Rock Climbing around El Chorro

Rock Climbing around El Chorro

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 36.90504°N / 4.74837°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 6, 2014
Activities Activities: Sport Climbing
Seasons Season: Fall

Searching for Sunshine

It's been a few months since the last bit of climbing I've done. By now it's late in the year, the days are getting shorter and darker and temperatures are dropping. We are looking around for a place to go rock climbing. The obvious solution is to fly south, to a warm, sunny place. But where?

Last year Jan and I went to Gran Canaria, and although we were unlucky to get much more rain than usual, and a few days with stormy winds on which we couldn't climb, we still got good weather most of the days, and often got balmy temperatures. All in all, we still got a decent amount of climbing done. However, there still are lots of opportunities we didn't have time to explore, so that's where we decide to look first. But we have left it too late, and there are few cheap flights left.

The paddle points to Finca la Campana, one of the many accommodation options. We stayed at their bunkhouse.
A little further north, the dark shadow on the terrain map is one of the great rock faces in the area, with the crags of Frontales and Escalera Arabe. Actually, the shadow is misleading, for it's a south facing wall...
Somewhere in Southern Europe, along the Mediterrean coast then? Or perhaps further south, in Africa? As usual, our search starts on the internet, and it doesn't take long at all to find a good alternative: we shall go to Andalucía, Southern Spain, to the area around El Chorro to be precise. On the Rockfax site we read that there are more than a thousand bolted routes down there, so we will have plenty to chose from.

Rental cars in Spain are cheap, and it's just an hour's drive from Malaga Airport which is well serviced by low cost carriers, and there are still cheap flights available. Our only slight worry is that, although generally a dry area, we may get unlucky and arrive during a period of less stable weather.

As it turns out, we needn't have worried at all: in eight days we didn't see one single drop of rain!

Day by Day

We didn't climb on the days of arrival and departure, which meant we had six days left. I don't plan rest days, usually, but sort of expect to have one occasionally, either because of poor weather, injury or other unforeseen factors. But nothing like that happened, and as a result we climbed every day. The quality of the rocks in the area is excellent, but most of them are very abrasive. By the end of the first day my finger tips were already getting sensitive, and it got worse after that. On the fourth day I taped up my finger tips, and that helped a lot. Still, when we were finally done, they would hurt a bit even at a soft touch, and it took a few days before they felt normal again.

So, what crags did we visit?

DayArea / CragCrag description and what we did there
5 DecValle de AbdalajisWe climbed just a fraction of the more than 100 routes, almost all of which are lower or middle grade. There are just a dozen or so above our limit (Jan leads up to 6a+ (French grade)), but today we stuck to 4's and 5's. Ideal for a first day.
Jan leading our last route of the day
Jan on our last route of the day
6 Dec
El Chorro / Escalera ArabeMore than 100 routes, with about half in grades below 6b. We only climbed in sector Suiza.
A solitary rock tower right next to sector Escalera Arabe
A solitary rock tower right next to Escalera Arabe
7 Dec
El Chorro / Escalera Arabe
According to the Rockfax guidebook, the multi pitch route Rogelio was 120 m high, sports grade 4+. We figured we would start our day with that, and climb some shorter routes after that. However, the route turned out to be about 250 m, and high up there were two short pitches that we found much harder. Once I got back home I found out that these were respectively 5c and 6a/6a+!

Jan and I alternated the lead, usually climbing several pitches before setting up a belay. Not expecting any serious difficulties, I was in the lead high up, and found out that it was much harder than it had been up till then. Fortunately there were plenty of bolts, and where earlier we had occasionally skipped one or two bolts on easier pitches, this time I used them all, and so I didn't have much gear left when I got to a belay. Though I still had plenty of rope, with little gear left I decided to use the belay. I didn't know it yet, but I had just been leading on a 5c. Right above me was what turned out to the crux of the climb. It was Jan's turn to lead, and he's not afraid to try anything. He struggled a bit, but eventually got himself up there. I asked him to hold the rope real taut, to help me a bit as I followed. That definitely made it a easier. And I was quite glad that I had almost run out of expresses and therefore not attempted to lead that pitch myself.

After four rappels (we had two 60 m ropes) and a short bit of down climbing in between we were back at the base, and I could finally quench my thirst. Not expecting such a long route, and no serious difficulties, I had not expected that we would be climbing very long and had left my pack with my water bottle at the start of the route...
Zooming in on the upper wall of Escalera Arabe, with Jan leading Rogelio
Zooming in on the upper wall of Escalera Arabe, with Jan leading Rogelio
8 Dec
TúronThe western crag has some 40 routes, with about a dozen up to 6a+ and the rest harder. We started at the eastern crag, which has two dozen routes, many well above our pay grade, but also three 5c's, one 6a and four 6a+'s. We climbed some of those, then ran out of daylight to go to the western crag. Next time...
Jan on a short route at Túron east
Jan on a short route at Túron east
9 Dec
El Chorro / Frontales
Frontales has more than 200 routes, though some of them are off limits because they are too close to the railway line. We started the day at sector Castrojo, which, according to the guidebook, has a bunch of 4's as well as some harder routes. After a few days we were getting better. I lead two of the 4's, one of which felt like no more than a 3. Jan wasn't interested in these easier ones and saved his strength. We climbed some 5's together, and then he set his sights on a 28 m long 6a+. It took a while, but he finally topped out.

After that we walked up along the base of Frontales, to sector Los Albercones, but found that it was very busy there. It's the sector closest to the parking area, perhaps that's why. Moving up a bit further, we got to sector Suiza. We didn't have a whole lot of time left anymore, so we selected the route Quatro Elephants, 30 m, grade 5, as the final one of the day. However, from our guidebook we couldn't figure out exactly where the route was located. In the end we found a couple of bolts going up a rib, which looked about right. Jan set of to lead. After what didn't seem very long, nor very difficult, he reached a belay. It was clearly easier than grade 5 and certainly no 30 m. And the decider was that he saw more bolts higher up. He continued.

High up it got harder, and he needed more time, but he kept inching his way up. He climbed and climbed, and less and less rope remained at my feet. I was starting to wonder if it would be enough, or if I would perhaps need to scramble up the first bit of the route to give him more rope in order to reach the top. But it turned out fine, and before the rope ran out, he reached a belay. Obviously I couldn't lower him all the way down, but the solution for that was obvious to both of us: I would follow up to the belay that he had passed, and from there I could lower him down. Long story short, that's what we did. When he stood next to me, there was less than a meter of rope left. Assuming that our rope was indeed 60 m long, that meant that the top part of the route was almost 30 m, and the whole thing probably 50 m or more. What route had we climbed???
It was sunny when we started, but the light is fading fast and we still have one more rappel to go
It was sunny when we started, but the light is fading fast now and we still have one more rappel to go
10 Dec
El Chorro / Frontales
We went back to find Quatro Elephants, and found a likely candidate left of the route that we climbed yesterday. Jan took the lead again and had no trouble climbing it. As I lowered him, I ran out of rope when he was still some 10 m above the ground. However, by moving a bit along the base of the rocks, I could easily get on a higher ledge, and from there I could lower Jan all the way.

Finally we went to sector Austria, where we climbed a few more nice routes. The penultimate one was Mugl (5c). After all the practice we had had, it didn't feel too hard anymore. To it's left was a more challenging route: Bub oder Madl (6b+). Now, I certainly don't want to lead that, and it's still a bit too much for Jan as well, but we were in luck: it shared its top anchor with Mugl. That meant neither of us would have to lead it.

Jan tried first. The first part went well, but at the crux, where the route went right, he lost his grip on the wall, fell and swung one or two meters - to the right. That was quite useful in fact, because now he could climb straight up. Still not easy, but eventually he got up the face.

Normally I don't even try routes above 6a, but I had already decided to make an exception. It was the last route of the holiday, and it wouldn't matter if my fingers would end up bloody or my muscles totally powered out, right? I tried to avoid falling, but in the end I couldn't, and I more or less repeated Jan's performance. Having avoided the crux by falling mostly sideways, I scrambled straight up again, and eventually made it to the top. I was happy that I did, but I don't consider myself having climbed a 6b+ just yet. But if I keep at it, I'm confident I can get there some day.
Jan leading Quatro Elephants, 5a
Jan leading Quatro Elephants

External Links

El Chorro routes in the Rockfax database
Rockfax on climbing grades

Malaga / El Chorro at UK Climbing

Finca la Campana, a nice place to stay. We slept in the bunkhouse.


Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-4 of 4

markhallam - Jan 3, 2015 2:42 pm - Voted 10/10

Happy New Year Sir!

I have been looking out for your Pollux page - and the TR for Brunegghorn... but you clearly couldn't resist the sun warmed rock. Hmmm - can't get my head round the grading system, but at a rough guess you sound to be leading up to HVS in British currency? That's not bad for a middle aged mountaineer, never mind an old one ; )
I shall be very satisfied if I can get son Andy up the normal route of Aiguille Dibona in July if we can persuade his other half to Eevee watch for a morning - I think that is about a '3' something - but very exposed.
Best wishes, Mark


rgg - Jan 4, 2015 8:47 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Happy New Year Sir!

Hi Mark,

Off and on I'm working on those other pages, and I hope to get the first one posted soon.

As for the climbing grades, that's why I included the link to the RockFax grade conversions at the bottom. That said, your rough guess is spot on. Mind you, that's in rock climbing shoes; big mountain boots is a different matter.

Happy new year to you too,
Cheers, Rob


topvar - Aug 25, 2018 3:48 pm - Hasn't voted

Getting from Malaga Airport

I just wanted to reply to the article above regarding getting from Malaga airport - Rental cars in Spain are cheap, and it's just an hour's drive from Malaga Airport which is well serviced by low-cost carriers, and there are still cheap flights available. The last time we were on holiday in Malaga we were unfortunate to fall for the expense on the fuel charges as we did not realize the policy. Since this problem with car hire, to get from Malaga airport we always choose from these 3 options:



rgg - Aug 27, 2018 6:46 am - Hasn't voted

Re: Getting from Malaga Airport

I'm a bit confused: what exactly do you mean by "fall for the expense on the fuel charges as we did not realize the policy"?

When renting a car, I normally assume that it comes with a full tank and I should either return it with a full tank, or the rental agency will charge me for filling up at a rather inflated fuel price. Was it different in your case?

Viewing: 1-4 of 4



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El ChorroTrip Reports