Costa Blanca

Last week I got back from a couple of weeks climbing in Costa Blanca. The plan was for the first week to be full-on hard climbing for John and myself. The second week was to be a week of catching up, socialising, and chilled out climbing with old friends from Warwick uni.

That's not quite how it worked out. After leaving a sunny Bristol for a wet Alicante we arrived at the Orange House in Finistrat (the best place to stay in Costa Blanca) in our battered Ford Focus hire car. We were greeted by plenty of friendly people and much red wine. The next morning we woke up a bit later than planned and slightly hungover, a pattern which was to be repeated for the next 12 days.

Due to wet weather we didn’t have the luxury of slowly getting into the swing of things. Conditions dictated a steep crag, we choose Sella Wild Side, a totally inspiring place. The first route of the trip was a runout 7b with a stopper move by the second bolt, needless to say we got spanked. Later in the day the weather improved and we ticked the classic but polished Diagonal on Caneza de Rino at Sella. The second day was much the same, this time avoiding the rain in the super steep El Bovedon cave near Gandia and generally getting spanked on an 8a. Lovely climbing up a tufa to a stopper boulder problem to get to the chains. Later in the day we headed to Gandia. In very British conditions (cold, windy and damp) I managed to flash L'Os 7a+ and Gallo de la Susanna Alba 7a. Both of which I later realised I had done or tried before.

The super steep cave of El Bovedon
Finally on the third day the weather improved. Teaming up with chilled out Californians Ashley and Patrick who we met at the Orange House we headed to Pena Roja, a beautiful crag in the Xalo Valley. Within minutes of arriving at the crag John decided to forage for a tasty snack in the form of a Prickly Pear. What an error! It turns out Balue from Jungle Book was right “pick the pear with the claw, don’t use the paw!”
They aint called Prickly Pears for nothing! 

John suffering after a Prickly Pear indicant 
After an excruciating/hilarious ten minutes watching John extract thousands of tiny spikes from his fingers and tongue we were ready to climb. It was a fantastic day, everything I love about Spanish climbing. Many challenging routes, plenty of sun and good company. The day ended with us sitting on a small ledge watching the sun go down with with a cold beer. We returned to the Orange House for a massive paella, red wine and much Anglo American banter.

The next day (day 4) we unwisely returned to Sella Wild Side, slightly hungover for another spanking. After getting scared and taking a big whipper on a super technical 7a corner, which I had done previously, we retreated to the sunny side of Sella for a chilled out rest day. Here we ate the reminder of last night's paella and bumped into some friends from Warwick.

Day 5 we drove to Alicante aeropuerto to pick-up a friend then onto Forada. A Steep crag high in the hills. Even though the sun was shining the shady north face at 1000m necessitated full down jacket belaying. I climbing the brutally steep but soft for the grade Muscle Man 7b.

Day six the sun was still shining, we made the long drive to Gandia. A south facing, fantastically steep crag covered in tufas to the N.E of Finestrat. Teaming up with friends from Warwick we had a productive day. I warmed up on a 7a, followed by onsighting D'os Super Carrizas 7a+ then redpointed Patatas a lo Prove a fantastic 7b+.
Jonny on Patatas a lo Prove 7b+ at Gandia
The next day (day 7) I teamed up with Jonny, we ventured to the coast of Sierra De Toix to climb the adventures arĂȘte route Via Missing Link 6b+ (E3). Wow, what a route! The first main pitch is a bold 35m traverse above the sea where falling off leading or seconding would certainly result in a wetting! I lead the main upward pitch, 45m of steep arĂȘte climbing, mainly trad protected with the odd rusty bolt. Totally wild, fantastic climbing with an adventurous feel!
Jonny on the 50m poorly protected traverse pitch on The Missing Link 6b+ (E3)
Looking down half way up the amazing arete of Missing Link
Back at the Orange House team Warwick uni had well and truly arrived, a total of 57 students! The chilled out vibe of the Orange House had vanished and had been replaced with chaos! Tonight was designated cocktail night, as the rain began falling outside a messy night ensued.

Day 8 was spent resting and recovering, exploring Finestrat and sampling some greasy food and coffee in the local ex-pat bar.
Exploring Finestrat on a gray day
Day 9 started off sunny in Finestrat but during the drive north to Alcoi the rain started, change of plan, we headed back south to Bernia. After an exciting hire car off-roading experience we found that the the classic route of the crag, the pristine tufa of The Magic Flute was still wet. Gutted. Climbing Jayne's Project 6c, Paradise Lost 7a and the very easy for the grade Bloquel 7a+ just about recovered the day.

Feeling slightly frustrated by the lack of action in the past two days we wanted to make the most of our last day climbing. We set our alarms and actually got up early(ish)! Teaming up with Tom, we started the day by storming up Puto Paseo Ecologico on Penon d'Infach 7 pitches graded 7a+, 6c+, 6c, 5, 6c+ and 7a. An amazing route on a stunning lump of rock.
Tom, moving fast on the Penon 
The Penon is unmissable, it's on the front of most postcards of the area! The route goes through some amazing rock formations, pitch 6 was the highlight, super steep climbing on massive holds with hundreds of meters of space between you and the sea below. The route took us three hours, followed by legging it back down to the base, much to the horror of watching Spaniards and tourists; running in the midday sun is just not done in Costa Blanca! After a hire car rally stage and a bit of a detour involving a mistaken car key (long story) we got ready to climb the Puig Campana.
Gearing up for the Puig in the afternoon
The Puig is a large mountain behind Finestrat, at over 1400m and 17 pitches of climbing it's usually treated as a long days outing on it own! We moved together up the main route Espolon Central, in 1hr 40min. The final few pitches of the Edawrds Finish to the summit took another hr or so.
Stunning rock structures on the Edwards Finish bit of the Puig

We topped out just as the sun was starting to go down and just about made it back to the car without needing a head torch. A very memorable and a good way to finish the trip; 24 pitches of climbing up two of the biggest faces in the area.

Summiting on the Puig in the evening light, last route of the trip, tired and happy 
Credit to John Warner for a few of the (better) photos above.