Altitude 240m a.s.l
6c heaven - El Polvorin © Adrian Pollard
El Polvorin is an amazing wall of unusually featured rock that gives some of the best mid-grade wall climbs in the Central Gorge. The name means 'gunpowder magazine' after the small hut on its flank that presumably housed the explosives used to excavate the railway tunnels, although the routes themselves have more of a slow-burn rather than explosive character! The wall is pretty much vertical and the majority of the routes are around 25m to 30m long. The sapping nature of the climbing can take its toll on your forearms as the features are often hidden from view and progress evermore tiring in the belief that something will come to hand.
The routes can easily be viewed and photographed from the convenient viewing ledge. The rock is immaculate and the bolts are in good condition but feel a bit spaced at times. As a consequence, this is not a place to venture early in your trip unless you are confident and fit.
The cliff faces west, getting the afternoon sun. In cool or windy weather, it is best avoided until the sun gets onto the main face. In warm weather, the main face soon heats up and has no shade at the base. There is no possibility of climbing in the rain.
It is possible to reach all the crags in the Central Gorge Area without going through the train tunnels. The approach described here is quite long, but it is also a beautiful and spectacular walk. From El Chorro, follow the road towards the gorge and the exit from the Caminito. There is a large parking area here on the left. Walk down the continuation track to an ice cream stand at a junction. Follow the track around the ice cream stand. After 200m there is a terrace on the right opposite a large metal tube next to a tree. Step up onto the terrace and zig-zag up to the railway. Go up some wooden steps, over the railway tunnel and onto the hillside above until you reach a wooden fenced area. Take a vague path up the hillside towards a section of scree slope. Scramble up the right-hand side of the scree - no real path - until you reach an indistinct higher path. Follow this back leftwards towards the ridge to a clean notch cut through the ridge (this notch isn't visible from below). Once through here, the path contours across the hillside all the way to Makinodromo. To get to El Polvorin, drop down the steep path from Makinodromo towards the railway. Cross the railway and follow a path on the far side to the right of the tunnel. Break left from this and up onto terraces above the wall of El Polvorin.
Officially you are not allowed to walk through the train tunnels and climbers have been stopped from doing this. Unofficially, you will see people still using them and it is undoubtedly a quicker approach to El Polvorin.
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