Espolon Central Puig Campana - and The Edwards Finish
Over the last few weeks there's been some very big days out had here. Mountaineering days that have challenged us, left us feeling exhausted, taken us to amazing places, and given us new experiences. The very biggest of these days was on Monday of this week. My initial estimate of distance for the route was around 900m, but looking more closely, I now have it at more like 1000m (1km). To date this is by far the longest rock route I have done and it feels like a massive achievement.
Tony had been staying with us for a few days and we have been climbing and caving, generally being pretty adventurous and there's always a distant look in Tony's eyes, the telling signs of 'let's get out there and have an adventure'. Well we have certainly done that this week. I have pushed myself to the limit in the caves (underground is not a place I feel comfortable) and the climbing has been pretty epic too.
Our first climbing day saw us retreating from a big route on El Divino in Sella. Our next big route was more of a known for me, so I knew the rock quality and climbing were excellent. The mighty Puig Campana was the venue, Espolon Central and The Edwards Finish our not to shabby objective.
I have done both routes previously, but not in one continuous push, and it has been at the top of my tick-list for a while. Tony was very open to the idea, allowing me to get on and plan the climbing days.
We didn't make an early start, I think it was 9am when we set off on the approach. The cool of the morning being a delight to walk in. Soon I could here other climbers ahead, it turned out they were aiming for the same route as us. We opted for the 'quick start' around to the left, this covers easier terrain but is a little longer. 2 very long pitches got us up to the first big ledge in very quick time. We were now well ahead of the other climbers, a good start.
For most of Espolon Central we were swinging leads as the route meanders up the blunt arete in increasingly dramatic positions. Much of the climbing is straightforward at about UK Severe, with a few cruxes at about HS 4b. We linked pitches as much as possible, so almost always doing long pitches close to rope length. For the upper pitches cloud came to join the party, this was quite unwelcome and made me nervous about continuing up The Edwards Finish as route finding would be more difficult in cloud.
At a couple of the belays we met with the other climbers and chatted a little, they were from Blanes, on the Costa Brava. It's always nice to share a belay with fellow climbers, chat about the route and just have some general banter.
At the top of Espolon Central the cloud was still with us. After a brief chat we choose to continue up The Edwards Finish. I felt fairly confident I'd remember the way even if the cloud remained. The initial scrambling soon turned quite serious and we roped up again, moving together over this Alpine type terrain. The first proper belay comes at the foot of a pinnacle, with a dramatic gully to the left (2nd photo). I hadn't taken any photos and thought now may be a good opportunity, it was.
The following pitch begins good but soon deteriorates as it merges into the big gully, thankfully the view makes up for the crap climbing. The next 2 pitches are far better and provide the crux of the climbing day. From the top of the gully the route goes left onto the steep wall and follows an arete via tricky moves to a good stance. Tony cruised this despite not really knowing where he was aiming for, top effort. The final pitch was similarly difficult and I took this one. Initially struggling to remember the way and thinking 'I'm sure it wasn't this hard' I soon got into a flow, placed some good gear and went for it. The rock quality remained excellent on all the steep sections but deteriorates once near the top and on easy ground.
Belaying from a massive block at the top of the route I breathed a sigh of relief. We had been short on time all the way and the threat of darkness loomed as we climbed higher. I had felt the stress of this the whole time and had often been unduly rushing as a result. But being stood at the top and knowing where we were and what was left to come I felt the tension start to fade, it was a good feeling.
A quick snack and drink then it was more scrambling / walking to reach the massive notch, yes that prominent one seen from Benidorm and beyond. A quick photo here then off to find the abseil point. The orange dots have been rubbed out, so this took a little longer than expected to find. Soon we were in the huge gully and on the home straight.
Arriving back at the roadside after dark, completely knackered but very very happy. A memorable day of epic proportions spent with a good friend. I think we could have both fallen asleep there and then.
Climbing is different things to different people. For me, it's all about the big routes in the mountains. Everything else is training. The longer the route the better. It doesn't have to be hard, but should feature some good rock, challenging route finding, and ideally a summit.
Big thanks to Tony at IGuide Adventure for sharing these fab days out.
Footnote: there's now been time to rest after all this activity, but I'm still exhausted, so please excuse punctuation and grammatical errors in the text, I haven't checked it 😉
Thanks for reading