Wednesday July 24th - Preparations are Being Made
I awoke to the sun beating down on my face through the window. There was silence throughout the house. No sounds of Alison making coffee and no sounds of Felix narrating his life. It was just Madeline and I. As sad as it was to have them both gone, It was nice to have a quite house. Maddy soon woke up after me and we went to make breakfast. With the smell of bacon cooking in the air, I sat at the kitchen table eating toast with my eyes deep in the guide book. We still had much to do before our trip was over. Cala Magraner was at the top of my list. My project for the trip was there, TNT (8a). It was my personal goal to bring home an 8a from Spain on this trip. A goal that wouldn’t come easily. Sa Gubia was home to our multi-pitch routes, on the tall arete of Albahida which was begging to be climbed.
For today, we would be going to Sa Gubia. Not to climb our multi-pitch routes though. Knowing we had to get an early start to beat the sun on the day of our multi-pitch routes, we needed to get an idea for how long the approach was. Let alone figure out how to get to the base of the climb. So today would be a recon mission. Luckily there are some single pitch sport climbs there too. We’d jump on a few of those for the day too. The crag we had in mind got sun all morning until two. So Maddy and I got so more time to read and relax around the house.
Waking up from a quick nap, we packed our gear into the car and took off. The drive there was rather short, about 20 minutes or so. During the last 10 minutes of driving up MA-30 you can see the mountains, and the tall arete of Albahida becoming more and more visible. Parking across the street near a restaurant we threw on our packs and began the hike. The guide book called for 30 minutes. Whether or not it would take that long or longer was still up in the air. The hike begins by walking down dirt roads through a housing complex. Then you reach a dry river bed which takes you to the cliffs. The trees had wrapped themselves over the river bed creating a tunnel. It was really a magical thing to see. From reading The Lord of the Rings for the past month, I felt like I was walking straight into Middle Earth. The further you hike up the river bed the wider it gets and the boulders get bigger to. Definitely not flip flop appropriate as I soon found out while nearly rolling my ankle with every step I took. At one point toward the end, we entered a small clearing where there were no trees over head. There, we looked up only to see Albahida staring back down at us. It seemed to have just shot out of the ground from nowhere, and it looked tall. I couldn’t wait for when we came back to go climb it. Following carins, we eventually made it to the base of the crag we’d be climbing at for the day.
We made base camp in the ruins of the foundation of some old house. I don’t know who was living up here at some point, but I wouldn’t mind having a small home at the base of a world class cliff. The crag was what we had begun to expect from Mallorca. Beautiful rock. The routes here were tall and clean. We wouldn’t climb much that day. The idea for going there was to see how long our approach to Albahida took. However, we weren’t going to hike all the way out here and not do any climbing. I started on a 7a+. A long slab lead to the wall eventually kicking out where things got serious, or that's what I thought at first glance. As we searched for the first bolt I realized the start wasn’t a joke. There was a nearly 10 meter runout to the first bolt. Really exciting. After getting nice and scared on that we turned our attention to something a little less demanding. A nice 6c+. Maddy hung the route and made it to the top quite easily. She made the route look like so much fun. Mantling off giant tufa growths in the rock, and passing giant holes with intricate climbing to navigate safely though. Maddy was super stoked on the route and after climbing it I soon found why. Three stars in the guidebook is totally appropriate.
The sun was starting to set over the mountains and we began our trip back to the car. Our hike out took a little longer than the hike in. From stumbling during almost every step I took, I knew I wouldn’t be coming back here in flip flops. We made it home and enjoyed a nice quite evening together. Not having our companions there was definitely sad, but being able to just relax and enjoy the last week with the love of my life was perfect. Something I won’t forget. After a delicious dinner (which we can still make even though we don’t have Alison to cater us) and enjoying a bottle a wine to go with reading our books, we slipped away into sleep.
Thursday July 25th - Some Things Take Time
Today was the day. There had been a route that has been stuck in the back of my mind since I first tried it back in the early phase of our trip. TNT (8a). I tried not to think about it too much during my trip, but this route had not escaped my mind. It had been my goal for this trip to take home an 8a. A goal that I was determined to achieve.
Located at Cala Magraner. It was the perfect set up for an early day of climbing, followed by a day of relaxing at the beach. Maddy also had a route she was excited to try. Xorics (6b+). We got out of bed, had a quick breakfast of eggs and left over stew, and began the drive to the crag. Just having Maddy and I in the car was nice. We missed Felix’s witty comments but he also had a habit of narrating his life. This we did not miss so much.
After arriving at the parking lot we enjoyed our hike through the rolling fields. With the occasional goat herd wondering close to us. The crag became visible and we made camp underneath the shelter of the roof. Staring up, I visualized every single movement of the route. Where to grab, where to put my feet, and where to position my body. I studied the crux move for a long time. A double toe hook above your head in order to sneak your way past the blank underbelly of the roof. I gave that route many attempts that day. Making good link ups. I wasn’t however, able to send it. I kept falling at the crux. From there I could do the rest of the route. Still a struggle but I could finish it. I just couldn’t link the two parts. A thought slowing began to enter my head that it wasn’t for me. Not on this trip. Realizing this was really hard to except and I still never really excepted it when I walked away from it that day.
Frustrated, I went to go cool off with Maddy. We enjoyed a swim in the sea. Being with her calms me down so much. It’s hard to stay frustrated about something when I’m around her. She doesn’t even have to say anything, just being with her makes everything perfect. I wasn’t going to let my performance ruin my day. I was going to enjoy what time I had left on this island with Madeline. The route was incredible. A challenge for both my strength and my mind. I knew one day I’d get it. This wouldn’t be my last trip to Mallorca. Just leaves something for me to be excited for when I come back some day. Plus, we still had five days left. Maybe I’d get another chance. For now though, I left it still as a project.
Back home, I didn’t let my climbing weigh on my mind. I enjoyed another beautiful evening with Maddy filled with laughter and enjoyment. We started to talk about our big goal. Albahida. We stared at topos, read through the guidebook, and started going over our gear. I looked at Maddy and said, “Lets do it. Tomorrow morning, lets go on an adventure.”
Friday July 26th - An Adventure Unfolds.
We knew that we would have to wake up early for this one. Much earlier than we would have liked. As it turns out, we may have slept in past our alarms for a bit. Intentionally, of course. We still arrived to our parking lot at a perfect time. The sun was just beginning to make its way up over the horizon. Albahida faced southwest, so we’d have some time before the sun started rapping around the mountains and shine down on us.
Our hike in went about the same as our recon hike. Only this time, I had hiking boots! I learned my lesson. Before we knew it we were at the base of Albahida and our route, Quan es fa fosc (5). Brian, who had helped us prepare for this adventure told us that we’d never forget looking up at our first multi pitch route. Or the feeling that we’d have. He was right. A feeling that I can’t really explain. Excitement, wonder, weariness, and anticipation. It was now or never. The rope was flaked, all our gear accounted for, and our shoes were tied (or Velcro’d). So we were off.
Our first pitch was not protected by bolts. The local guide at the gear store in Palma had told us that trad climbers had chopped bolts off some of the pitches. So this was expected. Easy scrambling really didn’t even require protection, but a piece here and there was more of a mental assurance. Maddy followed. She arrived at the belay ledge and we just smiled at each other. It was happening.
We continued up the amazing arete of Albahida we no problems at all. Each pitch went smoothly and safe. At about 3/4 of the way up I had to protect the rest of the pitches. I only had a full set of stoppers and tri-cams but protecting each pitch was not hard at all. Occasionally the limestone formed massive thick handles that I slung for protection. Something that I thought was so cool.
With each pitch we got higher and higher up. At every ledge I’d look back down to see where we had come from. The ground was getting further and further away. When you climb something at your limit, you get a feeling of accomplishment. But when you climb something that is a journey, something that is adventure, it’s such a different feeling. I think John Muir put it best, “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
The sun was starting to shine on us and our water was beginning to run low. We had made it to the top of Albahida though. At the top of the last pitch we celebrated and enjoyed the fresh breeze and amazing view that seemed to go on for miles and miles in every direction. Hidden wedged in between two boulders was a tin can with a log book in it. Such a cool find. We read previous entries and wrote our accounts down. We had made it to the top, but not the summit. Still to go was a few hundred feet of narrow ridge scrambling. We packed up, threw our hiking shoes on, and headed to the summit.
This part seemed to take longer than the climb it self. With careful navigating through narrow ridges with a thirteen hundred foot drop on both sides, we began slowly towards our goal. The ridge soon started to widen out and made traveling a little more easy (and safe). We reached the summit and celebrated once more. This time extremely exhausted though. The sun was now beating down in full force and our water was almost gone. We took a moment to regain our composure at the summit. Which was fine because there was so much to see. The view was simply incredible, and there was also a bunch of ruins from a old house that we explored in and around. I wonder who lived up there.
We now had a decision to make. How to go about our decent. The guide had told us that there were two options. A traditional two hour decent or a short cut that reduced the time by an hour. Questionable directions on the shortcut made us consider our options for a while. We did not have much water left though and the sun was starting to take its toll on us. A decision was agreed upon that we needed to get down sooner rather than later. So, the short cut it was.
We began our scramble down the mountain side and soon came across a carin. From there we were supposed to follow the “faint goat path” which could have been guessed in any direction down the mountain side. We picked one that seemed most reasonable and headed down in hopes of another carin. No more carins came though and we wondered down the mountain side.
Three hours latter we were still to be found scrambling on the damn mountain side. We were not on any sort of trail, goat made or human. We knew though what direction to head. Towards a gully in between our mountain and it’s sister mountain next to it. The terrain became more and more steep. We were never in any serious danger, we were never really lost, but our scrambling became a very slow process.
Our water gone and bodies dehydrated, we headed towards the gully. Then, a shout of joy came from Maddy. She had came across a carin, and the trail. We were so happy, and after looking at a map later that night were even more happy. Where we found the trail was at a bend, the last bend that headed down the hill side before a series of fences and private properties. We joined the trail and made our way back to the car. At the car we threw all our gear off and made for the gallon jugs of water we had in the car. Warm as they were from being in the sun all day, it was so enjoyable to have. We dumped the remainder of the water all over each other to cool down. After we regained our composure we looked back at the mountain to see what we had just scrambled down. We starred and laughed. As unenjoyable as it was, we still had a blast. I’d rather be lost on the side of a mountain than anywhere else in the world. We definitely had an epic on our first multi pitch climb. I’m just happy it was on the hike out and not the climb up.
Saturday July 27th - Sunday 28th - Enjoying Paradise
Less than a week left. We were starting to face the reality that our dream vacation was soon coming to an end. Time snuck up fast on us. The first few weeks seemed to have lasted forever, but now time was moving much faster. Faster than we’d like.
We’d experienced almost everything that we had set out to do. As much as a month would allow for, and still there was so much that we didn’t get to see. Many people asked us before we came here, just how exactly we would entertain ourselves for a month. Well, we found plenty, and plenty for another month long trip at that.
With just a few days left we talked to each other about what exactly we’d do with our time. We still had one more multi pitch climb to conquer, but far as climbing goes that was about it. We were ok with that too. Still, there was plenty of areas to go climb that we never had the chance to go see, but we kind of just wanted to spend these last few days relaxing.
Mallorca is known for their beaches, and we’ve only just got a sample of a few while deep water soloing. We wanted to check out some of the more popular beaches. Cala Mondrago was our choice for the day. There was two coves there. One bigger and more popular, and the other smaller and less crowded. We went to the smaller one but had a great time there none the less. The cove was a channel carved out of rocks, and the water past through it like a wave pool smashing into the beach. It was so cool. We spent the day swimming there, enjoying the natural made wave pool. We also found an awesome spot to set up my hammock. Something I had brought with us on this trip and not used once until that day. Honestly, I kind of forgot I had it. We swayed in comfort and watched the waves. The day was coming to a close though and we headed back home.
The next day, we did nothing. Which was the best. Just relaxed in the house and read all day. We made delicious meals and snacks every 30 minutes or so. There was a bunch of food left that we had to finish before we left on Wednesday. A challenge that Maddy and I accepted eagerly. Later that night we made a bed on the porch and watched Prometheus. A movie that just raised question after question for us. With our heads burnt out on processing any information after that we headed to bed. Tomorrow we would tackle our last multi pitch route. It was all I could think about that night.
Monday July 29th - It’s an adventure all over again.
Our first multi pitch route went off without any hitches. Besides the descent that is. We had caught the bug and wanted more. I hadn’t felt that way since I first started climbing. The feeling of adventure. The feeling of something new to experience.
Our next route was The Law of Desire (5+). A bit taller and a bit harder than our previous route. We arrived earlier this time, maybe a little too early. It was still dark when we rolled up to the parking lot. Tired from waking up so early, we decided to take a quick nap in the car before we set off. Still, with a reasonable start we made it to the mountain base earlier than before. Staring up at the line it seemed to have a lot more vert climbing than the other. This looked like the real deal.
It was beautiful out. The sun still had a lot of work to do before it would be on top of us. With a cool wind blowing in the air, we looked at each other, smiled, and began another adventure. The climbing on this was a lot more in the moment than before. Enjoyable, but you had to do some actual climbing this time. Not much of a scramble this time. Each pitch however, was great. Five stars. Even though a few felt pretty damn stiff for the grade. The upper half of this one was also not protected. So it was back to placing stoppers and slinging handle bars. That being said, the climbing went off without any hold ups.
Maddy and I really started to get the feel for this. Our transitions were going extremely smooth and we made better time on this than our last climb. I always smiled when I saw that purple helmet of Maddy’s come over a bulge to join me at our belay ledge. At the top we celebrated again, this time with more water and a few snacks to enjoy. We recorded our climb again into the log book for the last time. Three others had climbed it since we had three days ago. We wrote down our names, hopefully to see again some day.
Being that high up and just climbing pitch after pitch was great. You got a full days worth of climbing in 400 meters. It was a journey. We only wished we would have done more during this trip. The journey wasn’t over yet though. We still had the narrow ridge scramble to the summit, than the descent. Beginning that narrow scramble is always a little bit exciting. Especially when you look down both sides. The ridge widens out at the end though, which leaves a steep climb to the top. Another rest at the top, and then it was time to get back to the car. This time, our descent went much smoother than before. We think our problem before was that we started too early for the short cut. In reality we had to go a bit further down the trail of the traditional descent first. It was a lot more enjoyable on the way down when we were reassured by all of the carins on the way down. 45 minutes it took, and we were back at our rental car. A great way to spend our last day of climbing in Mallorca. Or so I thought.
Tuesday July 30th - There’s work to be done still...
Our last day. Tomorrow, we would be getting on our flight back to Michigan. We woke up much the same as any other day. Nothing seemed different. The sun was shinning in our room, people were walking down our alley, birds were heard chirping. It was hard to believe that this would be our last day here. It just seemed like yesterday when I passed out on the international flight, when we were stranded in Palma with no car trying to meet up with our landlords, when we met Alison and started our adventure. We still had this last day though and we planned to make the best of it.
My goals for this trip were pretty simple. I wanted to do a multi pitch climb. Experience that adventure of discovery. I wanted to deep water solo at my limits. Do those crazy moves I’d seen in movies that led to climbers splashing into the Med. I also wanted to bring home an 8a. TNT was still in my head, and Maddy knew it. While figuring out what to do with the day Maddy suggested that we’d go back to Cala Magraner. To give my project one last go. Plus we wanted one last swim in the sea.
Off we went. This would be our last drive to go climbing in Mallorca. We starred out the windows enjoying the landscape talking about our trip, and how we wanted to come back one day. Once we were there we hiked to the cliff and set up camp once again under the project. It was a great cool morning. Perfect temps to try and finish it off. The bad part about this crag though is that it got sun at noon. So the clock was ticking.
I hung the draws and worked on the beta to warm up. It still felt hard. Some part of me wished I’d magically gotten stronger since my last attempt and it’d feel easy. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I gave it a few goes only to fall around the same spot as before. I felt better today though, but still I wasn’t very hopeful. The sun was starting to make its way to the cliff. I knew I only had one more go left in me. Maddy smiled at me. I smiled back. At that moment it didn’t matter to me whether I sent it or not. I got to spend a month with the love of my life and great friends in the most beautiful and amazing climbing destination in the world. I got to experience a new culture and travel outside my comfort zone. I jumped off cliffs into the sea only to climb right back up them again. I climbed to the top of mountains and enjoyed the most incredible view from them. I enjoyed street performers over the best wine ever. I spent every day with friends exploring new places. I got to live my dream. I didn’t matter if I sent it or not. I tied in for the last time. I wasn’t going to have any expectations at all. I was going to try my hardest. That’s all. I took off. Feeling tired right when I pulled off the ground, I never gave up for a second or even had the thought cross my head. I soon entered the crux. My feet cut and swung out. I held on, threw up the double toe hook and pulled the next few hard moves. I felt so tired and weak but didn’t give up. I continued to pull up over the roof. The last few moves were desperate but I tried as hard as I could and refused to let go. On each crimp my fingers wanted to unwrap and let go but I held on. I set up for the last hard move. A huge cross to a crimp off a hand jam. I wedged my hand in there so hard I thought it wouldn’t come out again. Bared down with my feet, made the cross and moved to the finish jug. Then, I was clipping the chains. I yelled with excitement and Maddy joined in. I was so happy. I couldn’t believe I had done it. It was truly an amazing feeling.
My last goal for the trip had been completed. It wasn’t a necessity to complete them all, but it sure as hell felt good to. Maddy lowered me down and even though I was covered in sweat, she gave be the biggest hug ever. We cleaned up our camp, made way for the beach and ran into the water. It was so refreshing.
This was the greatest trip I had ever taken. It was my dream trip. Somewhere I thought I wouldn’t get to go to until I was retired or something, but I did. We all did. We worked hard and made this dream become a reality. I was always told when I was a kid that with hard work, dreams do come true. They were right. While we laughed and enjoyed our last swim in the sea we looked at each other and thought of something. This wasn’t the end, It was just the beginning. It was the end of one chapter, but onto the next. There's still adventure to be had, and this won’t be our last.
Mallorca Final Week - Andrew Baldwin
Wednesday July 24th - Preparations are Being Made