Southern Costa Blanca – Crevillente (La Escola and Tardeo) and Las Yeseras

We’ve made regular forays to the area around Orihuela, in the regions of Vega Baja and Bajo Vinalopo, but the new Costa Blanca guide has a whole host of new crags, and more extensive information on a few we’ve already visited. Time for an update.

La Escola is one of four crags in the Sierra de Crevillente, just north of the town of that name and about 10km from Elche. The Sierra consists of broken “badlands” that look somewhat post-industrial, but I think are largely natural. We visited on a grey day, which might have contributed to the fact that we weren’t blown away by the surroundings. All four crags featured are accessed from the same parking. The approach is fairly obvious from the guidebook description,

… and the Escola crag is obvious on the hillside once you round the bend…

… but it’s worth pointing out that the path up the “small valley” isn’t the first waymarked one you come to, but about 50m further on. If you’re in the right place you’ll spot this memorial plaque shortly after…

A bit of a stomp up a good path leads to the crag, unless you are tempted to stop off at Los Techos which is a very “roofy” sector on the right of the small valley – many dangling permadraws are a sure sign for us to walk on by!

The crag was first used for aid climbing in the 60s and 70s before being developed for sport climbing in the 80s and 90s, and whilst most of the routes have been recently re-equipped, and harder additions made, there’s no mistaking the odd bit of polish. This is compounded by the starts of the routes being significantly harder than the remainder, which is a bit off-putting. Factor in a bit of drizzle and we did well to bag more than a YECTOYD.

Threatening clouds approaching – you can make out sector Los Techos as the slanting band of overhangs on the side of the valley below and opposite La Escola

Here’s Helen on Felix Rodriguez, V, and she also did the two IVs to its left.

I did Menopausia, 6a+, which was tough, and “looked at” a couple of the 7as without making much progress. Maybe it’d be a different prospect on a bright, sunny day!

From showery to scorchio the next day, and we rather foolishly timed our visit to Las Yeseras, just above Orihuela, to coincide with it coming fully into the sun. A gentle breeze kept things just about bearable. 20 routes from V+ to 7b looked like it would be enough to amuse us for the afternoon.

The crag is very obvious from the parking, but the path gets a bit vague after crossing a dry riverbed. If you follow your nose and break off the waymarked path, instead heading directly for the crag, you’ll hopefully stumble across this useful sign…

… and we found a decent zigzag path through the trees in the left of the picture above.

We arrived at the crag to bump into the Sheffield crew again, who reported major off-piste scree bashing, so it’s probably worth seeking out the path!

They were on the bunch of V+s at the left hand end of the crag (good but not giveaways, and slightly inconveniently they all share a loweroff). Here’s Helen leading Error de Calculo later in the day:

We warmed up on Danos Colaterales, one of three 6as that also share a loweroff (okay rather than awesome) and Helen lead the excellent El Diedro, V+ and could easily be a trad HVS with quite spaced bolts.

The two 7as on offer were pretty unappealing – a huge roof out of a cave and a steep, featureless wall, so I threw myself at Diedro Botella, 7a+ instead. This features a couple of steep corners interspersed by easier looking ground. I made it through the first overhanging corner, but was stopped by the second one – somewhat bizarrely the only big gap in the otherwise kindly bolting was at the slightly crumbly crux. Deploying a clipstick sorted that out, and the actual moves were bouldery but doable.

As a warm down we did Gravedad 0, 6a+ and absolutely outstanding – around 30m of sustained movement; always thought-provoking but never desperate, and worth the visit on its own.

Back to Crevillente a few days later, and sure enough it’s a far move appealing prospect with a bit of sun on it! It’s the same parking but you set off in the opposite direction.

Scouring the view of the hillside from the parking, we can’t make out the crag, but the path is fairly obvious …

… but all is revealed as you turn a bushy shoulder before you reach the main drainage line from the major gully on the hillside.

You first arrive at El Panal, a tough crag with a handful of stubby 6s and 7as and a median grade of around 8a. Moving swiftly on, Tardeo is a parallel wall above and behind, with a dozen 6s and a dozen 7s.

It’s called Tardeo as the SE aspect favours shady climbing in the afternoon, although on this occasion we were actually quite glad of the sun to offset a stiff, cool breeze. We did a couple of very good 6as: Buscate La Habichuela up a series of stacked grooves (really varied and interesting)…

… and El Cristal de la Ventana up a thin, pockety slab to the right (really quite run-out!) Worth noting that these are nearer 30m than the 20m given in the book – BEWARE IF YOU ARE USING A 50M ROPE (this seems to be a recurrent failing in an otherwise excellent guidebook).

On the far right of the crag is a long, steep grey arete with 4 40m routes. El Visionari…

… is the rightmost of these, comprising an excellent 20m 6a+ topped off with another 20m of stiffer climbing to give a 7a extension. Here’s me nearing the sting in the tail of the 6a+.

The harder climbing kicks in immediately above the intermediate chains, and more thinness continues to the disappointing realisation when you feel you’ve done enough climbing to justify the tick but you can sense a looming heartbreak – I was just stopped by a big pop / jump for the final glory holds. Close but no cigar! Shade had fully engulfed the crag by now, and it was time to find some sun to defrost Helen after a long belay stint. Passing El Panal, we found a bunch of strong locals who’d arrived for the late shift to take advantage of the cooler conditions.

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