El Chorro Trip Report

by Charlotte Graves

Alarm clocks shattered the silence that hung over the small, overcrowded flat in sleepy Teddington in the early hours of the 25th of March, 2013. Slowly, tired SUMCers stirred and the sound of the kettle boiling for that essential morning cup of tea bubbled through the air. Having followed the vague directions to the car park that was hidden in the wilderness that surrounds Gatwick airport, three figures stepped out of the car, watching their breath cloud in front of them in the darkness. Lydia handed the keys to the attendants, and she, Neil and I jumped onto the bus that would whisk us away to the airport where we met Meinertzhagen and Chris L. After a significant amount of re-packing and a little incident at security later, we were sitting on the plane, ready for a Spanish climbing adventure.

Once in Malaga we met up with the others, who had been enjoying the wonders of the city by having lunch in a park and sitting outside a supermarket for an excessive amount of time. The presence of Joe and Matt, however, was notably lacking. This was because they had attempted to be clever and bought tickets to Alora, but could not get out through the barriers at Malaga, so were forced to leave the group and, continue onwards, and go climbing for the afternoon. We played a quick game of Supermarket Sweep, then lugged all of our luggage and shopping back to the station to catch a train to Alora, as no one could be bothered to wait for the train to El Chorro. Once there, we realised that we were still a significant distance from El Chorro, so Chris P used his expert Spanish skills to procure us taxis. This done, we drove off, Zeanne flirting shamelessly with the taxi driver all the way. Some managed to get in a few routes that evening on Las Encantadas, but everyone was tired so an early night was received gratefully by all.

I think it is safe to say that we made the most of our days in El Chorro, with everybody pushing their limits and ticking off lots of great climbs. Amptrax, a well-known massive multi-pitch saw several ascents by our members (and a tactical mid-route piss) and Frontales and Escalera Arabe were visited multiple times by everyone. Stand out routes include Bladerunner, a beautiful 6a requiring laybacks all the way up and Jonny Webb’s 7a in the impressive cave ‘Poema de Roca’. The intrepid Neil, Zeanne, Andrew and Jonny found that all the climbing in the vicinity was not enough for them, and walked to the much further Valle de Abdalajis in order to satiate their appetites for new routes. By all accounts this was a good decision, and the climbing was both different and enjoyable. Another route which caused quite a stir was Rogelio, a multipitch 4, which unexpectedly turned into a 6a much to the bemusement of Henry, Zara, Chris L and Meinertzhagen, who had still not appeared back at the houses once night had fallen. A slightly merry Joe and Matt R went to look for the bodies, and returned after midnight with some tired, but very much alive, climbers. And on this day, which is now fondly referred to as the ‘Arabian Nights Epic’, the value of head torches was learned.

One of the main draws of El Chorro is Camino del Rey, a crumbling walkway built high on the sides of the imposing gorge. On the third day in El Chorro a few of our group went climbing, but the majority of us decided to tackle the walkway. It was a fantastic experience, turning out to be much less sketchy than many of us thought, although Clare still decided that the most efficient way to cross one of the beams was to lie down and shuffle across, hugging the girder tightly. It didn’t take long, and we decided that we would climb on Los Cotos (a crag on the other side of the gorge) for the afternoon before heading back. This involved a river crossing, however, and after fighting our way through some spiky forest, we gave up and battled back up a steep slope to the path. Hot and sweaty, we decided to stop in a cool spot beneath some trees for an apple break, where Jonny had the genius idea to attach pine sprigs to his nipples like tassles.

Our evenings comprised many litre bottles of cerveza and regular visits from our wonderful but lairy friend Fourcanjo, Joe’s Spanish cousin. Jonny caused much amusement by discovering that Clare’s skirt could function well as a dress, especially when enhanced with chalk bag boobs. The pool, although cold, was also braved by some. This set the stage for some sweet revenge, taken out on Mish by Matt R for pushing him in the pool, and swimming in the rain.

It was a fantastic trip, fuelled by stale bread, chorizo and cheese and sweets from the super supermarket Maribel’s and one that will be remembered for a long time to come.