On the 30th of January, I left the convict isle for the Mother Country to present myself to the Queen for inspection.* After a rather sleepy flight from Melbourne to Heathrow via Dubai (where I was immersed into the culture for a brisk 2 hours). I had a week in London to see the sights and acclimatise to the so called mild weather (read: freezing). After a night at the strangest Hotel in Westminster, where my ensuite was a flight of stairs above my room, I was fortunate to stay at relatives and friends, all within a short tube ride of all the best bits. I could digress for ever about the joys of London, but surely you’ve had your own experience, or heard the yarn before. Some highlights; Tate Modern, I could have spent days there, Camden Lock, the Architecture, the people in SoHo and Shoreditch.
After a whirlwind introduction to what I have judged the best capital city in the world (behind Melbourne, of course) I flew to the hope of warmth in Southern Spain, and it came out in spades, the layers I was wearing from Gatwick were quickly changed into the classic travelling Australian attire ala Bali. The warmth was welcoming. I was off to El Chorro, a climbing mecca near the Seirra Nevada. I was picked up from the Malaga airport by The Olive Branch Climbing hostels driver and guarenteed he would get me there in quick fashion, and guarentee he did! A 1hr drive was hastily cut in half, as the speed limit seemed to be a minimum! Nonetheless, I arrived safely and was soon overwhelmed by the amount of rock that I was confronted with! Here, I met up with my german friend Martin, who I climbed with extensively around Aus in 2014/15. Here we began our 10 days assault on all things limestone. For those uninitiated into climbing talk, look away now as I will digress.
Day 1: The Cocina Caliente – a small cliff right by the hostel with 11 routes ranging from 5+ to 6c, a good way to get used to the slippery style of limestone. We managed to have a no fall day and tick the cliff, a very enjoyable way to start.
Day 2: Los Encantas – A large band of towering orange limestone right behind the hostel, here I learnt the art of pocket pulling, and learnt that there is no art, just crank! After some lovely 6a and 6b warm ups, One particular climb named Mañana Tropo (7a+/b) took my fancy. A delicate lay back to a mantle, to a ridiculous action directe style blind jump from a rather shit undercling under a mini roof to a rather too perfect pocket. What followed was 5 more rather too perfect pockets, that were in the most perfect place for a sequence. It seems that chipping is a respected art in Spain, and I guess if it is done with style like this particular route, I can agree with the local ethic. A truely classic route!
Days 3, 4 and 5 – Rain.
Apparently Spain only gets 8 days of rain a year, and supposedly it mainly falls on the plains. 4 days of forecast rain seemed to have rang true and we are definitely not on a plain! We snuck in a few pitches at Frontales which is an impressive 300m high tower, though we just hid in a poxy cave with all the climbers in Spain. Lining up for the polished 5+ warm up was a highlight, it was like people at a beer tent sneaking in when others weren’t looking! Another few pitches between showers over the next few days at satellite crags near the hostel were snuck in, but nothing of note.
Thankfully today is the last day of forecast rain, and Spain is expected to turn into its sunny self again. Martin and I have 5 more days here and aim to check out some classic sport multi-pitching and a few pumpy tufa enduro fests!
*Unfortuately the Queen was out when I visited.
Here are a few unedited, raw snaps as the internet is slightly unreliable here.
Above: Olive Branch Hostels view of Los Encantatas
Below: Chorro Mondo a classic 7a+ at Los Encantatas
Below: Castle in the sky? Or hydro plant office?
Below: View of the valley from Olive Branch.
Below: The endless potential of Frontalas and the beginning of the El Calminto Del Ray.
Below: A quiet day at the crag.
Below: Martin investigates the next line
Below: Los Encatatas, not a bad local crag. The line to the right of the red climbed in the classic Mañana Tropo, the fun starts under the roof where you make a blind jump to a sequence of chipped two finger pockets.
Inspecting battle scars!