During the spring, summer and autumn we work with Rock and Sun to run bouldering weekends in Fontainebleau. In March they invited us to spend a week in the Costa Blanca with instructors Trev and Dees, to increase our coaching experience, learn more about their sport climbing holidays, and squeeze some top class escalada in between.
When the opportunity for a trip to Spain presents itself it would be daft to refuse. Our last month had been spent in France, in weather conditions more tumultuous than a teething two year old; spitting rain showers, sunny blustery days and the odd snow shower all shaken up together, and temperatures totally failing to rise above 12℃. There was fantastic bouldering to be had during this period and some great days out, but at the same time our choice was easy: run to the sun.
The travel was generally pleasant if occasionally a little challenging. We flew from the slightly obscure Paris Beauvais Airport, which is generally clean, convenient and pleasant, but patently not in Paris as advertised. Our tickets were booked cheaply with Ryanair and were accompanied by a gauntlet of persuasions and threats to extort more money out of us. They failed, and the experience left us feeling quite smug to have outwitted them. The car we were picking up at our destination airport of Alicante had been thoughtfully left in a different space to the one it was supposed to occupy, so after walking round the car park for half an hour or so we began clicking the unlock key maniacally and were finally able to find our Toyota Rabbit, or whatever it was, and get on the road. We arrived at 4am, far too late to appreciate anything, and crashed out.
Waking up the following morning was predictably groggy, but a couple of cups of strong black coffee and Trev's super porridge (can't elaborate, recipe is top secret) kicked enough life into us to appreciate the villa, nestled into the hills just above the quiet town of Parcent. The garden is full of little citrus trees, a reminder that we had woken up to a different climate, and the sun was just starting to get going in a cloudless sky.
The climbing itself was fantastic and totally sucked us back in. We were a bit rusty, having done very little roped climbing in the last year, but the routes tend to be well bolted and the grade range wide, allowing us to ease into the process. We visited a few different climbing spots through the week...
Sierra de Toix the first crag of the week, and if we were going to spend anywhere whilst feeling a bit short on sleep, this was it. The views over Benidorm are amazing, even with the tower blocks (highest number per capita in the world!) spiking the skyline, and it feels very lofty. The routes in the area that we climbed tended towards grey slabs with a plethora of feature that sometimes lead to burlier climbing than the incline indicates. And again, that view!
The Secret Crag! A very different vibe from Toix, secluded and tucked away from the business of the Costa Blanca, an escape. There are flowers everywhere and no noise other than the insects pollinating them. Some lovely routes, a couple of real gems in the centre which felt like miles of moves on good holds, very absorbing.
Alcalalì class routes, another great view, this time over the countryside. Has the curious sight of diseased prickly pears scattered across the hillside, bent and crowding like drunken mannequins. Some more fantastic routes, mostly long, sustained in some cases, others a bit more cruxy.
Peña Roja our favourite of the crags to climb at, a striking orange amphitheatre amongst olive groves. Some shorter routes that suit our bouldering strengths and some long slightly overhanging routes with great holds that just keep coming. More mannequins, and a colourful background soundscape of romancing frogs chattering and the indignant shrieks of crows and kestrels hassling each other above the cliffs.
Our week wasn't all play; part of the reason we were there was to observe Trev and Dees at work and gain more insight into the Rock & Sun coaching ethos. Trev was running a Performance Coaching course so we spent most of the week with this group. The emphasis is placed on developing an efficient pattern of movement, allowing for progression in outdoor climbing. It was great to see how the implementation of new techniques enabled climbers to develop through the week.
Other highlights of the week included the great food and even better company, the odd cheeky vino, catching a bit of a tan (and some burn), eating heaps of cheap little mandarins, late evening chats about climbing, life, and climbing life, the perfect post-climb dinner (lots of good food at a good price) at a local restaurant...all together a pretty full week that left everyone contentedly tired. Some more than others.
Spring finally seems to be getting going in Fontainebleau now we have returned, temperatures are mellower and new leaves are beginning to haze the trees green. We have been toying with the efficiency of our movement on familiar boulder problems and scoping out new areas and climbs for this year's bouldering trips.
Our visit to the Costa Blanca revitalised our pysch for sport climbing, but it's nice to be back on boulders. We have discovered that there is some good limestone sport climbing only an hour or two away from Fontainebleau though, so perhaps next time our fingers are too sore from the sandstone we might venture back onto a rope...
Thanks to Rock & Sun, and everyone else who made our week such a great one!