Foz de Fornas

Another breezy day at the end of the world – but with full-on sunshine to help offset the chill. Foz de Fornas is the landward end of a south facing zawn on the Cabo de San Vicente, and therefore about as sheltered a spot as we could find (… which wasn’t very…)

There’s a limited but excellent selection of routes on East, South and West facing cliffs with easy walk-in access just a couple of minutes from the car. Here’s the east facing crag which we didn’t get around to sampling… 

Instead we climbed on the south facing one, which offered the most shelter. 
Only four routes (and that includes the left hand arête which is actually climbed on the west face – see pictures of Helen below on this airy and photogenic pitch. 

The other three routes are all about 25m high with just half a dozen bolts (though sensibly positioned) making for some quite exciting run-out climbing: from left to right these are 6b+ left of the cave, 6a+ above it and 6c up the steep bulging wall to the right. 

All highly recommended, but the latter, Naufragio Havista, was an absolute belter – passing the third bolt you notice an abandoned maillon, a sure sign of a previous retreat from tricky territory above, and sure enough there’s a yawning gap of about 4 metres to the next bolt through some steep and fingery ground. There’s also the nagging warning,  at the back of your mind,  of stress corrosion cracking from the sea water causing sudden bolt failure, and it all starts to feel like a Gogarth E4 rather than a Euro 6c. Committed to the moves, the distant edge that promised salvation turns out to be not quite as good as you hoped, but there’s no turning back so a couple of high steps and committing pulls see you out of trouble – more memorable than most sports routes. 

By now we’d exhausted the sheltered options, so went to spy out spots for future days (always worth the effort, especially on seacliff approaches with limited visibility of what lies below). Here’s the awesome-looking Mirror, the 70m high slanting triangular slab overlooking the island – a dozen routes, a mix of sport and trad, from 6a / HVS and upwards. 

And below, on the skyline, you can see the peninsula of the Fortaleza de Sagres, with a mile-long ribbon of Pembroke-quality trad running down both sides of it. 

… So much fun to be had here! 

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