Euro Trip: Adventure in Albarracín

 Author Wai Yi Ng on El Verano in Albarracin, Spain (Photo credit: Alex Kahn).

Author Wai Yi Ng on El Verano in Albarracin, Spain (Photo credit: Alex Kahn).

It’s a story as old as time… A group of climbing friends are hanging out at the crag discussing beta, telling stories of past trips and dreaming about the next big adventure.  In October 2017 this was us!

I was in Maui that October showing my good friend, Alex Kahn, the amazing climbing that was being developed on the island. One day another friend, Chris Janiszewski, drove us out to one of the main bouldering areas.  Between burns, Chris and Alex were discussing previous trips to Spain. I wasn’t paying that much attention, when Alex said, “hey, we should all go to Spain!” I was like, “I’ve never been, but sure, sounds great!”  Chris also agreed he would love to go. A plan began to take shape. Then the Maui trip ended and we flew back home to Oahu.

 Photo of my friend Alex getting the first female ascent of Kaimana (Photo credit: Wai Yi Ng)

Photo of my friend Alex getting the first female ascent of Kaimana (Photo credit: Wai Yi Ng)

A month passed without seeing or talking to Chris or Alex. I was starting to wonder if the trip was still a go when in mid-November, Chris emailed Alex and I an itinerary for a round-trip ticket to Paris for ~$460.  This was an incredible deal! I checked the following day for flights to Paris from Oahu, but all of the round-trip tickets I found were for over $1,000.  I continued to check the following day and it was still about $1,000. There was no way I would be able to buy a ticket to France or Spain for that price!  For the next couple of weeks I checked prices a couple times a week. Finally on December 11th, I found a round-trip ticket to Paris for ~$450! The adventure was back on!  I was so excited, I booked it right away.

I flew from Hawaii to Los Angeles to Dallas and finally on to Paris, France.  I arrived in the morning and met up with Chris and Alex. Together we boarded our flight to Barcelona, Spain, where we met up with our fourth member, Blaise Thorpe.  We were all so tired and ready to collapse into our Airbnb which was still about a five hour car ride away. Well no adventure is without surprises! When we went to pick up the rental car we found out that we had to pay extra for insurance. The car was also super tiny with manual transmission. Luckily, Chris was able to drive stick, so the four of us piled in and off we went! With each turn the tower of luggage stacked in the back seat between Alex and I would fall over onto one of us. It was a long drive from Barcelona southwest to Albarracín! The plan was to do some bouldering in Albarracín, a small town perched in the foothills of the Sierra de Albarracín  above el Rio Guadalaviar. The town's history dates back to the Middle Ages; it has castillos, baroque chapels and catedrales to boast. Of course, we were there to look at rocks! We left the highways behind and drove along a snowy, winding mountain road to the Airbnb. By the time we arrived at the house in Albarracín we had been traveling for 40hrs.  We hauled our gear and luggage inside the Sandstone Guesthouse and collapsed into bed!

 Albarracín is perched in the foothills of the  la   Sierra de   Albarracín     above el  Rio Guadalaviar  (Photo credit: Wai Yi Ng)

Albarracín is perched in the foothills of the la Sierra de Albarracín  above el Rio Guadalaviar (Photo credit: Wai Yi Ng)

The next morning, we woke up and met some of the other house guests before heading out to the crag together. There were climbers from all over Europe; we were the only group of Americans. We decided to follow our house guests, since they had more experience with the snowy conditions and knew which areas would be dry enough to climb. Fate had other plans, unfortunately. Our European guides slid their vehicle off the road where it got stuck in a snow embankment. We tried to help, but ended up heading to the nearest bouldering area. Alex hiked up the trail to find dry rocks.  The crag was comprised of beautiful sandstone with amazing features, overhangs and slopers. It was a climber's paradise! Unfortunately it was winter and most of the boulders were covered in snow. It was a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I wore a baselayer on top and bottom, long sleeves, pants and wool socks. I also wore a puffy with a beanie and gloves. It didn't make much difference; everyone's socks were quickly soaked from the snow we hiked through to get to the crag.  

We eventually found a nice overhanging boulder that someone had cleaned off the day prior. The climb was called Eclipse and it's located in the appropriately named Techos area. We took turns on the roof climb, until our finger tendons were screaming with fatigue and pain.  Luckily the rock was so cold that our fingers remained numb until we eventually slipped off. After that, the numbness gave way to stabbing pins and needles pain—OUCH!  We gave up and went back to searching for dry rock. Eventually we found a climb called El Verano.  It's a  V11 overhanging boulder that resembles an eel head. We took a few burns on it until no one could feel their fingers. We finally gave up and decided to head back into town. 

The next morning we decided to drive back towards Barcelona. No, we hadn't given up quite yet! We had good information about a popular sport climbing spot in Siurana, Spain so off we went. The drive to Siurana was beautiful. We got a chance to appreciate the beauty of the countryside which had been shrouded in darkness during our trip from the airport. This time we got a chance to appreciate the beautiful paisaje to include stone walls, limestone cliffs, vineyards, almond tree and olive orchards and wineries. Every sport comes with risks and we were about to embark on one of the biggest adventures of bouldering: boulderers trying to sport climb. 

 An overhead view of picturesque Albarracín, Spain (Photo credit: Getty Images).

An overhead view of picturesque Albarracín, Spain (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Wai Yi Ng is a sponsored Asana and Giddy athlete active in the Oahu bouldering scene. Her favorite bouldering spots are The Arch (Oahu) and Plenty Kiawe (Maui). To learn more check out her profile page on Melanin Base Camp or follower her on Instagram