Sunday, February 28, 2016

El Chorro

amazing evening light in Makinodromo
The south of Spain, Andalucia: rolling hills of olive trees, oranges and lemons. Palm trees in the beaches of Malaga. The medieval streets of its old town. Train takes you to El Chorro. Howling winds through the gorge when you walk the railroad tracks to go climbing. Passing tunnels, an amazing limestone gorge full of roofs, cracks and tufas opens up. Walking the trail through green grass orchards. Storms and sunshine battle, rainbow in the sky, windmills in the horizon with clouds passing by. Coffee machine bubbles over the campfire. Amazing salmon-avocado sandwich grilled over the fire. Hacky session to get you started. Another day of tufa wrestling. Chalked up hands that never get washed. Monk life in the cave, the wall is our altar. Walking down to the village with the last light. A babble of all languages at the Olive branch, busy communal kitchen with hungry people making dinner. An hour later, chatting away in the night over a couple beers. Sore muscles in the morning, but time to do it again :)

First thing getting off the train in El Chorro, furiously psyched, I went straight to Makinodromo. I love how sometimes you show up at the climbing area and completely at random the best crew gathers... in Maki it was Siebe, doing his Erasmus internship while living in the van and climbing. Erika, on law school study exchange but legitimately spending more time in El Chorro than the classes. Arthur, incredibly psyched, going for his first 8c until the fingers bled, he didn't get it in the end but it was dramatic and so cool to watch him try hard. And Argyro, travelling around Spain like me, enriching my poor dirtbag diet with some amazing greek cooking and being the best travel buddy.

difficult pass
Siebe sticking the first crux in Cous cous 8b+. Send train together with this guy!
great tufas at Maki
me on Cous cous. thanks Erika for these photos :)
game over on Cous cous, but still psyched - right after he went and flashed Lourdes

mr. Vanhee setting off on the mega classic Lourdes 8a

what a comfy bivy (minus the bird shit, I guess that's the curse of amazing caves for climbing)

Climbing-wise El Chorro is a cross between Verdon and Paklenica. I somehow pictured it much bigger,  anyway it has a few walls of 4 to 8 pitches but nothing like Verdon. There's a lot of single pitch climbs on a style resembling Karst edge limestone in Slovenia, so I felt pretty comfy. Being an old-school area, there is a decent amount of polish on pretty much all climbs, but Makinodromo still makes for a world-class crag. The overhanging blank wall with odd tufas that make it climbable is just so impressive.

The climbing highlight was my birthday challenge of doing 22 pitches of 7th grade in one day. It was a decent bit of climbing since most routes here are at least 30 metres, and it was raining in the morning so I only had 8 hours to complete it. It felt like a marathon, but it was very fun. I focused on climbing fast and efficient and it was pure joy, because climbing never really got too hard, but each route took some effort. Thanks a ton to my belayers, it was the best kind of a birthday present. Also, I scored an 8b onsight, first ever. Was my style and I got lucky, but it didn't feel soft so I guess that's it. Now I need to do another one to make it count :)
dust from Africa shades the sun
Argy tries Trango 8b
the massive "Frontales" in evening light. this wall has many sectors with multipitch routes up to 8 pitches, and has the Poema de roca cave for some steep tufa climbing. on the far left, above the lake is the entrance to the gorge with Caminito del Rey and the train tracks. i have no photos of the amazing walk through the railway tunnels because it's forbidden to walk and i was too scared of running into police. people do it all the time though. see for yourself first...

With Siebe we did a multipitch out of the Poema de Roca cave, the route of the same name. Jacob suggested it to us promising it was so good it would change our lives, at least a bit. I linked the first three pitches of 7a, 7c, 7b into something like an 8a pitch and experienced a considerable pump, although hardly life changing since I was brought up climbing in the Osp cave and its 12-minute top-rope speed runs! The climbing is truly stellar though, as soon as you pass the polished first pitch. Another hard pitch followed and some easier ones and soon we were on top of 'Frontales' having had a great day out that has inspired some new psyche for long routes.

Siebe somewhere up the second pitch


"El triangulo"

Sunrise in Malaga

travelling through Andalucia

back to the US diet

Birthday cake from Paul and Paula!

birthday present from Belgium :)

the slabs in Encantadas on a foggy morning. this is just above the Olive branch, the lazy crag option...

Siebe syked on his tidy van

Siebe climbing in Olimpo

'Arbre botella' in a Malaga park

van parade vol. 1, i really like those old postal ones...
you'd think these are oranges...

on top of the city with Argy

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