What makes a good climbing trip? Well, these days, apart from the obvious such as good weather, great rock and great routes, I look for venues which are less frequented by main stream euro craggers than I perhaps might have done 20 years ago. The obvious destinations such as Calpe, Sella, El Chorro and Kalymnos are most definitely off the radar. I visited the Sierra Espuña region with Jonathan Lagoe in 2006 while competing in an orienteering event. We managed a bit of climbing but time was short and my motivation was pointing in a different direction. I made it back 5 years later with Cynthia Grindley and Colin Moody, this time just for the climbing. Apart from the first day we barely saw any other climbers all week and had the crags to ourselves most days. Some routes were slightly polished but on the whole the area obviously receives far less traffic than the busier crags up the road on the Costa Blanca. If you are looking for an alternative to the obvious well trodden Costa destinations and prefer less frequented crags away from the hustle of the costal strip then the Sierra Espuña would be worth a visit.
The Rockfax Costa Blanca guide covers Leiva (or Leyva) and some of the crags nearer to the City of Murcia. There’s probably not enough to keep an average team going for a week and if you didn’t explore further you would be missing out on some excellent destinations. The Sierra Espuña guide covers more areas and is written in Spanish and English. The topos are pretty poor by modern standards and some of the crag approach descriptions are somewhat lacking. You need both guides for a hassle free trip. In addition there is information on murciaclimb.com. Topos are located in this section http://www.murciaclimb.com/croquis/
Where to Stay
Camping Sierra Espuña in El Berro is a good option. The wooden chalets are not cheap but you can also camp. Facilities are good. The village has three bars all of which offer good food at very reasonable prices; you can get a meal and a beer for around €10. El Berro has a small grocery shop and a bakery. The parking at Leiva is just 10 mins drive up the road while the crags in the Mula area are around 30-40mins drive depending on your destination. You could also access the lower altitude crags around Murcia in less than an hour; useful if the weather is bad further in land.
The principal crag of the area featuring numerous multi-pitch routes and some shorter single pitch sectors. The Rockfax guide has superior photos and topos of the main crag with the popular classics listed. The shorter crags at Levia are covered by Rockfax with the notable exception of Sector Alegría. The topo at Las Cuevas - Derecha appears to be incorrect which is a shame because there is some excellent technical face climbing here. The Spanish guide isn’t much use either but using both guides together it is possible to sort out routes and grades. The popular Sector of La Pecera and the Cuevas sectors 1 and 2 are accurately covered by both guides with some slight variation on grades.
Approach Notes: The map on page 44 of Rockfax Costa Blanca is missing a right turn on the road so better use these notes: Sierra Espuña 0.0KM Junction, turn sharp right 2.1KM Junction, turn right 5.2KM Turn right on dirt road 5.5KM Parking 6.4KM
This excellent crag is situated just north of the Mula above the C-415 motor-way. The climbing here is steep and juggy on the main crag with some shorter fingery routes on walls behind the detached block. The block itself has some impressive looking 8s on its southeast face. You will need the Spanish guide for Ferrari but again the approach notes and map are confusing. From the roundabout below the motor-way drive 3.2KM past a solar farm and take a right on a dirt track. Follow the track under the motor-way (high quality graffiti), and on to a fork at 5.00KM. Take a left on an even rougher track to park by a lone pine at 6.4KM. The path is on left and leads to the crag in 5mins.
Atrame 6a+ - Ferrari © Colin Moody
This is the continuation sectors west of Ferrari stretching for about 1KM. We didn’t get chance to explore this area properly but there is obviously lots of high quality routes on limestone and conglomerate cliffs. Sector La Fisuras looks particularly good. Most of the routes have names written at the base so you can work out grades using the topos on murciaclimb.com or from the Ukclimbing.com Crags dB
Pared De La Presa
This was the only busy crag we encountered on the trip. Quick access and lots of easy routes makes it a popular weekend destinations for locals. There are lots of harder routes here as well, all on good rock. The approach is the similar to Farrari except keep to the tarmac rather than turning off on the dirt road. You can park at several locations near the dam walking down to the base of the crag on steps. There is an undocumented crag called Sector Iniciación on the north side of the dam which can be reached via a path along the shoreline. La Primera V+ - Pared de La Presa © Colin Moody
Alto de La Muela
A good crag for aging has-beens. Short climbs on nice rough rock. The routes are a lot harder than they look due to the lack of in-cut holds. Don’t make it a priority visit, but its worth calling by on the way back from Ferrari or if you want an easy day.
Again the approach is not clear in the guide. From the outskirts of Pliego as you are driving down hill from the direction of El Berro, look for a right turn sign posted ‘Fuente Librilla’. Follow this road up hill to near the top of the pass and turn left on a dirt track which runs along-side a fence. Follow the track for about 1KM to a parking area on the edge of the escarpment. Follow a path beside a wooden fence. At the far corner of the perimeter fence of the second house (500M from parking), cut off left and find a short descent gully to the base of the crag. Walk along left to reach the crag. If you miss this descent you can also descend just below a wooden cross further along the path.
Pared Del Castillo
This is a conglomerate crag situated behind the town of Alhama. It’s a good venue when the weather is not so good in the mountains or further in land. On first impression the climbing looks dreadful but what appears to be a thick layer of lichen from a distance is actually weathered limestone with excellent friction. The crags are less steep than the limestone areas with some nice face climbing on edges and pockets not unlike Montserrat.
La Tercera Parabolt 6a - Los Baños © Colin Moody We climbed on the easily accessible and well equipped Los Baños sector. We had a look at Zona Alta but this looked like it was ready for re-equipping. Sector Los Baños is situated right behind the Roman Baths Museum in the middle of Alhama. Park as close as possible to the Museum, walk through the gates and scramble up to the base of the crag.
Pared De El Purgoso
We didn’t have chance to visit this area which is to the west of the Sierra Espuña but I had been there 5 years ago. A popular crag with a good concentration of routes in the middle grades.