Deep Water Solo Mallorca

Deep Water Solo Mallorca

In January of 2018 I found an attractively inexpensive flight: roundtrip to the island of Mallorca, Spain for $450. Without much thought, much of a plan, or anyone to go with, I booked a flight.

Ten months later I found myself waking up to the cuck-a-doodle doo of a rooster in a Mallorcan hostel. Accompanied by a familiar tour guide, some strangers, and an old friend from Ohio–I was off to my first day of deep water soloing.

What is deep water soloing?

For those unfamiliar with this genre of climbing, it is ropeless route climbing above water. Water deep enough, that is, that you are in no danger of striking the ocean floor when you eventually fall off the wall. Routes are like those you find at your typical outdoor sport crag, without bolts. The routes range in height from 30 feet (10 meters) to as high as you’d ever want to consider, really.

Lauren Abernathy deep water solo cala barques Mallorca
Warming up in Cala Barques.

The Value of a Guide Service

If you’ve ever been anywhere new, the propensity to waste time getting lost, pick a restaurant that sucks, or be generally confused about how to prioritze your time can be pretty high. 

Google all you want, it helps to have a savvy guide point your trip in the right direction. 

That’s why, when I take international climbing trips I go with Rockbusters. Rockbusters ia a tour group headed by human guidebook, Jan Novotny. The first trip I took with them was in June 2017 to Rodellar, Spain. The climbing, the guiding, and the trip were all excellent.

Jan (head guide) and Erin (camp chef/guide) hanging out after a day of guiding and climbing.

Rockbusters makes planning an international trip easy. You show up to the airport with minimal gear, they pick you up, show you around, and offers some pretty stellar coaching in the process. Jan and his team have certainly earned my status as a repeat customer. 

Accommodations & Food

I am accustomed to primitive camping when going on climbing trips, so I was pleasantly surprised. There were three bunk beds piled into one room Myself and the four other women on the trip fit very nicely into the room. These were simple, no-fuss accommodations where you could pay little money and rest your head after a long day of climbing. The pool was pretty nice too, although usually I was too tired and soggy to go for a dip after climbing. 

A typical girl’s bunk room–a little messy, but not gross!
Hippocampo Mallorca
pool hippocampo mallorca

Since it was the off-season for tourists in Mallorca the camp site dining area was completely empty. The ten or so of us in our tour group had free reign to enjoy this perk. One of the trip guides, Erin, owns a restaurant in DC called Mola where she cooks Spanish inspired foods. She has somehow found a way to spend a lot of her time in Europe with Rockbusters cooking delicious (and exceptionally nutritious meals) with a couple of camp stoves and some big pans.

I asked her if she had a bunch of written recipes that she used for her camp cooking. She politely responded “No, I usually just think of it and cook it as I go. I come up with new things to make all the time, otherwise I would get bored. I don’t like to repeat things too often.”

Erin making magical meals happen, no matter how humble the setting.

Needless to say, the food was exceptional every night and there was always plenty of wine to go around.

I had trouble sleeping every night and not because of the accommodations. I mainly enjoyed my fellow trip mates so much that I didn’t want to go to bed. When I finally did try to hit the hay, I was genuinely so excited to climb the next day that I stayed awake thinking about it.

Every morning in Mallorca felt like Christmas.

The Approaches

The good news is that most of the hikes into Mallorca are absolutely stunning. At least the ones that I did. Most of them are also on the beach. Even better–some of these beaches have bars.

A beach bar near Porto Colom Lighthouse. 
Photo by Adam Pernik. 

The Daily Grind

I had never deep water soloed before and leading up to the trip I was pretty nervous that I was going to be so scared to do it that I would hardly get any climbing done.

Fortunately, I did get some climbing done–a LOT actually. Jan is an awesome coach and his high standards and hilariously excessive scrutiny are pretty effective for me. Jan is an exceptional climber and has coached me to achieve some of my best ascents. My first 11a and my first 11d, both of which occurred on separate travels to Spain.

Here’s a little run-down of how we spent each day.

Day 1

We spend our time beautiful and low consequence crag to “get our feet wet”. Followed by dinner, beer and sleeping. 

Jan pointing out where to climb and how to exit the water if we fall. 
Me getting my sea legs under me, working through this low to the “ground” traverse.
5.7 climbing hadn’t scared me in a long time. This first topout was a little heady! By the end of the day I took a couple falls and was good to go though. 

Day 2 

My and a fellow trip buddy (and fellow engineer!) found a project for the short trip–Hercules 11b. We worked it until sunset and kept getting bucked off the crux. 

Cala Barques Mallorca
The project of the week, Hercules, was in the second cave over.
Hercules Mallorca
Mike working the crux sequence on Hercules
Downclimbing with my sandals on my back. I liked to have them with me since hanging out in wet climbing shoes at the base of the route isn’t the most comfortable. 
 Me working my way up to the crux sequence on Hercules, 11b. 
What it looks like when you fail to send.

Day 3

We took a break from DWS on day 3 to do some sport climbing. It was extremely hot. I love ropes, but wow, I could have used a little more shade and water that day–not exactly ideal conditions for pulling on vertical crimps. Still had a great time and got on some fun stuff!

Lauren Abernathy Sport Climbing mallorca
Me having some wholesome family fun in the heat on this stellar 5.9.
A fellow trip mate hanging out in the talus between burns.
The main wall at the crag.

Day 4

Porto Colom Lighthouse.

Porto Colom Lighthouse
The Crag: Porto Colom Lighthouse. There are routes all over this thing–just depends on how far you want to traverse (or swim).
Lauren Abernathy Deep Water Solo porto Colom Lighthouse
Getting up there on the surpisingly heady warmup. one of my finer moments of the trip was topping this one out first out of everyone. It had a lot of ledges and could get pretty scary! This was also the highest route I did–the finish was about 50 feet up and you had to jump back to the water once you finished the route. 
Lauren Abernathy Porto Colom Lighthouse
Me executing the required dismount from the top of the route we all worked that day. I stood around for a good 15 minutes on the ledge before taking the plunge. I am not a huge fan of cliff jumping!

Day 5

Returned to Cala Barques and bagged the send on Hercules (11b). I laid at the top of the cliff and cried after I topped out. Sending a project as the sun sets in Mallorca was a moving experience. 

Lauren Abernathy Hercules Mallorca
Another shot of me on Hercules from Day 2. No images from the actual send, but I’ll remember it forever.

Day 6

Everyone split up on the last day to do what they really wanted. Some people were psyched on doing more sport climbing and the rest were on for more deep water solo. I was in the latter half of the group and I am very happy I chose how I did. Somehow, on my 6th day on, I sent my first 11d in three short tries. The route is not ridiculously long, but the moves were big and tough. Here’s some pictures of it.

Lauren Abernathy Rich Bitch Mallorca
Me getting started on Rich Bitch, 7a (11d).
Rich Bitch Mallorca
Mike demonstrating the dyno on Rich Bitch. Mike definitely thrived on the big, dynamic climbing style that Mallorca demands.
Lauren Abernathy Rich Bitch Mallorca
Every move on this route took 100% effort.

The Gang

Jan’s Rockbusters trips always attract really awesome people, and this trip was no exception. The gang I went with was supportive, fun, diverse in age and background and truly a remarkable group of people to go cragging with for the week. Everyone came from different backgrounds, careers, and locations. We were all different ages and from different places, but we got along famously. I don’t think that happens very often, so I definitely cherish that.

Classic goofball team selfie as we got ready to get on the wall.
Soggy, tired, and happy after a long day at the crag. 
Me and the two Mikes!
Don’t know what we’re watching, but I know some rad things were doing down that day.

I think climbing with new people is really important. Sometimes you put yourself in a sortof mental hierarchy in your usual climbing gang and I think this can be oddly limiting. It was liberating to climb with people that had no expectations of me at all. It allowed me to throw off my usual hang-ups, and just go climbing. The unwavering support and stoke from everyone was palpable–I think that’s what made this such a successful trip.

Big Takeaways

  • Effective climbing trip lifestyle strategy: Be the last one on the wall, the last one at the bar. I heeded this advice from Jan and I think it was crucial. No one likes being hungover climbing overhangs. 
  • The motivation to not fall when deep water soloing is more than the fear and failure. The motivation to keep your shoes dry and to not have to pull yourself up a godawful rope swing is almost equally powerful as the aforementioned.
  • Deep water soloing is horrifying and beautiful all at the same time. It makes you fight all your instincts and sending makes you feel like a superhero.
Lauren Abernathy deep water solo mallorca

Photo Creds

Photography credit goes out to Adam Pernikar (follow him @pernikphoto). He was our professional trip photographer for the week and boy did he do a great job. He literally sacrificed his skin to make sure we left Spain with some rad photos (he was very sunburnt after hanging out on this line all day in Porto Colom). Jan also did a great job taking photos throughout the week. Even though he sometimes got distracted started taking pictures of sexy tourist ladies. 

Adam Pernik Photography
Adam dangling from the cliffs at Porto Colom–prepared to capture the action.

In any case–having people around with awesome cameras taking pictures of you while you climb is a pretty cool perk and I’m super grateful to Jan and Adam for the photos they took.  

Going in for round two

Needless to say it was an incredible experience. I’m psyched about my tics on this trip but boy am I motivated to go back for more.

It was also kindof a bummer to not have my main man on the trip, so he will be aventuring with me when we head back again next fall.

There’s a few routes I want to take down and these gorgeous cliffs are more than enough to keep me inspired through training this season. 

Have you ever been deep water soloing? How was your experience? Terrifying? Awe-inspiring? Everything in between? Let me know down below in the comments!

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Comments ( 5 )

  • Adam

    I have never thought of myself as a serious climber. In my early 30’s a few years ago my friends took me to our local climbing gym as a way to get some exercise, and I have steadily been going once or twice a week since then mostly to do the typical sit around and talk with friends and get very minimal climbing done kinda scene. I felt comfortable climbing v3s and v4s, and I followed some friends outdoors maybe twice in my entire life to do some top roping but that was the extent of my knowledge of the outdoor climbing world. Needless to say I was in for a very , VERY rude awakening…
    One day I came across an episode of epictv mentioning the RockBusters Crew & how they organized climbing trips from around the world. Now I’ve never imagined myself climbing in such a manner, but it intrigued me enough to visit their website and see what kind of trips they had available. I was at a point in my life where I craved a change of scenery, and I have quite the bad habit of just acting first, and figuring it out later. Before I knew it something triggered inside me and whoosh I was on a plane heading to Mallorca Spain for my first time ever outdoor bouldering or as I soon would find out.. something much more than just bouldering, but deep water soloing.
    Everything happened so quickly from this point, honestly I had no idea what I was doing there. There I was just staring at a cliff fairly high off the ground, the sound of water crashing into the walls, the sun blasting, the wind blowing, it was all just so unreal. This was nothing like the local climbing gym, this was a world that took no prisoners and it was about to eat me alive. As I stood there a sudden realization of reality hit me in a drape of fear, My mind shut off as I fell into a mild daze taking it all in, I was on the verge of running away when all of a sudden from the corner of my eye my mind changed focus to something I saw that would change my climbing perspective for the rest of my life.
    There they were, my new trip mates. They began changing into their swimsuits unafraid of being thrown off of this cliff, ready to get wet. Ready to charge this beast of a wall, making it their own.
    Lauren and everyone else showed no fear. They threw themselves at the challenge we were faced with and started crushing it. Their energy and excitement was so inspiring, and with everyone giving it their best, they gave me the much needed courage to attempt hitting the wall. I took a deep breath and began my downclimb decent towards the water. . Needless to say I was thrown off rather quickly, where I found myself fighting the waves to find a foothold from where I emerged wet with regret struggling to make the climb back up to the surface.
    Everyday I struggled, the Island was crushing me. When things would seem rough all I had to do was look up. I watched as Lauren cried out to the skies pushing her limits to get to the top, The Mike’s who were so strong flew in the air catching the walls in dynamic fashion. Alisha & Nicole showed their technique and danced through the air calmly surrounded by the island’s calamity. It was just so awe inspiring and encouraging. It was what gave me the courage to muster the strength & courage to try and try again.
    At the end of this trip many lessons were learned. I did manage to send my first 7a thanks to all the pushy coaching from my new found life friends at Rockbusters, and the ones I met on the trip. It was quite the feat for me and it left me with the yearning for more. I have returned home safe and sound, and everyday I want to learn more, feel more, become stronger, I want to make every climbing session worthwhile. If I learned anything from this trip, it is the mental awareness of how each climber can surpass their own limits, and remove their boundaries. I keep in touch with Lauren and the rest of the crew and I am constantly picking everyone’s brains on giving me tips on how to train and make each climb have meaning. It’s been a few months now, and I finally managed to send my first v6 in the gym so I must be doing something right! I can’t wait to return to Mallorca this following year. Where we will acknowledge one another and show each other the respect it deserves. I will test my new found limits, and I hope to one day also cry and scream at the top, exhausted and pumped out of my mind staring at the beautiful Mallorcan blue sky. So thank you Lauren and everyone else. I cherish your tips on training, and the in depth knowledge you possess for the love of this sport. For those who are seeking a trip outside their norm, I highly encourage you to take the leap of faith and take a trip with me this following year. I will never forget the experiences that I learned, the encouragement to yearn for more, the souls that I have met, who knows perhaps I will become a climber yet.

    • Anonymous

      Sweet post!

    • Senderella

      Adam, you’re a badass. So happy I got to climb with you. Thanks for the stoke and for this awesome commentary. And you’re going to be an awesome climber. You’re already killing it.

  • DeeDee

    This is fantastic! We will be heading to Greece to do some climbing there and they have some bouldering sites above the water. You have to take a raft out and climb from that point. I am worried about getting my climbing shoes wet. Does the salt water affect them? Did your shoes recover ok? Do you recommend taking throw aways? Thanks!😊💕

    • Senderella

      Hi Dee Dee! In short, yes, my shoes were totally fine. They do take FOREVER to dry though and I definitely regret not bringing more of my beater shoes. The more shoes the merrier.

      My general shoe strategy was to work a route/warmup in the shoes I didn’t prefer and keep my favorite pair (la sportiva solutions) nice and dry for when I thought I was ready to send.
      Hilariously enough, when I sent Hercules and when I sent Rich Bitch, I had just switched into my dry shoes. So my strategy worked pretty well for me at least!

      But yes, your shoes will survive the water. Still using all the shoes from that trip just fine 😊

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