El Chorro - Round Two

Sunday, May 31, 2009

After our seemingly endless adventure in Morocco, we finally got back to Spain. In Malaga, we battled with the hire car company for a few hours, who seemed determined to fail to meet any of our expectations. Reluctantly we settled for a different model to the one we'd requested. This was to be our home and transport for the next 6 weeks, so we wanted to get it right. In a repeat of last time, we made a quick visit to Carrefour to collect groceries and other items necessary for camp life and made a quick bee-line for El Chorro.

El Chorro, Frontal Sectors
The frontal sectors of El Chorro. It may not seem it, but these cliffs are over 300m high in places. There are numerous caves with hard routes, but plenty more easy single and multipitch climbs.

El Chorro, Frontal Sectors
The frontal sectors again. Our camping spot was just in the trees near the lake by the railway bridge. Lovely.

We've visited El Chorro before, but we were very keen to come back, as last time we only got two days in during our whirl-wind tour of Spain. El Chorro is one of Spain's premier climbing destinations, with incredible limestone walls, an amazing gorge, and the infamous Caminito del Rey.

Last time we were here there was no parking space, as El Chorro has the reputation for being the "winter-crag" of Europe. This time around, there wasn't anyone in sight. Our dissapointment soon turned to relief as we realized that free camping would be so much easier without the crowds. We found a great spot walking distance from most sectors and settled in for the better part of a week.

El Chorro - The Gorge
The Gorge itself, where the Caminito del Rey begins and winds its way along the walls through the Gorge. It's possible to traverse the entire gorge via the Caminito which takes about two hours.

Unlike many of the popular climbing destinations in Europe, El Chorro has plenty of easy and moderate grade routes, which suited us just fine since our climbing muscles had all but disappeared... And we dispatched some of the best moderates I've ever climbed.

Caminito del Rey
Here the Caminito del Rey is visible. A hairy bit of via ferrata is required to access the start of the walkway, as the authorities chopped off the start to prevent non-equiped punters getting killed on it.

On our first rest-day, we decided to attempt the feared Caminito del Rey. The Caminito is a concrete walkway built in 1905 but has since fallen into disrepair. It consists of rusty iron frames somehow attached 70m up, to the sheer vertical walls of the Gorge, and concrete and bricks to form the path. Fortunatley most of the walkway is fitted with "Via Ferrata" safety cables to secure yourself to while you traverse the path. There is no handrail, and in parts, the concrete has fallen out completely to reveal vertigo inducing views of the nothingness you are currently suspended over. We traversed two sections where there path was missing, only to decide to turn around a little further on.

Caminito del Rey, El Chorro
Looking back at part of the walkway we'd already traversed. Taking this photo, I was standing on a huge water pipe which bridges the gorge. Its visible in above photos.

Caminito del Rey, El Chorro
Dani crossing part of the Caminito where the concrete has decayed out completely. Looking down while you cross gives the individual a unique sense of being alive. We had safety on our minds first, and always had two points of attachment to the safety cables equiped on the walkway.

Caminito del Rey, El Chorro

Caminito del Rey, El Chorro

Dani's birthday also fell during our time in El Chorro. It also happened to be the hottest day yet, and proved too hot to climb. We drove around to the lakes on the north side of the Gorge and found a shadey spot to chill out and read books. Dani even mustered the courage to dip in the fridgid waters!

Dani's Birthday
Birthday girl! Isn't she pretty?

As a slight variation to camping at El Chorro, we spent a night in this wicked spot at Desplomilandia, a sector on the other side of the range from El Chorro. In the morning we did a few routes on the cliff in the background.

With the rest of our trip in the back of our mind, we decided to tear ourselves away from our time at El Chorro and head for Portugal. Check back for more stories soon!


Anonymous Matt said...

Hi Si,

Still loving the blog and catching up with your adventures. Bi and I off to Italy and Slovenia next month which should be a good break from work. Sainte Foy seems such a long time ago but only 3 months. Keep livin the dream and heres hoping for another catch up soon. Glad you conquered that crazy cliff walk. Cracking photos. Take it easy, love to Dani
Matt (and Bi!)

7:00 AM, June 09, 2009  

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