El-Chorro and Lourdes!

Rain falls heavily outside the window as it has done for the last 12hrs; wet, cold and strangely un-familiar. Last night I arrived home to North Wales after 12 rain free days sport climbing in El-Chorro, Spain.

The impressive Lourdes wall of El-Makinodromo 
From the guidebook: 

"The reputation of El Chorro as a destination for sport climbing is mainly built upon the notoriety of the truly awesome section of cliff known as Makinodromo, and in particular the central line up its largest and most severely overhanging wall of tufa - Lourdes. A couple of decades on since its first ascent, Lourdes is still one of the most famous climbs in the World and many come to El Chorro only to try this one route!"

With such a accolade it was understandably the highlight of the trip for Luke and myself to mange to climb Lourdes, at 8a it was at the top-end of out ability. To make it even better we both managed a successful red-point on the same day, and even better earlier that day Barni has successfully sent Trainspotting another classic 8a (with a wild dyno at 30m!) further down the crag! 

I've been to El-Chorro several times before, even before my first visit I had heard about Lourdes. I remember my first time at El-Makinodromo crag back in Dec 2008. We made the long walk in in the dark after climbing the big multi-pitch Zepplin in the gorge. We slept in a cave at the base of the crag and awoke to thick mist and drizzle. I can remember standing below Lourdes straining my neck to lookup at the steep tufas now running with water, the top of the route was lost in the mist. Even in sub-optimal conditions Lourdes was one of the steepest and most impressive lines I have ever seen. 

Make no mistake! 

Barni recovering in the the rest below Lourdes!

Barni on the lower section of Trainspotting 8a

Powerhouse Brooks reaching the end of the bouldery start on Lourdes 

Me approaching the crux on Lourdes 8a 
The climbing in Lourdes is amazing, if a little polished. The moves are mainly steep tufa pulling on big holds. The hardest moves are actually the first few moves off the ground! There are many knee bar rests and an amazing lock-off-at-the-elbow shake out. The main crux is the power endurance bottom two-thirds cumulating in a powerful sequence to gain a big hole into which a knee can be thursted to get a painful rest. When I working the route I deemed this kneebar hole to be too painful to use, I though differently on the redpoint! Getting to this rest is worthy of about 7c/+ in itself A few more meters of climbing sees an even better rest where you wedge yourself horizontally into a big hole in the rock. I got to this rest totally pumped out, it was only after 20min in this contorted body wedge appreciating the warmth and beauty of the setting sun that I had recovered enough strength to climb again. I though the best moves of the route were the top 10m. After recovering in the rest, you bust out right on tufa pinches and hand jams then commit to a big dynamic tufa pinching moves, the final move can be a real heart breaker, a dynamic swing out right to grab a big black tufa then a powerful slap to a flatish hold above. Fantastic.

El-Makinodromo windturbine sunset 


Although Lourdes was the highlight we also ticked many other fantastic routes on other crags in El-Chorro. A couple of favourites which spring to mind are Honk Down 7c on the Momia section of Frontales and Generacion Limite 7b+ on Les Encantadas. 

As mentioned earlier, the weather in Spain has been amazing, cold at night but warm and sunny during the day; perfect conditions for climbing. Apart from on the last day, temperatures in the sun reached a scorching 22 degrees! Too hot for hard climbing, we had to take a lay down in the early afternoon. 

I've not got a few days of festiveness to re-condition back to UK weather before a couple of weeks of van living in Scotland trying to remember how to winter climb in the new year! 

Merry Christmas everyone. 

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