Adventures in El Chorro, Spain


Unnamed climber contemplates his next clip. El Chorro, Spain. [Photo] Traveler Taj Terpening

With El Chorro's diversity in climbing and people, finding a partner and fantastic rock is never difficult. Up the valley from the lower gorge is the area's most famous wall, Sector Makinodromo. Often called Europe's most famous climb, Lourdes (5.13b, 30-meters) splits an impressive tufa-encrusted cave in the center of the wall. Though "most famous" is a bold claim in a continent of amazing climbing, I have met many climbers who travel to El Chorro only to do this route. Small, roofless shelters have been constructed from stones at the bottom of the route, presumably so climbers can sleep there with the wall towering directly over their head, inspiring their dreams. A young Icelandic guy I made friends with was a constant feature on this route, pulling himself through roof after roof with thin, cable-like arms. "Its not so hard," he said with no tone of irony or pretense in his voice, "It's just so long! And the crux comes at the very top." Discouraged by his failure to redpoint the route, the Icelandic youth was relieved to see Bernabe Fernandez himself, perhaps the most famous and accomplished climber in Spain, hanging on each of the last eight draws.

Foosball at the climbing hostel after a long day of pulling down. [Photo] Traveler Taj Terpening

Lourdes is of such mythical status that most times there is both a climber attempting the route and a crowd watching. The Pole and I befriended a spirited local, who traveled with his dog seven days a week to the wall to climb easier routes and watch others attempt Lourdes. His face was lost in a nest of dreadlocks and his dog's thick coat was so caked in burrs, leaves and sticks that it looked more like a bush than a dog. We enjoyed the company so much that I finally gave up on Trainspotting—a 5.12c that I had been thrashing up—for some rest and alcohol, not in that order. So the Pole, the Spaniard, the Icelandic crew, a group of Finnish climbers and I made our way back to the climbing hostel for drinks and foosball, both of which are taken extremely seriously in El Chorro.


Since that first day dodging trains and braving the Camino, I have returned to El Chorro time and again, not just for the climbing but also for the eclectic international group of people El Chorro attracts. Unlike so many other places, El Chorro is locked in time, changing very little from year to year. What keeps the place alive and vibrant are the dedicated locals establishing new routes and the constant flow of people, from all over the world, bringing unique perspectives, languages and passion for climbing.

The adventure will continue with two more Weekly Feature articles on El Chorro from photographer Traveler Taj Terpening. Feel free to give Traveler a shout if you want to know more about El Chorro or his photography.

Aldo Itorbe of Mexico descends after redpointing Trainspotting (5.12c). [Photo] Traveler Taj Terpening

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