A bold (and recklessly tackled) alpine climb on Mallorca
The Penyal des Migdia is the second highest peak on the island and its massive south-west face dominates the view up into the mountains from Soller. On the far left end the sea of rock of the face is broken up by a deep vertical scar that draws the eye. At least the eye of Adolfo Gregorio who opened up the line Espolon Aries in the mid 70s that makes use of this feature.

The face with the deep chimney scar on the left.

Toby and I had climbed a longer line in Sa Gubia and the challenging Via Comon on Puig Major together and felt well enough accustomed to tackle a more adventurous route. All information we found was an old topo and a text description that graded the route (300m / 10 pitches) at IV+ and described it as alpine and with no fixed gear. Nothing crazy and very doable in our assessment… Yes, that's foreshadowing.

We met up early and drove up to the start of the approach close to the Puig Major tunnel and started the approach hike armed with a good spirit and the few pieces of trad gear we had: A set of wires, three cams and a few slings. After huffing and puffing up the steep grassy slopes under the face we found the base of the climb and racked up at around 10am.

Toby started off into the unknown and after just a few meters the „character“ of the route did reveal itself: Very loose rock, almost no places to put in protection and the ever looming question whether one is on the right track. After I followed to the first belay Toby had built we saw a blue marking on the rock that had been mentioned in the text description - so we were on the right track. We had a quick discussion on whether the marking was an arrow pointing to the RIGHT I started STRAIGHT up. What followed were 40 meters of choss, a fairly big fall on a Camelot number 2 (after a hold just came off) and an adrenaline fueled fight up to a second belay.

At this point we came to a few conclusions: We totally underestimated the route, we were off track and I would not lead any more of these kinds of pitches. Still we pressed on hoping to get back on route higher up. Two more horrendous and heroic pitches led by Toby later we actually reached the bottom of the massive chimney that can be seen on the face from far away. And another short discussion later we decided to continue. To paraphrase: „We are back on route - there surely will be pegs or something up there!“

The next to pitches up the chimney were actually quite good in terms of rock quality and climbing. Still no good protection however (and no fixed gear of course). As we rejoined at the belay after pitch 6 just outright the chimney Toby put it well: „We out of the belly of the beast!“.

With more than six hours of climbing already and being quite spent mentally the final three pitches to the top continued the theme of the first few: Scary, loose, runout. However, bit by bit and after more than eight hours on the wall we made it up and out onto the summit. I think both Toby and I have seldom been so happy to be just done with something.

Naturally the way down was also longer than expected and we made our way back over the ridge of Migdia and down the 550 vertical meters towards the car with a good portion of gallows humor. Just before reaching the car we stopped to take a final look at the line we actually took up the mountain in the final light of the day.

If, by any chance this was a partly first ascent, it will be called „The dead Marshes“ because Gollum is right „Do not follow the lights“ instead follow the damn blue arrow pointing to the right!

For more information on this climb take a look at the Mallorca Adventure Guide!

Adventurers: Toby and Bengt

PS: Thanks again to Toby for going through this memorable experience with me and for leading all but one pitches!

PPS: Toby suggested the actual grade of 5.8+ R X in the Yosemite system. Around 5a/b in French grading with big runouts and guaranteed injury or worse in case of a fall.