This year has been the year of the great British holidays for me – with time and funds relatively low, my breaks have been around the UK. A weekend in the Lake District, time spent in Devon, a family holiday in Dorset, and multiple trips to the Peak and South Coast for lots of climbing. It’s been lovely, and getting out during the extended summertime has been even better. But there comes a point where, after a jet-setting 2013, I just had to get out into the big wide world again. We quickly decided that October was a go for time off, and Spain was in our sights – an internet search found us an incredibly affordable package deal promising hotel, car, flights, all-inclusive which was ideal for small budgets and relatively low standards. We were not only rewarded with a fantastic week that required no more than €100 spending money between the two of us, but also saw my continental climbing logbook increase in both quality and ability.
I had no idea how mountainous Mallorca was. I’d expected beaches, small towns, and coastal cliffs for climbing – I didn’t think I’d spend an entire day tackling a 175m multipitch in the mountains, drive home via wiggly roads, or watch the sunset behind the big mound next to the hotel. For this reason, among many, I can highly recommend Mallorca for an all-round week of adventure and relaxing in equal measure.
Day two (one being our arrival day) we headed to La Creveta. It was far busier than we’d expected, with everyone stopping at the viewpoint to admire the near 180-degree vista and view of the Cap de Formentor in the distance. I got into the swing of things leading Camisasque 5 – which was great as I’ve not led outdoors in far too long – and ticked Hyperion 5+ and Som-hi 6a as well. With gorgeous valleys and just about enough vegetation to take the edge of the brutal sun, my day was made by my clean second of El Sant Crist 6a+. The route features a large cave 2/3 of the way up requiring a sort of campus traverse. I’ve become a bit of a wimp recently so the thought of potentially cutting-loose and monkey swinging my way around the upper lip of the cave entrance didn’t exactly fill me with confidence. But something in me just wouldn’t take no for an answer and I managed to cruise my way up with no trouble at all. A great way to set up for the week, and definitely boosted my self-belief. To the left of these routes are a good number of low- to mid-grades, though they had been taken up by the time we arrived. But watching the silhouetted climbers descending the rock in the sunset was good enough for me, and the holiday was set to be a satisfying one already.
One of the main reasons for us heading to Mallorca was to make the most of the multipitch cliffs deep in the mountains in the centre of the island. So day three saw us trekking up a dry riverbed (thankfully in the shade!) to Sa Gubia. As I’d never done something this long before we settled for La Ley Del Deseo – a 3* classic 6 pitch, 175m route whose hardest pitch is just 5+. Biting the bullet I set off on the first lead – a 20m 5 that did see me pausing halfway to have some serious words with my mind and shaking legs. But after that small hiccup the rest of the route was relatively enjoyable, once I stopped thinking about how painful rockboots are after an hour or so of solid climbing! The plan was to swing leads, but after the 3rd pitch (my lead, a 30m 4+) saw me exhausted and a little intimidated by the remainder of the climb, Simon took on the final three – and thank goodness he did. The 4th (graded 5) started with a rather long traverse out right, which is most definitely not my favourite thing to do. I belayed him from a comfy ledge (where thankfully I could take my boots off!), though it got rather cosy when two Spaniards, who I believe were filming their climbs with people down below, and two French climbers all huddled next to me making their own descents. As the wind picked up we also split the final 2 pitches into 4 to enable us to hear and belay better – easily done with several other anchor points along the way. It was definitely a tough day, and once we’d got to the top of the climb – which finished up the final pitch of Albahida, a wonderfully slabby 3+ – we still had a long scramble to the actual summit. After a total of 4hrs from the ground up and completing 9 pitches instead of 7, I was immensely happy and proud of myself for just the one blip at the very start to the day, and the hour-long descent was made on an incredibly wide and pleasant zigzag road peppered with sheep. Stunning views, a satisfying climb, and a great tick.
If you head to the island, make sure you use your rest days to explore and not just vegetate on the beach… though we did a lot of that too. I can highly recommend Port de Pollença for somewhere absolutely beautiful, with glistening sea, long stretches of sand, and a good array of tapas restaurants. Obviously going in October meant that the crowds were rather thin – always a bonus – but the 30-degree heat defied the autumnal month. As well as coastal towns, check out Alcudia’s old town with winding streets, and the fortified city walls that you can walk along with rooftops behind you and mountaintops in front. Our last day was also spent checking out Palma, as a way to kill time before heading back to the airport. Inadvertently stumbling upon the Palma Marathon, there was a buzz around the city despite it being a Sunday, and again the sea was a great way to cool your feet from the relentless heat. With its impressive cathedral, more disappearing streets, and a shady, classy La Rambla, make sure you don’t just whizz through on your way home.
Our last climbing day (day five of six) we headed to Les Perxes where Hairpin Wall and Muro de Caimari promised short walk-ins and shade from the even hotter sun. Yes, I know I’m going on about the heat – but we expected mid-20s, not 30s! It was a treat considering the rain we left in London, but not ideal for climbing. Hairpin Wall only features 10 or so climbs, and is right on the track so understandably gets busy – however Pocket 6a+ is a great little climb and I was pleased to tackle it with relative ease. Heading further up the bends that give the wall its name, you can make your way through the trees to Muro de Caimari which is much more sheltered from sun and wind, and a lot quieter as it’s slightly further out. Again, there are a number of quality routes, and if we’d had more energy we easily could’ve stayed there all day. As it was, Lucas 6b turned out to be a great technical, balancy route, testing my ability to actually climb and not just haul my bodyweight, as was its neighbour Mescalina, also 6b, though one fall halfway was slightly disappointing. Note – the obvious route halfway up Mescalina is to traverse and/or jump for the huge chalk-covered jug; I found this beta not quite right for my average stature (versus Simon’s 6ft4 frame). That’s where I fell – for those either less keen on dynos or just happier to crimp hard, I’d recommend going straight up using some positive finger pockets to a juggy ledge under a tree.
The holiday was booked because a) I’d got a new job and could actually afford it, b) I’d not been abroad all year, and c) we’d not spent more than a weekend just the two of us since January. But it turned out to also provide some spectacular landscapes, great sunbathing, pretty good (free) food, and above all incredible climbing. This year hasn’t been the road to 7a I’d hoped it would be, with injury niggles, bad brain days, and general lack of motivation. But getting out on the sun-bleached stone and finding that I have somehow got both stronger and more technical has left me feeling confident and happy with just my 3rd excursion on continental rock. I can imagine the crowds will pile in over the summer, so October is most definitely the ideal time to go to avoid the tourists and still benefit from incredible weather. Fingers crossed this will become an annual excursion…