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Pedro Nogueira on pitch 1.
Photo by Leopoldo Faria archive
Leopoldo Faria working the crux pitch.
Photo by Leopoldo Faria archive
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Naranjo de Bulnes, Quinto Imperio, first repeat by Faria and Nogueira


On 26/27/08/2009 Leopoldo Faria and Pedro Nogueira carried out the first repeat of Quinto Imperio (550m 8b) on the Naranjo de Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Spain.

In 1996 two Portuguese climbers, Francisco Ataide and Sergio Martins, forged a new line up the west face of the Naranjo de Bulnes to the left of the famous "Levia", creating their 500m Quinto Imperio. The route lay dormant for a decade at 7b+/A0, until Eneko and Iker Pou took up the challenge and freed the line at 8b. This summer another Portugese duo, Leopoldo Faria and Pedro Nogueira, travelled to Spain's most famous peak and after working the route for two days managed the carried out its first repeat. 25 year old Lepoldo summed up the ascent as follow: " Because it's limestone, sometimes it's not easy to protect and on some pitches there are no bolts at all. If you're lucky you can easily take 20-30m falls."

Quinto Imperio, Naranjo de Bulnes by Leopoldo Faria
The main goal of our trip to the Naranjo de Bulnes was to free climb "V Império" - 550m 8b, a route which represents one of the most difficult big wall climbs in Spain. First ascended in 1996 by the Portuguese climbers Francisco Ataide and Sergio Martins, it had only received one free ascent by the Pou brothers. We wanted to change that, so on the August 22 we started the three and half hour walk to the Refugio at the base of the wall.

It was our first time at Naranjo and it's one of the most impressive limestone walls I've ever seen, orange and grey streaks on a solid rock that offers a super technical climbing protection that is not so easy to place. Because we only had one week and the weather was very unstable we decided to go directly to the route. It was our first time on this wall and we didn’t really know what kind of conditions to expect, so we decided to take food and water for a two day push.

On our first day we managed to free climb the first 6 pitches, half the route), these were not very hard and almost all offered good moments of excitement with lots of air and exposure, some times with very poor pro. Pedro fell 20m on pitch 2, past me and the belay... unforgettable, for all the reasons you can imagine!

On the second day the weather conditions were not very good, with lots of clouds and wind. We couldn’t even see the Refugio at the base of the wall but we decided to have a try at the crux 7th pitch to at least see if we stood a chance. I climbed quickly past the first section, a easy crack with good cam protection, and suddenly the holds disappeared, I'd reached the bouldery section Francisco Ataide had told me about. I worked that crux section for at least 30 minutes until a discovered a sequence, 15 moves on micro crimps, very technical and balancy climbing that makes your finger tips scream. After solving all these bouldery moves and reaching the exposed upper section we get excited and completely forgot about worsening weather and the 300 meters of rappelling that separated us from the base camp. After a few more attempts we were really close to freeing that 7th pitch but then a thunderstorm came in and the weather start to worry us, it was time to go down! An ice and rain storm hit us on the first rappel and we enjoyed the water that fell on us from the big slab above. The abseiling turned into a serious submarine experience.
After a rest day and with a two day good weather window, we decided for one more attempt. When we get to the 7th pitch the wall had caught the sun and it proved impossible to climb. We waited for the shade to return, a few minutes before dark, but this was long enough for one more try that turned to be the good one! After that we preferred to celebrate on a small ledge under that pitch and experience the easier and more exposed pitches for the next day. The following morning we fuly enjoyed the impressive and beautiful view that this majestic peace of rock has to offer!"





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