We have been in Costa Blanca for the better part of two weeks and have so far had an absolute blast! My previous two posts have already highlighted some of the fantastic adventures that we have experienced here, such as the Bernia ridge, various quality single pitch crags, climbing on Toix on Christmas Day and the sea cliffs a couple of days later. In all honesty I was not expecting to have such a good time here, and it has surprised me to be looking through the guidebook and getting excited for all the potential climbs and crags I want to visit.
We have managed to climb a few days at local crags in between a couple of days off. Unfortunately we had to take the van to the garage to find out what was wrong, so it is inevitable that this would result in time away from climbing. Although I would rather have a couple of down days and a happy van, than breaking down in the middle of nowhere!
One of the crags we visited was called Murla and set our bags down in the mid grade section, which just happens to be in the middle. This was a relatively successful day as we climbed up to 6b onsite, which is not bad going, although the routes were short. We then moved away from the area of Xalo towards a few rock faces that grouped together are part of echo valley, here we planned to put our trad gear back on and do a couple of easier multi pitch routes.
On arriving at the face of Paret del Castellet, the route we planned to climb was busy and therefore decided to climb a route next door that diagonally traversed the face. It was only meant to be slightly harder, although the first few moves were pretty steep for the grade. The rest of the traverse was average and the final two vertical pitches were where the fun was at! We camped at the crag in the car park, a nice quiet location if it was not for the local dogs! The next day we got on out intended route Vía Esther, and although the majority of it was fun, it was too easy and therefore not as exciting as it once might have been. Although it’s meant to be a four pitch climb, we linked pitches and in two long pitches was on the top again. On our return we stopped at the sport crag at the foot of the face and knocked out a tough 6a+, followed by a much easier 6b, so again it was nice to be climbing a grade higher than normal.
One of the great things about basing ourselves here, apart from the weather has been contact with many British climbers. Many of whom have shared their experience of the area, and recommended a multitude of routes to get on, and one that kept on being recommended was Parle on the Toix Sea Cliff area. Sometimes you climb a fantastic route that lives up to the hype of guidebooks and recommendations, and it’s fair to say that Parle is one of these. I’m not about to scream and shout about the fantastic moves and holds that are on the route, as if I’m honest I was a little underwhelmed by the different type and texture of the rock found on the route, it’s very different to other climbs we have been on recently. However, the amazing surroundings and difficulty of the route are what makes it worth the hype!
Unfortunately we arrived at the abseil just after a group of four and therefore had to wait a considerable time as each group abseiled in, and it is pointless following directly, as we would be all crammed in at the foot of the climb. We had a look at a couple of the ab stations, and eventually settled for the one that finished on our route. Whilst waiting around, I could feel my nerves getting the better of me, and my ever questioning mind quizzing my ability to climb a route that was at the higher end of my ability. In short, if we abseiled in and could not climb out, we would be in for a real bad day!
The abseil in was very memorable, not long after stepping over the lip, my feet left the rock and I was hanging free for a good forty to fifty metres. This was quite an introduction to the climb to come as the amphitheater made of caves and hollows of rock surrounds you, whilst the crashing of the waves below you echo throughout. Jess followed and I looked up to see her abbing below the two eyes of the cave that formed the roof of this hollow. As soon as she was down I set off up the first pitch. At 5+ it was never desperate and I felt comfortable, although as I said earlier the rock was somewhat bulkier and bolder, whereas I prefer sharp edges, so I wasn’t entirely comfortable.
I had to wait an age at the first belay, that was on a bridge between walls, as there was still two people from the group above there. Once on belay, Jess came up and was finding it tough going, by the time she got to the belay, she stated how this was harder than she thought, I could only agree. She went for the next lead even though she admitted she was not feeling the mindset. She tried a few ways and eventually returned to the belay and I took the lead. Initially the route was easy enough, traversing left, although soon it followed a steep, crack, that had smooth holds and I was pushing my ability. I took a couple of rests at bolts to ensure I could read the route ahead. On the final rest I noticed a larger gap between the bolts and picked my route over the bulge in the rock. All went well until the final moves to get the traverse, I was tired and before I knew it, I was in a pretty desperate situation. To put it bluntly a fall from this point would have been very uncomfortable and dangerous, I was just too high above the previous bolt. I was on the cusp of the ledge on pretty crap holds, literally gripping for dear life as my flexibility refused to allow my foot to gain the hold needed, eventually I opted out and used my knee, and literally scraped my way up, it was ugly, but I made it. I have since found that the route goes straight up from the belay and does not traverse left, up and then right, if I find someone else who has climbed it, I will swap stories and see if we went off route a bit, or if I was just struggling!
I also led the next pitch although nothing was as desperate as the previous pitch, which is curious as this was meant to be the crux, and for the first time on the entire route I found a jug, a decent jug, oh my god it felt good to have a decent hold! As I closed on the exit of the cave I finally felt as though this route would be in the bag. Once over the lip I felt as though I could chill for the first time in a few hours! Although I had started as a bag of nerves of what was to come, as soon as the climbing started I managed to switch modes and engage fully with what was required, only once faltering in fear on the second pitch. It’s been a while since I have panicked so much on a climb, I struggle to recollect the last time as it’s been many years. Once jess was up, it was easy to see the relief from both of us to be at the top and safe, we both agreed that this was our limit, and was most definitely the hardest and most sustained multipitch climb we have done to date.