Apart from lots of good rock climbing in Spain, it is also well known as a winter destination for the Europeans. Climbers from all over Europe will nest themselves here during the winter months to avoid the bitter cold and take a break from work. From snowy Haute Provence we traveled more than 1800km towards El Chorro near Malaga in Spain.
El Chorro is a European climber’s escape for sunshine in the winter, being in the southern tip of Spain there are loads of warm days in the winter and really cheap cost of living. We arrived in El Chorro and found Krabi style tufas, huge pockets and steep – overhanging rocks.
There are many south facing routes in the main climbing arena of Fontales Media, there you can find something for everyone from 5c – 8c+. This is truly a sports climbers paradise and we were enjoying the climbing just as much as the we were enjoying the sunny days.
It was a short romance with El Chorro as our trip came to an abrupt end when 2 thieves stole from our car while we were climbing at Castrojo. Fortunately, after a short epic show down, we got most of our things back but unfortunately just a day in the police station and they were released. We had to leave El Chorro since it’s not very nice to put a knife on someone’s throat and threaten to kill them, isn’t it?
We rolled out of El Chorro and headed on to the next rendezvous point with team PMS in Chulilla. For some reason, there is very little you can find about this crag on the internet. It could be due to the lack of UK’s media presence or it’s more like a locals’ crag. Either way we decided to go despite not being able to book any reasonable priced accommodation or campsite in or near the village of Chulilla.
Arriving at Chulilla, Kelly and I were stunned by the beauty of the gorge of Chulilla, walls and walls of orange limestone on every side of the gorge. There is even a wall that is 10m away from the carpark! It was significantly colder in Chulilla than in El Chorro and there was no campsite in sight in the village, in fact on a lazy Sunday evening there was nothing opened in the village except for 3 bars in the village square. After weighing our options we decided to stay in the climber’s refugio, El Altico, which was one of the cheapest options at that point of time.
El Altico sits on top of the hill at the end or the beginning of the village (depending which direction you come from) It has a boulder room, swimming pool, coffee bar, kitchen and very good rooms and dorms. We love the place and think that it is a great accommodation if you are heading to Chulilla. There are also lots of apartments in the town square area, if you spend sometime walking around you will find a lot of Se Alquila (for rent) signs on the facade of the buildings. Depending on your bargaining skills, the same apartment can cost you 20 euros or 100 euros a night.
Here we began our 1 month worth of single pitch sports climbing, something that Kelly and I hadn’t been doing a lot lately. We decided to start our climbing block at a nearby old school crag near the parking lot, Competicion sector, which was a great place for flat or slightly steep routes typical of Chulilla.
We spent some time in the first gorge at crags like Sexshop, Enfrenta and Lamentation Sector. It was great in the first gorge where there was sun on the wall on the south east side sometimes up to 3pm. We could wake up late and still warm up in the sun and as the sun set behind the gorge we would be climbing the harder routes in the shade which required more friction.
The 2nd gorge which is about 25mins walk away from El Altico, is where a lot of hard and good climbing are nested. Here is the mecca for climbers who love sent conditions 5 degrees or less sometimes. The north face of the gorge gets little or no sun and is perhaps the main arena for hard sports climbing in Chulilla. Climbers who climb 7c and above will find loads to do here and those who climb mere mortal grades will also find a few nice crags around here like El Oasis and Choreras. Kelly and I found these areas in the 2nd gorge a little too cold for climbing comfort and hence we climbed there only 3 times in the whole month’s stay.
4 weeks went by and we clocked in as much climbing as we could, trying to push our sport climbing grades a little higher in Europe. We love the face and slightly steep style of climbing in Chulilla and that could explain why we had climbed the hardest (in terms of grade) here as compared to anywhere else in the last 6 months. It was great to learn this climbing style and I’m sure it will help me a great deal when I’m in those tricky run out face situation on more serious undertakings!
Some useful tips for climbing in Chulilla,
Guidebook – There is a Chulilla Guia De Escalada / Climbing guidebook for sale at the Tito’s bar in village center or at El Altico climber’s refugio.
You can also check out latest updates on grades and routes at El Altico where newly bolted sector are updated and display near the refugio’s cafe bar area.
Accommodation in Chulilla – Obvious and very good choice is El Altico and if you stay long term (more than 5 days) they give a good discount. If you are here for a month or so, it’s worth it to check out some apartments like Las Cuerva or La Muela Casa Rural. The internet price is a rip off and they could go pretty low on prices during off peak season during the winter.
There is also a van camping community in the main carpark with a public fountain although car camping is not encouraged.
Food – 40km away is a huge Carrefour and within the village square you could get loads of reasonable priced food and daily products.
Climbing – The routes in Chulilla are well bolted and long! Bring at least 20 quick draws and a 80m rope is just right for many routes!