Mallorca - Jewel of the Medby Mark Glaister - Assistant Editor Mar/2010
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One of Spain's most beautiful sport climbing locations the island of Mallorca is anchored off its Mediterranean shores and is the largest of the Balearics. Mallorca's magnificent beaches and mountains are the haunt of the super-rich and the holidaying Brit during the summer season, but once the hordes have moved on and the temperatures have cooled, the frenetic ambience of the Island changes and becomes a near paradise for wintertime sport climbing. Mallorcan Sport climbing is commonly the last of the major Spanish winter destinations to be sampled, its profile lagging behind the ever popular Costa Blanca and El Chorro.
However much of Mallorca's climbing is the equal of the best on offer at the mainland locations encompassing a huge diversity of the islands landscapes, ranging from sea cliffs to mountainside crags. As is the norm for Spanish limestone the rock is uniformly superb and offers a huge range of possibilities from low grade ambles to fierce state-of-the-art routes along with a vast amount of world-class Deep Water Soloing.
A hugely impressive bowl of rock which springs up from the flatlands that lead from Palma to the mountains. Sa Gubia hosts over one hundred lines, the vast majority in the 6a to 6c grade range. Sun and shade can be easily switched throughout the day and for those looking for multi-pitch bolted outings the impressive walls contain the Islands very best. There is even one extremely popular trad route - Albahida (Gubia Normal) at around MVS, and at busy times it sees almost constant traffic, a testament to its outstanding position and climbing. For the very adventurous a look at the Cara Oeste will reveal one of the most spectacular limestone walls anywhere in Europe. This wall has a half dozen multi-pitch climbs on it although only one of these falls within the sixth grade and the rest are far harder.
The spectacular peninsular of Formentor is surrounded by sea cliffs on a scale that can only be dreamt about in the UK. The possibilities are enormous but few forays have been made into the potential. Instead the development of the crags has mainly focused on a small number of crags set well above the sea. Two of which are excellent venues - Es Fumat and La Creveta . Es Fumat is a large cliff that has a handful of long and varied routes on its left side which are among some of the better grade 6's on the Island. For teams based in Puerto Pollensa the high angled walls of Creveta can be seen at the very start of the road that climbs up to and then out along the Formentor Peninsula. The location and ease of access make this a fine place to climb with dozens of routes in the mid to lower grades. However a little word of warning - many come here expecting the climbing itself to be a walk in the park and leave well and truly spanked unable to cope with the very fingery and technical solutions needed to maintain upward progress, a cautious approach is advised.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular crags is the quaint track side buttress of perfect limestone known as Betlem (El Calo de Betlem) . Most come here to sample the immaculate pocketed high angled slab but many miss out on a number of other worthwhile pitches on the flanking walls. For the high grade merchant then the cave and leaning wall of nearby Ermita de Betlem is worth a peek but even the very strong have had a hard time hereabouts so don't treat it too lightly.
There are some delightful small crags perched on the very edge of the exposed mountain road that dramatically traverses the mountains, all of them having stunning views down to the sea hundreds of meters below. Can Ortigues , Valldemossa and Ca'n Nyic all have convenient clusters of popular climbs and always attract a crowd whilst just inland are the shady caves and sunny walls of S'estret , Es Verger , Gorg Blau and Las Perxes that provide both grade 7 and 8's in abundance and some pleasant 5's and 6's. However the very best routes are at Fraguel - a simply world class sport crag, and Alaro , a mountain in itself and home to the famous tufa climb Buf!! . Completing the crag haul in the north is Port De Soller , a great seaside crag that has a lovely atmosphere only slightly marred by the cliff construction site that after years of inactivity has now sprung into life again, and efforts have been made to block access (although this has been largely ignored by climbers, the no entry barrier having been shifted to one side. Weekends may be the best and quietest time to make a visit). The climbing is based around a large tufa lined cave and its flanking vertical walls. There is plenty to keep most happy for a day or two, although the bulk of the routes are in the sixth grade.
To the south and east of the Mallorcan capital of Palma is a charming coastline dotted with beautiful inlets and lined with countless limestone cliffs that provide world-class Deep Water Soloing (DWS) at venues such as Cala Barques , Cala Marcal and the daddy of them all Porto Cristo (Cova del Diablo) Cova del Diablo. However for the winter months the sport climbs are what the sun seeking climber is after and few places beat Cala Magraner . Cala Magraner is a fine, cliff-lined dry valley that runs down to a sunny beach and cove that provides a holiday cragging venue par excellence. Cala Magraner is just the place to clock up the pitches and enjoy the numerous fairly short but intense climbs.
"for the winter months the sport climbs are what the sun seeking climber is after and few places beat Cala Magraner A fine cliff-lined dry valley that runs down to a sunny pebble beach cove that provides a holiday cragging venue par excellence"
The rock is covered in good holds and deep pockets, although on a few of the lines the bolts are getting beyond their sell-by date. Be sure to follow the most up-to-date access information when parking and approaching the crags. Running a close second on the appeal front is Santanyi or Santanyi (Tijuana) as it is variously known. The orange stained vertical walls rise from a flat wave cut platform and are blessed with lots of sun in the depths of winter. Just around the corner a five minute walk away is a superb family beach and lots of potential for some non-serious Deep Water Soloing.
Duke (6b) - Es Fumat - A fine 30m wall of cracks and good holds
Pammi-A (6b+), Creveta - Long and sustained flakes and cracks in an exposed arete.
Via de los Bomberos (6a,6a+,6a,6b), Sa Gubia - Multi-pitch wall climb up the best feature at Sa Gubia.
Records de Bunyola (6a+), Creveta - Fine, technical wall climbing with a slightly puzzling bulge midway.
Es Pasto (Dog Walker) (6b+), Betlem - Beautiful, high-angled slab of pocketed grey limestone.
Blobland (6c) - Port Soller - Awesome wall of juggy blobs above a technical lower wall.
Ses tres Maries (6a), Cala Magraner - Brilliant climbing that ascends some long tufa blobs and a blank looking upper wall. All straight off of the beach.
Molins de Paper (6b), Ca'n Nyic - One of a trio of lovely wall climbs high in the mountains. Great views down to Soller and a good spot for some cool conditions.
Colesterol Party (6a), Tijuana - Butch roof and corner gives seaside climbing at its finest.
Lisa Simpsom (6b+), Gorg Blau - Big pitch on a big shady wall. One for the warmer days and a very good place to head for if hard 7's and 8's are your thing.
When do I go?
The climbing season runs from late September to May. During this time if you pick the orientation and elevation of crags carefully the air temperature is usually ideal although in the depths of winter the mountain crags can be cold and Santanyi and Cala Magraner will be unbelievably hot on sunny days. Rainfall is not as low as on the mainland and at times can be persistent especially in the vicinity of the mountains to the north. After heavy rains seepage will affect some lines although the rock itself dries very quickly. Summer is very hot although the shady mountain crags will offer good possibilities.
Who flies where?
There are charter and scheduled flights to Palma that are at times, during the low season, very reasonably priced. Usually the best value is the Lo-cost option via Easyjet out of London's three main airports, along with Bristol, Liverpool and East Midlands. Prices are from around £60 to £120 pounds return. The recent expansion of regional Lo-cost airlines means that many more departures are now available to Palma. During school holidays charter flights are often the best option. Information at www.easyjet.co.uk. and www.flymonarch.com and www.ryanair.com. Car Hire is some of the cheapest in Europe and many bargains are to be found, out of the summer months. Try www.holidayautos.co.uk.
What kit do I need to take?
For those only interested in single-pitch sport climbing a rack of 14 quickdraws and a 60m rope is all that is needed. For the multi pitch sport climbs an abseil device will be required. For the trad climbing a full rack, helmet and double ropes will be needed. It can get very warm and on some crags little shade can be had so a sun hat and sunscreen are well worth packing, as is a duvet for the occasional cold day in winter.
|Where do I stay?
There are many options all over Mallorca that range from small apartments to huge Villas. Palma itself is a very lively place and would suit those looking for a full nightlife. Soller is a quiet spot out of season. Puerto Pollensa is a very nice small coastal resort that has bars and restaurants that are open out of season. The resorts on the south east coast are a long way from the bulk of the climbing areas and can be very quiet out of season.www.kenyonstricklandassociates has many properties in the Soller area. Also worth a look is www.ownersdirect.co.uk handle rentals throughout Mallorca.
What's the scoff like?
Food on Mallorca is very easily obtained from the numerous shops and supermarkets that are located in virtually all of the Islands towns. All tastes are catered for in the resorts although prices can be high. Mallorcan prices are generally higher than on mainland Spain.
Where can I buy gear?
Gear shops are located in Palma (Foracorda - www.foracorda.com) and a small outlet in Port d'Pollenca.
What else is there apart from the climbing?
The beaches on Mallorca are legendary and the mountains are brilliant for walking. Road biking is extremely popular. The city of Palma is a very interesting place to visit whilst Soller has some good cafes.