jueves, 11 de marzo de 2010

La Valentín Casanovas – an unforgettable route on the Aeri

It is a feature of all multi-pitch routes, and perhaps even more of conglomerate rock that, seen from afar, the wall appears featureless, impossible to climb and impossible to protect. Looking up from the Refugio de Santa Cecília at la Paret de l’Aeri, the first thought that useally occurs is: how could anyone possibly climb this! With its 300 meters of compact rock and broad, almost square shape, the wall looks featureless and vertical, without even the slightest garbanzo to hold on to.

High up on this wall, following a fain dihedral and a long vertical slab, starts an elegant crack that eventually faints near the top. Most likely, this is what climbers wanted to reach when they first launched for what became the Valentín Casanovas. This was golden inspiration: these two pitches of laid back climbing are now established at some of the most fantastic and aerial stretches of climbing in the entire range.

The stats
for Valentín Casanovas are:
  • 290 meters
  • Average ascent time: 8h
  • 8 pitches
  • 7c (6a obligatory)
  • First ascension: 1976 Antonio Picazo and José Rodriguez
  • Equipment: varied, with sections of parabolts, protectable cracks, PVC pipes and nylon block chokes (not kidding, and they’re good!), sections of bad/rusty buriles
  • Gear: a normal rack with a couple of #3 and #4 cams and etriers
  • Rock: mostly good quality, compact conglomerate
When it was opened and for some years following, the Valentín Casanovas was one of Montserrat’s respected test pieces, and it remains a reference for the type of climbing made possible when modern equipment became available in the 70’s.

Antonio Picazo, who opened the route with José Rodríguez Soria in 1976, when they were both 19 years old, provides fascinating anecdotes about the route in his book Ascenciones de Leyenda:

Valentín Casanovas was opened in the most innocent style possible, with limited idea about how difficult it could be, and will little else than homemade pitons and wood chokes. They were able to reach the summit after only 4 weeks of assault, at a time when walls of this type would take months or even years conquer. Upon reaching the large flake, 2 thirds up the wall and after one of the most difficult segments, Rodriguez, who was opening then, progressed some 7 meters up the crack and was able to set a few pros before his rope ran out. This was a poor spot to set up the belay: the crack is a 20cm off-width, awkward to climb and impossible to protect with the gear he had. Rodriguez, exhausted and unable to find a decent resting position, took a look inside the crack and saw that a few rocks were wedged randomly within. Out of desperation, he took off his gear-holding sling and tossed all his material as far as he could inside the crack. He pulled on it softly…and it seemed to hold! Very slowly he begun to put more weight on the sling and nothing budged. This is how the 5 belay station was first set up.

Valentín Casanovas is a direct ascent, drawing almost a straight line, up some of the most vertical section of the Paret de L'Aeri. Even if this is a very engaged climb, it is not the hardest line of this area and as such, it is accessible to common mortals – meaning a 7a level should do it. However, the route impresses by its length, its continuity, and its ample variety of climbing and protection styles: thin and footsy moves, dihedral, laybacks, roofs, handjams, awful chimneying… It is truly a test of nerves and endurance and a very rewarding one.

My friend Julia made a great blog entry about our climb here.

The route starts with a stretch of well-protected 6c+ on thin crimpers, and turns into a dihedral with a fun roof at 6b+. After this come 3 pitches of very vertical slab, with some sections of 7c. This should be done in A0, although the bolts are quite old and rusty, and one of them is broken (at a 6b section). Following this come the “bavaresa”, the aforementioned flake. It starts as a mini dihedral and progressively opens into an off-width demanding at times strenuous layback and number 4 cams. Finally the route leads to a large roof crossed diagonally by a strange chimney. Doing the worm-dance in a bat-poop filled v-shaped chimney with you’re body hanging halfway out and 280 meters of void below, after 7 pitches of hard climbing is and experience hard to put into words.

The bibliography for this post can be accessed here.

3 comentarios:

  1. Good explanation Remi, i need to improve my skills and my repertory in multi pich route. Valentín Casanovas seems a bit crazy route but i can try,

    See you !!!

  2. I want to do it again! if you want let's do it this spring - the first time, I got a little bit "wipped"

  3. yes, a little bit 'whipped', especially on that last 6b pitch, i remember!!! Nice route, awesome times!!!!