After some friends climbed the route a couple of weeks back, my enthusiasm suddenly gathered momentum for the route, and for a massive adventure. Thankfully another climbing friend was also very keen on the route and had also had it on his 'to-do' list for some years. A plan was hatched and the excitement began. Whilst we have both climbed big routes before, this certainly felt (to me at least) like a step up from previous adventures on Puig Campana, in fact I'd say it almost makes the Puig Campana feel tame!!
The route we had in mind, Via Valencianos, is a 500 metre E1 / 6a trad climb. There would be some easy pitches, even some walking, but there would also be some tough climbing and route finding on such a massive piece of rock was always going to be the biggest challenge. Getting that wrong up there would be serious and we both stayed completely focused the whole time.
Setting off from the car park at around 9.15am on a sunny morning all was looking well. The first few pitches went smoothly too, all was looking rosy. Somewhere on pitch 4 things started to fall apart a little. We were uncertain of the route, things were suddenly not obvious, and the climbing was a little bit tougher than we were expecting. We both clearly had doubts about what to do next.
Do we continue or retreat whilst we still can?
Whilst it was Neil leading this pitch, this was a discussion we were both totally involved in, we were in this together and had lots to consider, including our safety. What I took away from the discussions we had at that time, is the importance to support each other and to remain flexible regarding outcomes and objectives. Getting to the top is optional, returning to base is mandatory. We were both on this wavelength and that is a good feeling.
It was decided to continue and thankfully things soon improved and we were back on track, phew! The first of the crux pitches lay straight ahead of us and looked formidable. A huge traverse across a smooth shield of limestone, this was going to be amazing and I couldn't wait, I think Neil felt the same.
Neil led this pitch, cruising across with seemingly little effort. I thoroughly enjoyed the pitch too and led through up the next pitch, which was easier but less well protected and with plenty of loose rock, so felt scary. More good climbing and amazing positions followed as well as a couple of walking pitches, these linked the good bits of rock.
Neil also led the upper crux pitch, this was the hardest technical climbing on the route and even though it had some fixed protection, it felt like E1 to us. I had the pleasure of leading the final pitch up to the summit plateau. Whilst this pitch had some loose rock again, it was enjoyable and full of interest. Topping out was a very fine feeling indeed and we were both elated.
We had a pretty good idea where to aim for to find the initial abseil station to start our descent and indeed found this within just a few minutes. A 40m abseil took to to scree above the top of the via ferrata and we quickly descended to the next abseil station to take us down to the base of the mountain.
Just under 9 hours from start to finish. That was without rushing the route, but being efficient and keeping breaks and change-overs to a minimum. This felt a pretty good time for such a long and intricate route.
A couple of beers in our local bar that evening tasted ever so good :-)
Big thanks to Neil for climbing this with me, good company and climbing the whole way.