TOPO Via ferrata

Torrent de Vallmala, Montserrat

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First outing of 2011 to discover this long canal north of Montserrat, under the Aeri cable car that leads to the monastery. The torrent has several names: torrent de Santa Maria or torrent de Vallmala, but is also called Ruta Fuensanta by Juan Miguel Guzmán, one of the directors of this route, in honor of his mother, a certain Fuensanta. A dry canyon typical of the area, very wild, little practised and equipped for the most part but not totally, which gives it its charm and difficulty. The ascent, which is more interesting than the descent (?), is long, varied and difficult, with ferrata-type passages and other boulders to climb. Equipment, when available, is often minimal but acceptable: a cable and chains or small rungs in places, not always in very good condition. Vegetation is abundant and the trail is often lost in brambles. Its northerly exposure and steepness make the rock very wet and slippery in places. A channel to be avoided in wet weather, of course. In conclusion, an original but demanding route.

Technical summary

Location ✦ Olesa de Montserrat
Region ✦ Montserrat, Catalunya
Country ✦ Spain
Type ✦ Via ferrata
Vertical rise ✦ 400m
Difficulty ✦ K3
Duration ✦ 3h to 3h30

Access to the place

From Barcelona, take the A2 towards Leida, exit at Abrera and take the C55 towards Manresa. Pass by Olesa de Montserrat and continue through the Llobregat Gorge. Further along this road is the parking lot for the Aeri cable car up to the monastery. Park along the road.

Map & topo

Itinerary description

Hiking to the start 2'

From the parking lot, simply cross the C55 and walk along the small road leading up to Collbato towards the mountain. At the first bend to the left (50m), step over the guardrail to find a small path through the vegetation and a small cairn pointing the way (and perhaps the last ...). Only the part below the funicular is authorized.

Course 2h à 2h30

The ferrata (or equipped canal) faces north. The difficulty lies largely in the commitment and equipment, which remains minimal. Bring gloves, a 60m safety rope and possibly a machete to open the path through the brambles.

1st part (30′)

The trail that starts is poorly marked and passes through grass and dirt. Keep to the right of the torrent, and a little further on, climb to the right to reach a large boulder in the shape of a cave (10′). This time, turn left to descend into the torrent bed and climb back up, crossing boulders across the path. Further up, we find a first passage equipped with chains and a rung (10′). Continue along the torrent, crossing a more athletic equipped passage to reach the foot of a large, almost vertical stone gully called el muro de Mercedes.
Part 2 (20′)

This is the crossing of this length, which is equipped only with a simple cable (except for a few tiny iron U's at the start). I saw a photo on another site that seems to indicate the presence of a series of ferrata-type rungs on this section, but in any case, as of January 1, 2011, it no longer exists. As the rock is almost smooth, the ascent is difficult and requires climbing in opposition, especially on the final ridge. After this first section, there's a 2nd step to overcome, with 2 or 3 tricky and fairly physical steps (cable + rock). Gloves would have been welcome, as you end up with sore fingers...
Part 3 (55′)

Continue up the torrent bed, which widens and in places forms wide steps and cascades of damp, moss-covered stone. No major difficulty, the route is marked by safety cables and takes us to the right, center or left of the torrent. Some very slippery passages. Then it narrows again, and we come across huge boulders that we have to work around. And, after about 45′ of ascent and after a vertical passage between 2 large boulders, we see a cairn on the right which we must follow. The path goes deeper into brambles and woods. As best we can, we continue up the canal to reach a cul de sac facing an impassable wall. Overhead, we can see the monastery buildings. At this point, we have to fork right to take the narrow canal that winds left towards the summit.
Part 4 (40′)

The ascent of the canal. Little equipment at the start and lots of vegetation. To get there, either climb the boulders or crawl under them to find underground passages (less risky). The climb back up is quite epic, passing over large tree trunks, climbing small crumbly walls, and higher up a mini chimney to be passed without a rucksack. Higher up, we find some equipment, chains and rungs, rusty but solid. The end of the canal ends with a very vertical ferrata-type pitch before reaching the cami del rosari, the final point of the barranc.

Back

Take this cami to the right to climb up to the monastery. Before reaching the monastery, after passing the funicular station for Santa Cova, turn right onto the GR96 towards Monistrol and GR5. The path skirts the massif and takes us northwards. At the 2nd fork below, turn right again onto the GR5. The path descends steeply to the water station house, where the path is much wider. Continue and after a sharp left-hand bend, pick up the cami de les aigües path which winds down to the C55, 500m from the start parking lot.

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