Tiso's climbing blogger and coach Ali Lee takes on the conglomerate spires at Riglos, Spain. Discover how you can get a taste of multi-pitch and clifftop fiestas below!
At 10pm on the 18 March, Anna messaged me saying she was throwing together a last-minute climbing trip to Riglos, in Spain, for some multi-pitch sport climbing. By 10am the next morning I had booked my flights.
The Mallos de Riglos are massive conglomerate spires that loom above the small town of Riglos and hold some of the best multi-pitch sport climbing in Europe. If you are unfamiliar with the rock type conglomerate, imagine a five-year-old had been let loose with a load of pebbles and putty, mixed them together and shaped them into large towers. The result is 300m long routes from slabs to great overhangs.
We flew into Barcelona on 4 April, spent a night near the hotel then headed straight to the town to get started. Sadly the first day was rainy but still this did not deter us: we got to our accommodation of the Refugio de Riglos, unpacked, then headed out to the cliffs to see what we could find. From inspection of the guidebook and a search around the crag we discovered a few single pitch parts that were sheltered from the rain where we could do a little climbing.
That night Anna, Sam and myself hitched plans to try and do El Zulu Demente (Zulu) and La Fiesta de los Biceps (Fiesta) in the same day so we woke up early the next morning to try and get a full day of it. On discovering that the start of Zulu was still wet, we decided to do Fiesta first. Straight from the first pitch it was clear that there was a reason there was no one else on the wall; the sun was not up yet and even when it did rise the wall was in the shade for a good few hours. The result was we were climbing with freezing fingers.
Looking to climb at Los Mallos de Riglos? Here are Ali's top tips:
- Stay at the Refugio de Riglos – it may be basic but it has everything you need. If you are staying here make sure to bring a cooking stove as they only have a microwave, although I did find out you can make scrambled eggs!
- Don’t worry about buying a guide book, the local pub has one handy as well as having loads of topos hung on the wall.
- Try to come around spring or autumn. As we found it can get quite cold or get really hot, coming at these times means the extremes are never too great.
- Try and hire a car. We did this and found it really easy to get there; it wasn’t too expensive and means you can easily retreat to other crags if the weather isn’t playing ball.
- Prepare for the sun! Remember when you’re up on the wall the sun is reflected right back at you so light long-sleeved t-shirts and lots of sun cream are recommended.
Despite the cold and climbing in a three, we made good time and flew through the crux 3rd pitch and all the way up to ‘potato pulling’ top pitches. Anna cruised through the first of these pitches and then it was down to me to lead the hardest of the top pitches. This was the pitch so many people had talked about – fairly good holds but steep, exposed ground. Despite it being right up my street, I had to rest on the rope just before the belay which I found incredibly frustrating, as up to there I had climbed the route clean.
After this followed a surprisingly tricky easier pitch followed by the glory top out pitch. On topping out we realized that doing the two routes in one day was maybe a bit beyond us at this time… so we chilled at the top eating Haribos before heading back down to the base of the crag. On returning Anna went to climb El Puro ‘The Cigar’ with Erik whilst Sam, Seb and myself rested at the bottom of the crag doing a few pitches here and there but mainly just lying down in the cool grass with the baking sun above us.
The next day we learned from our lessons and ‘forced’ ourselves to lie in so the sun could heat the place up. From a quick inspection of the guidebook we decided that Chooper into Chooperior seemed like a good route (less hanging belays and hard climbing mixed in with easier pitches). I started up the route with Erik and we flew through the pitches, only stopping to admire the views and wildlife.
Topping out this route felt quite special as we were now on top of the highest spire of all. Sadly, unlike the day before, there was no walk off the top and a multi-pitch abseil was needed. In the now high winds this wasn’t something we were looking forward to. Despite the initial abseil being quite scary it turned out well with the final abseil being an amazing full 60m free hanging ab.
On the last day of multi-pitch climbing we went to do Moskitos, a popular easier route. I headed out with Sam whilst Anna and Seb climbed together. This route proved to be really pleasant with easier climbing mixed in with sparse bolting to give a bit of thrill. But the real highlight of the day had to be when we were halfway up the route, sitting at a belay, when out of silence the Lord of The Rings theme tune came floating across the air. Unable to determine where this was coming from we were suddenly calmed and any nerves we had had disappeared. Filled with newfound courage, we flew to the top.
After this day we headed back into Barcelona to fly out, stopping at a single pitch sport crag on the way to have one final climb. Overall the trip was an amazing success; I learnt lots, made some great new friends and did some of the best climbing I had ever done. You can read more about Mallos de Riglos and the routes over on UKClimbing.com.