Exploring El Chorro

So it’s the end of our first week in El Chorro, and the heavens have opened, leaving me with some time to write up a blog post of what we have been up to so far. In all honesty this first week has been a little up and down. First of all we drove close by to a town called Antequera, and visited El Tocal, which you can read about in my previous post. It was a fantastic place to go for a walk and the different rock formations seemed as though from another world.

After this visit we drove to El Chorro, and parked near the Olive branch, we hoped to meet up with a friend however this never materialised and so we decided to climb at the local crag above. Even though we were not staying the guys at the Olive Branch were accommodating enough to share some beta on the local crag, which gave us something to get on with for the time being as we did not have a guidebook for the area. The crag called Cocina Caliente. We only climbed a few routes and although it was a small sector, and seemed like a beginner crag it was a good way to spend the afternoon, and it felt good to climb again, as it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to climb.

The next day we climbed at Las Encantadas, and were left feeling a little disappointed by the quality of the climbing, everything we climbed was polished and to be honest I’d rather not climb, than climb on rubbish like this. Once something is climbed to a polished oblivion nearly all joy is lost from climbing the routes. We again moved across the crag and as the other sectors were over run with top ropers (Also known as C U Next TuesdayS!), we again found ourselves at Cocina Caliente for a second day. This time we completed a few routes from left to right, including a 6b+ onsight which was pretty sweet. We both finished the day climbing a really good 6a+ route, so although the day had started poorly, by the end it was a successful climbing day!

The next couple of days we had off, as Jess had more work on and the weather was not overly good. However this gave us a chance to search the internet for different routes in the area, and on our first visit our eyes were immediately drawn to the large faces that surround the area, so climbing single pitches was not high on our agenda. We would normally just buy the guidebook, however rockfax are working on a new one for the area, so we will hold out with what we’ve found online and buy this one whenever we return! As it happens there is a descent amount of routes to be found online and I will list these at the bottom of this post.

We returned to El Chorro in the evening and after some help from UKC found a nice camping spot in the woods. The next morning we headed out to the main face, with the plan to climb a route called Lluvia de asteroides, a 250 metre climb that scaled the whole cliff face at a maximum grade of 6a. On our walk up we got a lift from a couple of helpful climbers, so saved us a short walk, as soon as we arrived at the foot of climb it was somewhat of a climbing rush hour. There was us, a Spanish pair, our Swedish van neighbours from a couple of nights ago, and a lone Brit. The Spanish pair said they were quick so we let them go first.

It turned out that these guys were only doing the first pitch for some reason, and then they both abseiled down, which meant they took an age rather than being quick. By the time we started the Swedish couple had gone to see if another route was free rather than get stuck in traffic. Just as we started another couple arrived and started almost immediately after Jess. So although there could have been the potential for five groups on the climb, there was only two.

The climb itself was fantastic, no single pitch was by itself, however we found ourselves meeting up after each pitch repeating the phrase ‘that was a good pitch’, so all added together certainly added together to create a good climb. The grade was a pretty constant 5 throughout, occasionally fluctuating to a plus, although there was nothing in the 6 range as suggested by the overall grade. Half way up we stopped for lunch and let the other group overtake, and then we followed them to the finish. For every pitch of climbing the wind grew in strength and by the final pitch I was wearing my down jacket to climb rather than freeze!

At the top we had to work out the way down. It was easy going up, just follow the bolts, however we had no route description for the descent. I’m not sure if we went the right way, but it was a looong descent, reminiscent of alpine style. Looking at the face we went left of the final belay and there is a faint trail that leads to an abseil. We abseiled down this to an obviously worn patch of ground. From there are cairns that mark the way from the face and work their way towards the col/saddle. We made a route to the col/saddle and off the back of the mountain there are yet more cairns that lead to a more worn path that goes all the way to the foot at the rear of the cliffs. Now we followed the longest path all the way down the valley until we were next to the water in town. It was a long day by the time we had walked back up the hill to our van parked at the top! The descent took the better part of two hours and worked its way through some amazing territory and was an adventure in its own right!

Well, that is it, the next day we tried for a day of tourism on the Camino del Rey, however as I said earlier the heavens opened and we opted for shelter and internet! I’m sure we will be here for another week or so, as we still have a few routes on our list to tick off, unfortunately for us, we often need internet for work, so being tucked away from everything in the countryside is nice and quaint, but does not help when real world problems like work arise. Hopefully the next post will see me climbing, Via Ferrata or something else that is as much fun, however it all depends on the weather?

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