Mallorca is the world Mecca for this relatively new sport of deep water soloing (known locally as Psicobloc). It is all about fun in the sun and is what all of the cool kids will be up to this summer. In short it is basically climbing above the sea without ropes and all the usual climbing safety equipment!
In fact the proper way to take part is to climb the route straight from the sea and fall back into the sea either on reaching the top or by accident is you run out of steam half way up. This is the way all the visiting rock gods and goddesses from around the world will be playing the deep water soloing game. However, you are more likely to catch me climbing as far as possible and then climbing all the way back down again. This technique is not quite as cool and will drain you of all your strength twice as quick.
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 (like I said before there are no ropes). 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.
It is worth noting that the sport was developed by the best climbers from around the world. Chris Sharma aka Rock God is a regular visitor to the island and a large percentage of the routes in the guidebook are aimed at Chris and his like. In fact it is very hard to find suitable climbs for mere mortals like myself.
For a start, cliffs overhanging the sea are always going to be undercut so there is always going to be the problem of getting to the bottom of routes. 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!
Secondly, the important thing is having a safe fall. A safe fall means an uninterrupted fall in to deep water. The steeper routes normally have the safest falls. Which means there is more route choice if you like steep climbing. Overhanging routes are where you want to be in terms of safety so it is important to be feeling strong.
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” It has 63 pages devoted solely to DWS. It also offers safety grades alongside the technical grades….very important information! These areas in the guidebook offer very little for the people climbing less that 6a. 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.
What you 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 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”. The golden rules for deep water soloing are:
1. You need to be a strong swimmer
2. Never solo alone!
3. Don´t climb in rough seas.
4. Know your exit points from the
sea and make sure you can still manage these exits when fatigued. Take a short piece if rope to assist you exist from the water, used for climbing hand over hand where there is not an easy alternative.
5. Be totally aware of what falls will entail.
6. Build up slowly so that you can learn the best ways to fall into the water. There are lots of techniques for keeping your body vertical for entering the water, all take practice.
Introduction to deep water soloing
If you would like to experience DWS on Mallorca, then how about joining our introductory deep water soloing session, every Tuesday. These will take place at a variety of venues around the south west coast line.
Time, date and price?
10am – 2pm every Tuesday. The price is €60 per person this includes rock shoes. Please contact us to book ahead and let us know your shoe size.
Written by Sam Shelley Sam Shelley is a UK MIA qualified climbing instructor with Rock and Ride – Mallorca. Visit http://rockandride-mallorca.com for more information on climbing courses, guided multi-pitch adventures, advanced coaching, traditional climbing and more.