Individual enthusiasts put the Western Algarve on the sea cliff climbing map

The reputation of the Western Algarve as a mecca for active water sports is well established. Each sport has its particular beach venues – Castelejo, Amado, Arrifana and Monte Clerigo on the West Coast for surfing, Martinhal near Sagres for wind-surfing and the Alvor Lagoon for kite-surfing.

Beliche beach and cliffs, Sagres

Now, following the last few years of dedicated effort by individual enthusiasts, the area can add sea cliff climbing to its list of world-class sporting attractions.

Working independently, with a sense of achievement as their only reward, these unsung heroes have taken their cordless drills and packs of stainless steel bolts to figure out, put up, clean and map hundreds of routes on the compact Jurassic limestone outcrops, varying from intermediate grade 4’s to Portugal’s first 9a climb – Peixe Porco on a cliff west of Sagres called Corgas.

This route was bolted by one of Portugal’s best all-round sport climbers Leopoldo Faria in the spring of 2011. Faria had suffered a serious wrist injury the year before, whilst establishing a long multi-pitch route in Pakistan, and was looking for a new challenge to test his fitness. Sagres immediately sprang to mind. To quote Faria, ”Climbing at Sagres is truly special because of the surroundings, the beauty of the coast, the Atlantic ocean, the lighthouse, the flat, giant green lands…all of these put together give you a feeling of indescribable wilderness that you can’t find anywhere else in Portugal.”

He remembered an 8b+ route he had created years before. At the time he had bolted the first part then, to avoid a blank section, had decided to link with a route immediately to the right. He went back, convinced that the blank upper section held something in store, drilled it, and after the first session knew he had found what he was looking for. “It was hard to believe how perfect the route is, crazy shapes with almost no holds on it, just sloppy features with a micro two-finger-pocket in the middle.”

“One of the biggest problems though was something I hadn’t contemplated before bolting the line: there is no climbing community in Sagres and the cliff is 300 km. from Lisbon, so this odyssey was a large obstacle. Having said that, the biggest challenge all was definitely in my head, at some point I realised that I had everything I needed to send the route, but for some reason, I just kept falling over and over again… to the point where I start doubting whether I’d ever succeed at all.”

But he kept coming back for more, and on 2nd March 2013 finally completed what he describes as by far his biggest challenge in climbing to date.

Another Sagres trail-blazer is Briton Andy Reid, manager of the Mile
End Climbing Wall
in East London. Reid has been coming to the area for many years to enjoy the spring sunshine and bolt new routes. He confirms that there are now well over six hundred routes in the various sectors, some with permanent bolts in place and others traditional, meaning that the lead climber places protection gear in available cracks and fissures, with the following climbers removing the protection as they climb the route.

As a result of this pioneering work, the area now compares favourably with longer-established British locations such as Gogarth in Anglesey and Pembroke in South Wales.

On-line guides exist for a few sectors, including Ingrina near Raposeira, and Ponta Garcia just east of Beliche beach between Sagres and Cape St. Vincent, but the definitive TOPO book, mapping and describing all of the bolted and graded climbs in the area, can be found at the Dromedário Bar in Sagres itself. This is also where you are most likely to meet fellow “deep water soloist” climbers.

If you are planning a visit with friends, then do consider staying in a villa at AlmaVerde. Sharing a 3 or 4 bedroom villa with a private pool is an inexpensive way to enjoy luxury accommodation. AlmaVerde is well situated for access by car to the sea cliff climbing areas – Ingrina, Sagres, Castelejo, etc. – as well as being close to Lagos with its wide choice of restaurants and lively bars. AlmaVerde staff can also arrange climbing equipment hire and guides.

Leave a Reply