Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Rock climbing and mountaineering in the Costa Blanca

Simon and Di with Jackie at Sierra de Toix climbing crag

It’s been a change of gear for us since last Saturday as our friends Simon and Diane are visiting Calpe for a week, 15 minutes around the coast from us. We met Simon and Diane on Cat Ba Island in Vietnam this time last year, stayed in touch while they were on their year away in SE Asia, NZ, Oz, South and Central America. We saw them again when they came to stay with us in Redmarley in Gloucestershire in October and were very happy when they told us they were planning on coming out here.

The view from the crag of the Mascarat Gorge and, in the distance, Benidorm
Calpe Rock from the balcony of Simon and Di's apartment
Since they like all things we like it’s been an action packed few days since they arrived. We met up at the crags on Sierra de Toix on Sunday morning, the third time we have met and each of them in a different country! The sky was blue, it was pleasantly warm and the limestone rock superb. We’ve been here a number of times before, but Simon and Di had a newer climbing guide than us so we were able to do four routes we had not done before, one of them a two pitch climb, so it was a social as well as fulfilling day. Unlike previous visits we had made, today it was really quite busy, not only local Spanish climbing groups that we would expect on a weekend day, but we also heard Russian voices and a very large contingent of British people, who were climbing by us, which made it really feel like home! Brits abroad!

The crag at Gandia
On Monday we went to a crag we haven’t been to before that Simon and Di knew. It’s a little further round the coast, just over an hour away near a place called Gandia. There are some easier climbs suitable for us but also the greatest concentration of 7a to 8a climbs in the Costa Blanca, all over a huge roof. We stuck to the 3+ to 4+ climbs of which there were a fair few and then managed to put up a top rope over a vertical cave that went up through the big roof by the hard climbs. Fortunately we could access the lower off for the cave climb from a 4+ to 5 grade climb and drop the rope down through the cave to allow us to have a good play in complete safety. We probably could have led the grade 5+ entry off the floor into the cave, but it was very polished, very committing and the two bolts that had been inside the cave for protection had been removed, so it would have been a solo climb!

Brian giving Simon a hand up into the cave
Anyway, with the rope down through the cave after Brian had abseiled down through it having fixed the rope at the top, we all had a go at it. Simon went first with Brian giving him a leg up and Jackie providing a bit of assistance on the other end of the rope. Next went Brian, who managed it without any assistance, other than a tight rope, Diane needed a bit of a shove from Simon and, finally Jackie showed us all how it should be done with some nifty footwork and nice moves. A really enjoyable day out in a really nice setting, followed by another trip back to Simon and Di’s third floor apartment right on the beach front at Calpe with a great view of Calpe rock from their balcony to relax with a beer and nibbles while the sun set.

The walk in with Puig Campana in the distance
Yesterday (Tuesday) we planned a big day out to do one of Brian’s targets, the mountain of Puig Campana! I have sat on Richard and Elizabeth’s balcony for many years gazing at the shapely, pointed mountain that sits on the horizon on the opposite side of the valley and around which the sun usually sets to give a glorious silhouette against colourful red and blue skies. ‘I want to climb that and stand on that point’ I have long thought so, with the encouragement of Simon and Di we all went off to do it.

Simon, Di and Jackie at the 1300m elevation signpost
They picked us up at 09:00 and we drove through Altea and out to Finestrat to park their car at the start of the walking trail that leads steeply up through a gulley of mainly scree in the full hot sun. Thankfully there was a rough zig-zag track alongside the scree which made the ascent a little easier, but it was still pretty relentless and hot. We made the col at 1300m in just over 2 hours, turned right and headed on to the summit at just over 100m higher, arriving there in a total time of about 2hours 50 minutes, just under the 3 hour book time.

On the 1408m summit
The views were magnificent, it was clear sky but with a little haze and we could see back to the Bernia Ridge and Altea la Vella, where we had departed from this morning. Could we see Jackie’s dads house? No! Even through binoculars we couldn’t pick it out. Its 17km away and just too small to make out from here, but we all waved at Pepa the cat, who we were confident would be looking out for us from the balcony!

The Bernia Ridge from Puig Campana
The route down actually took us down the other side of the mountain and round in a big circle back to the car. Although a little longer, it’s a less steep path and the book assured us it would be easier and quicker than trying to go down the ascent path and it did seem to be. It also gave us a different view, so made it well worthwhile.

The route plotted by the Ap Mapmywalk. Starting at the red box we went north and a bit west to the col, turned right to the summit, retraced our steps to the col then continued over to the other side of the mountain,down and round back to the start
Back on the balcony at Jackie's dad's for beer and nibbles....
We were back on the balcony at Jackie’s dads house for several beers and nibbles and in plenty of time to watch the sun set alongside our mountain. How satisfying to be able to look at that sharp pointed mountain and finally to be able to say I’ve been up there! Simon and Di stayed the night in the spare bedroom here, so we had plenty of good nourishing food with apple crumble and custard, all washed down with several bottles of wine and we all went to be tired and happy people!

In time to watch the sun set by our mountain!
Today has been a relaxing day for us as we had been invited round for lunch at Carolyn and John’s house, the friends of Richard and Elizabeth who came to lunch last week. After Simon and Di left this morning we got our gear ready for our planned epic tomorrow then walked round in the afternoon sun to their house and had a very pleasant time with them, plenty of good food and wine, while enjoying splendid, but very different views out over the sea at Altea and Benidorm. It was a lovely time!

Balcony view after sunset.Puig Campana is on the left
Now we’re back and tonight it’s an early night for us for our big day tomorrow – it’s a full traverse of the Bernia Ridge! Although we’ve done all of the ridge we have never done all of it in a single day, but have tried and failed on two occasions. Tomorrow we hope to succeed, but to do it we have to start early, so we’ll be up just after 06:00 and hope to be there and ready to start the ascent before 08:00. The estimated time for completion is anywhere between 6 and 9 hours, depending on the speed of the party. The sun sets around 18:00 at this time of year, so we should be OK for daylight hours unless we get held up by something! Wish us luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment