4 Nov 2011

Hiking the cliffs of insanity in the Serra Gelada

Ok, well maybe not quite the Cliffs of Insanity, but it sure felt like that when I was pulling myself up them a few weeks ago! :p

So this was my second hike of the season. I got invited by a friend to join in with the Universidad Politecnica de Valencia's hiking group as they made an incursion into the province of Alicante (their other hikes are a bit too far for me to go). They planned on hiking through a park that I've been meaning to visit for years, the mountain/cliffs that separate the bays of Benidorm and Altea: the Serra Gelada / Sierra Helada Natural Park. 4900 of the 5600 acres of this parc are marine environment, so some day I've got to find a dive club that will take me exploring beneath the surface.

Benidorm, the Island and the cliffs of the Serra Gelada seen from the sky

I waited for the rest of the group at the Toll booths just outside of Benidorm, then we made our way into the town and up to the cliffs looking over the Playa de Levante. We parked the cars in a dirt lot and then hit the trail... starting straight away with a pretty steep climb that had me out of breath pretty fast! I fact I was so worried about being able to keep up with the others that I didn't actually take any pictures until we made it to our first rest point at a lookout overlooking the bay!

Fabulous view, isn't it? You can click it bigger, and here are a few close-up shots, the first of Benidorm Island, one of my favourite diving spots on our coast (I've got posts about what's on and under the island if you're interested):

And that mountain looking over Benidorm is the Puig Campana. It's easily recognisable because it's got a big cube-shaped chunk missing out of it! Legend has it the island fits perfectly into that slot... ;o)

I'll be hiking up there with another group in mid-December. Can't wait!

Check out these lovely ladies!

Was a nice group of people to walk with, and was very relieved to discover that one of these girls had as much trouble as I did later on keeping up with the group! :p  Anyhow, enough dawdling, it's time to get to those cliffs! Onwards and upwards, right?

Stiff climb, but a spectacularly rewarding view from up top!

The lighting was so perfect that day for photos... the way the sun made the rocks glow and the Mediterranean was that deep blue... fabulous! At the far end of that photo you can just make out our destination (the antennas), but there was a lot of climbing up and down and up before getting there! On this next stretch I was extremely thankful for my parents' walking sticks, and actually had to use my hands to scramble up in a couple of points!

As you can see there, quite a few people were far ahead of me, they waited at that tree at the very top. Here's the view from up there:

At that point I was very happy to have just made it up that climb (the steepest one we'd face, and the only one we didn't do going back down on the return leg), and wondering how on earth I'd survive the rest of the trek if there were more like it...

But each time I'd finished a climb, got to the top and just gazed at the view... it was like I forgot about the worst part and knew it was all worth it! Here, these should help understand what I mean:

This is the friend who got me to join the group (which is based out of Valencia, 200km north of me) on that hike. He was one of my English students at the University in Liège last year, and I introduced him to the hiking group up there so now he tries to help me find hikes around here!

Want to take a peek over the edge? Of course you do!!!

Yikes! Long way down! And there appears to be some kind of stream coming out of the mountain side...

Here's our destination... I didn't make it! ;o(

The head of the group made it, waited for a couple of stragglers (but not all), and then headed back and picked us up just short of reaching it! Grrrr... was NOT happy about that! The guy guiding this hike has done it at least 5 times, and apparently he likes to put the turbo on on all his hikes... not my style at all! Oh well...

We walked back the way we came for about a half hour then stopped for lunch for about half an hour and then continued backtracking on south.

Was a bit faster going back, although I had to be careful going down those steep climbs we had done! Was very relieved when we got here:

Benidorm seen from the Serra Gelada

and took our group photo:

After that it was just follow an easy path down the slope, through a little ravine and onto the road which would lead us back to our cars.

It was an absolutely exhausting hike, but well worth it for the views and the sense of achievement!  Didn't know my legs/knees could take that much punishment (they were complaining for several days afterwards) very proud to have survived it! But I probably should have paid more attention when they sent me the file on the hike, including the profile:

I just noticed that we were doing an 11km hike (no problem), and that out maximum altitude would be 437 metres above sea level (with a minimum of 230m) so it didn't seem too bad. I figured all those jagged lines were exaggerated for effect, and the fact that we would climb a total of 950m (between going down and up and up and down and down and up... both going and coming!) didn't quite click with me. Oops! I've learnt my lesson! But since I managed to pull this off, I don't think much else will scare me this year, since my legs are improving with each hike. ;o)


  1. That looks amazing :)

    I love long walks, but I don't think I could keep up with a hiking group...

  2. I hear you Juliette, that's something that had me worried when I started hiking again last year in Belgium, but turned out not to be a problem as they went at a reasonable pace and waited patiently for stragglers. PLus I discovered there were people trying it out who were in worse shape than I was! I also haven't had any problems keeping up with the group from Alicante I've gone out with twice. But I definitely wasn't able to keep up with these guys! The climbs were a bit insane and my legs still rusty, so I hope if I join them again (was going to tomorrow but it got cancelled) I won't have as many problems... fingers crossed!

  3. Derrick Oldham6/5/12 21:14

    Went to a reunion of 1970's Benidorm workers in April 2012 and two of us decided to do the Sierra Helada walk, largely after reading your description. We were a bit out of condition and the walk was very strenuous for a couple of pensioners but the views were stunning and so worth it. We caught a taxi to the car park in Albir (€15)and walked back to Benidorm in time for the big reunion.

  4. Hi Derrick!

    OH WOW! I'm so delighted that one of my posts inspired someone to try a hike! :o) It's definitely a strenuous hike, but like you said the views make it all worthwhile! But imagine hiking all the way back to Benidorm after! :p

    You guys did it the "normal" way (I was apparently with a bunch of kind of crazy people, lol!) which is to walk in one direction then get transportation back to the point of origin. I've been told when you get to the Albir beach you're right next to a bus stop that takes you back to Benidorm and then you walk or catch a cab to where the cars were left... Although 15€ cab fare isn't bad for that distance!

  5. I did Sierra Helada last month...it was crazy! Much diffi ult than Pyig Campana i think. I will never do it again😎 been planning to do Bernia and Atiana next week.

    1. I totally agree with it being more difficult that Puig Campana! That one has simply long and you keep climbing and climbing... but it's a good path that's not difficult to do. Sierra Helada has you using hands as well as feet in many spots, and sometimes your bum on the way down for some places! :p
      Bernia is also good! Especially going through the Forat from the North to the South.


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