Yesterday evening I went climbing at a venue called Coll de Ladrones north of Jaca near the French border. There has been a fort there since 1751 and before climbing I went for a bit of an explore.
The original fort was built to defend the pass from France and had a horseshoe design. It was finished in 1758 but was promptly abandoned due to poor construction. The second fortress was begun in 1888 but not finished until 1900. This new fortress had 5 gun emplacements hewn from the rock to guard the approaches from the north-east and north-west. A spectacular gallerty leads down to sixth emplacement which guards the road.
I noticed the building that housed the officers quarters is in a nice, sunny, sheltered spot while the soldiers barracks that houesd 150 infantry and 50 gunners is in a cold exposed part of the fortress.
Soon after it’s completion the fort became obselete and was decomissioned in 1961. In 1990 it was sold to a private enterprise and you can visit the fort on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the summer.
Unexpectedly around the fort I found lots of flowers – meadow and livelong saxifrages, spring gentians and elder flowered orchids. Best of all were a huge number of fritillarys – a beautiful flower that’s pretty rare in the Pyrenees and I’d only seen before in the Valle de Otal. There must have been well over a hundred in the area.
Eventually I left the flowers behind and started climbing. Really nice rock – limestone of course. There are about 24 well bolted routes ranging from 4+ to 7a. Several of the routes have three pitches right up to the base of the fort although we just stuck to some single pitch routes. Handily there is a crag map with the routes and grades marked at the base of the wall. Beautiful evening and we didn’t finish climbing until almost 10.