Last week I planned a little rock trip with Garro. The idea was to do some emblematic multi pitch and then head to one of those sport climbing meccas that we have in Spain.
The menu seemed to probably be Riglos and Rodellar. I was totally enthusiastic with that due to the fact that I hadn’t climbed yet in any of those places.
The fact, is that the sport climbing days felt a bit like a treat, but what really made me tense was the election of the route in Riglos. On the one hand, climbing with Garro makes me very confident; he has dragged his ass over the most badass walls of the peninsula and he can really give everything at every pitch. On the other hand, every now and then, he gets himself on let’s say some intense situations in the wall.
I decided I was confident leading up to 6a and that I wouldn’t mind following 6b. The first candidate was “mosquitos” to the Visera, although Garro subtly suggested the Rabadá-Navarro to mallo fire. I believe in watsapp he mentioned it as the pearl of riglos or the little candy from the pyrenees, I don’t really remember, but it was one of those expressions that get stuck in your brain.
The first thing you notice when you look at the croquis (from Xosé and Toño?) is the beauty and elegance of the route. The second thing is that on paper, it seems very manageable especially considering that it is a Rabadá-Navarro. I won’t fulfill this year my dream of free climbing the RN to the Uriellu peak, but this may be the closest I will be.
Considering the first ascensionists, and the year of the climb, 1961, I figured out that it would be more of an alpine activity than a climb, which was fine for me. I still think i’m a much better alpinist than a climber.
I was concerned about the possibility of getting lost in the wall, as you can notice it’s a route with several traverses and it seems easy to miss them. Moreover, if you leave the route there are more loose rocks and dangerous terrain.
The good thing, is that a few days before leaving, Carlos and his climbing partner David decided to join us and Carlos had already climbed that route some years ago.
Ok, now it seems that we are a bit ahead of the game, nevertheless it’s still eleven pitches and the end of October, so it feels like we will most likely exit the last tower and do the descent in the night even though Carlos insists that by five o’clock we will be in the summit.
Battle plan: 7.30 in the parking of Riglos the following morning. We decide to bring a medium set of cams, a set of micro cams, offset nuts, DMM peanuts, a few regular nuts and fourteen extendable quickdraws.
(If you can choose Totem, BD X4 or Alien will work better, however, don’t get too excited, There are not that many possibilities for protection).
Sunrise, Carlos and David appeared and we started a bit lazier than planned, we reach the base of the route by 09.15, still Carlos is very optimistic that we will top the mountain somewhere by five o’clock.
He takes the first lead; our confidence rises as we realize that the first 6b is very well protected and it even has a sling for cheating on the difficult sequence. A bit over optimistic we dive in the route.
Garro takes our lead after Carlos and David are donne, and a bit after ten o’clock I start climbing. When I reach the sling I decided to do A0, we haven’t even warmed up, it’s getting late, we still have ten pitches ahead and four of them on the sixth grade.
I gather the gear and get in the next V+. Now I start to feel climbing smart and soon I reach the next belay. However, I felt like the V grade of this route were going to be pretty climby and soon Garro reaches me and confirm this theory.
It’s his time to lead and for a few seconds we get the perfect photobomb moment. Psyche is high.
Once on R3, we meet Carlos and we can feel the tension. David, on the lead, has gone out of the route and is in some sketchy terrain not able to figure out how to find back the line where the rock bridges and the slings are supposed to be. David achieve to manage the situation and soon after he is back on track and on the next belay.
The route is treacherous and it’s easy to get lost. There are several traverses, variants almost at every turn and most of the times the original route does not follow the most obvious features, moreover on the route, the rock is pretty solid, but outside of it it’s not always the case.
This episode made me uneasy, well, in fact, i climbed slightly uneasy during the whole activity. It was my first day in Riglos and even though the rock is effective and good, it all seems like a solidified avalanche of rocks and mud. Every now and then I was breaking small feets and small hand holds, moreover it’s tricky to place gear, and when you find a spot it’s normally the thin crack in between two rocks the size of a fist that seems to be glued to the wall. It’s kind of the same for the slings on the rock bridges; well, for an easy conclusion, it’s not allowed to fall taking a lead on this route.
I offer to Garro taking the lead of this pitch, without a doubt he takes it and achieves to negotiate without issues the traverse. At least we are on very good timing.
I dive in the next pitch that stars through a vertical section, pretty straightforward but then keeps traversing towards the right through some bellies and vulture shelves. This makes the route slightly hard to navigate, and you must commit to the bellys to take a further look and check that you are following the right way.
On this pitch the slings on the rock bridges are far and it can get ugly; take it easy, touch properly very piece of rock before committing to it and one step at a time.
Garro takes the next lead, and luckily for us, we just were able to see how Carlos followed the pitch. It is very tricky to see the beginning of the left traverse and you really feel like following the central dihedral instead of looking for the hidden diedral on the left.
Another spicy Vth and on belay. It’s my lead now, this is the U pitch of IV+. If only has one rock bridge and it’s quite tricky to find proper alternative protection.
At this point, we are doing very good with timing, and we start to believe that perhaps we were going to manage the whole thing before the sunset. The problem now is that the sun is just roasting us on the wall. It becomes really hard to commit on the pitches after having been cooked on the belay feeling slightly dehydrated, tired and low of energy.
We are on the seventh belay and it’s Garro’s lead. while I see him he let me know that the start of the V+ is kind of punchy, then he goes on the traverse and I lose sight of him. He is really taking a long time. Not sure what’s going on. I kind of hear voices but can’t really get what’s going on. After a longer while I hear a solid “on belay!”. All good. It’s my time now to get on the mud.
I take a long sip of water, a quick chocolate bar, but it just does the trick halfway. As the follower I feel like crushing the first section, but unfortunately on a slightly more vertical passage I break a foothold and for a second I keep holding just on my arms. It wasn’t really anything too epic or spectacular, but it was just enough to make a crimp in my biceps. I can now feel that we’ve been several hours on the wall and that we have to push meter by meter.
I achieve to find a rest and stretch a bit and soon after I’m under the belay, but in between I have two overhanging bellies and the first one really seemed to require a bouldering move to overcome it.
I climb to it, take a look, get a bit crazy trying to figure out my sequence and down climb again to the closest jug to take a rest. Then it’s when Garro let me know that he skipped and intermediary belay and that I’m just straight under the infamous 6b sequence called the french belly.
Dam, on the one hand it feels good because I was almost getting cold sweats thinking on how kicked I was getting on a V+ and how much painful the 6b was going to be, but on the other hand…I still had to go through it and right now.
I climb to the move again and Carlos insists that David and Him have done it in A0, but man, both parabolts seemed a bit out of the way, so I just commit to the boulder move, go over it, and as soon as I pass it I start to feel completely empty in my arms. I don’t achieve to find a proper rest after the move, and I’m starting to consider that there is a big chance that I may fall, so I do a few moves fast to try to get closer to the next parabolt and prevent the swing.
Of course I took a fall, and at least I did not took a big swing. However, I was slightly hanging in the air and Garro did not liked the way the ropes where frictioning on the belay ledge, so he decides to give me a strong pull up and then I realize it was not time to rest and that I had to go through the second belly. On desperate moanings and sobbings, I reach the belay.
intense, I have to admit, but we’ve left behind the hardest part of the route. We are going to top out and it’s going to be at day.
We are finally at the base of the summit tower ahead of the most emblematic pitch of the route. We can see David leading the pitch enjoying a tribute to elegant climbing. As you can expect, I’m still trying to catch my breath and Garro starts to take all my gear. After all the ugly paddling in the mud he had had today, how come he was not going to lead the most aesthetic pitch in Riglos!?
Both rope teams we overcome this pitch quite fast, I take it the last one and it really is as beautiful as it seemed. There are a few parabolts on the pitch that are really a gift if you need to catch your breath, which I did.
It’s almost five o’clock and we are on the last pitch. Carlos and David have just topped the route. Loads of motivation, swollen forearms, sun starts to get lower; last punch and we are out.
Garro dives in the last pitch and you can tell that the moves become slightly easier again, however in the middle of the pitch there is quite a long run between two bolts. By that time drama starts again. The ropes where new, and mid pitch they decide to start twisting. For a while it worked well, but at some point it all clogged, and it took me several minutes to solve the mess before allowing Garro to continue. He was on the middle of the long run and I’m so glad that we could solve it without added drama. Those were the longest minutes of that day.
Soon after we are on top, having had enough of heavy emotions for today.
Carlos and David were waiting for us on the summit for a bit longer than an hour and we take the dream team photo.
At that point I was really glad but at the same time slightly disappointed of not having been able to dominate the route as I would have wanted to. The truth is that those guys are truly great people and they couldn’t stop repeating that I’ve probably had the most badass baptism of fire in Riglos ever and they still challenge me to find someone ever that his first route in Riglos was the Rabadá-Navarro.
Well, I’m not sure if I will, but for sure it will be one of those proud medals that I’ll hang on my chest. To be Sancho Panza on this route has been like been Captain America in most of the climbs that I’ve ever taken.If Rabadá and Navarro were really able to go through the french belly in 1961 with pythons and espadrilles, that’s really something. In fact, I just get weak on my legs thinking on how those guys one day walked under the mallo fire, took a look, kind of guessed a line, committed to it with the gear of back in the day and five days later exited through the top.
Once on the ground, after throwing all the gear in the car, a beer in Ayerbe and seeking for another bivouac closer to Rodellar, everything seems a bit easier and slower.
Tomorrow it’s a day for roof climbing on the seventh degree, but that will be another fight.