July 17, 2020

The Journey

How it all happened? Myself and my best friend Matt, D. sitting in the pub, as always drinking pints of tasty beverages and chit chatting about exciting adventures, sometimes about mountain walking but mostly climbing. Following a busy beginning of winter season for Matt, D. working as a Climbing Coach and a busy semester of third year bachelor’s studies for me, we were both itching for something very adventurous. After a couple of drinks and Matt, D. showing me a couple of pictures, that was it, we were looking at flights and dates within seconds. A few days later, we booked cheap flights from London Stansted to Zaragoza.

Late January comes around very quickly and there we are with five jackets on at the airport, whilst wearing helmets and carrying climbing shoes in our pockets, getting on to the plane. That was just after being stopped by the customs and being escorted by armed police for carrying our climbing knives. A critical piece of equipment that is required for safety purposes when climbing, it was going to go in the hold, but we forgot we had them on us. So not only we looked like criminals but like idiots too. Following two hours of sweating on the plane, it was finally time to start thinking about booking our accommodation and how we would get to Riglos from Zaragoza airport. Luckily, we bumped into a local lady who not only offered us a ride but also spoke fluent Spanish and booked all our accommodation for us. To say thank you, we stopped in Huesca to have pizzas for dinner. Then got a taxi across to the village, taking us around 2 hours of travelling from the airport to Riglos.


The climbing

Many would describe as one of the finest multipitch sport climbing area in the world, but some would describe it as climbing on the potatoes in Spain. We arrived in the middle of the night and could just make out the monolithic rocks silhouette by the moonlight, an exciting glimpse of what was waiting or us in the morning. Waking up to the beauty of Riglos and seeing the highest tower ‘La Visera’ through our window got us very hyped up, sun shining and huge griffon vultures flying around (riding the thermals), it was magnificent. Our first route choice was called ‘Currucuclillo’ 6a+ in difficulty, 9 pitches and 200m of climbing to the top of ‘Frechin’.  The route was quite snaky, it was easy to get lost and not always easy to see the line of climbing. However, generally pretty good belay stations and a good mix between pumpy sections and vertical quality climbing. The pitch before last offered the best experience, finishing on a high with positive, long and a little exposed climbing. Four hours later we arrived at the summit just as the sun was setting, huge relief and perfect time to grab a cool beer, what a perfect way start to our week.
On the second day of climbing, we decided to climb a route called ‘Moskitos’, 6b in difficulty, 9 pitches and 250m long to the top of ‘La Visera’, the second most popular route at Riglos. It was adventure in its purest form, a fantastic route considering it was quite polished and run out in most places but with good solid rock. The traverse pitch is most memorable, it felt never ending and mind blowingly exposed. It was very exhilarating, especially because you can not hear or see your partner and you have nothing but 200m of air below you. The 6b pitch was quite positive but felt much more like 6b+, quite burly and pumpy with two bulgy sections just before the anchors, when you clip yourself in, take a breath and look down, a moment you will not forget.


The third route that appealed to us the most was called ‘Juan Antonio Sanz’, 6a+ in difficulty, 6 pitches and 200m long. Very consistent route, much fun and quite easy going, a little exposed in some sections but that is something we realised was synonymous with Riglos. Top 6a+ pitch was 10 out 10. Would recommend as a first long multipitch route at Riglos, obviously if the grade is well within your abilities. I remember getting to the top, seeing a massive griffon vulture whilst eating my boiling hot cheese sandwich and thinking to myself, I can do this for the rest of my life. The satisfaction, the environment, friends, memories etc, there is no other feeling like that. 

Our final long multipitch route was called ‘Espolon Del Adamelo’, 6a in difficulty, 6 pitches and 200m long. Another really good route, would certainly recommend, quite exposed in most sections but easy with good rock. The abseil off was ok but not perfect, quite a lot of loose rock and especially if its windy or there are other parties above. For 70% of the route I could not see my partner and on top of that I was always thinking to myself, do we have enough quickdraws and is the rope going to be long enough. It is mentally draining, constantly having thoughts bothering you, being prepared for a battle is the key.


Summary of climbing

The four routes that we have climbed I would highly recommend. Quite exposed in most places with around 2/3 metres, sometimes 4 between the bolts. However, the bolts are mostly really good quality, we only came across a handful of slightly loose ones. 12 sport quickdraws and 6 alpine draws were plenty for us, but it is worth having a couple of spare ones. Climbing with double ropes that are 60 meters in length would be ideal for most routes but read the guidebook prior to fully committing. Really good feet all the way up but be selective with your potatoes (huge rounded loose blocks), as they might pull out in most areas, not as bad as it may sound. Hence why, you would be crazy not to wear a helmet, especially because there will be many parties around. Having a repertoire of experience and solely relying on yourself is the key. As everywhere with climbing, you always see questionable and unsafe practice. I would recommend having at least one grade in the bag, two grades if it is your first big wall climbing experience. Climbing a 6a will feel like a solid 6b, now add in the spaced-out bolts, then think of the exposure whilst climbing on the potatoes.


The local area

We have stayed at the only Refugio in the village and it has everything you could ask for; nice rooms, hot showers, breakfast, dinner, the receptionists are amazing and will go an extra mile to make you comfortable. One evening we slept under the stars and did not have to pay for the room but could still keep the room with all our stuff in there, super friendly people who will not rip you off. 10 out of 10 service, apart from when you go for a shower at 0730 and lock yourself out, you will have to wait in your towel till 0800 at the reception until someone gets there. The food was never disappointing but if you are picky, we came across one local shop with not much to choose from and one bar/restaurant as an alternative. The local people are also amazing, a couple we met during climbing have invited us over for some wine, a couple of Americans paid for our dinner and another couple paid for our beers too, it must be our charm. More importantly, the village is not heavily populated by tourism, so the area is very traditional, calm, beautiful and quite authentic.

ZULUDIVER Partnership

This trip has marked the beginning of my journey with ZULUDIVER. Throughout all the climbing we did in Riglos, I was testing my new ZULUDIVER 1960s Swiss Style Diver’s Quick Release Watch Strap, in orange colour with the black finish. The rubber was comfortable, breathable, and more importantly light, perfect for adventuring in extreme environments.

Further reading

UKClimbing have created a useful destination guide that is quite brief but useful and they also have an informative guide to some of the classic routes at Riglos. Mountain Spirit Guides have also published an interesting blog that is certainly worth having a look at. More importantly, the guidebook Riglos Vertical is comprehensive and provides all the necessary information; including approach, descends, descriptions, quality pictures of all the routes at Riglos and much more.

Would like to read more about adventuring? Check out the Welsh 3000 blog – one of the toughest hill walking challenge in the UK.

We have some exciting adventures lined up and we are here to create quality content to help everyone embark on their journeys. Stay tuned for the next blog about the Bob Graham Round expedition.