As spring is just on the doorstep it's time to reflect on this winter, why we chose not to go to Scotland and ended up in Spain instead and plan for the winter ahead.
As I left Southern Spain on Sunday for the last time this winter, I started to plan next winter out there, there are so many great reasons why. This year I cancelled my Scottish dates after a conversation with a client on the side of Mount Toubkal, Morocco in December. We'd been chatting about the current poor conditions that Scotland had at the time whilst knee deep in snow and I mentioned that I'd been thinking of heading out to Costa Blanca to check out the potential there. That was it, all change....
It's a short flight to Alicante from a number of U.K. Airports, during a time when it's their traditional off peak season, they are fairly cheap and very attractive.
On arrival, you instantly feel the warmth and the winter jackets get packed away! Now it's not always 30' at this time of year, but having breakfast outside in a t-shirt and sometimes a fleece feels so refreshing and certainly not what you can do back home in February! They have had an unusual amount of rain in the region, this year, but I only got rained on twice, which is damm fine out of almost 30 days!
There is an abundance of accommodation available, the shared mountain villa was the perfect choice this year, location, quietness, fantastic access to amenities and more importantly to the crags, never more than about 30mins drive.
We'd been chatting about the current poor conditions that Scotland had at the time whilst knee deep in snow and I mentioned that I'd been thinking of heading out to Costa Blanca to check out the potential there. That was it, all change....
We had a very leisurely start each day, no alarm clocks, no alpine starts, just a nice breakfast by the pool and plans for the day made over coffee. There is so much climbing available, it's hard to know where to begin, some crags are so large that you could spend the whole week on one piece of rock. As you travel round, you realise how extensive the mountains are, literally a km from the sea and you have chunks or rock over 1000m high, I really do think that there's a lifetime of climbing here!
Each crag has its own beauty, whether in the pine forests, overlooking the sea or up high in the mountains.
And then you get to the routes! The rock is an absolute delight to climb, limestone, grippy, big pockets, small positive holds, steep technical faces, wandering expeditions, short routes, long routes...it has it all. Polish is identified well in the Rockfax guidebook and therefore easily avoidable, actually it has nothing on somewhere like Symonds Yat which should be renamed as 'slimestone'. Winter sun can be had at the crag all day too!
It's generally graded well and bolted appropriately, but there's always the usual exceptions, either 8 bolts in 15m of climbing or 8 bolts in 40m! Spanish humour I guess, but all part of the fun!
I spent nearly the whole time on bolts, so packing is easy, shorts, t-shirts, flip flops, ropes, harness, stickies and clips!
The weeks were often a combination of folk following me up single / multi pitch routes, learning the art of sports climbing and pushing themselves to lead, often harder than they have ever before. Some folks jumped 3 grades during the week, really working the routes hard, but successfully. With 5 days of intensive climbing and spending time on rock, you will naturally climb more efficiently, feel stronger, gain heaps of confidence specifically with leading and quickly plan future cragging trips.
Funnily enough I kept bumping into folk from back home who were all escaping for some winter sun. It's easy to recognise that it's not just climbing that's attractive here, the potential for long days in the mountains, walking or scrambling is huge and looking around if you're prepared to travel a bit further north for an hour the mountains just carry on!
...winters will be a blend of more time spent in the High Atlas in Morocco where the winter conditions are more consistent and Southern Spain for some winter climbing
Next year I'm planning to head back up to Scotland for a wee while, but actually I think my winters will be a blend of more time spent in the High Atlas in Morocco where the winter conditions are more consistent and Southern Spain for some winter climbing. Interestingly travelling to either destination is actually quicker in time than to drive to some parts of Scotland and about the same cost too! Why wouldn't you....
Let's not mention the tapas and wine either ......