The 6 Best European DWS destinations that aren’t Mallorca!

Posted by Peter Burnside on 20/07/2017
Croatian sea cliffs above the Adriatic Sea. Photo: Shutterstock

The popularity of deep water soloing (DWS) continues to attract many thrill-seekers to the mecca that is Mallorca. But what about all the other prime coastlines in Europe? Unfortunately, a comprehensive guidebook for all DWS locations has yet to be written, but don't let that put you off! We've rounded up six of the best alternative destinations full of locals psyched for climbing above the sea.

Safety first

Before we start extolling the delights of climbing above warm seas, make sure you know the risks and how to properly prepare for them. Remember, the number one rule is NEVER GO ALONE, and if the temperature of the sea is below 15°C, be wary of the dangers of Cold Water Shock. Make sure to read our guide to DWS skills by BMC ambassador Hazel Findlay.

READ: Climb skills: how to go deep-water soloing

Croatia

In 2006, a team of climbers including BMC ambassador Steve McClure and Chris Sharma realised the massive amount of potential for amazing deep water solos in Croatia. Steve even made the first ascent of Ring of Fire (8b+) and a likely contender for the world’s hardest DWS climb at the time, which swiftly got a second ascent from Chris.

The four best known areas are located near Split, with one practically in the city center. Sustipan is the oldest, Kasjuni and Katalinica Brig are great for beginners, and Ciovo Island holds over 100 routes up to 20m high that can be reached by boat from Split.

More information can be found on the Dalmatia Climbing website.

Malta

The sheer cliffs of Malta, Gozo and Comino, are the perfect environment for DWS. Couple this with the characteristic Mediterranean combination of warm seas and sunny skies means we’re on to a winner.

While there are a handful of DWS spots on the main island of Malta, the majority of the developed cliffs are to be found on Gozo, the larger of Malta’s neighbouring islands. You’ll have to get a ferry across and it’s likely easier to hire a boat to get to the base of the majority of crags, but it’s definitely worth the expense.  

For more information, contact the Malta Rock Climbing Club to rent the guidebook on your trip, or check out the crag locations on the Malta Climbing Club website.

WATCH: Deep water soloing in Malta, Gozo & Comino by Visit Malta

Gibraltar

With a variety of easily accessible limestone cliffs, caves and grottos, Gibraltar is a prime DWS destination. The only thing is it doesn’t get much attention in the press; there's just an extremely psyched group of local climbers keeping the scene alive.

No topos of the areas seem to exist on the internet, but if you’re in the neighbourhood or are planning a trip, just get in touch with one of the local climbers via the DWS Gibraltar Facebook page.

WATCH: Deep Water Soloing in Gibraltar by Big Blue Whale

Costa blanca, Spain

Home to a DWS Festival in 2008, the coastline of Costa Blanca hides away a number of primo areas and lines. Many of the small DWS bays are often accessible only by water, but there are a number of others that are much easier to get to.

As Costa Blanca offers a huge amount of sport climbing, you'll often find very few people venturing out to the DWS spots, meaning most are often quiet havens away from the crowds with lots of climbing fun over the refreshing Mediterranean Sea.

You can find information about these areas in the 2007 Deep Water guidebook written by Mike Robertson.

WATCH: Deep Water Festival in Spain by Gav Symonds

Portugal

There are a few different locations for DWS in Portugal, but you have to search them out. The best-known is likely to be the horseshoe shaped coastline of Azores, which is home to a number of superb cliffs of volcanic rock. Primarily known for the huge cliff-diving potential, it’s also becoming established as a venue for those that love the heady delights of climbing above the sea without a rope. It’s an incredible DWS destination in the summer. Just remember to time the tides properly, and to rent a boat or raft to reach the climbs.

Another location was established in 2004, when a team of UK climbers headed to the cliffs of Point Garcia near Sagres in southern Portugal, to put up a collection of steep juggy classics, over a range of difficulties, which were low in height and high in quality. Neil Gresham joined forces with Mike Robertson, Julian Lines and Charlie Woodburn to put up over 30 new routes from F5 to F7c, which are all documented in the Dromedary bar in Sagres. The approach is easy and the rock is solid, making this venue as friendly as they come.

WATCH: Exploring the Azores by Gav Symonds

Sardinia

While there is a huge amount of climbing on the mainland, not much has been done yet to develop the incredible potential just waiting to be developed along the nearly 2,000km of coastline on Sardinia. Many of the already established areas require a boat to access them, but depending on where you are staying on the island, it might be worthwhile to find a local, get the inside info, and hire a rib for the day.

Capo Testa in the north, Capo Caccia and Tavolara Island towards the north west are the recommended areas to have a look at, while on the east coast there is developed areas around Cala Luna towards Cala Sisine, which are high cliffs only accessible by boat, further south from here along the east coast there is the arch by Cala Goloritze – a walk or swim from the south side of the beach – and other good spots include Cala ‘e Lua and S’Archittu.

Find out more on the Climbing Sardinia website.


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