Almost a month back in Singapore and not a single entry on my blog. It’s been a stressful month back home with Chinese New Year hitting us and working on weekends in climbing gyms and slackline events. While all these are happening, my heart and mind always drift back to the peaceful land of Spain where climbing is at your doorstep and abundance of trad,sports, multi pitch and all-you-need-outdoors activities.
One special place, I would like to highlight is Penon D Ifach in Coasta Blanca, which is one of the areas that is out of the Singapore climber’s radar. Due to it not being featured in mainstream American media nor does it have pitches and pitches of 5.14 next to each other. Anyway how many of us actually climb 5.14s in Singapore anyway?
Kelly and I being terrible climbers, who are able to climb up to only 5.12s decided to go to Coasta Blanca, a place which seems to be really popular among British climbers due to the climate and the warm winter! Sella seems to be a major climbing area in Coasta Blanca and that was our obvious first stop from whatever information we could gather from the internet. Sella is nested about 30mins drive in the highlands away from the major cities and highway. There isn’t a campsite and some expensive accommodation which are not really climber orientated. We’ve heard of a climber’s refugio in Sella but failed to find it in the fading sunlight and decided to head to a popular refugio in Finestrat, The Orange House.
It was great staying at The Orange House for a couple of days exploring the crags of Sella and Puig Campana. The climbing here was alright, Sella has some older crags are super polish and Puig Campana on the south west face got some really uncleaned routes. The only place worth mentioning in this area was The wild side, which is more of a solid 5.12 and above climber’s playground. However the place faces some access problems and you actually need to hop the fence at someone’s garden and climb in their backyard. Once you are in the area, there are routes from 5.11c all the way up to 5.13s. Kelly and I are not into projecting a hard route on our last 2 weeks in Spain so we decided to head to Calpe.
Calpe on the other is a big tourist town with beautiful beaches, marinas, restaurants by the sea and amenities of a tourist town. We stayed in Casa Kariya with Ian and Mitchell up in the nest of private houses. They have a small cottage in the garden which is one of the best accommodations we have had in months of travelling in Europe. It was cheap and totally worked for us and most importantly travelling to Penon D Ifach was a breeze from the cottage!
Once in Calpe, the first mission was to climb Penon D Ifach via a easy route to check out the approach and descent, plague by a few days of bad weather and a very worn out harness, our plans had to be postpone. On a day when the weather was threatening to rain just for a while and less than 1mm, we decided that we can’t wait anymore and head up Penon D Ifach via Coasta Blanca, 6c+. The route has the same start as Via Valencienos and split right to a some really loose climbing which can’t qualify as the top 50 climbs in Coasta Blanca. Once you get off the 2nd pitch, the route starts to flow with long pitches and varies from some crack climbing to slabs and face and finally the crux pitch on top is kind of steep. Non of the pitch disappoint us except for pitch 4 which I would suggest bringing a size 1 cam to protect the run out face leading to the first bolt.
The weather did not hold up and it started to rain on us from the 4th pitch onwards and climbing all the harder pitches on top was more exciting when it is wet! Did we mention the seagull dump on top of Penon? It was really gross when it rains so watch your hand holds!
Loving the location of Penon D Ifach, we decided to give the wall another go at a slightly harder and longer route to the right, El Navigante, 7a. Again the crux pitch was at the headwall of Penon at the last pitch, however the overall pitches are easier with good warm up climbing right from the start and only get harder towards the last 3 pitches. The route was worth mentioning since there is a really hard variation at the end and instead of heading straight up which is graded 7a, I climbed to the right leaning bolts which leads into a steep wide crack. There is some fixed tads and slings around a tufa at the end of the traverse. After some research it seems like the possible grade for that pitch is 7b/7b+ which is out of my onsight ability and obviously I was murdered by that pitch.
We reached the top of the route and high winds gusting to 55km/hr which makes walking on the exposed top really difficult. We also saw another party topping out at Pueto Paso Ecologica which is also 7a/+ and what they describe as many consistent hard pitches with amazing climbing.
Still loving the experience of climbing on this piece of rock, Kelly and I return just 2 days after and climbed Pueto Paso Ecologica, hoping to free all the pitches. I got to say the first pitch is really hard exiting the crumbly cave onto some really thin moves on the slab. I screwed up the pitch after down climbing and trying to moves for more than an hour. Never mind the freeing part.. I thought and just enjoy the climbing. The second pitch which Kelly took was an amazing 7a slab with thin moves and some delicate, balance crux sequence. Its one of those climbing which makes you feel like you have learned something about foot work. The best pitch was 3 which is a bolted crack with occasional jamming and some layback.
Unfortunately, at this point of time Kelly send the Gopro down to the ground while fishing the pack for her Arcteryx Hybrid SL. =( Tough luck. We continued up the wall with Kelly cruising the 6c pitch which have a steep steep exit on some funky pockets. I took the last 7a pitch which is the easiest 7a pitch on the whole route with some airy step across to some hidden holds and straight up the finger cracks to a glorious end! Superb climbing with no disappointing pitches!
Penon D Ifach is a national park with a ongoing long battle with the authorities to keep the walls open to climbers. I feel that having climbers in the park is fine as long as we take our trash out and avoid dislodging large loose rocks to the ground which may hurt someone. As long as everyone keep it a clean and safe environment this beautiful piece of rock is a must go if you like a lot of good climbing in a day!
Do check out our trip calendar for the year 2014 for more amazing trips to Malaysia, China, Taiwan and US! Our outdoor trips are suitable for everyone from novice hiker or climber to aspiring big wall climbing enthusiast. Take an outdoor holiday this summer!