Sneaking an extra week of summer by a 6 day linear trek in Andalusia in the first week in November.
6 folk, cheap flights to Malaga, transfer to Ardales, Walk 72 miles with a lot of ascent to Benarraba.
Light packs, staying in hostels and hotels in several pueblo blancos. Walking along parts of the GR249 (the round Andalusia 35 stage circuit)and the GR141. Good route finding and all made feasible by local guide Mike Newcomb at sierrawalks.com.
Mike designed the route, recommended and booked hotels, kept us informed of route issues and even booked some great local restaurants.
The route was varied—forest tracks, over mountains, down gorges, scrambling and across farmland and olive groves.
And, weather, accommodation, food and wine all excellent. The local folk are incredibly friendly and helpful. Plus, it was quiet—we saw nobody else on the route.
Our only drawback was the very serious flooding which had occurred two weeks before.
It meant some route changes and actually having to abandon the last day as footbridges and parts of the trail had been washed out.
It was ever thus! As a mountain guide friend once said—“On the appropriate day to choose to drink coffee and eat cake is an essential part of mountaineering”!
A class trip—to be repeated as there is a lot to go at in Andalusia and most importantly it extends the summer!
Following on from our last adventure I’m just going to run through the final days I had in Camp-a-rooney.
The Saturday was spent on a via ferrata with Derek and Wendy, but I have spoken of that already.
The Sunday, World Cup Final Day Alan and I went to explore some of the single pitch across the river. Everyone had tried some of the single pitch alongside the camp ground before I had arrived and had declared is ‘stiff for the grade’. This was much more amenable; short, rounded and balancey…basically grit routes with more bolts and less friction. We did 3-4 routes from 5 to 6b and they were OK, nothing great, just OK. The bolts were sensibly spaced, not run out but also not a clip ladder.
We then had to head off to visit the patient. Funnily enough, driving in France while France were in the world cup final meant there was very little traffic. However on the return, Alan was finding it quite difficult. Driving someone else’s car, on the wrong side of the road with lots of people beeping their horns…. were they doing it in celebration or because he was doing something wrong. We plumped for the former and waved at lots of happy french people
That day Rob & Dec and James & Derek decided to do one of the most prominent lines that could be seen from the camp ground… Little Palavar (5c). 7 pitches and 3 abseils. They seemed to have fun.
Monday…. after a morning described as “Peak Faff” Kirsty Forder (2018) James, Rob, Alan and Dec headed back up the mountain to do Roche Paillon. I borrowed Derek’s bike and had a wonderful ride, with some questionable route finding and long climbs but pretty exciting single track type stuff. Definitely worth taking your bike with 3-4 marked trails with one using the lift system if wanted.
Tuesday, me and Derek headed for Snoopy (5c), 7 pitches which gave some really interesting and varied climbing, some slab, some layback, a bit of chimneying. Luckily Derek messed up and missed the belay on pitch 4 meaning he got the awkward pitch requiring 1 bit of aid. Even with aid I would not have liked it…. he did really well.
It was great to swing pitches having not climbed for most of the year and we gained height over the camp ground really quickly…seeing the valley from the other direction from Ecrins Total.
The ‘walk down’ was pretty iffy at times… not one to do in the rain or the dark!
Wednesday was my final day and I joined James and Derek on Cascades Bleu (6a), so named because you cross a waterfall (twice). I took the first pitch…and we swinged leads pretty much from then on with me and Derek leading 3 pitches each and James 2, though James did get the main cascade crossing. This route meandered more than snoopy with a couple of traversing pitches but was still a lovely route with excellent pitches.
I decided half way up that 3 belay plates between 3 climbers was extravagant and decided to dispense of mine somewhere…. which meant the abseil down was harder than it should be with Derek having to lower me down (sorry Derek). Some of the ledges had also eroded meaning very high anchor points and James managed to abseil below the path requiring a top roped scramble back up through the trees… but we made it unscathed and all thought it was a great route.
So my trip was over… and I was heading back on the train (well the first train turned into a 130km repalcement bus service) but it all went to plan. 8 days, 9 trains, 2 minibus shuttles and one replacement bus journey ….. all went to plan, mostly.
I think the general consensus was…. we need to plan 2019
Despite some…well one major blip, I think the re-booted BuxtonMC Alps meet can be described as a roaring success. Between the group we ticked off alpine routes, higher altitude plodding, hut stays, multi-pitch and single pitch rock routes, mountain biking, via-ferrata, lower altitude walking and the traditional consummation of beer, wine and cheese.
What more could you want?
There was a reconnaissance mission led by Dave and Jaimella, their write up can be found here.
Ailefroide itself is a very small village… merely a few buildings. These building however include a newsagent, a very good gear shop, a Sherpa mini market, 3 pizza vans and various bars. These are all here to service the small town that is the campsite…. home to hundreds, maybe thousands of people but while we were there it never felt busy due to its vast size and varied camp grounds….. a home away from home.
The BuxtonMC members it attendance were;
Alison and Darryl
Derek and Wendy
Rob, Alan, Adrian and Dec (or Margot depending on what ID you check)
James, Kirsty and kids
and finally me.
The number of people, plus the fact that within striking distance of the camp there were so many available activities means that a full write up on the 3 weeks that people were there is a Herculean task I am not willing to complete. Therefore I have created a list of what was ticked until I left
I did three Via Ferrata (Via Ferrati ?), the first 2 with Alison and Darryl and the 3rd with Derek. Non really resulted in the height gain that I have experienced in previous VF’s. Others got me into positions that as a mediocre climber I probably couldn’t have done climbing free. Whereas the first and last this trip were up canyons/ravines with limited steep ground. The 2nd was up a face and the most consistently ‘up’ but again didn’t give the exposure I have come to associate with VF…. still entertaining though.
What seemed like a 25 min forced march could have been a leisurely 40 min stroll from the campsite but Derek and Rob seemed on a mission. Those two went to climb another route so I teamed up with Alan and then Dec with Adrian.
It was a 6 pitch route which Derek assured us, as it was the afternoon would pass into the shade imminently… therefore myself and Alan decided on the ‘big drink of water before setting off and don’t carry anything’ approach.
The first 2 pitches were fairly easy going, a nice introduction for me after a while off climbing. The 3rd pitch was much harder with a optional point of aid and then, what felt like quite a necky traverse. The 4th pitch was also committing and steep but was followed by a nice scrambley 5th. The 6th was a stiffer arete type pitch but with all you needed at the right time.
By the 4th pitch it was clear that Derek had misjudged the transit of the sun and we were still in full glare and parched to say the least. Derek then realised that when he was climbing in the shade 2 days ago with Alison…. it was a totally different climb and a totally different face! so on we battled to the abseil station with dry throats and dreams of iced water.
As most of you are already aware, the descent is a story in its own right, and a story for someone else to tell. Its fair to say though that it was a little while before I was going to be satiating my raging thirst with the bottled water at the foot of 3 abseils.
The club made a welcome return to Stoney Middleton on Tuesday. in recent years the Stoney meet has usually come with a ‘softer’ alternative of Froggatt or Burbage North… but this year it was an ‘all in’ approach. I think we had 12-14 people there sampling the delights of traditional peak Limestone.
Stoney Middleton comes with its own place in the history of Peak (and UK) climbing with the stories of Windy Ledge exploits by Whillans, Brown, Allen, Birtles, Proctor and later hard bouldering by Moon and Moffatt. BuxtonMC would be following in their footsteps once again, but maybe at a more leisurely pace… and with probably less smoking.