Thursday, 9 April 2009

Costa Blanca Climbing - March 09

My first ever blog and first time in Costa Blanca so here goes...

Sunday 22nd March
Travelling yesterday, so chose a short drive from our base at the Orange House to Sierra de Toix. Headed for the deserted Upper Toix Placa, sloshed on the factor 20 and, with Nick leading, warmed up on some 28/30m 5’s and 5+s. Sun, edgy, pockety rock and the scent of rosemary. Headed down to Toix Far Oeste so I could lead some shorter, easier stuff – it was busy with a group but emptied out by 2:30ish.
Sick with envy about the amount of climbable rock here.
Monday 23rd March
Finished breakfast with a (very English) mug of tea in the sun by the (very un-English) mimosa blossom and the pool. Off to the famous Sella today. Stopped en route in Finestrat for fresh bread for lunch and buns for elevenses. Zigzag roads to Sella and then an off-road track with Nick in rally driver mode.

Avoided the polished climbs by the car park and headed up just beyond the Sector Competicion for a couple of easy routes and then some harder single pitch stuff on Sector Final and Marion. Real contrast with Toix with it’s views of marinas, unfinished villas, roads and power lines. Sella is silent with peaceful orchards and the pale green dust of pollen from the deep green Arolla pines floating on the breeze up the valley.

Coffee in the corner cafe in Finestrat on the way home , then walk back up to the town later for a huge salad and pasta at Ohlala.

Tuesday 24th March
Today’s agenda: preparation for our main mission of the trip – Espolon Central (4+/HS) and the Edward’s Finish (5/VS) on the south face of Puig Campana. All together a possible 17 pitches plus the all important getting back down again bit.

Hadn’t multipitched together since Ailefroide / Provence last Autumn so we set off to Echo valley to do Espolon Encantada, a 2 pitch, 2* trad HVS with abseil descent on Echo 2. Found it a bit more taxing than expected, especially the 40m long second pitch, didn’t feel as slick as I would have liked. After lunch climbed a bit on the newly developed Echo 1.5 lower tier, not very inspiring but the upper tier is meant to be better.

Got back to base and found rain forecast for the next day. Relieved not to be doing the big route tomorrow, but simultaneously frustrated. Nick seemed pretty unfazed so we decided to walk tomorrow to give our feet a rest from rock boots.

Wednesday 25th March
Back to Sella for a fab 18k(ish) walk past a buddist monastery to the peak Sanchet. Chilly and cloudy with occasional bursts of sunshine. Good tracks and an easy scramble to a narcissi dotted summit at over 1,000m.

Back to the Orange house to sort out the kit for the big day tomorrow and then dinner and beers with some ill-advised, complimentary after dinner snifters.

Thursday 26th March
Alarm goes off 6am. Clear skies but not cold. Breakfast done, sarnies made, car parked below Puig Campana and ready to start the walk in at 7am. One pair just starting up the first pitch of the direct start to Espolon Central, we go behind the ridge and at 8am start the scramble up to the large ledge at the start of pitch 4. Get up pitch 4 with me doing a slightly unorthodox tree manoeuvre near the start, but we’re on our way. Had a bit of a moment watching Nick lead the first steeper pitch (no. 6), just had to remember it was all well within my grade, crunched a strawberry and cream flavoured sweetie (kept handy for such events) and got on with it.

Route finding for the climbing section was very straightforward, as was the climbing. Ran some of the shorter pitches together with our 60m ropes. Lunch at the top of Espolon Central at 1pm. Weather still good, no cloud build up, so now for the Edward’s finish. Enjoyable easy scramble up the ridge and then along, unbelievable views. Came off the ridge a bit early resulting in an unpleasant traverse but popped out right next to the chockstone at the bottom of pitch 3. Not hard, but technically the hardest pitch of the whole day, the exposed move was protected by a bolt and an in-situ thread.

On top of the mountain at 3pm; now for the significantly less fun bit. Found the abseil point after a bit of rummaging around, that went fine, but was totally unprepared for the sheer awfulness of the scree slope below it. Nearly threw my toys out the pram at one point but decided that energy expended in screaming at insentient rock could be better used getting out of the stuff. Unsurprisingly Nick was keeping a safe distance. Back at the car in a better mood by 6pm, time to drink a gallon of water and buy the birthday cake!

Friday 27th March
Still on a high after yesterday. Had to drop one of the group off at the airport in the morning so headed on over to Marin from there. Again really quiet and unpolished and some really good 2 pitch lower grade routes.

Saturday 28th March
Last climbing day and still surprisingly up for it despite the big day on Thursday. Last visit to Echo Valley, this time to Echo Playa. A local club was there and there aren’t a huge number of climbs so it was busy with a nice friendly buzz. Mostly out of my league for leading but seconded an uncrimpy 6a and a thuggy 5+ with a good steep layback, both with a commendable lack of swearing.

Can’t believe it’s time to come home already.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

New Rock Gear Arriving

The climbing wall within the shop has seen a fair bit of action the last few days as new kit arrives from leading brands DMM and Wild Country.

The camping area has also seen new arrivals from MSR with their new range of pots and pans.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Petzl Myo XP

The original Myo XP was designed as a high performance headlamp for night navigation, but with lower light modes for campsite use.

The big change for 2009 is that it is now brighter, actually three times brighter increasing from 50 to 150 lumens output.

With the development in LED technology Petzl have fitted a new LED unit that has three light levels plus boost and flash settings and a handy battery charge indicator. The result of this upgrade is impressive, on boost mode for example maximum beam length increases from 65m to 97m and on standard mode 72m instead of 45m.

In use the torch is hard to fault, with its extra power and great build quality.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Walking Routes To Download

Leading outdoor news and reviews website have recently launched a new online routes section. You can search for walking or scrambling routes throughout the country with full OS mapping and downloadable GPS data.

Not only that but you can also upload your own routes and share them with others online.

Now for the really good bit, each month Berghaus are giving away three prizes to people who have uploaded a route that month so why not log in and and see if you are a winner.

If you don't however win a prize the new Berghaus Spring 2009 range can now be found at The Outdoor Shop online store.