Costa Blanca, Spain . . . . ( May 2012 )

I'd been invited to join a group of five people for 10 days climbing based in Finestrat and had decided to go out a little earlier to do a bit of soloing & walking. The plan was to bivvy for 5 nights and then meet up with them at the airport. This was the first time I’d been out at this time of year and I was a bit concerned that it might be too hot.

Keith, Chris, Steve, Alan, Al, Andy

The Team: Keith, Chris, Steve, Alan, Al, Andy

Monday 7th: Arriving in Alicante at midday from the rather cool and drizzly Leeds-Bradford airport it was already 35 degrees! As I picked up the hire car from Dickmann's I was glad to see it had air-conditioning. After calling in at Decathalon for some gas for my stove and a few other things I visited Carrefour at Benidorm to get some provisions.

Puig Campana from the East

Tuesday 8th: Having bivvied near the parking I walked up to do Espolon Sur Centrale on the Puig Campana as a 'warm-up'. Although early it was already a hot day but once I got higher up the route there was a nice cooling breeze. At the top of the route I had lunch and decided I’d done enough for a first day, so I took the usual traversing descent to the main gully and down.

Penon d'Ifach: looking up at the Valencianos slab

Wednesday 9th:  Having bivvied at the same spot I headed off to the Penon d’Ifach to climb Via Valencianos. Looking up at the cliff from the promenade I was pleased to see it was in the shade but noted that there seemed to be an awful lot of seagulls flying around! Apart from the very polished third pitch (which I aided) and having to be careful to avoid nesting seagulls it was a great route - if very hot once I moved into the sun.

The third pitch has always been the crux of this route but it has become so polished now that it is almost impossible to free climb. For parties on Valencianos it’s now a serious barrier to progress. To protect it a bolt has been placed in the slab now and a second one in the buttress high up on the left, but since all the jammed gear and old slings have been removed it is still a stiff challenge! Anyway after a lot of effort I managed to aid my way up it, much to my relief and that of the seagulls and chicks who were nesting on the big ledge below.

Echo Valley with Echo 2 in the top left

Thursday 10th: I’d bivvied up at the Echo Valley viewpoint the night before and it was (inevitably) the start of a very hot day as I walked up to find the start of the easiest route on  Echo II, up the lefthand skyline ridge. The rock wasn’t the soundest to start with but improved with height.  It was lovely easy climbing and all too soon I reached the summit.

After a spot of lunch I decided to carry on along the continuation of the ridge which turned out to be a great expedition, mostly easy scrambling but not without interest! The route went up to another summit and then along a further ridge in roughly the same direction. Just before the final buttress I found a reasonable way off and then came across a path which happily took me around the back of the ridge and back to my start point – magic!

Cabezon d'Oro from the approach road

Friday 11th:  I’d driven to the Cabezon d’Oro the evening before and bivvied across the track from the parking spot underneath a carob tree on level stony ground. Big mistake... I woke in the middle of the night with agonizing pain in my left arm accompanied with intense itching all the way up it – I’d been stung by a scorpion! I must have passed out because the next thing I knew it was morning. My arm was tingling, the puncture site in the side of my hand was a bit swollen and painful, but otherwise I felt fine.

I’d planned to climb Via Gene but decided instead to walk up to the summit of the mountain. It was another very hot day but for most of it I was in the shade of the mountain so it was quite pleasant, especially since I wasn’t carrying any climbing gear!

The Ponoch

Saturday 12th: I’d decided not to bivvy at the ‘scorpion site’ again and instead had driven back to Echo II for another night. Waking early but feeling somewhat ‘washed out’ I located the car park for approaching the climbs on the Ponoch and headed up to find the start of the route Via Valencianos (which has been on my ‘hit-list’ for about twenty years!) From there I bushwacked my way across to find the start of the new via ferrata and climbed that. The via ferrata was nice enough but the abseil descent was a bit more interesting – my 60m rope was only just long enough for the second abseil!

It was another very hot day and so I sorted myself out and with plenty of time in hand I headed off to the airport to meet the others, stopping off at Decathalon again and the nearby MacDonalds.

The Ponoch Via Ferrata

The Via Ferrata on the Ponoch

Sunday 13th: Knowing it was going to be a very hot day we followed Chris’ suggestion of climbing at Guadalest which looked like it might have some shade on the climbs. A long drive but some nice climbing and it was great to sit outside in the sun and down a few beers!

Sector del Castillo at Guadalest

Monday 14th: Again hot so we headed off on another long drive to find L’Ocaive (eventually) where we had a good time on the very steep and challenging rock. Again about half a dozen routes before we headed back – no handy bars unfortunately.

Lunchtime at L'Ocaive

Tuesday 15th: Four of us tackled ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ intending to do a few routes on Toix West afterwards, however it was so hot that we were pleased to call it a day after MMT and visit a handy bar!

The abseil for Magical Mystery Tour                                                         & Al traversing the first arete of MMT

Wednesday 16th: Al was keen to do ‘Espolon Pertemba’ on the Divino and Steve & Keith wanted to do ‘Amour de Odio’ so we headed off early to get on the routes before the sun got on them. Later on Chris & Alan met us at the bottom of the routes after finishing at the crag they went to. Our routes were very long and the sun quickly found us so it was a tiring day.

Puig Campana in the evening sun from Sella Village in the east

Thursday 17th: We all decided to head for Toix West to have an easier day hopefully out of the sun and Al & I managed four double-pitch routes before calling it a day and heading for some refreshing beers!

The view of the Sierra Helada & Altea from Toix West

Friday 18th: Another very hot day and needing a rest four of us headed to the Penon d’Ifach to walk around the promenade and view the cliff. Afterwards we walked up to the summit and then adjourned to a seafront bar.

View of the Bernia Gap, Toix West, the Toix Ridge and the Penon d'Ifach from the South

Saturday 19th: We all went to 'Echo Placa' but on the very first route I pulled a muscle in my groin and had to sit and watch the others. Another scorchingly hot day for my 59th birthday!

Chris on a route at Echo Placa

Sunday 20th: Feeling a bit better Chris & I went up Espolon Centrale on the Puig Campana. Since he hadn’t done it before I encouraged him to lead every pitch!

Chris on the Espolon Sur Centrale of the Puig Campana

Monday 21st: Alan had gone home and I was feeling a little unwell (and fairly wiped out) so I opted for a ‘rest day’ while the other four headed off to some distant crag. Another very hot day!

Puig Campana from Finestrat in the east

Tuesday 22nd: Al & I headed off to do Via UBSA in the Mascarat Gorge but when we got there it was full in the sun with no breeze and we quickly decided to go to Toix West instead. We did 4 very good double-pitch routes and then had a couple of beers!

The line of Via UBSA in the Mascarat Gorge

Wednesday 23rd: The others decided to go for a walk around the Puig Campana so I went to the Mascarat Gorge and soloed Via UBSA. Lovely climbing all the way in the sunshine. The steep corner took a little bit of work and I protected it with the rope, it was very exposed from there on up.

The South-East face of Puig Campana

Thursday 24th: The gang headed off for Alicante airport and I went to the Penon with the intention of doing Dierdre UBSA. However after counting the number of probable seagull nest sites on the route and taking into account how tired I was feeling I decided to give it a miss and drove to the Cabezon d’Oro. Once there I decided to solo Via Gene which was a lovely route and abseiled down the back where I found the abseil lengths in the guidebook to be completely wrong. Bivvied next to the car this time, well away from that carob tree!

Sector Gene of the Cabezon d'Oro

Friday 25th: Another baking hot day and I was feeling that I’d done enough for one holiday so I just had an easy day sorting out the car and packing for the flight back. Called into Decathalon again, returned the car and spent a few hours in the air-conditioned airport waiting for the plane.

Keith tackling the crux on the penultimate pitch of Magical Mystery Tour

This website is powered by Spruz