El Chorro – November 2023

From the 2nd – 6th November, Dan, Sam, Bryan, Ewart, Derek and I spent time in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, around the village of El Chorro, an hour drive north of Malaga.

Day 1

The first day began far from ideally as Sam, Ewart and I were pulled aside at Leeds-Bradford airport security and had our slings and personal lanyards confiscated. Evidently we looked like the type to attempt a plane-jacking armed with 120cm Dyneema! This hold up almost caused us to miss our flight entirely had we not dashed through duty free to our gate.

After arriving in Malaga around mid-afternoon and collecting the van, we set off to El Chorro. Having not eaten since the pre-flight Greggs stop, we paused halfway in a small village for some food. A lovely, authentic three course meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and only cost £10pp!

Enjoying some refreshing beverages before the 3 courses arrive.

Back on the road, Dan bravely took on the driving along the narrow, rough roads as the sun set. We arrived at the Olive Branch B&B around 6:30pm and unloaded our kit. We then ventured down to El Chorro village to pick up some snacks for the evening and the following days. On the walk back we encountered a brief gale which whipped up the arid ground into a bit of a sandstorm. Ewart’s cap blew off his head and he got his first taste of the climbing with a V-diff on a steep dirt bank to retrieve it. We were pretty tired from the days travel, so we knocked back a few cervezas, played some darts and then headed to bed.

Day 2

Before making our way to the crag, and keen to replace the kit lost on the previous day, we visited a local kit shop/shack which sat, isolated upon one of the neighbouring hilltops. It was run by an eccentric German man, who at one point, we thought had kidnapped Ewart as we waited in the van for him to purchase all manner of maps, postcards and other gear.

Back from the kit shop, we set off on foot from the Olive Branch towards the Escalera Arabe (The Arab Steps) area. Supposedly only a 20 minute walk-in, we managed to get lost (a bit of a running theme) among the windy dirt tracks, walking far further than we needed to. After a period of crag-gazing and guidebook interrogation, we finally arrived at our desired area, 1 hour and 20 minutes later! Despite this mishap, we were all in good spirits as both the rock and the surrounding views were fantastic. Over the following few hours we all climbed around half a dozen single pitch routes between the grades of 4a and 5c, easing ourselves in and getting used to the rock. An unexpected highlight was the packed lunch sandwich, filled with bacon, fresh tomato, and manchego cheese, prepared by the Olive Branch staff.

Later that evening, tea/dinner was a quintessential southern Spain delicacy – a roast chicken dinner. As you can see, Dan was far from impressed.

A very Spanish meal.

In the evening we all chilled out with some cervezas, played some pool, and made friends with the local creatures... or not!

Day 3

To break up the climbing, the team decided on doing a via ferrata through the gorge in the morning. The route wandered its way up and across a series of peaks linked by staple ladders, wire bridges and a single zip line. It was a great activity with beautiful views of the surrounding area.

On returning from the via ferrata, and not wanting to waste any daylight, we decided to spend the rest of the day climbing at a couple of nearby crags, just 5 minutes walk away from the accommodation! The team took on and clipped the top chain on a number of tricky slabs between 4a and 6a+, and enjoyed a stunning sunset – particularly special when viewed from the top of a route.

For our evening meal we booked in at a nearby restaurant, based on a recommendation from the previous day. We all opted for a well-deserved steak and chips and shared a couple of bottles of red wine.

Derek looking thrilled and about to tuck in!

Day 4

Alongside the many single pitch routes available in the area, there are a good number of high quality multi-pitch routes too, that range from 2 to 12 pitches with difficulties across the spectrum. Sam, Bryan, Dan and I decided to take it relatively easy on ‘Three Sixty’, a pleasant 6 pitch route with 4b/Diff climbing, but not before getting lost on the approach and visiting the wrong crag!

We should have been on the dotted path toward Corral East. Oh dear.

The route gently meandered up a rambling cliff with comfy belay ledges and finished on the summit. For those wanting a bit of a challenge, the final pitch can be done as a ‘direct’ variant, with 6a climbing up a thin, narrow corner/chimney. Bryan and I took on this challenge and successfully topped-out, but not before some tough squeezing and awkward bridging (I would’ve given it 6a+!). All 4 of us were rewarded at the top with an amazing 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding area. The elation was somewhat stifled, however, by the highly disappointing packed lunch jam sandwich, in stark contrast to the amazing sandwich a few days before. A further let down followed in the form of a 30m abseil from the summit. This was a recently acquired skill for most of us and would normally have been a relatively straight forward procedure. Sam, being an ace, and familiar with all things abseiling calmly delivered a crash course of revision to ensure the safe completion of the route. Eventually we all stood safely on the ground, after some wrestling with the ropes which got tangled in a tree half way down the pitch.

The fearless duo (Ewart & Derek) meanwhile were having an epic themselves. Perhaps a bit over-ambitious, they attempted ‘Lluvia del Astroides’, an 8 pitch route with many sustained back-to-back 5c pitches. Realising they had bitten off more than they could chew, they had to bail somewhere on the first or second pitch. Not to be deterred, they re-evaluated and found another multi-pitch to have a go at, but not before having to head back to camp to fetch the guidebook, as they thought they “wouldn’t need it”. Mid-afternoon by this point, they then found themselves on ‘Blue Line’, a 12 pitch classic with some easier pitches of 4b but with some harder 5c climbing near the top. I will spare some of the details here, but this ascent included Ewart going off-route/missing a belay station and running out an entire 70m rope in one pitch, making multiple abseils (2 or 3 in total darkness with only one headtorch!), and having to make an ad-hoc belay point with trad gear?. They finally arrived back at the accommodation at 8:30pm, 4 hours after we had gotten back from our route! Lessons were learnt, and I think it’s safe to say they will be regaling us with the details of that day for months or even years to come!

The only picture from Derek & Ewart's epic. Speaks a thousand words.

Overall, a fantastic few days of fun and activity, and a welcome break from the dreary UK November weather. All agreed that a trip of similar offering next year would be a great addition to the annual YMC itinerary.

Till next time,


It does look a bit dreary here but the sun did appear after the photo was taken!

P.S. For those interested, the price for the trip worked out at  ~£475 per person for everything.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply