|My girls looking cool.|
|When we arrived, it was warm enough to sip mojitos outside in the evening....|
|...and eat pizzas! Unfortunately it didn't stay that way.|
We stopped en route at Bellavista, in the Pyrenees, for a couple of days. Nice crag, but hot in the sun, hard grades and polished too. Still it was great to meet up again with Bob Stones and Sophie Gibbens, who are still enjoying life on the road in their van, two years on from when we met them at Peillon. We found a topo on-line. However, there's a new topo to Sadernes and Bellavista coming out very soon. We moved on quickly, driving south towards the Costa Blanca.
|Two photos taken by Bob Stones.|
|Bellavista general view.|
The climbing at Pena Alicante, the shady crag at Cabezón de Oro, turned out to be great for me but not so good for Elaine, unfortunately. The easier routes (6b+ to 7b) felt tough for their grades; they were also pretty polished, generally run out and always fingery (not good for Elaine's arthritis). In the 7c/7c+ bracket you get long tufa stamina fests (right up my street). I didn't try anything harder because I could see fingery cruxes on the blank bits in between the tufas. It was great to see the hard core team of Oli Brouss and Laurence Guyon again, showing us how to do it.
|Looks like I'm getting a bollocking (again). )Photo: Laurence Guyon.)|
|One of the best 7c's I've ever done.|
|Sensacion de Pinzar starts just right of the tree and follows tufas for 40 metres up to the skyline. Wow!|
|View from the base of Sensacion de Pinzar.|
|Geraud Fanguin on the 6b+ part of Foarte Usoara (a brilliant 7a).|
|Geraud on Clemencia, 8b. The superb Columneta (7c+/8a) starts up the black tufa just to the right.|
|Ruff finds another boyfriend (called Zen, and he was).|
|Who's training who?|
|Looking towards sector Sherpa (top right) from Pena Alicante.|
We also climbed a couple of times at sector Sherpa, which is a steep 40 minute walk. The routes are long (40 metres) but there are virtually no tufas (therefore no knee bars), just finger edges (usually a long distance apart) ensuring that the moves are physical and your forearms get very pumped, typical power endurance stuff. The grades at Sherpa are well known to be tough, so be warned (the locals were proud to say that they are the toughest grades in the Alicante area).
|That 7b+ was awesome.|
|Roberto Palmer warming up on the brilliant Arrecife de coral, 7a+.|
|Local climber Roberto Palmer on a project left of Los Motivados.|
|The long walk down from Sherpa, nice view though.|
We also climbed at Rincon Bello, Cocentaina (again), La Cuepita (at Cortes de Pallas), Chulilla (again, and great to meet up with Twid and his mate Jon Wigg, as well as the super-strong Burnley team: Andy Mitchell, etc.) and Araya (again, great to meet up with Dave and Rhian as well).
We headed back home, much earlier than intended, due to the weather becoming cold and very windy. However we got caught up in the Catalan lorry drivers' blockade just before the frontier at La Jonquera. After three hours of total chaos, we decided to escape by driving over two roundabouts and headed south to find a small road that led back north and eventually became a forest track over the Pyrenees (luckily there was no snow). It was a nightmare. We felt like smugglers and it was a big relief to finally arrive in France and return to civilisation.
|Elaine on Madrilles go home (6c) at Rincon Bello. (Photos: Nicole Carco.)|
|Unknown climber on the classic Lagrimas Negras (7b+) at Rincon Bello.|
|Andy Mitchell wearing my flower pot hat.|
|Great to see these two dudes, Twid and Jon Wigg.|
|A big effort on Jager (8a) at Rincon Bello. (Photo: Thierry Carco.)|
We used the Levante North and South topos. First impressions are good: they're very colourful and have loads of fab action shots. However, I have to say that these guides would have had me pulling my hair out, if I had any! Who's crazy idea was it to have all the access satellite images lumped together? Followed by all of the crags info lumped together? Followed by all the topo diagrams lumped together? We found them totally frustrating to use, because we had to keep flipping back and forth and there's no colour coding to help. Furthermore, in the crag info section there is no cross referencing to tell you where the corresponding topos can be found (we ended up writing all of that on the relevant pages ourselves). Often the crags have different names in the info, satellite images and topo sections so, if you're not local, you can spend ages trying to find either. Also the info sections very often had utterly insufficient info to get you to the crag, satellite images alone are not helpful enough. Finally the topo diagram for Pena Alicante is best described as a joke (luckily we had a better one from Saltatela.Blogspot). Whilst I do appreciate that writing topo guidebooks is hard work (and it's easy to simply focus on the negative points) I think that future editions will need to be much more user-friendly. On a positive note: there are many new sectors in these topos, so there's plenty to go at, though they're not definitive guides. It's very important to bear in mind that contributions are made towards equipping from the sale of these two topos.
|Topo diagram for Pena Alicante, pretty naff or what?|
|The much better topo for sector Sherpa.|