Drive-by cragging on the way to the Blanca

With Omicron in retreat, and restrictions lifting, it’s time to dust off the RockAroundTheWorld machine and get it back on the road. After a Sunday lunchtime Eurotunnel the intervening 4 days have seen around 1,500 km covered and 4 crags visited (all be it a couple of them quiet fleetingly!)

First stop was just south of Clermont-Ferrand in the Puy-de-Dôme, near the village of Coudes – Les Rochettes certainly isn’t a destination crag, but it’s the perfect drive-by journey breaker. The diversion adds literally only 10 minutes to the trip, and that includes walking from the car to the crag!

The 20m granite spire has half a dozen routes from 5a to 6b+ and we did them all between us (there are another half dozen on the adjacent walls if you want a full day). Names and grades inscribed on plaques beneath each route, and thorough descriptions and accurate GPS on UKC if you want more info. A very pleasant leg stretch.

Helen on Le Petit Jaune

Blasting south on the free A75 autoroute we had the chance to revisit one of our favourite finds of our Autumn trip: Cirque de Labeil. Happily, Keith and Fiona were in residence in the French and Keith was able to meet up with us to give us the grand tour, along with the inside scoop on some of the grades (there’s no topo at the moment).

Just coming into the sun around 12ish

We did a couple of warm ups on the first buttress you get to (the right wall has 3 5cs and the left wall half a dozen routes 6a-6b) then moved along to the Main Wall where we’d climbed on our previous visit.

Here’s Helen leading the excellent, long Flan Success, 6a

And me and Keith on Je crois qu’ils se Trump!, 6c (guess which one of us has got his shirt off…)

Also excellent was Safi Sufi on a buttress between these two up a sharp arete and juggy bulging wall – outstanding and a bundle – tough at 6a and more like 6b.

Fabulous light on the crag as we departed to head further south towards the Spanish border.

Crossing into Spain we had a welcome surprise – they’ve scrapped the tolls on the AP7 motorway all the way down the Med. Result! We made good use of it all the way down beyond Barcelona and then made a quick diversion to check out the climbing around Llaberia / Tivissa. There are quite a number of crags which look like they’d merit an extended visit (covered in the Tarragona POD guide), but we just dipped our toes in the water with Paret dels Rappels – another ultra roadside number. It really doesn’t get much more convenient…

Unfortunately the crag was just losing the sun at around 4ish so we did the two rightmost and sunniest routes – the imaginatively named #18, 6b and #19, 6a. Interesting climbing, a little reminiscent of Swanage (but without the sea and terror!)

Route #1, V

The final 3 hours leg of our blast south brought us to the Costa Blanca SunRock capital of Spain (and perhaps the World?) and the idyllic campsite at Vall de Laguar. Checked in and de-mounted, it was a little tempting to put our feet up for the rest of the afternoon. However, we got word that Flora and Pete were on the penultimate day of their Spain trip and climbing at Castellet de Calp – it seemed rude not to join them.

We arrived just in time to catch Pete lowering off Suero, his first 7b (and Flora had also broken into the 7s a few routes along, so the end of a highly successful trip!)

I jumped straight on Poison Ivy and scraped up it first go (thinking it was 7a and then was delighted to find it gets 7b in Rockfax) and then didn’t quite match that success on Suero.

It was such a quick hit that I forgot to take any pics, but here’s a view leaving the crag

… and another one on the path back towards the Toix ridge, with the Penon just out of sight.

Anyway, celebratory beers were clearly the order of the day! It’s great to be back in Spain after what seems like a very long two years!

Postscript – more Castellet de Calp pics from two previous visits here:

Link and Link

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