Chulilla – An onsight climbers’ paradise

Over the past week I’ve been reacquainting myself with an assortment of sport climbing paraphernalia out in Chulilla, Spain . Having not tied on since I returned from South Africa, and having not used anything more than a bouldering mat and a lapis brush either, it has – as always – been nice to mix it up, do something a bit different, see the sun, and start to turn my mind towards the route season.

Chulilla, as the title suggests, has been a great venue for onsight climbing. The angle and style lends itself towards the trad-come-sport climber with an ability to hang on, rest, and get it back, whilst simultaneously getting their tech head into gear to negotiate their way around the hard sections, get to the next rest (and repeat). Generally speaking, Chulilla isn’t just about grab and pull – due to the relatively gentle gradient it has a lot to do with your feet. Furthermore, the routes are LONG, with many reaching up to 40, 50 and even 60m in a single pitch. With all of these factors combined I would got so far as to saying that it is one of the best UK pre-trad/sport season venues I can think of…

Pim Pan Pons (7a+), a route that I should have extended into a 50m 7c+ but didn't due to a severe lack of commitment and belief!!
Pim Pan Pons (7a+), a route that I should have extended into a 50m 7c+ but didn’t due to a severe lack of commitment and belief!!

The quality of routes seems at it’s highest in/around the 7’s, with a particularly high calibre around the 7b-7c mark (I’m sure the 8s are good too, but I didn’t do any…). Despite Chulilla’s reputation for Kalymos-esq grading (i.e. soft), our experiences were that the grading around the 6s and lower 7s actually seemed quite hard, but the harder you actually climbed (>7b) the easier things tended to feel (if that makes any sense whatsoever?!). Climbing in the upper 7’s (7c/+) also provided the benefit of being able to link up into the many extensions that are abound throughout the area. Often these routes took the start of an existing three star route for P1, then another three star pitch for P2, therefore gaining over six stars worth of quality and a rather shocking 40, 50, or even 60m (!!) of climbing.

Personal highlights included:

  • Los Caminates, 7c – Endless arm barring and back/footing between big tufas
  • Los Franceses, 7b+ – Like a route in Pembroke (i.e. easy), up until the bit it becomes very much like a route in Chulilla (i.e. hard/pumpy)
  • Super Zeb, 7c – It’s infrequent that limestone sport climbs have ‘lines’, but this one does – and it’s good.  All about your feet too, nice and technical…

At the moment there isn’t a guidebook in print, so we’ve been using a blend of things from ClimbMaps.com, Steve Crowe’s climbonline.co.uk, and the UKC Logbooks – all of which have been useful.  In addition to this we received a lot of recommendations from our host at El Altico, local developer Pedro Pons – seeing as he’s either bolted or made early repeats of just about every route in the valley he’s the man to know when it comes to which are the best routes/areas for the very occasional cold days, windy days etc… (or just for when you don’t know where to start).

One of the many prickly pears around
One of the many prickly pears around
The lovely terracotta roofs throughout Chulilla village
The lovely terracotta roofs throughout Chulilla village

Rob Greenwood and Penny Orr

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