CLIMBING IN COSTA BLANCA WITH ROCK AND SUN

https://www.theclimbingacademy.com/blog/bristol/rock-and-sun-costa-blanca/

In September, our social media guy Dan was invited to Costa Blanca to experience a Rock & Sun holiday first hand. Here’s the story of his trip, from the routes he climbed to the lessons he picked up on the way.

By Dan from The Climbing Academy

I left the usual brits-abroad in the dusty tracks of the shuttle bus that took me through several rural and rugged towns until we arrived in Parcent – a small village in the Pop Valley of La Marina Alta and my home for the next few days. The landscape had changed dramatically over the journey, from the flat plains of dry cacti that had lay bare before Alicante airport to high-rising rock faces and steep hills which surrounded Parcent almost entirely. The Rock & Sun villa was exactly what I’d hoped for with a traditional feel, plenty of communal spaces (including a large porch out the front where we sat drinking beers every night) and a pool, which I’d describe as a little bit beyond ‘refreshingly cool’ – but what would you expect for September? Its panoramic setting captured the unspoilt beauty of Spain, far removed from Benidorm’s busy skyline I’d witnessed from the bus’ window some 45 minutes earlier. It was clear why Trevor and Desirée (the duo behind Rock & Sun) had recently chosen to relocate the holiday villa here.

parcent

As soon as I arrived, it was time to start climbing. It’s probably a good stage to mention that I hadn’t given roped climbing a go up until this moment, let alone touched real rock. For roughly a year, I’ve been bouldering at TCA as often as possible but hadn’t quite found the time to learn how to rope climb. I guess the motivation wasn’t really there either; it’s so easy to turn up to boulder on your own or with friends, yet learning a whole new trade and worrying about belaying, having a buddy to climb with, etc. put me off somewhat. To say I felt like a fish out of water at this stage is an understatement.

Des handed me a harness and a helmet and we headed straight to Peña Roja, a popular local crag approximately 10 minutes from the villa. Although a stone’s throw from the road, the curvature of the rock face gave this particular crag a secluded feel. The sun was dipping behind the rock too, allowing us to climb in the cool shadows rather than the demanding Spanish sun.

Everyone was in full action when I arrived so it was good to take a moment to see how it’s done and plan a few routes in my head. They were already on their third day of climbing, having arrived the previous Friday to start a week’s long performance coaching course. All of them had different climbing experiences, from trad to ice, and had come to Costa Blanca with Rock and Sun with the goal of pushing themselves to the next level, either by learning to lead climb or successfully climbing higher grades.

After a few practices with a figure of 8 knot and a little bit of encouragement from everyone, I hit a couple of routes – and I hit them hard! I didn’t fall or anything like that – it wasn’t a complete disaster – but my knowledge of climbing technique went out the window. Instead of focusing on footwork and keeping my arms straight, I started to depend on my measly upper-body strength to pull myself to the top. At the time it seemed to work and I even managed to tackle Through the Magic Door, 6a but it wasn’t long before I began to feel it on my arms and three routes was all I could manage. Although it felt like a terrible start, I now had an aim for the week; it was no longer about experiencing roped climbing for the first time but perfecting the technique and tackling the same routes with efficiency and skill. I wanted to prove to myself that I could become a confident and competent climber.

As the sun started to sink into the horizon, we packed up and headed back to the villa for an evening of beer and chit-chat.

2

On the first full day, Trev invited me to join them gorge walking at barranc de l’infern (Hell’s Gorge – a reassuring name if ever I’d heard one). We drove for approximately 45 minutes through rural Spain, climbing higher and higher up thin dirt roads until we reached our destination. From here, we descended into the Gorge on foot and abseiled deeper when necessary. Luckily for us, the Gorge was in perfect condition – at times, whole sections of the Gorge can be flooded, which can be tricky to detect until you’re already in too deep. All in all, it was a full day of walking, plenty of abseiling and the perfect opportunity to take in some stunning landscapes.

The rest of the week was reserved for climbing, starting each day at Alcalali (a crag set high up with far stretching views) and moving to Peña Roja in the afternoon to dodge the intense heat of the sun. On my first climb, Trev pretty much left me to it, only shouting up a few bits of advice if and when I couldn’t figure out where to move next. What I didn’t know at the time was that Trev had filmed the whole climb. Once I was back on solid ground, he called the whole group over and we watched it. I’d never watched myself climb before but it’s the best way to see and understand the mistakes you’re making. If you haven’t filmed yourself climb before, do it next time you hit your local climbing wall. Trev paused the video at various stages pointing out when I was stepping high for no reason, or stretching my legs out wide. The result of which meant I was putting more strain on my arms and therefore tiring myself out quickly. I knew what I was doing wrong and I understood how to correct it; it was time to implement this change.

After this I spent a little bit of time watching everyone else climb. I noticed how they often kept their body square, moving up with their feet and then straightening their legs to progress up the wall. Arms became a device for balance and support, not a means of pulling to the top. It took a few climbs to get used to the change of technique so I stuck to lower grades until I felt happy that my movement was more fluent. Since I wasn’t burning myself quicker, the number of routes I was able to climb a day increased, which meant I had even more time to practice and really nail it.

By the final day, I felt a lot more confident in my climbing. Not only was I concentrating on my footwork but I was also spending more time on each route to figure out the most efficient way to reach the top.

It wasn’t long until I approached my final climb of the week: La Llibertine, 6a+. At first, I nearly bailed on it. I still felt content climbing lower grades to focus on my technique, but I knew the chance to climb routes like this doesn’t come along often. Might as well end the week on a bang, I thought! And it was definitely worth doing. Everything I’d picked up throughout the week was solidified in the moves I made. Replaying Trev’s advice and demonstrations over and over in my head, I pushed myself forward – and before I knew it, I’d hit the top. It was definitely the highlight of my week and I felt proud to know how far I’d come in just a few days. Let’s put it this way: if you’d asked me to climb this at the start of the week I would have laughed, or more likely, jumped straight back on the plane.

view

smile

We left Peña Roja for the last time and headed to a bar on the way home for a couple of drinks to celebrate the week. You could see the sheer joy on everyone’s faces as they gripped their ice cold beers. They had really pushed themselves during their week with Costa Blanca and therefore knew there was something worth celebrating. Everyone was leaving having hit or surpassed the targets they had come away to achieve and were already planning their next climbing holidays. I’d certainly achieved a lot more than I could have possibly expected and was still feeling the buzz from the final route.

Sitting in the bar was a great opportunity to hear more from Trev and Des about Rock and Sun and their climbing experiences all over the world. Their passion and enthusiasm for the sport was apparent constantly throughout the week, not only in the way they talked about climbing but in the way they coached. They knew every detail of each route we climbed and could therefore offer comprehensive and detailed advice on how to move and where to place your legs and arms. Their understanding of individual ability was also incredibly in-depth, knowing exactly what everyone wanted to get out of the trip and therefore piecing together how they could help them achieve it. They also wanted us to climb a lot and were the first to encourage us to get up early, take shorter breaks and get up the walls as often as possible. All in all, it was evident that they weren’t just there to watch us climb; they honestly wanted us to climb better, harder and safer so that we can share their appreciation for climbing culture.

They’ve got some brilliant stories to tell too. If you’re after a good laugh, ask them about the giant squid and shark incident on a beach in Thailand.

1

abseil

The trip was an unforgettable experience. In just three and a half days, I’d gone from having zero top-rope climbing experience to gaining the ability to smoothly and efficiently climb with confidence. I’d gone from burning my arms out on a handful of routes on the first evening, to climbing between 6 – 8 different routes a day and have the ability to spring out of bed the following morning and do it all again.

It was great to leave with a new personal goal too. Since I’ve broken the ice with roped-climbing, it’s definitely something I’ll be continuing, both indoors at Undercover Rock and on outdoor courses when I can. I’ve acquired a greater understanding of what different types of climbing demand too, so once I’m full satisfied I can climb consistently with a good technique on top-rope, then I’ll certainly start lead climbing, whether that’s here in Bristol or back abroad with Rock & Sun.

trev_3

The Climbing Academy and Undercover Rock annual members can now get 10% off any Rock & Sun Holiday. Visittheclimbingacademy.com/courses/rock-and-sun-climbing-holidays to find out more.

Many thanks to Rock and Sun for inviting us to experience their Performance Coaching course in Costa Blanca.

 

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When a problem is a good thing

Instead of having to write anything ourselves about our lovely latest Rock and Sun Bouldering Trip, Nate and Terra have done a much better job for us. Here’s their account of their’s and Mathias’s time with us in Fontainebleau.

http://joyadventuring.com/2016/10/17/when-a-problem-is-a-good-thing-whaling-it-at-fontainebleau/

When a Problem is a Good Thing: ‘Whaling it’ at Fontainebleau

The last few days have marked an entirely new type of adventure on our trip. In this post I’ll discuss a number of unusual things from the weekend, including but not limited to 1) finding ourselves in the “Sea of Sand”, 2) encountering numerous good ‘problems’, and 3) discussing such highly technical terms as ‘whaling it’ on a regular basis. What were we doing, you ask? Bouldering at one of the (if not the) best spots in the world amidst the 20,000+ boulders in Fontainebleau Forest, just outside of Paris.

look at her go!look at her go!We wouldn’t have even known about the boulders in Fontainebleau Forest if not for a comment on Facebook by our good friend Cale, who pointed out when we visited the area in August that we were in a famous outdoor mecca. That prompted me to look online for any guided trips, and I found a British company called Rock & Sun which offered a weekend getaway that dovetailed nicely with the timing of the second French portion of our trip. The best part of their offer was the promise of English-speaking guides! We already felt a bit out of our depth; I can’t imagine if someone was barking orders at us in French.

Even still, this leg of the adventure would never have happened if not for a conversation that Terra and I had a couple of weeks ago. At the time, we were in the Alps and it was starting to get cold as Autumn took hold. We were still undecided about whether to take this trip, and I said to Terra “Are we really the couple that goes for a weekend bouldering excursion in the cold?” I let that sit for a day or so, but when my contact at Rock & Sun asked one final time if we were in or out, I replayed that comment in my mind and knew immediately that we had to sign up precisely becauseof my comment. This trip is all about trying new things, throwing out pre-conceived notions, and pushing ourselves to new heights (pun intended). I couldn’t imagine a better opportunity than the one set before us!

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to bouldering, it does involve climbing rocks but it is not the same as ‘rock climbing’. There are no ropes or harnesses, as the boulders are not high enough to warrant them. However, falling off the rock at certain stages of the climb or in certain ways could certainly leave you in a world of hurt, so there are a number of safety precautions like understanding good falling technique, wearing good climbing shoes, positioning climbing mats to fall on, and relying on one or two spotters to help guide your (inevitable) falls. This is not to mention a number of specific climbing techniques which I won’t even get into here that make it possible to do sometimes impossible-looking things. For example, in the image below it was critically important for Sam (who I’ll introduce below) to shift his weight in such a way to create leverage in order to proceed higher on the rock. To be honest, after a weekend of climbing we only grasped and utilized a small portion of technique.

Sam shifting his weight beautifullySam shifting his weight beautifullySpeaking of technique, one of the easier techniques to ‘master’ is whaling it (which isn’t actually a proper technique at all). It usually involves a novice (ahem, like us) getting a bit nervous when close to the top, abandoning all proper protocol and pulling oneself up by the arms and rolling over the top of the bolder – kind of like a beached whale. It is critically important not to ‘whale it’ too much, however, as the other side of the rock could have a significant downslope (which said ‘whaler’ should have checked before climbing in the first place).

this one was pretty tough for methis is sort of what ‘whaling it’ looks like as I roll over the top a bitBouldering certainly has its challenges, but there is no other sport that makes Terra and I feel more child-like. My hope is that by the end of this post you will consider adding bouldering to your fitness routine if you have access to a gym or outdoor setting, no matter your age. And now, on to the adventure…

Meet the Crew

Amber and Sam were our English-speaking fearless guides who also happen to be from the UK. The other student (on the left below) was Mathias, the third person we’ve met and become friends with from Sweden (future Joy-adventure to Sweden perhaps?).  Amber and Sam excelled in patience as I’m sure we tried and tested that throughout the weekend. It was a small, but super-fun crew!

just getting startedjust getting startedNate sneaking a baguette with MatthiasNate sneaking a baguette with MatthiasAdventure in the Sea of Sand

Friday was a wash-out, so we ended up climbing on Saturday and Sunday. And even though it wasn’t raining on Saturday, we had to give the rock some time to ‘dry out’ on Saturday morning. Apparently the rock gets moist and sweaty and it requires some wind and/or sunshine to get dry and make for acceptable climbing conditions. Sam told us that they couldn’t climb for two weeks in the summer simply because the rock was sweaty due to a high amount of humidity! The closest thing I can equate this to is when I take a shower after hiking in the summer and the shower doesn’t take as I continue to sweat (but enough about me).

As I mentioned before, Fontainebleau contains 20,000+ climbable boulders. Think about that for a second – 20,000! That means there are boulders everywhere. There are about 5’ish main forests that each have their own boulder collection within the greater Forêt de Fontainebleau (Forest of Fontainebleau). So each and every day you can choose to go to a different area, or a different area within an area.

One of the most famous areas includes the Sea of Sand, which was something marvelous to behold. Sam and Amber had slightly different geologic explanations for how this happened, but the end result is a large desert-looking landscape peppered with boulders and trees.

boulders amidst the "Sea of Sand"boulders amidst the “Sea of Sand”see the dog head?see the dog head?It just so happens that this is a fabulous place for slack-lining, which is also a decent warm-up activity for bouldering. And since we were waiting for the rock to dry, Sam and Amber got out their supplies and we went for it on top of the soft, sandy ground. Just keep in mind, there is a reason we took still shots versus video…

I'm totally going to stay on (sure...)I’m totally going to stay on (sure…)Terra looks like she is in her element from her gymnastics daysTerra looks like she is in her element from her gymnastics daysEncountering Problems and Overcoming Fears

Sam and Amber have a lot of problems (well, not really – they were quite lovely). Well, at least they kept talking about all sorts of problems around the forest. I caught on pretty quickly – ‘problems’ were boulders (or maybe they were specific routes up the boulders, I’m not sure). At first I thought maybe all this talk of problems could be a bit silly or dramatic, but I soon understood. Each and every boulder represents as much of a mental exercise as physical. At each rock, we would discuss the various techniques and ways up the rock (i.e. the ‘solution’) and then we would go for it (usually after Sam or Amber demonstrated).

When we started the forest was relatively empty, but as we walked around it came alive with people of all sizes and ages, from young children to around-80 year old folks. Check out a couple of pictures below; I can just picture the four guys in their 70’s hanging around the same boulder in the 1960’s – just incredible and inspiring!

that's as far as I can stretchthat’s as far as I can stretchTerra dominating the rock!Terra dominating the rock!they've been doing this since the 60'sthey’ve been doing this since the 60’svery impressive older guyvery impressive older guyby the end, we felt as though we overcame a lotby the end, we felt as though we overcame a lotThis was an all-too-short trip (although our aching muscles would disagree!), but looking back on it I’m so glad we said ‘yes’ to this and that we didn’t succumb to the ‘are we really this kind of people’ mentality. We left extremely exhausted but, at the same time, refreshed and alive. And we can’t wait to get back to Seattle and continue what we started here (I’m looking at you Cale!). What a tremendous experience in Fontainebleau!

beautiful evening lightbeautiful evening lightgreat work by Terra!great work by Terra!beautiful florabeautiful flora

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How to Improve 2 Grades in 1 Week With Rock & Sun

Rock & Sun trip #5 I believe

This time was slightly different. A structured weeklong course purely on performance coaching. Working on choosing a route, analysing from the ground and then actually climbing it as efficiently as possible.

I initially contacted Trev for help on a trip to Thailand. We worked out a package that suited my non comital climb when I want dip in and out tendencies. Every trip I’d glean a little more on becoming a better climber. Trev would always offer advice and on one occasion, exasperated at seeing me brutalising my way up a route he quietly drops it to me that I should visit him in April in the Costa Blanca on one his performance coaching courses.

I was deliberating when he dropped the bomb. “I’ll guarantee you 2 grades in a week”.

Now that’s a big deal for me. For anyone  I suppose…To be climbing at a level I was a decade ago. I’ve been plagued with injuries, which I’m 100% would have never have experienced had I done this course 14 years ago when I first began climbing.

My injuries are self inflicted and pretty dumb really. Overdoing it. Overtraining. Not listening to my body. Not knowing how to climb properly and simply muscling my way up everything.

Many years on now with lots of interventions such as yoga, physio and chiropractic treatments my elbows, neck and shoulders ailments are manageable. Climbing as ‘hard’ as I ever have done in the past without the subsequent horror show pains.

Here’s a brief overview of the course…

You’re collected from Alicante airport and taken to a beautiful villa, settle down meet any other R&S attendees and chill out.

Given a brief of the course which consists of 3 days on breaking it right down to basics. And I mean right down. The deal was for me to red point 7b by the end of the week and we were beginning on top roping 3+ / 4s

These first three days we talk equipment; what type of shoes, the use of chalk or not and the alternatives, which make a huge difference that I’d never before experien=ced or even thought about.

Still in these first three days, dissecting a route. Really studying it, it’s features, lines of weakness, crux(es) rest(s).  All of this is vital in developing a red point strategy. We talked about climatic conditions that vastly affect the outcome.

Now we’ve got an idea of how the route climbs, it’s time to move. Here we received instruction in real simple terms. A bit like being taught how to walk, except I was being taught how to climb.

You see, I’d developed a highly inefficient style of climbing which is obvious to me now, and so many people do it. We climb as though walking… one foot moving up and the trailing leg being dragged behind. Because on a 3+ climbing like this seems easy for someone that can nick a 7a after a couple of visits. But, it’s highly inefficient and worse, these patterns a merely ingrained and transferred up the grades. You can only go so far like this. In truth, you can only go so far with good technique. But good technique gets you a lot further for a lot less effort and lot less pain or risk of pain!

Three days out and we have a rest to day to chill out in the sun.

Days 4 and 5. The juicy part of the course.

Choosing a route and sending it.

We discussed the route, which in my case, La Bella, at Pena Roja crag in Lliber http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=21298

Trev put the quick draws in for me and we discussed the route.

My turn.

I (we) got the route done after about 5 hours on the third red point. Nice. Really nice.

The last time I climbed 7b I was 10 years younger and fitter. But dumber and it took 2 weeks; the last climb of the last day of the trip!

By the way, I’m 45 and I’m looking to get 8a by around 50.

I’m so stoked with everything and the thing I love about being able to climb harder grades is that it opens up a whole new world of amazing adventures with great people in stunning locations.

Thanks

Solly x

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Climbing Holidays For Families

At Rock & Sun we notice that more and more families would like to come on a rock climbing holiday.

For some families it is the parents would love to go climbing again like they used to before they had children, and now the kids are old enough to climb, they want to introduce them to the sport as well. For them it is nice to go with an instructor so they can brush up their own skills, and improve their climbing technique in a few climbing coaching sessions, while the children are enjoying themselves on toprope. For other families it is the children that made the parents excited about climbing. The children might have been to an indoor climbing wall during a children’s party or a school activity and now they want to get on real rock. The parents would love to give it a go as well, but know that they do not have enough skills or experience to go rock climbing independently as a family.

Climbing Holiday for Families - here at Pena Roja

Climbing Holiday for Families - here at Pena Roja

Rock & Sun offers a full range of rock climbing holidays & rock climbing courses aimed at climbers of all proficiency. Rock & Sun’s special family climbing holidays are individually tailored to suit your family’s experience and aspirations. A highly qualified, skillful instructor will be dedicated to your family to ensure that each of you has a memorable time. Plus: everything from airport pick up to airport drop off can be arranged.
The Costa Blanca is the ideal location for you and your family to enjoy a variety of climbing and have all the benefits of the nearby town of Calpe and its facilities, plus of course the beach and some sunshine!

Climbing Holidays for Families - here at Sierra de Toix

Climbing Holidays for Families - here at Sierra de Toix

Our family climbing holidays offer a range of exciting activities to suit everybody’s interests and ability. Such activities may include:

Single pitch rock climbing

Multi pitch rock climbing

Trekking & walking

Abseiling

Kayaking

Depending on the age of the children, we can offer a different program for the week. Please find below two example itineraries for family climbing holidays; one with young children and one with older children.

Climbing Holiday for Families - Amy (4,5 years old)

Climbing Holiday for Families - Amy (4,5 years old)

 

Family Climbing Holiday With Children Under 8 years

An example of what a week might include:

Saturday: Arrival day: relax and hang out by the pool or go to one of Costa Blanca’s beaches.

Sunday: Half-day session of single pitch rock climbing with a guide. When at the crag, we could put topropes up and let everyone enjoy the climbing, we could coach and improve your climbing technique, or we could teach you how to lead climb. For young children a whole day at the crag has proven to be a bit too much, so after the morning session at the crag we’ll come back to the villa and you will have the afternoon to yourself.

Monday: Half-day session of single pitch rock climbing with a guide.

Tuesday: Half-day session of single pitch rock climbing with a guide.

Wednesday: Rest day. Have some family time in and around the villa, enjoy Costa Blanca’s beautiful beaches or go out for a family activity. There are many water parks, adventure parks and attraction parks in the Costa Blanca.

Thursday: Half-day session of single pitch rock climbing with a guide. Afternoon: A walk up the Penon de Ifach (332m), Costa Blanca’s most striking landmark.

Friday: One half-day session of single pitch rock climbing with a guide.

Saturday: Departure day.Climbing Holiday for Families - Beach Time!

Climbing Holiday for Families – Beach Time!

Family Climbing Holiday With Children Over 8 years

An example of what a week might include:

Saturday Arrival day: relax and hang out by the pool or go to one of Costa Blanca’s beaches.

Sunday: Single pitch rock climbing with a guide. According to the experience level of the parents and children, we could put topropes up and let everyone enjoy the climbing, we could coach and improve your climbing technique, or we could teach you how to lead climb.

Monday: Single pitch rock climbing with a guide.

Tuesday: Relax day. Enjoy one of Costa Blanca’s beautiful beaches or go out for a family activity. There are many water parks, adventure parks and attraction parks in the Costa Blanca. Or wander around in some of the historical centers of the small and characteristic villages in the Xalon valley.

Wednesday: Multipitch rock climbing with a guide. If two family members are up for it, we can take you up the Penon de Ifach, the most striking landmark in the whole of the Costa Blanca (332m). If this is too much for your family, or if you prefer to do an activity with the whole family, we can have an adventurous day in the Barranco del Infierno. A series of abseils and traverses gets you through this stunning gorge.

Thursday: Single pitch rock climbing with a guide.

Friday: Single pitch rock climbing with a guide, sit on top kayaking, or a relaxing family day. It’s up to you.

Saturday: Departure day.

Climbing Holidays for Families

Climbing Holidays for Families

Accommodation for Families

You will be staying in a fully equipped and spacious villa with swimming pool in Parcent, in the Xalon Valley. The villa has great views on the green hills surrounding Parcent and on the typical Spanish town of Parcent itself. This town has the best paella restaurant in the whole region and several other bars, restaurants, a bakery, minimarket and pharmacy. The villa has a large garden with palm trees, fruit trees and flowers; you can always find a place to sit and relax in the shade or in the sun. The villa has three bedrooms with a large kitchen, dining area and lounge. There are two bathrooms, one of which is ensuite. There is also an outside barbecue area. Besides the villa there is also a double bedroom studio with bathroom.

Rock & Sun Villa Parcent

Rock & Sun Villa Parcent

From the moment you make your first contact, Rock & Sun’s friendly, experienced staff are here to provide the help and advice that ensures each family member’s existing climbing skills and goals are catered for. We aim to provide the best holidays where qualified, enthusiastic instructors focus on everyone’s safety, enjoyment and fulfilment.

Climbing in the sun or the shade?

Obviously we adjust the times of our climbing days and the locations to suit the weather. During the hotter months, we choose to climb in the shade. We are likely to go out climbing at around 0730 in the morning – returning at around 1300/1330. Our afternoon climbing sessions are from about 1500 – 1900hrs. So you get in a full day’s climbing with time in the middle for a late lunch, a swim or a well-deserved siesta!  In the winter months you are more likely to climb at sunny crags, leaving the villa at approx. 0900hrs, returning to the villa at approx. 1730 hrs. Times may vary during the course of your stay, and depending on your families wishes, but this will give you an idea.
What our families often choose to do is to hire a car. This gives you the independence to leave the crag whenever the children have had enough, and allows you to go straight to the beach, or to explore the local area and enjoy other activities.
We welcome all families to have a great climbing & beach holiday in the Costa Blanca! Feel free to get in touch with the dates that you want and we will organise your family holiday.

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Finding Cheap Flights

We are happy to share what we’ve learnt from booking flights all over the world on a regular basis.

First of all, we advise to use skyscanner.com. This website not only compares flights from different airlines, it also shows a bar graph in which you can compare the cost of the flights on different dates, which is very useful if you’re flexible with your dates.

Another useful feature on skyscanner.com is searching for ‘nearby airports’. If you are flexible to fly out of Bristol or Cardiff for example, it will compare all flights departing from both these airports in one go.

We have also found that the more often you search for flights on one specific device, the more the price will go up. The website remembers your IP address and your search behaviour. You can save money by doing all your searching and comparing on one device, make a decision on which flight you are going to buy, and then use a different device and different internet connection to make the booking.

Sport Climbing Holiday Thailand

Sport Climbing Holiday Thailand

Furthermore, when booking a long haul flight, to our Sport Climbing Holidays in Thailand for instance, it can work out a lot cheaper to take an indirect flight, or even to add a short haul flight to your direct long haul flight, making the total itinerary into an indirect one. As an example, just booking the direct flight with British Airways from London to Bangkok can work out more expensive than the itinerary ‘Alicante – Madrid; Madrid – London Heathrow; London Heathrow – Bangkok’, which uses the exact same direct long haul flight with British Airways, but then in combination with two short haul flights. So it is worth trying to make your direct flight into an indirect flight by adding a short haul flight to the booking.

Rock Climbing in the Costa Blanca

Rock Climbing in the Costa Blanca

Finally, when travelling to the Costa Blanca, and flying into Alicante Airport from a non-European destination, it is worth considering to have a stop-over in London, Madrid or Barcelona. Those cities have big international airports that are served by many airlines for long-haul intercontinental flights, whereas Alicante’s airport is great for short-haul flights within Europe. From London, Madrid or Barcelona there are many low cost airlines that fly to Alicante. Or, you can take the train from Madrid or Barcelona to Alicante’s train station and we will arrange your pick up from there.

Good luck with booking your flight – we look forward to seeing you in one of our destinations!

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20 of the best rock climbing destinations worldwide

published by AWE365
August 26th 2015

Some climbing destinations offer once in a lifetime climbs. Others are known for their party scenes or stunning views. But we’ve decided to create an article of the 20 best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide – for areas that tick all the climbing boxes.

These are the destinations that offer the lot – different types of climbing, from traditional to sport, with single and multi pitch options thrown in for good measure. There’s also good access, small crowds, plenty of routes, plus all the other factors that make a great spot.

We think that the best rock climbing holiday destinations should also offer climbing for all levels. After all, if you’re travelling with family and friends, it’s unlikely you’ll all be at the same level. And a little variety is always good for working on your technique.

Best rock climbing holiday destinations in Europe

Starting close to home with what we know best it was very hard to narrow this down to just eight spots in Europe. Many great spots have been missed such as Finale Ligure in Italy, Chamonix in France, Labské údolí in Czech Republic, Frankenjura in German, Zillertal in Austria, the Norwegian Fjords, Majorca, Tessin in Switzerland, Hartz Mountains in Germany and I am sure many more.

Costa Blanca – Spain

The sheer variety and quantity of climbing in the Costa Blanca makes this a dead cert to kick off this list of the 20 of the best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide. The scope, plus the usually excellent weather make this a great place to climb, especially when it’s wet and wintry elsewhere.

All the bases are covered here, from via ferrata and scrambling to sport climbing and long multi pitch routes, all adjacent to the sea in east to access crags. Check out this article about 10 reasons for a Costa Blanca climbing holiday.

Costa Daurada – Spain

Not only is the Costa Daurada home to some of the best single pitch climbing in the world, it’s the sheer concentration of routes and climbing options that make this really stand out. With world famous spots like Rodellar, Margalef and Siurana all within easy reach – it’s easy to see why this is on our list.

The limestone mountains of the Sierra de Prades also benefit from superb weather, lying just to the southwest of Barcelona. With prime sport climbing, single and multi pitch routes that are mostly easy to access and in a lovely climate it is a must visit spot.

Fontainebleau – France

The Mecca for bouldering lovers, this spot found just 90km from Paris and is home to huge, mysterious rock formations. With everything from small boulders for kids to explore to big slabs, mantels and overhangs for more experienced climbers, there is plenty to do here for all levels of climber.

Many bouldering routes in Fontainebleau are marked and colour coded by difficulty making it a great place for building your climbing skills and strength. It’s possible to boulder here year after year and never tackle the same boulder twice.

Orpierre, Haute Provence – France

Having essentially become a climbing village, there’s everything you need here to enjoy a complete climbing holiday with an easy 10 minute walk to the crags. There’s a policy here that around 30 pitches will be developed and equipped each year.

With 650 routes from 3 to 8c reaching up to 200m there is something for everyone, although the majority are F5 to F6b. Being in the Haute Alpes, it’s as close to the Provincial Crags as it is the alpine crags. It has plenty of single, multi and sport routes to climb, plus climbing support, tuition and shops.

Orpierre is around an hour from Ceuse which has another 350 routes ranging from F5a to F9a+. Ceuse is at 1600m, meaning is it is too hot at Orpierre (700m) you can head there for a change in scenery. Ceuse is often called the best sports crag in France, but the steep, hour long walk in doesn’t appeal to all.

The short walk in at Orpierre and that it is climbable all year round, although August can be too hot, is why it makes this list ahead the highly regarded Ceuse as one of the best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide. We recommend Rock & Sun for climbing holidays to Orpierre.

Dolomites – Italy

Rock climbing in Italy is more or less dominated by the big wall climbing in the Dolomites. There are multi-pitch routes here up to 80 metres long, and with classic routes of all grades, there is something for all ability levels.

Many of the climbs can be reached by short walks from the road which means you can cram in more climbing during your stay. Huge routes, great climbing and value for money – what’s not to like?

Pembrokeshire – UK

The highlight of south Wales climbing, Pembrokeshire has thousands of routes located in stunning positions across the coastal landscape. As you might expect with sea climbing, just getting to the base of some of these climbs is an adventure in itself.

Just remember to be careful of the wide ranging tides that you’ll find here. Beautiful slab climbing around St David’s and the stunning crags of Range East and Lydstep all add up to make this a superb climbing destination.

The Peak District – UK

The most popular climbing destination in the whole of the UK, this area situated between Sheffield, Manchester and Derby has thousands of routes to choose from. The crags differ in style and rock type, meaning there is lots of variation to play with.

The area is famed for its gritstone edges, including Froggatt and Stanage, which are free of cams and nuts, so expect to get your hands into some cracks. You can also find some superb bouldering, disused quarries and single and multi pitch climbs. In short, it’s got the lot.

Kalymnos – Greece

This small island near Kos benefits from superb weather throughout the year, as you might expect on a Greek island. Most of the climbing is found within walking distance of Massouri, where you’ll find single and double pitch sport routes of all grades.

With overhangs and some superb sport climbing routes, plus bolted limestone crags and good access completing the portfolio, it’s no wonder it’s popular. The fact it’s a Greek island might have something to do with it too.

Best rock climbing holiday destination in North America

Again this was tough to narrow down to just a few spots. Tensleep in Wyoming was close to inclusion as was Maple Canyon in Utah. We are completely lacking spots in the Eastern United States but then couldn’t include everywhere goo.

Yosemite National Park – California, USA

El Capitán (The Captain/Chief) is probably the most famous rock face in the world located in the Yosemite NP on the North side of Yosemite Valley. It is a 900m vertical rock formation that at one time was considered impossible to climb. It has now been climbed many times but the world’s best climbers are still drawn to ‘the toughest climb’. There has even had a film and numerous documentaries made about it.

But climbing in Yosemite NP has a lot more to it than the difficult multi-day climbs in the Valley. There are an endless variety of challenges, including maintained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon and the sunny Tuolumne Meadows domes and much more. However Yosemite certainly favours more experienced climbers.

Joshua Tree, California – USA

This high desert climbing area in Southern California is the most popular in the US. It’s a year round climbing destination, with winter being a particularly great time to visit, when much of the rest of the US is under thick snow.

With loads of crags, runout slabs and mixed routes, as well as the odd spot of sport climbing too, this place ticks a lot of boxes. In total, there’s a colossal 7,000 established routes and plenty more to discover for anyone willing to make the walk into the back country.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado – USA

With more than 265,000 acres of space packed with granite heights, there’s plenty here to get excited about. Between Estes Park and Grand Lake, there are challenges for all level of climber. Beginners will find guided tours of routes to match your ability.

More experienced climbers can even head out for some wild camping and climbing expeditions (although you will need a permit before you go). With varied climbing and the exceptional Rockies scenery, this is a top climbing holiday destination.

Moab, Utah – USA

Climbers are drawn to the big walls, towers and unique rock formations in Moab. With some of the USA’s most famous routes, in spots like Wall Street, Indian Creek and Fisher Towers, you can hike out to some truly exceptional climbing spots.

Nearby there’s some challenging climbing in the Arches National Park, where you won’t need a permit and can take on some tough single pitch climbs.

Banff & Jasper, Alberta – Canada

OK so this is two climbing destinations. But they are under four hours apart and together they make for one of the best rock climbing holiday destinations. Banff National Park has many enticing crags with around 40 areas to explore. The largest are Lake Louise with over 100 mapped routes and Tunnel Mountain with over 50. June to September offer the best conditions although there is spectacular ice climbing available in winter.

Jasper offers a similar varied experience but less crowds on popular crags. You can rock climb some spots from March to October although June to September is the main season. Ice climbing is available in the winter until June. The crags are mostly lime and quartzite, with alpine rock routes like Mt Colin and Mt Edith Cavell. With good provision for climbers of all ages and abilities, this is a top spot.

Best rock climbing holiday destinations: Rest of the world

Having used up 14 of the 20 best rock climbing destinations up on europe and North America we are pretty limited for the rest of the world. We tried to include spots in each continent (exception being Antarctica) and would have loved to include somewhere in the Himalayas, East Africa, the Middle East and well everywhere really!

Patagonia & San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

The stunning landscape of Patagonia is perhaps not surprisingly home to some of the South America’s best climbing. Extreme mountaineering areas, like Torres Del Paine, Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre are world famous and provide stunning backdrops to the less extreme climbing that is also available.

But if heading all the way to Argentina you should also head further north to San Carlos de Bariloche for a more varied climbing experience. Between September and April you can climb the Golden Granite Frey Spires in the Huapi National Park. With around 200 traditional and sport routes to explore, it makes it into out 20 best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide.

The Grampians & Arapiles, Victoria – Australia

Offering more climbing than any other Australian destination, there are thousands of routes in the Grampians to tick off. Spread out over a vast forest and rock national park, some climbs will require lengthy approaches along dirt tracks and paths. However there are great facilities for beginners, making it a good place to learn.

For experienced climbers looking for a less restricted climbing experience drive two hours to Mt Arapiles, where almost all routes are within easy walking distance of the access roads. But the Grampians are hard to beat, with ragged crags, waterfalls and mysterious rock formations that beg to be explored.

Wharepapa, North Island – New Zealand

In a country famed for outdoor pursuits and blessed with mountains that Wharepapa stands out as New Zealand’s best all round climbing destination. Wither all year round climbing Wharepapa is very popular, helped by it’s location just over two hours south of Auckland.

With some exceptional crags, including Secret Valley, Smith Rock, Froggatt Edge and Waipapa and over 800 routes in total – it’s got a lot to offer. Most climbs involve a short, easy access and the quiet rural setting appeals to people looking to really focus on climbing.

Yangshuo – China

This small town near Guilin in China is home to the famous karst mountains. All around this site there are hundreds of climbing routes that have become very popular with travellers in the area. The famous Paper Cut crag (pictured) has routes ranging from 5.13a / 7c+.

There have been some concerns in the past about safety but as the area’s reputation grows, this is becoming less of a problem. An outside entry to this list of 20 of the best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide, but one to watch over the next few years for sure.

Krabi Region – Thailand

The monumental limestone rocks in Krabi attract climbers from all over the world, in particular to Railay and Ton Sai. It’s a great place for beginners, with mostly sport climbing on offer although there is some tougher multi pitch if you progress quickly or are already proficient.

With more than 700 bolted routes graded from F4 to F8c, and plenty of space for everyone, it’s a quality climbing destination blessed with stunning scenery too. Oh and throw in a laid back Thai lifestyle, beautiful beaches, friendly locals and great food and it is one of the best rock climbing holiday destinations worldwide. Find out more about climbing in Thailand.

Rocklands – South Africa

Found in the Cederberg Mountains around three hours north of Cape Town, this semi-desert setting is famed for its world class bouldering. However, there is some fine sport climbing too, over a variety of grades, mostly single pitch. You have to obtain permits to climb here, and some of the climbing is on private farms, so you will have to get permission first. The rock is fine grain sandstone of medium hardness which can be tough on the skin.

Todra Gorge – Morocco

Situated in the High Atlas Mountains amongst some massive limestone cliffs is the Todra Gorge, home to some bolted sports climbing routes up to 300 metres long. It’s one of Morocco’s biggest and most well developed climbing areas, with over 400 routes across a wide range of grades. Many of the routes are within walking distance from accommodation, so you won’t spend too much time travelling.

So there you have our 20 best climbing holiday destinations worldwide. Let us know what you think, and feel free to tell us more about your favourite destinations in the comments. We’re sure to have overlooked one or two of your favourites tell us why your spot should be included.

About half of these destinations are visited by Rock & Sun Climbing Holidays.
This article was published by AWE365.com

Posted in Costa Blanca, France, Kalymnos, Location news, Morocco, Spain, Thailand, UK | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Climb like a girl

Published in: Climb Magazine – July 2015
Written by: Sarah-Jane Dobner

There was a campaign called ‘Like a Girl’ launched last year. The video featured women and men and boys doing activities ‘like a girl’ where they were floppy and pathetic and ineffective; this was contrasted with footage of actual girls who, when asked to do the same activities ‘like a girl’, ran and punched and threw balls in a powerful way. The video went viral.

Have you ever heard anyone shout out that someone’s climbing like a girl, meaning that the individual in question isn’t trying and is faffing around and being generally useless? It’s a poor use of language. Words change the way we feel about ourselves. Let’s make ‘like a girl’ a good thing, the way doing something ‘like a man’ is seen as a compliment. Hell, let’s go the whole hog and make doing something ‘like a woman’ a damned fine accolade too.

Back to girls. And why it’s amazing to Climb Like a Girl. If we’re going to make wild generalisations on gender stereotypes it’s fairly widely appreciated that women and girls climb with great technique. Better technique, in fact, than most guys. That’s what ‘Climb Like a Girl’ should mean; that you’re showing great technique.

My friend Trevor Massiah has been teaching climbing for 30 years; he now runs the guiding-coaching-climbing holiday company Rock and Sun. He’s made it his life’s work to study how people climb. We’re sat at the foot of the crag sharing yesterday’s prawn stir-fry from a Tupperware box.

“Women and girls generally have better technique” he says bluntly. “The way to get good is to start off weak, and keen. Then you have to learn good technique from day one”.

As luck would have it, women are blessed with less upper body strength than men. And so we have to work out better technique. Better technique invariably means better footwork, pushing up with both legs, using efficient movement rather than brute force.

But quite often these skills are unsung. Climbing culture can slip off into the celebration of fitness regimes, campus boarding, core work, summit-bagging, mountain-conquering, protein shakes, dynos and one finger pull-ups. These are all rather masculine glories.

“Have you noticed” continues Trevor, “how focused people are on training at the moment?” “Yes, Trev, I have… The glamorisation of strength! The pornification of power! I’m all about resting and doing less” I say, smugly. “But what about technique?” puts in Trevor. “These days I mainly eat lunch”, I counter.

Look around. Look at the vocabulary and images that surround us. Take climbing films. There is often an implicit, unconscious, weighting towards power over technique. So the camera may focus on the fingers and arms, upper body, muscles bulging, fingertips crushing, and only occasionally pull back so you can see a full body view of how the climber is really being propelled, usually by their excellent footwork. We tell beginners to focus on their feet, but thereafter every subliminal message is that power and cranking hard is where it’s at.

Clearly this is a reflection of underlying values. So a woman’s skills on slabs, say, is unlikely to attract the same attention as a man’s skill on a big overhanging wall.

Look at indoor walls for instance, which are overwhelmingly steep and overhanging. Partly that’s because off-vertical walls give a clean, safer fall. I understand that. But is the steepness also geared towards what men enjoy? And what they do well? How many women get consulted and listened to when walls are designed?

Lately, Trevor has codified a sequence of movements, which put the focus on footwork and not pulling with your arms. He’s dubbed it ‘The Secret’. It’s a world away from power screams and foot-free lock-offs. It’s quiet and steady and good technique. It’s the way, in particular, that many girls and women climb.

The climbing community is actually pretty good – a lot better than many sports, in fact – in terms of gender representation and equality. It’s not as advanced as tennis. But it’s better than football and snooker. But, as in many other areas of life, all the management committees of climbing bodies are heavily run by men; most climbing magazines and websites are run by men. There are many reasons for this. But it’s good to simply be aware that we are not seeing a true representation of our sport.

And what would climbing media look like if it truly reflected men and women equally? If the writers, photographers, editors were 50% women? It’s so unfamiliar I can barely imagine it. Perhaps there would be more articles on the spiritual aspects of multipitch routes? More artwork. More poetry. More shared experience of a community of climbers. Who knows? We’re still in a world where some people shout “You’re Climbing like a girl!” as an insult.

And why don’t girls and women object when they feel offended by a stray comment? Why don’t they press for more representation? Lack of representation is endemic, in business, finance, politics and the media; we’re used to it. It seems normal.

It’s a long time since it was okay to be a racist in the UK. Do you believe in racial equality? Of course. Then you should believe in gender equality too. Not that black people and white people are identical. Not that men and women or boys and girls are identical. But they have equal value and should have equal opportunities. So if casual racism is no longer acceptable, why is casual sexism still tolerated?

I can get quite wound up at entrenched inequality and small comments can set my mind spinning. Trevor is always a comfort: “Things are getting better and better. Look at the changes in the last 50 years. There has never been a better time to be black or to be a woman.” And he’s right. I’m just impatient. I’m not going to live forever and progress just isn’t happening fast enough.

But how might women’s empowerment be manifest in the context of climbing? What form might real progress take?

“Right then”, says Trevor. “This next route looks great”. We tidy the food away and get back to getting up sheer rock faces on our hands and feet. It’s Trev’s turn to lead. He touches the limestone gently and moves his foot to a small foothold, only a few inches up, level with his shin. “Sometimes the clients watch me climb”, he says, turning to me, “and they say to me, you climb like a girl”. He looks thoroughly chuffed.

Written by: Sarah-Jane Dobner
Published in: Climb Magazine – July 2015

Climb like a Girl - Sarah-Jane Dobner - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Climb like a Girl - Sarah-Jane Dobner - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Rock & Sun - Climbing Instruction Courses with a difference - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Rock & Sun - Climbing Instruction Courses with a difference - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Rock and Sun Advert - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Rock and Sun Advert - Climb Magazine - July 2015

Posted in Climbing Technique, General news | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

REVIEW: Climbing Holiday with Rock & Sun

written by: Sol Fernandez – UpRaw

A few days ago at my local indoor Climbing wall the Westway (http://sports.westway.org) which sometimes doubles up as a second home, someone shouted out: “Sol, you’re Climbing like a girl!”. Amazing! I had just been awarded the ultimate compliment.
You see, I am male. Arguably fit, strong and could perhaps be described as a knuckle dragging self styled wannabe alpha male (I’m not that at all). In Climbing terms this simply means if a climbing hold can be manipulated or grabbed with the hands and fingers, then I’m bloody well going to pull (as in performing a chin-up) hard on it as though nothing else matters.

This photo is a good example..

Sol Fernandez 1st ascent of Captain Debauchery (F6c). Yangshuo, China. Photo: Mike Robertson

Sol Fernandez 1st ascent of Captain Debauchery (F6c). Yangshuo, China. Photo: Mike Robertson

Now, girls, generally, pound for pound do not possess the same strength as boys. Subsequently boys will pull harder because they can, whilst simultaneously disregarding technique (footwork and body positioning), style, grace and elegance. Yes, muscles bulging, veins popping and power screams plenty, promptly followed by falling off because we just can’t pull any longer.
Girls, however, generally apply greater judicial use of available features and contours found on natural rock or plastic indoor wall climbing holds. The upshot being less fatigued arms, less prone to injuries and a higher success rate of climbing a route from the ground up in good style.

Desirée Verbeek elegantly displaying great technique. Photo: Rock & Sun

Desirée Verbeek elegantly displaying great technique. Photo: Rock & Sun

Trevor Massiah and Desiree Verbeek from Rock & Sun provide the most incredible rock climbing holidays and courses in amazing locations around the world. It’s a holiday with inbuilt performance coaching! Check out their website and Facebook page for further information, client input and great pictures (www.rockandsun.com and www.facebook.com/rockandsun).

Does anyone remember Endless Summer? The story of two surfer pals that chase the surf and sun around the globe? Well, this is sort of the same thing except it’s climbing. All the fun and excitement with fantastic weather. No faff and hassle.

I’m quite a seasoned traveller but having discovered Rock & Sun immediately conjures up that cliché “where have you been all my life?” Quite literally, after a couple of emails, the Rock & Sun machinery sorted everything out and I settled into a stress free climbing and fun holiday in Thailand. How many times have I heard that other fondly utilised cliché “You are the brand / company”. Trevor and Desiree are certainly that.

One of the spectacular views you can expect to see. Photo: UpRaw

One of the spectacular views you can expect to see. Photo: UpRaw

Personable, knowledgeable, professional and fun. The itinerary was precision perfection. An intimate group of people from complete newbies to quite well accomplished and travelled individuals. The great thing about rock climbing is that you can encounter total beginner graded climbs alongside something desperately hard. A bit like TKmaxx alongside Gucci and you’re unlikely to stumble across this by chance!

Trevor and Desiree know exactly where to go so that everyone has a great time, meeting and often exceeding expectations. Some sectors are tidal or exposed to uncomfortable sun exposure. Worse still hordes of people jockeying for position. It’s all taken care of.

I personally love Multi-pitch routes. A climb that is one rope length or less is a single pitch route. More than that is a Multi-pitch route. Multi-pitch routes are a thrill of a lifetime. Incredible exposure and amazing views with grades to suit all abilities. Take for example Ao Nang Tower. Three pitches of improbable looking climbing at amenable grades. Incidentally, you won’t hear this from Trevor, he’s not one for blowing his own trumpet! He pioneered the third and final pitch of this climb many years ago, making it accessible now for all.

Ao Nang Tower is truly a jewel in the Andaman Sea. Access is via a long tail boat that gently idles up to the imposing karst tower jutting 100+ metres out of the water. You then gently step off the boat onto the rock proper and traverse across the base of the climb with the aid of fixed ropes that you are clipped into.

Trevor and Desirée starting the first pitch of Ao Nang Tower. Photo: UpRaw

Trevor and Desirée starting the first pitch of Ao Nang Tower. Photo: UpRaw

Then what follows is three pitches of the most incredible climbing. There are ample opportunities to savour the view, share adulatory whoops, high fives, cheshire cat smiles, eat some snacks, take in water and abseil back into the long tail boat. YES!!! Abseil directly back into the boat! We now had a brief cool down swim and snorkel and having built up an appetite put it to the communal vote of where to eat. Me personally, I opted for a freshly caught and grilled kingfish with a side of papaya salad. Words fail to describe just how incredible this experience truly was. Hopefully, you get the picture and there’s no need to elaborate further.

Back to knuckle dragging oo-raa neanderthal climber.. Trevor and Desiree helped me break down old habits and develop a new, smarter, more intelligent climbing style. Technique and efficiency. After a few weeks back in the UK, after the Rock & Sun trip, the narrative at my climbing wall is a fervent “Sol, you are climbing like a girl”. So there we have it. Full circle. Metrosexual Sol climbing like a girl :-)

Rock & Sun. For the most incredible climbing adventures and or performance coaching. You can have your cake and eat it!

I’d like to profile a bit on Desiree and Trevor, the owners and operators of this amazing outfit, and why you should book with them.
Trevor Massiah holds the Mountain Instructor Award (MIA) and has been working as a climbing instructor since 1984. He has climbed all over the world exploring and pioneering new routes in India, China, Thailand and Western Australia. At the age of 49, he is still improving his grade, having climbed his first 3 8A’s in the last two years. After having been based in Pembrokeshire for about 20 years, he has recently moved to the Costa Blanca with his partner Desiree Verbeek.

Trevor climbing Kingpin (F8a). Chong Phli, Thailand. Photo: Rock & Sun

Trevor climbing Kingpin (F8a). Chong Phli, Thailand. Photo: Rock & Sun

Desiree holds a PhD in the field of Sustainable Consumption and Production. Several years ago, shortly after she discovered the sport of rock climbing, she changed her career and lifestyle and is now assisting Trevor on Rock & Sun trips all over the world. It won’t be long and she’ll be a rock climbing instructor herself.

Desiree Verbeek - Photo: Bettina Baksa

Desiree Verbeek - Photo: Bettina Baksa

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10 reasons for a Costa Blanca climbing holiday

So, you’ve arrived at Alicante Airport, and having run the gauntlet of the hire car pickup point, you’re now driving north along the coast, excited about the week long Costa Blanca Climbing holiday that lies ahead.

You can’t help but stare with longing at the vast amount of rock you pass by – massive slabs and walls that look featureless from a distance, but you know that on closer inspection this would be very different. You wonder how many routes already exist on these walls and mountains and what would it be like to immerse yourself in the experience of Climbing here?

Driving past Benidorm, a striking rock tower rises majestically above Finestrat – the Puig Campana. Its classic ‘Espolón Central’ is thirteen pitches long of perfect limestone, the hardest of which is 4+.

Harbi and Luke after their ascent of Espolón Central, Puig Campana (BIG 5)

Harbi and Luke after their ascent of Espolón Central, Puig Campana (BIG 5)

Why Spain is still number one
Spain is still the main sport climbing destination in Europe, if not the world. With the famous Margalef, Siurana, Rodellar in the North and the popular El Chorro in the South, the Costa Blanca, right in the middle, is sometimes overlooked. Without the presence of top climbers living in the area and redpointing the hardest routes in the world, the Costa Blanca lacks a high profile and is not as prominent in the climbing press.

This, of course, has its advantages in the form of quiet crags. However, a Costa Blanca Climbing holiday definitely deserves more attention and appreciation. With so much rock of varying height, angles and colours, and still lots of new route potential, there are more routes here than you could possibly climb in a lifetime.

Toby climbing Ki (6c), Olta (Performance Coaching Course)

Toby climbing Ki (6c), Olta (Performance Coaching Course)

Ten reasons to go on a Costa Blanca Climbing holiday
1. With rock of every angle, from slabs to overhanging caves, there is a perfect crag for all abilities and tastes. Many crags offer a full range of grades – often 4s and 5s can be found on the same wall as 8s. For instance in the Xalón valley, just inland from Calpe, the grades range from 3+ to 7b+ at Alcalalí, from 3 to 8b+ at Murla, from 4 to 8c at l’Ocaive, and from 5+ to 8a at the stunning amphitheatre shaped crag Pena Roja.
Another crag that deserves mentioning is Foradá (grades from 3+ to 8b+). Foradá is a world-class venue about 40 minutes from Alicante. It has a remote feel to it, even though the walk in is less than half an hour. It’s quiet, and at an altitude of almost 1000m, the views are amazing. Every route here, whether it is one of the easire routes on the Sunny south face, or a harder route on the cooler north face, offers interesting and high quality climbing.

Madeleine climbing Picacerebros (6a), Foradá (Sport Climbing Holiday)

Madeleine climbing Picacerebros (6a), Foradá (Sport Climbing Holiday)

2. Whether you are a sport climber or a trad climber, a Costa Blanca Climbing holiday offers it all. There are sport routes as well as ‘traditional’ routes that need protecting with nuts and camming devices.

3. Besides more than 3000 single pitch routes, the Costa Blanca offers the opportunity for big Multi pitch adventures and all day mountaineering experiences. The striking landmark Penon de Ifach (332m) stands proud on Calpe’s coast. It offers great Multi-pitch routes – some of which are fully bolted, others are mixed.
Vía Pany and Vía Valencianos are the easiest routes up the Penon, the hardest pitches being 5 or 5+. If you’re looking for something harder, Costa Blanca (3, 6b, 6b, 6a, 6b+, 6b+, 6c+) and El Navegante (4, 4+, 5+, 6b, 6b, 6c, 6a, 7a) are highly recommended.

Fran climbing the 5th pitch of Polvos Mágicos (5), Penon de Ifach (BIG 5)

Fran climbing the 5th pitch of Polvos Mágicos (5), Penon de Ifach (BIG 5)

4. Discover quiet crags. Venues that are given the ‘busy’ or ‘crowded’ symbol in the guide are often quiet, even during holidays.

5. Little or no polish – with the exception of Sella many of the popular routes are not particularly polished.

6. Short approaches – many crags in the Costa Blanca are roadside crags or require less than ten minutes approach.

7. The climate in the Costa Blanca enables year round climbing. Rainfall is exceptionally low – the average chance of rain on a day is 12%, and when it rains it is hardly ever enough to stop you from climbing. In January – the coldest month of the year – the average high temperature is still 16 degrees. Pick a south-facing crag for ideal Climbing conditions. In the hottest months of the year, July and August, you can get up early, climb in the shade, have a siësta and then climb again in the afternoon and evening.

Maciek abseiling the 7th pitch of Diedro UBSA, Penon de Ifach (Sport Climbing Holiday)

Maciek abseiling the 7th pitch of Diedro UBSA, Penon de Ifach (Sport Climbing Holiday)

8. The benefit of being in a tourist destination is that there are limitless things to do on rest days. Spend some time in Costa Blanca’s small historic towns, valleys, gorges, attraction parks or on the beach. Other options include shopping, cycling, hiking, kayaking, fishing and diving.

9. Accommodation is plentiful and cheap, especially outside of the summer months. Stay in an apartment, hotel or villa in Benidorm if you like the hustle and bustle, or in the much quieter Calpe.

10. There are plenty of cheap flights to Alicante or Valencia. Check skyscanner.com for the best deals.

Lauren climbing Tasha Mitica (4+), Alcalalí (Family Climbing Holiday)

Lauren climbing Tasha Mitica (4+), Alcalalí (Family Climbing Holiday)

Rock and Sun
Rock and Sun, the UK’s leading provider of rock climbing holidays and courses, is based in the Costa Blanca. Holidays and courses are run from their luxurious villa with a private swimming pool in Calpe, boasting great views of the Mediterranean Sea and the Penon de Ifach:
- Sport and Trad Climbing holidays – guided climbing, instruction and coaching
- Performance Coaching – improve your technique and mental approach to climbing
- The BIG 5 – climb five of Costa Blanca’s famous Multi-pitch routes
- Also available are private guiding, gorge walks and bouldering trips in Albarracín

Adam on top of the Mascarat Gorge, with Sierra de Toix and Penon de Ifach in the background (BIG 5)

Adam on top of the Mascarat Gorge, with Sierra de Toix and Penon de Ifach in the background (BIG 5)

Text: Desiree Verbeek and Trevor Massiah
Photos courtesy of Rock & Sun
Published on rockclimbingholidays.com

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Be your own action hero..

Abseil Symonds YatSo, you’ve seen the films: Sylvester Stallone strutting his stuff in Cliffhanger… Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet and Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 2. You’re pumped and you want to be that hero with the six pack… but despite its daredevil image, rock climbing isn’t about brute force…

You don’t need to be young or fit to pick up climbing either. Many people start later in life. Strength and stamina undoubtedly become more important as you climb harder routes, but learning good movement when you begin is vital.

Climbing is all about balance, concentration, knowing your body, being able to reposition it and learning to adapt to what the rock has to offer. It’s a whole-body work-out and although your upper body gets a fair share of it, your legs and feet should be your weapons of choice.

For many climbers it’s also about discovering the natural world. Climbing can take you to lots of beautiful places and will definitely give you a unique perspective on the world around you. You’ll learn a couple of things about yourself and the people you climb with because it’s both an individual and a social sport: when you’re on the rock you can only count on your skills to get to the top. If you do fall however, you’ll have to trust your climbing partner with your life.


For physical fitness, fun and, yes, adrenaline, nothing beats rock climbing and it’s easy to get started. A professional instructor will provide the equipment and begin by teaching you how to keep yourself safe - look for someone who holds a minimum of a Mountain Instructor Award (MIA).

During the late eighties indoor climbing became fashionable and is now one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. These Climbing gyms or ‘walls’ are one of the easiest and most practical ways into Climbing. With clearly visible routes for all abilities set up on artificial rock structures, indoor walls provide a safe, controlled environment to learn and practice.


Most ‘walls’ require beginners to take an introductory course or to be supervised by an experienced friend, so if you’re thinking of starting check out what your local wall offers. They will usually lend or hire gear for a beginner’s course so you can try the sport before investing in your own kit.

Whilst indoor walls are excellent places to learn rope handling techniques and to work on the basic moves, most diehard climbers agree that there’s nothing like natural rock…

Climbing outdoors can be one of the most thrilling and satisfying forms of Climbing, combining the gymnastic styles of indoor climbing with a much more challenging and adventurous environment.


Sport Climbing is probably the easiest way to make that transition. This “clip-and-go” style of climbing using “bolted” climbs requires only a rope, quickdraws, helmet and shoes. Routes have pre-placed anchors and protection where you can attach your rope, just like you would with indoor climbing.

Traditional (“trad”) Climbing is true adventure. A trad route is one that has few permanent anchors so the lead climber protects himself from a catastrophic fall by placing protection – nuts or cam devices – into cracks in the rock.

Britain is home to some of the best traditional rock climbing in the world. The Wye Valley near Chepstow is one of the most beautiful areas in Britain and home to some wonderful limestone rags. The variety of climbing here is staggering – from short, single pitch climbs to multi-pitch giants – adventurous trad climbs sit side by side with brilliant sport climbs.

Nearby Bristol boasts the world’s premier inner city crag at Avon Gorge. The routes are varied and exciting, there are a handful of sports routes and it’s only a stone’s throw away from the world famous Cheddar Gorge.


On the south coast, Portland is justifiably famous for its wealth of quality sport climbing available on its lofty white cliffs. The West Coast in particular has now become one of the UK’s best venues for well-bolted sport routes across the grades.

From here to the Gower in South Wales, and further along to Pembrokeshire’s stunning sea cliffs which offer some of the best trad climbing in the UK and then up to North Wales which has all the major mountain crags from Llanberis Pass to Cloggy, along with some great novice sports climbs.

The Peak District also has some of the most challenging and popular rock climbing routes in Europe including the internationally important Stanage Edge, near Sheffield.

The UK has so much to offer rock climbers, however not all crags are bolted, so once you are leading sports climbs confidently, it’s worth completing a Learn to Lead Trad course so that you will be able to visit a wider range of locations.


Many significant rock outcrops exist on private land so do make sure you’re not trespassing. In the UK the British Mountaineering Council represents climbers and their interest of public access to crags, cliffs and boulders. Their free Climbing Outside booklet has lots of information for new outdoor climbers along with some other really useful stuff, visit www.thebmc.co.uk. There are also some brilliant local guidebooks to great climbs in the UK – Rockfax being one of the main publishers.

Professional instruction is imperative when learning to climb. Good instruction will probably save your life one day, so check the AMI website to find an MIA… or look out for courses such as Rock & Sun’s Taster Days and Intro Rock – one of the best courses for those of you who want to make the transition from climbing indoors to experiencing the great outdoors. If you’re more confident you can try the Learn to Lead Trad or Sport courses or take an Intro to Multi-Pitch Climbing which gives a real taste of exposure and a whole new world of rock climbing. You could also hire a qualified instructor for a day or two of private guiding.


Whichever way you do it, just one weekend of coaching can take you from a knee-using scare-de-cat to the climbing beast machine of the future!

So get out there – and Happy Climbing!

 

Text: Lesley Jones

Published by: UK MEN

 

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