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Adventures in El Chorro, Spain
The Camino Del Rey, before the recently added safety cable existed.
As we gained confidence in the walkway we were able to move quickly—sometimes jumping across chasms, hoping the far side would hold. Each man-sized hole we encountered could have been a climber who fell to his death when the walkway gave out under him. Indeed, a number of climbers have died using the Camino and other antiquated heavy equipment in the lower gorge. But soon we remembered we were there to climb, not simply to survive the Camino. (Since this first trip to El Chorro, and thankfully before my most recent visit, local climbers have installed a safety cable along much of the Camino for an added measure of security.)
Trad climbing seemed just the thing to regain our composure, so we headed for Sector Africa, in the lower gorge. This spot, one of El Chorro's many areas, is so vast and full of new route potential that a climber could be happy there for a season or more. All one would need is a full rack and a healthy sense of adventure. Unlike any other area I have seen in Spain, the lower gorge is split by massive fins of white limestone. These fins stack against one another to create amazing continuous cracks of all sizes and lengths. This unique type of limestone makes El Chorro one of the only truly enjoyable limestone crack climbing areas in the world. We couldn't resist.
The entrance to the Lower Gorge. The Camino Del Rey is visible on the wall in the upper right. The famous ten-pitch route Zeppelin follows the ridge in the left foreground. [Photo] Traveler Taj Terpening
Sector Africa lies at the end of the lower gorge where the Rio Guadalhorce empties into a lake. Looking across the gorge we picked out our favorite line and assembled a custom rack for the job. We chose the route Africa, a six-pitch 5.11a that travels straight up the center of the wall. We headed down the Camino, crossed the gorge on a suspended water pipe, then crawled through a small, wet and dirty tunnel to get to the first bolts. From there we rappelled a rope-length to a ledge just above the river. After skittering along the ledge we finally saw the route following an amazing single crack for nearly four pitches. This is the lower gorge: wind, water, death approaches and killer climbing. And we still had the rest of El Chorro to explore!
El Chorro is often described as a place where people re-discover why they were drawn to climbing in the first place. The area overflows with elements that, together, create my ideal climbing destination: passionate and quirky people, wonderful natural environments, adventurous approaches and world-class sport and trad climbing. Orange and white walls litter the herb-scented hills and are connected with trails through ancient valleys dotted with citrus and olive trees. For me, El Chorro's intangible charm and incredibly plentiful and diverse routes make it Spain's premier adventure climbing destination.