Whether El Chorro's reputation as a slightly scruffy setting is deserved or not is a matter of opinion, but its popularity with British climbers has wavered in recent years. But if you attribute the fact the scenery is rather arid to the remarkably low annual rainfall, then you may begin to realise some of the allure as a reliable winter sun spot.
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Related UKC Forum discussions
Having been to El Chorro twice before, for a total of about 6 weeks I feel I know the area reasonably well, and the fact that I'm soon heading out for another two weeks should be testament enough that it's well worth a visit.
During my previous visits I was surprised to discover that there were no 'decent' guidebooks for El Chorro, nor the many fine crags in the surrounding area. Indeed, the previous Rockfax version for El Chorro was the best, and was even used by plenty of the local and European climbers.
For an area which has long been regarded as one of the major destinations of European winter sun sport climbing, it's high time the modern era of guidebooks did justice to the area. Rockfax have long since cornered the UK market for producing climbing guides for winter sun destinations and this latest offering will cement their reputation within the UK, as well as throughout the rest of Europe, for producing some of the best climbing guides on offer.
Photos, Maps, Topos, Info
Predictably clear photo topos, maps, crag descriptions and directions have been included, making it easy to arrive at your chosen crag and select your ideal routes.
The numerous great photos give a real flavour of the varied climbing and the scenery of the area in general.
Not only is the section for El Chorro fairly comprehensive but the crags of Mijas, El Torcal, Villanueva de Cauche, Loja, Archidona, Valle De Abajis, Turon and Desplomilandia are also included. Some are up to approximately an hour and a half's drive from El Chorro so a car would be needed.
As well as all the usual detailed information contained within the guide short section has been added highlighting some of the more important and more appropriate tips from their recently published Sport Climbing + book.
Over the past couple of years many new routes have been bolted, in an attempt to revitalise El Chorro's dwindling reputation as one of Europe's premier winter destinations. So get yourself out there and enjoy them before the crowds do!
Not only has all the usual info for rest day activities been added, but they've also added one of their own into the book - the 'Find the Bull' game might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's just a bit of fun!
Negative points (minor)
I appreciate that the majority of people who will buy the guide may not be hardcore climbers, but perhaps a more inspiring photo could have been used? Concerning front covers, presumably the grade of a route is pretty irrelevant; whether it inspires you to open the guide, and further inspires a visit to the area is important. Then again, I am normally confused by the photos chosen to adorn front covers of climbing guidebooks and magazines, so I'm probably wrong, and it's probably a stunningly inspirational photo.
Whilst the inclusion of the major area of Loja is a welcome addition, the fact that some other nearby areas, described as 'might be worth a look in winter' are mentioned, yet not included, is a little disappointing. Especially when the crags which have been included are primarily shady and prone to winter seepage. Most people visiting El Chorro are likely to be doing so for some much needed sunshine...
The book includes some stunning photographs mostly by Mark Glaister but also including a few sourced from UKClimbing.com users like Chris Dainton
If you haven't been to El Chorro then I strongly urge you to place it high on your list for your next winter climbing trip. For those who have been, there are considerably more routes (of all grades, from F4 to F8c+) than in recent years.
£20.95 doesn't seem all that cheap (however that seems to be the norm these days) but if you decide to go, then it's a bit of a no-brainer - this is the only guide worth getting!