Described as “12 bouldering hot spots between the Pyrenees and regions around Madrid”, Gebro Verlag’s new EBLOC guidebook is a well laid out and easy to use bouldering guide to Spain, produced in a similar mould to the popular 2007 publication IBLOC – Bouldering in Italy.
In a refreshing twist to many recently produced guides, Harry & Ulrich Röker (the authors) have chosen to document, from scratch, a previously unrecorded – in book form at least – area. As already stated EBLOC focuses on the boundless bouldering realms of mainland Spain, centering its attentions on the crags around two of the countries most famous cities. For years the areas around Barcelona and Madrid have been known to host extensive swathes of sandstone and granite boulders, respectively, but have until now remained shrouded in both mystery and secrecy. Only through relentless internet investigation, forum posts and scrappy PDF topos, passed manually from climber to climber, have you been able to glean any useful bouldering information on this most rocky of lands. Until now…
Despite this obvious gap in the market – not to mention the morass of popular sport climbing guides proving time and again that folk can’t get enough of Spain – this guide is the first and (currently) only printed publication to describe many of Spain’s most extensive bloc sport destinations. Nothing like a bit of old fashioned German efficiency and endeavor to solve a long standing problem!
For those unfamiliar with IBLOC, the recent Gebro Verlag bouldering guides are designed and written in a style to suit a multilingual audience. By Ground Up or Rockfax standards they may initially seem a little unpolished, but when you dig a little deeper you soon realize they hit their target audience more than adequately. The books rely mainly on maps, photo topos, symbols and minimalist descriptions; with the important approach and access info in a concise trilingual table format – in the case of EBLOC: Spanish, English and German. Problem descriptions are, in the main, reliant on the photo visuals (which usually suffice), but when there is the need for a text description it is kept short and sweet, and generally written in English. The approach and layout maps, any overhead topos used and quoted approach times/distances are on the whole very accurate – all in all making up for the overall lack of text.
The Areas: All images and maps courtesy of the “EBLOC – Bouldering in Spain” guide.
(1.) Targasonne: Okay so Targasonne is technically in France, but with the Spanish border clearly in view from many of the blocks it makes sense to pay homage and acknowledge this great granite area on the Pyrenean border. Along with La Pedriza, the Targassone section offers only a useful introduction to the crag and local area, with a small selection of the best problems/circuits from one of the main sectors, “Sector Taz”. If you intend to plan a trip focusing primarily on Targassone both EBLOC and I would concur on recommending you pick up a copy of Fred Bertins definitive guide, “Le Chaos Targassone” (no longer available in the UK).
(2.) Savassona: A little know sandstone area just over 70km north of Barcelona. With blocks in both woodland and meadow locations there is a reminiscent air of Fontainebleau about this venue, but obviously on a much smaller scale. The rock is also forged from a larger grained base material. Despite the relatively low altitude the spring, autumn and winter months in Savassona can get pretty cold, making for great conditions.
(3.) Sant Joan de Vilatorrada: Despite its locality to a fairly built up area, the sandstone and conglomerate boulders of Sant Joan de Vilatorrada offer a great mix of slopey pockets and pebble pinching action on the craglets and boulders around Manresa, a small town 65km NW of Barcelona. At an altitude of 350m this is, again, an area to avoid in the summer months.
(4.) Belianes/Malda: A small sandstone area situated 135km west of Barcelona. All the sectors are located in close proximity and the lines generally encounter a mix of arêtes or bulging walls, in an attractive rural setting. This venue is only 35km (45 minutes drive) from the more extensive area of El Cogul and offers an ideal change of scene when on a trip to Cogul.
(5.) Cervià: Another neat, and beautifully rural, sandstone venue (143km west of Barcelona) centered around an old chapel. As with Beliane this crag is also situated in very close proximity to the better known El Cogul, and again makes a good distraction from its better known cousin. The guide records only 97 problems at this venue, but goes on to point out the wealth of rock in the vicinity, so this may be an area to look out for in the future.
(6.) El Cogul: Along with Albarracín El Cogul (165km west of Barcelona) is one of the largest bouldering areas in north east Spain. Over its twelve currently developed sectors it hosts over 450 boulder problems on the finest quality sandstone. With an altitude of only 350m and a semi-desert location, not to mention the nature of the slopey top-outs and openhanded pockets, the winter months are ‘the’ time to visit El Cogul. Along with the plethora of great problems, the undulating rural setting offers a relaxed atmosphere and even a vista of prehistoric cave paintings to ogle on your rest days.
(7.) Albarracín: Currently one of “the” in-vogue European bouldering destinations, Albarracin will be the cardinal reason that many climbers purchase EBLOC. The site covers a large area and incorporates over 1000 boulder problems (around 750 of which are listed in this guide), on sumptuous sandstone blocks, with many lines involving steep athletic roof climbing. Located a little over halfway between Barcelona and Madrid, in the locality of the provincial town of Teruel, Albarracin is best reached from either Valencia (160km) or Madrid (280km). When considering a trip here it’s worth bearing in mind that a number of sectors are closed, due to nesting restrictions, from 10th January to the 15th August. However, as the area is situated at 1300m, autumn and early winter are the best times to visit.
(8.) La Pedriza: Another extensive (granite) area situated in a national park at an altitude of around 1000m, but this time in the locality of Madrid (60km). Well known for its granite domes and fine routes, La Pedriza offers a wealth of bouldering. Unfortunately the guide only offers a rough layout of the better known areas and approach and access information. There are a few rough online topos available here.
(9.) El Esorial: Another area offering only a selection of the full enchilada of problems, however there is a solid circuit of over 100 problems described, on rough mountain granite, with many of the problems being in the Font7a to 8b spread! Situated at around 1000m and 55 km from Madrid this is another area easily reached from a major airport.
(10.) Zarzalejo: A small but worthwhile granite area situated only a few kilometres from El Escorial, making it and ideal destination for a change of scene when based around El Escorial, or even La Pedriza. Another area with reams of potential, and one that may expand with time – the freestanding, glacially worn, orb-like blocks are worth a visit in their own right!
(11.) Burguillo: An interesting looking granite area occupying the shoreline of the Embalse de Burguillo reservoir, in the mountains 90km due west of Madrid. Two sectors are included in the guide – offering almost 150 problems – and a further couple of areas are undocumented. The blocks are beautifully water worn and thoroughly mesmerizing to behold, as well as offering some great looking sport.
(12.) Navalosa: After Albarracin, Navalosa is the most extensive area described in the book. Positioned high (1400m) in the mountains 170km west of Madrid, and almost halfway between the Spanish capital and the Portuguese border, is a remote village surrounded by crystalline gold! Navalosa may seem to belong to a long forgotten age but it’s not for the amenities that one visits this part of the world. The area is literally blanketed in smooth granite blocks and formations, and any rock starved climber visiting the area for the first time may think they’ve died and gone to heaven. The granite is unusually featureless, and save for the multitude of strange pebbles or “patatas” embedded in the rock, it would be almost insurmountable!