Aixorta and L’Ocaive – Chasing the Shade

NOTE: CLIMBING AT AIXORTA IS CURRENTLY BANNED (FEB 2022). See details and check for updates here : https://www.femecv.com/noticias/prohibicion-de-escalada-en-aixorta

When I first put up this post, someone (thanks Hilary!) kindly pointed out that we’d inadvertently climbed at Aixorta when it was banned – There was no sign anywhere and I was using the latest (excellent!) Lopez guidebook (which however predates the ban). Of course I would not have visited if I’d known there was a ban!
After consulting with the local climbing community we’ve decided to add this notice about the ban and re-post it so that more people are aware (rather than deleting the post all together). I’ve also been in touch with the crag moderator for Aixorta on the UKClimbing Forum to update the status on there (thanks Keefe!). The local climbing community (the CECB and FEMECV) are working hard to reopen the crag as soon as possible, so in the meantime let’s support their efforts by staying away. Cheers, Dom

When I try to explain our winter RockAroundTheWorld random-walk itinerary, I often use the phrase “Chasing the Sun”. Of course, there’s always the danger that you might actually catch up with it, as we did this week; (remember what happened to Iccarus!) Three days of mid-20s temperatures in early February might seem like a nice problem to have, but it’s sent us scuttling in search of shade.

L’Ocaive certainly isn’t one of the off-the-radar “new crags” on the Costa Blanca – you could hardly miss this striking 200ft high tower with a castle on the top! However, we’d only ever visited once before, owing to its shady NW aspect, and that was to get some routes done in the rain (the right hand side of the crag is a huge cave), so it was fairly new to us.

The left half of the crag is a big slabby grey wall, and looks a bit scrappy and vegetated at first sight. We jumped on perhaps the route of the crag – Plac Mania, a two-pitch 6a/6a+ that can be done in a oner to give a 50m 6b expedition. It’s excellent and surprisingly unpolished given its quality. Don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get down in one lower-off with an 80m – the 40m icon on the Rockfax topo is an error – and you’ll end up like me at the half-height chains top-roping Helen and Mike.

Helen lead the adjacent Amparito, 6a+, also very good with a couple of tricky long moves. Here’s Mike following.

By now the sun was starting to creep around and I headed over to the cave area, hoping it was still retaining a bit of shade. Unfortunately not, but I still foolishly set off up Trocha Calimnotaxa, 7a, where I inevitably met the same fate as Iccarus’ wings – I completely melted!)

Even this 3ft snake was seeking shade!
Good effort by Patrick, a visiting Aussie, to prevail on Gandalf, 6b+ (must be more used to the heat!)

Mike and Helen enjoyed the last of the sun on Ella la Arana, a very traddy 5c up the obvious groove line.

The following day, determined to avoid another roasting, we headed to Aixorta – now that’s a properly shady crag. North facing and set at 900m, it’s a really cool spot in more ways than one! Somewhere between Tarbenna and Castell de Castells, you take a dirt road at a signboard for Els Arcs – an impressive pair of rock arches and a popular walking destination – and head about 3km to park on a hairpin.

The 10mins approach walk takes you above Els Arcs – not so obvious from behind…

… but quite striking from the front:

… and for once the “obvious” path does actually lead down to the crag.

It’s a classic north-facing limestone crag – mostly white rock, with a mix of tufa, holes and crimps – a bit dusty in places and slightly foreboding. There’s only a handful of 6s, and a general consensus that the grades are tough, but there’s no denying that there are some stunning lines.

The 6a warm-up La Cosa is a bit of a disappointment, and a sandbag into the bargain. Fem Foc o Fugin, 6b, is much better – a huge 32m voyage up the corner system that bounds the left hand end of the crag. You can just about make me out at the loweroff.

Nicely warmed up (despite Helen heroically belaying in an puffy jacket) it’s time for a grapple with something trickier. Maulets a la Lluita, 7a, as a towering line of fiercely overhanging raggedy pockets and cracks – after a monumental battle I pull up at a tricky clip just short of a no-hands rest beneath the chains; disappointment somewhat offset by the UKC concensus grade of hard 7a+

An attempt at Forest, also hard for 7a, used the last of my energies, so we departed with another venue added to the “one to come back for” list! BUT NOT BEFORE THE CLIMBING BAN IS LIFTED!

Footnote: Be careful what you wish for! Inevitably the hot spell was broken by the first rain of the trip. No real disaster as we were overdue a rest day. Also a prod for a change of scenery – though sad to be leaving the excellent hospitality at the camping Vall de Laguar, especially as we’d bumped into John and Cath and the crew from Todmorden Harriers. Thanks for the great company – hopefully catch up on a future trip!

3 responses to “Aixorta and L’Ocaive – Chasing the Shade

  1. Hi Dom
    I believe climbing on Aixorta is banned isn’t it? Or has that been lifted? Would be interested to know.

    • Hi Hilary
      We’ve got the new 2020 local guide, and there’s no mention in there of a ban. No signs at the crag and there’s certainly chalk on the routes – not that that’s any guarantee! If it’s banned I don’t really know how we’d have known – I hope we haven’t caused any bother!
      Cheers, Dom

  2. Hey Dom / Helen – Good to see you enjoying some of the routes us Howie / Wednesday ‘Old Farts’ pioneered 30 years ago. Although it would seem we had a more balanced ‘climbs to nights out and wandering with the Costa Walkers’ agenda. But happy memories – thanks…… Payne

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