It was already past one o’clock when we arrived at the beach in Cala Barques and the temperature was searing above thirty five degrees centigrade. We sat heavily under a tree to devise a plan. Coming to Majorca without a car and with nobody to tell us where to go never seemed like a worse idea. After a somewhat unsuccessful day at Portocolom, which involved hours long search for the crag and being chased down a steep cliff by a dog, I was not looking forward to another day of confusion. Yet here we were in the blazing heat, stuck on a tiny beach with not a cliff in sight. It was the siesta time and Spanish tourists, shiny with sunscreen and sweat, simmered in the sun like lardons on a frying pan. Nobody looked like a climber. But the sea was crystal clear, blue and irresistible and not going for a dip was out of the question.
I weaved my way between blankets and towels and started swimming away from the sandy shore. To my surprise, the amazing Cova sector came in to sight as soon as I made it out of the little bay. Only thirteen metres high and with a fantastic stalactites filled cave it got me psyched beyond reason in a split second. And it didn’t take much longer to make me realise that deep water soloing was trickier than expected…
First, you need to get out of the water. Yes, that can be a problem. Cala Barques is considered a friendly sector with no need for fixing ropes or using a boat to get to the first holds, but if you can’t hold on to razor sharp rock, heel-hook and mantle, you’re stuck. Of course, all climbs can be started from the top – it’s just that the downclimb is a route in itself… Not harder than a five, but a route nonetheless. One that can be quite intimidating if reversed with nothing to catch a fall but a crystal blue surface ten meters below… And yes, the crags where Sharma and the likes go crazy are twice as high. Sigh.
So in the beginning there was some frustration (‘Why did I slip already three times off this massive hold? Why can’t I get up a stupid 6b?!’) but soon we came to realise that psicobloc is an entirely different affair to our usual indoor endeavours. A hold getting greased up indoors? Immediately there is a toothbrush and somebody is polishing away, banishing every atom of chalk and grease. And as you’re grabbing this nasty crimp, there are three friends spotting you and a soft mat to make you safe. Indoors, or even sport climbing, everything is in place to make your job easier. Deep water soloing? Everything is in place to make your life harder.
Swim to a shelf. Stand in the cave’s shade, shiver, wait for your hands to dry as the waves are trying to wash you off your place. Start climbing and stop thinking about this shelf below you. (‘Am I already falling in the water or still on this pesky shelf?!’) Ah, finally things are going well. Big holds, easy moves, water below looks quite inviting. And then you reach this greasy hold. And another one. (‘How on earth am I supposed to hold on to a mixture of chalk and salty water?!’). At least the foot holds are good. Oh, wait. It’s wet. And the sea now is so far below and the next hold is really greasy too and I’m starting to get pumped…
Yes, you slipped. You’re back in the water. It didn’t even hurt that much apart from the burning slap on your inner thigh.
Swim back, hang helplessly on sharp rock for around 30 seconds, gather the energy to pull yourself out. Scramble up, sit in the heat, dry. Rest. Have a sip of water to wash down all the salt in your throat. You’re ready for your next attempt! Be sure that everything will be in place to make your job more difficult. But it’s impossibly beautiful here and it’s just like paradise really, so you won’t ever stop wanting to try once again.
Now you really know why the Spanish call it psicobloc. ‘Psycho-bouldering’. Quite accurate, no?
I’m already planning another psicobloc trip for September. In the meantime, soon I will post a bunch of practical information about deep water soloing in Majorca for ones who have little or no clue (like me two weeks ago).
You can also check out some more pics from this trip on my hipstagram here.
Thanks for reading!