Thursday July 11th - Tufas, mas tufas!
Today marked the day on which we’d be traveling to our most anticipated crag of Mallorca. Alaro. This crag looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The walls, looked as if they have been melting slowly for thousands of years. Maybe they have, I’m no geologist. I just climb the rocks. It seemed, other worldly. I’d read in the guide book and heard in movies, that this crag boasted some of the best tufa lines in the world. Everything was world class.
Nestled in the mountains backing the town of Alaro, we began our drive through the the tiny streets. I get now why all the cars here are so small. The streets... tiny as hell. Super cool, but a little scary to drive through. The town was very pretty. All the towns in Mallorca seemed straight out of a history book. I’ve always been interested in the architecture of towns from a time long ago. I’ve never been able to witness such things in person though. I grew up in a farm town. There were hardly any buildings to be seen at all!
Driving up switch back after switch back, you began to get closer and closer to this crag of another world. The area was beautiful. The slopes that lead to the cliff line were lined with terraces and old olive trees. We finally, parked at a restaurant at the top of the switch backs and began our hike over to the crag. There were plenty of well maintained hiking trails that lead almost right to our cliff. Hoping off the path at one junction, we made our way closer and closer. Then, I looked up.
Now when I say this wall (from all the pictures) it looked like it was from a different planet, I can say now from first hand experience it has to be. At this point in my trip I felt not in a different country but a different world. Before my trip, I’ve done little climbing on limestone, especially nothing of the tufa kind at least. Everything I’ve climb previously was sand stone. Beautiful as sand stone can be this was different. The cliff, was covered in giant tufas. It was the most featured wall I’ve ever seen and it went on like this for 30 meters. 30 meters of unbroken tufa lines weaving together in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My god.
Straight up the most featured wall right in the middle of the crag was Buf (7a). It’s description in the guidebook said it was one of the best tufa climbs in the world. How could you not want to climb that? So, after a quick ocular assessment I began racking up my harness with what I hoped would be enough quickdraws and I ventured off. Now, throughout this blog I’ve been saying that certain routes have been the best thing I’ve ever climbed. This though, was so much more than that. It was an adventure. An adventure into the twist and turns of the most unique climbing I’ve ever had the privilege of climbing. It was tall too! At 30 meters it just kept going and going. At the top, an amazing view was to be had (which came to be expected with most routes here). Gazing down the valley, out on to the town of Alaro, and past to our home town of Consell. This route was one of those experiences in rock climbing I greatly respect and will never forget.
Coming down (both literally and euphorically) I really had only one ways to describe it to my friends. Spectacular. Well, that and pumpy as hell! A great route though. Everyone tried it. Felix went up after me. The whole time he was there he kept saying that it was now his favorite route and crag. That’s how everyone who climbs here feels, I’d imagine.
The rest of our day was spent climbing Buf, and I did a few other classic lines. To Pa Ti (7a+) and Cloncion (7b) both superb routes. The climbing on both was so thought provoking. No two moves were the same. Reading the routes became the best part of the climb. Figuring out what you had to do. A real challenge both mentally and physically. I’ve been route setting at my local climbing gym (Planet Rock) for 3 years now, and after all this climbing I am looking forward to returning home with new ideas. Movement in climbing is something I’ve always appreciated. Here, and on these two routes I had some of the most amusing and rewarding climbing of my life. So much more in depth climbing than the pull down climbing you find in the Red River Gorge (still amazing in its own way though). What I'm trying to say is, the routes were incredible. I can’t say enough good things about them, and I highly recommend this whole crag to everyone.
An amazing day of climbing lead to enjoyable end to our day at home. Walking down the street to refilled our wine bottles at the winery (Ribas) we passed the owner of the local cafe (Es Rustic) that we were living next to. He would always comment whenever we were in his cafe on how he always sees us walking with empties to the winery. He’d stand there and smile. We enjoyed yet another amazing dinner made by Alison (I think it was mushafalafel, incredibly delicious). After we drank wine and talked of our day and days to come, we all fell asleep with the thought of what tomorrow would bring.
Friday July 12th - A crag with a one minuet approach? Uh, yes...
All a little sore from all our hiking we discussed over a small breakfast were to go today. One of our prerequisites, not much hiking. Turning through the pages of the guidebook, we soon saw pictures of a wall that was right by the road. It was literally not more than three feet from the base of the cliff. With a zero minute approach and a bunch of awesome looking lines we all agreed this was the spot of the day. Valldemossa.
The drive to the crag lead us into the northwestern part Mallorca, where we’d been a few times before. This time though, we got to drive through the town of Valldemossa. We were all excited to visit because Valldemossa had been a town that we had researched when we were looking for places to stay. Nested in the Tramuntana mountain range it was the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. Hidden in the mountains perched up on a giant hill with a spectacular old church that over looked the town below. I think the first thought that came to my mind was “I want to live here!”
Once we were through the town, we headed up the mountains towards the port. Then all of a sudden the cliff appeared on our right, so close I could have touched it from the rolled down window of our car. The parking was feet from the base of the first climb. We were car craging that day. No hiking. Open the trunk and there’s your gear. Turn around and there’s your route. A little silly, but still great. I usually prefer crags that are less than easily assessable, the scenic hiking for me is part of the adventure, but I really couldn’t pass this up.
With the whizzing of cars driving by, I stood there belaying in the street. I felt like I was playing street hockey as a kid again. Yelling, “CAR!” whenever one came, so everyone would get out of the way. Some routes, you wouldn’t want to fall when a car was coming by or you might end up splattered across their windshield like a bug.
The routes were fun. We spent most of the day climbing low and high 6’s. Climbing there was quite challenging. Being so accessible, many of the routes had become very polished over the year. Most routes were slaby and technical and this made proper footing a little challenging but exciting. Some classic lines were to be climbed though. Felix being the lazy teenager he is, was extremely happy about the short approach.
Later in the day while looking at the guidebook, I became very interested at a certain sector of the crag we’d hadn't been to yet. Sector Waikki. The guide book’s picture made the sector look kind of small, but boasted a 30 meter roof. What?! I was instantly hooked. Perched on top of the main crags we scrambled up this gully. A very exhausting approach in flip flops that none of us were ready for. The crag though, was amazing (minus the fact it smelt like a zoo, because goats used it as their bathroom). Stepping in goat shit, I made my way under the huge roof. This was one of the most amazing views of the trip. On top of the mountain of the whole crag sitting under this roof, you look out. To the left there were the mountains and to the right was the Mediterranean.
The route I had in mind climbed straight up the middle of the roof. Waikki (7b). An amazing line that moved up the roof following a shelf into a little pocket before pulling the roof. A great line. Heel hooking you're way up the roof climbing out over the ridge the exposure sets in. Such a fun experience. It climbs out into the nothingness of air. Pacing a few bouldery sections you move into a pocket before pulling the roof where you can plant your feet and push you're back against the roof for a quick break. Pulling the bouldery lip is the hardest part of the climb. Wait! No it’s not. Once you finish and celebrate you remember that you still have gear to get back. Cleaning the route was a bitch. Luckily there were a few cleaning biners along the way. Still frustrating though, but worth it to climb such an amazing route with such impressive exposure!
After the climb we chilled up on the cliff and enjoyed the view for a bit. A great day with great routes. I felt that day that I was really getting the full experience of the island. Driving down narrow streets through beautiful old towns and climbing all over the place. We were really experiencing all that the island had to offer and we still had a while to go.
Saturday July 13th - A real rest day.
We spent Saturday in Palma for a rest day. We figured that we’d have to go into the heart of tourist Mallorca at some point and we were curious to see what it was like. It was a nice day, even though I’d much rather be in the mountains than surrounded by disney families all day. The most impressive part was walking through the more historic part of Palma. Filled with old churches, castles, and cathedrals. Oh yeah, and the food of course! So many restaurants all with delicious food. We ate at Cafe Mon that day. As the typical westerner I may be, I got a burger. The most delicious burger ever though! As good as it was however, it would be no match for Allison’s burgers she would make us later in the week.
We also had a chance to head to a gear shop that day. Foracorda. A awesome little climbing shop in down town Palma. I was looking forward to this because not only was I out of chalk, but I wanted to have a chat with someone working there. A chat about all the places and things I had planned for the rest of the trip. Luckily, Alison was there to be my interpreter (this was the case everywhere we went though). The man working that day was very friendly and helpful. He sounded super psyched we were there for a month and had many suggestions. The three of us chatted for a long time. Even though I don’t speak Spanish, I started to feel like I understood what he was saying when I asked him questions. Rock climbing is the one language I can always understand. He told us of new areas not mentioned in the guidebook, areas in which climbing isn’t allowed anymore (which may have been good to know earlier in the trip), and beta for the hike out on the multi pitch route Madeline and I were going to do. With all the information we needed for the rest of our trip, we bid farewell and left the store.
Walking down the streets, bumping shoulders with people, and seeing stores left and right I thought to myself. This is what most people come to Mallorca for and its kind of sad. Leaving from their comfy hotel rooms or cruise ships they come to the giant city, or the crowded beaches, and go spend all their money on silly things. I can’t really wrap my head around that. Is that what vacations are for people? I guess everyone is entitled to what makes them happy but I’d rather be staying in a small town and sweating my ass off everyday on hikes to the crag. At least these people stayed in Palma and left the mountains to us.
It was a great day though. We ate delicious food and saw beautiful old buildings. A great rest day. We were all ready to go back into the mountains though. To go climbing. Thats what we were here for. Not you’re typical tourists, and that’s the way we liked it.
Mallorca Week Two, Part Two - Andrew Baldwin
Thursday July 11th - Tufas, mas tufas!