Europa! The Three-month Sport Climbing Trip

Our three-month trip in France and Spain has come to an end. We’ve coiled our ropes, packed up the van and caught the ferry home, after one of my most successful ‘trips’ ever. It is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to mainland Europe, and we sail for home, roast dinners and christmas jumpers. 


Although it might be ‘time’ to return, it is certainly a sad occasion - let’s just say that these three months have exceeded almost all of my expectations and been a blast. We’ve met great people and climbed cool routes.


Highlights - The moments to remember


Driving down the Gorges de L’Ardeche at sunset

What an incredible gorge, like a slice of the Verdon! It was our first glimpse of European rock on this trip, as we drove down endless switchbacks and the rock glowed orange in the evening light.


The Ceüse Experience

It sounds cliché, but everything about this crag rocks. The quality: impeccable. The bolting: scary but makes you feel manly. The walk-in: goes from being a bitch to something you begin to enjoy! Get on down to the South of France!



Ceüse from Petit Ceüse


Christophe and Bernardt

These two heroes handed us some delicious dinner after we got caught in a rainstorm at Ceüse - just what we needed, thanks guys!


Blocage Violent - Ceüse

Possibly the best 7b+ in the world?! (Probably 7c in Spain, too!). Sector ‘Berlin’. Incredibly sustained and a bit run-out: just enough to keep you occupied. Lovely.


Pichenibule - Verdon

We arrived with the intention of ticking a big multi-pitch route on our way to Spain. I considered doing a few easy classics to get into the swing of things, but Rachel said the immortal words - ‘why don’t we just do it?!’ So we did. About 8 pitches of immaculate climbing, incredible exposure and a tricky crux pitch. I’ll be back for the more sustained routes, but what an introduction!


Pichenibule (6c+), Verdon


Swimming in the Rodellar canyons

Make sure you visit these canyons, waterfalls and rock pools on your rest day. The electric blue icy water makes for a perfect refreshing dip, and the giant boulders give you something to sunbathe on. Follow the path downstream from Cafe Solo crag for 500m. You can’t miss them!


Gracias Fina - Rodellar

My first 8a. Clipping the chains felt incredible, as did the massive victory lob! Fantastic climbing throughout. I know I can climb harder, though...



El Delfin, the photogenic 7c in Rodellar


‘The scene’ at Kalandraka hostel, Rodellar.

It’s hard to convey just how good this hostel is. They’re some of the nicest, friendliest people we met and the scene (especially during peak season and weekends) is always lively. Cheap beers, too. We made some great friends and I’ll miss the good times.


Margalef: Painful pockets and fantastic friends!

I’ve already written about the conglomerate pockets of Margalef here. We got on really well with the style of climbing and met some very kind people, who helped us in all manner of ways. I’ll be back in Margalef some day soon. It was cool to do Transilvania (8a), too.


Maarten on Gravity Glove (7c+)


Simon and Vanessa!

Just as temperatures began to drop to ‘baltic,’ the van broke and we found ourselves stranded and homeless in Margalef. Simon and Vanessa came to the rescue with tea, wonderful home-cooked meals and even let us stay in their apartment. Thanks again.



It was awesome to have a quick hit at Bruixes crag, Terradets. An amazing, tufa-infested wall with long endurance routes - we’ll just have to stay for longer next time! Rachel crushed Occident (7c) and I managed Bon Viatge (my fourth 8a) in quick times.



All-round good guy and sport climbing wad Chris Jorde flashing Bon Viatge (8a) on his birthday. 

Bruixes crag, Terradets


Cornudella Scenes

Thanks to the boys (Chris and Meshi) for kindly inviting us to live at your apartment in Cornudella for about 2 weeks - we had a fantastic time and are eternally grateful! We watched so many movies and shared some funny times! 

Classic quotes: 

‘When life gives you lemons, say ‘fuck the lemons’ and bail!’ (Forgetting Sarah Marshall)

‘I love lamp’ (Anchorman)

‘Fuck it, let’s go bowling’ (The Big Lebowski)

‘Chika chika yeah, fake id, fake id!’ (Superbad)

‘Como estan bitches!’ (Anchorman)


The Van a.k.a. the beautiful shlaaag/Margaret/Marge/the speed machine!

You wonderful piece of machinery - as much space and comfort as a prison cell, a few reliable engine parts and some loving dents. You have safely transported us around some terrifying roads and been (mostly) reliable! Much love. The Fiat Scudo (Fiat = Fix It Again Tomorrow)   


The not-so-good times

Van breaking down Part I

Whilst in Ceüse, we would drive the 3km down to the bakery every morning. Unfortunately the van’s glow plugs were old and caused the engine to cough and splutter for about 15 seconds before finally coming to life, much to the amusement of everyone in the car park. We had to get it fixed, since the cold mornings weren’t actually that cold! 216 euros later...


Van breaking down Part II

The alternator didn’t look healthy when we got to Margalef. It died. We cried (only joking, of course Rachel didn’t cry!). We finally sorted it out and all ended happily ever after. 113 euros later...


Trashed tips

It seems that limestone tufas really wear out the skin on my fingertips. I don’t know why, because most of the holds are jugs. Antihydral cream prevents sweating on the fingertips, thus keeping them tougher. I need to buy a tube for the next trip!


Rodellar Po-Po

The police are keen to crack down on people sleeping in their vans near the village of Rodellar, since it’s within a National Park. In the peak season (August/September) they occasionally fine people 150 euros. Of course, if you’re sleeping in your van and someone knocks on your door in the morning, just don’t open it! Put some curtains up, too, so they can’t see in. I did neither of these, but luckily escaped a fine. You have been warned...


A Crabita

Boo-hoo. I didn’t manage to send this route, even after a couple of days worth of effort. It’ll go next time, when I’m rested. I wrote a short piece about it here.



It’s a shame we didn’t spend more time here, in the land of crimps. It’s my weakest style, so I’ll be back once I’ve got some finger strength. It was ace to witness someone topping out on La Rambla (9a)!


All in all, an absolutely amazing trip that couldn’t have gone better, really! Thank you everyone, and thank you Rachel!


Most photos in text: Rachel Slater

Tom LivingstoneComment