Last October, I had the privilege to take Manon and Alain out climbing at Rocha da Pena in the Algarve. They were great company and so kind in writing on their blog about our day together. Thank you guys!
” Fresh air, shining sun, snug in my harness, hands and feet on the rock, clipping the rope as I ascend the mountain; I smile and think to myself, “there’s no other place I’d rather be but here”.
When Alain and I decided to travel to Portugal, we both wanted to go sport climbing outdoors (form of climbing that relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock). I emailed many rock climbing companies but was not successful in securing a guide. Finally, I received the much appreciated suggestion to contact VOLTA do MAR: http://www.voltadomar.pt
I received a prompt response saying that the “handsome” guide would be contacting me shortly to secure a date. The moment I started interacting with André (and yes, he is handsome!), I knew that Alain and I would get along really well with him. Our exchange was quite amusing with discussions about being “hangry” and listening to the “Eye of the Tiger” to stay motivated. This was the right guide for us!
At 8:00 a.m. he was at the front door of our B & B and greeted us warmly with a good handshake and a smile. This was going to be a great day! We made our way to Rocha da Pena where there are a large number of bolted routes. Our goal for the day was to first, lead routes outdoors (in this instance, the rope is not already anchored at the top of the route) and second, learn to set an anchor and/or clean the route (this means learning how to tie the rope in the big bolts already in the rock). Our past experiences rock climbing outdoors (in Italy and Red Rock Mountains – near Las Vegas) comprised of multi-pitch climbs (ascending a mountain with more than one stop at a belay station) where our guide lead the route.
We hiked to the base of the routes. Alain and I both had a small backpack. André hauled all of the rock climbing equipment in two backpacks – we felt like he was our “Sherpa”. Our very handsome Sherpa 🙂
From the moment André picked us up at the B & B, we felt like we were hanging out with a friend rather than being guided to the mountains. He suggested that we start by top roping two routes that we would later lead. Perfect! This way, we were able to learn the moves and become comfortable on the route before leading it.
Rock climbing outdoors is a completely different sport than indoor rock climbing. It is never clear where you should place your hands and feet. However, it feels so much more organic and natural than to climb “plastic” in the gym. The views at the top of the mountains are also priceless.
We flashed (did not fall and made it to the top on our first try) all the routes we tried during the day. Our guide had chosen the perfect grade of rock routes to teach us how to lead/set an anchor/clean a route outdoors. Nonetheless, I did sing to myself Taylor Swift’s “shake it off” more than once to keep my cool as I was anxiously trying to find hand/foot holds! The beautiful thing about climbing a mountain is that nothing else exists in the world while you are climbing – your focus is completely on the task at hand (and feet!).
Setting an anchor/cleaning a route is one of the scariest things I have ever done while hanging on the top of a mountain. Once you are at the top of the route, it consists of untying yourself from the rope that is attached to your harness. You secure yourself with temporary “ropes” but your brain does not want to untie the main rope. I think I quadruple checked all the ropes before untying myself. We had thankfully practiced all the maneuvers several times at the base of the mountain before trying it at the top. Also, it is important to note that André was hanging right beside us (and rubbing our backs to calm us down! Ha!) at the top of the mountain when we were setting the anchor.
André is truly a one-of-a-kind guide and teacher. He was patient, friendly, funny, and lets not forget, handsome! We feasted on the food that he hauled up the mountain (cheese, ham, fresh bread, strawberries, Portuguese pastries, chocolate) for lunch talking about everything and nothing.
Surprisingly, one of the highlights of our day was celebrating our climbs with mini Sagres beers at a local pub in a tiny village (I think the village was called Penina but I may be wrong). André explained to us that it was common to find a small general store attached to the pub, as was the case in this village. One lady was peeling her potatoes (most likely for the dinner she would prepare when she returned home) while talking with other patrons. I could have stayed there all day to watch the “comings and goings” of the locals.
If you find yourself in the Algarve area, contact André (http://www.voltadomar.pt) and book a tour (it does not have to be rock climbing) with him. Every tour is private and tailored to clients’ needs.
We will be back! We would love to return to this little piece of paradise and climb the beautiful cliffs in Sagres that have won our hearts.”
Check the original article at: http://almansportugueseadventure.blogspot.ca/2015/10/rock-climbing-rocha-da-pena.html