Costa Blanca
1-8 March 2003

Page 1

Before we left York Simon had mentioned that he wanted to walk the Bernia Ridge, which stretches for about 5 miles northward from Calpe and dominates the skyline from miles around. A web site provided a detailed topo (although it could have just said, follow red dots from start to end with occasional scrambling) and with the local walking guide we were well versed in the challenge. A beautiful if rather early start and enough bends to keep a rally driver happy saw us parked and wandering up the track away from the start of the ridge. Not that we were lost (for a change) just the guide takes a very devious approach. We were on the ridge in about an hour and a few pints lighter, with fantastic view over the delightful architecture of Benidorm! Here we had the first of our reckonings. Carmen was struggling under a huge rucksack that we lightened to even up the paces, ie gave Simon the heavy stuff to slow him down! The route follows the sharp ridge and you can choose your level of exposure (including a rock bridge and gap for posing in). Perfect limestone with drops of a few hundred feet for the whole length is more akin to the A’Chir ridge of Arran than lakes or Wales, complete with the rescue helicopter flying beneath us practising touch downs.

We were making good time, the guide claiming anywhere between 5 and 9 hours, on mostly easy interesting walking with the odd Grade 2 scramble along the way, usually down! There are a few roped sections on the topo but we didn’t bother with the early ones, a steady head for the traverse and careful movement on the chimneys kept up the pace. A couple of summits and ‘bad steps’ all adding to the experience and with one eye on the clock we soon reached an airy down climb and traverse, which we roped as a handrail, and Simon then ignored! The main barrier to the complete ridge traverse is a steep 15m abseil, Pete quickly had the rope uncoiled and tied it into the huge bolts and sent him down first, obviously. Carmen was introduced to a using a sling as a backup and packed off with minimal fuss. Safely down, the route continued with a fine open slab and a short wall (climbed before realising it was a grade 2 pitch!). The final major obstacle is a short grade 4+ pitch, arriving early I soloed the first 10 ft (crux) and returned while the rope and rock shoes were sorted (for those that had carried them). After drawing straws I led up the ladder of shiny bolts, providing convenient holds and pointing the way (it is easily frigged for those not wanting to lead it). Lunch, more chorizo, and we were off on the final section. Dropping to a col, we debated leaving sacs but moved on, rapidly reaching the ridge top (where we did leave some sacs!), a few more small pitches and we were off on the final slog. The summit afforded splendid panoramas, plenty of photo opportunities with clouds spilling over the ridge and view along the coast and inland for many miles. Post obligatory group photo, summit book signing and banana eating we retraced our steps to the abandoned sacs.

A long descent with weary legs brought us through the leg eating gorse bushes and back via a gentle path past a natural spring with washing facilities and to the car, a bar and eventually the drive home.

Our final day dawned overcast and after packing we left for Penna Roca, north of Alicante, and quite few degrees cooler than the coast. Being a Saturday it was quite crowded with some talented locals showing us how to climb 7a, and a caterpillar train (see Simons pictures) about a meter long with very nasty hairs. A rather butch 5+ with a rock over onto a slab with very poor finger holds felt like HVS wasn’t the greatest start, a clutch of 5s and 6s and dogs and we packed up when the weather turned distinctly Welsh.

The sun was shining at the airport as we ate the last of the food and an uneventful trip home saw me back in London when the others were landing in Leeds. A great trip with lots of new crags, not much hard climbing but plenty of great routes, some adventures and a fantastic walk, so good I did it 10 days later when I was back in Spain. Highly recommended for anyone into sunbathing easy climbing and interesting walking.

Rob Stone