Altitude 545m a.s.l
Chris Gore climbing Lourdes (8a) at El Chorro. © Mark Glaister
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. Over thirty years since its first ascent, Lourdes is still one of the most famous climbs in the world: Many come to El Chorro only to try this one route! Today Lourdes has been joined by dozens of climbs on its nearby walls, as well as on the long line of cliffs it is a part of. The development of these cliffs is ongoing so there are quite a lot of projects and odd bolts dotted about. This can cause difficulty when identifying routes, although the best and most popular lines are always very well chalked up. The climbing in this area is really the preserve of those operating in the higher grades, although a good day can be had for those wanting to pick off the better mid-grade routes, such as the outstanding Life is Sweet.
The escarpment faces south and gets the sun for most of the day, dipping into the shade late in the day. As a consequence it is often very warm, although the area does sometimes catch a breeze. Outside of the winter months when the sun is high in the sky the steepest parts of the cliff are in the shade for much longer. Climbing in the rain is possible, although the tufas start to seep after prolonged periods of rainfall. There are a number of trees at the base of the crag that offer shade, but there is no water source.
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.
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 Makinodromo.
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