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long trip to Northern Spain - looking for some advice

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 GraMc 17 Nov 2021

Hello all, 

I'm thinking about taking the winter off  work for a late winter / spring  trip to northern Spain / Catalonia. I've never been and don't actually know a whole lot about climbing in the area. looking for a few tips! I'll be travelling solo in a van and climbing mid to upper 7s. I'll be there for a few months.

1. what crags areas are good in terms of scene and meeting partners? 

2. when does it start getting too hot? / when is the earliest I'd want to get there? 

3,. Van stuff: I know we have hit peak van (and I have mixed feelings about being yet another idiot in one - but generally try to be respectful / responsible (I have got a toilet etc). I've been assuming that park ups are still easy enough to find, but I'm wondering if things have changed recently? is it still easy or are there parking bans in place in certain places / vigilante locals?! 

I don't have any fixed dates or time scales at the moment - but I was thinking mid February onwards  and perhaps migrate to Ceuse and the alps when it gets too hot in Spain. 

any tips on van living situation around Ceuse also appreciated 

thanks for any information - much appreciated! 

Post edited at 20:20
 Slackboot 17 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

This is probably not helpful as you are off to Catalonia but if you ever get the chance to go to Asturias then you must go to El Naranja de Bulnes. Look it up. It is a brilliant mountain. I did a few routes on the superb West Face back in the early 80's which was some of the best climbing I have ever done. But I was young then.

 racodemisa 17 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

I'd go and base yourself in the siurana/margalef area.For a solo traveller wanting to meet people the siurana campground is still very good.Margalef van park/campgrounds are very good as well sometimes they're very quiet during the week though.I don't have a van but I know van camping at peak times in these spots is frowned upon by local inhabitants. However if you are low profile/discreet  and the area is not heaving with visitors I'm sure wild camping is doable.Siurana has a lot of crags in the sun though it's also got shadeDitto Raco de Misa up at montsant ..mainly sunny but shade from mid afternoon. .Margalef has a lot in the shade in fact one side of the San Salvador valley has shade almost all day...there's about 300 RTS there.The whole area is brilliant  all in all.

Post edited at 21:03
 Kemics 17 Nov 2021
In reply to Slackboot:

Yeah came to say the same. The Picos generally are amazing for mountain routes but there's decent sport cragging in all the valleys nearby and at the beaches a short way away. Might be more difficult to find partners but if you can arrange something I definitely would as the area has a very different feel to other parts of Spain.

 GDes 17 Nov 2021
In reply to Kemics:

I'm not sure Feb and March is the best time there though is it? Have to agree though, brilliant area 

 GDes 17 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

Ceuse is probably no good until we'll into April, and even then the Campsite will be deserted. St leger would be good, but not sure it'd be that easy to find partners. I'd probably stay in Spain if you're alone.

Agree with comments about siurana area. Can't go wrong. As it warms up you could go to rodellar. Should be OK to find partners there, good bars etc to find people. And the climbing/general place is just brilliant 

 GraMc 17 Nov 2021
In reply to GDes:

thanks! - wouldn't be planning on heading to Ceuse until well into June. Anyone know if May is doable in Siruana area?

 racodemisa 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

Temps will be hot by then..As another has suggested  you could migrate up to rodellar for example which is higher up .Margalef climbing season is September to may(and I like the shade) imo.Ceuse could be good from April but that's the beginning of the season so there might not that many people there.France is strange there aren't many hubs for solo travellers to meet others apart from ceuse....I would go from Cataluna to the Asturias.Ive not been myself I have  read though  there's a pretty vibrant van park/camping place if you are looking for partners.Message Roca Verde they'll be able to give advice over this and climbing conditions.

Post edited at 06:29
 GDes 18 Nov 2021
In reply to racodemisa:

I'm sure I read somewhere that its know as the Costa Verde due to the amount of rain that falls in April time!

Maybe it's all relative and it's still not very much compared to here. 

In reply to GraMc:

Interesting thread in terms of recommendations.  Bear in mind that your ‘long trip’ is now limited to 90 days, including overall time in the Schengen area.  The clock starts when you get off the ferry and doesn’t stop until you leave the whole area, which obvs includes France.  Spain wants to extend the rules, but currently enforces this with the police stopping foreign plated cars as one way of checking.  Just a consideration 

 racodemisa 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GDes:

I imagine it's pretty humid.Excepting heatwave conditions I think Margalef is very hard to beat for reasonable conditions into the warmer months. 

In reply to GraMc:

The Lleida and Tarragona regions have a lifetime of SunRock / winter climbing to go at - we've spent around 6 months cumulatively there over the last 8 years. Photos, beta and hopefully a flavour of the van-life scene at dozens of the crags on the relevant section of our blog:

https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/category/spain/catalunya/

I'd agree with other posters that probably the best bases for meeting partners would be Siurana and Margalef, but don't miss out on the fantastic diversity of climbing experience in the area. Assuming things settle down "post(?)" covid, you'll likely bump into other "van-lifers" on the "grand tour" and after a while you start meeting familiar faces.

Also, don't be constrained by Catalunya - part of the joy of van-life is the flexibility and discovery. Siurana to Chulilla is less of a drive than Manchester to Pembroke.

Final comment on "sustainabile van-dwelling" - a couple of nights in a campsite each week isn't a massive expense, helps break the monotony and puts something back into the local economy. 

Have a great trip - and we'll maybe bump into you "on the road" (keep an eye out for our "truck" - it's fairly unmistakable!)

Cheers, Dom 

 GraMc 18 Nov 2021
In reply to Derek Furze:

Should have mentioned I'm an Irish citizen, so for me it doesn't

 GraMc 18 Nov 2021
In reply to dominic o:

Excellent cheers! Yeah I'd been thinking of Chulilla also, but as I'd been before wasn't going to prioritize it, but if the drives not that far perhaps I'll put it on the list too

 rexybo 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

Head to Siurana early on. The van scene is alive and well and providing the pandemic doesn't stop people travelling then there is always a lot of other solo people there. For van life, you can stay at the camping or it's pretty tolerated in a huge layby on the road between Cornudella and Siurana. You can't miss it as you drive up as its literally known as Van City and it will be full of them. It's not tolerated to sleep at the top anymore and there is now a charge for the parking. You'll find solo people at the van spot, in the camping bar and in Goma 2 during the evenings. May was too hot for me at Siurana but Margalef was still OK as there are a lot of different aspects etc. In Margalef there were two cheap campsites for vans and they don't tolerate it outside of the specific spots. One site was in the village and the other up at the lake. In the evenings, a lot of climbers hang out at the Cafe Vernet and you can also buy a warm shower there. That's where I'd go to find partners. Rodellar was also good in early June however technically van camping isn't allowed there ....but the hotel seems to turn a blind eye and let the car park fill up. Ceuse is a great place for solo people . I think I was there in July and it was a great scene. There is a campsite and it will be full of climbers and not much else! Van camping outside the campsite was considered a bit shitty when I was last there so would think that campsite is the place to be. Hope that helps

 GDes 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

Re van life, I think the general consensus in alot of places, especially round ceuse, is just stay in the Campsite. If you can afford a flashy lwb Mercedes van, you can afford a few euros a night to stay in a lovely Campsite. 

 seankenny 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GDes:

> I'm sure I read somewhere that its know as the Costa Verde due to the amount of rain that falls in April time!

> Maybe it's all relative and it's still not very much compared to here. 

I went to Asturias in April and it was indeed quite rainy. That's about the only downside to the area, otherwise it's excellent climbing in a very beautiful (and cheap) part of the world. The rock is really good quality, more like southern France than northern Spain. Crags tend to be a small(ish) and slightly spread out rather than big long walls as you get in somewhere like Ceuse, but if you're fine walking between sectors it's great.

 GraMc 18 Nov 2021
In reply to GDes:

Who said anything about a flashy lwb Mercedes?

 jon 20 Nov 2021
In reply to racodemisa:

> .... Margalef van park/campgrounds are very good as well sometimes they're very quiet during the week though.

Ha ha ha ha ..........

 Ciro 20 Nov 2021
In reply to GraMc:

Don't worry too much about a plan. You'll quickly meet people with ideas, make plans with them that may or may not come to something, and make more plans with someone else - the scene is very fluid and easy going.

As others have said Siurana is a great place to start, but the main thing is to just follow the good conditions - that's what everyone else will be trying to do so if you get it right you'll find people to climb with. Some years it's great to stay up north in cold but sunny conditions all winter (as long as you stay above the fog), others it's best to head south.

Worth buying a copy of Donde Escalar En Espania for a good overview. There's so much world class climbing in Spain, once you meet people you can form a climbing partnership for weeks or months rather than days here or there you can make plans to visit less well known gems.

If you've not done a long trip before, it's important to establish a regular rest day schedule that works for you.

Making new friends is absolutely one of the best things about solo vanlife, but it can also be a bit emotionally draining after a while - you're constantly creating intense connections and living in each other's pockets, and then saying hasta luego and going different directions. Every so often I find it's good to drive down to the coast on your own, and spend a few days parked up by a deserted beach enjoying the solitude.

Bring a hammock with you for hanging out in downtime, and stuff to pass the time like musical instruments and card games... Save you becoming too addicted to your phone. And stay off UKC... Hanging around here is for when you're stuck in the grind wishing you were away 😁

Saying that facebook is great for van life - by the time it's getting too warm in Spain, you'll have plenty of contacts who'll be heading towards France so you don't have to hunt for climbing partners when you get there.


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