Calpe, Spain. November 2002   

The view from the patio

Those damn dice

Before the storm    

    and after

Hiding in the Refuge



In the sun and in the rain

A visitor

RI in The Amphitheatre

The view from Toix


The trip was conceived by DBK, Bec and Matt Andrews and was never intended to be an official PMC meet, but somehow word got around and the dangerous duo of Richard Ford and Matt Witt soon joined. Richard Ford mentioned it to me and I put my name in sixth place, effectively excluding Colin. That problem was overcome by inventing a seventh bed in the six bed Villa. Colin slept on the floor.

On Saturday we left a cold, wet and windy East Midlands Airport and two hours later arrived in a warm, dry and far less windy Alicante.
Two new Renault Clios were reserved at the airport (Star Car Hire) in our names with a full tank of fuel (which we never used all of) and insurance for as many drivers as we wanted (all of us).
"What about the excess?" Someone asked as we were signing.
"No problem, there is no excess". The man smilingly replied. "If I'm not here when you bring them back, just post the keys through the letterbox. If they're scratched or dented, it doesn't matter. You don't have to pay".
We drove straight to Calpe, stopping to collect the keys and then started the search for the Villa. I'm sure we all had and idea of what and where it would be, but as we left the town centre, entered what looked like a scummy part of town and passed hotels and then factories and finally came to the point where the road turned into almost a dirt track, I was wondering what the hell we had booked. Tarmac soon reappeared and we found ourselves in the old part of the town. Hundreds of villas, nestling on a large semicircular hillside overlooking a small Mediterranean harbour. In the dark, the lights on the hillside looked like a huge (but tasteful) Christmas decoration. Up the hill and round the corner were two huge iron gates and through there, a huge villa, huge patios, huge swimming pool, and huge gardens. On the wall inside the villa, lived a small Gecko.
After a bit of exploration, we or rather the irrepressible R. Ford, insisted that as life could not continue without immediate beer, some must be sought. The proposal was seconded by M. Witt and R. Insall and the three of us set off to look for a bar that would sell some take outs. This was just round the corner, so we stayed a while and had a couple there to give the impression that we'd travelled miles to fetch it. When we got back, the other four had gone to bed so we drank the thirty cans ourselves and… no, that's not right, they were still up and dying for a drink. After a few in the villa, the intrepid three set off again, this time for the beach and armed with more cans while the sensible four went to bed. At about three in the morning, we swerved back up the hill marvelling at the warmth and admitting that there was no way we'd be climbing next day. However.

Next morning, or lunchtime, anyway, we all set out for Toix, which is ten minutes away by car. On the way, we encountered paragliders launching from the cliffs above the sea and were forced to stop, get out and watch in the beautiful Spanish sunshine.
The walk in to Toix is about two minutes, which after the ten minute car drive was plenty. There are I think five areas at Toix, all bolted. The lower section seems to be mostly single pitch and fairly easy 4s and 5s. While we were there, this area was often used by teachers with groups of students. In the other areas higher up there are some multi pitch routes and the positively awesome Amphitheatre area, with routes from 5+ to 8a. We liked it at Toix. At least RF, MW and I, who didn't get stuck at the top in the dark and have to return later in the week to retrieve the gear liked it there.

Next day, we visited Sella, which was a couple of hours away, but worth the travelling. I was outraged to find that the weather had degenerated and the wind risen to such an extent that some of the time I needed to wear a T shirt. It was only the middle of November. Within a couple of minutes of arriving, Matt Andrews met an old friend who was even louder than him. The resultant rockfalls didn't alter any routes significantly so we split into small groups and got started.
Colin and Bec both amazed us with some super hard leading, while DBK and MA bottled out of a couple of 4s.
RF, MW and I enjoyed some 5s and a 6 or two.
There are so many bolted routes, single and multi pitch, that I can't begin to describe them. Much better, you could consult the Costa Blanca climbing guide that we brought back for the PMC library. Or ask Colin.
The maverick three left early so that we could call in at the supermarket and buy massive quantities of food and booze, mostly for Richard Ford, who was about to treat us to the first culinary masterpiece of the week and celebrate his cooking success with a small drink (24 cans of San Miguel for £5). Unlike Colin, who was intending to celebrate his climbing success with the first of many pints of gin and tonic.

Tuesday we split up and the sensible four travelled for many miles in search of a route that Colin had been locked in a personal battle with for most of the last century, while RF went off on foot across the bay in search of beer and who knows what else and MW and I went back to Toix, cos it was just round the corner and also cos a nice little tufa route had been giving me hard stares during the previous visit. The guide graded it as F6c. I seriously reckon English 6b or 6c, as does anyone else who failed the crux move and later failed it again while being pulled up on a top rope by six Russian weightlifters. Good route that! Hard!

The following day, the sensible four and MW, now renamed AquaMat after his predilection for stripping off and leaping into the Med', usually at night, but always without provocation, enjoyed a rest day in Calpe, while RF and I went back again to Toix for a few hours. That night, something strange started to happen in the bay below the Villa. The Med' was going mad, with huge waves crashing over the harbour wall. What could it mean? RF and MW got as close as seemed safe to try and find an answer. The answer was not forthcoming, so they went for a midnight swim instead.

Next morning we all set off for Sella again despite the fragile bowel condition of RF and MW (the only two who swam in the Med'). Just a few minutes after we arrived, the rain started. And continued. All day. And all the next day. That was obviously what the sea was trying to tell us the previous night. Bad weather on the way. Instead of climbing, we did some basic sightseeing and desperation shopping in the gear shop in Calpe. A visit to Benidorm was made on the Friday to waste some time and we were delighted to see groups of "Brits On The Piss", some dressed as vicars, some as schoolgirls, running round the town between the Union Jack bedecked pubs. Very slightly disturbing.

The last day was Saturday and the weather was back to normal. To maximise climbing time and minimise time spent in the car, we all went round the corner to Toix again. Bec and Colin disappeared to do the hardest routes they could find, while DBK and MA videoed some multi pitch 4s and RF, MW and I climbed the only route easy enough in the Amphitheatre. Have I mentioned how wonderful that place was? On the way down the hillside on our way to have another go at a clean lead of the Tufa route, we bumped into DBK and MA. We were in either just shorts, or shorts and T shirts and were amused to see that they had shirts, jumpers, sweatshirts and jackets on.
We met a pair of Canadians at the tufa who also couldn't get over the crux, which made me feel better.

The last day was the best, but the whole Spain trip has had a profound effect on me. I had never been to Spain before, but that definitely won't be the last time. The weather was superb (apart from the rain, which only really enforced a couple of rest days). Not too hot, not too cold, just right. Everything was really cheap. We had good fun, good company, good meals and the best climbing I've ever done.

Sunday we flew back in very subdued mood and after two hours, broke through the clouds over Nottinghamshire to see grey Britain, waterlogged and cold.
I wanna go back!

Now. About those dice…

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