Recommended Gear for Climbing in Riglos

If you’ve never climbed in Riglos, you’re missing out on a unique experience. The history of route openings, the surroundings, the height and exposure and the peculiar conglomerate holds all make for a truly one-of-a-kind adventure. In the following article, we’ll go over all the gear you’ll need for a trip to the “Reino de los Mallos.”

Mallos de Riglos

Whether it’s your first time or a veteran of these cliffs, the feeling of awe as you approach the base of the towers in Riglos never goes away. The steep, towering walls are impressive, and if you read a bit of history about the pioneers of this iconic climbing area, it’s impossible not to get carried away by the magic found in these rocks.

Climbing in los Mallos de Riglos is known for its unique type of conglomerate rock, vertical routes of over two hundred meters, and the predominance of south-facing walls. If you choose one of the older, classic routes that haven’t been modified by modern bolting practices, you also may be in for a ride when you see the old anchors and long run-outs awaiting you. Such routes, however, unfortunately for those who love the original character and history of Riglos, are becoming more and more scarce.

In the article below, we’re going to take a look at what you’ll find in Riglos and what’s the best gear to take in order to take on its famous walls.

Conglomerate Rock

The “mallos” are a result of a process that began millions of years ago with the formation of the Pyrenees Mountains. Rocks were deposited here and cemented together with sediment into a heterogeneous mix. These deposited rocks would turn into the famous Riglos blocks or “bolos”. The large size of these blocks is indicative of being transported a shorter distance than other conglomerate areas in Spain such as Vadiello or Montserrat, which are made up of much smaller pebbles.

Water erosion in extremely vertical lines made the “mallos”, a series of free-standing towers, unique, as well as carving out their deep chimneys and rounded tops. In addition, the hardest sections of rock that have stood up to the effects of erosion over time have lead to the creation of the one of the most iconic and feared features in Riglos: large bulges known as “panzas.” The feeling of climbing through a “potato field” on the walls of Riglos can be deceiving, though. Not all the holds are as they appear from below, and you can just as easily run into an unexpectedly solid jug as you can end up grasping at the most desperate of slopers.

Not all of this rock is the same. The areas of gray rock are predominantly compact limestone with smaller holds. The areas with more red or orange coloring have a higher component of clay sediment, making the rock less compact, and here’s where we’ll find overhangs, cracks and flakes. You’ll want to test the rock in these areas before committing your weight to them, especially in recently established routes or those with less traffic on them.

Chimneys, cracks and “potatoes”. Author Álvaro Lafuente

The size and abundance of these “potato” holds contributes to the predominantly intermediate grades in Riglos. Few routes are over 6a (sometimes with a bit of aid at the crux moves), nor are there many routes over 7b, the few of which are modern routes established in a sport climbing style on steep overhangs.

Route Length

Except on the smaller “mallos pequeños” where you can find shorter routes, normally you’re going to have routes with a minimum of 7-8 pitches and lengths of at least 200m (650ft) . The descent off Firé, el Puro or el Pisón, as well as off all the “mallos pequeños,” is by rappel. For the rest of the mallos, although some of them have rappel stations, normally the descents are long walk-offs back to the village of Riglos.

Be prepared to spend lots of time on the wall. Although in speed competitions in Riglos, we’ve seen that many rope teams can climb over five routes in twelve hours, normally on your first visit with one route you’ll have done enough for one day. Be prepared for changes in weather, the possibility of getting benighted, and bring enough food and water for your needs and for the chosen route.

South-Facing Walls

The walls in Riglos are mostly south facing, although the Pison turns a bit southwest. The “back” side of the Pison faces northeast, with guaranteed shade all year long, which is why this area is called the “Circo de Verano” or “Summer Cirque.”

These south-facing walls and an altitude of 650 m (around 2,100 ft) over sea level, leaving the frequent Ebro River valley fog banks below make Riglos an unbeatable destination for sunny winter days and almost any day during the spring or fall. In summer, however, you’ll have to choose one of the few north-facing walls or a deep chimney route to get away from the brutal summer heat. The east face of mallo Firé is a good option for fast-moving rope teams, who can make the ascent and descent in the shade and taking advantage of the long summer days.

Long, steep, south-facing walls. Photo Álex Puyó

Be Ready for Overcrowding

Riglos has been popular for a number of years now. With the rebolting of numerous forgotten routes (and normally with more generous, modern bolting), the establishment of newer, sport-style routes, the opening of the nearby Culibillo via ferrata along with hiking routes such as the mallos circular route have all contributed to attracting more and more visitors to the picturesque village of Riglos.

We mention this so you’ll be prepared for typical situations of having teams ahead of you possibly holding you up (or pressuring you from behind to hurry up) either while climbing or rappelling, and also so that you’ll have a backup plan for alternative routes and descent routes in case you don’t want to or can’t wait. Be aware of rockfall at the base and at the end of rappel routes, including from rope teams that aren’t directly above you (rocks can fly all over the place in Riglos). If you can manage it, try to go midweek and avoid weekends and holidays.

Gear

Here we’ll address what to consider in terms of the gear you’ll need for climbing in Riglos. This is a general guide, where we won’t get into specifics for any particular route.

Clothes

The proximity of the bases of the routes make it easy to know what the weather is going to be like, at least when you start climbing. However, if the route goes in and out of the shade, the temperature differences in Riglos can be drastic. The same can happen on days with “Cierzo” (the predominant northwesterly wind), where we can go from a protected chimney to being completly exposed to the ferocious power of the wind.

Be prepared for this scenario with a packable jacket that you can put on and take off as needed. A lightly insulated synthetic or down jacket is a lifesaver given the temperature changes you can find in Riglos in the spring and fall. On summer days go with short sleeves and shorts and be prepared for extreme heat and few opportunities to get out of the sun depending on the route you’re on.

Climbing and Approach Shoes

Given the amount of large, numerous hand and foot holds in Riglos as well as the length the of the routes, we recommend you prioritize comfort first when choosing your climbing shoes. Aggressive, asymmetrical shoes aren’t generally necessary for the big, blocky holds in Riglos. If you’re used to climbing limestone faces, you’ll instantly realize that the footholds are much bigger and stick out much more here.

Ledges, roofs and big holds. Photo Álex Puyó

Go for a shoe with a straight, comfortable last. Stiff shoes are a good choice in Riglos as sensitivity is not as important as support. Symmetrical shoes will come in handy when going up chimney routes.

Don’t leave your approach shoes at the base. Haul them up with you while climbing. Many of the routes are walk-offs, but even for the rappel descents, you’ll want your approach shoes. Rappels in Riglos can be long and time consuming, and very few routes in Riglos can be rappelled directly. You’ll generally have to hike for a bit to reach the rappel station, and you won’t want to do that with your rock shoes on. We recommend a good pair of approach shoes for this job, which will give you the support and grip you’ll need.

Twin or Single Ropes

Traditionally half ropes were always recommended in Riglos. On the more classic itineraries, the developers established meandering routes that skirted around the “panzas” at all costs, making the use of half ropes the best option to reduce drag. The often precarious protection with pitons and natural rock tunnels also made half ropes a better choice, as the impact force during a fall is much lower than on a single rope.

A combination of wandering routes and dubious protection makes half ropes the recommended option

Finally, in case of having to bail or even for the rappels on a normal descent, using half ropes will come in handy as you can choose whether to use both or just one, depending on the length of the rappel.

Nowadays, we see fewer and fewer twin ropes with rope teams of two. Newer routes are straighter and older routes have been overbolted and even straightened at times, allowing us to mitigate some of the inherent risk and keep drag to a minimum even with a single rope. With rope lengths of up to 70-80m more popular, a single rope will also allow you to skip some anchors if you have enough quick draws.

A warning: for rappels in Riglos you’ll need at least a 70m single rope as most of the rappels are around 35m. Be sure your center point is marked and stopper knots tied in both ends to prevent any unnecessary accidents.

Helmet

In Riglos you’ll need to put your helmet on a good distance before reaching the base of the route. Falling rocks are common and can bounce off ledges on their way down and land quite a distance from the base of the wall. Abseiling down chimneys and corners can send a rock flying in along an unpredictable path. Take the utmost care in these situations. It’s common to see rope teams move far from the wall at the end of their rappel before gathering up their ropes and gear, especially if other teams are coming down behind them.

Given the possible high temperatures and long hours, a good lightweight, well-ventilated helmet is a good option for climbing in Riglos.

Harness

A comfortable harness, with wide, well-padded waist and leg loops, and enough room on the gear loops for all your hardware. You’ll find a comfortable stance at most of the belay stations, but not all of them. If you’re going to climb long, overhanging routes like on the Visera, you’ll be hanging even while you belay.

You might be hanging out for awhile. We recommend you find a comfortable harness to do os in

Many climbers when they come up against the famous “panza” bulges in Riglos for the first time, have difficulties getting past them on their first try and end up hangdogging on the rope and cursing while resting and working out the move. A comfortable harness will come in handy while going through this (sometimes inevitable) process.

Long rappels off many of the towers is another reason why a comfortable big-wall harness is a better option than an ultralight one. Some rappels such as the “Volao” off the Pison or the last rappel off the Puro, in addition to being breath-taking, can be hard on your back. Avoid thin, lightweight sport harnesses unless you’re sure that you’re not going to be hanging in it a lot during rappels, belays and working out hard moves.

Belay and Rappel Devices, Carabiners, Runners and Quickdraws

Obviously your belay and rappel devices have to match the rope system (single or double) and diameter you’re using. As mentioned before, we’d recommend half ropes for most lines on Riglos, though in some cases you can go with a long single rope if the route is straighter and the rappel distances allow it. For half ropes, the Petzl Reverso, Black Diamond ATC-Guide, Edelrid Megajul or the DMM Pivot are all great options.

The anchors you’re going to find are completely bomber, especially those installed in the 80s for rescue, using over-sized rings and expansion bolts that you’ll find on all the classic routes. With a number of lightweight locking carabiners and a few HMS biners you will have more than enough for building anchors and any possible contingency.

Don’t forget to take long slings for anchor building. Modern belay stations generally have the anchor bolts close together, but if you are on an older route that hasn’t been rebolted you may have problems setting up a proper anchor with only short runners if the bolts are far apart. And if you find yourself having to build an anchor with the hardy juniper trees that grow on walls in Riglos (for example because you can’t find the right anchor at the top of your route), having a long runner with you will come in handy.

You’ll also need long quickdraws. The presence of bulges, small roofs and wandering routes means you’ll have to manage rope drag. Be sure to take a number of extendable alpine draws to use where necessary to keep friction and drag to a minimum. You can check the guidebooks for the number of draws you’ll need for a particular route (often up to 15), and remember that if you’re going to skip anchors and combine pitches, you’ll need double that amount.

Given the abundance of bulges and run-outs on many routes in Riglos, many climbers have benefited from the use of Kong Panic. You can see these used more and more frequently on big-wall climbs, and can often save time and prevent accidents.

Trad Gear

Except in the case of a few iconic routes where the original protection has been kept or only been substituted for new pieces, there aren’t many trad routes left in Riglos. There are lots of cracks on the walls of Riglos, but the conglomerate type of rock make these highly irregular. It’s easy to place a piece of gear in Riglos, but it’s hard to place it well. Patience is a virtue when learning to place pro here.

Trad routes are clearly marked in the topos and guidebooks (Rabadá-Navarro al Firé, Norte del Puro, Serón-Millán original, vía del Silencio are some classics), although taking along a spare microcam or two can be helpful on long run-outs that can push you to your limit.

Other Important Accessories

The wall acoustics in Riglos are tricky. From the village below they can hear even the faintest of sobs, while it’s possible that your partner can’t hear a word as you scream in terror at the top of your lungs. That’s just Riglos, especially on windy days when the Cierzo picks up. We highly recommend you take along some type of device for communication, be it mobile phones, walkie-talkies, or even a simple whistle. Chances are communication will be an issue on the wall.

Speaking of high winds, be sure to take it into account for your rappels. Haphazardly tossing your ropes down the wall with a strong Cierzo blowing can lead to serious problems, such as your ropes getting caught on an out-of-reach branch. The same can happen if you lose control of the ropes at your belay stance, so take caution. Rappelling with your ropes in a bag or making saddlebags off your harness, though not a common practice, can end up saving you time and even keep you from getting stranded on a windy day.

Be wary of estimated times for climbs and rappels. Many routes and most of the descent routes can have bottlenecks of climbers and can take longer than expected if not done efficiently. Be sure to take enough food and water for how long you’ll be on the wall, and don’t forget to calculate in the descent. There are no water sources on the descent, and you won’t be able to find water until you get back to the village. A headlamp is always a good idea just in case, especially for short winter days. Having a headlamp will make the difference between getting back down safely and spending a long, uncomfortable night on a ledge mid-descent.

We hope this article has been helpful and that you’re motivated now to make a trip to Riglos. Be sure to find the nearest Barrabes store when you do so, or check out our online shop now. We’ll be happy to help you out with any gear or advice you need.

Online shop: www.barrabes.com/en-gb

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