Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mallorca #1: Serra del Caval Bernat

Mallorca for me has always brought to mind drunk, loud British people in bars. Of course this is great fun when you are one of the drunk, loud, English people (or indeed drunk and loud but of some other nationality), but it is less attractive when you're not. Hence, Mallorca had never really made it on to my list of potential holiday destinations. But for reasons of family harmony I found myself heading that way last week.

Sunrise over Cap Formentor (click on any photo for bigger version)

In actual fact the island is beautiful with some stunning mountains across its entire northern half. By the power of Google I quickly discovered that there appeared to be plenty of climbing possibilities and further research also turned up what looked like a rather remarkable scramble - the Caval Bernat Ridge above Port de Pollença on the east of the island. Being there in August, it soon became apparent that dealing with the heat would be the crux, so a rather un-holidayesque 5 am alarm call was set and we were parked and walking by 6 am.

The rising traverse to the first high point

The ridge rises straight from the sea on its north side, and most start at the eastern end - approaching down the valley to its south. A beach marks the end of this valley and from there you take a rising traverse up to the first high point on the ridge. We had been told stories about a tricky step and took a rope as a precaution, but this stayed packed at the bottom of my bag, and we found ourselves on the ridge after some fun but not very tricky scrambling. Looking down the vertical north side of the ridge, the exposure is sickening as it falls at the highest point 350 metres down to the waves. In some points the peaks on the ridge actually overhang the north face - and I couldn't help thinking it would be a very safe base jump - except the obvious problem of there being nothing but water to land on.

Starting along the ridge proper

The south side of the ridge isn't too exposed...

The north side is.

Despite the rapidly building heat after sunrise, a strong breeze made things ok on the exposed crest. The limestone of the ridge is amazingly rough and spiky - superbly grippy on our hiking shoes but a bit rough on your hands. Fingerless leather gloves wouldn't be a bad idea at all (although avoid black ones if you don't want to look like a terrorist/counter-terrorism operative). We took a quite exposed direct line to the highest point on the first half of the ridge (we were told it looks like an eagle with spread wings from Port de Pollenca - so this would be the eagle's head). This was probably as close to needing a rope as we came - but like most of the other summits along the crest, an easier way could be contrived by taking a less direct line.

The eagle's head

A col marks the halfway point along the ridge and allows and easy descent down into the valley. We bailed at this point as even at 10 am it was getting ridiculously hot when out of the breeze and despite having brought three litres of water I was down to my last half litre plus, we suspected, we would soon be running out baby sitting credits with granny and grandad. There looks to be some fine scrambling on the peak immediately after the col, but after that the ridge appears to eases off a little with less steep up and downs, although still with the remarkable exposure on the north side.

Looking back from the halfway col

So in retrospect, early August might not be the optimum time for doing the route, especially for pasty and un-acclimatised-to-the-heat-and-sun northerners. Nevertheless, it still beats hanging with my tattooed, lager-lout fellow countrymen in Magaluf.


Martin Rye said...

It does look rather good Toby. Exposed as well. lager louts would indeed make poor companions compared to that ridge

ed said...

You are amazing! I'm going to tell Rachel on you!:"Can I ask if anyone has any suggestions of sports cliffs where I might be able to gratuitously crowbar a few more routes into my family's non-climbing holiday? Basically any cliffs close to nice beaches where my little kids can play with their grandparents for a bit whilst my wife belays me?"

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

E climbed more there than she has for ages and enjoyed it, and even tried on new shoes in Decathlon as she didn't think her old ones were comfortable enough for future climbing. And the kids had a great time with their grandparents - so over all: everyone's a winner! :-)