Impressions of Sinat.


  Excerpts from "The Key to Sunset"
written by Stevie Haston and published in the March issue of CLIMB.


At the end of November you would think that the options for
climbing would involve shuffling around in the cold on a one-pitch
cliff. Well think again. Le Quié faces dead south and is just in
France but somehow it seems to be much warmer than northern
Spain. Admittedly you do have to wake up early and you do have to
walk for an hour. You park the car by the river with the frosty grass
sparkling in the headlights and trudge up the hill in the dark, wishing
for the warmth of the sun. It's a very steep path so you are
soon sweating and later on you are cheered by the sight, not just of
the sun, but of the thousand-foot cliffs of steep, very stimulating
stone. If, like me, you had only been climbing short, one rope-
length climbs for a while, you might be in for a shock. On the first
visit we walked up in the snow in trainers, lured on by crazy cliffs
and the pretty views towards Andorra. If you have climbed in the
Verdon you will have some idea of the kind of steep, huge cliff at
which we were staring. Except that it is better, because you are there
in November, there are no car thieves and nobody climbing
and the view is of the misty, snowy mountains in the early light.

There is something special about cliffs that haven't been fully
climbed out, where there is room to explore and perhaps leave your mark
by way of a good route. Still, this cliff has epic written all over it, the
choice is yours.
Some of the big routes have had a handful of ascents at most, dwindling
down to no repeats for half, leaving the routes fresh and
undamaged. There is an obvious difference between the Verdon and
Le Quié in that you approach the routes in the Verdon (mostly)
from the top. Personally. I never liked that, it always gave me the willies
Abbing first thing in the morning wishing you were more together
and having had another strong cup of coffee always seemed
like asking for trouble. The Le Quié is more logical - walk up slowly
and wake up, climb and then descend by abseiling. Or an hours
walk down. Having said that, some of the ab descents are
very hairy and it would not do to be tired, or careless. And a few of
the routes are so overhanging that it is very problematic to get
down without down aiding - but even roses have thorns. Don't be
put off, as one route on the Le Quié might live with you as a special
memory forever.

With a climbing level of EI/HVS you can do a couple of routes at
Le Quié. Pepermint is just under 1000ft long and has climbing up
to F6a but you need to be good at placing your own gear. As a
bonus you could walk off this one if you want. L'Intergrale d'Anais
on the other hand at around 400m and with some upward walking,
is a very big route. It makes for a very special day. It links three
cliffs together and is a very logical way up the mountain. All on
bolts with good stances, it's possible to bail out anytime or take the
option of escaping at the two little terraces, well-equipped and
stress free really. The climbing could go like this: F5+, F5b, F4c,
walk, F5b+, F6a, F5b+, walk, F5c, F6a, F5b, F5b, F6b+ (or F6a with
a bit of aid), F5+, that's 12 really good pitches on a very impressive
lump of rock at reasonable grades, definitely a bargain.

So is the Quid a cliff for all climbers? Well, nearly. It's like some
of those big mountain cliffs in Switzerland or Austria like Ratikon
but with some easy routes too. The rock is nearly always good
except where some of the aid routes go and there is a lot of climb-
ing on slabs, it's not just vertical or overhanging walls. If there is a
down side it's that occasionally you can hear the cars whizzing up
the road to Andorra. You hear it when you are doing nothing on
belays, but I am normally too gripped or engrossed in birdwatching
to notice. Andorra is only an hour away and has good snow. Last
year the Pyrenees opened before the ski resorts in the Alps, plus
there is duty free drink, tobacco, food and petrol. Andorra is also
the gateway to Spain and other cliffs and other journeys, but if it's
your first time to Le Quié and Ariège cliffs, don't bother with
Spain, just climb locally, it's brilliant.