Area & Style of Climbing
Margalef – Sport Climbing
Catalunya, Tarragona region
Margalef became popular among international visitors fairly recently, but it is now a major destination and home to more 9th grade routes that the whole of the rest of Catalunya put together. Pockets are the name of the game here so strong fingers and ‘pocket power’ are essential for anyone pushing their grade. Many routes are short, steep and involve 1, 2 and 3 finger pockets, so comparisons with the Frankenjura come easily. The roadside nature of many of the crags and the short, bouldery routes will be appealing to most British visitors, as will the accessibility of other crags in the region. Siurana, among other areas, is less than a 1 hour drive away so it’s easy to mix it up and explore several world class areas in the same trip.
Best Time to Go & Conditions
It is possible to climb throughout the year, although in the summer some sectors will be hot and the pockets may feel greasy. The combination of aspects does mean that you should be able to find shade whatever happens, though the best conditions are generally found in spring (March – May) and autumn (September – November).
If you can be flexible about when you travel, flights are around £100, including taxes. The nearest airport to the climbing is Reus, near Barcelona. This is a small airport and this means you are forced to use Ryanair, but if you can stomach giving your money to those bastards, you will land a convenient 60-90 minute drive from Margalef village. From the airport, head NW on the T1, then pick up the N-420 towards Falset. Then head North on the windy mountain roads via the T-710, T-702 and T-713
Once in Margalef village the crags are nearby and it is possible to walk to some. We met climbers who were hitching and did not have transport, and they seemed to get on just fine. It is easier to have a car, and getting to Margalef without one will be near impossible. If you can make it to the refugio, you will probably meet enough climbers to blag lifts off.
Accommodation & Provisions
The new refugio El Raco de la Finestra has recently replaced the original climbers’ refuge, and its facilities are impressive. The showers and washrooms are so plush that you may think you're in a hotel. It's worth booking (as we found out to our cost!) as the place gets booked up at weekends despite its size. The refugio does meals and snacks that are sufficient (the large plates of chips are great) and you may find yourself relying on these as the village shop is pretty disappointing and seems to have limited opening times. There are cooking facilities in the refugio so I would recommend doing a decent supermarket shop on the way from the airport to stock up on fresh food. A hotel the other side of the river also does food, mainly in the form of frozen pizzas and questionable main meals – this is relatively cheap and worth it for the bizarre experience! The refugio is the main source of ‘life’ in the village, and although it seems quite big most of the houses seem derelict and there is very little going on.
Title: Tarragona Climbs | Price: £25 or Margelef Guide | Price €10 (available at refugio)
Grade Spread and Recommended Routes
Margalef has a broad spread of grades but it has to be said that the focus is on the harder end of things. Climbers operating in the mid 7’s and up will have a lot of choice, as the largest selection is between 7b+ and 8a. Nevertheless, routes like Migranya show that high quality climbs can be found at more amenable grades. The following routes come recommended: Migranya (6b+) Juli Vert (6a+) Aeroplastica (7c+ or 8a) Photo Shot (8b) Sativa Patatica (8a) Telemaster (8a) La bombi (8a+/b) Route 33 at El Laboratori (7b+) Miguel el Casero (7c+) Tsunami (7c) and at a newly bolted wall on the road into El Laboratori there are 2 excellent routes; a 7a+ on the right and a 7c to the left (see local guide).
As noted above, it would be very easy to combine Margalef with visits to Siurana, Montsant and other areas in a single trip, due to the short distance between them. Be careful driving on the very windy mountain roads, and leave plenty of time to get to the airport on the return, so you don’t have to ignore this advice! The Refugio sells the basics (chalk etc) but there didn’t seem to be any proper climbing shops nearby, so it’s best to take everything you will need. Margalef has featured in various climbing videos, including the excellent Progression from Big Up Productions.