/ Climbing in Spain Advice for Aussie

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Gerry Narkowicz - on 14 May 2014
I am an Australian planning to visit Southern Spain for 5 weeks in December and January with my teenage daughter. I can climb up to Aussie grade 26 and my daughter grade 21. I would appreciate help planning our itinery. I've heard that El Chorro and Costa Blanca are the best areas to visit in winter and that the north is too cold. Which city should we fly to? Madrid and hire a car, or Malaga. Which crags are especially good? Accommodation options? Thank you for your help. Gerry Narkowicz
2394rober - on 14 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

Gerry, best climbing for all season is at the back of Benedorm Costa Blanca, there is a climbing lodge there called the Orange House which is very cheap and just for climbers. But easy jet go to the airports there, the climbs are all sport climbs and very little that is not bolted. great for bigginers and experience climbers. here is a link to a very good book for the area.

Hope this helps

1poundSOCKS - on 14 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

I've not been to El Chorro, but I agree with Carl about the Costa Blanca and the Orange House. The only downside I can think of is that you need to drive every day to get to the crag.
Trangia on 14 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

I agree Costa Blanca is the best destination. Loads of crags in the area. Your best airport would be Alicante where you can hire a car.

Beware of the small print when hiring a car in Spain, particularly regarding excess, and avoid Goldcar like the plague - folk have had bad (ie expensive) runs ins with them - see previous threads on this subject!
flaneur - on 14 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

El Chorro: good climbing; poor weather at Christmas in my experience, it's in the hills. Possible access issues in some areas due to the renovation of the Camino del Rei but plenty more to go at.

Costa Blanca: OK climbing; good weather. The crags are many miles apart and you'll spend a lot of your time in the car. I can't stand the ambience, like a really tacky version of Surfer's Paradise, a monument to the Spanish property bubble and unregulated development. You will be in the company of hordes of Rockfax clutching Brits all staying at the Orange House. This is good if you don't want the inconvenience of interacting with or - horrors - speaking to any locals.

Siurana: world-class climbing; I've been lucky with the weather two winter visits. It will be cold, especially for an aussie, it might be clear or it might rain.
Nic on 14 May 2014
In reply to flaneur:

Agree (mostly) with flaneur...and second the suggestion of Siurana, bears a passing resemblance to the Blueys on a good day!

Also the climbing in Costa Blanca* and El Chorro is quite similar in style, i.e. Euro limestone. If you have 5 weeks you might want to consider a bit of a road trip to sample some different locations? You could start in Tarifa (very Blue Mountain like sandstone) drive up through Chorro, a day at El Torcal, Loja (or the "secret" stuff around Villanueva del Rosario), then up towards the Blanca via the Murcia crags etc?

* worth looking out some of the sea cliffs though, a *lot* more user-friendly than the Sydney equivalents!!
Jamming Dodger on 14 May 2014
In reply to Nic:
We hired a car with Malagacar. It was 4 euros a day! And a nice decent sized modern car (forget exactly what it was).
You definitely need a car in Chorro. Cant speak for Costa Blanca as Ive never been.
Martin Bennett - on 14 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

I'd recommend, at least start with, The Costa Blanca, not least as we've always had good climbing conditions in December. I disagree with the guy who suggests it has a hateful ambiance. Sure, the holiday hotel/apartment/villa architecture is crass, but that's all along the coast and if it's too much for you to bear just go to delightful valleys 5 to 10 miles inland and forget about it as you climb on a quiet crag then have a beer or coffee in a village bar shared with locals on their way home from work.

I also disagree with the respondent who says his climbers lodge of choice is cheap. I've found the best way to "do" the Costa Blanca is from an apartment in eg Calpe or Benidorm or somewhere between. There are tens of thousands of these, 75% empty and available very cheaply in mid Winter. Through websites like travelrepublic and lowcostholidays we typically buy a package including flight, apartment, car hire and even parking our car at a UK airport for around £180 per head! We spend the money we save an a nice meal out every evening. If you're not getting there via UK these websites do just accommodation & car hire. An advantage of a climber's lodge (there are several UK owned ones) is the local knowledge you can gain there.

The link to the Rockfax guide someone posted shows the edition previous to the current one. Still useful though.

By the way it isn't all sport (bolted) climbing - if you take the trouble to research the area as well as just buying the "Rockfax" guide book you can find very adventurous routes, some of them huge. Even in the sport climbing classification there are routes up to 300 metres; in other words there's great variety and something for everyone.

Enjoy your trip.

Alun - on 14 May 2014
In reply to flaneur:

> I can't stand the ambience, like a really tacky version of Surfer's Paradise, a monument to the Spanish property bubble and unregulated development. You will be in the company of hordes of Rockfax clutching Brits all staying at the Orange House. This is good if you don't want the inconvenience of interacting with or - horrors - speaking to any locals.

This is exactly my experience of the Costa Blanca, I couldn't have described it better. Martin Bennett (above) is right to say that it can be partially avoided by heading inland for a few miles, but then in the very next paragraph recommends renting an apartment in Benidorm or Calpe (where every street has a British bar, a German bar, a Dutch bar and a Spanish bar, and there is no mixing of clientele, food or culture between them).

To the OP: There isn't anyway in Spain less representative of 'Spain' as the Costa Blanca. That said, the climbing there is indeed excellent, and in terms of travelling it will be very easy for you and your daughter.

I'm not sure who told you that the north would be too cold - Barcelona's climate (where I live) is very similar to Sydney's, for example, and I've lost count the number of days I've climbed in shorts and t-shirt in the winter. If you did come to Catalunya you could visit either the Prades region (Siurana etc) or Lleida region. Both have a vibrant year-round climbing community (both local and international), and for sport climbing both are world-class. The weather will almost certainly be more than tolerable for the majority of the time.

Elsewhere in Spain I would consider:
- Chulilla: like the Costa Blanca, but without all the tourists
- El Chorro: better weather during the winter, but polished on the easier routes
- La Pedriza: a change from the typical spanish limestone and ideal if you like run-out granite slabs. Might be chilly though.
- Albarracín: world-class bouldering, it'll be cold but the friction on the hard sandstone will be perfect
Gerry Narkowicz - on 15 May 2014
In reply to Alun:

Thanks everyone for your advice. Based on this, could you please comment on this rough plan.
Fly to Barcelona - spend a couple of weeks in Catalunya at Siruana, Margalef etc, then drive south to Costa Blanca for about 10 days then spend the last ten days in the El Chorro region and fly out of Malaga back to OZ. In each of those 3 regions, could someone recommend a place to base ourselves for day trips in these areas. Thankyou
Gerry Narkowicz - on 15 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

Continuing on from my last post, I've been recommended to stay at Siruana camping, then Orange House, then La Finca - ten days in each. So the most convenient option is to fly to Barcelona from OZ and then out of Malaga - however, in and out of Madrid will be cheaper and its about 5 hours drive between each area. What do yu reckon?
Alun - on 15 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

The motorways in Spain are generally excellent, and mostly quiet (though of course busier around Madrid and Barcelona). Tolls apply only in Catalunya, the rest is free. Car hire is relatively cheap in Spain. All this said, a 5hr drive is a 5hr drive, so it's up to you.

Siurana camping is a good choice as there is a constant buzz of climbers there. But make sure you reserve a cabin - the campsite is on a north facing slope at 1000m altitude and gets very chilly in the winter. Once you've walked the 10 minutes to the other side of the ridge though, you'll be in the lovely warm sun

auld al on 17 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

For chorro the place to stay is the olivebranchelchorro a very friendly place
Sam Mayfield - on 18 May 2014
In reply to Gerry Narkowicz:

Hi Gerry

I will be replying to your email later and please try to take the damning comments about The Costa Blanca with a pinch of salt as they say!

This area has so much to offer and you could climb for weeks and not speak to a Brit if you really wanted to! Feel free to speak Spanish only at the house and we can send you off to come amazing crags each day that are NOT in the guide book. We can recommend some fabby Spanish restaurants etc etc

Sam Orange House

Olive Branch I have heard in El Chorro some of my staff have stayed there.
AJM - on 18 May 2014
In reply to Alun:

I didn't spend much time in the Costa Blanca (just didn't appeal. Had a nice day at Gandia but otherwise avoided the place), but when we were in Chulilla our friends did comment that they far preferred it to CB as a destination. Excellent place.

I'm with you on the catalunya thing. We enjoyed perfect conditions in the sun around Siurana and Montsant just after new year this year and I have a whole host of friends who were there for their Christmas holiday and got lots done.

I can't imagine flying all the way around the world to go to Chorro. Its fairly nice and all that (although if the routes in the gorge are lost and the access to Makinodromo becomes more faffy that would massively diminish its attractiveness to me) but come on.....

From what I've heard, I'd say the same about the Blanca.
Sam Mayfield - on 18 May 2014
In reply to AJM:

Chulilla is amazing, however it is just one area and it has NO sea cliffs, so also NO DWS, No Alp like Trad routes, NO scrambles that we know of! VF's not sure. Also I don't think its known for its easy grade routes. I am going for a week in June so will find out more then!

It amazes me how people can comment on areas that they admit to not knowing!!

Good old UKCer!
AJM - on 18 May 2014
In reply to Sam Mayfield:

Being one area would be a benefit as opposed to having to trek all over the shop to my mind. It does have a few Vf. He ain't going to be doing DWS in December is he? I'm unsure from your post, but it sounds (not actually knowing what's there, no idea on the grade spread, looking to find out more in June) rather like you've not actually been to Chulilla - if so, doesn't that make the end of your post slightly hypocritical.....?

What can I say:
- I've spoken to a lot of people who have been to the Blanca and not a single one of them has come back overwhelmed, raving about the place and convincing me I just must go right now. Several were downright unenthused.
- Most/all of the people I've spoken to who have been to Chulilla have said they were really impressed by it.
- The people I know who've been to both and who have mentioned it have said they'd prefer to go back to Chulilla.
- One of the things that comes up frequently as a criticism of the area is the spread out ness, by way of a counter to your original point about Chulilla being one area.
- The guidebooks to CB have never done a terribly good job of selling it to me - a few days of stuff here and there perhaps, but nowhere near enough concentrated quality to push it up on the to-visit list against all the obvious competition.
- To be balanced, people have said good things about Wildside. I'm keen to check that out. And maybe a day at Forada.
- I've been to one of the nicer crags in the area and it was pretty good, but not enough for more than a few days there.

So yeah, I don't live there. Maybe I'm being biased about it unfairly. Perhaps there are tons of truly world class crags there that somehow the guidebooks and most of the people I know who've visited it have somehow missed out on (with the exception of Wildside, as mentioned above). To a large extent I'm summarising the criticisms of others, rather than claiming to know the area massively well myself. On the other hand you have a business there so I wouldn't exactly class your criticisms of other areas (or your response to criticism of your own) as unbiased and objective either.

And I stand by the original point. If I were flying quite literally all the way round the world to go climbing somewhere, it'd better be for the very best of the best. And I'm not convinced that Chorro offers that (certainly not if access to the gorge and Makinodromo is closed, I'm curious to see how that pans out), and as yet based on my limited experience and the combined experiences of those I've spoken to I'm unconvinced that Blanca does either.
Sam Mayfield - on 19 May 2014
In reply to AJM:

AJM thank you for your detailed response and I think you have hit the nail on the head!

The Blanca allows you to climb something different every single day of your trip, which in my mind makes it a perfect destination. I personally would hate to stay at the same place and climb in roughly the same area for a trip.

That's what I don't like El Chorro, I found it too much of the same stuff when we stayed in the gorge years ago, a second trip we stayed at Finca and travelled a tad more but I was still not that impressed.

Chulilla, I have been twice but not for years, now my best friend lives there and I am sure if I asked she would give me a full grade breakdown.

But to me the trip is NOT just about the climbing! I guess that makes me different to others but I like to move around. I like that on The Blanca you can climb in the mountains one day and then head down to the sea cliffs. You cam move around the small villages oen day or try out the sea food as it come straight off the boat in Calpe. A rest day could be a trip into Alicante or Altea and go shoe shopping.

I gave up listening to my mates years ago about what they did or didn't like, be it a film, book or area to visit. I prefer to make up my own mind! So at least my criticism is MY OWN!

Finally, yes I do have a business here, 11 years old actually and thankfully, we have the same people coming back year after year as they know the true value of the area and the choices it offers, and not just the Wildside which is OK I suppose.

Sam Orange
AJM - on 19 May 2014
In reply to Sam Mayfield:

That's a very selective part of my post you've picked up on!

Horses for course I suppose.

My climbing holidays are about the climbing, which it sounds like yours aren't so much, and if one area is good enough I don't see driving as being a necessary part of the holiday. So if you're happy spending a lot of time on your holidays not climbing then I can see why the Blanca might appeal more than more compact areas.

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