Lo Soterrani, La Mussara, Spain
Posted by sibylle in Spain, La Mussara, Europe (Tuesday February 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm)

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Tristan leading

When we climbed at Lo Soterrani, one of the cliffs at La Mussara, we met Jordy and Heidi climbing there. Both are surgeons; Heidi is American and Jordy grew up in nearby Tarragona with British parents. They were taking six months off between surgery positions. Their last one had been in Maine, which proved much colder than expected, and their next posting would be to Phoenix, In between, they were staying with Jordy’s parents in Tarragona (about an hour away) and climbing as much as possible.

Since in their six-month’s vacation, they could climb anywhere they wanted, and had still chosen to come to La Mussara, that reinforced my impression that we’d ended up in a pretty cool location.

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At Lo Soterrani, Tristan led the climb shown, which I was able to follow until the roof, at which point I fell a few times and struggled to surmount the overhanging section. Luckily several the cliff sorted several easier routes within a few 100 feet, one called Diedre de Pi and another called Elegocentric. A diedre is a corner in French, so perhaps these terms are Catalan, not Spanish. We both wondered if by “pi” they meant the mathematical term.

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Getting there: We flew to Barcelona, stayed at the Hostal Centric and rented a cheap car from Pepe car. We drove from Barcelona toward Reus (inland from Tarragona, in Catalonia) and then uphill to the Sierra des Prades.

Where to stay: Camp at the campground outside the Refugio, or stay in the Refugio in a shared room with bunk beds (a mountain or climber’s hostel)

Best time of year: We came here in April on our first trip and experienced lots of rain and cold weather. Our second trip, from May 25 to June 21 had perfect weather. The climbs are at about 1,000 meters in altitude, so definitely colder than coastal Spain.

Where to eat: The couple who were hut keepers also cook meals for both guests lodging there and for hikers passing through. One of the local specialties are called “tortillas”, but they resemble an omelet. They’re made with eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions, and vegetables. They’re round, plate- sized, and over a half inch thick. We loved these. They also serve various ham dishes that I didn’t try.

Guidebooks: We bought ours from RockFax.

La Mussara, Spain
Posted by sibylle in Uncategorized, Spain, La Mussara, Europe (Tuesday February 3, 2009 at 5:43 pm)

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Breakfast al fresco

We enjoyed our breakfast at the picnic tables in front of the Refugio. The Refugio’s hosts allowed us to keep our food inside the building, where it stayed much cooler and was also safe from animals. We also washed our dishes inside, at the common sink, with the non-potable water running in the taps. They advised us to not drink the tap water, which came from a large cistern.

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Arboli, with cliffs in back

Instead, we got water at one of two springs – one along the road toward the crags, or a second at the approach to the crags. However, as the season progressed, the local springs ran dry and after that we obtained our drinking water from either the spring at Arboli, or the one in L’Albiol. Since we drove to either of these places most days to climb, or on rest days, to shop for groceries, this worked fine as long as we had sufficient water bottles that we could go for two days between trips.

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Ruins above La Mussara Refugio, with goats

In the evening, after dinner, we often walked five minutes up to the hilltop ruins, where a local shepherd often brought his herd. The ringing of goat bells accompanied the croaking of numerous frogs that lived in a large artificial pond in front of the ruins. A few times, we saw paragliders very close, but I forgot my camera every time they were playing near us!
The ruins sit very close to the cliff edge, with the escarpment dropping eventually 1,000 meters to the Mediterranean.

Climbing and camping in the Costa Daurada
Posted by sibylle in Spain, La Mussara, Europe (Monday February 2, 2009 at 10:48 am)

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The Costa Daurada, or “Golden Coast” in Catalan, runs for over 200 kilometers along the coast of Catalonia, Spain, from southwest of Barcelona to the Delta of the Ebro river in the south.

The climbing is located inland from Barcelona, in a range of limestone mountains, the Sierra de Prades.

This area comprises world-class cliffs like Siurana, and lesser-known crags at El Falco and Montsant. It has perhaps the highest concentration of quality routes in Spain.

We camped in a grove of trees outside the Refugio. It was quieter, camping in our tent, than staying in a one of numerous bunk beds stacked in a dormitory–type room. We enjoyed beautiful views from our tent door, and I’d wake in the morning, open the zipper, and gaze out over the Mediterranean to see what weather the day would bring.

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This was one of the best campsites I’ve ever had – we pitched the tent on a soft bed of sandy soil covered with a deep layer of pine needles.

We enjoyed ideal weather conditions – warm to hot in the sun, during the day, but cool at night. The La Mussara Refugio sits atop the Sierra des Prades at 1,000 meters, and thus enjoys cool climbing temperatures even in early summer, when the sun sears the rest of Spain. We arrived in Barcelona on May 25 and drove to La Mussara on May 26.
We bought groceries and canisters for our Bluet camping stove at the Carrefours in nearby Reus. This store resembles a large supermarket with a Target or Walmart thrown in for good measure. However, they sell no fuel for other types of stoves and we were unable to locate Coleman fuel.

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The map shows the Refugio and campsite at La Mussara, as well as the location of some of the many cliffs located here.
We drove 12.5 km (about 7 miles) from La Mussara to the nearest village, Arboli, and climbed on the nearby east-facing cliffs. Arboli has two small cafes / restaurants as well as a very nice large public fountain, where we stocked up on drinking water and I surreptitiously washed my socks.

La Mussara - Toronja
Posted by sibylle in Spain, La Mussara, Europe (Thursday January 29, 2009 at 8:49 pm)

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Sector Toronja
We had planned to return to Spain this spring and to climb again at La Mussara.

Driving to La Mussara, less than two hours from Barcelona, brings you to another world. From Barcelona we headed south towards Tarragona, and then inland to Reus, birthplace of Antoni Gaudi, the architect who designed the Sagrada Familia.

We stopped in Reus to stock up on groceries and fuel for our camp stove before heading up countless narrow switchbacks to the 1,000 meter-high plateau from which our tent looked down upon the Mediterranean.

From our campsite at La Mussara, a Refugio in the National Park, we climbed wither at one of numerous cliffs near La Mussara or headed to Siurana, less than an hour away. Our tent nestled between several large pines, with a view straight towards the Mediterranean. IN the morning, we’d wake when the sun hit the tent. I’d open the tent door to gaze down upon the sea, 1,000 meters below us, and then we’d breakfast at picnic tables set amid the flowers growing in the Refugio’s garden.

Two wardens, both of whom climbed, lived in the Refugio and cooked meals for hikers, weekend climbers, and visiting German, Austrian, and Swiss climbers, who, with their guide, chose to stay in the Refugio’s beds.

Several cliffs of solid white, orange, and reddish limestone were 20 minutes’ to half an hour hike from our camp, containing numerous climbs ranging from easy beginner routes for kids to climbs that neither Tristan or I could begin to get up. Still, La Mussara much less well known than Siurana, which sports some of the world’s hardest route and serves as a regular wintering place for some of the world’s leading rock climbers, including Germany’s Huber brothers.

A month here wasn’t nearly enough to climb the routes we wanted to do, so we had planned on returning, again, until Australia beckoned.

La Mussara - camping and overview
Posted by sibylle in Spain, La Mussara (Sunday December 17, 2006 at 10:57 am)

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Gabriel on Covallonga

In Barcelona we picked up our rental car from Pepecar and drove to Reus, where we shopped at the Carrefours, a combination Walmart/ Target/mega-grocery store. We found everything we needed here, from Vinaigre de Modena (excellent vinegar), sweetened condensed milk in easy squeeze plastic tubes, to fuel canisters for our Bluet stove. However, they do not carry fuel for other stoves, such as Coleman or REI stoves and white gas is very hard to obtain.

From Reus we headed uphill to La Mussara with its wonderful Refugi where you can either erect a tent in the meadow below the Refugi, in the shade of the pine trees or sleep inside in dormitory style beds. The very helpful and friendly guardians sell guidebooks, chalk, and have up to date route information.

Costs for camping were:
Tent: Euro 3.80 per person per night
Meals: 4.50 – 5.50 each
Showers: 1.80 per shower

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Tristan eating breakfast at Refugi
If it’s hot elsewhere in Spain, La Mussara at 1,000 m altitude on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean stays cool due to sea breezes and frequent fog that rolls in off the ocean. In fact, we often wore our down jackets, hats and gloves during dinner. On days off, we enjoyed running or hiking on the many nearby trails or a quick trip down to Reus for shopping.

We were within an hour’s drive of six other climbing areas, including the famous Siurana and Montsant, as well as lesser known Arboli, El Falco, Margalefs, Mont-Ral and Prades. La Mussara alone offered hundreds of climbs on perfect limestone.

La Mussara
Posted by sibylle in Spain, La Mussara (Saturday December 16, 2006 at 3:55 pm)

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Gabriel on Covallonga

Ok, so why haven’t I posted on my blog since June? Tristan and I were climbing in Spain (primarily La Mussara and Siurana in June) and then we were in Switzerland in July. Once we returned I took a quick trip to Ten Sleep, Wyoming, where I became seriously ill with an infected gall bladder (that story later).

The surgeon eventully took out my gall bladder and I spent four days in the hospital on IV antibiotics and IV morphine. After spending much of August in bed recovering, I’ve been trying to catch up on everything I didn’t get done from May through August.

That’s why I’m starting on my Spanish climbing tales several months late.

Tristan and I flew to Barcelona and took the bus to the Plaza Universidad in the town center for only Euro 3.75. The public bus departed directly from the airport, was much cheaper than a taxi and took us to within a few blocks of our hotel. We stayed at the Hostal Centric, the same hotel where we’d stayed two years earlier.

A Dutch woman on the bus, whom I asked about cheap car rentals, referred me to Pepecar, a company cheaper than Eurocar that I hadn’t heard of. From our hotel it was a short walk to the Plaza Catalunya where Pepecar was in a tiny office in the underground parking at the end of a narrow alley by the Hard Rock Café. We would never have found this without directions!

Our room at the Hostal Centric (a Hostal denotes a budget-priced hotel in Spain, not a hostel) was very quiet, in the back and away from the main street, with two comfortable beds but no fridge in the room. The shower, like most European showers, had feeble water pressure and a useless shower curtain. We left our climbing gear in the locked baggage room. The hotel had no restaurant but we were walking distance to a bakery, grocery stores, restaurants, the Metro, and many tourist attractions not far from the Pl. Catalunya, one end of the famous Rambla

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