Sometimes you’ve just got to say no to work and go on an adventure!
I’d never heard of Chulilla but Fay assured me it was the place to be. It turns out she was right!
Before getting anywhere near to Spain though I had to drive a long, long way from North Wales. First stop was picking up Fay’s dog Zeberdee from Newbury, then picking up Fay herself from Chamonix, before finally heading down to Chulilla in Spain which all took some time involving lots of toll roads, lots of shaky Dachshund, lots of smelly tuna and lots of tunes.
Waking up in a car park to the sound of rain didn’t fill me with confidence that this was the place to be, but Fay had to work that day anyway and I was pretty glad to have a day of chilling out after all the driving. The town of Chulilla is pretty small but has all you need to spend a bit of time climbing there, a small shop for food essentials, a bakery, a slightly manky bar and a decent climber’s bar which has good wifi, good pizza / burgers / salad / coffee/ beer. We were van camping in the car park, which seemed absolutely fine and lots of other people were doing the same thing without any grief from anyone. There’s no public toilets or showers (*2018 update, there are now showers*) but there are taps for water, there is a leisure centre not far away where you can shower, and I believe one of the nearby petrol stations has a shower too. We were ok though as our new best friends Dave and Martin had an apartment in town so we just pestered them on a daily basis!
There’s quite a few bits of Chulilla that stay dry in the rain, but the next day was dry anyway so it was time to get climbing at last, at the sector called Sex Shop which has some amazing lines, with a lot of good names… We stayed in Chulilla for a couple of weeks and it was some of the best climbing I’ve ever done, the atmosphere there was ace, really chilled but everyone there was trying hard and pushing themselves so much. We climbed loads, fell off heaps (as evidenced by my knackered rope!), ate lots of pizza, got massively drunk one night, climbed loads more, cheered on other people and just generally had an amazing time. The psyche levels were so high from everyone, I redpointed my first 7b+ and got my first flash of a 7a. My favourite sectors there were Sex Shop and Oasis.
I’m 100% going to have another trip there and I’d probably van it again, although it’s easy to fly in to Valencia and hire a car, rent an apartment or stay at the refuge. Once there all the climbing is within walking distance, although if you have a car you’d probably use it to get to some of the sectors, there’s so many friendly people around though that you’d have no trouble hitching. We didn’t get a guidebook as we just looked at other people’s, but they’re available in the refuge and bar.
You’ll need an 80m rope to make the most of the best routes, a clip stick for the start of some routes is useful and plenty of quickdraws, especially as most routes are well bolted. To really make the most of the climbing there I reckon you want to be climbing in the high 6’s – early 7’s or above, they tend to be technical stamina fests but there’s exceptions…
My must do route there is Dale Duro Negro, 7b, it’s a mega route, varied and great fun.
We were super sad to be leaving Chulilla, but we had arranged to meet other people in Costa Blanca. So we went there, got robbed when the van was broken into, were a bit underwhelmed by the climbing and left when the rain came. Don’t get me wrong, there’s good climbing there and I onsighted my first ever 7a+, but I found the atmosphere very different and a bit less Spanish. I’m not sure I’ll go back.
After that Fay & Zebers the dog had to leave so I had a couple of days each at Margalef and Siurana with Laura. These are well known venues and they’re fantastic, I’ll definitely be heading back to Spain for some more action at these areas. Margalef was pocket fun times (so hard to read onsight!) with steep starts where as Siurana was generally crimpy, techy climbing. Both these areas were pretty van friendly and had loads of other super psyched people around. I even had a trip to Chris Sharma’s climbing gym in Barcalona followed by the best tapas I’ve ever had in my life!
Spending a month sport climbing was great fun and my climbing came on loads, I probably came back home weaker but with good endurance and with my head in a super confident place. Thanks to all the superstars I met on the trip but especially Fay for all the psyche and catches, Laura for all the help, Dave & Martin for the showers (!), Alex & Katy for the mega psyche and Zebers for being my hot water bottle!
I’ve written my wish list of routes for 2017 and it’s going to be a challenging year for me to tick off lots of them!
Happy climbing in 2017!