The Cavall Bernat is a true gem of the Montserrat mountain and the showcase attention grabber when viewing from the north. The free standing spire features long 7 pitch classics around its north face while the original "Normal" 2 pitch route climbs a corner section on the southern face.
The Punsola-Reniu route, first climbed in 1971, follows a 230m (750ft), fairly direct line up the NE face. Completely re-equiped with generously spaced bolts, the line goes free at 6c (5.11b) or aided at 5b-A0 (5.9-A0) with help of a bolt ladder on the top few pitches. Being a popular route, a wise party would begin early in the day to beat other groups. The route has sun exposure from sunrise to noon, which is important whether climbing in winter or summer as the region experiences hot summer heat and frigid, windy winters.
Pitch 0: Scramble up a 4th or easy 5th class section to the base of the route. A couple options for cams/stoppers in flakes if you choose to rope up. (30m, 5.2)
Pitch 1: Follow the line of bolts directly up a well cobbled path for the longest, yet easiest pitch of the route. (50m, 5.7, ~12bolts, 4 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 2: Pass two bolts to a left facing flake where you are able to clip a fixed piton or place a stopper. Continue up and slightly left passed 2 more bolts, until another left facing flake. Clip a bolt and climb right over the flake to a bolt before again climbing up and left passed 2 more bolts to an anchor above a small ledge. (30m, 5.8, ~8bolts, 4 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 3: As the route gets a bit steeper the climbing gets more fun! Climb up and slightly left passed 6 bolts towards the left side a large flake system. Once under a small roof, clip a bolt, surpass the roof and follow the flake on good holds for 2 more bolts before reaching the anchor on a comfortable ledge above the flake. (30m, 5.9, ~9bolts, 4 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 4: If planning to aid the top few pitches, this is a good pitch to push yourself climbing free as it is a real gem of 5.10 climbing with plentiful bolts for protection. To keep to the 5.9-A0 rating, an aider would be helpful to surpass difficult portions with 5.9 moves between reachy bolts. Climb/aid up a direct line of good, yet somewhat polished cobbles. (20m, 5.10 or 5.9-A0, ~8bolts, 3 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 5: Climb/aid up and slightly left passed a few bulges with a definite crux two-thirds the way up the pitch surpassing a steep, overhanging bulge. The bottom and top thirds go free at about 5.10b with the crux about 5.11a. The whole pitch can be aided almost entirely with only short 5.9 moves and/or some top-stepping. (30m, 5.11a or 5.9-A0, ~21bolts, 4 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 6: The last major pitch and the routes crux. Although shorter than the previous pitch, the line gets steeper and the holds get smaller. Follow the bolt line straight up, with the last two moves left to the anchor. If aiding, the bolts are closely spaced and you rarely need to step higher than your waist to reach the next one. (18m, 5.11b or 5.9-A0, ~13bolts, 3 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Pitch 7: 3 bolts of exposed 5.10a, or some aid help, move directly right and up from the anchor passing around the corner to the north face. From here follow 2 bolts of large, welcoming cobbles at 5.8 to the top. You can belay off 2 old, rusty bolts here or surmount the short summit block and belay off the statue. (25m, 5.10a or 5.9-A0, ~5bolts, 2 bolt anchor w/ 2 rap rings)
Retreat: With a 60m rope, you can rappel the route from any point via each anchors rappel rings (Pitch 1 has a rap ring located half way to allow a single rope retreat.)
Descent: Rappel off two large anchor rings on the south side, 5m south of the statue. Be sure to aim towards the Normal route towards the right (when looking off the back side). A 20m rappel places you at the Normal route belay anchors. An additional 30m rappel from here barely places you at the Normal route start, where you can down climb the exposed slab to Cavall's notch. If using 2 ropes, you the second rappel can place you directly on the flat notch, skipping the exposed down climb with a 55m rappel. From the notch, decent towards the valley to hike down to the Monastery or follow the fixed ropes towards the north face routes base.
The Cavall Bernat spire is on the north side of the region with approaches from either the north side's red/white path to the route's base or from the Monastery and fixed ropes to the route's base. The main Cavall Bernat page clearly explains the approach from either direction.
The route is generously re-equppied with bolts, although a set of stoppers could be helpful a couple places along the way. As always for a climb depending on bolts, bring along cord or rivet hangers in case you encounter a bolt with a missing hanger. All anchors have 3-4 good bolts with 2 rappel rings enabling retreat from any point along the route.
Apr 23, 2014
rating: 5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a
Great climb on great rock.
By Cedric B
From: New York, New York
Jun 9, 2014
Outstanding! Definitely a good outing. It gets a little chilly as it is a north face; we didn't bring anything other than draws; all the hard pitches are very well protected.
By D Sharp
From: Boulder, CO
5 days ago
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII 25 E5 6a
A fantastic, "classic" climb. Very worthwhile excursion if you are in the area. Both me and my partner had a blast on it. With that said though, the climb is "aggressively improved". Not a huge deal, but it's weird that with all the research we have done, not one website or guidebook mentioned anything about this. Both the 6c and the 6c+ crux pitch have some very comfortable pocket/crimps on it... So keep that in mind if you care about stuff like that. Then again it's Spain, and they generally seem to not have any ethical dilemmas with chipping out pockets, shaping crimps out of glue, or straight up bolting gym holds on routes... (I wish I was making this up).
Speaking of grades: the climb is actually rated at 6c+. Even at that grade it felt sandbagged, but that's probably because it is generally hard to onsight chipped routes - the holds aren't where you expect them to be. So come prepared to aid, or come prepared to pull pretty hard.
Pitch 1 no longer has 12 bolts on it - we found 8... Given the length of the pitch, I'd say that's pretty economically spaced. :) it's easy-ish climbing, yet it felt completely unnecessary, given the bolt ladder that is the 6c and 6c+ pitch up above.
Be aware that the wind can be absolutely brutal on the top and on the backside as you rappel - makes communication nearly impossible, and makes careful rope management very important. If you choose to walk down the exposed slab after the rap, it might be worthwhile to know that to "rapeller's right" there is a gully (roughly in line where the normal route starts up) that could be a good alternative for the slab - definitely seemed more protected and less exposed, but we only saw it once we were down.