With the less than strenuous pursuits of kayaking and mountain biking under our belts, it was time to take our adventure in Costa Brava up a notch. Today we were going to be experiencing rock climbing in Santa Maria de Solius, a small scattered town located about 30 kilometres southeast of our base in Girona. It takes just over half an hour to drive there, heading towards the Mediterranean coast, so an 8.30 am start wasn’t the earliest we’ve had to get out of a comfy bed (ps. we normally wake up 5 am anyway)!
Once again Cez and I were blessed with the delightful companionship of our friend and fellow travel blogger Lydia, who is actually a very skilled and passionate rock climber. It’s kind of her thing, but it most certainly isn’t mine! To say I was nervous when setting out in early morning sunshine would be an understatement. Prior to this, I’d only ever climbed indoors on a wall back home in Gdansk, so today’s activity was most certainly outside my comfort zone!
Close to Coastal Catalonia
We were a stone’s throw from the Costa Brava coastline, close to a small town called Santa Cristina d’Aro. Solius itself is little more than a few dwellings and a golf course (another pastime the region is hugely popular for) built into the Ardenya hills of the Aro Valley. For history buffs, you’ll find the ruins of Solius castle but with a strong emphasis on “ruins” as there’s very little of it left. The Monastery of St Marina de Solius is the only other notable attraction.
Across the highway, there are a few curiosities in Santa Cristina d’Aro (including Spain’s first magic museum dating back to 1800), but most holiday-makers will be heading to the coastal resorts in this region. Either that or they’ll be strapping on their harnesses, slipping into their climbing shoes and feeling the adrenaline course through their veins as they scale the rock formations that appeal to climbers around the world. Just like we were about to do!
Picked up by the Pros
It’s nice to know you’re in safe hands when it comes to these kinds of activities, and in the morning, we were met by our instructors and guides for the day. Francesc is a local guy who was born and raised in Girona. He is extremely passionate about rock climbing, particularly in his home region, and as a means to explore the great outdoors. His colleague and fellow pro climbing instructor Mark was waiting for us with all the gear ready at the base of our first climb.
As I was feeling increasingly uneasy, it was really comforting to have two, super-friendly and knowledgeable instructors to look after us. Both guys were really enthusiastic about their work (which isn’t really work when you enjoy it this much) and we were happy we chose them as our guides. Still, there was that extra ounce of courage that needed to be found before setting foot on the rock face!
Rock and Roll!
Cez and Lydia had brought their own harnesses and climbing shoes (being the enthusiasts that they are) and once we were all safely strapped in we were ready to go. As I mentioned, Lydia is something of a pro herself, and she’s been heavily influencing Cez to take up the sport which he has done with gusto. For little old me on the other hand, this was the first time I’d climbed outdoors. Thanks to the encouragement and support of the group – I did pretty well!
Cez’s confidence is growing having recently learned the ropes during his epic road trip adventure earlier in the year. He regularly attempted the lead climb – which is where the rope is below you as opposed to securing it from above. And this is from someone who is afraid of heights, so it was most impressive! In spite of a valiant effort, he never managed to make the summit, but maybe it just wasn’t his day. It’s certainly not going to deter him from trying the next time!
Climbing Up an Appetite
It’s hard work scaling these rocks, and even “spiderwoman” Lydia needed a rest before so long! The climbing experience was awesome, but very energy consuming, so lunch was a welcome respite to our morning activities. We’d packed fruit, nuts and plenty of water – which is vital when doing anything even moderately strenuous in the Spanish sun. We settled on a small beach to enjoy our picnic.
The scenery was beautiful, which makes such an experience that much more enjoyable, and over the course of the morning, we attempted different climbs of varying difficulty levels. While still somewhat nerve-wracking, I’d heartily recommend that you give it a go and challenge yourself. The adrenaline rush is amazing – especially when you make it to the top!
The Halfway Point
With our morning climb at an end, well fed, rested and watered, it was time to move on to our afternoon adventure. We’d be attempting the only Via Ferrata on the coast in Europe – a protected man-made climbing route with steel cables and iron bars. The gang packed up and made the short trip to the Catalonian coast – to the municipality of Sant Feliu de Guíxols. Stay tuned to see how we got on climbing above the brilliant blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea!
Have you been rock climbing before? Tell us some of your experiences!