Tim and I were off to the start of a winter of ice climbing and skiing spurred on by early season guide training with VHSG in Driggs, Idaho in early December. We drove our home on wheels over to Bozeman to catch the end of the Ice Fest and catch up with our friends, Glen and Anna Deal. We climbed some ice in Hyalite and then moved on to the mixed. It was on top of the second pitch of The Nutcracker, when Tim said,”Do you want to go rock climbing in Spain?” I rubbed the dirt from the choosy rock out of my eyes and replied,”Stop fucking with me!” Tim loves ice and mixed climbing and I had agreed to do another season since we had been on my program for awhile. I couldn’t believe he was changing his mind after crushing the desperately pumpy dry tooling pitch. “We could spend New Years in Madrid,” he carried on.
We decided to spend the next week ice climbing in Cody, Wyoming. Neither of us had ever been and we love the excitement of going to new places. The excitement grew as the wind picked up and we counted the cars and semi trucks in the ditch. We were pulling a little cargo mate trailer with white knuckles. We got in touch with a local through a friend and he told us the Avalanche hazard was high and the forecast bad and it was probably best not to come this week. The first two days he was right. The south fork road was closed due to huge wind drifts. We found a good deal on air bnb and relaxed in downtown Cody. When the road opened, we took our caravan in and set up camp. We had the place all to ourselves aside from a local rancher, tons of deer, cows, big horn sheep, and mountain lions! We climbed some classics in lovely weather and had a fine Christmas dinner at the Erma Hotel while counting our days to lift off from Seattle to Madrid on the 27th.
In a flurry of driving and packing, we stowed the truck and trailer away with the help of dear friends and found ourselves moved into a Mini Fiat 500 in Madrid, Spain. We had intentions of staying the New Year in the big city. Puerto de Sol is a great spot to enjoy the city life in tight streets with the festivities brewing. We walked around after sleeping off the jet lag on New Years Eve and watched as the streets grew thicker with people every hour. Our mountain instincts suddenly kicked in as if we were Big horn sheep being tracked by a mountain lion. We panicked and fled the scene. We threw our climbing and camping kit in the car and high tailed it out of town. We didn’t think it through. “Where do you want to go?” Tim asked. “Riglos,” I replied. I heard it was awesome and I had downloaded a photo and description of a route called Fiesta de Los Biceps. We punched Riglos into the GPS and missed numerous turns as it gave directions in Spanish. By default it had rerouted us back to the airport. We found the British setting and carried on out of town. Our mission was to get to a sports store to buy cartridges for our jet boil. Every Decathlon store was sold out of the type we needed and they don’t carry white gas for the whisper lite. We made it 10 minutes before closing at the only Decathlon that had jet boil canisters in stock and the young employees were eager to get out and enjoy the festivities. We decided to go to Huesca for dinner and I didn’t think much about the gas light coming on. I figured we could get gas after dinner. What we found in Huesca was the complete opposite of Madrid. Downtown was dead. We found one open restaurant and it was reserved for a private party. DEAD… Like ghost town dead. We walked around and didn’t see a soul. No music, no lights, no nothing…. Creepy dead. We got back in the car and headed to the gas station which was now closed, not even open for credit cards. We went on a desperate search for gas and had no luck. We decided to push our luck and try to make it to Riglos. We made it to Ayerbe, the closest town to Riglos and the car sputtered on fumes. ” Happy New Year my love”, we kissed in the car and curled up in the car seats waiting for the gas station to open. We had very successfully thwarted all human contact on New Years, more than we had hoped for. Luckily one panaderia was open on New Years Day. The gas station opened at 5:00pm. We filled up and drove the remaining 12 km to Riglos in a thick fog. Arriving in the parking lot, we wondered where the cliffs were and what the climbing would be like. We pitched or tent and slept in cold temps. Frost gathered heavily on the tent and we awoke to see the cliffs towering straight above us.
The following days were magical. Huge birds called Buitre circled around the Mallos. The towers were made of conglomerate stones that seemed to be wielded together. The rocks provided amazing jugs on extremely steep terrain. The towers were up to 300 Meters tall. The first day we climbed El Pison on the Murciana route. A line of chalked holds snaked up the face. It was rated 6c with mandatory 6a climbing and it kicked my butt, actually my forearms.
The following day, we were a little shot so we opted for a later start and climbed the classic finger called El Puro or The Cigar on El Pison. The chimney was polished jugs and spectacular views of Mallo Fire. The summit pitches were exciting with an old school flare. The book said it took many attempts and two deaths before this tower was summited. The following day we climbed a fun tacky and closely bolted route on Mallo Fire called Cintas as directa in the chilly sun shade line. The Buitre were soaring in circles around us all day.
We took a rest day and got amped for the steepest cliff, Visera Mallo. Fiesta De Lis Biceps provided everything we were looking for and more! Unreal steepness combined with amazing big holds. This is now my all time favorite sport climb. We climbed La Visera Mallo the following two days on the left and right side. Saturday got busy and we ended up climbing a mixture of De Naturaleza salvaje and Guirles-Campos. Sunday we climbed Zulu Demente and completely destroyed ourselves on the last pitch. One of the most spectacular things I saw was two Buitre mating on a ledge close to us and we could hear the heavy breathing. The cliffs were full of people and it did not deter these birds from doing their thing. Their wingspan was over 6 feet and the sounds of ripping wind as they soared within feet of us was wild. I fell in love with Riglos.