I’ve just returned from two weeks in El Chorro climbing sunny sport climbs, absorbing a much needed dose of Vitamin D and accidentally believing that summer had come and winter was over for the year. My return to England and its rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures quickly disabused me of that notion.
We stayed in the Olive Branch, the perfect hang-out for any climbing bum, and our time there fell into a regular pattern; days spent at a local crag either baking of freezing depending on its aspect, evenings spent in the strange improvised dance that happens when half a dozen people attempt to cook in the same kitchen.
The highlights of the trip were:· Bouldering in Malaga Airport with John Mcshea, we found a traverse around a pillar which involved wide spans and then matching on sloping side pulls. We got a few strange looks from the other tourists but it was worth it for our first bit of Spanish climbing.
· Climbing in Poema de Roca, a massive cave in the side of an immense expanse of rock that puts any cliff in England to shame. We went there on our first day as, much to our disgust, it was raining (and there’s me thinking that the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains). The routes in the cave vary from wall climbs to tufa-laden endurance routes to horizontal, and frankly ridiculous, roof climbs. I had a go on Swimming Through a Shark Attack partly because it looked crazy and like nothing I’d ever climbed before and partly because it had the draws in as I didn’t fancy the logistics of stripping a nearly horizontal route on petzl bolts. The route consisted of swinging between stalactite blobs, finding knee-bars and leg-locks and trying not to become disorientated in a world that is 90degrees away from the norm. I had a few goes on the route but didn’t get further than halfway, I’ll save the route for another day when I have learnt how to roof climb and have the endurance of a chimp.
|Redpointing La Villa Strangiato in the Poema de Roca cave.|
|Climbing high above the cloud inversion at Desplomilandia|
|Justin figuring out the crux of Arabesque at Escalera Arabe|
· Visiting Desplomilandia, a shady, north-facing venue perfect for any sweltering climber unsuited to the temperatures of the Spanish Winter. We spent most of our time on the El Triangulo crag, the angle was just what I am used to (cheating really) but some of the routes were 25m long, approximately 10m longer than my stomping-ground Ferocity Wall (and to be honest I spend most of my time there sitting on the rope or possibly linking 2 or 3 moves). Good days were spent there trying the moves of the marvellous Mar de Ortigas which consists of 25m of pocket and tufa climbing – exactly the sort of route I came to Spain for.
|John on Mar de Ortigas at Desplomilandia|
Amongst all this bolt-clipping I did have a yearning for some trad climbing, a yearning which was at least partially sated by our ‘rest-day’ climb Africa. Just the approach to the climb was an exciting and nerve-wracking affair; after walking to the start of the gorge you embark on El Camino del Rey, a dodgy concrete and metal structure that traverses the entire gorge made somewhat safer by the via ferrata set-up that accompanies it, although the locals bimble along the walkway with the nonchalance of a French Guide we edged our way tentatively expecting it to collapse at anytime. The base of the climb is then reached by crawling through a tunnel and abseiling 50m down the side of the gorge to a committing position where escape is either up the cliff or an abseil into the river below. The route is partially bolted and gets 6b+ in the guide which makes it easy to forget that you’re embarking on a 4 pitch E3/E4. The route was great though our route-finding towards the top wasn’t and as rest-days go it wasn’t particularly restful leading me to take another rest-day just to get over the first one.