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Naranjo de Bulnes
Rock and Ice

Naranjo de Bulnes

Posted 01 May 2015   |   1953 views   |   Sport   |   Comments (0) Naranjo de Bulnes is the most famous mountain in Spain, and Orbayu, its burliest route, is one of the hardest free walls in the world.

The Picos de Europa in Northern Spain are a striking collection of three limestone massifs carved by glaciers into sheer walls up to 1,700 feet tall, with summits at altitudes above 8,000 feet. It’s said that “the Picos,” which lie just 12 miles from the sea, were the first glimpse of Europe for sailors returning from the New World. These days the Picos are a refuge for wildlife, including a large population of Cantabrian brown bears (8,000 sightings in 2006), wolves and climbers.

The most famous formation is Naranjo de Bulnes, a 1,600-foot plug of limestone that people have been scaling since 1904, when Pedro Pidal and Bernaldo de Quiros, the marquis of Villaviciosa de Asturias, guided by the shepherd Gregorio Perez, climbed the north face to establish the Via Pidal, a 1,500-foot moderate. The very steep west face didn’t get climbed until 1962.

The west face has a distinctive orange patina that gives Naranjo (Spanish for orange) its name. It’s also the site of one of the world’s most famous routes, Orbayu, freed in 2009 by the Basque brothers Iker and Eneko Pou. With five of its 13 pitches graded 5.13b or harder—the brothers rated the fifth pitch 5.14c/d—and 30-foot runouts above wooden pitons, copperheads, TCUs and nuts, Orbayu was touted as possibly the hardest free wall in the world.

In 2011, Nico Favresse (Belgium) and Adam Pustelnik (Poland) teamed up to attempt the line. Favresse, a seasoned wall climber with first ascents in Yosemite, Patagonia and Greenland, found the climbing to be manageable and he redpointed Orbayu in just three days, linking the fifth and sixth pitches into one 60-meter monster that eliminated a hanging belay. Pustelnik sent the route the next day, and the two agreed that the overall grade was probably more like 5.14a/b.

This past summer the Swiss climbers Cedric Lachat and Nina Caprez started working on the iconic line. After battling typically cold and foggy conditions, Lachat succeeded on a single-push redpoint of the route in July, after three weeks of effort. Caprez managed to free every pitch, but she hasn’t yet done the line in a push.

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Rock and Ice is the world's premier climbing magazine, with stunning photography and award winning writing and design. Built by climbers, Rock and Ice features every aspect of climbing, from mountaineering to rock climbing, to bouldering, big walls, sport, ice and indoors.

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