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Costa Blanca 2018 my travels

Costa Blanca Day 4 – Espolon Central

Since our trip is coming to an end, and we are flying back tomorrow today was the last day we could attempt a full day adventure.

After the washout yesterday we were thinking all previous night which one to choose.

To add to these problems (of the good kind) with selecting a route, a bad problem returned – Gerard ankle wasn’t in good condition and he opted to sit the day out and perhaps return in glory tomoreow.

We finally decided to do a local mega classic – Espolon Central route on Puig Campana. One of the best known rock features of the Costa Blanca, our route took us 13 pitches via long slender ridge of the massive overlooking the village of Finestrat.

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Our today’s objective, with the route marked in red.

 

The route is graded HS 4c (although some give it 5+, depending on the choices you make on some pitches), and while technically it is not hard, the difficulty comes from its size (430m of climbing), exposure and the tricky descent. More on that below.

The three of us left the car at the side of the access road and set of around 8.50am. The approach is a scrappy and steep walk up via set of terraces. It’s really easy to loose the path, but it’s not hard to get to the base of the route itself as it’s just massive and clearly seen from any point of the approach.

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Walking in tshirts.

Once we got to the base, as it seems to be a tradition by now, I quickly racked up and claimed the first, very easy this time pitch.

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Me leading P1. Picture: courtesy of our resident free-soloist Peter “Honnold”.

At that point Peter, who actually climbed this route twice before (he has been in the area multiple times) decided he wanted to free solo some of the pitches (he ended up going rope-less for 10 out of 13 sections).

At this point I should mention that on long routes like that sometimes the nature calls, and there is nothing else one can do than just do it.

Peter and I were crammed on a small ledge, with Seamus following, so I just pulled my pants down and did what had to be done.

Someone once said that in moments like that you have two types of friends – the ones that will turn their head and give you a moment of privacy, and those that will pull their camera out and take a photo. I’ll let you guess which type Peter is.

Anyway, we more less followed the route swapping leades with Seamus and having Peter occasionally join us (although when he did rope up he barely put gear in anyway). I won’t go into pitch by pitch description, you just need to know that there is no drama, but route finding can be tricky at times (as it usually is on long outings).

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Peter soloing one of the lower pitches. I marked him in Red Circle, as he seems to be wearing his camouflage outfit today (going full stealth!)

For gear, we only had 3 small cams and handful of wires, but as I said, route was fairly easy, and we tried to go as fast as we could anyway (which meant running it out often). Forecast had rain after 3pm and it wasn’t uncommon for people to get stranded on the mountain overnight.

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Seamus on a lead. Still in a tshirt, I think this was pitch 5 or 6.

Pitch 8 marked lunch, and also was a place that marked point of no return. Abseiling from above it would be very hard.

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Peter on P7 (leading to the lunch ledge). It was one of the few ones for which he roped up. Not sure why, as the 1 piece of gear he put on it wouldn’t do him any good anyway ;).

We were on schedule and moved on for the last 5 pitches, knowing that after we reach the end of the route there is a lengthy and exposed walk off waiting for us.

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Totally not posed photo of me clipping rope. Leading out of Pitch 8.

The upper pitches went surprisingly fast, especially that it got quite cold. We actually all put  all of our layers of clothing on, as the cold cloud covered the mountain. Quite a change from tshirt ground level.

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Peter leading 50m P11.
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Victory top photo. Peter showing how many hours it will take to get down now.

The descent is a quite long and sketchy traverse towards a scree gully. It has some fixed wires and many down climbs in M to Vdif variety.

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Start of the walk off, with fantastic views of surrounding areas in the background.

One dodgy step can have serious consequences, so since we weren’t strapped for time (the big cloud that arrived didn’t produce rain), we took our time.

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Climbing down. Quite few of these donwclimbs are very exposed.

We were by the car around 4.20pm. So car to car in 8 hours for a party of 3 of middle aged man is quiet decent.

I honestly have to say that this is one of the best multipitch routes I’ve done and if not for terrible descent, it be a great for all climbing enthusiasts, but because of that I would only recommend it to the adventure seekers.

Tomorrow we are flying back home, but we will definitely visit one more crag (Most likely a neighboring Sella) for some pre-flight single pitch fun.

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Costa Blanca 2018 my travels Uncategorized

Costa Blanca day 3 – Single pitch adventures at Guadalest

Today’s blog will be written by another guest climber, this time Gerard, who definetly was the top performer in todays adventure.

Me looking at a bolt.

And over to me……. I’d had an enforced rest day on Saturday as I’d twisted my ankle on Friday night, so – while the others battled seagulls and polished limestone on the Penon d’Ifach – had been left at our hostel in Finestrat, clasping a packet of frozen vegetables(an improvised icepack) to my foot. That left me hungry to get back on rock but unsure about how much I could afford to challenge my ankle. Luckily the group vote was for a venue with a short walk-in: the crags clustered around  (and under) the hilltop town of Guadalest.

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The citadel of Guadalest – the walls on left and right have bolted routes

Guadalest is well worth a visit – even for the non-climbers amongst you. It was once a Moorish citadel (the “al-” in the name betrays its Islamic origins) and some of the fortifications still remain. We started the day in the Penya l’Alcala area (the rock wall to the right of the above photo) which contains a range of routes up to 70m in length. Unfortunately the day started in cloud and the drizzle came on as we finished our warm up pitches. We held out for longer than the Spanish climbers but by 11am abandoned the crag to the inquisitive robin and legged it 100m downhill to the local refugio for hot drinks and buns.

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A friendly visitor – we left before lunch so he didn’t even get the crumbs

The drizzle eventually cleared and we moved on – this time to a smaller crag, Penya Maura, across the road for the refuge. It diverted us for the rest of the day with solid sharp rock and a number of interesting lines. Today didn’t have the sunshine and blue skies we had enjoyed Thursday and Friday but at least the cool air resulted in better friction. We were lucky – our frends in Sella (10 km away) got only one route in before the rain hit there while in Guadelest the rain was never more than weak and intermittent. My ankle held out and my enforced rest meant I was ready for it – my highlights being the the overhanging jugfest that was Jana (luckily I’d been tackling overhangs at the wall all winter) and the varied delights of Garrofer (bridging chimneys followed by a delicate precise finish, both 2 star 6a+ routes. Sadly tomorrow is our last full day here — what will it bring?

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1st 6a+ of the day – the flake of Margallo

 

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climbing Costa Blanca 2018

Costa Blanca – Day2 – Peñón de Ifach

Today’s blog will be written by a guest writer – our own Seamus, who will typing in words about our today’s adventure  climbing the south side of Peñón de Ifach.

It is a massive limestone outcrop emerging from the sea and linked to the shore by rock debris – one of the most iconic features of the coast.

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Our today’s goal. Picture credit – Wikipedia. (as it’s very difficult to actually take a good photo of the thing from far away)

I’ll update the blog once the words are in.

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Writer at work

Below is Seamus’ recollection of today’s events. All is 100% his words (I added pictures  and the comments):

Day two of our climbing trip and the plan was for the Peñón de Ifach in Calpe. The route selected was Via Valencianos 5c.

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Our version of the route had some variations that made it around 6a A0.

Eight pitches of fairly polished fun. Our group was made up of Micheal, Peter an myself. Gerard was missing due to injury.

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On the way. The walking is short from the marina car park. It’s best to leave the car there.

 

On the walk in we passed 4 locals who were heading to the same climb. So we had an audience for the start and felt a little under pressure to get moving. Micheal lead first pitch.
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Mic running out P1. Definitely not grade 3.
The second offered a variation. The choice was between a 3+ and a 6a. Peter set off up the 6a which turned out to be extremely polished and we all ended up pulling on a piece of tat to get through the crux.
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Peter at the Crux of P2.
The next pitch fell to me and as l watched the guys ahead of us struggle up using an etrier I began to think this 5c pitch might not be for me. The lads were very encouraging, which made me think they weren’t keen either. I set off up the well polished corner and decided bridging was the way to go and meant ditching my rucksack. I connected it to a nut and left it for Michael and Peter. What followed wasn’t pretty. Grunting and swearing I made it, though had to pull on some more tat.
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Seamus powering through P3. Notice geo-cached backpack in the corner. Apparently aiding was left to minimum.
The rest of the pitches went ok.
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Mic at start of P4. 30 meters of no gear (just odd threaded tat). Trad is rad!
There were some issues with very sore feet, angry gulls, hard boiled eggs and running two pitches into one.
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Fantastic views of the Mediterranean see and the adjacent wall (that also runs some fantastic climbing lines)
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Mic at the start of P6 (top of the ridge). Easy enough, but very scrappy. Hard work in the making…
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As Mic was fixing gear on P6, the boys enjoyed some hard boiled eggs. Couldn’t ask for better setting!
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Getting ready to do the final 2 pitches (run together behind Peter’s lead for most of it, right to the top).
Nevertheless we made it to the top and joined the tourists, more seagulls and hungry cats for lunch.
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Peter enjoying view from the top (and definitely not peeing).

Satisfied we headed for a beer, a full debrief and a discussion on the best way to remove seagull crap from your clothes.

 

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Costa Blanca 2018 my travels

Costa Blanca (days 0 and 1)

This trip is kind of a last minute decision. Peter pitched that idea some time ago but I wasn’t really keen on clipping bolts in February Spanish sun. After all this is middle of ice season!

Unfortunately, my standard ice buddies aren’t really keen on doing anything this year (Scotland doesn’t count!) so after consulting my wrist injury with a specialist (I got diagnosed with TFCC) I decided that some change is good and joined Peter, Seamus and Gerard on their exploration of the fantastic climbs of Costa Blanca.

We arrived to Alicante late last night and made our way to Orange House (a very well known climbing oriented hostel) in Finestrat.

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Orange House.

We only have until Tuesday (evening flight) so the plan is to make most of our time here.

For today the plan was to get up early, pick up some supplies and go to Sierra de Toix. Around 30min drive. Not bad.

Area has abundance of both single (all grades) and multipitch routes (including sea cliffs).

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View from Orange House towards one of the climbing areas

The morning was spent getting to know (or refreshing for the rest of the boys, as they have been here before) the rock.

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One of the single pitch areas of Sierra de Toix

After few leads each (including amazing Energico, 6a+).

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Peter clipping 1st bolt at Energico, 6a+

 

The main course of the day was what is described as one of the top 50 routes overall for and a mini expedition on its own: “Rowland’s Magical Mystery Tour”, 160m, HVS 5a.

The guide book grades it as trad HVS and suggests bringing some trad gear, but to us, seasoned trad climbers, it looked like a decently bolted sport multipitch route (also, we didn’t bring any trad gear that day anyway).

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On the way to Mystery Tour. It’s on one of the see cliffs seen to the right.

The route starts at the edge of the cliff with free hanging 50m abseil. We were lucky that an abseil rope was already in place as it saved time getting down.

 

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Seamus on the way down. The Abseil is much more long and exposed than it looks.

You go slide down the rope next to some next level dodgy fisherman ladders. Definitely not something I would ever want to use.

Once at the bottom you traverse 3pitches. The first two are easily done solo (at about vdiff), third is very exposed 4+.

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Easy traverse at first.

Peter and I went first with me leading the final traverse pitch. Gerard and Seamus were just behind us.

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Peter checking out the ‘doubious’ holds of the hard part of the traverse (that I just lead).

Peter grabbed next pitch – well spaced out bolts added to the exposure. The rock was pristine though. All holds are rounded by being exposed to the elements, but with enough grip to let the climbers go. And you just have to go. I guess that’s what this sport is about 😉

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Peter on P4, with Gerard leading the previous pitch.

I grabbed the final, Crux pitch which was also very pleasant. It had everything one might want in a pitch – exposure, good face climbing and a perfect crack leading to the top out.

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Me setting of on the 5th pitch lead.

The route took maybe 2.5h-3h total (including the walking), and because it’s a bit remote there was very little people around (while the crags close to car park were overrun by mostly British and German climbers).

It was still early enough. We decided to walk back towards the car, and perhaps find a pitch or two to finish off the day.

Overall first day was a great success. We had a fantastic t-shirt climbing weather and everyone had a blast.

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We still haven’t decided what the plan for tomorrow (but it looks like we will the local mega classic of Peñón de Ifach.