Canyoning in Costa Blanca

While Henry and Howard were diligently cleaning their cats prior to getting lost on certain climbing routes Bill and I opted for going downhill instead. In other words descending through Barranco de l’Estret de Cardos. Barrancos are dry (if you avoid going down them after heavy rain !) gorges or canyons.

We chose this particular Barranco as it was graded V3. The definition being ‘A little difficult. Abseils typically less than 30 meters and down climbs will be no more than 3+ (French Sport Grade).’ That seemed quite straightforward and shouldn’t present any problems for us.

The only slight concern was the description of how to exit the final marmite (open pot hole). The description went like this ‘A grab rope on the far side of the marmite can be used to ease the climb back out. Without using the fixed rope, there are a few moves of about 4+ (French climbing grade). For anyone unsure, it would be well worth using the rope.’ !!

Some mild apprehension developed at this stage. What happens if someone has removed the rope or it is out of reach ? Can we manage the 4+ moves to climb out ?, we should be able to, but grades don’t always reflect the difficulty. There won’t be a phone signal in the barranco if we are stuck !!

We decided to take a few nuts and an extra sling or two for emergencies.

Off we set, walking initially and then scrambling down the smooth floor of the barranco until we reached the first abseil. An interesting abseil trending leftwards to reach a couple of bolts and a karabiner so you could either set your abseil up again or clip the karabiner and continue leftwards.

Bill descending the first abseil

An interesting short traverse sideways on a rope to the top of the next abseil and then another short abseil and we reached the final 17m abseil into the last marmite. I was very reassured to see the fixed rope on the opposite side of the marmite.

Using the rope and a prussic to move round to the top of the abseil
Descending into the final marmite. The bumpy wall behind Bill’s right leg is the way out.
The final abseil.

The final hurdle reached we surveyed the fixed rope and the climb out. The climb definitely looked harder than 4+. The smooth limestone was muddy, polished and slightly bulging out. I decided to go first and take the rope up for Bill. Thank goodness for my Petzl assist and the extra tape and karabiner. Combined tactics were necessary. I think at one stage I was sitting on Bill’s head !! I eventually made it up past the bulge onto a decent ledge. Phew. Now we just had to get Bill up. I hauled his sac up first (that was easy) and then with a lot of grunting and groaning from both of us I managed to belay him up. Thank goodness nobody was watching.

The problem with going down a barranco is you finish a lot lower than where you left the car so it was quite a long walk initially steeply up loose ground and through prickly undergrowth until we reached the proper path which gradually ascended with lovely views to cross a ridge and eventually reach the car. What a relief but a good day out.