Albarracin - Spanish Bouldering Nirvana
Its not often I’m totally “Blown away” by a new climbing these days - Which isn’t totally surprising when you consider I’ve been climbing from the age of nine, and I’ve just turned 46!
I’d heard about Albarracin (pronounced Al Bar rassin) on and off over the last couple of years. Mutterings of an amazing bouldering area festooned with prehistoric cave paintings had filtered down through the tiers of the climbing hierarchy. A quick flick of a switch and consultation with the modern day “Font of all knowledge” Google, soon directed me to www.climb-europe.com
Albarracin is one of the least known, yet breathtaking places you’re ever likely to visit and was voted the “best village in Spain” recently by El Mundo Magazine. On first inspection you can see why tourists and historians alike flock to this small village, high on the slopes of the Sierra above the Rio Guadalaviar. It has a castle of Arab origin, with huge fortified walls, Renaissance art in the Parish church, an Episcopal Palace dating back to the 13th century and a Diocesan museum home to a valuable collection of Flemish tapestries. As you walk through the small steep streets this place truly captivates from the moment you enter.
Just outside the village, 4km up the hill is the Albarracin Cultural Park, home to examples of post – Palaeolithic art from between 6000 and 1000 years BC and copious amounts of HUGE BOULDERS!
Yes, hang a left, just before you enter the Citadel and head up through the village, past the bakers on your left, the small grocery store and bar on your right, keep going along the road, don’t deviate. The road starts to climb now, the landscape becomes slightly less flat, with the mouth of a gorge on your left, things start to look a little more promising, the odd boulder here and there, close to the road until finally you turn into the car park and pull into the covered parking spaces, with small thatched roofs.
Touted by the locals as “the best bouldering venue in Spain” or sometimes “the second best bouldering in Europe” the climbing at Albarracin covers such an extensive area it’s impossible to visit all the sectors during our short stay.
Like many of the larger bouldering areas, Albarracin is split into Sectors, 11 in total and when you see them laid out on a map you realise just what a massive area the bouldering covers - Zona de tierra media, Cabrerizo, Parking, Psikokiller, Madriles, Tehcos, Valle de la Madera, Peninsula, Arrastradero, Sol and Masia. The most interesting in my opinion being Techos, Peninsula, Arrastradero and Sol.
Albarracin is often compared to its Austere French neighbour, Fontainebleau, both climbing on very compact Sandstone and often employing the “sloper” and horrifying top outs, but Albarracin also has a secret weapon, its roofs. Small one’s taking in just a short, butch overlap, downward pointing ones with blind crux’s throwing for far away holds, which only your “yelling” mate can see and is gesticulating unhelpfully towards, “go on, go on” and finally the best ones, enormous horizontal offerings climbed on the sweetest of Heuco’s, nothing hard, but an unrelenting pump coupled with a grin the size of a Cheshire cat’s.
Most of the climbing is fairly new so some of the problems still need a little traffic to clean them up, but more frequented area classics are fine. The Sandstone is very absorbent, like a sponge; so don’t climb on it after a heavy shower. The holds, flakes in particular can be quite brittle, so try using a little more finesse and a lot less oomph! Use only soft brushes for cleaning, brush before and after and try and keep your “dipping” to a minimum – absolutely no “Poff”.
From the moment you leave the car park you’re surrounded by the boulders, Access too and from the climbing areas is made up of an extensive network of paths, built and maintained by the Park Rangers. They are easy to follow and well signposted but it can still be quite hard to find “that particular” boulder you want. Even with Topos its not obvious, especially on your first visit, but persevere and talk to the locals, they want to share with you “their bouldering”
Climbing is allowed and even encouraged by the park, there are however certain rules which need adhering to when you go climbing here – These can be found on the notice boards in all the car parks. It isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few simple things, like take your rubbish with you, stay on the paths and at certain times of the year honour restrictions imposed on where you can climb (nesting birds)
Its an unwritten agreement between the local climbers and the park, it’s like a lot of developing areas, a delicate situation has arisen partly due to the new found popularity and subsequent influx of climbers – to be honest, there’s so much climbing here, you’ll hardly notice there are any restrictions – however, ignore the delicate balance and we could see a “Hueco” style situation, where only a limited quota of climbers are allowed into the park at any given time.
Depending on where you fly in to, Valencia and Taragozo being the two most popular, there are several ways to get to Albarracin. The easiest way to get directions is with online route-planners like Google maps. Once you get into the village of Albarracin, turn left then right in the direction of Pinturas Rupestres. The bouldering area is about 4 km up the road.
When to go
November to February is the most popular time of the year to go for those “hardcore devotees” but for mere mortals, like Fontainebleau it is possible to climb year round if you’re not looking for those “mythical” conditions.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t camp inside the park – although sleeping in your car/van or bivvying in the car parks seems to be acceptable if you arrive late, leave early and clean up after yourself, although not encouraged – in other words be discreet.
Don’t climb on areas during the restricted periods. This includes Sectors Madriles / Acantilados, Psykokiller, Peninsula and Valle de Madera from January 10th to august 15th.
Don’t climb on the boulders closest to the prehistoric painting’s they are a No-go. For up-to date information look at the signs in the car parks.
Don’t leave your shit at the crag, if you carried it in; carry it back out its not far.
Don’t park next to the road in the small passing places – park only in the designated Car Parks provided and walk to the boulders.
Don’t try and develop “new areas” without first talking to the local climbers who are in touch with the park authorities – there are definite Climbing and No Climbing designated areas, which have been agreed on.
Don’t use wire brushes.
Do enjoy this amazing place.
Techos – Supermafomacho 6b, Tost del Campo 7c+, La Campana 7c / 7c+, kebrantamentes 7c+, A ciegas 7b.
Arrastradero – El pais de las Bicicletas 7a, El Jacuzzi 6a, El Escudo 6b.
Peninsular – Everything.
Sol – Karmansla 7a/7c, Bicepillo 6c, Amcidadura 6c, Per la pau 5+, Burn 6b+
Guides / Websites
The most up to date guidebook is Bouldertopo Espana by Ulrich and Harald Roker, published by E Bloc. It actually covers 12 bouldering hotspots between the Pyrenees and Madrid. As previously mentioned there is a very detailed website with Topo’s. www.boulderalbarracin.com designed, created and managed by a very passionate devotee.
There is also a “new problems book” at the 'El Molino del gato' a small bar just at the entrance to the village.
www.campingalbarracin.com - provides places for Tents and vans and also 3 and 4 person wooden chalets. Book early its very popular.