Rabada and Navarro

rabada-navarroAlberto Rabadá and Ernesto Navarro are two of Aragon’s best known and finest climbers, climbing many bold new routes before coming to a tragic end on the north face of the Eiger in 1963.

Alberto have already gained a reputation as an excellent climber with the first Spanish ascent of the north face of Torre de Marbore in the Cirque de Gavarnie and opening up lots of new routes on the amazing cliffs of Riglos in the mid to late fifties. However it is was when he roped up with Ernesto for the first time in 1959 for the new route Via de la Diedros again on the cliffs of Riglos that this legendary climbing team was formed.

Over the next few years they opened up a huge number of routes – one of the most famous being the first ascent of the west face of Naranja de Bulnes (highest summit in the Picos de Europa) in 1962. It was in the Aragonese Pyrenees that most of their climbing was done and they made several of the first ascents on the steep and frankly terriffying cliffs the Ordesa Canyon.

Alberto Rabadá and Ernesto Navarro

Alberto Rabadá and Ernesto Navarro

In 1963 they journeyed to Grindelwald to attampt the first ascent by a Spanish team of the north face of the Eiger. On the 3rd August they climbed 1000 metres up the face attempting a new direct route but were forced back by a change in the weather and retreated back through the famous Eiger tunnel.

On the 8th August they made a second attempt and again were forced to retreat to the tunnel by bad weather.

On the 11th they made a third attempt starting early in the morning they climbed quickly to the second ice field where they were caught in a huge storm and had no option to bivi there for the whole of the following day as the storm raged on. Progress on the 13th was slow as they were exhausted by a day and night on the face in the storm. There luck didn’t improve with the weather and during the 14th they were forced to put up with rain and freezing temperatures but still made progress as far as the legendary ‘white spider’.

On the 15th a rescue party was prepared as temperatures on the face had plummeted to -20 C however poor visibility prevented the rescue.

As the clouds cleared on the 16th their friend Luis Alcalde following their attempt through a telescope in Grindelwald located Ernesto and Alberto but tragically only their corpses frozen in a snow hole on the white spider. There bodies remained frozen into the face of the mountain until December when they were recovered during the first descent of the face. They were aged just 29 and 30.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of their deaths and the walking club in Sabiñanigo is holding a talk to celebrate the lives of Rabadá and Navarro this Friday. Ursi Abajo is giving the talk and it should be really interesting. Ursi is a great climber himself and is famous in the Valle de Tena for the first winter traverse of the ridge of the Sierra de Partacua and a spectacular 700 metres vertical ice route in the Rincon del Verde near Panticosa. Ursi used to run Refugio Respomuso (he’s now retired and his two sons David and Javier run the refugio) and he’s got a great collection of photos of Rabadá and Navarro decorating the walls of the dining room in the refuge.

Looking forward to the talk and learning more about this legendary climbing partnership.

Mallos de Riglos were Rabada and Navarro first climbed together

Mallos de Riglos were Rabada and Navarro first climbed together


3 thoughts on “Rabada and Navarro”

  1. Thanks again for a great report Phil, it’s always remarkable to see the old photos of pioneering climbers and wonder what they would be capable of today with the wealth of technical clothing and equipment available. Enjoy the talk and continued success, Ian Brooks.

  2. Hi,
    Glad you liked the post. The talk was great with some fantastic climbing films from the early 60′s. What impressed me most was not the difficulty of the climbs but the gear they were climbing with (and how far above their ‘protection’ they climbed!)

    Ursi said that he worked at a car plant in Zaragoza and he fashioned his own pitons from scrap metal that was discarded on the production line. There was a great film of Ursi’s first direct ascent of El Pison in Riglos – the big overhanging wall in the centre of the photo. This ascent took 5 days and the weight of the pitons that they climbed with was over 20kg – then add ropes, food, etc…

    The footage of climbers doing a classic abseil – just wrapping the ropes around their shoulders and then just runing down these huge cliffs was incredible.


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