Reach the Heights in Barcelona
12 January, 2016
Barcelona and sport have long been comfortable bedfellows. It was in the late eighties that Montserrat Caballé and good old Freddie Mercury took turns to sing to the city to the tune of “Barcelona, Barcelona, B-A-R-C-E-L-O-N-A-A-A”. The rhythm was taken up by the syncopated clapping of Los Manolos and a spectacular staging of the event that would ensure nobody ever forgot the Olympic capital of 1992. That was when the seed of sport was sown and, thanks to it being magnificently fertilised, we can now proudly proclaim that Barcelona has grown in tandem with sport. No one would dispute the city’s footballing hegemony, spearheaded by the likes of Barça and Espanyol. It is similarly cherished by skaters worldwide, having put the Fórum to good use. Further, the post-Olympic Barceloneta has become an increasingly more popular destination among surfers. The surrounding Collserola, and the Carretera de les Aigües, have grown into areas plied by hikers, runners, cyclists and strollers. Barcelona is also the mecca of marathon runners, triathletes and other enthusiasts of endurance sports.
But, just what is brewing in post-Olympic Barcelona? Might this be the right time to discover the city from above, and do so by climbing? Sharma Climbing, headed by the guru of world climbing, the Californian, Chris Sharma, opened in November in the 22@ / Poblenou area. Sharma is world famous for having opened up impossible climbing routes. In the photo we see him climbing the Bon Combat line at the Cova de L’Ocell in Sant Miquel del Fai, a 9b/+ rating said to be the toughest in the world, as shown in this video. Sharma is one of the leading promoters of psicobloc (deep water soloing). In spite of his top-notch skills, Sharma’s Barcelona climbing wall is accessible to all-comers, with a preponderance of easy and medium-difficulty routes, as his goal is to foster the learning process and encourage newcomers to take up this sport. The venue is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., with súper jueves late closing at 1 a.m. on Thursdays. Facilities include changing rooms with showers, enabling you to slip out occasionally from work if you start getting the climbing bug. If you need to sleep over, the Barceló Atenea Mar hotel is just a few minutes’ walk away and you can also go running along the esplanade.
Climbing is a world of its own and climbing walls are just part of it. So, if you’re eager to test your skills in the outdoors by climbing on bare rock, the city offers two readily available options, both for beginners and experts. The Costas de Garraf, just 30 kilometres from Barcelona, feature some 90 short routes for all climbing levels, with incredible views over the sea, including the Pas de la Mala dona (in the photo). The second area is Montserrat, also a climbing “sanctuary”, located just 65 km from Barcelona. It has an infinite number of lines – most of them long ones – requiring more techniques than in Garraf. They include routes near the Monastery, in two major areas – Gorros and La Plantació. For more detailed information on climbing in Montserrat, I advise you to read el coleccionista de vías.
Starting to feel the bug, aren’t you? Well, I hope you aren’t easily fazed. If your time is not at a premium or you want to engage in other activities apart from climbing, here are some pointers to procuring the right equipment.
Cycling: you can hire both road and mountain bikes at Orbea Campus Barcelona. For mountain biking, you should head for Collserola and, for road cycling, the best thing is to pedal up the Arrabassada and then go back down via the Forat del Vent, as this is an easy route with little traffic.
Skating: At Inercia you can hire longboards, skates and even inline skates. The store is just 300 metres from the Arco de Triunfo, a pedestrian promenade which is ideal for building up your confidence on the board. From there, I recommend taking the following route: go down the bicycle lane that crosses the Paseo de Picasso, skirt around the Zoo and continue as far as the Calle Marina, where you connect up with the Paseo Marítimo (esplanade). Together with the Fórum area, this is the easiest and safest spot to skate in Barcelona.
Swimming: For open-water swimming, head for the Barceló Atenea Mar – which is also where the Garmin Barcelona Triathlon usually starts from – where swimming groups are organised. If you prefer to swim in a pool, the Picornell swimming pools are accessible and you don’t need to be a member to get in.
Running: if you’re an asphalt junky, a good option is to run along the Paseo Marítimo. It is usually jam packed with people so, if you want to avoid crowds, you could go running on Montjuïc or along the Carretera de les Aigües in Collserola.
Barcelona is a climbing destination and a city married to sport, a place worth returning to time and again. Start booking your flight here for this year.
Text by Raúl Casañas
12 January, 2016