Duncan found us a rock climbing guide online and arranged for Luis picked us up at 9am. During the 45-minute drive out of Malaga into the mountains Luis explained that the striking buckled peaks and valleys are the result of Africa pushing north into Europe. Turns out Luis holds an MSc in geology and has worked in that field in the Arctic and several African countries. He is very keen to visit Canada, specifically Squamish.
Our drive out skirted the town of Villanueava del Rosario, one of southern Spain’s lovely “white villages.” The pueblo sits prettily at the base of the Cerro de la Cruz range, with the rolling countryside of the other three sides covered in olive trees. We wove through narrow forested switchbacks to park above town at a tourist viewpoint.
Information boards highlight the area, the western end of the Sierra Las Camarolos range, as a reserve for a significant variety of plants - it must be magnificent during the spring bloom.
Even this late in October our approach trail meandered through several patches of crocuses.
We cut across a barbed-wire fence and before long we were roped up. Our climb up El Chamizo peak began to the left a concrete pylon. It sure would be nice if every approach were that quick and every route that easy to find. I could only find one detail photo for El Chamizo online, and nothing specific to our route. So, Duncan has approximated our route, called Mettre de Valour, in yellow on the included photo.
I’d begun to feel unwell on the hike in, and after climbing the first slabby 5.8/9 pitch the fellows were quick to suggest turning back to try another day. No way was I going to make them quit, nor did I want to wait in the car having a pity party for one.
The second pitch was a bit more challenging, and the weather began to turn cold as clouds started circling around. At the mid point, I took a break as I I was truly nauseous.
After kindly checking on my interest in continuing up, Luis explained that the third-pitch was to be the most difficult we would scale - aka the crux.
With the cold wind swirling windstorm and black clouds circling us, Luis called down to Duncan to keep him on a tight belay. It’s so precarious four bolts had been placed in the rock to ease the otherwise trad-gear-only route. I am guessing it would rate a 5.10C
Simply stated, all the above technical detail is just to reinforce it was no easy way up. Top of my game, that’s certain.
That third pitch required us to splay across the smooth slightly concave slab like a squashed spider. It demanded a long leaning stretch to the right to feel for any semblance of a finger divot. That wee pressure point would permit a critical shift of weight onto a toe pressed into a runnel. BTW, a runnel is a shallow gutter worn in the rock from water runoff.
The next two pitches were comparatively easier. After pitch five we scrambled further up, crossing narrow wedge-topped rocks and the crevasses created between them by eons of erosion. Karst is interesting rock.
Unfortunately, my stomach preempted our intention to continue scrambling up to the 1640-meter summit of El Chamizo. We turned around at 1604 meters and walked down a scree & scrub trail to the vehicle.
Our guide Luis was the kind of person we might colloquially call “A good egg.”
Too bad the one I had for breakfast was not.
From the second-pitch up I baptized the mountain five times, and then blessed the street in front our hotel when we got back.
It would also have been a much better day without the stormy weather that continuously circled El Chamizo. Still a day in the mountains beats most days overall.
On the way back to Malaga Duncan and I were pleased to hear from Luis that he was happy with our car-to-car time. Luis went on to explain that he spends his summer taking his clients, often beginners, out top-roping and sport climbing on easier routes. His own holiday trip climbing with friends in Morocco had recently fallen through, which he said made the day with a very welcome change.
The next day we spent quite a while assessing options to get to Gaitanes Gorge, and hike the El Caminito del Rey (The Kings’s Little Pathway). Once among the world’s most dangerous hikes, El Caminito was refurbished in 2015. It’s significantly tamer and much much busier as a result. Up to 1,100 people a day, so not really our kind of hiking.
Still, it is an incredibly beautiful looking place and we were very disappointed to learn the path is closed until we are well out of the area. If I am so very fortunate to visit Spain a fourth time I will try for the King’s Little Path, and to get to Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where my gal pal Jacquie says there is great hiking.