During the scorching hot summer of 2022, the countryside of western Catalunya became tinderbox dry. Wildfires were common and often extremely difficult to contain. One such, on June 19th, just west of the town of Oliana in Lleida province, roared up a heavily forested hillside and ravaged the world-famous sport-climbing sector, Contrafort de Rumbau. This crag, developed by such preeminent climbers as Chris Sharma and Dani Andrada, hosted multiple high 8th and 9th grade routes and climbers came from around the globe to pit themselves against the witheringly steep test-pieces.
Following the fire, initial inspection reports were depressing to read: virtually the whole of the left-hand side of the wall, home to most of the ‘easier’ routes, appeared to have suffered severe and permanent damage, the foot of the crag littered with fallen debris, while the major routes in the centre of the wall, although escaping the worst of the devastation, could never be climbed again without every hold and every bolt checked for safety.
And of course, the once beautiful wooded hillside below the crag now looked like a post-holocaust landscape.
But then, after the initial gloom, something amazing started to happen. Locally based climber, Svana Bjarnason, launched a crowd-funding page with the aim of raising funds to buy bolting gear to re-equip the crag. She also assembled a small team of volunteers (around a dozen at first, but later spreading to twice the number) to begin work on clearing off loose rock, refurbishing the approach path and checking every hold and every bolt.
Some routes required relatively little work, while others,
especially those on the left-hand side of the crag, needed thouroughly ‘de-scaling’
and completely re-equipping. Incredibly, just a few months after the work
started, the majority of routes are now climbable again, although exceptions
remain and visiting climbers should be aware that work may still be in progress for the immediate future.
I asked Svana to give us a list of names of those individuals who have hand-on helped with the project, together with companies and organisations which have donated equipment:
Dan, Jorg, Chris, Nico, Will, Bobby, Lolo, Emile, Cesar, Martina, Nils, Arnau, Terri, Tom, Sofie, Vincent, Lulu, Pierre, Gaz, Patrick, Paco, Tonio, Toni, Albert, Caro, Marianne.
Associations and brands that gave us gear: Edelrid, Petzl, Lappas Climbing bolts, Greenspits, Fanatic Climbing, Kletterzentrum Innsbruck, Mountain Boot UK, Lhotse, RAB.
Lleida Climbs also donated some stainless steel maillons, belay units and cable ‘perma-draws'.
Brands that supplied gear at discount: Fixe, Mammut.
Climber and photographer Emil Pino, who himself helped with the restoration, was kind enough to send us some excellent images chronicling the progression of the work.