Mountain Journeys

Malafi ridge, Castell de Castells – Costa Blanca ridges


Ridge number one

On numerous occasions I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing the grandeur of the Malafi gorge near to the mountain village of Castell de Castells. I am captivated by its beauty and drama. The first time I visited was to walk a long circuit with Kate & Kim, it was a route I wasn’t really keen for doing, but am so glad we did.
During the walk (which was wonderful), we couldn’t help but notice the massive amount of rock all around us. Not small, insignificant rock walls, but huge towering crags. We then noticed ‘the’ ridge! Wow, this ridge took my breath away, so narrow, so tall, a magnificent Limestone arête and I knew we must return soon to take a closer look.
Sure enough, not long after me & Kim were standing at the base of this ridge, looking up and feeling pretty nervous, for it was steep and even narrower than I had remembered it being. There was also plenty of loose rock, in fact there was so much loose rock we decided to go for plan ‘b’, which was to check out the other end of the ridge and have a spot of lunch.
Kim set off along the first pitch, traversing the knife-edge ridge, even Kim who is usually super confident and sure-footed on ridges was clearly having doubts. This didn’t bode well. I followed on and continued with another pitch of increasingly wobbly rock. This was certainly exciting, but also increasingly dangerous for both of us, so I chose to go no further. Kim was pretty relieved, well we both were to be honest.
Bailing from the ridge brought disappointment, but we had tried our best and returned to safety unscathed and this is always our aim. If something isn’t feeling right it’s probably because it isn’t right. Listen to instincts and act upon them. Thankfully we did and it probably saved us from un-pleasantries.
Walking back out of the Malafi gorge that afternoon, we both spotted another couple of fine looking ridges and I was keen to explore these more, although it was too late today, it was noted for another time.
After closer inspection, I could see one of the ridges to be a pile of loose choss, but the other still looked promising.
So this week, along with Sam, I went for a look. What we found was a lot of fun and a proper mountain adventure.
Malafi ridge: Severe / 4+
There are 3 pitches with scrambling and walking to connect the lower and upper sections. We parked at the head of the Malafi gorge and followed a vague trail through the almond grove just above the Malafi and separating it from another canyon to the right. The ridge can be seen clearly from here, it was straightforward to reach the base in about 20 minutes.
The initial pitch was vegetated (new routes often are) but fun and challenging. I belayed around a large pile of ‘rubble’ which was as good as the mountain offered! Sam followed up and continued up steeper ground on what was clearly the crux pitch. This offered very exciting climbing onto an arête giving wild exposure. Protection was reasonable and the belay above was much better, thankfully. On the arête lay a large, loose block so I gave it a trundle (there was no one below and actually probably nobody for miles around, it’s that kind of place), this made the whole crag shake!
I led through the short way to level ground where a short walk over an orchid filled landscape brought us to the final pitch. This was on good quality, solid rock and was a pleasure to climb.
Topping out onto Limestone pavement with a wild landscape all around is a pretty inspiring experience. Added to this, we had little idea of how to descend the mountain yet. An advance study of the map had suggested heading down to the right may be best, but the terrain definitely suggested that not to be an option! So on to plan ‘b’ it is, we headed left to reach the top of a subsidiary canyon in the hope we could follow it down into the Malafi gorge. This proved to be more than we’d bargained for, in a good way.
Lots of scrambling, bush-whacking, and abseiling later, we arrived in the Malafi. An easy walk out along this and back to the car.
Adventure with a capital ‘A’    
Thanks to Sam for joining me on this one.



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