Our movie project about the multi-pitch route «Orbayu» in Picos de Europa, Spain, is rolling. We were there for two weeks with our friends Julien Nadiras (Cameraman) and Sam Bié (Photographer). We shot some nice sequences on this impressive limestone face, although things turned out to be more complex than expected. The weather conditions out there are fast changing and difficult to cope with. Indeed fog, wind, bitter cold and rain were with us at all times. We now know what orbayu stands for ! It's a fine drizzle that resembles a harmless fog but gets you drenched in seconds ! A major difficulty was thus to find a condition window to climb between the orbayu and the sun. It was a surprise each morning as we peeked outside to check the weather.
Despite this meteorological challenge, I was able to take advantage of my day of sunshine and free-climb the route to the summit. On that day, we left camp at 6am. The good weather held all day but remained very cold. It was so hard to start-off the route with no warm-up and stiff fingers! The first and the second pitch both cost me two burns as my feet felt like there were made of frozen wood. Needless to say that falling on the first pitches didn't get my hopes very high. Somehow the 8c-pitch went smoothly but I had to stay fully focused, using all of my experience to make my way through this splendid vertical and very technical section –-my feet still frozen solid. Behind me, Nina managed to free all pitches on top-rope, except the crux that remains quite challenging for her. Now half way up the face, we could aim for the summit with Sam following on Jumar, praying for a ray of sunshine for the summit picture. Once at the top, it took us more than an hour to find the rappels. After such a climb to find ourselves stuck up there, like total beginners, made us feel like fools! Fortunately, after scanning every square inch of the summit, we found the rappels and got down with no further troubles.
Orbayu was put up by the Pou brothers . They found an original itinerary for the first four pitches and then finished up an old aid route. The base of the route is traditional climbing with a few bolts in the hard parts. In my opinion, a minimum of experience is required to evolve safely on this kind of terrain. A bad fall on poorly placed gear can be dangerous and even deadly. With the knowledge gained from our past adventures we were able to climb in relative security. My favorite part is above the last 7c+ as bolts disappear and the climbing becomes completely traditional. It is something I really enjoy even if the climbing is technically easy. Nina will probably tell you that I was shitting myself up there, climbing super slowly above the gear –You shouldn't listen to her.
The Pou Brother's originally gave the route harder grades than the one we relate. One must take into account that they did the first ascent and that it's not always easy to find the best beta, especially in such difficult weather conditions. What remains is that climbing Orbayu is a great adventure with awesome climbing on perfect limestone.
We will go back in July for a second session, allowing I hope, for Nina to try and make Orbayu's first female all-free ascent.
We will share more info on the details of our journey, and more generally on climbing related topics in the surroundings of Pico Urriellu as soon as we get home in August. Also, a photo gallery will be available on our respective websites.