Steph and myself were supposed to be in the Costa Blanca in April but Covid put paid to that and we pushed it back to October, and so it was we left a surreal, deserted Bristol airport to land at an equally deserted Alicante on our way to The Orange House, a well known climbers base run by Sam & Rich Mayfield.
Day 1 was arrival, hire car to accommodation & shopping.
Day 2 – An easy introduction at Echo Valley (bolted by Rich) with a great view to Sierra de Toix and the sea; no climbing pics but there were shed loads of lizards. Started off with couple of 3s, couple of 4s, an interesting 4c – Flake Drum, then Regalo Por Ali, a really enjoyable 5a with a great layback crack to start and a crux high up; topping off the day with Phantom, a 5C with a difficult start but easy climbing after that to the lower off.
Day 3 – Emboldened by progress on day 2 we went for an adventure day on Sierra de Toix – Cilber and the Toix ridge to the TV masts. 150m in 5 pitches (5, 5+, 4, 3, 4+), followed by the ridge traverse. Just within our capabilities but was definitely going to be an adventure. First pitch had a move over a small bulge but was Ok after that. P2 was the tough one, a kong panic helped settle the nerves. P3/4 – well, route finding got a bit tough on these 2, ended up pretty run out and had to place a few pieces of trad gear to settle the mind (one thing I learnt was that it is worth carrying a light set of nuts on multi-pitch in Costa Blanca for peace of mind). Eventually ended up building a trad anchor on a ledge to bring up Steph. Carried on up the crack on the face behind to find the end of P4 only about 10m above the anchor, Doh! P5 had a tricky start with a slab and crack but good for the 4+ grade, which led to a huge flat ledge at the top to belay the final pitch with incredible views either side to Benidorm and Calpe.
Lunch with a view and then onto the ridge, easy scrambling from the ledge to the ridge proper and the summit ridge in the distance was quite a sight, looked intimidating and unlike most, didn’t look easier as we got closer. We traversed around the optional 5+ face but in hindsight it would have been eaiser to climb it. Next the main ridge ascent to the summit – think a narrower crib goch at 50 degrees. We decided to be safe and roped up, it was an easy scramble in the end but the consequence of a slip would have been fatal. A perfect spike for a sling belay at the top and all was good. we then coiled the 70m rope we had and moved together for some of the ridge descent to the masts and the eventual path back to the car. A great day with a perfect mix of adventure, good climbing, and amazing views and exposure.
Day 4 – Redovan Via Ferrata. A pseudo ‘rest day’, but still quite an ‘adventure’ day. I had read about this and its swing stage so was eager to do it. We teamed up with Adam & Kat who were also staying at the Orange House, having arranged to borrow VF kits from Rich (thank you very much!). An hours drive from our base but well worth it. The beginning was K2 grade VF, then an optional K4 ascent; of course we did both. Easy K2 stage with a good value selection of bridges. Then a steeper K4 section but pretty easy for a climber of any grade. A steep slightly overhanging start which turned out to be the toughest moves, maybe to deter those unsure right at the start. Followed by a ramp leading to the steep section, basically straight up. Split by a swing where you clip into an A frame and swing out from the cliff face, exhilerating, if short. Another steep section to a 180 degree turn to get on a ladder facing out from the cliff to give a great view over the plain below you. Finally a 45m wire bridge brings you to the end and a waymarked descent, with some ‘interesting sections’.
Day 5 – an easier day, with a fellow resident at the Orange House. Back to Toix at Toix Far Oeste for some single pitch climbs. Highlights were Hamna (4a), La Cagona (4c), and La roja tres (5c). Also tried Presto (5c) but couldn’t manage the rockover.
Followed by an afternoon/evening in Benidorm proper. Masks were de-rigeur out and about in Spain, even just walking down the street. Temperatures were late 20s/early 30s all week so perfect for half and half climb/beach days. We started with Benidorm beach and an evening meal in the old town, which to be honest was a bit disappointing, very touristy, but, hey-ho, a decent tapas nevertheless. And to round it off a parking ticket!
Day 6 – next adventure – Magical Mystery Tour, 160m, 5 pitch (3, 3, 4, 4, 5). If you’re coming to the area, a must do. Committing 50m free ab in made for an exciting start, leaving us our 40m rope for the route. P1/2 an entirely soloable pair of grade 3 traverses. P3 worth roping up for; an exciting and airy traverse around to a comfortable anchor in a roomy scoop. P4 up to the right and across to a belay in another, albeit slightly smaller, scoop. P5 right from the scoop then up the arete to a move over a ledge before the final crux crack to the top. We had an audience of some kayakers and paddle boarders who gave a round of applause as Steph topped out, very satisfying.
Topped out by 1 so an afternoon at Mascaret beach, pebbles rather than sand but easy and free parking.
Day 7 – Sella. An unsatisfying day. Followed the Rockfax guide and did some extremely polished, thoroughy unenjoyable routes. Also the guidebook QR code gives you a car park the wrong side of the crag, you need to follow the road right around to the opposite side.
Afternoon on Villayosoa beach, a very pleasant beach with a nce selection of cafe-bars and free parking at one end (appreciated after our parking ticket) and a good story behind the different coloured houses as related by Sam at The Orange House – the houses were painted the same colour as the knitted jumpers of the fishermen so they could find their drunken way home after an evening at the local bar.
Day 8 – Sella (again). Much better day, ignored rockfax guide and went by the names on the rock and UKC description. A couple of 4as, and a few more 4bs, much more enjoyable. Shedloads of lizards again.
Afternoon at Playa Raco Conil, clear water and great swimming and diving.
Day 9 – Echo Valley (again) & home. Final day and late flight so time for a few climbs, decided to bookend week back at Echo Valley, same climbs as day 2, but no less enjoyable, then back to Orange House for shower & lunch before drive back to Alicante for a 22:45 flight back.
We are pretty low grade, self admitted bumbly climbers but Costa Blanca had plenty to offer us, and well worth a visit whatever grade you climb at. Thinking of going? Go for it, it’s well worth a visit.