The car won't go into reverse.
I got in and tried myself. It's a Jeep Compass. I pull up on the gear stick's ring, and push forward like your going into first. Again, and again, the car lurches towards the wall of the restaurant we just left. It's a ten minute drive from the hotel, and our climbing guide is supposed to be there in twenty.
All this trouble for some "emergency" sandwiches.
Jordi, the restaurant owner, and two of his friends come to the car, tear out gear shift rubber hiding the mechanics, and exposed the problem:
The metal wire connecting the reverse widget has snapped. No need to panic. When you need to reverse, just pull that tiny wire.
We spent the morning driving up a jeep road to a beautiful vantage point replete with ruins of a shepard's winter dwelling. We ran about five or so miles around Bonsana, stopping at various Romanesque chapels and vultures, before making our way back to town.
Trail running has long overtaken my schedule of activities. I miss climbing a lot, but it's difficult to do with a full time job and without a dedicated partner. Running just requires a pack.
But there is a lot of rock in the Pre-Pyrenees. A lot. The nearby Catalonia lowlands is famous for its limestone. AigÃ¼estortes was full of beautiful granite. When we got word that Bonsana had a guide in town willing to take us up a nearby via Ferrata, we jumped on it.
But first, the sandwiches.
Jordi the Guide
So it turns out the last available guide in Bonansa was none other than Jordi Tosas! Surprise!
We met him at Terra Bonansa. He was all smiles, cheer, tobacco smoke and sinew. He loaded us into his spotless Eurovan and drove west out of town to the Monasterio de Santa MarÃa de Obarra. He drove the conversation, dipping a bit into his recent trip to the Himalaya (from Ueli to Killian, a lot happened this past year). Apparently he had arrived yesterday was departing for Chamonix tomorrow. We were very fortunate indeed.
We pulled into a turnoff. Just before the monastery is a tunnel, and just next to the tunnel is a little metal wire beginning the scramble.
The Croquetta de Obarra
My expectations were shattered. I always figured ferratas would be akin to fun class 3-4 climbing, with some added protection. Not vertical to overhanging for hundreds of feet at a time!
Jordi didn't have ferrata gear for us, so instead we roped up and used shoulder length dyneema runners to connect to the wire. My harness looked pretty well worn, but it was Black Diamond.
The first section was a reasonable iron ladder in full sun. Despite the chilly air in Bonansa, it was very warm. This was my first time on a wall more than a rope length above the ground. To my surprise, the fear of exposure faded rapidly after the familiar 30ish meters. We topped out by a tree and walked over some loose stones to the base of the next ladder.
The ferrata was equipped with a number of bridges. When made with help rope, we called them "monkey bridges" as kids. These were made of steel wire. Slow steps. The footing was far less friendly than the rock, but I was too enveloped by sensation of walking in the air to notice.
The lack of climbing was starting to take it's toll. In the past year I've spent my time goofing around at the Portland Rock Gym or the Seattle Bouldering Project. Certainly not on a rope.
We were moving at a good clip through vertical terrain. Each time I'd pull over a bulge I'd try to shake out my calves and arms. I was getting pretty nervous about pumping out, and there was at least one moment where I had to hustle up to a ledge. It was a little spicy. Just outside my horizon of competency, perfect.
The last big push started with a down climb to the the base of a pair of towers. The terrain was vertical to overhanging. With well-spaced ledges, it was far less sustained. We climbed halfway up, and the route traversed around the bulge of the tower to the final bridge.
Traversing on a rope is always a little tenuous. This section was pretty exposed and got my adrenaline pumping a lot; It had a very high "psychological factor". At least for me. Eventually we danced over the guidelines to access the final bridge, and danced up the final ladder to the summit.
Whew. 1100 ft. K4. We were psyched to have such an experienced guide with us. Jordi kept the motivation high with near constant cheering and joking.
The Walk off
There was a quick down scramble to the GR path that takes you all the way into Bonansa. Jordi's pace seemed effortless and slow, but I found myself running down the rocky path just to keep pace. We walked through a (mostly) abandoned village of Ballabriga, Jordi told us about the history of the area, the famed six forts that helped the Catalans defend against the Moorish invaders. At dusk, those Sierra de Sis were glowing with a beautiful, dark shade of orange.
The dark and the old had settled in by the time we got back to the the van. I unrolled my pants and slipped on my jacket. Jordi rolled a cigarette while we discussed Ferratas, route setting and grading.
I started climbing because it scared me. The odd mix of laser focus and existential joy drove something positive in my psyche. This trip was a huge dose and a reminder of what I've been missing. Here's to 2018.