Sunday, 30 November 2008

Costa Blanca

Trip to Calpe, 22nd to 29th November 2008.

AndyC, AndyG and Richard flew out of Liverpool bound for Alicante on the morning of Saturday 22nd of November for a week of sun, sand, sport climbing and some adventurous trad.

Saturday 22nd, Toix Far Oeste.

After a short drive along the motorway in the hire car and a stop in Altea to buy some lunch, the team headed to the easy single pitch crag at Toix Far Oeste for a warm up in the pleasant afternoon sunshine. Route of the day was definitely Richard's ascent of Energico 18m 1* F6a+ (Bolted) up a slightly overhanging tufa groove, leading to very thin moves on the final slab.

Sunday 23rd, Olta.

Olta is on the side of a high plateau overlooking Calpe. It is the home of Tai Chi 26m 3* F6b+ (Bolted) which also lays claim to being the most photogenic route on the Costa Blanca. After a brave lead with just one rest from Richard, the rest gave it a go on top-rope and posed for photos.

Monday 24th, The Mascarat Gorge.

This is a big one, Llobet/Bertomeu(formerly known as Via UBSA) 276m 3* F5+ (HVS) (Trad with some bolts) up the Aguja Superior. The Mascarat Gorge cuts through the seaward end of the Bernia Ridge, separating it from the craggy ridge of Toix which leads right down to the sea. The motorway, the main coast road and the railway all cut through here using a variety of bridges and tunnels. Climbing the route requires special care not to dislodge any of the abundant loose rock on to any of the transport infrastructure below.

Tuesday 25th, Echo Valley.

This was an easy day with a trip to Finestrat to find the route to the Puig Campana ready for an early start the next morning. Since AndyC and Richard had not been before, they were given a tour of Echo Valley.

Due to the cold wind on the higher crags, it was decided to climb on the smaller crag of Echo Playa which was still in the sunshine. The most enjoyable route was undoubtedly Basilius 16m 1* F5+ (Bolted). An imposing and slightly improbable looking start, surmounting bulges above a cave leads to really nice climbing on strange crystaline protruberances up a steep slab.

Wednesday 26th, Puig Campana.

This was going to be a really big one. Espolon Central 450m 3* F4+ (HS) (Mostly trad, some fixed gear). However, after leaving Calpe at 6am, it rained on the approach and when the dawn broke it became apparent that it was much cloudier than the previous few days.

The first three pitches were soloed easily(120m F3). Then despite more persistent drizzle AndyG led the next three pitches(90m F3, some scrambling, F4). By this time the drizzle and turned to sleet and there were definitely snowflakes blowing in the wind.

Richard led the next pitch(supposedly 50m F4, but really only about 35m) to a belay near a well equipped abseil station. After three abseils and one jammed rope, eveyone was safely back down. Beaten by the weather on this occasion but a great route to go back for.

Thursday 27th, Dalle D'Ola and Toix Este.

Another rainy day. It started as soon as the bags were set down at the bottom of Dalle D'Ola, high in the Altea Hills housing estate, below the Bernia Ridge. After a trip to Toix Este in search of more sheltered conditions, which didn't work out because the wind was howling off the sea at Toix, climbing was abandoned in favour of exploring Calpe Old Town.

Friday 28th, Sella.

Despite Rockfax claiming that most of the crags are well sheltered, it was very windy around Sector Marion at Sella. After trying to warm up on a couple of routes, AndyC and Richard did the first two pitches of Marion 3* (P1.24m F5, P2.22m F4) (Bolted), whilst AndyG kept warm by going exploring with his camera.

Saturday 29th, Alicante Airport.

After a well deserved lie-in and a leisurely start to the day, the chaps arrived at the airport just before noon, only to be told that the flight was delayed. It eventually left nearly five hours late, apparently due to disrupted schedules caused by fog in Liverpool.