Saturday, 28 October 2017

Altea-La-Vella, Spain – Days 7 to 11 (October 2017)

Charles, Jon, Lucy, Caroline and Jackie on Calpe Rock

Monday dawned dark and early and we headed off to the Penon, or 'Calpe Rock' to meet the family and go for a walk. Rather than wait in the car park B insisted we went to the agreed meeting point of the visitor centre, in case the others walked and sneaked in a different way. Having walked past the sign that said no feeding the seagulls and no feeding the cats, we met a lovely little cat family, tabby mummy, two little white ones and little runty tortoiseshell one. Charles then ran in saying "you could have waited in the car park" he was clutching the suncream we'd asked to borrow as that would appear to be the only thing, so far, in the wrong place. The suncream, mainly bought for skiing is in France, no, it obviously didn't occur to me it might be sunny in Spain!

The family of cats playing at the Calpe Rock visitor centre
This little one decided to follow us up
We all walked up to the first view point, where we left Lucy, not good with heights, and with a stiff left shoulder not good at holding on to the rope put up for assistance. The rest of us continued on, looking over the edge to three little wooden boats sailing off, firing cannons, to a mock battle just up the coast, no, we have no idea what was going on. Two more cats at the top, waiting for the two sachets of food brought by a local mad cat lady, many gulls, and many people! Having enjoyed the view we sauntered off to meet mummy, though Caroline did decide to do a small portion of the descent head first, giving her a bruised swollen finger and a nasty scrape on the leg. Invited to lunch we followed them to their very nice villa where we stayed while J&L went to get fresh bread only to find everywhere shut, must be a fiesta, something to do with the 'invasion fleet!' (Moors against the Christians re-enactment apparently). Oh well, Jonathan whipped up some pasta to go with the rest of lunch after which we headed off leaving the kids to their homework/revision! Well we had our own homework to do, bit of sweeping up after the hail storm the other day, before D&E returned at 22.00. Lovely to see them and catch up with a glass of wine.

Jon, Jackie and Caroline on the upper section of the Calpe Rock Walk
On the summit
Tuesday the family came over to say hi and while the boys got the air rifle out for a bit of tin can shooting the girls all went into Altea for a little potter, and an ice cream for Caroline and I. After lunch, back to the revision before we all met up in Calpe at the favourite fish restaurant for a yummy yummy meal and a lovely evening.

Wednesday Elizabeth and I shopped for dinner the following night, the famous paella, before D&E headed off to bridge. Another lovely evening as Jonathan cooked for us all, meant he could enjoy a drink, as could both Brian and Elizabeth the normal designated drivers as father was still on the very strong antibiotics he'd been given while in the UK for the hideous abscess that had developed after he'd had a tooth removed.

The view of Calpe from the summit
Charles lining up for his shot
Thursday was climbing day, well the kids had brought their shoes specially, so while Elizabeth and Lucy headed up the coast to Moraira, the rest of us climbed while father spectated. The kids both did very well and both did their first lead, clipping themselves into the rock as they climbed up. It was an easy climb they had both done on a top rope first so was well within their capabilities, however they both appreciated the 'head game' of leading and being above the gear so having the potential for a fall. 
At the crag. Richard, Jon, Charles, Jackie and Caroline
I scrambled up beside them, not really giving advice, but there just in case. A successful first for them both, but Charles wanted more, he wanted to go up the big wall of the next crag, where instead of little climbs of 18m ish there are multipitch climbs of 65 ish metres. No time today, but if Caroline wants to go to the beach tomorrow, we are more than happy to bring you out again ....

Caroline climbing high
B got home and decided perhaps he ought to investigate the warning light on the car. Hmm a dodgy thermostat, not really what we want, but fortunately there is a Vauxhall/Opel garage not far away. Suppose if we can get it booked in for tomorrow we should. The rest of the day was spent preparing for the evenings paella, which we all agreed was absolutely one of the best, what a treat, even Pepa came and joined us for some prawn heads.

Pre-paella drinks in the garden. LtoR: Jane (Elizabeths sister), Lucy, Elizabeth, Richard, Caroline, Jon, Jackie and Charles
Caroline helping grandad cook the paella
B woke up with a slightly fuzzy head, but as drinks monitor the previous night, he only had himself to blame. Fortunately by the time he and father had taken the car to the garage it had cleared a bit, so we set off in Elizabeth's little car to meet up with Charles for his first multipitch climb. He hadn't quite appreciated how different it was going to be, what he is used to is a short 18/20 metres where you climb up, look down, can speak and hear, and just get lowered back to the ground. In this case we staked our claim, fortunately arriving just before two other groups who looked like they were eyeing up our route, I set off up the first 4c (they had only done 4a the previous day) pitch arriving at the belay point, pleased to find that there was space for the three of us. 
While the sun set over the mountain
Charles followed on on one of the ropes looking quite pleased to arrive, well there had been a couple of tricky moves. He clipped himself to a bolt and turned to look at the view. It really did look a long way down, as the ground beneath the crag continues to fall away all the way into a housing estate. Brian came up on the other rope to join us, there was just about room, before he led off up the second pitch. Now we are not quite sure where he deviated to, but as his pitch was meant to be the easier of the two he definitely went slightly off route before finding the right set of bolts again as he too had an interesting move! 
Lucy, Jackie and Caroline apres-paella
The belay point at the top however left a little to be desired, not very big, and by the time I arrived jolly cosy. So untie from the ropes, always a slightly scary moment, despite being attached to the rock by various other means, to feed them through the two in-situ bolts to enable us to abseil down first the 30m pitch to the first belay point, pull the ropes through, re-thread, throw them over again and repeat. For me it was watching Charles set off the first time that was the 'scariest' bit as at this point he was lowering himself and entirely in control of his own destiny!

The climb we did with Charles, called 'Epsilon Gris' 4+ (32m) & 4 (30m). Follow the red dots up from the green '18' in the bottom right hand corner. The yellow dot is the first belay and abseil point, the second one at the top the final belay and abseil point
Charles at a tricky point, Jackie on the belay stance
Once back on terra firma it was all rush rush rush as, as usual climbing had eaten time and we were later than we'd said we'd be and we didn't want anyone to worry. We all had a fabulous time, Charles loved it, and we loved sharing it with him. 

They had their last evening to themselves but we did all get chance for a quick farewell this morning as they dropped off various things they'd borrow or didn't need anymore on their way to the airport. It's been lovely to have them nearby and we shall miss them, but it will finally give us chance to relax. Or so we thought.... the pool is drained the acid has been applied to the stains, and some serious sweeping of pine needles has taken place.

Jackie and Charles waving from the belay
I've just been Whatsapp'ed by Caroline to say they are all safely home, and she's off to her party. When asked if there was anything they wanted to add to the blog, Charles' quote of the week was when they were over for paella and Brian was drinks monitor that "Uncle Brian lost the drinks fridge" while looking for wine in the kitchen fridge not the utility fridge. Caroline says " I had a wonderful time with everyone and thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially going up Calpe rock and climbing " 
On the belay after I had joined them and about to set off on my pitch
Charles halfway up the second pitch having just popped into my view. He had moved out of Jackies view and hearing soon after leaving the belay so was climbing completely on his own up until this point
Jackie at the same point after following Charles up. He was a little disappointed she had reached this point so soon, as it had taken him much longer
Charles abseiling himself down the bottom pitch
This was the view we had from the crag. Just to the right of the sloping rock on the left in the distance is Benidorm, moving right in the distance is Puig Campana mountain and the big rock nearer to us towards the right is Mascarat Gorge
Job for Saturday: The pool has been drained and Richard and Brian wire brush the grout between the tiles after spraying with acid, ready for re-grouting on Monday
Even though I had brought my working clothes with me this time, I still had to wear Elizabeths clothes again as I had left mine in the boot of the car, which is now locked up at the Opel garage in Altea where it is waiting for a part to be delivered (won't get it back until Tuesday or even Thursday of next week)

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