Costa Blanca Climbing

22nd Oct 2014

The plane journey is always interesting.  Invariably the flight's packed and invariably the cross section of travellers is broad ranging.  Last week's journey was no exception.  There was the large female group of ladies heading for Nuala's hen party (their printed tshirts gave it away), some golfers (they couldn't hide in their plaid Tommy Hilfiger trousers and Ping polos), lots of elderly couples that I imagine were heading out for the winter (although I have absolutely no evidence to support this theory) and a random collection of other adults that I can make absolutely no judgement about at all.  These randoms did include, however, several small groups that showed the tell tell signs of climbers (mainly tatty clothing, well worn rucksacks and muddy approach shoes). Yes.  It was time for Peak Mountaineering's annual Spanish pilgrimage and everything was as it always is on the Easyjet Liverpool to Alicante flight.  A couple of hour hop from autumnal UK accesses the gateway to the sun bathed Costa Blanca.  A climbers escape to warm bolted limestone, to sleepy Spanish villages and to long mountain trad routes.  It always feels great......
Peak Mountaineering's Costa Blanca Climber trips are quick hit (3 day) action packed adventures built around an ascent of the Puig Campana which is a famous Costa landmark and home to some amazing limestone climbing.  Of course the Costa area is also home to scores of amazing sport venues so it's very easy to fill our other days too.
Our base, as always, is the legendary Orange House.  Sam and Rich Mayfield's home away from home has been frequented by stacks of climbers who are always assured a warm welcome and great value accommodation.  It also helps that they are based near the bustling village of Finestrat and a few minute drive from a large Carrefour supermarket.  The Orange house has a fully equipped kitchen, bouldering wall, comfortable lounge, free wifi and even a swimming pool. 
On the first day we visit one of the many local climbing venues to practice some key skills and to get a feel for climbing on Costa limestone (which is a delight to climb on).  This day also allows us to cover some skills needed for our Puig ascent including multi pitch abseils (abseiling from the Puig is not planned but it's good to have the skills needed just in case), stance management and general movement skills.  We have participants joining us with a range of experience and all we ask is that, as a minimum, they have basic ropework skills, a reasonable hill fitness level and experience of seconding to hard severe grade (we offer a range of climbing courses that would be perfect preparation for this trip). 
After a day at the crag there is nothing better than relaxing at the Orange House.  A dip in the pool, some slackline practice or just getting those weary feet up on on a chair on the terrace with a cold beer - there is plenty to keep everyone happy.  There are options to cook dinner in the kitchen or take a leisurely trip to Finestrat village for a meal in one of the friendly bars and restaurants.  Our favourite option is OhLaLa, a small and cosy pizzeria which serves great quality and good value dishes.
On day 2 it is time to ascend the Puig.  This spectacular Costa rock giant towers over Finestrat and can be seen from far and wide.  The Espolon Central is our route of ascent and this gem of a climb involves 14 pitches of high quality Trad climbing at around Hard Severe standard.  Every client that has joined us for this trip has marvelled at the climbs quality and stunning situation.
We'll make equipment preparations the night before then head off for an early start (usually around 6.30am).  It is exciting to walk in by the light of our headtorches and steadily gain height on the good paths that lead toward our objective.  It takes about an hour to reach the base of the climb and we are usually geared up just as it gets light enough to climb. 
There are a couple of ways up the lower section of the face but we always aim to complete the direct line which gives 3 great additional pitches and offers more continuity to the climb as a whole.  After this initial section we weave rightward to the central pillar that will then be our line for the rest of the climb.
Everything about this line is great.  Comfortable belay ledges combine with superb climbing and stunning positions for pitch after pitch.  Continually interesting.  Continually challenging.  Some where along the way we'll stop for photos or have a snack and water break but it is important to keep moving efficiently as there is a lot of rock to climb.  Costa limestone offers great friction and plenty of sculpted pockets and sinker holds.  It really is a shame when it's over but, of course, all good things come to an end and eventually we'll be basking in the sunshine on the top before beginning our descent.
Getting down from the Puig is complex and challenging.  Numerous parties have had problems finding a safe passage and you'll be glad of the calm reassurance of a seasoned guide to lead you down safely.  Once at the bottom we retrace our steps back to the car.  Invariably a night of celebratory drinks and a well earned refuel follow.
Clients usually like a leisurely start on our last day.  We'll have breakfast in the sun and soak up the   Orange House ambience before heading to a new venue.  The rate of climbing development in this rugged mountain terrain ensures there is an ever expanding list of venues to visit. 
Popular options include one of the Toix crags which overlooks the sea in a beautiful location.  Alternatively, Guadalest offers a range of superb crags with the bonus of the historic hilltop village nearby incase souvenirs need to be sought out.  There's the quiet tranquility of Echo Valley, the shady haven of Ferrand or the world famous Sella crags.  We certainly have plenty of choice.
A quick shower and change, a final meal and we'll be heading back to the airport for the short hop back to the UK.  We can promise you a great adventure.  We can guarantee you a battery recharge. We can also say with certainty is that this won't be your last visit to the sunshine coast.  
We'll be running more Costa Blanca Climber trips next Autumn and we can always put together a bespoke trip on dates to suit you for groups of 2 or more.  Full details on next year's trip are available here.
Posted by Cal