Once again a group of Senior Cadets and CFAVs assembled at Manchester Airport to fly to Spain in search of sunshine and dry rock in October. The Cadet Centre for Adventurous Training (CCAT) delivers a rock climbing course each year in Spain, offering Cadet Force Adult Volunteers and Senior Cadets the opportunity to develop their skills beyond the Basic Rock Climbing (BRC) course in a challenging multi pitch climbing environment to achieve the Intermediate Rock Climbing (IRC) qualification. As the ratio is one instructor to two students, the content and direction of the course can be tailored to the needs and level of the students, enabling everyone to achieve the maximum benefit from the 6-days climbing.
The Albir Gardens Resort Hotel was again going to be our base for the week. Drawing upon the students’ current level of experience a plan for our first day climbing was agreed. We headed inland for the Vall de Guadar, otherwise known as Echo Valley, which offers an area of single pitch climbing as well as some adventurous multi pitch routes. After checking skills on the single pitch climbs, all teams progressed onto their first 4 pitch rock climb; The Wasp/Scorpion combination graded 4+.
A good first day was had by all.
Day two brought a sharp shower! This did not dampen the spirits. We stayed local, driving just along the coast to a rocky promontory called Sierra de Toix. The group split in two, deploying to opposite sides of the area for ease of car parking as much as anything. A coaching session on lead skills, for example, placement of protection and belay building, allowed time for the rock to dry. The West teams started on single pitch climbs, with the youngsters undertaking their first lead climbs on pre-placed protection, before undertaking a 3 pitch one star route and multi abseil descent. The East team’s completed a 4 pitch climb.
The rain returned over-night and the teams drove inland to try to escape the bad weather, without success. A one pitch climb was completed as rain stopped play. Having been rained off the crag, Maj Kevin Edwards, OC CCAT, decided to use the time to educate the students, so we drove to Calpe to see the Penon de Ifach, where rock climbing on the Costa Blanca began. This impressive rock formation dominates what was a small fishing village, now a larger tourist destination and offers a number of long multi pitch routes. The youngsters were suitably impressed and by the time we had finished with the sight-seeing, the weather had cleared up enough to go climbing! Off we went, back along the coast to Toix again and got in a multi pitch route to finish off the day.
The following day, the forecast was a bit iffy again, so the decision was taken to bite the bullet, take a long drive and escape the rain. We all headed for Marin, an hours’ drive beyond Alicante, but it was worth it as we had perfect weather. Making the most of the day we climbed until our arms dropped off snatching four 2 pitch rock climbs at grade 4+-5+, an impressive haul.
Enjoying a ´post climb’ coffee after the successful day at Marin, the discussion inevitably turned to ‘what shall we do tomorrow?’ Flicking through the guidebook, Matt and Kevin’s attention was caught by a photo of an imposing cliff, the Pared Negra (Black Wall) at Orihuela, and a plan was hatched.
Arriving at the base of the cliff the next morning, they were all impressed by the scale of the place. The route they had chosen (Derecha del Espolon – 5 ) offered 4 pitches of steep and sustained climbing right up the middle of the wall. This, combined with ‘cosy’ hanging stances that required good rope management by the students, made the route feel quite atmospheric. It was not over once both teams had topped out, as some exposed scrambling (some of which was protected by in-situ cables) and two abseils were needed to finish off an exciting and memorable day!
Billy and Cath returned to Echo Valley to climb a steep and natural line, with little in situ protection, called Via Esther, effectively the arete of the mountain, finishing by roping up to scramble the exposed ridge line and descend the other side. This traverse of the mountain made for an adventurous and satisfying day, which the students fully enjoyed.
For the last day, Kevin wanted to ensure the students could choose what they wanted to do to finish off their week and whilst some decided to complete another multi pitch route, three chose to increase their lead climbing skills. In particular, Holly and Charlie worked as an independent pair, successfully leading 5+ and 6a routes, a great achievement.
The trip could not have been achieved without the help of grants from the Ulysses Trust and the efforts of the instructors, who demonstrated their flexibility and good humour in facilitating the development of the students’ climbing.