Azoia – Arrabida Natural Park 

We took the scenic coastal road north towards Lisbon, tracing a route parallel to the edge of the Atlantic through the natural park that protects this wild and wooded landscape – so many cork trees! We had a leisurely lunch stop just before Villanova de Millfontes and a quick stroll on the deserted beach.

Next stop was the Setubal peninsula which lies just south of Lisbon, and we settled into the municipal campsite at Sesimbra, set high above the bay and port with views for 20 miles to the ribbon of beaches running down the coast we’d just driven up. 

Much of the coast here is protected by the Arrabida Natural Park, a wooded and craggy swathe of land that feels remarkably wild and unspoilt given it’s only 15 miles from the capital city. The area includes half a dozen climbing areas with limestone crags set above the sea or plunging down into it. 

You’ll note I’ve stopped whinging about the cold wind – this is because a) we finally found a really sheltered crag (it was super toasty even though only 12C) but more because b) we’ve just seen the reports of airport closure in Madrid due to snow and even a few flurries on the Blanca! 

Our first foray is to the Azoia area and the Condominio sector. Park as indicated in the guide, then head down a dirt track to some dilapidated buildings surrounded by a barbwire fence; head down a steep path to the left of this, and as soon as the fence stops, cut back up and  right passing a couple of ruined stone shacks to find the crag in less than ten minutes. It’s a strangely white lump of rock, about 25m high and leaning gently outwards, but with a profusion of flaky jugs to give a couple of dozen routes from 5+ to 7c, mostly 6a to 6c.

The climbing really is exhilarating – steep moves on generally huge and sometimes surprising holds. Fantastic position as well, about 100m above the sea with just the sound of the occasional fishing boat chugging past to interrupt the sound of the seagulls. Some highlights were Pau Brasil, Diedro em Salados and Vai la qué…, all 6a / + (though generally stiff for the grade – something of a recurring theme in Portugal so far. 

Here’s me on Bufas Reais, only 6b but with a really big pull through a tufa bulge at mid height. 

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