Espolon de Echo - Echo valley climbing
Echo Valley Climbing - Val de Gulabdar
Back in December 2013, along with my good friend Susan, I went to climb an easy trad route in. the Echo Valley called Espolon de Echo. I remember it taking a bit of effort to find the start and when we did, the start of the route was uninspiring. The rock quality looked poor and there was a fair amount of loose rock around.
Still, we decided to continue with the venture. Susan set off up the first pitch. Getting a good bit of gear in, a hex I think. She proceeded to continue, with caution due to the loose rock. Unfortunately the rock supporting one of her feet decided to part company from the cliff and with it Susan came tumbling down too. The hex held and softened the fall but didn't stop a ground fall.
This was a shock for us both, no doubt more so for Susan. Miraculoously she was able to walk back to the roadside unassisted and was climbing again the next day. Unbelievable.
As the years rolled on this route started to nag at me. Is the rest of the route worthwhile? A question I needed to have answered. After some online research on the UKC website I decided it was worth another look, with my very careful hat on!
So after a trip to Alicante airport this morning, we drove up the Val de Gulabdar, or Echo valley as it is still sometimes referred to. Parked up at the mirador below the imposing crag of Aran de Bastistot and had lunch before setting off for the route.
This time we found the approach straightforward and very quick. There is red paint marking the way. I looked up at the start of the route and the memories came flooding back, I could actually see Susan falling. This wasn't a pleasant moment and doubts started to enter my head.
Putting any negativity to one side, I set off up the route, gingerly moving upwards, testing every hold and doing my best to levitate rather than climb! I warned Kate of the rubble on all the ledges as she was in the firing line. Thankfully it all stayed where it was.
Pitch 1 was soon dispatched without drama and Kate followed up.
The climbing above was better and more interesting, but often loose. We had expected to be climbing on a ridge and this was definitely not a ridge. It was too broad and rambling for that. With some weaving around we were able to piece together plenty of worthwhile climbing and the positions were often good.
All too soon we had reached easy ground and were on the summit of Aran de Bastistot. The views were incredible and we took our time to enjoy the moment.
The vague description from the Rockfax guidebook had mentioned an abseil point nearby, so we went in search of this, but also had an eye on continuing on to the main summit much further away. However, Kate soon found the abseil point which was 2 good threads. We decided to descend here and soon had an abseil set up.
With vegetation and rock spikes to contend with as well as a slab start on the abseil, I decided to deploy a 'rope bomb' in order to ensure the rope had maximum chance of reaching the ground unhindered. This is a simply yet highly effective technique I would urge every climber to learn. We also set up the abseil in a stacked manner, meaning we could check each others attachment points before we set off.
Once at the bottom it was a straightforward walk / scramble back to the roadside as the sun set over the massive walls of Ponoch.
The grade given to this climb is V'diff and I'd agree with that. However, the rock requires the utmost of care if a safe passage is to be had. Don't go expecting the rock quality found in the Lake District / Peak District.
Is it a route worth climbing? I think so yes. Think of it more like a scramble or mountaineering route rather than a rock climb. The views are some of the best the region has to offer, it's likely you won't see or hear another person all day and if going in the afternoon there's the added bonus of the sun setting over the walls of Ponoch.
This route isn't in my new Cicerone guidebook Costa Blanca Mountain Adventures, but many wonderful climbs and adventures are. I promise, the routes featured within are of a more solid nature too!
For more about what we offer in the Costa Blanca region check us out here
Thanks for reading
Mark & Kate
Kate on the initial section of ridge - Echo valley
Stacked abseil after the climb - Echo valley
Sunset over Ponoch - Echo valley
The very easy return walk - Echo valley