/ NEWS: El Chorro Access - Open for Climbing!

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UKC News - on 05 Dec 2017
The popular climbing spot of El Chorro, to the north of Malaga, has suffered in recent years from ambiguous access information with rumours about it being closed or having strict requirements for permits before you can climb. With a new Rockfax guidebook in the offing, we have been spending quite a lot of time there recently and can give a full update on access.

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ChrisBrooke - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Never been there but it looks great. Out of interest, to what extent are you putting your life at risk by walking through the train tunnels? Are they wide enough, or with enough regular recesses to avoid trains should they pass through at the same time?
Adrian Daniels - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

The tunnels are plenty wide enough for trains and those walking through.
snoop6060 - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

Plenty wide enough (would say probably 4m on each side of the train in most places) and the tunnels are not massively long. You get plenty of warning as well as the trains drive over a thing that triggers a loud horn as they come into the gorge. It is quite exciting if you are in a tunnel when they pass mind.
balmybaldwin - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

From memory there's plenty of room but you wouldn't want to be in there when a train goes through but they aren't frequent
ChrisBrooke - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Thanks all. I had visions of a James Bond-esque squeeze while a train rattles past 2 inches from your nose. That doesn't sound too bad.
trouserburp - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Is this true?

The new walkway is fixed above the old one and is totally solid and safe, however it has completely removed access to the routes in the actual gorge.

I thought the routes that weren't above or below the path were still allowed? Africa?

and then it says you still 'need' to walk through the tunnels to get to the central open area (Los Cotos? Tunnels also gave access to Zeppelin and some other routes in the gorge proper, are they allowed?) and next sentence 'There are alternative ways of getting to the central gorge as well'. Not much clarity on the access issues, have any fines been issued recently?

I'm sure the book is great but this article is more of a confusing mess than a full update on access. The rest of the region was fine but if I'm going back my main aims are Africa and Zeppelin in the spectacular setting of El Chorro gorge!
AlanLittle - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to trouserburp:
As I recall - it was a long time ago - the old walkway landed you inside the gorge on the west side of the river, and there was a pretty easy ford more or less below Los Cotos to get to the crags on the east side. Usually. Until one day they opened the sluice on the dam and we were stranded on the wrong bank of the raging torrent.
Post edited at 11:47
snoop6060 - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to trouserburp:
You can defo climb Zeppelin fine (and I expect Africa too). Did so last year. Weather or not this is officially legit is open to some debate. But you can walk to it down the tunnels, abb of the bridge and get to the bottom no probs. Admittedly you do become quite the spectacle for the masses on the walkway which is a little off putting though quite unique!
Post edited at 12:29
trouserburp - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to snoop6060:

Thanks, I shall keep it on my list
JamieSparkes - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to snoop6060:

Is Africa not best accessed by the fixed tyrolean across the gorge at water level these days?
In reply to trouserburp:
> I thought the routes that weren't above or below the path were still allowed? Africa?

You could probably still do the Africa routes although I doubt many people do. The problem will come when getting off them since you would end up on the Caminito which would need an explanation to the guards when you tried to exit. You could still do the route Zeppelin but, again, it is best for access for everyone if climbers pretty much leave the lower gorge alone. There is so much else to do that it is just provoking problems if you actually start climbing in view of the thousands of walkers on the Caminito.

We will not be covering these walls in the new guide.

> and then it says you still 'need' to walk through the tunnels to get to the central open area (Los Cotos? Tunnels also gave access to Zeppelin and some other routes in the gorge proper, are they allowed?) and next sentence 'There are alternative ways of getting to the central gorge as well'. Not much clarity on the access issues, have any fines been issued recently?

The access is exactly as stated. You can walk through the tunnels to the central gorge (los Cotos, Polvorin, Makinodromo, etc.) although signs suggest it is illegal. I haven't heard of anyone being fined though. There is a decent alternative to avoid the tunnels over the top if you wish but it is longer.

> I'm sure the book is great but this article is more of a confusing mess than a full update on access. The rest of the region was fine but if I'm going back my main aims are Africa and Zeppelin in the spectacular setting of El Chorro gorge!

If that's what you want from El Chorro then I wouldn't bother. There is so much else and most of it is much better than those two areas anyway. Zeppelin is a decent route but it really is just one hard pitch and a lot of rambling in an atmospheric position. I haven't climbed on Africa but I would think the fixed gear in there is pretty rubbish. Adventurous climbing for sure, but not really what El Chorro is about these days.

I have updated the article to try and make it a bit clearer.

Alan
Post edited at 13:30
Alan Rubin - on 05 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Possibly a bit of thread drift, but when do you expect the new book to be out? Any chance of publishing any 'mini-guides' to some of the new areas for those of us hoping to visit later this winter? While I am a big believer of using local guidebooks as well as Rockfax, the local guides for that area are virtually worthless in my experience--and really aren't much more up-to-date than the '08 Rockfax anyway.
In reply to Alan Rubin:

> Possibly a bit of thread drift, but when do you expect the new book to be out? Any chance of publishing any 'mini-guides' to some of the new areas for those of us hoping to visit later this winter?

The book will be out about this time next year. Sorry, but we won't be able to publish anything before the final book is out. If it was on the app then this would be possible, but the El Chorro book has never been 'appified' since it was a bit too old.

Alan
bandit12 - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to ChrisBrooke:

As said the tunnels are plenty wide enough in most places although if you get caught in one of the narrower sections it feels pretty exciting as the trains pass about 1m away. However, having witnessed a group of noisy Spanish climbers walking down the center of the track and jumping out of the way of a train with about 3 seconds to spare, you do need to be careful as the trains can't be seen in the twisty sections. Following this we counted the time from hearing a train coming to it actually passing as 9 or 10 seconds, this was about 4 years ago and I don't recall any warning horns.
BrendanO - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to bandit12:

I visited in 1999. I was very nervous about the tunnels. We got "adopted" for the week by a local dog which followed us everywhere. First time a train came through a tunnel at us, of course we couldn't find the dog, but it knee the score. By the end of a week of quite full-on climbing for this relative newbie, we were very relaxed about dogs and trains.

I did bottle out of a long trip on the Camino though. Those that went on it later admitted it was all a bit sketchy.

Curious about the presence of "guards" now...are they checking tickets or summat, or just there to doff caps and be in photos?
In reply to BrendanO:

> Curious about the presence of "guards" now...are they checking tickets or summat, or just there to doff caps and be in photos?

'Guards' is probably the wrong word - they are not police. The Caminito is a fully-fledged tourist attraction with staff. They are present at both ends and have a job to do with regard to getting people through the walkway. They are friendly to climbers though and one we met actually saw we were walking uphill to go the high non-tunnel route to Makinodromo and told us that we should use the tunnels since it was quicker.

Climbers need to realise that things have changed dramatically with the Caminito. 1000 walkers/tourists every day, on coaches bring a different dynamic to the area especially in the village and around the gorge. Away from that it is as it ever was, but the free camping, happy-go-lucky strolls along the collapsing walkway and impromptu youth raves in the gorge are things of the past.

Alan
auld al on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to trouserburp:
> Is this true?

> The new walkway is fixed above the old one and is totally solid and safe, however it has completely removed access to the routes in the actual gorge.

> I thought the routes that weren't above or below the path were still allowed? Africa?

> and then it says you still 'need' to walk through the tunnels to get to the central open area (Los Cotos? Tunnels also gave access to Zeppelin and some other routes in the gorge proper, are they allowed?) and next sentence 'There are alternative ways of getting to the central gorge as well'. Not much clarity on the access issues, have any fines been issued recently?

>I have climbed in the gorge this year - how it works - you go to the far end of the gorge - where the tourists start their trip - for morning opening and present yourself to the kiosk (think this was about 8.30). You show climbing kit including helmet and adventure insurance (which they check) You then get allocated a personal guide that will escourt your party to your crag of choice and show you the path to it! If the start of the access path to your crag is past the halfway point, then a guide approaching from the far end will meet and do a handover.
This is free - normal access is about 10 euro.
We were glad to have a Spanish speaker in our party though to explain things
Post edited at 10:44
In reply to auld al:
> I have climbed in the gorge this year - how it works - you go to the far end of the gorge - where the tourists start their trip - for morning opening and present yourself to the kiosk (think this was about 8.30). You show climbing kit including helmet and adventure insurance (which they check) You then get allocated a personal guide that will escourt your party to your crag of choice and show you the path to it! If the start of the access path to your crag is past the halfway point, then a guide approaching from the far end will meet and do a handover.

That's interesting information.

When you say climbing in the gorge, which routes/crags do you mean?

Is this for actually climbing the old routes above the walkway?

If it is just to reach the central gorge area then it sounds like quite a long walk (and drive if you are staying around El Chorro) although I imagine the upper section of the Caminito is spectacular. To get to Makinodromo would be around a 5km walk instead of a 2.5km walk over the top or through the tunnels. Los Cotos would be 4.5km instead of 1.5km through the tunnels.

Alan
Post edited at 11:07
auld al on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

We were just climbing at Los Cotos - They ask us where we were going - I don't know what all areas are available.
It may be longer, though all official and a beautiful approach. I suppose if the lower gorge was your focus it would be very long winded.
markalmack - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Are Rockfax planning on checking the routes this time?
In reply to markalmack:

> Are Rockfax planning on checking the routes this time?

Not sure quite what that is supposed to mean but I reckon Mark will have made around 20 trips out there by the time the book is published, and he doesn't sit on the bar terrace for a week!

On a more serious point though, if you have any helpful feedback to give where there are changes, discrepancies since the last guidebook, then feel free to let us know.

Alan

markalmack - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I meant that when I visited i found many of the climb descriptions inaccurate. While I accept not all routes can be checked, guessing the length of a route can lead to accidents by inexperienced climbers. There were several times where i could not get down from a route because my rope was not long enough even though in the guide book it said i should have been able to. I have found this to be the case in other areas too, e.g. sella.
Maybe it would be better not to put a route length in the guide if it has not been checked.
In reply to markalmack:

> I meant that when I visited i found many of the climb descriptions inaccurate. While I accept not all routes can be checked, guessing the length of a route can lead to accidents by inexperienced climbers. There were several times where i could not get down from a route because my rope was not long enough even though in the guide book it said i should have been able to. I have found this to be the case in other areas too, e.g. sella.

This was a known issue with this guide and also the reason that we have stopped including dedicated pitch lengths with descriptions on every guide since 2008. So it must have been an old guidebook at Sella.

What happened in El Chorro is that a number of prominent routes were rebolted and extended shortly after we produced the last guide. These are documented in the El Chorro Update that we give away for free from the Rockfax site. Obviously there was little we could do about this, but it did wake us up to the realisation that including specific pitch lengths could lead to accidents if people are stupid enough to blindly rely on them.

Other aspects like the fact that people stand in different places when they belay, some people use a lot more rope in their knots, ropes have their ends chopped off and people forget how long they are. Additionally, how long are these ropes? In our tests we found 60m ropes varied from 60m to 66m. Could be a shock if you owned the former and asked the person who had just done the route, and had a 66m long '60m rope', if you could reach the ground. They could on their '60m rope' but you will end up 6m short!

Another factor is that checking pitch lengths is extremely difficult to do accurately and has in fact seldom ever been done accurately. The vast majority of pitch lengths in UK guidebooks are at best vague approximations, and at worst massively inaccurate. In trad climbing though people rarely check since it isn't that important.

> Maybe it would be better not to put a route length in the guide if it has not been checked.

For the last 10 years we have been putting spot route heights on the topos to give people rough indications but leave the actual life and death decision about lowering off up to the person it really matters to.

Alan

is2 - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:
We had a conversation with two Guardia at Chorro last week. They said that tunnels should not be used and there was potentially a fine for doing so. This was in the Albercones car park where there are notices to this effect and the railway lines are well fenced off but they inferred this meant all tunnels. Perhaps they were misleading us.
We also walked up to el Navegador and found notices banning climbing due to ecological concerns. This was reinforced by fences further down at the middle of Suiza sector.
Personally I won’t go back to Chorro as there are loads of equally good places to climb in Europe, without the rules, ambiguity and hordes of tourists
Post edited at 21:16
AJM - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to is2:

> We had a conversation with two Guardia at Chorro last week. They said that tunnels should not be used and there was potentially a fine for doing so. This was in the Albercones car park where there are notices to this effect and the railway lines are well fenced off but they inferred this meant all tunnels. Perhaps they were misleading us.

The rules say the tunnels shouldn't be used and that serious fines can be levied for breaking those rules. The rules are infrequently enforced and regularly flouted, but you wouldn't expect the Guardia to tell you that would you?
TheGeneralist - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:
Got to say, I'm dissappointed with this article. Was in El Chorro last year and the year before and the situation regarding access was a mess. I assumed that it would just drop off the radar of most climbers as a consequence. The locals were well pissed off and even the local guides didn't know what was going on.

Essentially the idea was that you just took your chances in the tunnels. It was this bizarre situation that the climbing on the front wasn't all that amazing but the climbing in the back required running the gauntlet of guards/police on the railway. Nobody seemed sure what to do.

Gobsmacked that RockFax are producing a new guide with not really any more definitive info, other than break the law and go through the tunnels anyway.

Shame they couldn't sort it out properly (the powers that be, not Rockfax)
Post edited at 21:47
In reply to TheGeneralist:

> Got to say, I'm dissappointed with this article. Was in El Chorro last year and the year before and the situation regarding access was a mess. I assumed that it would just drop off the radar of most climbers as a consequence. The locals were well pissed off and even the local guides didn't know what was going on.

> Essentially the idea was that you just took your chances in the tunnels. It was this bizarre situation that the climbing on the front wasn't all that amazing but the climbing in the back required running the gauntlet of guards/police on the railway. Nobody seemed sure what to do.

I am not sure what you mean by ‘climbing on the front’. The gorge and the tunnels represent about 10% of the climbing on offer at El Chorro and it is far from the best. The vast Frontales cliff, Encantadas area, the lovely slabs of Abdalajis, and the brilliant Desplomilandia have thousands of routes without any access issues. Makinodromo is easily reached without going through any tunnels. There is also the stunning new crag of Puerto Rico which has some of the most amazing mid-grade tufa routes I have seen plus the beautiful walls of St. Anton. Add in the hard stuff at Archidona, the excellent wall at Villanueva de Cauche, the fine slabs of Turon and the wild rock formations of El Torcal and you have plenty of variation.

Yes, the polished slabs of Los Cotos are difficult to get to, as is the quality El Polovorin. The gorge routes were never that good and there are around 6 routes on Navegador that have a seasonal bird restriction but basically, that’s it.

The reason we have published this article is because of misconceptions like the one you have stated here. There are at least twice as many routes since the last guide so we are producing a 400+ page guidebook (the last one was 200 pages) which will cover routes with excellent access and I am very confident that it will sell fine. One reason I know this is that the previous edition has been consistent seller and it has even picked up in recent years because of the quality of the new developments.

> Gobsmacked that RockFax are producing a new guide with not really any more definitive info, other than break the law and go through the tunnels anyway.

Every crag we cover will have information on how to get to it without breaking the law and going through the tunnels because it is really easy to do that. We will state the facts about the tunnels but we will only say that is an option if you wish to Los Cotos or El Polvorin a bit quicker, but you do so at your own risk.

Alan

In reply to is2:
> We had a conversation with two Guardia at Chorro last week. They said that tunnels should not be used and there was potentially a fine for doing so.

Yes, I remember hearing that back in1992 when we first went to EC. Not actually heard of anyone being fined since though. That isn’t to say the tunnel situation is ideal, but to dismiss the whole area because of the ambiguous access in the tunnels would be like saying don’t climb in the Peak because there is a banned crag there.

Alan
Post edited at 22:38
Cheese Monkey - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Why include any mention of using illegal access? Do you not see how this could even further weaken the whole access situation in the gorge there? Strikes me as unwise, particularly when there is adequate legal access.

I hope you would not do the same in the UK. There are a few crags local to me that can be accessed very quickly by illegally crossing a railway line, or a meandering slog through the woods. The CC guide rightly explicitly states not to cross the line.
Cheese Monkey - on 06 Dec 2017
In reply to auld al:

> >I have climbed in the gorge this year - how it works - you go to the far end of the gorge - where the tourists start their trip - for morning opening and present yourself to the kiosk (think this was about 8.30). You show climbing kit including helmet and adventure insurance (which they check) You then get allocated a personal guide that will escourt your party to your crag of choice and show you the path to it! If the start of the access path to your crag is past the halfway point, then a guide approaching from the far end will meet and do a handover.

> This is free - normal access is about 10 euro.

> We were glad to have a Spanish speaker in our party though to explain things

Now this is the sort of information that should be in an access update. Not just a load of sales spiel
AJM - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

As far as my recollection goes it's the only way the local guide recommends to approach Makinodromo/etc...
Cheese Monkey - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to AJM:

So it does. Equally as poor if not worse then!
AJM - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

I don't think it's solely a climbers shortcut either mind you. I've seen families with kids and dogs hanging out on the balcony in the middle, and heard persistent rumours that people have gone through it with prams/etc.
Cheese Monkey - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to AJM:

That doesn't make it anymore acceptable to me.
AJM - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

> There is also the stunning new crag of Puerto Rico which has some of the most amazing mid-grade tufa routes I have seen plus the beautiful walls of St. Anton

What's "mid grade" in this context? And sun/shade?

Having spent a while in Chorro I felt a bit like I'd exhausted it's "depths of winter sunshine" options - obviously not absolutely but relative to other areas - aside from Makinodromo which is a chuffing long walk to do every day. I figured the next time I would be back would be to chase shade at a slightly warmer time of year.

But "most amazing mid grade tufa routes I have seen" is a strong sales pitch...
AJM - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

> That doesn't make it anymore acceptable to me.

I mean fine, don't use it then. But to me a guidebook which fails to even mention the main access route that everyone else uses, with caveats, doesn't feel like it's being that helpful. If the locals were saying don't use the tunnels then I'd agree, but it's a bit presumptuous of me to assume I know better than them the unofficial niceties and tolerances around the current arrangement, which since it's been the main access route for at least 10 (20?) years now seems to be quite well established.
Cheese Monkey - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to AJM:

With the increased ‘mainstream’ attention on the gorge I think it is only a matter of time before access to the tunnels is stopped completely (or something worse happens) and climbers could certainly do without being caught up in the inevitable fallout. It sounds to me that the local guardia are telling everyone not to use it and have been for years, just because locals ignore them still doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
jon on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to AJM:

> and heard persistent rumours that people have gone through it with prams/etc.

That'll be the same people that make a habit of taking their dogs up the Matterhorn

In reply to AJM:

> What's "mid grade" in this context? And sun/shade?

It is a sunny venue but it does have amazing tufa but not in a steep high 7s and 8s cave. There are harder routes but also plenty of 6s in there too.

Some photos here - Puerto Rico#photos

> Having spent a while in Chorro I felt a bit like I'd exhausted it's "depths of winter sunshine" options - obviously not absolutely but relative to other areas - aside from Makinodromo which is a chuffing long walk to do every day. I figured the next time I would be back would be to chase shade at a slightly warmer time of year.

Well Desplomilandia, Poza de Mona and Arichidona are pretty extensive 100% shade crags, but El Chorro is probably best as a winter sun option for sure since then you can experience the full range of the Frontales crags. St. Anton is mid afternoon sun so it is an option.

Alan
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

> With the increased ‘mainstream’ attention on the gorge I think it is only a matter of time before access to the tunnels is stopped completely (or something worse happens) and climbers could certainly do without being caught up in the inevitable fallout. It sounds to me that the local guardia are telling everyone not to use it and have been for years, just because locals ignore them still doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

As I have stated several times on this thread, close the tunnels and you lose the quick route to Los Cotos and El Polvorin - that's it. Everything else is still available!

You are correct and that it might happen, and the fences are certainly higher than they used to be, so it is going that way. But as for having an impact on El Chorro as a climbing destination, closing the tunnels (more than they already are) will do very little.

Alan
In reply to Cheese Monkey:

> Why include any mention of using illegal access? Do you not see how this could even further weaken the whole access situation in the gorge there? Strikes me as unwise, particularly when there is adequate legal access.

> I hope you would not do the same in the UK. There are a few crags local to me that can be accessed very quickly by illegally crossing a railway line, or a meandering slog through the woods. The CC guide rightly explicitly states not to cross the line.

It is all about the way you do it. Loads of UK guidebooks have printed access information that doesn't necessarily relate to the real situation simply because you can't risk putting statements in print that could get you into trouble. Lulworth Cove for example. "You can't climb here but we are going to publish a full topo with approach details, tide information and topos anyway". Most of the quarries in the Peak - "Climbing is banned but here is the hole in the fence that you can go through".

El Chorro is no different. "Walking through the tunnels is not allowed and here is a way to get to every crag without walking through the tunnels. You will see lots of people walking through the tunnels though."

Alan
is2 - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:
Hardly the “same as”. However I also climbed at Desplomilandia, which I found very busy and super polished. I went to Villanueva de Cauche, which was a long drive but had some good climbing especially in the higher grades, however the warm up end was distinctly scrappy and sharp. Had a couple of trips to Puerto Rico, once again a long drive, but a nice little crag, rather than a new super venue.
I got the impression from my climbing partner, who had been to Chorro many times, that it was a pale shadow of its former self and for me the worst of many areas I have climbed in in Spain. Others may still love it and should go and try it but deffo not for me.
AJM - on 07 Dec 2017
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

Thanks Alan. Looks nice.

I'm not arguing frontales isn't good, just to be clear, more that for example I've not done much at Margalef and so my comparison is of a fairly blank slate at Margalef versus the remaining things I am inspired by at Frontales.
In reply to is2:

> I got the impression from my climbing partner, who had been to Chorro many times, that it was a pale shadow of its former self and for me the worst of many areas I have climbed in in Spain. Others may still love it and should go and try it but deffo not for me.

Well obviously you are entitled to your opinion although how an area can get to be a 'pale shadow of its former self', when it has three times as many routes on offer, in a variety of new venues, plus lots of extra development on existing crags, is a bit of a mystery.

Alan
tuckleyn - on 09:45 Tue
In reply to Alan James - UKC and UKH:

I was there about 4 years ago and didn't climb in the gorge but met a group that had been fined by the Guradia Civil walking out through the tunnels at the end of the day. I suspect that every so often there is a clamp down after too many train driver complain
spidermonkey09 - on 11:25 Tue
In reply to UKC News:

Not sure what everyone is moaning about to be honest. The access isn't a massive problem, everyone and their mother walks through those tunnels. New guidebook overdue and will be great.

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