Tom, who lives close to the famous Santa Linya cave out in Spain, was kind enough to send us a report of his efforts, with a few crag recommendations thrown in.
"For our summer holidays this year we decided to stay in Spain and explore the crags in the Basque Country and to continue with our Spanish. Having heard about the mega cave in Baltzola, we chose this to be our first port of call. With the cave in mind we escaped from the inferno of Catalonia in search of cool routes and cooler temps. However, we were greeted with tropical weather and a soaking wet cave! Thankfully, locals told us of some smaller less known crags that were good alternatives in summer. These are Valdegobia, Apellaniz, Onati and Lezaia. All of which are situated within 40 minutes of Vitoria-Gasteiz the Basque equivalent of the Catalan climbing mecca Lleida.
So, with a scruffy hand drawn topo we headed to Valdegobia. This crag ought to be added to the list of every Brit sport climber. Set within a lush green meadow the crag hosts everything from 5 to 9a, better described as Spain's equivalent to Malham. Here I managed to make a second go ascent of the awesome route Kulun Gele 8c and in the same style I did Rasputin 8b+.
Intrigued by rumors of mega crags in Asturias and Cantabria we hit the road again. Sure enough there were mega crags, unfortunately, Harry my larger than average (45kilo) dog has not yet learned how to climb via ferratas therefore we returned to the Basque County with our tails between our legs.
After a week of trying to go climbing with no success we headed to Apellaniz with bags of motivation. Apellaniz is a series of small Frankenjura style crags set on a hillside on the edge of a forest. Here I did the classic 8b (2ndgo) and was told that the 8c (to the left) had a broken hold and wasnot possible anymore. It was broken at the 3rd bolt, therefore, it made sense to me to do a link up from the 8b into the 4th bolt of the 8c, with the crux moves being at the top. The route named Justolini, involves steep pocket pulling to a series of tenuous heel hooks and a dead point move to a sloper, all in all a great little route. I thought 8c and my friend Dani Lopez (a strong Spanish climber) tried it after me and he thought benchmark 8c too.
With that route done Dani told us that we should go to Onate, the training ground of the super strong Basque climbers Josune Bereziartu and Patxi Usobiaga. The real classic of the crag is Honky Tonky 8c, a mega tufa route with intricate egyptians and a slab top out, this was the one for me. After a few tries falling at a tricky slap to a slopey ball I finally stuck the move and did the route 5th go. Psyched with this I wanted to try the other mega classics but unfortunately the temperature and humidity soared and was unbearable. Speaking to the locals we quickly learned that Onate is a possible summer destination but the hard routes are climbed in the autumn and spring. Sector Korea has some of the most amazing tufa routes out there and with the easiest route at 7c its definitely a tough crag. After speaking to Dani , he told me that Josune used to rep honky tonky three times in a session!! It´s by no means a soft touch, actually considered to be one of the hardest in the Basque country, but then again she has done 9a and campused 1, 5, 9!
With the hot weather preventing play we headed off to Lezaia. This crag is set in Navarra, a baque speaking province to the south east of the Basque country. Here you will find short steep climbing on tufas and pockets and with shade in the morning means that the rock remains cool from the night before. I tried Guau 8c with Dani, the first two attempts were spent trying to work out the tricky starting sequence with awkward kneebars, pinches and full body compression moves. With the shade dwindling and the heat approaching I gave it one last go and managed to put it all together, 3rd go of the day and 3rd 8c in the last 6 days, a new personal best.
We´ve got a couple of weeks left touring around until Lynne and I head back to work in Catalonia. Really psyched to try some more cool routes in new places and to get together the strength and fitness for my projects back at Santa Linya."
Photo Gallery - Tom Bolger in Spain:
Tom Bolger is sponsored by Edelridand Five Ten