It's difficult to say what I think of Albarracin as a bouldering location in the sense that we really only had 2 days bouldering there, and the second of those days was hampered by the bottles of beautiful cheap wine consumed the night before at the campsite.
There is no doubt that Albarracin is a beautiful spot. The bouldering area looks much like the prettiest parts of Font, except the rock is red. The village is stunning and the drive from the campsite to the boulders is very short, the walk in from the car even shorter still.
I met Squib in Reus airport and we rented our car for the 5 days, packing it full of my bouldering gear and 3 weeks worth of his sport climbing gear. With little or no idea where to go, the directions from Google reading: Head north-east....
This way?... why not!
Now I don't know what it is these past 2 bouldering trips abroad but less than 1km from Reus airport we were rear-ended whilst yielding to on coming traffic.
The car shoved forward with a loud bang and myself and Squib looked at each other... what can one say?!
No one was hurt and the lady who rented us the car was pretty sure it was a new record - 2 minutes out of the airport... car trashed.
So the replacement to our VW was - to Squib's disgust - a Fiat Punto which flew along at a staggering 130kmph, foot to the floor.
I shall only briefly mention our 3 hour detour to Castellon on our 4 hour road trip.
We checked out Decathlon and did our weeks grocery shopping. Castellon is to be avoided at all costs forever more, it's a great big industrial vacant mess that offered none of the rich Spanish experience we were after.
Having set off at 1pm, trashing a car, buying new climbing shoes and flip flops, stocking up on food - we finally arrived at Albarracin at 9pm, or was it 10pm...
We were trashed.
Accommodation at Camping Quidad de Albarracin in one of their bungalows is plush indeed for a bouldering trip, but there's something about the bungalows that just doesn't seem right for boulderers... can't put my finger on it.
Having said that - the people who run the show there really did everything and anything that Squib and I asked for, including wash loads for free - internet access in their office -free, as well as allowing us to print documents etc etc etc.... lovely people.
Thursday morning... To the boulders!
It was so hot to start off with. We found a lovely flat wall of pockets, perfect for clambering about on, traversing back and forth, climbing up and down - I wanted to take that bit of warm-up rock home to Ireland with me.
We set off after a good warm up session and found a pretty cool looking boulder (36) Started on 'El Método Decide' (6b) and made short work of it. My muscles felt good to go - had a feeling it was going to be a really good days bouldering. we moved over to the other side of the boulder and did the stand start to El Esquinazo (6c). Made short work of that too... Definitely the quickest 6c boulder problem I've ever put away.
We then started to work the sit start version (7a) and just as Squib caught the opening move, the skies darkened and it started pouring rain. We sheltered under a large over hang on our first afternoon's bouldering in Albarracin and both just had to laugh...
Was this all the bouldering we'd get done?
It got worse and worse and there were loud claps of thunder... during a lull in the downpour we made our way back to the car. I was gutted. I get this feeling in my muscles only sometimes when I do sport. I used to get it when I trained as a trampolinist and now when it happens, I know I'm going to go well.
I was pretty miffed to walk away from the boulders - probably because it was the first day too...
Woke up the next day to beautiful sunshine and headed straight back to Arrastradero. The problems there are great and there's loads of variety as I found out. We warmed up again and found a really cool 6a roof problem. Really enjoyed that one. It's got a catchy name: problem 'd' boulder 43.
That day was spent attempting to avoid a smattering of french teenagers we liked to call 'team france'. As they invaded the boulders we were working, we moved on and found a slab that Squib had his eye on since the previous day.
Slabs are definitely not my strength, and while Squib made short work of the first problem on Boulder 14... Again aptly named problem 'g' (6b) I found myself second guessing a jump that has to be made to top out.
The moves up to the launch position were great, but once there I just couldn't find it in me to commit to the jump. That left me a bit bewildered because I rarely second guess myself when throwing for holds... In fact it's the one thing I'd say I have fairly nailed down.
Not that day though.
Verging on intimidated, I moved on to working another problem on the same face called La Lágrima (6c+)
It was seriously delicate and it took us ages to work out the opening sequence. Squib finally unlocked it and though it was definitely not my favorite style of climbing, the moves were great. Squib did really well - he loves his technical slabs! I came agonisingly close to sending it, but slabs in the blistering heat are not fun and our skin was being removed layer by layer in the unforgiving temperatures, so again I walked away.
We moved back to the sit start we had been working the day before 'El Esquinazo' (7a). Squib worked out the opening moves and strung the whole thing together nicely. The previous day he had the top out nailed down and as I watched him make the top out move, not spotting, his right foot exploded off the rock and he was thrown backwards on to the pads below, rolling back and hitting this, that and the other.
I like to think I got a hand to his ankle as he rolled backwards, preventing him from going any further than he did, but have yet to forgive myself for not being on the ball. Squib was a little shook and I got the fright of my life. It's the biggest bouldering fall I've seen for sure and it could have been prevented.
Lesson learned, sorry Squib!
Squib jumped straight back on the problem and sent it. Really great effort. I tried to string the moves together, but my heart wasn't in it after the fall Squib took and my tips were down to the bare minimum after the slabs we had worked on earlier.
Squib moved on to a really good looking 7b 'El Concilio' between the two other problems we sent on boulder 36. The moves we great and I had fun trying them individually. Again - Squib looked strong and came desperately close to sending it. The crimp before the launch to the top looked desperate and sharp and having removed most of his tips on the slabs earlier that day - it was time to walk away.
Lastly we moved on to boulder 48 which 'team france' had stolen from us earlier in the day. It was cooler in the evening when we arrived and I had good fun flashing a '5', problem 'd', which had nice little moves around the back of the boulder before a silly top out, but the whole thing made me smile and I was excited to see what the rest of the bloc had in store.
We moved on to a 6a+ just beside to the left and my lack of strength at the end of the day coupled with my sorry looking tips made it too much of an ask for me. Squib had a good few attempts at it before he stamped his authority on it and sent it.
Again, moving left, we started working on a 7a mantle problem. We had lots of attempts trying to unlock the sequence. The mantle was bold and I was happy to call it a day. Squib had been getting closer and closer and he finally stood up out of it holding two of the most precarious looking under-cut crimps, he eyed up the top.
There was nothing else to do but jump. The landing was not nice and our boulder pads were not the best in the world and though I was there spotting like I'd never spotted before, I knew if Squib didn't catch the top of the boulder, gravity would be strong and swift.
He launched and slapped, swinging out in spectacular style as he established his hand on the top of the boulder.
He topped out and it was definitely one of the most exciting boulder problems I've seen done in front of me.
We packed up and headed off.
I had been a little disgruntled with my performance that day, but at the time Squib said we'd climbed so much, and having written all I have about our Friday in AlbarraCIN, I don't think I've ever done as much work on as many problems in one day before!!
Money in the bank!!
Saturday became a write off as we woke up to an overcast morning that quickly turned to relentless raining all day long. We went for a drive into town to stock up and find an ATM, forgetting about the Spanish siesta and everything was shut.
We drove around a bit and finally decided to throw on our rain coats and have a walk. Albarracin is just stunning. Seeing as we had only left to find a shop and an ATM, I didn't bring my camera, but the views from the top of the defensive wall built to protect Albarracin are etched in my memory. So too is the sight of fork lightening as we stood on top of said defensive wall...
The lightening was little unnerving for two tall thin people like myself and Squib, but nevertheless it was all breathtaking and very pretty indeed.
We strolled back to the car and headed back to our Bungalow, safe in the knowledge, having spoken to our Spanish Campsite lady, that the sun would be out for our last day at the boulders.
The final day was preceded by a lovely meal and maybe one or two too many glasses of the really good wine they sell at the campsite for €3 a bottle... Too tempting!
With heads a little foggy, we decided to check out a new area called 'Sol'. We didn't put two and two together though and when we got there it became obvious why the place was named 'Sol'... the Spanish for 'Sun'.
The trees that shelter much of the other areas from direct sunlight are absent from the 'Sol' bouldering sector and most of the blocs were baking in blistering 25 degree heat.
We did try some very cool problems though and like the previous Thursday, Squib was on form and looking strong. Having bouldered for so many years he has an envious ability to read sequences and intuitively know what will work and what won't work. It's a sureness of thought and movement I can only hope will come to me with such vast experience.
The first problem we did after warming up was a 6b+ on Boulder 11. Squib flashed it and I immediately said 'pff, bit of a soft 6b+!'
Time to eat my words!!
It took me about ten attempts to send the line and that was with all the beta Squib could send my way. It's a really great line though and having failed time and time again on it before finally sending it, I can now say it's not a soft 6b+...
Squib is just quite strong!
After that I had a great time trying to muscle my way up 'Top Model' 6b on boulder 13. It's a roof problem with a mantle top out and while all the moves were mine, my arms just didn't have the umph to follow through and allow me to send the line. Squib made the point that I should be hauling most of my weight on my feet, but by the time I came to putting his good sense into action, my arms were pumped and I had to leave it.
I was a bit gutted.
Around the corner there was this striking looking boulder that was perched above smaller blocs making the landing desperate. Boulder 17 is definitely one of the most dramatic looking blocs I saw in Albarracin and Squib jumped on problem 'b' 7a+ and made little work of it, sending it quickly and leaving me thinking I might have a go...
I had to listed to my arms though and they were still screaming at me for not using my feet on the previous 6b.
We did a bit of a recce to gain inspiration on what would be our final projects and as luck would have it we found a desperate 7a and an absolutely desperate 6b right by each other on this great boulder - Boulder 29
Karmansia (7a) would see Squib enthralled for the rest of our final day. The moves are great, really powerful and dynamic, when I realised it was so far beyond me that I could barely pull onto it, I went and found myself and fun little 6a traverse just over the way on bouder 30 called Alvaridades.
While he rested from his project, Squib became director of photography and I played about the the traverse sending a few different times for the fun and the good photo op!
Headed back to our projects and I started working on my 6b. We took turns working each project and really this 6b had a lot of figuring out in it. Squib was powerful enough to throw for each of the holds. I had to spend a little longer working out a tricky little sequence that saw me holding the final two jugs before the top out.
I was absolutely chuffed with myself. really delighted that I had worked out a sequence that worked for me. I could get to the two jugs pretty consistently but when push came to shove I couldn't bring my feet up into the rather scrunched position I needed to be in before topping out.
I couldn't be sad though. I arrived at that line unable to do the powerful throws and figured out a static way up the problem.
Squib linked all the moves before the DESPERATE top out on his 7a problem, Karmasia. He finally figured out what to do at the top but it was getting late and we had to hit the road for our epic trip back to Reus through the night.
We only got 2 days of bouldering done in Albarracin, but what I saw I loved.
May is definitely not the time to visit. It was either raining or way too hot and while I enjoyed the trip so much, the icing on the cake would have been lower temperatures and no rain.
Cannot wait to get back there -
On the trip back we saw some sort of airport near Teruel which is the next town on from Albarracin.
This would certainly take the sting out of the 4 hours drive to and from Reus.
AlbarraCIN... es bueno!