Heading back east from our brief tour of Galicia, via the Sierra de la Culebra which has the highest wolf population in Europe, we have arrived in Leon. The guidebook suggests this is one of the driest areas in northern Spain, and we’re raring to go after a couple of damp days in Galicia. We head to Valdehuesa, which is the biggest crag in the area. We’d visited 20 years ago and been so struck by the beautiful colouring of the rock, gleaming in the sun, that we painted our mini home climbing wall to match.
..based on today’s visit we could have just used grey paint – it was overcast, about 12C and with a stiff breeze. Absolutely freezing! The kind of day that our moto You Either Climbed Today Or You Didn’t was made for. We did a couple of chilly YECTOYDs and fled, but not before marvelling at the great menagerie at the bottom of the crag. There was a profusion of sheep and goats of many hues, some cattle and a few horses, all guarded under the watchful eyes of 4 huge mastiff dogs. These are fearsome beasts from the hell of your imagination. They live in an extraordinary symbiotic relationship with the sheep they tend – passively following them around and lazing on the ground, then fending off intruders and rounding up strays – all without any human involvement.
A couple of days later, we’re back at Valdehuesa and the contrast is startling – the sun is out, the trees are in glorious autumnal colours and it is a beautiful day.
We do a few stiff, steep and somewhat polished routes at sector Medio Grado (felt tough to me, they’re rubbing it in 😉 ) then walked another few hundred metres along the crag in search of longer and less travelled routes. Sector Collado yielded an outstanding 30m 6a with a series of surprising (in a good way!) holds.
Walking back to the car we had a moderately scary encounter with the mastiffs – hard to remind yourself of the advice “they’ll only attack if you threaten the flock” when there are four giant lumps of slobbering, barking, gnashing muscle bounding in your direction!
FOOTNOTE: CLIMBING TEMPERATURES
Day 1 above was 12C. With belay jacket, fleece and t-shirt it was still freezing. You can tell it’s cold when your first priority when lowering down from a route is to get a jacket on before taking your boots off.
Day 2 climbing in shorts and shirtless. You take your shoes off BEFORE lowering, and then don’t even bother with a shirt for belaying. Temperature: 14C! What a difference a bit of sunshine makes!