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Review: A Spanish Climbing Holiday with Climb Catalunya

Woman rock climbing

Take your rock climbing to the next level with a hassle-free Spanish climbing holiday.

Whether you’re new to outdoor climbing, wanting to push your grades, develop your technique or simply experience a new climbing area, rock climbing in Spain with Climb Catalunya will have you well and truly covered. You’ll gain climbing confidence in a super safe learning environment surrounded by stunning scenery. Plus you’ll get to climb on a variety of rock types whilst receiving expert tuition on technique and best practice. Add to that an exceptional menu of home-cooked vegetarian food, and rustic, cosy accommodation in the Abella Eco-Refugi, and it’s easy to see why Climb Catalunya offers one of the best rock climbing holidays in Europe.

Climb Catalunya: The stats

Where:Abella de la Conca, 2hrs NW of Barcelona, Spain
Type of climbing:Sport and trad (single and multi-pitch)
Grades:3a-8c+ (USA: 5.6-5.14c)

Climb Catalunya review

In a previous life, exploring new places to go climbing generally involved rocking up at a crag and figuring out the rest as I went along. A good guide book and some acquired local knowledge certainly helped, as did having plenty of time on my hands. And for many climbers, this approach is the only way to find their feet in new climbing areas.

However, for novice climbers, those who prefer a little guidance, and those who have been out of the game for a while (that’s me!), an organised climbing course or vacation is a superb way to get to grips with a new climbing area. Climbing holidays are also a highly efficient way of getting maximum time on the rock with minimum faff, regardless of your level of climbing. It’s hassle-free, and sometimes there’s just not enough hours in the day (or annual leave) to figure it out as you go.

With a new goal of getting my climbing feet back into action this year, I spent most of January ogling over pictures of sun-drenched crags being torn apart by ripped, bronzed climbers surrounded by deliciously dramatic scenery. That’s Spanish rock climbing for you! I wanted in.

So on further investigation I came to learn about Climb Catalunya. And boy am I glad I did. Four days of top class sport climbing in the sunshine, with the majorly appealing bonus of staying at an eco-conscious, vegetarian refuge? Er, yes perleeeease!

Woman climbing near river

Photo by Brian Stone

Spanish climbing: Catalunia

Catalunia, and more specifically the area north of Lleida, is recognised as one of the finest sport climbing venues in Europe. Whether you love hard and pumpy single pitch routes, long multi-pitch classics or even a spot of bouldering, the fine and varied rock in this area caters for all types of climbers. It also has some superbly accessible routes for sport climbing beginners. Plus, the area is only a 2 hour drive from Barcelona. The perfect choice for some winter sun with exceptionally well-connected transport options.

Climb Catalunya is based out of Abella de la Conca: a tiny village nestled into the side of a steep valley on the edge of the Montsec mountains. It’s worth a visit for the stunning views alone, not to mention its quaint quirky houses that skirt the bulging rocks that tower above them. A spectacle even if you’re not into climbing. But for the climbing obsessed, the surrounding crags offer around 200 very well bolted, excellent quality sport routes ranging from grade 3a to 8c+.

Climbing in the safe hands of Climb Catalunya

I knew I was in for a special time the second we pulled up to the Abella Eco-Refugi. The night sky was clearer that I’ve seen it in a long while (and I live in Cornwall!), and there was a peaceful calm about the place. Plus, the entrance to the Refugi appears as though it’s embedded into the rock that looms over your head. Truly magical. My excitement heightened even further as I gazed upon the practice route bolted into the cliff-face, in the backyard! Climbing heaven.

On stepping into the higgledy-piggledy old building, greeted by smiles as warm as the ambiance and the sweet smells of simmering soup, it was all I could do to stop myself from grinning back like a mad woman!

But enough about the place… it totally rocked. (Skip to the bottom to read more about it.) It’s like nowhere I’ve ever stayed before and you really have to experience it for yourself to understand.

So let’s get onto the climbing….

I signed up to the sport climbing improvement long weekend. As I mentioned, I’ve done a fair bit of outdoor sport climbing in the past. But that was over 10 years ago and I was in need of some sizeable reminders as to how to do this thing called lead climbing!

Nicholas Durand climbing guide

Photo by Brian Stone

Nicholas Durand (Nic), the manager of Climb Catalunya and our guide for the weekend, instructed me to lead an easy 4+ for my first climb. Others in the group warmed up on harder routes whilst the less experienced members of the group got comfortable on easy top-rope routes. Nic pitched our levels perfectly and managed to find something to challenge (but not scare!) all of us — a tricky juggling act with such a variety of abilities and experiences.

Safety first

As with any kind of rock climbing course, Nic was hot on making sure we did everything by the book in terms of safety. As part of that he dedicated a lot of time to teaching us to fall well — breathing deeply and staying relaxed is key, apparently. (Let me know once you’ve figured out how to master that!). But it also relies on receiving a soft catch from your belayer — something we all spent time practicing. Fun, if you like that sort of thing!

The rock

We climbed at four different crags during our stay. Two days we walked to crags straight out of the refugi and two days we drove further afield. Not only was this a great way to see the area and get a feel for what it has to offer, but it also gave us a taster of different types of rock and styles of climbing. As a result we got to learn more about our own climbing strengths and rock preferences. And also our weaknesses and dislikes.

On the second day Nic encouraged each of us to come to the crag with a personal intention. For some that meant pushing a grade on top rope or trying to be more OK with falling on lead. For others it meant being a better belayer or pushing themselves further out of their comfort zones. And for the rest it meant just making sure they had a good old-fashioned fun time!

It’s hard to say exactly whether everyone achieved what they set out to by the end of the four days. But judging by the enthusiastic (and non-stop) climbing chat over dinner each night, and ear to ear grins that met me across the table, it’s safe to say that the overwhelming feeling was one of great satisfaction and enjoyment.

Climbing in Catalunya

Photo by Brian Stone

Approaching your time at Climb Catalunya with an openness to learn, determination to try hard and strength to push yourself will take you a long way. Nic has a very direct style of coaching and guiding that is a major advantage for those wanting to get the most out of a small amount of time. That said, it’s still your holiday. The long days are relaxed and you can climb as much or as little as you want. But as with most things, the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it.

About Climb Catalunya

Climb Catalunya is managed by Nicholas Durand who took over the company in 2014. He totally renovated the building that is now the Abella Eco-Refugi, turning it into a mecca for climbers. It also attracts bikers, hikers and those looking to just get away from it all. Nicholas is a fully qualified climbing guide as well as a registered Ashtanga yoga teacher. A winning combo.

Climb Catalunya offer all inclusive week long holiday packages, long weekend breaks, distinct, tailored instructional courses and personalised guiding and coaching.

Abella Eco-Refugi: what to expect


Map of spanish climbing
There are no amenities in Abella de la Conca. The nearest town is Isona. You can get a bus to Isona from Barcelona and pick up can be arranged from there. You can also get a train to Tremp where you can be picked up, or Nic will arrange transfers to Barcelona Airport for each group arriving and departing.


Woman sitting by window
The refugi is super cosy and warm with excellently hot showers! There’s an area to chill out in, a big dining table, simple dormitory sleeping arrangements and even a sauna, which we enjoyed one evening. If you’re looking for a luxury climbing vacation then the Abella Eco-Refugi is not for you. It is rustic and simple — good for the soul! Plus, you can stay there even if you’re not on an organised weekend or course.


Vegetarian food never tasted so good! It is home cooked each evening in the tiny kitchen or out on the BBQ, and there were clean plates after every meal, without fail. A hearty porridge, fruit and toast breakfast set us up nicely for the day. All you need to bring is snacks for the day and maybe a sandwich filler to go with the bread that is provided.


Yoga for climbers
Nic runs long weekends dedicated to yoga and climbing. We had a little taster of this with a morning session out on the lower deck. It was a heavenly (and much needed) way to start the day. Griffon vultures swooped overhead while almond blossom fluttered onto our mats, set free by the morning breeze.


Water fountain
A huge focus of Climb Catalunya and Abella Eco-Refugi is their approach to the environment. They grow their own vegetables, encourage land travel, recycle and reuse as much as they can and compost all of their food waste. They are also highly dedicated to developing a sustainable, permaculture based approach to local land management, and the preservation and protection of the natural habitats in the area. You won’t find cling wrap in the kitchen and any leftover food gets gobbled up by the staff!

Final thoughts

I went into the sport climbing improvement long weekend hoping to gain the confidence to take my less experienced climbing buddies outdoor climbing in the future. If I managed to improve my personal climbing too then that would be a bonus! After only 4 days on the rock I most certainly achieved those goals. But I also came away with so much more.

I re-learned the ropes, in every sense of the word. My climbing technique improved — yep, it’s all about getting your ankles above your toes. No “hanging like a ham”, as Nic so delicately put it. Safety procedures and checks have been drummed right in and ain’t coming out anytime soon. My ability to keep control of my mind has been worked and challenged — not sure anyone ever truly masters that, unless you’re Alex Honnold, of course. And I came away with new friends who all helped to reignite my passion for the sport I’ve been away from for so long.

Climb Catalunya is a fully immersive rock climbing experience that you’ll struggle to come away from without feeling a deep-rooted need to climb as much as you physically can.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat. And I wished I’d extended my stay the first time.

Upcoming courses at Climb Catalunya in 2019

Yoga and Climbing:25th May – 1st June 2019Book Now
Yoga and Climbing long weekend:14th – 18th June 2019Book Now

Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this trip free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear and experiences that we love from companies we trust. We are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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