Monthly Archives: March 2013

THE GR7 BACKWARDS! CATALUNYA. Primer part.

Clariana – Bellprat

March 17 – 18

Plane, bus, train and taxi….. and then walk

Left Liverpool in the early morning on my ‘favourite’ airline to arrive in Barcelona, caught the cheap airport bus into the centre of the city. The Barcelona marathon was just finishing so the place was packed with athletes in various stages of recuperation, clutching water bottles. No time for sight seeing as I disappeared underground to catch a train to the nearby town of Igualada. This is where I had planned to start an eight day trip along the GR7, 150K. For reasons of transport and accommodation availability I was walking back south to Tivissa, my last stage – see previous posts October 2012.

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So my first night was in Igualada a town built on the leather industry. This is where your luxury handbags originate, as well as your Buff headgear!

Enjoyed the semi luxury of a four star hotel …..

GR7 march2013 080

…. and ordered a taxi [20 Euro] for the next morning to get me to the start of my walk at a diminutive hamlet called Clariana. Straight away found a GR7 signpost and set off in high spirits.

GR7 Way-marker.

GR7 Way-marker.

For navigation I had maps from the latest edition of the Federacio de Catalunya for the GR7. So following these I disregarded the red and white way-marks down the road and soon found myself confronted with definite no passage signs as opposed to the common no hunting signs.

Private Hunting

Private Hunting

No Way!

I’ve only been back on route this year 10 minutes and have forgotten the golden rule – always follow the red and white markers of the GR7 no matter what your intuition or inaccurate map tells you!! So back down the road for half a kilometre and sure enough there was a sign off to the right for the GR7. Who’s to say why this differs from my map! Now on tracks through the fields and the sun was getting warm. Buzzards flying above. After a further navigational error [NW instead of SW!] I managed to get myself onto the minor road leading to Bellprat. Passed the turning to the small hamlet of Fillol, decided there would not be much in that place.Now there were great views back to Montserrat above Barcelona and to the east end of the snow covered Pyrenees.

Fillol and the Pyrenees.

Fillol and the Pyrenees.

Montserrat.

Montserrat.

Walked on to the hamlet of Bellprat where nothing stirred.

Bellprat

Bellprat

From the road here I managed to hitch a lift into the larger town of Santa Coloma de Queralt. The hotel here had closed down. Just missed the 13.45 bus back to Igualada so passed some time in the interesting old town, mainly drinking coffee in the square.

Santa Coloma Placa

Santa Coloma Placa

Caught the 15.30 bus back to Igualada. glad of an easy 14k first day and a good night’s meal and rest in the hotel.

Hake and black spaghetti.

Hake and black spaghetti.

A sunny afternoon stroll near Chipping.

In an effort to get fit for a forthcoming Spanish GR7 trek I had a couple of hard days walking at the weekend and am now suffering in the toe and hip. Cracking up. Decided not to make things worse by going to  the climbing wall today. A new waterproof arrived this morning to replace the one which disintegrated last year in Spain. Alas, despite being a bargain,  it proved to be too tight a fit and had to be returned. The company I bought it from had no larger sizes so I had a quick trawl on the internet for a replacement, found one and ordered, but at an extra £25. Sent back the small one and hope the larger is delivered soon. I’m very impressed with the efficiency of mail order these days. Lots of people going round in vans!

So it was lunchtime before I knew it. The day started very cold but sunny and looked to be continuing the same way. A quick lunch and a drive out to Chipping. Decided on a gentle stroll to ease my joints. Walked out on a concessionary path in the grounds of Leagram Hall.  Pendle looked impressive with a sprinkling of snow.

Pendle.

Pendle.

Walked up a lane past a sheep farm advertising Sheep’s Cheese.

Quite tasty so have come home with some. Here are the new lambs………localviews 012

Walking on up to Park Gate farm you are under the Fairsnape/Totridge fells. Whoever thought to plant squares of conifers on these hillsides?

One passes remote working farms in the hills where life hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years –

Despite being surrounded by peaty gritstone fells this little area of Bowland is limestone with characteristic knolls and outcrops of the white stuff. There are little quarries everywhere and small kilns which  produced lime for the land. In other areas of the valley commercial kilns served the blossoming building trade.

Limestone outcrop.

Flocks of returning birds were landing in the fields aptly demonstrating their two common names – lapwing and peewit. Unable to get a photo so this will have to do – cautionary sign in any case.

Walked on past the pleasantly named, renovated hamlet of Dinkling Green, with it’s magnificent situation below the Totridge Fells.

Lanes through the limestone knots lead to the splendidly isolated and landmark red phone box near Lickurst Farm. How long will it survive in these days of mobile phones?

On past Higher Greystonely Farm where I was hoping for a brew with friends, who were unfortunately not at home. A lane takes you over a ford and on past a significant lime kiln near an extensive limestone quarry.

Soon back on the lane to Chipping and feeling very satisfied with the afternoon’s excursion. A hot soothing bath will get all those muscles relaxed ready for the exertions to come in Catalonia.

FROM THE OLD TO THE NEW.

The weather had remained dry for over a week, a rarity these days, and latterly the temperature had started to creep into double figures! Most days, whilst it was still cold, there was lots of bouldering activity up at Craig Y Longridge. Almost a party atmosphere at the busy weekend.

….from the easy to the hard….

The forecast for Tuesday was even better with the promise of warm sunshine after a frosty, misty start. Motored leisurely over to Settle with the temperature showing only 3degrees. When we arrived the mist was still down, so we retired to the cafe for coffee until hopefully things improved – had we made a mistake, or rather had the forecasters??  No shortly before 12am the sun appeared and it was a rush up to the crag  – Giggleswick Scar South. This is a low lying, limestone, scar just above the road and golf course. It is well sheltered for visits in the winter and gets all the sun going after late morning – perfect. The  parking lay-by was already full, partly because of some selfish parking, and from there it was a simple stroll up to the climbing areas.

Click on the picture below and magnify to read about the scar in general ..

There has been climbing here since the 70’s when a number of traditional routes were done by likes of Allan Austin and friends. The crag subsequently became unpopular and slipping into obscurity as the vegetation took over. However in the 90’s further exploration and extensive cleaning in the search for new rock, along with the use of bolt protection on the blank walls, has brought new life to the place. Sports climbing became of age. At first the older recorded routes were spared the bolt gun and new harder routes were created in the blank spaces between. This meant that some of the classic, albeit, easier lines were ignored and unclimbed. Inevitably as exploration continued this distinction became a little blurred without any great detriment to the crag – some would use the term improvement; purely in the climbing experience.

I personally have embraced the idea of bolted routes in the correct environment. [What is the correct environment however is a big topic for debate!]

Four decades of guides.

Four decades of guides.

Climbers were already swarming up the routes in the sunshine as we walked along the edge to our chosen sector at the far left of the escarpment.

Sector Golf

Sector Golf

The area we arrived at is called Anchor Buttress after one of the original climbs. The steep face is under 20m height but is clean and fairly solid with  relatively lower grade routes. Since our last visit here several “new” routes have been cleaned and bolted mainly based on old 70’s lines. This gives us some extra purpose for the day to climb these old classics in a modern bolted style. Now it just so happens today that I’m climbing  with Dave Miller who actually shared the first ascent of one of these with Allan Austin in 1972. To be precise March 5th  – exactly 41years ago to the day! We hadn’t realised that coincidence when we set off.

QUIVERING TIMBER Dave Miller Allan Austin [alt]
5.3.72
From the 1974 guide.

We did a few smaller routes and then Dave re-led Quivering Timber, now sadly renamed the inferior Bramble Jelly in its new bolted guise. Started by a fierce layback and then more delicate climbing to the top lower off.   5 shiny new bolts. Now given a sports grade of rather stiff 5+

Dave high on Bramble Jelly.
5.3.2013

The afternoon was pleasantly warm so we continued climbing the routes on the buttress till well after 5pm. On our way out we came across more teams including Dave Cronshaw and Angela Soper who had also been active here in the 70’s  –  yet more coincidences.    Great to see these people are still active and enjoying their sport. Perhaps the modern bolting policy here is helping!