Sunday, October 7, 2012

Spain 2

We are nearing the end of our first two weeks in Mallorca and it's been quite a whirlwind of activities, but we've endured the jet lag and have now comfortably settled into our house in Campanet. When planning the trip we struggled with where to stay on this large island, seesawing between the beach resorts and the inland villages. In the end we chose the latter and are now glad we did. Culturally, it's typical of old-world Spain yet we are a 15-minute drive from a great beach, the one Pam and Elise are relaxing at in the picture below. Our house is built in the traditional style, with stone walls and wooden support beams across the ceiling, and our village has typically narrow streets with a plaza designed around the old church. It's very quaint.

The village, of course, has many cats and there is a family with kittens that lives near our front door. This has been one of the highlights of the trip so far for Elise, I kid you not. She goes outside morning, noon and night to play with them. Here she is trying to grasp a struggling kitten she's named "snow". She's named ALL the cats and has become very possessive of them. When the neighbourhood kids come by and chase them, she gets very upset!

Surprisingly, our first few days were very stormy. My research showed that October is normally the wettest month of the year in Mallorca, but I was expecting the thunderstorm activity to occur later in the month, not at the end of September. Regardless, being new to the island we had much to explore so we used the time to get a $100 Euro parking ticket (!) and do a couple of interesting hikes, the first of which was to castle ruins on the ridge above the inland village of Alaro.

The second hike during the storm cycle was to a peak named Mola near the coastal village of Cala de Sant Vincenc. We started with a shorter hike to a smaller sub-peak, but time and ambition caused us to continue, a move recommended in the guidebook. We enjoyed spectacular views of the northwest coast but worried about being caught in the rain. The trail was indistinct at times, but in the end we wove our way to a very windy summit. It was an adventurous day.

Upon returning to the village, we thought we might try to play in the storm surf, but after descending to the beach with our gear, we were horrified to discover dozens of jellyfish on the beach! We immediately aborted...

Of course we came to this island to climb and the rock has not disappointed us. It's typical Mediterranean limestone and the island is lush with quality cliffs. The only problem is the hardware. Many of the protection bolts are dangerously corroded, so we've had to limit our climbing to the cliffs and routes in decent condition. This was unexpected, but since many of these areas are relatively old, it's not surprising now that we've seen the maritime conditions at play.

We enjoyed one sunny day hiking to the Es Pontas arch where Chris Sharma established one of the hardest deep water solo climbs (climbing above the water with no rope) in the world. If you look very closely, you can see a couple of climbers fooling around on the small overhang on the right side of the formation. Chris' climb goes up the underside of the arch. We finished the afternoon by swimming in a beautiful cove nearby.

We've been climbing primarily at Gorge Blau, an area up in the mountains that stays cooler than the other cliffs. Here, a Mallorcan wild goat (there are many) walks the wall by the river with a huge dam in the background.

Elise is climbing very well on this trip and it's been nice to discover that most of the cliffs have routes suitable for her ability. Here she works her way up a 5.8 at Gorge Blau.

Funny Elise story: The other night at dinner, I mentioned to Pam that a young climber we knew in Squamish had just repeated a climb named Dreamcatcher (5.14d), one of the hardest in Canada and a feat of great significance. Elise said to me, "what's Dreamcatcher?" I told her it's the hardest climb in Squamish and described the location. She said to me, "I thought Diedre (5.8) was the hardest climb in Squamish?" For the climbers out there, this should make you laugh--I had to cover my mouth and stifle a giggle when she said it! Elise thinks Diedre is the hardest climb in Squamish because it's the hardest climb she has done in Squamish. It's a multi-pitch route we all did on the Apron this summer and she was very proud of it, obviously, but it's of moderate difficulty and one attainable by most climbers. I told her Diedre was a very challenging route for her and we were very proud, but there are many other climbs in Squamish that are harder.

Below she climbs a 5.10a at Alaro. Elise scaled most of this pitch on her own with only one point of assistance from Pam. 

A climber from Germany on Buf!, an outstanding climb up a series of dramatic limestone columns. It's routes like these that brought us to the island. Unfortunately, my shoulders (yes, both shoulders) continue to cause problems. I'm working around this as best I can, but the injuries are not allowing for the carefree climbing extravaganza that I hoped for on this trip. Marching forward...

We spent a day touring the beautiful village of Valldemossa near Soller. Afterward we hiked to the Punta de Sa Foradada, a narrow peninsula of rock that juts into the Mediterranean. Upon finishing the hot and windy hike, we found a sheltered cove and swam. Elise had a grand time jumping off the rocks into the clear, deep water. "Again, again!", she yelled over and over.

As the weather improved, we took advantage of the calm conditions and booked a boat tour to the Illa de Cabrera, a nature preserve off the southern tip of Mallorca. The boat ride out was about 40-minutes long and the day was gorgeous. On the island we toured a beautiful castle ruin, spotted rare Balearic lizards and snorkeled in the crystal clear bay.

On the way back to Mallorca our boat drove inside Cova Blava, an incredible blue-tinged cavern in the rock along the island's coast. The captain allowed us to swim off the boat and Elise, much to my surprise, jumped right into the dark, deep water with me and a few of the other passengers. It was a special experience that topped off a great day.

On another calm and sunny day, we did one of the most popular hikes on the island, the Torrent de Pareis. This hike is not recommended when there is anything but a zero percent chance of precipitation, and you can clearly see why once you are inside the deep gully, which would surely fill with water during an intense storm. We parked our car high on the mountain highway and spent four hours descending a very narrow canyon to the sea. At times we had to downclimb around huge boulders jammed in the riverbed with spectacular scenery all around.

The hike finished with us wading through green freshwater pools to reach a beautiful cove named Sa Colobra. Here we swam, snorkeled and "deep water soloed", an activity which requires climbing on rocks above deep water (if you fall, you just get wet). This is usually done with just climbing shoes and a chalk bag, but Elise insisted on wearing her swim goggles and life preserver, which I thought looked hilarious! She didn't mind at all, and had a grand time.

Tunnels led from the cove back to the village where we caught the bus back to our car on a treacherous mountain highway! It was a physical, but amazing day.

Our budget doesn't allow for many meals out, but we treated ourselves to a traditional midday lunch at Es Verge, a family-run restaurant that came highly recommended near the castle of Alaro. When I told Elise about our plans for a traditional Mallorcan meal she said, "Dad, do you think they'll have sushi?" I told her I didn't think so. How cute is that?

Despite the fact that sushi wasn't on the menu, we had a great meal. I ordered shoulder of lamb, which had been slow roasted in their wood-fire oven, and Pam got grilled prawns. We finished with homemade cheesecake and a traditional carmel flan pudding, which was delicious!

Three more weeks on the island to go! We are discussing options for the second half of our trip if my shoulders become too problematic for our Costa Blanca plan. Until then, we will start exploring the cliff of Fraguel and take advantage of each sunny day the season brings us.

Marc, Pam and Elise...

1 comment:

  1. Could you please let me know which guidebooks you used for hiking? Thanks=)