It is lonely and quiet up here in Mon Port. Not even an Audouin’s gull circles in the sky. All you can sense are the waves gently lapping against the east coast of Mallorca some 150 metres below. The salty sea breeze carries the scent of the pine trees that have found a home in the rough rocky slopes.
Sebastián Álvarez inhabits his own world which is anything but quiet: he can hear his heart beating and feel his deep breaths, and he listens carefully to the scrapes of his climbing shoes in the reddish-white chalk. He twists his hips and pushes off powerfully with his right leg. His upper arm muscles clearly stand out under his grey shirt when he grabs hold of the small ledge. He locates his next foothold, skilfully finds his balance and quickly clicks the next carabiner into the metal hook in the cliff face.
“When I’m climbing, I concentrate completely on the rock – and on silencing the voice inside my head,” says Sebastián when he is once again on solid ground. Blocking out fear, getting into a rhythm – that’s what matters. “And it’s important to listen to what nature – what the rock – is trying to tell you.” The 39-year-old Spaniard seems settled in Mallorca. Just two years ago, he fulfilled his dream here by setting up the small company ‘Rock & Water Mallorca’, together with his business partner Adhara. Since then, they have been offering a variety of adventure trips in Mallorca – from mountain biking, sailing and canyoning to bouldering and climbing tours. “For me, Mallorca is the perfect location: we have a pleasant climate with 300 days of sunshine per year and many great spots,” raves Sebastián. “Here there are spectacular cliffs right by the sea, long mountain passes, sintered overhangs and even caves.” The island’s chalk also has a pleasant feel.
Tracks, pine trees, views
Depending on the weather, wind and mood, Sebastián takes his guests to different corners of the island. His favourite spots (see box) are not only athletically challenging in different ways, but also have impressive landscapes. Even just the journey through the Serra de Tramuntana takes your breath away: it passes by bright green fields where sheep and lambs gently graze. Gnarled olive trees alternate with large orange groves and majestic almond trees. The road offers a clear view of the picturesque Valldemossa, one of the most beautiful places on the island. In the distance, you can see the ‘Sant Bartomeu’ parish church and the walls of the ancient Carthusian monastery ‘Catuja de Jesús Nazareno’. But Sebastián drives on, bypasses the tourist destination, and steers his ŠKODA KODIAQ elegantly around the sometimes deep furrows in the road, on towards the coast.
To his left is a steep downward slope, the rugged grey of the rock alternates with the green of pine trees and cacti. He stops suddenly at the edge of the small track and parks the SUV on the unpaved verge. His destination: a mighty overhang made from red, white and grey chalk, directly above the road. He quickly goes through the planned route with his assistant who will belay him. Less than two minutes later, Sebastián is hanging in the centre of the rock. In his blue jeans, white long-sleeved top and grey cap, he wouldn’t look out of place in a small beach bar.
A group of Spanish hikers stops. They are no longer looking at the blue sky and little bays with turquoise water. They watch the man on the rock face above them, mesmerised. Sebastián hangs on one hand – seemingly relaxed – while he takes some chalk out of the bag on his back with the other. An audible breath in, one swift movement and he already has the most difficult passage behind and below him – as if he had never done anything else.
Rope and harness instead of shirt and tie
But that’s not the case: Sebastián did not start climbing until he was 23. At that time, he moved to Madrid. Prior to that, he had lived with his family in Argentina, where he grew up in the tranquil town of Olavarría and almost became a professional softball player. “After school, I studied law in Buenos Aires,” he says, smiling whilst looking at his chalk-covered hands. Having completed a second degree in Spain, he was now able to work as a lawyer in both countries. However, all he completed were the mandatory internships. “I preferred to earn money through other people’s happiness instead of through their problems and misery.” Sebastián lived in Madrid and England, worked in Mallorca for five years as the sales manager for a carpentry workshop and sold windows. The biggest constant during these years was his growing enthusiasm for outdoor sports – be it canyoning, cliff diving or deep-water soloing. “It’s quite obvious that I love danger,” he says with a wide grin. His brown eyes sparkle. Bouldering and climbing have held him in their grasp ever since. The result: he and his good friend Adhara quit their jobs and went for broke.
As he drives along the winding roads from Sóller down towards Palma, Daft Punk blasts from the ŠKODA KODIAQ’s six speakers. Sebastián sings along loudly and drums on his knee with his hand. Next destination: Torre d’en Beu, a listed 16th-century watchtower on the south-east coast of Mallorca. The journey takes a good hour, past the capital city, through several villages and at the end along a dusty sand track towards the sea. Sebastián switches to all-wheel-drive mode and follows a medium-height natural stone wall towards the tower. A popular climbing and bouldering area can be found directly below it. The air tastes salty, the waves ring in your ears. Sebastián unpacks all of his equipment: ropes, harnesses and helmets for him and Adhara, as well as a crash pad – which alone would fill the boot of a small car. A crash pad is a mat required for bouldering – together with your partner, it is your only protection for this sport. Here it is more about technique; the rocks are a maximum of three metres high and there are plenty of them here. Over centuries, the sea and wind have moulded them into all shapes and sizes. Sebastian and Adhara unfold the crash pad together. Sebastián slips into his climbing shoes and begins climbing straight from the ground. Slowly, smoothly, one twist – and he is yet again hanging in the air two metres above the mat. They then switch roles. Sebastián shows his business partner, who has specialised more in mountain biking and water sports in their small company, a few tricks, whilst not letting her out of his sight.
He calls it a day in the late afternoon. Sebastián drives the KODIAQ towards Palma again. Time and again, he looks at the sky. But less to marvel at the sunset and more to get a close look at the cloud formation over the sea. And he nods happily: tomorrow it will probably be sunny again – perfect for the next area on his list.
SEVEN BEST SPOTS FOR CLIMBING ON MALLORCA
1. Port de Valldemossa
A few good climbing walls can be found right on the narrow road towards the small port. The most striking is the overhang. Several relatively short routes lead up the cliff. The cliff wall faces west and therefore doesn’t get the sun until the evening.
2. Port de Sóller
You can find a range of spectacular routes of varying levels of difficulty on a relatively high cliff wall directly above the sea. Some run straight, others straight through a cave or along its edge.
3. Caló de Betlem
A very pretty climbing spot in a nature reserve right by the sea on the east coast of Mallorca. A short hiking trail leads to this monolith made from darker limestone.
4. Sa Torre d’en Beu
A great area for climbers and boulderers also right by the sea on the south-east coast. Several routes lead straight up towards the old watchtower. Numerous rocks lie before it, many of which are ideal for bouldering.
5. Mon Port
This relatively undeveloped climbing area is situated in the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana. You can reach this high rock face containing different exciting routes by foot via a 4WD track and a longer path, which is not signposted. You have a fantastic view of the south and west coasts of Mallorca from there.
6. El Fumat
Only a long journey via winding roads will take you to this area on the Formentor peninsula in the very north of the island. You are rewarded with a glorious view and a dramatic cliff. El Fumat is a cliff, around 250 m high, with more than ten routes.
7. Penyal d’es Grau
This climbing area lies high up in the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana World Heritage Site. Access to the predominantly light limestone containing many climbing routes of varying levels of difficulty can be found right next to the road.