The day before we arrived at La Hermida we stopped on the way to get some supplies in the Cantabria municipal and to top up our cider and vino cellar in the van. Fred had said to me on the way in that this was the town where the Corbata originated. A corbata is a puff pastry that is airy and sweet with a very thin coat of hazelnut goodness across the top of it. The icing on top has to be so thin as not to break to puff pastry, an interesting contribution to the culinary world of dessert eating I must say. Lovely flavour with no substance. Perfectly matched with an afternoon coffee.
Sorry I digress. This is supposed to be about our day of climbing at the Cicera sector. God Craig get your priorities right mate!! 🙂
We arrived at the car park to find it full already. This was a little bit frustrating for Fred. Didn’t bother me in the slightest, couldn’t care less really. We parked right at the approach to the crag and I thought great this will be ideal. Fred had said the walk in wasn’t too bad. This is something that I took with a grain of salt as the last time that was said we were walking across a sliding scree slope and up about 200 metres of chossy rubbish.
The approach was a solid walk ascending about 450 vertical metres to the top of the main wall. The view was absolutely spectacular and you could see so much of the local mountain ranges. This was only part of the Picos de Europa and I was loving it. We were pretty much on the edge of the cliff when we were gearing up for the warm up. A 15 metre wall stood in front of us and it was a 6a+ warm up. From the moment you pull on to the wall the rock feels fantastic. The friction is sensational as the weather is cool and there is a slight but constant breeze removing any moisture from the wall. We also get on a 6b+ that has this weird technical move that I fell off trying to figure out. Oh well it was the warm up 🙂
Fred decided that he wanted to go and send a route that he had not completed couple of years earlier, so we packed our gear and headed down the slippery slope to the base of “La Corbata Umquera”. According to the locals and Fred this was a solid 7a for the grade and a stunning route in general to climb. I simply thought that sounded too good not to do. Fred geared up and tied in. Fred is a slow and very thoughtful practitioner of the vertical arts; and takes his time moving anywhere. As he pulled on I thought “wow this guy needs to climb faster on the steep stuff to conserve energy and be more efficient.” Fred sent the route with poise and grace. He climbs stunningly well and has great technique; a real pleasure to watch climb.
La Corbata Umquera starts with a V2 boulder problem that has a slightly long dead point move to clip the third and then out of a roof-let to a long right hand move to the slab. Then its stunning technical balancy moves to the anchors 25 metres above. The crux for me was at between the 7th and 8th bolts traversing right to a thin left hand with a right hand sloper pinch, matching your feet and then stepping right onto a good right foot. This was heady slab climbing and possibly the best 7a I have climbed so far. It was demanding and committing all the way and I absolutely loved it.
It took me two shots to send the route as I fell at the dead point move on the first shot and the pulled on the draw at the crux the first go. Much to my surprise I didn’t really try to figure out the crux move on my first shot and executed it flawlessly on my red-point send. I was truly stoked and I recommend this route anyone who is going to the Cicera sector in La Hermida. This is a great crag where Spain’s hard climbers go to play in the summer and there are loads of them.
Also just quickly, I ran into Dani Andrada’s partner Marionna at the crag and it was truly a lovely surprise to see her. We had met in Kentucky at the Red River Gorge in April with my friend Monique. I think we were both quite shocked to see each other and hugged each other enthusiastically. If we had tried to plan it, this would never have happened.