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Nestled in a narrow canyon on the western flank of Montsant National Park lies a jumbled maze of unassuming, conglomerate cliffs surrounding the tiny village of Margalef. From the wrong perspective, these crags appear slabby, loose & covered in dark gray lichen. But upon closer inspection, these layered, bulging cliffs reveal the most recent addition to Spain's already-impressive list of world-class sport climbing destinations. This newly recognized international destination receives steady traffic from European & British climbers throughout the winter months, and as climbing tastes evolve, it appears that the relatively steep & juggy conglomerate tufa of Margalef will soon wrest the title of Costa Daurada's top winter destination from the relatively thin & slabby limestone of Siurana.
The rock here is primarily cobblestone conglomerate, not unlike the cliffs of El Rito, NM, Maple Canyon, UT, or Castlewood Canyon, CO. However, what sets this remarkable crag apart is an amazing layer of limestone tufa that coats many of the cliffs. This coating serves to harden the surface of the cobblestone matrix, while at the same time providing some routes with impressive curtains of tufas. The combination results in one of the most unique, and enjoyable climbing surfaces on the planet. Unlike some other cobble crags, knob climbing is the exception. Most of the routes climb on good pockets, though most will require some edging and crimping. The cobbles are generally much smaller (rarely larger than golf-ball-sixed) than those found at Riglos or Maple Canyon, so you can thankfully leave your kneepads & duct tape at home.
The cliff's generally bulbous profile provides literally every possible angle of climbing from the ubiquitous slabs to the horizontal roofs of Tenebres & El Laboritori. Vertical walls, slightly overhanging tufa pinching, 45 degree overhangs that go on for ever--all within a short drive from town. Another unique attribute of this crag is the relative proximity of routes for all appetites. For example, at El Laboratori, its possible to work a 9b project literally no more than 30 feet (as the crow flies) from well-bolted 5.6 slabs on the Llepafils cliffline immediately above. At Finestra, one of the best 5.11 sport routes on the planet sits no more than 100 feet from a wall with no less than nine 5.14 (or harder) sport climbs! Additionally, route lengths very quite a bit (up to ~35 meter pitches), so its possible for both power-junkies & enduro-fiends to find world class routes to push their limits.
Although local sport climbers have visited these cliffs since the mid 1990's, the magnificent potential of this compact area was only revealed in 2006, when several of the world's best sport climbers arrived on the scene to leave their mark. What ensued was an onslaught of difficult redpoints & onsights likely unmatched in the history of our sport. Thanks to the tireless equipping efforts of local crag patron Jordi Pou, the likes of Ramon Julian, Dani Andrada, & Chris Shama (to name only a few) have combined to establish a collection of 35 routes graded 8b+ (5.14a) or harder, not including an additional 30 or so open projects in the 8c - 9b range.
When to Visit
The maze-like nature of the cliffline provides cliffs of all aspects to suit the day's weather. Its even possible to climb in the rain here. However, since most of the cliffs have rounded lips that slab out, water runs down the faces pretty quickly, so your selection of routes will be quite limited if you intend to go to the anchors. If your agenda requires only a steep wall to work out moves, there will be plenty of options on even the wettest days. There appears to be no bias towards sun or shade here, as several of the best crags (Tenebres, Finestra, Cova Soleida) receive nearly all day shade, and several of the best (Espadelles, El Laboratori, Cabernet) receive nearly all day sun.
Most international travelers will want to fly into the Barcelona airport, which is completely modern and easy to navigate for non-Spanish speakers. Rental cars (which are probably essentially) are available in the terminal. If you are traveling from another destination in Europe, it may also be possible to fly into the regional airport in Reus, which will reduce the drive by only 1 hour or so. If this is your first trip to Spain, a day or two in Barcelona is mandatory, so you might as well fly there anyway.
Where to Stay
There are several options for accomodation:
39 Total Routes
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Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Margalef:
Featured Route For Margalef
Draculin 5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ E5 6a Europe : Spain : ... : Raco de les Espadelles
A great line of pumpy 2 & 3-finger pockets, slightly overhanging & very continuous. Begin from a short cheater tower with the left hand in a cool bowling ball 2-finger pocket. Make a big move to a mailslot, then follow big sequential pockets up & eventually right to a flake. Move back left to a square pocket below a brown bulge & an awkward shake. Work over the bulge to a big hole and another rest. Move right, then up to a horizontal break. Move left & up the tricky "slab" to the anchor....[more] Browse More Classics in International
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