Like many, the Costa Blanca has long been my favourite winter rock destination - trad, sport, single-pitch, multi-pitch, sea cliffs and mountain crags. Add the sun, brilliant cycling and walking and you have it all. It was therefore with some excitement that I learned that the new edition Rockfax for The Costa Blanca would be out in time for my 2013 winter visit. Sod's Law prevailed as production was delayed until the week I returned.
I thought therefore that the new edition would be neglected until late autumn but the reality is that I haven't been able to put it down. As we all are obliged to do, I have been trawling through the routes I have done, hoping for upgrades! My disappointment at the scarcity of these was short lived as I became increasingly aware of the improvements made in this new edition. My recent return has also allowed me to be critical in terms of detail. It is easy to forget the progress that has been made in the quality of climbing guidebooks and, like it or not, Rockfax has been the driving force behind this. Others have been forced to raise their game and we as climbers have benefited from this. A quick look at an early Rockfax will demonstrate this improvement, and of course, at the time, each edition was cutting edge.
So what is new from the 2005 edition and what fills the extra 23% of pages? There is a significant number of new crags which partly account for this, perhaps the best being Mula. With about 100 routes and a wide spread of grades this justifies the inclusion of the southern area, which includes Leyva, Orihuela and La Panocha, and is worthy of a separate trip in itself. Guadalest is a picturesque fortified town, some 20km inland, perched above mainly-sunny crags. A range of very well bolted single or multi pitched routes, mostly in the fives and sixes, make at least one visit compulsory for most. Alternatively, you could spend time in the town stocking up on a wide range of completely unnecessary tourist tat! Another significant addition is Castellet de Calp (formerly know as Calpe!) a north-facing crag, close to town, which will be useful for those visiting in spring or autumn. As well as these there are two or three other new crags in addition to new routes on old crags. A few crags have been dropped from the book but, to be honest, you won't miss them!
Some of my most memorable days out on the Costa Blanca have been spent traversing some of the ridges, the best and most famous being The Bernia Ridge. For a number of years, for £5, you have been able to download a Rockfax publication titled the Costa Blanca Ridges. These have been updated and the majority are now included in the new guidebook. Indeed, if you buy the guidebook, you are entitled to a free electronic version of the ridges guide to run on your mobile device. This is an interesting development and I am looking forward to using it. Further information can be found here.
Perhaps the most obvious change in the book is that almost every photo-topo has been re-photographed and the routes redrawn. For single pitch routes this may help a little but it is on the longer routes that the greater quality and accuracy is most significant in reducing route-finding difficulties. This must have taken a huge amount of time and effort but, in the day-to-day use of the guidebook, it will make a difference.
The first ascent information is no longer included but is available in the database on the Rockfax website - click here to view. Another change is that pitch lengths are no longer given for each route. Instead each photo-topo has some heights next to some of the lower-offs. These are intended to be a guide rather than be definitive information you should base your rope choice on and this should encourage the user to adopt safe practices. Finally the "find the Easter eggs" game from the 2005 guide has also gone - pity as it kept me busy for hours!
This is a great guide which makes the last edition obsolete. It is well illustrated with inspiring photographs of varied crags, people and grades. If that's not enough there is the free download Costa Blanca Xtra which contains all the stuff they couldn't fit in the paper guidebook. If you have never been to the Costa Blanca before, have not been for a few years or are a regular then this guidebook is a must. £30 might seem steep to some but, believe me, it represents great value.Justin Shiels
Below are some action photos from the guide.
Links go to the Rockfax database (new crags since 2005 in bold)
Murcia - Leyva, Mula, La Panocha, Orihuela
Alicante - Marín, Salinas, Sax, Peña del Corb, Peña Rubia, Foradà, Reconco, Agujas Rojas, Cabezon de Oro
Benidorm - Sella, Castellets, Puig Campana, Ponoch, Vall de Guadar (Echo), Bolulla, Abdet, Guadalest
Calp Area - Bernia, Altea, Mascarat, Castellet de Calp, Sierra de Toix, Peñón de Ifach, Olta, Pinos
Xaló Valley - Peña Roja, Murla, Alcalalí, L'Ocaive, Font d'Axia, Pego
Gandía Area - Gandía, Salem, Bellús, Aventador, Montesa
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