In the beginning of July, Josh and I went on a trip with climbing friends to the island of Mallorca. If you’re thinking of going deep water soloing, here’s a trip report with some tips that we picked up during our stay.
Seven of us (Josh, me, Ry, Chris, Hillary, Lauren, Paige) rented a “villa” near Santanyi for the week. The villa is better described as a charming, rustic-chic farmhouse surrounded by almond trees and sheep meadows. Of course the farmhouse was made of stone, the most plentiful material on the island. Renting a villa in Mallorca is easy and surprisingly cheap, and our beautiful house looked much nicer in person than in the generic description on the villa rental website.
Our villa was located near the village of Santanyi, which was ideally located on the east side of the island. Most of the developed DWS is on the east side of the island, so if this is why you’re going to Mallorca, I recommend getting a place on the east side. Although we lugged ropes and draws all the way to Mallorca, we didn’t tie in even once. If you’re interested in DWS, forget about sport climbing; it’s just not going to happen. (By the way, if you insist on bringing your gear, we learned the hard way that draws aren’t allowed in your carry-on luggage for European puddlejumper flights.)
Santanyi is near the climbing areas of Es Pontas and Supersonic. Es Pontas is the beautiful, striking arch that most people would recognize from the King Lines Sharma video. It’s actually a nice introduction to the area. Swimming out to the arch feels appropriately adventurous –like a sequence from “the Beach”–and you can scramble up to the top of the arch and get used to the idea of falling into the water. There are some crowd pleasers for some relaxed post-flight climbing. If you get sleepy, sunbathe on the top of the arch and watch the tourists paddleboating below you. Maybe they’ll even let you take a ride down the water slide off the back of their paddleboat.
The Supersonic area did not have much climbing that we discovered. There are some nice warmup traverses, and fun snorkeling if you can handle some crowds on the beach, and lots of families. One plus is the beachside cafe for an espresso, or my personal favorite, the cafe con leche.
There are countless exciting DWS spots up and down the coast, but one of the most idyllic, and the favorite of everyone in the group, was Cala Barques. You park at the end of a bumpy, unpaved road, and hike for about 15 minutes into a pristine white sand beach frequented by families, sunbathers, and even a yogi or two. It’s always low key, and always a stunning view when you get spit out onto the beach from the rocky tree-lined trail. Throughout the day, sleek pleasure boats moor out in the bay and generally add to the scene of Mediterranean leisure. The climbing, starting on the cliffs just beyond the little beach, positions you nicely to admire the whole picture. The first cliff is also relatively low, with easy climbs to gain your “psicobloc” head.
Other well-known DWS spots are located near Porto Colom (lots of restaurants along sometimes stinky water, but generally a safe bet for food or shopping needs) and Porto Cristo. We loved the cafe on the southwest side of the main square in Porto Cristo. Our favorite restaurant, sa Placa, was in the small town of Alqueria Blanca. We found it on our third to last day on the island, and we ate there twice!
When you’re not climbing, consider exploring the western or northwestern part of the island. We drove over to the Peninsula de Formentor to hang out at the small beach near the swanky Hotel Formentor (we had 10 dollar orange juices at their cafe and politely snuck into their pool bathroom showers afterwards). The views along the coast were, as our guidebook put it, extravagant. That night we stopped at Pollenca for dinner. Pollenca was all charm, and all of us wished we had a chance to explore it during the day when all the shops were open.
For food, we went to the local farmers markets, and loaded up on groceries for lunch. Dinner was usually late, Spanish style. You’ll probably love the food if you eat seafood. But I don’t. I ate a staggering amount of bread and cheese while I was there. Speaking of bread and cheese, make sure to try the mallorcan specialty: buy brown local bread, slice a tomato in half, rub the tomato juice onto bread, then rub fresh garlic, drizzle olive oil and salt, then add things like sliced tomatoes and cheese.
In terms of weather in early July, it was actually rainy and cold for half the time. Although the water is amazing when it’s calm, we didn’t venture into the sea on the rough days. The state of the sea makes a big difference in the DWS experience.
Some other hints for your trip:
- Flying in to a major European city and booking a separate flight on a local discount airline is often the cheapest way to get a ticket
- Bring a snorkel. It’s nice to see what’s down there, even if it’s just to admire the perfectly deep and sandy landings.
- You only need one pair of shoes in my opinion. It’s a pain to bring more, and the shoes just get wet the first time you fall in the water anyway.
- The rock at the waterline can be razor sharp, but generally the rock isn’t tough on the hands. I found the combination of falling, swimming, steepness, and sometimes cold were the limiting factors.
- You get used to the damp, and you’ll accept the fact that sometimes the footholds and handholds are slimy.
- I liked a system of a small dry bag with chalk powder, liquid chalk, and a bandanna to dry my hands. I generally chalked up at the beginning of the climb and left my dry bag tucked somewhere on a ledge at the base. Exceptions were when I knew I wasn’t going to fall, or for serious attempts where I absolutely didn’t want to fall.
- I could have climbed every day if the weather cooperated
- Keep your eye out for town festivals, and go to the farmer’s markets!
- The Caves of Drach are fascinating and have a cool name, but it’s not worth the wait and the crowds. There are some less well-known caves on the coast that would be a better bet.
Overall, it was a fantastic trip, and a refreshing break from gear, ropes, ratings, and even routes. You just get on the rock and climb! And when you fall, you have a nice swim and you do it again.