I think some of the most exciting adventures start with a beer induced pledge on a Friday night.
A cheers among friends who think abseiling down a 45 metre canyon is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Once the plan is set its all about remembering it the next day…
Saturday morning rolled around and the fog in my head hadn’t quite lifted from the night before. I rolled over in bed and opened my phone to see I had one unread email; “Paddling technique”. I squinted my eyes not really sure what I was looking at. Clicking on the email it opened with a link to a video on how to dial in your forward stroke and a small message below reading, “everything still on for Sunday?” I stared at my phone wondering what the hell I had agreed to the night before.
After sending an email back to Tom confessing that I had one too many beers during our planning session, he let me know that we had made a plan to tackle the Barranco Tancat “followed by an enthusiastic lunch at Bar L’Era” . I wish I could say that at this point the memory of our Friday pledge had come flooding back; but it didn’t. Either way I was totally up for this canyoning trip! It’s been on my list of things to do since Tom and Rik told me about how incredible it was.
On Sunday morning Tom picked me up and we headed off to meet Rik at the bottom of the canyon where our day would begin. Tom and Rik are two friends we’ve made since coming to Spain. Tom is a brilliant artist and is an avid adventurer. Rik too, is an adventure seeker and is also the first person I climbed with when we initially came to Spain.
Once we met up with Rik we took a few minutes to gather our gear: harnesses, rope, carabiners and a few descenders. Throwing our bags into the back of Riks truck, we were ready to go.
We drove up towards Bolulla Castle which is part of the Costa Blanca mountain walks. The turn off for the castle is between Bolulla and Tarbena. It is a bit difficult to explain its exact location as signage is minimal but heres a link to the route map: Barranco Tancat
From the turn off we swerved around the s-bends until we reached the walk-in. From this point we had about an hour walk to the Barranco, which means a deep ravine or gorge. Meandering down the track we chatted and took in the view. It was so interesting to see the mountains from this side of the valley.
Making it to the bottom, we veered off into the gorge. The boulders were massive down there! It wasn’t at all what I expected. I figured we would have an easy walk through the riverbed until we reached the first abseil, but we had a lot more scrambling to do. We were up and down on our bellies, stretching our legs to reach the boulder or ledge below. Jumping from boulder to boulder we moved along in a serene quietness. Each of us in our own moment, occasionally sharing a laugh or a shriek when the brambles hooked into our skin. It wasn’t an awkward silence or anything. It was the perfect kind of silence that allows you to hear your own breath as you appreciate what you’re doing. I really do believe that it takes practice to feel comfortable in that kind of stillness; and I love it.
An hour after we started scrambling, we made it to the first and biggest pitch. We were staring down a 45m canyon, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Rik and Tom prepared the ropes as we shared a flask of tea. We slowly slipped into our harnesses and got ourselves comfortable in our gear.
Using an overhand knot we tied two ropes together. Since the first pitch was 45m we took our 70m rope and paired it with another 20m rope. Always remembering that when abseiling whatever the distance is down, you’ll be doubling your rope. 45m pitch = 90m of rope.
Rik was the first one to descend down into the canyon. I leaned over the edge just in time to catch him smiling away. By this time I was chomping at the bit.
When I heard Rik shout, “off belay!”, I was ready to go.
Pulling the rope through my descender, I had Tom check my set-up. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, you should always check your equipment. Once Tom gave me the thumbs up, I was away.
The experience of going down the Tancat was phenomenal. It was like being in a fishbowl of rock and greenery. When you’re enjoying something so much it feels like you’re moving in slow motion. As soon as I reached the bottom I was wanting to do it all over again. From the bottom Rik and I watched as Tom came down with the rope in one hand and his camera in the other.
What I realized by watching this is that it doesn’t matter how many times you do the same thing, if it’s something you love its always worth capturing the moment.
A few more pitches of varying lengths and we eventually made it out of the canyon. To say I loved this day would be an understatement. It wasn’t just that I enjoyed the canyoning itself, but I loved spending the day with Tom and Rik being shown another incredible part of where we are living.
Having all this in our backyard is something that we wont ever take for granted.
Check out all the action on our Youtube channel: Barranco Tancat