I have recently received an article by a friend who has been on two trips with Compass West. This should be of interest to anyone thinking of going on an organised trip to the Costa Blanca:
I have enjoyed two outstanding climbing holidays in the Costa Blanca with Rowland and Mark Edwards from Compass West. I first visited them in the autumn of 2002, on their General Rock Climbing Course, as a novice climber with limited outdoor experience. Three other people were also participating in this course, two from London and one from Holland. We stayed in a well-equipped, 6-bed apartment in Finestrat that was about 300 metres from the Moli 2 bar, which sold good food and beer at reasonable prices.
The first half of the week was divided between instructional sessions and climbing on the local crags. The instructional sessions included learning how to belay and abseil safely, setting up belays and rescue systems and learning how to lead and place protection. The climbing was seconding both single and multi-pitch routes on one of the local crags near Finestrat and also on some of the longer routes in Echo Valley. Rowland and Mark had soon gauged our climbing abilities and selected routes for us that were very enjoyable and which we found suitably challenging.
The later half of the week was spent leading single and multi-pitch routes and placing our own protection. Included in this, was a day spent climbing several pitches of one of the long mountain routes on the Puig Campana. This was a memorable day out as it was in a wonderful setting with magnificent views and also provided my first experience of doing long mountain routes. One of the highlights, for me of these few days, was leading a VS in Echo Valley called Via Esther, which was a fantastic route and also my first VS lead. We all enjoyed climbing with Rowland and Mark, as they were very enthusiastic, which was contagious and would tell us many of their climbing stories.
On leaving this course I was confident that I could climb and lead safely outdoors and that if my climbing partner or myself got into difficulties then I had the necessary skills to extract us from the problem.
Because I had enjoyed myself on the first climbing course, and liked climbing in a warm sunny climate, I returned in spring 2003 on Compass Wests Bivi Week Course. This course was to prove to be physically very demanding but ultimately very rewarding. Four people from Holland joined me on this course, fortunately for me; they all spoke good English, as my Dutch is non-existent.
The course began in a similar manner to the previous course I had attended, with the exception that everyone was leading from day one. We also practiced climbing with heavy rucksacks on; in preparation for the two-day climb and overnight bivi we had at the end of the week. We soon found climbing with a heavy rucksack to be hard, and by the end of the first three days we all had a few bumps and bruises from minor falls.
It was then time to begin the two-day ascent to the summit of the Puig Campana. We began climbing about 0700 and the final pair had reached the bivi site at about 2030 that evening after 18 hard and tiring pitches. Most of the climbing was not too hard but there were two or three pitches that were difficult, one even required the rucksacks being hauled up. The evening at the bivi was wonderful, eating dinner by an open fire and watching the sunset. One of the crazy Dutch lads had even carried up a bottle of Muscatel for us to enjoy. The bivi site was a small clearing surrounded by shrubs and trees, not a small ledge on the side of the mountain, and had plenty of space for us all.
We woke in time to watch the sunrise over Benidorm before beginning the remaining pitches to take us to the summit. The climbing was easier than the previous day and we all reached the summit about lunchtime. Unfortunately we spent most of the morning climbing in the clouds and so we were not rewarded with any magnificent views, though it did help keep the temperature down. The descent took about three hours and by the time we arrived back in Finestrat we were all happy but very tired.
The final day of our week was a rest day and some of us went sightseeing to Guadalest but two of the Dutch lads, who still had some energy left, went with Rowland to the Toix Sea Cliffs. There they spent the day completing Rowlands Ultimate Journey, which is a traverse of the Toix Sea Cliffs and is 13 pitches in length.That evening to celebrate the weeks accomplishments we went to Benidorm for the night and returned to the apartment, rather the worse for wear, just as the sun was rising. A fantastic week, that was both challenging and tiring, where the climb to the summit of the Puig Campana is a memory that I will always cherish.
Thanks to Colin Eccles for this article