After bouldering for a week in Albarracìn, Jon and I drove south down Spain’s eastern coast towards El Chorro. The change in scenery was a welcome, if not shocking relief. Crowded streets, stores that never closed, fresh vegetables, and delicious plates of fish replaced canned food and a ghost town of closed stores. To be fair, we stayed with Jon’s dad in the city of Marbella, an hour from El Chorro, featuring Spain’s largest shopping mall – perhaps in the town of El Chorro amenities are a bit more coveted.
Don’t get me wrong, the serenity of Albarracìn was enchanting and offered a relaxing change in pace. But the warm coastal breeze, plentiful bakeries, and sunny sport climbing truly captured my heart. I love traveling, but I’ll admit that I’m a sucker for creature comforts, hence one of many reasons I’m a rock climber and not an alpinist. I like to suffer on a micro level, which isn’t really suffering at all, given the definitions below.
Macro suffering (n): True distress. Risk of lost limbs, lost brain cells, lost weight, loss of life.
Micro suffering (n): Miniature needs, which when not fulfilled, may provoke petty whining. Examples: Lack of proper snacks for the day; wish for a hair tie at the windy crag; experience of ankle sock slippage, caused by the preference for fashion over function; feeling pumped; a sore finger tip.
Despite the fact that I did forget a hair tie one day, and I would have preferred an afternoon cupcake instead of the loaf of bread I brought, El Chorro was not a suffering kind of trip. Oh yes, and thanks to that past week of bouldering, I got pumped. Very very pumped. But that feeling of swollen forearms, forearms that somehow held on past many more bolts than I expected, felt really nice. Those rare times when I can tap into that mental perseverance that allows my body to execute moves beyond my level of current fitness are the times I love sport climbing. When I’m run out above a bolt and know the only way not to take that fall is to trick my mind into 100% commitment, knowing all the while I’m sport climbing and, with a trusted belayer, am completely safe – these are the reasons I love climbing. The surprises.
Beyond the incredible climbing of El Chorro lies a host of opportunities for adventure. To get to one of the best walls, Makinodromo, you can choose to sprint through a series of long commuter train tunnels, or take the via ferrata system skirting a crumbling sidewalk system hundreds of feet off the deck. The Camino Del Rey, built for King Alfonso XIII in 1905, is an exciting trek, if not as an approach then as a fun rest day activity. While I can think of plenty more dangerous “hikes”, such as those involving macro suffering, one site describes the walkway as “the most dangerous hike in the world” and “a life threatening endeavor”. Whether you’re inspired or deterred by this lofty and ill informed claim, don’t miss El Camino when you visit El Chorro. Video coming soon!