In spanish, “psicobloc” literally translates into “crazy bouldering” which is probably the best way to describe deep-water soloing, a scary but exhilarating form of climbing in which the climber ascends without a rope (aka: soloing), but does so over the ocean so the water serves as protection in the event of a fall. Perhaps the most revered location to practice DWS is Mallorca, one of the four Balearic islands in the Mediterranean sea off of the coast of Spain. As I explained in my other blog post about the sport climbing on Mallorca, my friend Nat, who just so happens to be a super strong rock-climber, has been living in Palma, the main city in Mallorca. So, when the opportunity presented itself to go to Mallorca and crash on his couch for a few days while sampling the islands climbing, I couldn’t resist. Nat graciously agreed to host me and show me both the sport climbing and DWS.
After two days of sport climbing in Fraguel and Gorg Blau (which I describe in my other blog post), we decided to finally go and do what a lot of rock-climbers do when they travel to Mallorca: fling themselves off of limestone caves above the Mediterranean. The next morning we woke up to perfect conditions; 35 degree weather probably 100% humidity and 0 wind- a great day to go to the beach with everyone else on Mallroca, because that’s what people do there, they go to the beach in large swarms. We headed to Cala Barques, a popular DWS spot. When we arrived I had to use my super legit parallel parking skills (I can’t parallel park to save my life.. even if I am driving a Fiat Panda which is half the size of a normal car) and squeeze in between some fellow beach-goers. To get to Cala Barques you have to walk along this dirt road that, during summer, is baking in the sun until you get to a gate that you slide through to get to the beach. The main beach itself is gorgeous; the water is a light crystal-clear blue and it is surrounded by rocks at all ends. Here you can chill, sunbathe, or hit balls back and forth with these large rackets that everyone seemed to possess. After admiring the beach for a moment we headed over to the DWS solo areas. Nat and Alix started on the beginning of a 7a in the metrosexual area, and I, a bit too terrified to do the committing-ish start (really not too committing.. there’s a small chance you could land on rocks) decided to just jump into the water and swim to the nearby Snatch area, which had easier routes. Although the air temperature was definitely hotter than ideal , luckily for us the water temperature was absolutely perfect, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be a degree hotter or cooler. The first real route I tried was a 6a called Fortuna. The holds were pretty slimey and without chalk I constantly felt like I was either going to slip off of the rock. About 3/4 of the way up, I threw myself from the rock to some chants of “tirate!” (Aka: jump off, throw yourself off.. etc) just to get the feeling of it. I’m not going to lie, I was definitely pretty fucking terrified and I was only about 6m up or so and on a route with a super safe landing. However, falling, or in this case throwing yourself off the rock, was actually quite fun and pretty exhilarating.The problem with deep water soloing in the summer is that it is so hot outside, and the beaches get so much sun, that sometimes you get burnt out really quickly or are just too hot to do anything. You would think this would be solved easily by jumping in the ocean or something, but regardless the heat does get to you. This is why they say the best season for DWS in Mallorca is September, when the water is very warm but it isn’t completely boiling outside. I definitely felt the effects of the heat; I got tired quickly and was pretty miserable if I wasn’t swimming or in the shade. Unfortunately, there’s really only one patch of shade in the entire area.After the 6a I worked on a traverse about three times which I actually fell from legitimately (aka I slipped off instead of throwing myself off), though it was really not high above the water at all, but it was high enough for my exhausted mind that had to tame my fear for the entire day. Though, despite this fact the exhilirating feelings of climbing freely above a giant pool of crystal blue water made me itch to try something that was higher and more committing. . But, my fatigue (I was overgripping like crazy) and the heat drowned out this sensation and I decided to stop and call my first day of DWS a success. Afterwards we went to the Cova, another cave that had giant tufa stalagtites hanging down from its roof-it was one of the most stunning caves I’ve ever seen. Conveniently there was a ledge which you could down climb onto and that offers a magnificent view of the entire cave. Alix, Nat and I watched a Spanish climber do what appeared to be a sketchy down-climb from the top down to the base of the cave and proceed to climb back up. At one point, almost near the top, he grabbed a hold and it seemed like he just barely got it, causing my heart to jump as I imagined him falling from that high above the ground (~10-15m, I’m terrible at estimating these things). Evidently this wasn’t enough and as soon as he topped out he repeated the same sketchy down-climb and tried a cave route, falling in the very middle of it. Essentially, he hadn’t rested and was doing laps while deep water soloing on what looked like some grimey holds in a huge steep cave. Needless to say it was quite an impressive feat- both mentally and physically- and we all applauded after he surfaced from the water.
I’m currently writing this from the campground near Valdegovia, a climbing crag in the Basque country. I had a full day of climbing today and am quite beat.. after a mega tortilla-chorizo sandwich and some patatas, I think it’s time to sleep… so, just like a Spanish driver does when he/she needs an excuse to stop in the middle of the road, I’m going to put up the blog version of hazard lights and say..