Trip Length: 11 Days
Activities: Alpine Hiking, Rock Climbing, DWS , Via Ferratas
Highlights: Madrid, Congost de Montrebei, Pedra Forca, Montserrat, Camarasa, Teresina via ferrata
Day 1 - 2 - Flight to Madrid
Catch a flight to Madrid. Once we gathered our bags, we took the bus to the city center where we eventually ended up at our hostel "Las Musas". This hostel was very clean, had a positive atmosphere, and was centrally located. Once you get settled, there are many things to see in Madrid. Plaza Mayor is the main city center filled with amazing street performers, beautiful cathedrals, and welcoming cervecerias. While you're exploring around, a must stop is the Chocolatería San Ginés for some famous Chorros and chocolate. They have been serving up these amazing sweet treats since 1894.
The hostel also provides Pub Crawls most nights. This isnt your typical "Pub" crawl, more like a "Club" crawl. But you will meet a lot of travelers and will most likely have a good time.
Day 3 - Sight Seeing Madrid
This day was open, so we decided to enjoy more sight seeing. We explored by foot checking out the Templo de Debod and the overlook of Madrid. You can also swing into the world's oldest restaurant "Botin" for some lunch. If you are open to it, travel to La Plaza de Toros by metro to experience a Bull Fight (not for the faint of heart). When we arrived by metro, it was very busy and the tickets had been sold out. No worries though, as there are many cervecerias in the area that will show it on TV.
Day 4 - Road Trip to Ballaguar
Day 4 we made our way to Ballaguar (pronounce ball-a-gay) in Catalonia for a few days of rock climbing. We rented a car through Hertz in Madrid which was within walking distance of our hostel. Before arriving in Spain we obtained international driving permits through AAA; required but mixed reviews on whether or not it is needed . In case you get pulled over, however, it is a good idea. This just consists of a simple form and a $15 fee. You're now trained to drive anywhere the world!!
Before the trip, we arranged a place to stay with Jordi Pedros through Couchsurfing.com. Jordi was a very interesting and a very generous host. He showed us a few of the climbing areas, cooked us two giant meals with food from his farm, and wouldn't let us pay for any of it. If you manage to stay with Jordi you will not be disappointed.
Day 5 - Rock Climbing at Camarasa
Camarasa is just outside Ballaguar and features tons of climbing opportunities. The approach is short and has climbing grades for all climbers. Most of the climbing is sport with a bit of trad available. A guide book is available and highly suggested. More info on the climbing can be found here.
After cimbing for most of the day at Camarasa we packed up, grabbed some grub, and headed over to Cubells in the area of Lleida for some more cimbing. Eventually we made our way back to Jordi's for another amazing home cooked meal. No need to get back early as Catalans don't eat dinner until 10:00 p.m.
Day 6 - Canyon Hike and Road Trip to Berga with a stop in Oliana
After saying our goodbye to Jordi, we packed up and drove north to Congost de Mont-rebei. Congost de Mont-rebei offers a beautiful hike through a water filled canyon. The 7 mile out and back has been carved into the side of the canyon and offers many lookout points along the hike. GPS data can be found here. After completing the hike, we piled back into the car to head to Oliana.
We travelled to Oliana to stop and get a glimpse at the worlds hardest rock climb La Dura Dura. The videos do not portray just how steep and overhung this climb is. Bring your gear along, only if you can climb 5.13. Its worth a stop to see in person as the wall is so unique with the black and white streakes running along the wall.
Once you're done in Oliana, continue to make your way to the town of Berga. This is a beautiful drive through the mountains. We stayed at the Hotel Estel in Berga. Berga is the perfect location to get an early start for a hike of the beautiful, twin peak Pedra Forca the next day.
Day 7 - Summit Pedra Forca Mountain in the Pyrenees
As we left Berga and rounded the bend, Pedra Forca came into view and looked very intimidating at first sight. This is one of the most beautiful twin peaked mountains we have ever seen. There are many ways to summit Pedra Forca including hiking with a class 4 scramble at the top or climbing straight up if you've got some big wall experience. Stop in the small town of Saldes before your ascent, there are good informational signs that show the different routes up the mountain.
We opted for the class 4 scramble and descent down the scree pile in the middle of the two peaks. This is ~ 10 miles round trip with a gain of ~3000 feet of elevation. GPS data can be found here for the start of the hike. Weather can move in very quickly and you will not want to be on the top if lightning rolls in. At the base of the mountain you will pass by the cimbing refugio Lluis Estasen that has historical photos and art detailing the history of climbing on the mountain. Hang out for a soda and a good chat with the owner.
Getting to the top will require some steep scrambling so only attempt if you're sure footed and not scared of heights. Route finding is not too hard, just keep following the white and yellow blazes. Be sure to sign the summit register and take some time to watch and listen to the birds (falcons maybe) speeding by as they bomb down the mountain. We descended the scree field between the two peaks. This is much shorter and more fun path to take than backtracking the way you came up. It's as if you're skiing down the loose rock.
Watch out for the herds of cattle. You can't miss them as their necks are adorned with gigantic cow bells. As they stroll through the woods, its as if an orchestra of bells are ringing. Pretty neat experience. Once back to the car, make your way to the town of Monistrol de Montserrat and stay at the Hostal Guilleumes where you will be surrounded by towering walls of rock watching over the town. You can stay in Montserrat itself but there are limited restaurants and it is much more expensive. Once you check in to your hostal, grab some great beer and food at the climbing themed bar La Roca.
Day 8 - Via Ferrata in Montserrat
The view of Montserrat from Monistrol is amazing. Usually surrounded by clouds it looks as if it is floating. After grabbing some breakfast, start driving toward Monsterrat on your way to the via ferrata but do not enter the gate of Monsterrat. Make a right just before Montserrat and grab a parking spot. This is the start for the most scenic and technically challenging via ferrata in Spain - LaTeresina. GPS data can be found here. Be sure to bring the necessary safety gear for climbing a via; helmet, harness, via ferrata specific lanyard, sticky soled shoes.
This is ~ 10 miles round trip and 2,000 ft of elevation gain with very exposed sections. Breathtaking views, sweaty palm inducing exposure...... a day you will never forget. This via ferrata finishes with stemming your way up a 30 ft chimney that spits you out on the St. Jeroni overlook. Tourists will give you bewildered stares as you climb back over the guardrail that they're standing behind taking in the vistas. Hike your way back to Montserrat and explore the unique cathedrals and buildings built into the rock. Be sure to view the Black Mary Statue in the main cathedral. Note - you cannot bring beer into the cathedral, we tried.
Once you're done exploring the town, make your way back to Monistrol for some dinner and drinks while reminiscing about the amazing adventure you just had in the mountains behind you.
Day 9 - Deep Water Soloing in Tossa de Mar
After breakfast, hop into the car and take a road trip along the coast to Tossa de Mar for some deep water soloing and tasty seafood. There are a few deep-water-soloing routes just north of town. Information can be found here. The hike down to the water is a bit tricky but not far from the pull off. After taking a swim in the Mediterranean Sea, head back to town and check into your hotel (we stayed at the Don Juan Hotel).
Tossa de Mar is a very cool city to explore by night. All streets are cobble stone, an anciant castle over looks the coast, and the bay is filled with sailboats. Tons of unique restarants to choose from as well.
Day 10 -> 11 - Barcelona
Make your way to Barcelona for your flight out. We returned our rental car, checked our bags in at the airport, and took the train to downtown. This day is totally open to explore what interests you. We made a stop at the Park Guell which had interesting architecture and the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. Make your way back to the airport at some point that night. Since we booked a very very early flight out of Barcelona we just slept in the airport.
Links contained in this article:
Las Musas Hotel in Madrid: www.lasmusashostel.com
Couch Surfing: www.couchsurfing.com
Rock Climbing Camarasa: www.lleidaclimbs.com/p/recommendations-v-to-6c.html
Congost de Mount Rebei: www.picoseuropa.net/prepirineos/congost-montrobei/index.html
Congost de Mount Rebei GPS Track: www.strava.com/activities/152073867
Hotel Estel in Berga: hotelestel.wordpress.com
Hotel Guilleumes in Monestrol: www.guilleumes.com
La Teresina Via Ferrata: www.wikiloc.com/wikiloc/view.do?id=4609311
Deep Water Soloing Information: climbinspain.com/2010/07/tossa-deep-water-solo-in-costa-brava