Jerome Mowat on La Mala, 8b. Photo: Johannes Fielder
A Lesser Known Gem
Chulilla has had a rapid rise in popularity. It now sits amongst other famous crags such as El Chorro, Siurana and Margalef as one of the jewels in the crown of Spanish sport climbing. On first visiting, it is quickly apparent why this place has accrued such a reputation. The sectors line two limestone gorges, their pale orange faces dappled in tiny chalk prints padding up the walls. Generally plumbing vertical to steep, the routes follow ladders of edges and immaculate tufa pipes. Much of the rock is flow stone, the likes of which I've only seen in Portland on the British South coast. The texture and quality is that of candle wax, dripped over the rock and set solid. The smears are naturally very polished, the handholds smooth and pleasant. It is remarkably skin friendly, one of the few places where I've wished my finger tips would thin a little to give me an excuse for a rest day. I'm writing this having just climbed nine days on, a feat Alex no-rest-day Megos would be proud of.
Jerome climbing in the limestone gorge. Photo: Johannes Fielder
Climbing Style & Conditions
If, like me, you like your routes long and sustained, look no further. Chulilla lends itself to onsight climbing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the gentle angle means you can work out sequences without getting pumped stupid. Secondly, there tend to be plenty of intermediates for both hands and feet, which means moves aren't limited by reach. Thirdly, holds tend to be on the positive side, flat or in-cut crimps, excellent tufa pinches, you get the idea. The challenge lies in reading sequences, maintaining body tension on slippery flow stone smears and pacing yourself on long routes.
The walk-ins are between 1 and 30 minutes. Although there are some good routes in the French 6 grade, the best is found in the French 7a - 8a region. It is possible to climb throughout winter, though it can get cold in the depths of the season. The shady sectors house the majority of the best walls including: Chorerras, El Oasis, Balcon and Balconcito. However two fantastic sectors,Canaveral and Pared del Enfrente are in the sun for the best part of the day and offer good conditions on mid-winter days.
Beautiful views of Chulilla. Photo: Johannes Fielder
When to Go & Where to Stay
So, when to go and where to stay: Chulilla is only a 40 minute drive from Valencia, and there are several accommodation options: dirtbag/van, Refugio or apartment, take your pick! Vans are generally tolerated and the car park is littered with German, French and Polish number plates. There's an unwritten understanding that dirt-baggers can use the toilets at Goscano's bar, the main climber's hang out.
Those travelling solo should find a partner at El Altico, the main refuge just above the village. There's a good scene to be had at Chulilla thanks mainly to Goscano's bar. It's largely staffed by climbers or at least 'sympathisers' that allow people to lounge around, chatting idly about routes beta and the pros and cons of no-edge technology. They also throw a good party. I was there over New Year's Eve and I started eating from the glasses of grapes they were handing out at the start of evening. 'Non non non' the barmaid wagged her finger. They were meant for midnight, a grape for the twelve tolls. Imagine a room full of stoned, drunk climbers stuffing grapes into their mouths. The party they held didn't stop till the sound system over-heated for the second time some time in the early hours of the morning. It was at once hilarious and surreal.