The Bernia Ridge Traverse (Costa Blanca, Spain 5.7)
I heard about the Bernia Ridge Traverse when meeting up with a British semi-local man who needed climbing partners for the day. I told him I was feeling easy leads and that I like long hikes. He recommended the Bernia Ridge, which is more of an outing than a "real" climb (he noted, perhaps a bit condescendingly). When we checked it out in the guide book, it was one of the areas top 50. It would take a whole day, and I felt very down.
There were 360 degree views from the top. The whole climb is rated a 5.7, but only due to a single pitch easy limestone 5.7 only 10feet high and traversing another 10 feet that most peeps did in approach shoes. There were other nominal portions where we had to scramble at grade 3, and every time it erred on grade 4 territory there were bolts to clip into in case you were short roping wearing your harness (which we were).
It was so beautiful, I can not reiterate that enough. There were long paths that had hundreds of feet of exposure on either side of narrow trails. It was easy to get fooled by several false summits, but the elevation gain is not enough to worry about whether or not you are at the top yet. The view is awesome all the way around, arguably the best in the early parts of the hike.
As I found with other climbs in the Costa Blanca, there were plenty of bolts everywhere to clip into in case you felt a little uneasy about the exposure. Even with my experience in the mountains there were places, for sure, where I felt dizzy about the exposure. We decided in a few places to rope up over the class 3 sections and perform a non glaciated class 3 traverse. It wouldn’t have made sense to me to do this if there were no bolts running belays, but I did see people stay roped up over more trivial sections. Sure, it makes sense to rope up if your hike is bolted, or if you are on snow and you have the ability to self arrest. If those things aren’t true, it seems like you falling would give you a better chance of killing yourself and your partner as well. But, maybe our fellow American tourists knew something I didn’t, and I didn’t want to seem like a know it all to correct them.
Despite the presence of many other peoples, it was a breathlessly beautiful place to be with the type of isolation I wouldn’t have expected at such an accessible location.
There are topos on the internet, but you don’t need one. It’s a highway once you find yourself on the trail, and you’ll find yourself in line soon enough. Just start on end of the ridge and end on the other.
The descent is a huge scramble down a bunch of loose scree. Something about my footing did not bode well with this style of descent, and it took me much longer to descend than my companion.
Time your hike wisely if you want to eat in the restaurant adjacent to your car, because we ended our traverse just at the wrong time at 4pm. That is the awkward time in the Spanish Meal Cycle when its just too late for lunch and criminally early for dinner, and they will not serve you. It would have been fine if we were feeling another $1 glass of wine, but we unfortunately were not.
We headed to the grocery store were we bought real fruit juice gummy bears and the most expensive wine in the grocery store (15 euro!) and then to our hostel to cook dinner.