Costa Blanca

Costa Blanca

Peñón de Ifach, a fortress abutting the sea sporting some wicked 300 meter routes - Costa Blanca, Spain. Peñón de Ifach. It's pretty much the biggest thing going South of Barcelona. It's massive, it defines the coastline, it's a fortress standing against the sea, and it happens to sport some wicked 300 meter long routes. The Peñón is home [...]

Peñón de Ifach, a fortress abutting the sea sporting some wicked 300 meter routes – Costa Blanca, Spain.

Peñón de Ifach. It’s pretty much the biggest thing going South of Barcelona. It’s massive, it defines the coastline, it’s a fortress standing against the sea, and it happens to sport some wicked 300 meter long routes. The Peñón is home to traditional climbing and sport climbing, though the sport climbing tends to be the biggest draw. The bolting is typically friendly and the ratings fair. I have now been there twice, once in the earlier stages of my European climbing adventures and again just recently after two years and it still impresses.

Peñón de Ifach, South Face

This is the bread and butter with the pillar on the upper left side sporting some routes on brilliant rock directly to the summit and the lower right flank having some intimidating classics which might be even more memorable. Approach by walking along the scenic ocean pathway to its end, and then up the climbers trail right underneath the South Face to find your route. The descent from all the routes described is straight down the hiking trail from the summit a stone’s throw from were you topped out and a relaxing 40 minute walk back to the harbor for lunch and your car.

  • Costa Blanca (6c+) – Nothing but classic face climbing, pitch after pitch after pitch
    APPROACH:  Finding the start might be the hardest part. Take the climbers trail under the South Face all the way to the top and keep going past the obvious flat area with a lot of routes starting from it. Find your way through the bushes and up to the start of the route. It might be worth roping up for the bushy scramble to the start.

    • Pitch 1 (6b): Trust your feet or its going to be a long day as some thin climbing starts the adventure.
    • Pitch 2 (6b): Shake off the pump because its still thin as you dance up the wall and then get some good hands and stemming up the groove.
    • Pitch 3 (6a): The pocketed rock provides fun climbing to a perch on top of the pillar.
    • Pitch 4 (6b+): Step across the gully and launch upwards. Its sustained and absolutely stellar climbing.
    • Pitch 5 (6b+): Continue up the wall in pretty spectacular position to a very nice belay in a small cave.
    • Pitch 6 (6c+): Pull out the cave utilizing the rests between the tricky moves. Then shoot for the top! Whew! Plan in advance how to communicate with your belayer because wind on the top may make it impossible to hear one another.

    GEAR: 18 draws

  • Puto Paseo Ecologico (7a+) – Its perfect, especially if weather threatens and you want to get on the wall as retreat is possible with a 60m up until the last pitch and all the pitches are short. Added bonus, the higher you get the better the climbing!
    APPROACH:  Scramble up to below the crumbly cave. There are 2 bolts protecting the 4th or low 5th class and a nice ledge with an anchor bolt before the start of hard climbing.

    • Pitch 1 (7a+): Pull into the cave and figure out how to make the devious pull out. Stay calm as the delicate face climbing above is not for the shaky.
    • Pitch 2 (6c+): Weave up the face on thin holds.
    • Pitch 3 (6b+): A difficult bulge and then an awesome bolted crack lead to the only bad belay.
    • Pitch 4 (6c): The short hanging arete is a blast though the rock is of questionable quality.
    • Pitch 5 (5): Step across the void. Stop your heart from chattering, and climb the totally transformed rock following the recessed crack/corner.
    • Pitch 6 (6c+): Easier than it looks pull upwards on shrinking holds rolling backwards. The capping roof is easier if you look down, but I guess it depends on how far you tolerate looking down.
    • Pitch 7 (7a): Traverse left into the void and launch up the pockets into a corner with a thin seam. Sneak a rest where you can because the onsight is going to keep you on your toes.

    GEAR: 18 draws

  • El Navigante (7a) – Personal favorite of the area. Its fabulously varied climbing sustained and impossibly positioned.
    APPROACH:  It shares the first pitches of Diedro UBSA which is the right corner of the giant detached pillar on the upper section of the face.

    • Pitch 1 (4+): Climb up the corner clipping the occasional bolt, supplement with a cam or two as there are some awkward moves in the groove and chimney.
    • Pitch 2 (5+): Step right from the belay and traverse out on a black shelf to a belay. This politely moves you off UBSA. If you link with pitch 1 you will have horrendous rope drag on what felt stout for 5+ but maybe thats the exposure. If you linked it into pitch 3, then you would have drag on pitch 3 when you might want to focus on climbing.
    • Pitch 3 (6b): Start up what looks like mud but turns out to be pretty ironclad conglomerate. The fun holds turn into some amazing flowstone just when you get the hang of it.
    • Pitch 4 (6b): Wander upwards through some more flowstone and some juggy holds before pulling up the crack to a belay shared with Gomez-Cano.
    • Pitch 5 (6c): Dance left up the arete making a delicate transition into the groove.
    • Pitch 6 (6a): Up the groove then crack to a good stance below an intimidating face.
    • Pitch 7 (7a): The old aide line goes clean easily enough but the seriously overhanging crack is awfully awfully stout at the grade and saves a kick for the end. If you fire the crux you can get a bit back before the final bulge onto the grove and slabs to the summit. Your second will love you or hate you depending on how the pitch goes. If they pop with 2 much slack you might leave them spinning in the wind.

    GEAR: 18 draws, small rack

  • Nueva Dimension (7b) – The route is well below those described previously and feels a lot less tame.
    APPROACH:  The route starts from a ledge formed by a flake separated from the wall. It starts right where the ledge starts dropping steeply in a chimney to meet another ledge 20 feet lower down. The route is well below those described previously and feels a lot less tame. I promise this will make more sense when you are standing in the right spot. There is a prominent white feature on the wall directly above the start of the first pitch at about equal height with the first anchors.

    • Pitch 1 (7b): The black bolts are gone but the chossy rock is not. The pitch traverses up and right and is stout for early in the morning and when a foothold crumbles beneath you panic kicks in. Trust me this is the worst pitch on the route, I promise it gets better.
    • Pitch 2 (7a): Go right (not left) up the sloping chimney/ledge from where you belayed. Pull up some fun tufas and establish on the black flowstone. Pull a crux move with your belayer long out of site and then hold it together as you go straight over the random little nose roof in the middle of the face. Smile as you kick off your shoes an another great belay.
    • Pitch 3 (6b+): Some fun moves right out the start lead to some big holds and a crack which peters just as the rock pulls backwards. The holds are big though and you end up at another awesome belay. Decide what to do as I believe the pitch takes 22 draws. It is possible to bounce or easily climb and back clean draws at the beginning difficulties and at the end.
    • Pitch 4 (6c+): Launch up the crack splitting the compact overhung face doing long moves on big holds. Pull over and be careful what you pull on as you wander up the razor sharp broccoli to a giant ledge in the corner.
    • Pitch 5 (5+): Traverse right off the ledge clipping a rusty pin, then head up the grove. Whoever re-bolted the first pitch replaced those on this pitch as well. The bolts are spaced but can be supplemented with descent chock or cam placements. Rock quality keeps the heart pounding. The grove ends at a considerable overhang with a bolt at its top. Do not get tunnel vision as the rock directly in front of you is absolute choss. Traverse hard left here and decide whether to rethread, clip the mank, or do without as you lever up the cheese. Clip the bolt and mantle onto the dirty sloping catwalk.
    • Pitch 6 (5+): Follow the catwalk right, pull up and then keep going right. You can see the hanging furrow above you which is your next pitch.
    • Pitch 7 (6c): Go right up the hanging furrow on good holds. Grab the tufa and execute one last move to reach the airiest belay of your life.
    • Pitch 8 (6c): Straight up from the belay on big holds. When you look for your feet try not to focus on the ocean 300m directly below you. Just when you decide its not going to be so bad change styles and execute some thin face moves to pull out of the overhang then wander up right to the anchors.
    • Pitch 9 (4): Go hard right for 15 meters or so around the corner from the belay. Place some gear if your seconds at whits end. Look up and there are some shiny new bolts courtesy of someone really awesome. Follow these up to the top. You made it.

    GEAR:  18+ Draws, Small Rack

Peñón de Ifach, North Face

The North Face of the Peñón is a huge white face that while at first glance looks far less intimidating than the South Face should not be mis-underestimated. The climbing has a good atmosphere and intimidation factor. The North face gets very little sun so is a nice retreat if its warmer o the wind is from a funny direction.

  • Via Roxy (6b) –  Of the routes I have tried on the Peñón, Via Roxy is one of my absolute favorites. I do not think any trip to the Peñón would be complete without at least one North Face outing.
    APPROACH: Hike up the descent trail. You can park below the visitor center to cut a few 100 yards out of the approach and descent, as you still take the normal descent. The start of the route is about 150 yards before you pass through the tunnel. Follow an overgrown climbers trail splitting off the main path to a large corner in the wall about 15 yards away from the primary trail. The route starts up the vegetated rounded buttress defining the right side of the corner.

    • Pitch 1 (5): Its vegetated and the vegetation fights back. Launch up towards a crack, follow this left towards the large corner above. The route becomes obvious and progressively better after this.
    • Pitch 2 (5): Up the off-width corner. Bring a big cam or clip the slung pieces of wood hammered in as pro. The climbing and gear is wild.
    • Pitch 3 (5): Head up to the ramp stretching across the face. Step down to a nice belay in a corner.
    • Pitch 4 (5+): A few harder moves get you into the main groove/corner which takes you to a ledge.
    • Pitch 5 (6b): Traverse left threading or clipping old threads for pro. Do some scary mantles to get into the soaring crack. Climb the coolest overhanging crack of your life to a stance.
    • Pitch 6 (6a): Follow the groove and cracks upwards.
    • Pitch 7 (6a): Mostly easier climbing with a hard move or two drops you off at the summit post. Smile.

    GEAR:  14 Draws, Full Rack of singles, a #4 or #5 Camalot would not go unused.

While the weather is typically gorgeous it can get a bit windy for pleasant outings on the Peñón or maybe you just need a change of pace. One of th best restaurants I have eaten at in all of Europe was the Sunday menu del dia at Casa Cathie’s in Xalo. They have their own wine label and at 18 euro you can get fresh bread with house made garlic butter spread, then a salad, and if you order the tapas for your first course: stuffed peppers, grille shrimp, meatballs, and ????? second course is your choice but the lamb shoulder in the wine reduction would be my choice, house desert finishes it of and you might want to order an espresso before the food comma settles in. Oh yes, and not to far out of Xalo is Peña Roja if you need a climbing outing as opposed to just eating bliss. The Peña Roja cliff is easily spotted down the riverbed just as you drive into Lliber to the left. Route names and grades are painted at the bottom of the bullet proof rock and the 4 minute approach is definitely not committing. Simply park in the pepper trees and cross the river bed into the terraces below the cliffs to pick the line that inspires. The routes we tried are listed from left to right.

  • Sanson sin pilila (6a) – Fun slab climbing on the gray shield.
  • Sanson y dalila (6a) – Equally fun as its twin sharing the same anchors.
  • El pasa de la dende (6a) – The crack is far less difficult than one expects just as is the roof. Definitely fun and unique for the grade.
  • Through the Magic Door (6a) – Roll around the corner onto the face, clear the small roof, and you are almost there.
  • La Bella (7b) – Brilliant climbing. Hard and sustained. Hanging the draws for the onsight adds a few moves.
  • Lliberpool (6b) – Sustained pocket pulling. Do not feel bad the area is known for being stoutly graded.
  • Sin tarjeta de presentacion (7a) – Great climbing up flowstone through roofs which turn out not to be the crux. Shake out before the push for the top.
  • Rockadictos (6c) – My favorite climb of the area. Flowstone leads to tufas and some long moves between good holds gains the top.

Sella is of course also close and definitely worth a visit, though you can happily spend far more than a day there.

Photo Album

Quick Reference Guide

Location: Alicante, Spain

Getting There: Fly into either Alicante (45 mins) or Madrid (three hours).  Discount airlines like RyanAir fly into Alicante regularly. Best Time to Climb: Fall, Winter, Spring with Winter being most ideal. Gear:

Accommodations:

  • If you are staying for a week or longer, try to rent a villa. We rented ours for 200EUR/week for a 2bed/2ba.  I recommend contacting Ms. Liz via email
  • Sella Orange bunkhouse or Sella bunkhouse – hostel like places to stay if you are cragging and traveling solo, otherwise book a villa or hotel room (~40EUR/night) if you have people to split rental with.

Guidebook:

Article by

Eric grew up in Southern Los Angeles, surfing the beaches and hiking the Sierras with his mom and dad. He is an avid backcountry skier and climber having led alpine ski descents of Denali and Mont Blanc as well as numerous Colorado and California fourteen thousand foot peaks. He has climbed extensively in the Sierras, Colorado and throughout the Alps.

Eric has written 16 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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