The trail into the canyon is nothing short of inspirational. The well-managed path constructed by the volunteers is mostly flat, making it easy to wander through in a daze, eyes darting around the walls and mouth gaping wide throughout. I don't think anything could have prepared me for the sheer scale of oh-my-god-I-have-to-climb-that rock that towered over me in every direction.
Petzl did a great job of bolting hundreds of routes on just about every feature that looked any good, so what was once an inaccessible canyon with a smattering of serious, loose and terrifying trad lines has become a veritable playground for the sport climber, with literally hundreds of routes ranging from F4 to about F8c in all styles from juggy overhangs to thin slabs. A good selection of longer routes were established too, with some pretty tough ones and Sean Villanueva's contribution incorporating two F8b pitches on a stunning six pitch line to the top of the wall.
To accompany all this work, they also produced a particularly professional looking guidebook for the area, easily as good as any I have seen for areas in the UK and Europe, with great photo topos, route information and some interesting history about the area too. This made it even easier to get excited about the rock surrounding me as there were actually even more climbing sectors than I could have guessed just looking around.
As I wandered through checking out all the potential for climbing, I began to get itchy fingers and set about spotting a partner. The first guy I saw heading down from a sector on his own seemed a likely prospect, so I gave him a friendly smile and 'Hola!' and asked if he was looking for someone to climb with.
That was not the response I hoped for and I desperately tried to fumble my pitiful Spanish vocabulary into an understandable sentence but to no avail. I asked hopefully, "Français?".
"Portuguese. Brasil", he said with a smile.
Oh. Well I tried. On to the next one.
I began trying to tune my ears to scout out languages I might have a bit more hope with and eventually heard the familiar tones of a Yorkshireman who I had met on the bus on the way out. A welcome line of communication was opened and he was looking for someone to climb with too so I happily pulled out my harness and gave him a belay. We did a couple of nice lines in Sector Ortega and then moved over the canyon to Sector Circo to finish the evening.
As it happened these areas became the two most popular later in the week so I was happy to get some of the best lines done early on. I felt like I was climbing pretty well, but also got burned out as the days of travel and lack of grub caught up with me. I pulled on my sleeping bag and slumped into the hammock a happy but exhausted man...
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