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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 ūüėČ

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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¬†Pe√Ī√≥n de Ifach.

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Sicily 2016

Bonus Days in Sicily – long report!!

On Monica’s and Michal’s last full day in Sicily Rob and I set out very late for climbing.

At around 12.30pm we reached our chosen sector near¬†the camp site El Bahira, called Torre Isulidda. That was also very convenient for my friend Grainne, who stayed on this campsite with her family. After Rob and I did a 6a warm up called “Red Bull”, Grainne joined us for two climbs (6a+ Destra Di Toro & 6b+ Grazie Michele). All excellent routes!
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After that,¬†Grainne left us to go for an ice cream with the kids (I can’t blame her..) and we continued climbing. We just walked around the corner into a cave. There was a 6c climb I wanted to tackle (Tower Route Direct?). Half way up I had to give in and Rob made it to the top instead.

After that we climbed a pleasant 6a (Tower Route). The trick on this one was that it had a long traverse route (about 6 m) which was a bit risky to unclip.. Rob did so with bravour!

Since we had a late start in the day we ended up coming back late, too. And therefore missed having our farewell dinner with Monica & Michal. But we also enjoyed the last night of the climbing festival in town.

Luckily, we didn’t have to go to the airport on Sunday. So we decided to go and visit Favignana Island – one of the highlights of the entire trip. Its a one hour drive to Trapani and then you take the fast ferry, which bring you over to the Island full speed in as little as 30 minutes.
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We decided to stay in Favignana for one night and booked an Airbnb. We got an upgraded accommodation, totally different to the one advertised. And ended up having our own big private pool. We didn’t spend much time there, but at least¬†both managed to jump into the pool once.

We hired a moped and had lots of fun discovering Favignana that way. Great caves, bays and amazing sun set! Bue Marino and Casa Rossa was absolutely fascinating!

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Next morning we visited some deserted building up a 350m high hill just outside the village… It took us many many steps to get there in the heat. But every bit was worth it!

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Even though we changed our tickets for a later ferry, we nearly missed that one, too. If you ever plan to go to Favignana, plan at least three days to get to really enjoy what the island has to offer.

On Monday afternoon we were back in San Vito del Capo. We stayed in a different Airbnb then before. Close to town and the beach, bikes to our disposal. So off to the beach we went to cool down from all the heat.

On Tuesday, for what we thought would be our last day of climbing, we went to Section Scomparto Rifiuti. Also close to the campsite of El Bahira. We climbed two routes (Rumanian Girls 6a, Grey Wall 6a). After that Rob convinced me to take a rest after that (I was reluctant as we had only warmed up!). But when we went down for a swim on the bay just below the climb, I had to admit that it was a brilliant idea after all. The heat was still on and it was hard to climb in those conditions.

After the refreshing dip and some lunch we came back to the routes. I decided that we had to put some more effort in our climbs and really wanted to get at least one proper 6c in (after dismissing all visions of climbing a 7a on this trip).

We did another two routes first¬†(Lisa 6a, Kurt 6b+) before we tackled the so called “Best 6c Route in San Vito del Capo: La Bella Vita. It has two pitches: 15m (5A) and then 30m (6c). You could just sramble up the first pitch and climb from there. There were a lot of lose rocks on the first pitch, be aware!

That 6c was an absolute amazing experience. Every move had some challenges, but if you get it right, there is always a hold waiting for you. Some undercuts, overhangs, jugs, crimpy parts. All you can ask for.

However, we were running out of time. Rob lead this and with fading day light we decided it would be best for me to top rope it. I was a bit disappointed, but didn’t want to be the one leaving gear behind in case I wouldn’t make it…

The top rope went really well. So Rob suggested to come back next morning so I would get a chance to properly lead it…

So that’s¬†what we did then. Up at 6am, at the crack for 7am. One “warm up climb” (Kurt 6b+) and straight into this amazing 6c route.

I can only say that “La Bella Vita” has absolutely¬†earned the title for best 6c in that area!
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And thanks Rob for getting up that early to give me a second chance! The perfect finish of this holidays!

We even made it in time to the airport for our 11.15am flight with Rob racing like a mad Italian gun shooter!

Sicily – great destination, super climbing and amazing places to visit. Definitely recommended. Only complaint was the heat (not a bad complaint, I know ūüėČ

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Sicily 2016

More heat. Day 6.

It’s almost impossible yo climb these last few days. Today was no different with temperatures around 30C.

We left quite early (for our standards) to beat the traffic (San vito climbing festival started yesterday) and sun but none of that worked. 

We returned to the crag we’ve been to on day 2, just moved further right to Fakirella beach base camp. It was already pretty busy and while the sun was behind some clouds the hot wind made it feel real hot.

We ran there  into Monika’s high school friend she hasn’t seen in 18 years. Quite extraordinary meeting. She is here with her friends and family on 2.5 weeks holiday. We climb side by side for few hours, but the heat was unbearable and wrle just folded at 2pm. 

I onsighted 5 routes:

  • Beautiful hamster 5a 13m (At zoo sector)
  • No drill no party 5b 21m – funnily positioned corner line
  • Mannara 6a 21m
  • Scorpione in letargo 6a 21m
  • Calze nere 6a+ 21m

    In the mean time Sonja and Rob were trying some routes nearby (in slightly higher grades), but given up around the same time as us for the very same reasons. Just toooooo hot.

    Above Sonja on Dolores 6b.
     In other news: Rob converted (partially) Sonja to figure of 8 knot. The discussions between them went for very long but for now I think it’s back to the basics.

    Last two nights we been checking out different climbing festival related events around the village, such as highlineing above main street and outdoor movies screenings.

    The trip is comming to an end shortly.  Not as much climbing happened  as I originally thought (its just too hot), but its been a blast nonetheless!

    Tomorrow we want to do a shorter day out then pack and get ready for going home on  Sunday morning.

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    Sicily 2016

    Bunker vol2 – fighting the heat. Day 4.

    It was an easy call to return to the bunker sector today. Endless climbing in great setting. The bigger problem though was the heat. It was super hot today.  Much hotter than the previous days.

    We started at SW facing part of yhe sector, left from Sonja and Rob where climbing yesterday.

    I’ve onsighted warmup (with Monima TR after me).

    • Colazione piu 5b 26m. Exceptional  route with unbelievable holds. It’s overhaning for most part but the great holds makes it great. 

    In the mean time Sonja and Rob started opening routes to our right so I flashed them as well (with Monika going on Tr after me).

    • Classic deluxe 6a+ 28m -said to be one of the best in this grade in San vito
    • New years greetings 6a 27m
    • Silvester 6a 26m


    Above Rob on New years greetings (6a). 

    By the time we were done in that sector the heat was unbearable and we had to take a break.

    Above Monika giving me her signature belay in full sun.

    We moved right searching for a shade. By the time we joined Sonja and Rob they were already on their newly found project on the Bunler topo4 sector. 

    SW facing and in full sun 6c+ lead, what a way to go! It turned out that they missread the topo and thought theye were on 6b+ climb.

    Below Rob just before falling off:

    • Dall’alba… direct 6c+ 27m.

    It took a lot of work and sweat but they fonally did it (it must have take  some 3h)

    As they were frying their backs in the heat we moved right in search for some shadded climbs. We settled on Castello – really nice positioned (SSE) wall further right (towards the exit to the cars).

    Even though we really wanted to keep up with the schsdule of 7 climbs a day, 3rd day in a row, heat and limestone really tool its toll.

    I onsighted what is one of the best lines on that wall (directly left to the cave entrance):

    • Colpo di  vento 5c 17m. Book description says “Which climbing god made holds here”? Really hard not to agree with that statement.

    Tomorrow a well deserved day off. But not really though. Monika and I will go scuba, so definitely more hard work.

    Sonja and Rob are planning on exploring local area a bit more.

    For now though, Sl√°inte!

    PS.

    Also tommorow the annual San vito climbing festival starts, with events (bouldring comp, slacklining showcase, movies screennings) planned until Sunday. We might also check it out.

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    Sicily 2016

    Bunker -Day3

    Bunker is one of the sectors in impressive Scigliera di Salinella Centro.  crag one can easly spend few weeks on.

    The crag is less than 2km from our place and makes a for a great climbing spot with 168 routes between 3 and 8b (46 of them are in 5a-c  grade with further 86 in 6a-c ranges).

    We left around 10 which is our usual start time and met with Sonja’s friend – Gronja who is vacationing with her family in the area. She got a day off today and was able to join us.

    We started with a warm up part of the sector marked C2.2 in the Sicily Rock guide book.

    I onsighted all 3 easy routes  that are next to each other (with Monika and going 2nd).Gronja also did one of them with us. 

    1. Trick 16m 5b
    2. Track 16m 5a
    3. Tick 16m 5a

    That part of the crag has only 9 climbs and was pretty busy so Monika and I moved right where further 20 routes were awaiting conquering.

    The guys stayed in place to battle the queues to some of the more challanging routes left there (up to 6b+).

    I’ve focus on more relaxing routes so both of us could enjoy the time (and the sun) on this SW facing wall.

    One thing I can tell though- no matter what the grade is, 30m pitch is 30m of hard work.

    I on sighted following 4 routes (all next to each other) with Monika top roping after. All of them had overhanging sections which made climbing very enjoyable.

    1. La femmina 5b 22m
    2. Lavoro di Domenica 5c+/6a 30m – it was the first route put up on that wall. Definetly amazing with  the first clip 6m of the ground.
    3. Fur Chrstian 5c 28m – much easier than previous one.
    4. Per Giorgio il mio amico 6a 22m.

    As I said this secotr has many moreroutes to doand we just scratched its surface today.

    At this point  I’m convinced we will be comming back to Sicily in the future. There is just so.muvb quality rock.

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    Sicily 2016

    Cala Mancina – White Wall. Day 2.

    To be honest yesterday was so travel oriented that I just should call it day 0. The real climbing started today. I fotgot already how much fun limestone is. It just eats up skin on your hands.

    For the  trip’s warmup number 2 we visited the first sector (north facing so in nice shadow) of a very long crag called Cala Mancina – the White Wall. On the photo below, that shows most of the crag  it’s the sector to the very left. 

    Monika paired with me while Rob and Sonja got on together.

     We started with some easy short pitches located to the very left of the sector. I on sighted all with Monika flashing after me:

    1. La caduta degli dei 5a 12m
    2. Salto nel buio 5a 12m
    3. Felice 6a 12m

    They all had common abseil point and bar few first moves on the last one were all very easy.

    After that we moved right where the game was.

    Again I onsighted all (but the last climb) with Monika flashing or red pointing after.

    1. Topi sftattati 6a 23m – a bit sharp but still ok
    2. Liquirizo e mentine 6a+ 23m
    3. Oltre manica 6a+ 23m – good line along some cracks
    4. Slay back 6b 20m TR – definetly the best of all. I wish inlead it, but i started to rain so we were in rush to clean it and fold.

    Above Sonja on Slay back, 6b.

    I think I’m stronger than I thought I was, or maybe the grades are just more realistic. 

    Sonja and rob did pretty much whatbwe have (without the easy warmup section), but they also added 2 or 3 6b routes.

    This definetly was a good primer before we set of for future adventures.  I know that if I compose myself 6c isn’t out of the question.

    But then its all about having fun and today we all had plenty!

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    my travels Sicily 2016

    Thunder climbs. Sicily day 1.

    Long day today. The time has come for our annual sport climbing trip.

    We got upround 4am to catch 7.20 flight to Palermo. This year the team are Rob T., Sonja F., Monika and I.

     Destination San Vito lo Capo. It all went smooth until we landed…

    The car rental office for the car company we took the car with (Firefly, subsidary of Hertz) is actualy a shuttle bus ride away from the terminal. Then it turned out that their system is down so every customer had to be processed manually. 30 mins per customer… and there were 3 in front of us. The hopes of getting some climbs to days were dimishing.

    Sonja and Rob have their own car (as they stay 10 days vs our 7). Their pickup went just fine. 

    The car itself was beaten up pretty badly already.  Bud is actually a good thing. Less of a chance for us to get blamed for any new damages. Pretty much every panel is already marked in the paperwork.

    The drive from the airport to our destination is around 1.5h. There weee some confusions on the location of the house (seems like airbnb system issue) but we eventually got to the address and met the owner.

    Its pretty spacious 2 bed house with nice terrace 5 min walk from the town centre.

    By the time we eaten lunch and got unpacked it was almost 5pm but we still decided to check out one of the close by crags – Valanga. The guidebook says its a bit out of beaten track. it has routs in 5a to 6c range.

    It looks absolutely amazing and i can just imagine what the best ones look like. We only managed to get done 1  route each.

    • Sonja and Rob did 5c+ 15m called  Senza Scuola 
    • monika and i did 5a 21mcalled Primavera 

    We had to really hurry these Climbs as there was a storm comming. By the time i was half way up the sky was already lit on fire every 30s by massive lighting bolts.

    One thing definetly to notice that the bolting job done is amazing (and it seems its the same on all crags). Then spacing is reasonable (very often every 2m) in good places that allow safe climbs.

    Anyway we r back home now after cooking some nice pasta dinner for 4. 

    Serious game starts tomorrow!

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    Bell Rock, co. Wicklow

    Jirka is a type of a person that doesn’t like to sit idle. There is always something going on, and it tends to be unique. During last week’s trip to The Burren we were already discussing what to do following weekend. He told me about this mythical, unique place in co. Wicklow – Bell Rock. What’s so unique about it, you say? It is a bolted crag. Yes. You didn’t misread it. Bolts are used to protect the climber. In Ireland.

    There aren’t to many places like that in this country. I’d say you can count them on the fingers of one hand. And one of them is just a stone’s throw from where we live!

    All the details about location, approach and rock itself as well as the routes can be found on the climbing.ie wiki, so please go there to read more.

    I’ll just add that the place is pretty much roadside, however bit sketchy in terms of moving around, so caution should be exercised (there is actually a fixed rope at the base of the crag to allow safe(er) traversing along the base). But even so, when it’s wet – it is very easy to slip there.

    Before¬†I go on about our adventure, I’ll just say that I’m rather disappointed in the fact that the new Google Photos service (the descendant of Picassa) doesn’t actually offer photo embedding (that would allow me to link them here, directly to the blog). Because of that I have to change the way I write these blogs (or re-upload all the photos to other hosting server).
    I’ve chosen to write couple of words here and then send you, my reader directly to the album, where photos will have descriptions, hopefully giving you idea what’s what.

    Anyway – we weren’t planning on climbing much, and realistically speaking from 8 routes out there, we could only do maybe 3 (on a good day), so we decided to meet late, and do 1/2 day out there. It was a good idea, as it was raining most of the morning, pretty much all the way until we got there (around 1pm).

    The rock was pretty wet, approach sketchy, but sure it was a good fun. It’s not a place to go back to every week, but definitely something¬†worth going to every now and then.

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    I invite you now to check out the album here or by clicking on the above photo. Click on individual photos within the album for descriptions.

     

     

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    Definitely in the mood…

    …for some more ¬†sports climbing.

    Yesterday we went to Sokoliki, a climbing crag in the Sokole Gory (part of Sudety Mountains), near where Monika’s from.

    We had a pleasure to meet up with Grzegorz and Patrycja, who drove¬†from Katowice region to climb with us. There were also some none climbers with us – Monika’s sister’s family, as well as Aleksander and Justyna from Zgorzelec. Good group to have plenty of fun with!

     

    The region itself is pretty amazing, a granite heaven, known as a proving grounds for many generations of mountaineers. It’s here where most of the Polish famous climbers would train before embarking on their trips into High Tatras and beyond.

    From sokoliki2016

    There is actually couple of crags next to each other offering couple hundred routes (both bolted and trad) in range from 4 up to mid 7s (French sports scale).

     

    From sokoliki2016

    The place was very crowded yesterday (since it was a weekend in the middle of the season) with all easier routes heavily queued up. We did couple of random V graded routes , we settled on part of the crag called Zipserowa Czuba.

    We ended up leading 4 or 5 routes ranging V+ to VI+) (French 5 to 6a+). As described in the book – the rock is amazing, not polished at all (pun not intended ūüėČ – and routes were just nice and long.

    From sokoliki2016

    After we were done, we all met up back home in the  back garden barbecue for a well earned beers and grilled sausages.

    From sokoliki2016

    During that day I’ve learned that I still have loads to learn to actually climb well. Definitely a lot of training in front of me, if i want to make an impact on this years October sports climbing trip.

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    The Land of Extinct Volcanoes

    is the ‘nickname’ of the area we visited today.¬†Millions of years ago the¬†extracting from underground magma froze and created many interesting shapes.¬†You can find more information about the greater region here¬†and here.

    We had a half a day to spare, and set our heads towards mysterious, and relatively new (in bolted climbing terms) Diablak, a relatively small hill in the Kaczawskie Foothills region.

    It’s climbable part, 25m basalt crag has been first explored in 2012. 9 fully bolted routes were set there ¬†in 5 to 6c+ range (french sports) (although in Poland routes are graded in Kurtyka scale [so technically ¬†they are graded V to VI.2+) [conversion tables].

    Monika, Piotr (her brother in law) and i left Jelenia Gora around 10.30, and after 30 mins drive we were walking in the woods looking for the crag.

    From diablak

    It’s a really short walk, albeit it’s easy to get lost, so having good map is rather recommended. You don’t really see the wall right up until you are there.

    From diablak

    After we got there we geared up and I’ve put on the sharp end of the rope, opening with Heksagon (V+). It was rather interesting experience¬†– I’ve never climbed on basalt, and since the crag is fairly new, there were some loose holds (and a lot of sticky spiderwebs!)

     

    From diablak

    It’s funny that when you go on sight, without knowing what the next hold brings, everything seems so much more… challenging. I actually overshot the chains, and topped out on a massive ledge above them. Luckily there were another 2 bolts, from which I belayed Monika and Piotr (as it was impossible to setup TR there).

    Next, we moved left to the route number 6 – Poligon (V). Monika wanted to give it a go, but the start was just a little to steep (they all start from the based of big cave, making it rather tricky to start).

    I went at it, and not without a little trouble moved up, to much easier terrain above.

    From diablak

    I’ve setup a TR, and the guys swiftly completed the route as well.

    From diablak
    From diablak

    We moved further left to check out the NW facing wall that offered 2 interesting looking, albeit shorter routes – ‘Lewe rzebro Adama’ (VI) and ‘Prawe rzebro Adama’ (V+). (Translated as Left and Right Adam’s rib).

    Both are a series of little roofs on very steep wall, with amazing holds everywhere. The right hand side is quite exposed and I’ve decided I wanted to start with it.

    From diablak
    From diablak

    We don’t actually have any photos from these left hand side variant, but it was also very enjoyable. A bit more steeper, but good holds.

    Overall all routes are well protected, although there isn’t too many of them. If you want to try basalt rock and half 1/2 day then maybe it’s worth the trip.

    But with surplus of climbing in nearby Sudety¬†and its Sokolik crag in particular (where we will be going tomorrow), it’d be hard to justify going back to Diablak.