So, you’ve arrived at Alicante Airport, and having run the gauntlet of the hire car pickup point, you’re now driving north along the coast, excited about the week long Costa Blanca climbing holiday that lies ahead.
You can’t help but stare with longing at the vast amount of rock you pass by – massive slabs and walls that look featureless from a distance, but you know that on closer inspection this would be very different. You wonder how many routes already exist on these walls and mountains, and what would it be like to immerse yourself in the experience of climbing here?
Driving past Benidorm, a striking rock tower rises majestically above Finestrat – the Puig Campana. Its classic ‘Espolón Central’ is thirteen pitches long of perfect limestone, the hardest of which is 4+.
Spain is still the main sport climbing destination in Europe, if not the world. With the famous Margalef, Siurana, Rodellar in the North and the popular El Chorro in the South, the Costa Blanca, right in the middle, is sometimes overlooked. Without the presence of top climbers living in the area and redpointing the hardest routes in the world, the Costa Blanca lacks a high profile and is not as prominent in the climbing press.
This, of course, has its advantages in the form of quiet crags. However, a Costa Blanca climbing holiday definitely deserves more attention and appreciation. With so much rock of varying height, angles and colours, and still lots of new route potential, there are more routes here than you could possibly climb in a lifetime.
1. With rock of every angle, from slabs to overhanging caves, there is a perfect crag for all abilities and tastes. Many crags offer a full range of grades – often 4s and 5s can be found on the same wall as 8s. For instance in the Xalón valley, just inland from Calpe, the grades range from 3+ to 7b+ at Alcalalí, from 3 to 8b+ at Murla, from 4 to 8c at l’Ocaive, and from 5+ to 8a at the stunning amphitheatre shaped crag Peña Roja. Another crag that deserves mentioning is Foradá (grades from 3+ to 8b+).
Foradá is a world-class venue about 40-minutes from Alicante. It has a remote feel to it, even though the walk in is less than half an hour. It’s quiet, and at an altitude of almost 1000m, the views are amazing. Every route here, whether it is one of the easier routes on the sunny south face, or a harder route on the cooler north face, offers interesting and high quality climbing.
2. Whether you are a sport climber or a trad climber, a Costa Blanca climbing holiday offers it all. There are sport routes as well as ‘traditional’ routes that need protecting with nuts and camming devices.
3. Besides more than 3000 single pitch routes, the Costa Blanca offers the opportunity for big multi pitch adventures and all day mountaineering experiences. The striking landmark Peñón de Ifach (332m) stands proud on Calpe’s coast. It offers great multi-pitch routes – some of which are fully bolted, others are mixed.
Vía Pany and Vía Valencianos are the easiest routes up the Peñón, the hardest pitches being 5 or 5+. If you’re looking for something harder, Costa Blanca (3, 6b, 6b, 6a, 6b+, 6b+, 6c+) and El Navegante (4, 4+, 5+, 6b, 6b, 6c, 6a, 7a) are highly recommended.
5. Little or no polish – with the exception of Sella many of the popular routes are not particularly polished.
6. Short approaches – many crags in the Costa Blanca are roadside crags or require less than ten minutes approach.
7. The climate in the Costa Blanca enables year round climbing. Rainfall is exceptionally low – the average chance of rain on a day is 12%, and when it rains it is hardly ever enough to stop you from climbing. In January – the coldest month of the year – the average high temperature is still 16 degrees. Pick a south-facing crag for ideal climbing conditions. In the hottest months of the year, July and August, you can get up early, climb in the shade, have a siesta and then climb again in the afternoon and evening.
8. The benefit of being in a tourist destination is that there are limitless things to do on rest days. Spend some time in Costa Blanca’s small historic towns, valleys, gorges, attraction parks or on the beach. Other options include shopping, cycling, hiking, kayaking, fishing and diving.
9. Accommodation is plentiful and cheap, especially outside of the summer months. Stay in an apartment, hotel or villa in Benidorm if you like the hustle and bustle, or in the much quieter Calpe.
10. There are plenty of cheap flights to Alicante or Valencia. Check Skyscanner.com for the best deals.
Rock and Sun, the UK’s leading provider of rock climbing holidays and courses, is based in the Costa Blanca. Holidays and courses are run from their luxurious villa with a private swimming pool in Calpe, boasting great views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Peñón de Ifach:
For more information or booking, contact Rock & Sun: www.rockandsun.com, (+44) 02033 900 351.
Text by Desirée Verbeek & Trevor Massiah. Photos courtesy of Rock & Sun