Climbing in Costa Blanca in March
By Hannah Thomson // There has to be no giddier a team than two girls from Hull finding themselves in a rental car on the Spanish coast on a Sunday morning in March on their way to climb in Costa Blanca. Lydia and I had met working at Rockcity Climbing Centre the previous winter and, after hearing rumours of sunny sport climbing abroad, we booked flights to Alicante and worked out the rest afterwards. We found cheap accommodation at the Orange House near the village of Finestrat and hired a rental car from Alicante airport which made getting to the many crags a piece of cake. That, and we had managed to borrow a guidebook (from the 80s) and commandeered a SatNav. Oh, and a brand new 60m rope belonging to one of our friends.
You could call it lucky that this all fell into place, but I think the regulars were genuinely concerned about us and felt that their contributions might somehow protect us from ourselves. As I left work the boss shouted after me ‘You do know what to do at the top, don’t you!?’. Of course I did. I would just have to remind myself a little on the flight over.
In Costa Blanca there was more than enough climbing to visit a different crag every day and more; from the suntrap of Gandia with its overhanging tufas & harder grades, to the cool, foresty Sella, and my favourite, Echo Placa, reached via a winding drive past orange groves, boasting a range of grades between 4+ and 6a+ and the highlight – a fabulous view overlooking Benidorm and the sea.
This was my second sport climbing trip abroad; I’d only learnt to climb outdoors last summer on a University trip to the Alps. I would recommend the Costa Blanca to newbies as well as seasoned climbers – it suited us well. As the climbing was sport climbing, the gear you need is minimal in comparison to trad climbing. I knew my lead belaying was up to scratch, even if my lead climbing sometimes suffered from fear, so it was a straightforward trip. I was happy to second Lydia up harder climbs to stretch my technical ability without constantly checking where my last draw was. Most importantly though, I just wanted to soak up the sun and stretch my muscles on the warm limestone, with its perfect finger pockets formed by water over time, and bright orange tufas.
How do you live?
We lived cheaply, eating baguettes and chorizo and cooking pasta at the Orange House. The beauty of the place is hat you get to meet climbers from all over the world; we reflected on the irony of travelling all the way to Spain just to bump into a group of guys from Yorkshire one afternoon – a home from home! The Orange House was a climbing bum’s heaven with a pool, slackline, bbq and camping space as well as fancier ensuite rooms. We originally went for the cheapest dorm-style rooms where you have to bring your own sleeping mat but ended up getting upgraded to a room with a bunkbed.
What will I need?
We paid for one piece of cabin baggage between us with 16 quickdraws, the rope, and our helmets in, and fit everything else we needed into a backpack each, including sleeping bags. 16 quickdraws were more than enough, but I’d also take a couple of maillons if you’re planning on taking on more challenging lead climbs and think you might need to bail. Some extra slings were useful for threading through the pockets in-between spaced out bolts.
There were no epics, except when the rope got stuck in a tree and Lydia had to do a mad lead across three routes to untangle it.
Let me iterate that we are not the kind of girls that can readily afford a holiday, so we did everything as economically as we could, except for the last night when we celebrated a successful trip with a bottle of red wine and a huge seafood pizza in the local town.
Next time, I’m going back in a van, to spend a longer season exploring the coast and some of the longer, more adventurous multi-pitch routes.
Water: You’ll need at least two big 1.5l bottles of water per day each, if not three. They’re a pain to carry on the walk-in but you’ll be thankful!
Clip Stick: If you can borrow a clipstick and wedge it in your pack, then do. I found that some of the first bolts were a little too high for comfort and could have done with the reassurance of pre-clipping the bolt.
Car Rental: Splitting the cost of a rental car between four or five of you is much better than two – it can be quite costly.
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