Inform and Inspire

Welcome to Upstate Bouldering, designed around bouldering in the Upstate region of South Carolina. This website is intended to inform the reader of local spots in SC, Western NC and Northeast GA, as well as a blog of my experiences climbing at these great spots. I hope everyone learns of a new place to climb or is inspired to climb somewhere close to them. If you have any comments, please send me an e-mail.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Serra de Estrela and the Main Sessions







Just got back from the trip up into the Serra da Estrela and Pedra do Urso...what a blast! We had a total of 4 different boulder sessions, over the last 2 days, in 3 different spots in the Serra da Estrela mountain range. I was amazed at how much rock there was to climb and be climbed...you could climb every day of the rest of your life and never touch the same route. After travelling into the mountains, I realized that I had only seen the tip of the iceberg the day before. We took about a 35 mile drive and at no time did we go more than 100m without seeing either a boulder or cliff that could be climbed. We even found an area that hosted what looked like a minimum of 8-10 pitches of multi-pitch trad climbing, with probably near 100 different routes encircling the giant spire.

The first of the boulder sessions was in the "Deserto" area, which is an undeveloped area across the road from Perda do Urso. We climbed some pretty easy stuff in the Desert and saw some amazing wildflowers and an incredible sunset. This is where I sprained my ankle, forcing me to climb on easier stuff for the whole trip. I think the hardest climb I ticked the whole trip was in the 5c-6a or V3-V4 range. Then yesterday we had a big session in the main bouldering area listed in the guidebook, Pedra do Urso. This area has seen the most development and had some really great routes to climb...one of my favorites being "Bonsai" a 5a layback crack that had a small tree growing out of it. Other great routes included "Rapapele" a short 6a arete, "Iceberg" a 4b arete to slabby highball topout, and "Liquen Man" a 4c flake/crack to another slabby highball topout. As mentioned in the previous blog, this area reminded me a lot of Boat Rock, with almost every route having some rough slabs and quiet a few sharp cracks to climb. Someone had created a blue circuit at Pedra do Urso, marking them with small blue arrows at the start of each route, similar to the circuits found at Fontainebleau. The blue circuit seemed like it would be easy, at around 25 problems from V1-V3, but some of these climbs felt much harder than they were graded, and combined with the heat, I only completed about half of the circuit. Later in the day, we travelled to the top of Portugal, to a village called Torres, about 2000m up. There was still snow on the ground and the wind was strong on the exposed hilltops, but the view out over the landscape was breathtaking. On the way back from Torres, we stopped at a site called "Our Lady of the Holy Star ". It was a holy site with an image of the Lady and some other figures carved directly into one of the rock faces. This area's rocks were formed differently and looked like huge stone marshmallows stacked on top of each other to make pillars. We hiked a little bit away from the holy area, out onto a grassy high mountain plateau, to climb and get some pictures. This was one of the most picturesque and memorable places to climb...it seemed like an ancient site rediscovered by Indiana Jones on one of his adventures. I personally thought that this was the best rock of the trip, and even though it was only a 15-20 minute drive up the mountain, wasn’t even mentioned in the guidebook. The rock was still rough, with pebbly inclusions, but was black instead of the usual gray granite color. When you looked at the landscape as a whole, it looked like black rock giants, lined up, guarding the entrance to the higher mountains. After we finished here, we drove back down the mountain to hit the other sectors of Pedra do Urso that we didnt get a chance to see earlier in the day. Even though these were regarded as some of the best bouldering areas in the guidebook, they were almost a let down compared to the black giants of the "Holy Star" area. We ticked off several more easy routes from the guidebook and then explored and climbed in a new sector that wasn’t listed. As the sun was going down, we dragged our tired bodies out of the boulderfield, hiked back to the car and enjoyed a nice bottle of local wine on the balcony of our hotel room. Even without climbing super hard, this was one of the best days of bouldering in my life!

The room was truly 5 star and cheaper than a Days Inn, and the wine was better at 1.75 euros (about $2.50) a bottle than the most expensive wine back home. If you are ever looking for an incredibly beautiful and inexpensive area to travel to in the world...I would highly recommend a trip to Serra da Estrela, Pedra do Urso, and the Holy Star.

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