When we arrived in Portugal, we had plans to spend a couple of weeks there following the coast up to Lisbon, climbing as we went. As things turned out we only managed a couple of days on rock and for the rest, rain stopped play.
We had a long drive from a service stop just north of Cadiz, which was really nice and literally a minutes walk from the beach. We planned to go to Cadiz itself, however in the end decided that a lazy day and a walk along the beach was a better option. Our first stop in Portugal was Faro, I’m not sure why, but it seemed a logical place to me.
We had a day or two admin, going to the shops and although this might seem a little but mundane for an adventure blog, this story needs to be told. For the past 9 months our life has been without something very important to both jess and me. Although we have tried in vain to replace this loss with alternatives, it is never quite the same. Our dreams were realised when we turned the corner in the supermarket and found a cereal isle of worth, and right there in the centre shining like a golden beacon, Crunchy Nut!! Fuck yeah! We stacked our basket high and one loss of traveling was replenished in full!
Just north of Faro is the climbing crag Rocha de Pena, a limestone crag that sits atop of the village. Although we did not have a topography or guidebook, we headed up the hill and started to scout out the faces, hoping to find the names of climbs at the foot. As it turned out we lucked out and found one of the only sectors with names on. We started on a route that was supposed to be 6a, although it was very easy, and later found all the routes to be downgraded. We worked our way from right to left, only doing a few routes.
The final route was graded 6c, although it was only 6b+ on ukc. I managed with some difficulty to complete the route just short of 2/3’s of the way up, and came a cropper on moves I just couldn’t find or link together. To start with, I thought I would maybe have another decent hard sport onsight, however this crux was thinner than my hair line. Eventually I managed to do the moves, although I still struggled to work the moves and clip at the same time, even once this was done the next section was equally thin, after this the route eases considerably, although I feel the crux is in the 6c range for sure.
We wild camped in the village over night, and the next day headed up to find a particular route called Bonelli, at 6b I thought it would be a good aim for the day. I thought it would be a couple of buttresses over, as it turned out we ended up walking and searching for an age until we found it, and it looked like a monster of a route, so after yesterdays grade pushing I didn’t feel I had that route in me.
We settled for a warm up route, I went the wrong way and struggled like mad. After this we did a couple of shorter 6b climbs, with chicken themed names. The first was an amazing route, three stars and great fun, it was quite easy for 6b. The next route finished up the same line, although the start was thin and mean, with the only positive hold being a mono pocket. I clipped the first two bolts and down climbed, before starting again. The lower moves were tough and fully weighting the mono, was a serious test of my ability. Once past this section it should have been easier, as I’d already done most of it, however I managed to tie myself into knots and make the whole thing twice as hard as it should have been! Once I topped out I was done for the day…
Or so I thought, jess still had some gas left and we headed to another section where we had found a couple of 6a+ routes. Even though I was not overly feeling it, and this is normally a sign to call it a day, I went up. I managed to climb the route well and onsight, I even managed to shock myself, it was a good route too. To be honest all the routes we climbed on this crag were worth it, if I was in the area again, I would definitely visit.
We saw the weather report that was predicting bad weather, and my was it right, from the point we left till well now… the weather has been shite. We stopped in the camper stop in Lagos, which at €3 a night, is the night we have paid to camp in nine months, although it had free wifi, good wifi too, so that swayed our choice!
We planned to climb in Sagres, although with the rain, decided against it for obvious reasons. We decided to drive to Lisbon and meet up with friends. A couple of long drives later and we arrived in Lisbon. The traffic going in was terrible and it took about an hour to get into the city, to be fair I was pretty tired on arrival, but we still decided to head out and meet up with friends. It was nice to be out and catching up. It was a small Solent University reunion, as four of us had studied there! Although it would have been nice to stay longer I was still feeling lagged after back to back long drives and called it a night earlier than everyone else.
The next day we took a long walk into the city, and walked around the usual tourist jaunts, it was ok, as ever I find it harder and harder to appreciate cities, and when I’m there I usually just want to leave as soon as possible. That evening we were meant to meet up with friends again, unfortunately this did not pan out, and with this we decided to get out of the city to a camper stop just out of the city. This was the start of us leaving Portugal, we had planned for more, although sometimes things don’t go to plan, and this was one of them. On a plus we are heading to Madrid to meet up with friends, so it’s not all bad. Hopefully the weather improves as it’s been miserable for a week now, I’m starting to feel like I’ve returned to England!