Costa Blanca Trad Climbing
The Costa Blanca is better known amongst climbers for its amazing 'sport climbing' (bolted routes). So the 'trad' or 'traditional' climbing often gets overlooked, which is a shame, because these often form the best and most lasting memories. Trad climbing simply means there is no (or at least very little) fixed protection in the rock, so we take everything with us in order to minimise the risks involved.
3 big differences come immediately to mind when thinking trad and sport:
1) Route finding will almost certainly be more difficult / involved on a trad route as there is no fixed protection to mark the route.
2) Protection is less certain and not always at regular intervals.
3) There's a lot more equipment to carry!
These elements add together to produce a fourth difference. The level of adventure is way higher on a trad route.
For Christmas Day this year I was joined by my friend Kim and we headed out for a trad adventure in the nearby Valleys de Gulabdar (sometimes referred to as 'Echo valley'). Having not climbed any trad there for a while we were both pretty keen for a revisit and a day of trad. Kim had unfinished business with a route called 'Via Esther' a 'Hard Severe' route on Paret de Castellet crag. 4 pitches and about 100m so quite short for the area, but enough to keep us happy today.
The Rockfax guidebook was enough to help us find the start of the route, although this still took a little working out. Once on the route, the description represented a work of fiction! Strangely I quite like it that way, it certainly adds to the adventure and keeps us second guessing.
The route was however very good, with nice solid, sharp rock, and plentiful protection for most of the way, it certainly never felt 'run out'. As we gained height so the views improved, and soon we enjoyed commanding vistas from the top of the crag. We had a choice of descent routes, either abseil or scramble. We chose to abseil, in retrospect this was a mistake as the abseil stations, whilst looking convenient, are not in the best of positions, so ropes can easily be rubbing over sharp edges, and there's real potential of a rope jamming on the first abseil.
As we were using 2x60m half ropes, it was just 2 abseils to reach the base of the crag. The scramble descent looked like following a pleasant ridge over to the ruined castle then a steady descent back to the road. Will try that next time.
Of the numerous trad routes I've climbed at Vall de Gulabdar, this has been the best so far and I would recommend it to anyone leading around the HS/VS grade. A selection of cams, nuts, and slings proved to be useful as there is very little in the way of fixed protection. The abseil stations are double bolted.
For more information and the crags of Vall de Gulabdar, Costa Blanca Trad Climbing and many other mountain adventure days please check out our recently published (2022) Cicerone guidebook 'Costa Blanca Mountain Adventures'