We were lucky enough to escape to Spain in mid-October, when it was still allowed and okay to do so. Kate would usually return to the UK around Christmas time to see family, but not this year. And now we are stuck here, although I'll admit it doesn't feel at all bad to be stuck on the Costa Blanca. Restrictions here have tightened, but exercise is permitted with one over person. This can be climbing, walking, mountaineering, running, cycling, swimming, or whatever. Of course it feels right to be particularly safe and stay well within our limits and that is what we are doing. We do fit in the occasional adventurous route though and that has been rather wonderful.
Recently, such an adventurous route was shared with friend Mick. We climbing Diedro UBSA on El Peñon d'Ifach in Calpe. This is a 9 pitch HVS route with bolted belays and bolts on all crux sections. Having climbed the route previously, 4 years ago now, I felt confident in us managing a good time and no dramas. And this was the case.
We started climbing around 10.30am and alternate led throughout. This style of climbing brings maximum efficiency to belay changeovers. We moved at a steady pace, never needing to rush and always enjoying the stupendous surroundings with rock and sea everywhere.
I think it's pitch 7, there is a diagonal abseil. This is an unusual feature mid-climb, but very cool. From the lip of a massive cave we descend about 10m to reach the next belay stance ready for the next pitch. From here there's only a couple of pitches left, but by now we were hot and tired. So even though we were well beyond the harder climbing, this all felt quite intense, and all the more memorable for it. The final pitch involves puling through an overhang and after hundreds of metres of climbing already in our arms, it feels mega wild. Fantastic!
Easy scrambling leads to the summit where many seagulls and cats congregate and try to snatch any food, unattended or otherwise.
A good path leads back into Calpe in about 45 minutes. Giving time to wind down and reflect on the days climbing as the sun goes down.
Despite us feeling that sense of adventure that a big climb brings, everything felt comfortable and controlled. For even though we both have the skills to self-rescue, now is very much not the time for such shenanigans (indeed is there ever a time for it).
Having not climbed a big route for a while, I felt very sore and sorry for myself the following day, but soon enough had fully recovered and ready for more.
Next week could see us on a big route again. If the weather is just right, if restrictions allow, if we feel totally good about it, it will happen. If not, we will wait for the right time.
Climbing, hillwalking, and mountaineering are my life and livelihood. For those of us working in this environment it is important to keep skills current by continual practice. But we understand too that many who venture into the mountains purely for recreation, it is highly important to continue as much as is allowed. If you're in a place where it is allowed and it feels the right thing to do, one should surely go for it. Simply keep in mind to be especially careful and avoid unnecessary risks.
We really really hope to see many of you in the Lake District this season, with fingers crossed for an Easter opening. For many, 2020 was a year to discover more of the UK, we had record visitors to the Lake District and this was wonderful. Remember what an amazing place it is and do visit us again during 2021. We are taking bookings now and these are completely flexible to keep in line with any restrictions that may come into place. We also operate a fair refund policy.
Thanks for reading folks. Stay safe & stay sane.
All the best.
Mark & Kate