep most of us occupied for many visits. 

In addition to this the most up to date guide book, produced by Jordi Pou, can be bought from the Refugio or the local shop for 12€. Also the new routes book in the Refugio is constantly being updated with new lines and sectors.

photo
Sunsets at Espadelles - always a great end to the day
© Holly Bean

Photo Gallery

Pulling through the roof section of Photo-shot (F8b), Laboratory, Margalef

Pulling through the roof section of Photo-shot (F8b), Laboratory, Margalef
© AndyStripp

Danny O'Neill climbing in Margalef couple of winters back.

Danny O'Neill climbing in Margalef couple of winters back.
© Andrew Stripp Photography

climbing in Margalef

climbing in Margalef
© Adam Kokot

human flag

human flag
© Adam Kokot

Adam Karpierz is climbing in Margalef

Adam Karpierz is climbing in Margalef
© Adam Kokot

pocket pulling on the upper wall of photo-shot (F8b), laboratory sector, margalef

pocket pulling on the upper wall of photo-shot (F8b), laboratory sector, margalef
© ali k

'L'esperediedre' 7c, Margalef. Catalunya.
Climber: Nano.

'L'esperediedre' 7c, Margalef. Catalunya. Climber: Nano.
© Pod

Fred enjoying Alumosis Deportiva

Fred enjoying Alumosis Deportiva
© Macleod

the crux undercut move on 'Photo-shot' (F8b) - laboratory sector, margalef

the crux undercut move on 'Photo-shot' (F8b) - laboratory sector, margalef
© ali k

Climbing into the sunshine on 'Sàtiva Patàtica' (F8a), Margalef

Climbing into the sunshine on 'Sàtiva Patàtica' (F8a), Margalef
© ali k

Ben enjoying 'Laura' (F8a) - one of the rare tufa gems at Sector El Balco de l'Ermita, Margalef

Ben enjoying 'Laura' (F8a) - one of the rare tufa gems at Sector El Balco de l'Ermita, Margalef
© ali k

the final 'easy' section of 'Darwin Dixit' (F8b+) - laboratory sector, margalef

the final 'easy' section of 'Darwin Dixit' (F8b+) - laboratory sector, margalef
© ali k

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