Flicking through the Portugal Climbing guide, packed with great photos, the shots of Escusa still stand out – I’ve rarely seen such a striking wall of ribboned flowstone,
and as for the brown tufas…
Read a bit further and it’s roadside and sunny. What’s not to like? Then you spot that it’s a disused quarry, and some aesthetic snobbery kicks in… It’s also a bit remote, nearby the Spanish border and a couple of hours away from any other major climbing area. Anyway, it didn’t make our 2018 itinerary.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we’ve lined up our travel plans to include a visit (Millstone and Froggatt are both “old quarries” after all!) and have been further encouraged by a recommendation from our friend Mel of “the best campsite in Portugal” only 15 minutes up the road (run by his neighbour’s brother, Gary).
Well, it’s certainly sunny, “drive-in” friendly,
… and undoubtedly a quarry,
… but it’s in a very tranquil spot and has largely returned to nature. In any event, the rock features that you are climbing on are undoubtedly natural (presumably in an underground rift, exposed by the quarrymen), and they’re every bit as attractive as in the photos.
Probably the best couple of routes take the flowstone wall; Excaliber, 6a, up the arete:
… and Simpatia, 6a+, to its right.
Both excellent, pretty steep and somewhat stiff!
Over on the left wall, Jamaica System, 6b, is almost as good, but a bit less travelled.
… by which time I’d psyched up sufficiently to try the route of the wall: Rastafari, 6c. This takes on the challenge of the brown tufa ribbons (think 20m high chocolate fountain!)
Unfortunately the stunning aesthetic isn’t really matched by the quality of the rock. The surface has a coating a bit like the cocoa dusting in a box of posh truffles, and the numerous rock scars are testament to the fragility of the ribbons. After pulling off a particularly large “chocolate chunk”, and bruising Helen’s toe in the process, I decided to call it a day and sacrifice the first maillion of the trip.
Anyway, Escusa is well worth the visit and can be added to the roll call of “destination quarried crags” along with the aforementioned Millstone, Froggatt and not forgetting Hobson Moor of course 😉
… Oh, and camping Asseiceira lived up to the billing too!