The last couple of weeks since we moved to Chulilla have been as full of sunshine as the two weeks prior to it were soaked with rain, and once again I feel like I’m on holiday, even while working. My mood has been lifted to such an extent that I deleted the very gloomy post I started writing in Siurana, which now sounded far too depressive.
The rain in Siurana looked to be settling in for the long haul. A rocky outcrop sitting at an elevation of 737m above sea level, it suffers from strong winds and colder temperatures than nearby Barcelona.
By the second half of November, it really felt like winter was coming with a Game of Thrones-esque ferocity, and more often than not we were forced to hide inside the van. After two weeks of feeling miserable and not getting nearly enough climbing in, we finally decided it was time to migrate south.
Chulilla is a little village about an hour’s drive from Valencia, which sits at the head of a vast limestone gorge flanking a little river. Being some 300km south of Siurana, it gets the balmy weather much later into the year and tends to be far drier.
Although it too didn’t escape the rain last month, evidenced by the tufa lines, which are still dripping water, the sun has now returned and we have seen barely a drop of rain for two weeks.
After weeks of either snow or incessant drizzle, this finally feels like what we came to Spain for.
With its picturesque surroundings and reportedly holiday grades, it is no wonder Chulilla is particularly popular with visiting climbers from all over the world, and especially so when it comes to the Brits. Nowhere on our travels so far have we met so many fellow British van dwellers, every other vehicle sporting a GB number plate.
I’m a sucker for holiday grades, having suffered in Frankenjura and in Austria. In our first few days here, I flashed a couple of 7a’s and a 6c+. Although to be fair I have also tried routes of the same grade that completely shut me down. Whether this is down to mental game or the grading being all over the place, I don’t know, but I’ll take what I can.
It’s not just the ego boost that makes the climbing here enjoyable though: so far, the routes have been varied, with a good choice of styles, though predominantly very long, so every time you get on the wall you have to prepare for a bit of an adventure. After two weeks here, it is becoming quite tiring and I’m ready for a break.
The latter was also the case in Siurana, but there the dominant style was crimpy and technical – something I like, but not a favourite of Clay’s, and also not good for the fingers for extended periods of time. It’s nice to have the change.
The bolting here is also mostly far friendlier, which has allowed us to breathe a temporary sigh of relief, though the fear associated with being far from your last piece of protection has been replaced by that sickening feeling when your feet slip on polished holds. Oh yes, it is clear Chulilla has been a popular destination for some time, and some routes have now been all but ruined by the traffic! You can see the rock glistening in the sun after years of being rubbed by climbing boots, hands and clothing. Luckily, it isn’t all like that and there is plenty to choose from.
As the weather has picked up, I’m also feeling a little more optimistic about the possibility of avoiding winter by living in Spain. Running away from winter was always a key objective of my travels, but the last few weeks had all but killed that hope.
So for now, the plan is to stay put in Spain, as we can’t afford to drive anywhere far in the next few months anyway. As the deepest darkest winter sets in, we will keep moving south, hopefully eventually making our way to Morocco for some winter sun, haggling and endless cups of mint tea.