Espolón Central
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Espolón Central on Puig Campana is described in the Rockfax Costa Blanca guide as a great mountaineering expedition on a very impressive piece of rock. That alone was sufficient for me to accept Chris’s proposal that we should go and climb it. This impression was reinforced by the view from our base at the Orange House in Finestrat, it’s a damn impressive mountain that just invites you to go and climb.

View of Puig Campana from the Orange House

View of Puig Campana from the Orange House.

Espolón Central is the ridge to the right of the church steeple.

View of Benidorm from Espolon Central

View of Benidorm from Espolón Central

I know I’m a crap navigator, but three attempts to find the correct road out of Finestrat was not a good start. So, from the middle of the village take the left signposted ‘Font de …’, if you reach the Molly2 restaurant, turn around and try again. Follow the road for three or four km, until you reach a sharp right-hand hairpin. Park just further up on the right, the path starts from there. You can reach the base of the climb in under an hour from here.

After about half a km branch right onto a smaller path by some trees and a micro-cairn. 

The path brings you out at the base of the direct start, indicated by ‘Espolón’ written in red on the rock. If you’re after the normal route, walk left for a couple of hundred yards to a cairn. From here you can see that it actually is a ridge, which is not possible from the direct start.

The first three pitches are mainly scrambling, but you do gain height quickly. After that follow the guidebook description. The belay stances after the fourth pitch all have two shiny new bolts to tell you you’re on route. It’s never too hard but always interesting. 

Chris Haynes on Espolon Central

Chris Haynes on Espolón Central

Chris Haynes on Espolon Central

Pitch 4 is the start of the real climbing when you climb around on to the arête and go straight up. The exposure here is electrifying; you are already a hell of a long way up, but the climbing is straightforward and well protected.

Pitch 10, the belay ledge is gained more easily by traversing back right for a few metres, but watch out for rope-eating Spanish thorn shrubs!

Pitch 11, the move into the groove is a bit of a thrutch.

Pitch 12, the zigzag crack is quite fun.

We completed the ascent in six hours without going wrong, which in itself, is probably a first.

Tip: Don’t take your harness off just yet.

The descent path is well marked with red dots and micro-cairns and is easy in daylight, but probably a nightmare at night. The first dot is on a rock some 10 –20 m directly above the last belay and this one has an arrow indicating the direction to go.
The first part of the descent is a traverse across a thin ledge system that runs off to the right (Eastwards) across the mountain. There are steel cables protecting this bit.

Do not even consider an abseil from here, you are crossing above a blank wall hundreds of metres high, so unless you are carrying a rope half a kilometre long, all you are going to achieve is some practice in prussicing back up your rope.

After about 40 minutes of scrambling and down-climbing (walking boots are fine) you round the corner of the mountain and follow the red dots down into the gully. The going gets easier and eventually you will get to a stand of trees, from there you join the main walking path down the mountain which follows the loose scree down for about half a kilometre where you can demonstrate the art of scree running to the locals.

Look out for a path on your right which takes you back around the mountain to pick up the paths you walked in along, just below the area of the direct start. This brings you back down to the ascent path and back to the road in about an hour.

Thanks to Robert Lillywhite & Chris Haynes for this article and photographs