© Rock & Ride
© Rock & Ride
© Rock & Ride
Mallorca has recently become world famous as a deep water soloing venue, with world class climbers like Chris Sharma visiting during the summer and autumn months. The deep water soloing (known locally as Psicobloc) is well developed and excellent. The water temperature is usually warm from June/July onwards.
There are numerous sea cliff venues, particularly in the south east of the island, covered in pockets, juggy tufas, cracks and crimps catering for many styles. The routes start from as short as five metres to as high as twenty metres and grades range from 4+ to 8a. A dual format grading system is used. French grades give the technical nature of the climb and an S grade takes in height and the consequences of a fall.
So = Safe and relatively non-committing, usually with the crux move low down.
S1 = A caution rating which may mean the routes are higher, making falls a little more serious.
S2 = All elements of S1 with possibility of protruding ledges and shallow water in places.
S4 = Heady to on- sight, usually with a high crux, shallow water, dangerous.
Deep water soloing is incredibly tempting for people fresh into rock climbing. It is the ultimate way to hang out on a beach looking very cool and it involves hardly any equipment or knowledge of knots. All you need is beach wear and a pair of rock shoes! However, I must stress at this point there is much more to this sport than meets the eye if you want to avoid serious injuries.
Firstly, the important thing is having a safe fall. A safe fall means an uninterrupted fall into deep water. The steeper routes normally have the safest falls. Which means there is more route choice if you like steep climbing and it is important to be feeling strong. You have to be a fairly good climber even to get started on many of the routes. As a rule of thumb deep water soloing is going to suit people climbing grade 5+ and upwards with the emphasis being on the upwards!
Of course if you have a whole summer to hang out then it is the perfect way to get strong but if you are only here for a few days it is important to choose your routes carefully to avoid injury or burn out. Also it takes a while to feel comfortable with the falls. I always find at the start of the season I am scared falling from even the shortest routes (5m) and I don´t think I will ever feel comfortable falling from the longest routes (20m!)
Where to go
Most of the developed deep water soloing areas are over on the east of the Island. For information on these areas you can´t beat the new Rockfax guide “Mallorca: Sports Climbing and deep water soloing” These areas in the guidebook offer very little for the people climbing less than 6a. At Rock and Ride we have made it our mission to find other deep water soloing areas on the island where we can offer a safe and enjoyable introduction to the sport. Contact us to find out more about our introductory DWS sessions.
Note: There have been problems with people camping at Cala Barques, one of the most popular DWS venues. It is strongly frowned upon by the local council. Please don´t do it. There are plenty of hotels, villas and apartments available on the East coast.
What you will need
A pair of rock shoes that will get repeatedly wet. After the first splash down you spend the rest of the day climbing in wet shoes. You get used to it!
Also you need to find a solution to the wet chalk bag problem. I take liquid chalk which I leave on a convenient ledge. It tends to stay applied for the duration of the route. Or you´ll need a water proof liner to put in your existing chalk bag, a zip lock bag should do it.
Lots of sun tan lotion and a good friend to keep it topped up. If you haven´t got a good friend you´ll soon find one. This is the joy of DWS, you can head to the popular spots alone and find buddies along the way. Never solo alone! Bad things can happen at the sea side and when it does you´ll need a friend with you.
The biggest safety tip is to get into this sport slowly. As the Mallorcans would say “poc a poc” (translation “little by little”) It should go without saying, you must be a strong swimmer. Make sure you know the exit area from the sea. If needs be, install a rope to assist getting out. A floatation device is useful to assist in rescues and if you get tired. Don’t go when the sea is rough and always operate in pairs.
Some areas will require a small boat to access. Most serious incidents have involved people getting into difficulty trying to exit the water. Carry a first aid kit and know how to use it, small cuts are common. With practise it is possible to control a fall giving a clean entry into the water. If you are tipping forwards, swing your arms rapidly backward, and vice versa if you are tipping backwards. If you are new to the sport it’s a good idea to practise jumping and falling before climbing. Even short deep water climbs can give a heart pumping experience!
If you would like to experience Deep Water Soloing on Mallorca, then join one of our weekly deep water soloing introductory sessions.
Sam Shelley is a UK MIA qualified climbing instructor with Rock and Ride – Mallorca. Get in touch with them for more information on climbing courses, guided multi-pitch adventures, advanced coaching, traditional climbing, deep water soling and more.