Southern Spain - Jaen & Cordoba

James Lucas photo - last climb of the trip

Typical Spain: olive orchards, goats, multiple 5.14 climbers, and some americans
trying not to flail too hard.

It's a small climbing world. Last spring I was top-roping in Leavenworth with Fred Beckey, when I noticed a very strong climber circuiting nearby boulders. We began chatting, and through his thick Spanish accent, it became apparent that he was an accomplished Spanish alpinist who also had no problem onsighting V8 boulder problems. His name was Pedro Diaz, and he ended up staying in Leavenworth with me, and climbing for a couple days with my wife and I before heading back home. Pedro had just gotten back from the Revelation mountains in Alaska, and had many many trips to the USA to climb. We decided to meet up and climb again. Last we didn't cross paths, but this winter when I decided to go to Spain, I was immediately invited by Pedro to check out his home area of Cordoba and Jaen. This area (south-central Spain) has some amazing huge caves, a rural feel, relaxed cities, low costs, and friendly climbers. After being in Chulilla, I took the $50 AVE high-speed train from Valencia to Cordoba, and Pedro met me at the station, with American James Lucas, and Brit Hazel Findlay. The 4 of us were off to one of Pedro's favorite walls.

We climbed for a few days on massively overhanging limestone walls, working routes despite very cold weather. We had a small fire at the crag a couple of days, and experienced several snow squalls, but stayed dry. The final day, we arrived to find meter-long icicles hanging from many of the tufas. I asked Pedro what the Spanish word for icicle was, and he claimed that there wasn't one (at least in common usage in Andalusia) - it was basically something that never happened around there.

Looks steep up there, better use the
kneebar sleeve. 
It was great having Pedro show us his favorite lines, and it was fun to watch the rapid and dynamic climbing style of the local crushers. James, Hazel, and I threw ourselves at various projects and onsight attempts, with my personal highlight being my first flash of a 8a route / .13b route, called Conde Dracula. Dracula takes the full span of a huge cave, overhanging at least 40' in the first section. It's easy to belay and see the climber by simply turning around and staring out from the start of the climb. Since it's so steep, you can easily watch someone leading by looking backward from the base. It features 10 or 12 bolts worth of climbing out the first tier of the roof, then a rest between tufas, and an overhanging headwall of another 6-8 bolts of 5.12 climbing with a bit of chimney/tufa action at the top. Most climbers probably don't do the chimney technique, but I had to get a bit of Index/granite style body smushing in somewhere! I sent the climb despite fully frozen hands, and sat through the full pain cycle of screaming barfies in the tufa rest, watching snow fall across the valley. Thanks James for the long and boring belay! A few climbs to the left of Conde Dracula is an open project ("Somos Chromosomos") that's been attempted by Adam Ondra, and may end up being the world's hardest route if it ever gets sent. The other climbing highlight was a .13c/d masterpiece called "Lagunas Mentales" which I many-hanged my way up on the first day, and last day there. It's 35m of tufa pinching and pocket grabbing, using technical sequences up a steep plaque of striped rock - definitely one of the pitches I'll never forget.

Hazel on Lagunas Mentales
On a rest day, James and I got lost and went on a self-guided tour of Jaen. The highlight being when James (who barely spoke any Spanish) went into a tiny fabric store, pulled up his shirt, and pulled down the fly on his trousers to expose a missing button on the pants to the occupants of the tiny shop. No words had been exchanged at that point, and the only other people in the tiny store were some silver haired Spanish women to whom James was (almost) exposing himself. They eventually figured out that he needed to buy a button to replace the missing one, but in the interim, they asked us if were baffled that somehow being smelly, unshaven, ostentatiously dressed, then pulling down your pants as a means of greeting a grandmother is something that made them think "aha! missionaries!" The trip ended with Pedro dropping me off at the AVE/Renfe (high-speed rail) station in Cordoba, and I caught the morning train to Madrid, and the cross-town metro to the airport. I highly suggest using the fast trains in Spain, the prices are great ($50-$70 to go across the country) and things are way faster and easier than flying. American Airlines and their partner airlines fly round-trip to many Spanish destinations for 40,000 miles - AKA 1 credit card signup bonus.

James lowers off Conde Dracula

Very little of the climbing is bouldery, but Pedro stuck the dyno this thing this (V10? / 5.hard)

James on the tufa rest

Pedro's amazing house in downtown Cordoba, next to ancient castles, mosques, and bridges.

Plant grape vine in gutter. Wait 3 generations. Harvest grapes and wine from the roof.

I am very gluten tolerant.


Chulilla Spain

Ciudad de Artes y Ciencas, Valencia Spain

I've spent the past week sport climbing on the stunning 50-70m walls along the Rio Turia, just west of Valencia, Spain. I am here with Washington friends Benjit Hull and Chris Allen, and it has been great climbing with these guys. I had a bit of a baggage kerfuffle to begin the trip, and arrived with only my carry-on pack. Luckily, I had my harness as well as one supertight slipper and a loose warmup shoe, and they weren't even for the same foot, so I could climb!

Chulilla is an ideal spot to tick mega enduro pitches in the .11+ to .13+ range, with endurance being the name of the game on gently overhung waves of tufa-draped stone. The only thing it doesn't have is a big cave, or excellent low-grade climbing. From the tiny town (one bakery, one bar, one town square, etc etc) it's a 5-40minute walk to all the walls. I managed to onsight a couple 5.12c pitches early on, and topped off my week in Chulilla with a flash of the 40m .13a "Remanso de las Mulas", my first flash of that grade. My final day, I sent the area classic "Tequila Sunrise" (.13a/.13b) second try. (Video at the bottom of thsi post)

Here are a few psyche-you-up videos (not mine) that capture the area, and some of my photos. Valencia is also an amazing town, only 30 miles away, and with excellent rest day touristing opportunities, particularly the old castles, downtown region, huge central food/seafood market, and the City of Arts and Sciences.

Overall I HIGHLY recomend Chulilla for a visit, since you don't need a car once you arrive, the climbing is killer, there are hundreds of routes within a walk from the quaint town, and it seems to be dry and pleasant here all the time, even when it was storming hard and raining/snowing a couple hours north in Catalonia.

My array of ticketing/lost bag material - que lastima!

Chris Allen and I streaming the superbowl on a tiny computer after hacking into the interwebs (we weren't supposed to stream it from Europe.)

Tequila Sunrise 5.13- (It's actually overhanging the whole way)
Cobra Tufa atop the 40m masterpiece "Ramallar" 7c/.12d
The Chulilla Gorge

Piotr Bunsch climbing Primer Asalto (8c) in Chulilla, Spain from Valencia Climb on Vimeo.

veteranos from mugiwara on Vimeo.