Chasing top fifties

We have continued our climbing tour through Costa Blanca, with a trip to a crag called Sax, again we were chasing top fifty and three stared routes from the Rockfax book. Sax had a lot of good routes, and looked like a great place to climb although the guidebook did say that the venue was polished. We started on an easier route, that was slightly polished and good fun. This worried me slightly as the next route we were going to try was harder at 6a+. However once on this route, the rock was solid and sharp. The first pitch was a good forty metres, and moved over some great terrain, ending in a cave for the belay. Even the down climb was good value, being slightly exposed.

That night we parked near Alicante, just off the beach, it was a wonderful location, with the sea view through our front window. It has been a while since we have parked near a beach, and certainly a long time since I went for a walk on one. As usual I took my bag and started to pick up any bits of litter I came across, unfortunately this beach was filthy and I could walk no more than ten steps without having to stop to pick up some rubbish. I managed to fill the bag and have two other massive sheets of plastic that I dug up. It’s only a little help, however as I now have the time it’s sometimes nice to do my little bit to help.

The next day we took an hours drive south to a large multipitch crag called Pared Negra in Orihuela, with a top fifty climb. It took us a while to get there as the sat nav took us on the mother of all detours, so once we rocked up it was time for lunch. The climbs were located across the road, and in no time we were at the foot of the crag. To be honest the route was ok, it was good solid climbing throughout, although I struggled to see why it was a top fifty route. We then started the descent, after scrambling up, using some Via Ferrata to climb higher, then scrambling down, abseiling, scrambling some more, a little more wire, another abseil and then a final scramble, we were finally back at the start. In all honesty I think I enjoyed the micro adventure of the descent more than I did the climb itself, so perhaps if you add the two together, then this could be top fifty!

That night we received a phone call from home and it was funny to hear of the terrible weather back home whilst we were loving the sun all day. It’s weird to think that we have been away from home for so long that we have nearly forgotten about the terrible weather. We’ve even become climbing snobs, as if there is a slight breeze, we question whether we can climb!! I have started to appreciate the lifestyle a bit more again, and I’m hopefully going to get out of my slump. Although I do think I need a change of something to give the trip a new kick! Maybe a dive? Who knows, but I do think a change to something will give the trip new life!

The next day we drove to Redovan, and climbed another multipitch on the large faces that overlook the town. It was a good route, although the grades in the book seemed a little way off, the crux pitch was not bad, with obvious moves throughout. It was the pitch before that gave me a little bit of struggle, it was quite overhanging, on good holds, before long I was pumped and struggled over the bulge to the belay. The hardness of this pitch caught me off guard, plus the fact I had linked pitches and had rope drag only helped cement the struggle!

Once at the top we abseiled the route, and this is where the fun began. I got to the first belay, and although I could not see the next I thought the rope would reach and therefore save time. As it turned out, I miss judged by a few metres, and by the time I realised, I was nearly at the foot of the rope. This meant I had to Prussic up thirty metres of rope, which took me at least a half hour, and took some effort as I have not done this for a while and I’m somewhat out of practice. Once at the belay the rest of the abs were a pain, as at every throw the wind took hold of the ropes and flung them half way across the face, ensuring that every tree, plant, protruding and loose rock was caught and tangled. It had been a long descent, I hate abseiling, and I hate it more when it goes wrong, even when the judgement was my fault.

This few days climbing was capped off with a trip to La Panocha, a small crag that sits above the city of Mercia. The rock was different to anything I had climbed before, it literally looked like stones that had been cemented together, I was worried about it being loose and brittle, however on the whole it was solid. We climbed one of the classic routes, however it was such a classic that it’s now a bit of a polished mess, you can see what was good about it, although that is now lost in a polish fest. In fact this whole crag was polished and as ever this takes much away from the enjoyment of the routes. The best route was the top fifty 6a plus, that took a slippery start and then followed a huge mouth feature, and a nice crack line up the face, it was very pumpy for me and I was struggling, but I made it to the top cleanly. A top route in the bag!

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