Cabacés is a pretty little Catalan village nestled in the folds of the Monstant range. It features the delightful winding streets, timeless public water fountains, tall church tower and vine trellised warm stone buildings so common in the area. Els Solans is the nearest crag and its grey red rock dominates the village from above.
The travelling dirt bag climber and accompanying wife will find pleasant free overnight van parking either just before the footbridge up to the crag (a little lopsided for perfect slumber) or about two minutes before the village, as one approaches from La Viella Baixa. The later was our preference. There is plenty of flat parking and some shady trees a little way off the main road, making for a very enjoyable campsite. Others obviously also think so and we saw the usual evidence in the form of litter and toilet paper – if you must poop, bury the evidence and make sure you take your wee papers and other rubbish with you to dispose of thoughtfully.
Just on from the campsite is a singing little stream, bursting with frogs, wildflowers and a rush of sparking water. The road fords this stream and the ford creates a wonderful fresh water pool that is perfect for an icy swim or a laze in the sun. I was sorely in need of a hair wash and carted pots of water off away from the watercourse for a (slightly painfully) refreshing clean up. It was worth it.
To get to El Solans we parked by the footbridge mentioned earlier. This bridge spans a quite amazingly deep and narrow chasm, out of which the tips various trees protrude. Fortunately the fruit on the richly overburdened fig trees weren’t yet ripe or I would have been tempted to try my first bridge swing in order to greedily snatch at them. – wheeeeee! gobble gobble –
The walk up the hill offers some pretty views of both Cabaces and La Viella Baixa as well as some merry wildflowers and the ubiquitous Catalan-nasty-pointy-scratchy-plant (not its botanical name). The last 50-100 metres of the path is a bit steep and unpleasant underfoot but not particularly scary, even for wimps like the present author.
The guidebook promised a wealth of easy (3-5+) and more challenging (7b-8b+) routes all on “generally excellent rock”. Unfortunately almost all the easy routes have been stripped of hangers, presumably to equip other routes, as the stripped routes looked quite solid – although perhaps safety problems would be more apparent higher up. Nevertheless I tried a few of the remaining easy-ish routes and despite my paralysing fear and general hatred of the experience, I can report that the rock is indeed excellent. It is quite strange to climb on, being made of a conglomerate of little pebbles seemingly concreted together. Pockets are offered where the pebbles have fallen out and sweaty little fingers will quickly learn that frantically scrabbling around will result in the identification of a suitable hold…usually.
The Climber ticked off most of the higher grade climbs and reported “surprisingly hard fused-conglomerate” and some “unconsolidated sandstone-y conglomerate” (perhaps not the official geological terminology). The fused conglomerate provided enjoyable looking climbing (some fancy dance-y moves) while the sandstone rubbish had an unnerving tendency to fall off onto the horrified belayer.
Cabacés is nevertheless a worthwhile climbing destination if you are in the area. There was quite enough rock to keep us entertained for a few days and the scenery really is superb. We also had the place entirely to ourselves, which made a pleasant change from the hustle of places like Siurana and Margalef.
P.S If you are a big meat eater (and only then) would I recommend that you try the Catalan Salad at the bar in Cabacés It is very interesting.