The weather in the UK can be, shall we say, temperamental. As any British rock climber knows, it makes planning trips ahead of time something of a gamble. It helps to be flexible with your choice of location or to be strong enough to climb exclusively on steep overhangs. When arranging a photoshoot for the new range of Rab Rock clothing, the possibility of the weather not playing ball was a big concern. Luckily a solution presented itself; Spain.
Spanish rock climbing is a classic bad weather retreat for British climbers who frequently head South for the Summer months in search of dry rock and warmer temperatures. The Rab Spain team have been a firm part of our family for a number of years now and the Spanish outdoor scene is becoming ever more aware of the unique designs we offer. This was the perfect opportunity for the teams to collaborate and to guarantee some good weather for the photo shoot.
We shot over three days, landing in Spain on a Thursday and receiving a whistle-stop tour of Madrid, including its climbing walls and outdoor shops. Dinner had been planned for the “Spanish time” of roughly midnight, but after a long day of travel, and with an early start the following morning, we hit the hay long before that.
Our first port of call was La Pedriza, the famed slab climbing area just outside Madrid. The practically featureless granite domes of this area make for an incredible backdrop and I’d recommend a trip to the park to anyone who’s visiting Madrid. A huge delegation of the Spanish Rab team had come down, from athletes and employees to friends of the brand and members of the local climbing scene. Despite the warm temperatures making the technical friction slabs a little harder than normal, there was still a great atmosphere at the crag, with UK and Spanish climbers offering belays and sharing some of the longer routes. The locals quickly sandbagged Tom Randall with an awkward squeeze chimney warm-up, as photographer David hastily got his ropes in place.
We snapped off a series of photos on different routes and, as the sun spread across the crag rendering climbing very nearly impossible, we headed back down to the car park.
Our location for the next two days was to be Galayos, an alpine climbing area a few hours further out from Madrid. A long, steady hike in brought us up to the refugio just as the sun was setting. After a hasty evening meal again at “Spanish time”, we spread our sleeping bags outside the refuge and settled down under the stars.
Having arrived in the dark, I hadn’t gotten a good view of the area in which we’d be climbing the night before, but I awoke the next day to the startling line of pinnacles that form the Galayos range. Like a porcupine’s back, a series of thin distinct summits rises up across the mountainside, closely grouped but independent, offering the possibility of multiple summits and of course a lot of photography options.
We quickly divided into groups to climb and as the photography team rigged a tyrolean between two of the towers, we grouped around the ‘guidebook’ – a binder of hand drawn topos and photos in the refuge. Having selected our routes for the day, we headed out.
What can I say about the climbing in Galayos? Possibly the greatest compliment I can pay the area is that I wish I wasn’t publicising it here. In an ideal world, I’d keep it all to myself! It’s like a little bit of the French Alps picked up and dropped in the Spanish mountains. As the day progressed and we ticked off summits to the constant click of David’s lens, it became apparent just how special a place this was. Alpine climbing is a less popular pursuit in Spain, so everyone in the area was incredibly excited to share what their country had to offer. Many had given up their weekends, not just to share a rope, but to help with the photo shoot, rigging lines, assembling portaledges and ferrying equipment from the valley. It was the perfect encapsulation of the spirit of the climbing community that I have found wherever in the world I’ve climbed and which I, with my limited Spanish, could still easily share with everyone in Galayos.