Planning a winter sport-climbing escape? Leave the crowds and polish behind with these five best-kept mid-grade Spanish sport secrets. Dos cervezas por favor.
1. Sella: the cliffs above Sector Final
Sella is well-known as the most important and extensive climbing area on the Costa Blanca: there’s so much climbing that you could easily spend a whole week's holiday just here. However, the cliffs above Sector Final were restricted until a couple of years ago, when the Orange House and Tony Pearson bought the land. New routing started instantly and all the seven climbing sectors are now open for everyone to enjoy, with plenty in the 5s and 6s on unpolished rock.
Stay there: Sam and Rich Mayfield will give you a warm welcome at The Orange House climber's accommodation.
Get there: Thanks to Benidorm being near, flights and car hire are cheap. Easyjet and Ryanair fly to Alicante airport, which is 35 minutes from the Orange House.
Guidebook: There’s a free mini-guide to the new climbing areas at Sella on the Orange House website.
2. La Pedriza
La Pedriza lies just an hour from Madrid in the foothills of the Guadarrama mountains. It’s epic: with around 2,000 boulder problems and another 2,000 trad and sport routes. The rock is rough granite, and the climbing comprises mostly slabs and small crimps. At the moment it’s not too busy, but get there before everyone else finds out about the world-class climbing the Spanish have been keeping quiet about.
Stay there: Manzanares Real, the small town outside Pedriza, offers all kinds of accommodation.
Get there: Easyjet and Ryanair fly to Madrid.
Guidebook: Your best bet is the select guide Pedriza, Escaladas Faciles (Pedriza, Easy Climbs).
WATCH: La Pedriza is the Joshua Tree of Spain, only bigger and maybe better:
One of the great sport-climbing areas of the 80s, Montanejoas then largely fallen off the radar. It had a makeover a few years ago when a local climber re-equipped many of the routes. Essentially a very deep and picturesque canyon, there are over 1,000 routes on limestone walls here reaching to over 100m tall. There’s a wide variety of stuff to do and plenty to go round everyone: roadside climbing, remote routes, slabs, steep stuff, and even DWS in the gorge. For apres-climbing, there are hot springs, too...
Stay there: There is a climbing refuge in the village at the beginning of the canyon: Albergue El Refugio.
Get there: Fly to Valencia, and it’s an hour’s drive. You’d need a car to get around this big climbing area.
Guidebook: Escalada en Montanejos
Chulilla is really beautiful - check out photos online. It's getting increasingly popular so aim to go at a quiet time. There are more than 800 routes here, in a limestone canyon shaped by the Turia river. Routes are usually quite long so bring an 80m rope. It’s a compact area with everything within walking distance so you could get the bus here and do without car hire. Chulilla is renowned as a 7c heaven but there is plenty to do in the 6s as well, on crimpy walls, tufas and pockets.
Get there: there’s a daily bus from Valencia airport.
Stay there: Chulilla has probably one of the most beautiful refugios in Spain, located on top of the cliff with breathtaking views to the Turia river gorge: El Atico.
Guidebook: Chulilla Climbing Guidebook (available at the refugio).
For something a bit different, this area of north-west Spain is a bit like Cornwall with bolts, and is super quiet. Perfect for getting away from it all in a van. Check out an area called Sin Destino Marino for diverse climbing - cracks, leaning walls, slabs - on typical granite; it's not crimpy at all, and mostly in the mid grades. Another sector to try is Xesteiria (Zona Rio Eume). This big canyon is lined with lots of routes from 4+ to 6c. It’s one of those places you walk into and it just grows and grows as you walk in. It’s mostly well-bolted but in some of the older areas there are rusted and dangerous bolts - don't climb routes with a red cable tie on them...
Get there: Fly to Santander.
Stay there: stay in your van, or you could wild camp in bunkers here left over from the war.
Guidebook: online only as it’s out of print - Escalada Norte. Other useful websites about the area: cantil.org; enlavertical.com.
Many thanks to Rich Mayfield from the Orange House climber's accommodation on the Costa Blanca for his help with this piece.
WATCH: Pre-climb checks when sport climbing on BMC TV:
WATCH: How to belay a sport climber on BMC TV:
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WATCH: BMC Insurance: Get out there
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