Cerro del Hierro 

With a couple of damp days forecast around Malaga we pressed onwards into Seville, and stopped off to check out the climbing at El Puntal near the town of Estepa. It’s a really impressive crag, guarded by one of those iconic giant cut-out bulls, but unfortunately faces north east and really wasn’t suitable for a bright but chilly day – one to come back for.

Instead, we headed past Seville and northwards for about an hour to Cerro del Hierro – “The Iron Hills”. If that conjures up images of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, just wait until you get there! It’s a magical landscape of rock spires and hoodoos connected by a labyrinth of tunnels and slot canyons, dotted about with ruined mine buildings.

Finding the car park is easy (it’s well signed from the nearby town of Constantina) and this provides a great overnight parking spot. Finding the crags is more challenging, so here are a few pointers. Head out of the car park away from the information shack and towards the rock formations, heading for this useful map of the climbing areas

… and following signs for “Sendero Cerro del Hierro” which is a broad gravel walking track with wooden edging. Follow the Sendero as it climbs gently past a disabled parking spot then keep left at a junction to follow it clockwise around a huge depression and across an iron bridge (you’ve just passed above the first sector which is on your right hand side, down in the hole – didn’t look great). Another few hundred metres and the Sendero passes between ruined buildings on each side. 

For sector 2, Hiponeja, turn almost immediately left. This was the best of the bunch, we thought. 

For sector 4, Cajas Fuertes, follow the main Sendero for another 100m until it’s abrupt end at a bush, then squeeze through a gap to enter a bizarre semi-undergrond tunnel / slot canyon, with unlikely looking routes heading up chimneys and runnels. We didn’t climb here as it was too chilly, but it looked great fun!

For most of the rest, take a right turn just after the ruined buildings, past a “danger rockfall” sign

… and up an earth ramp / track for 100m before scrambling up a screen slope on the right to the next higher level of the mine workings and a flat area. Head left for sectors 9 and 10 and head right for sectors 11 and 12 including Callejon del Moro which is the most significant sector, with climbing both sides of a deep slot / gallery.

Anyway, once you find it the climbing is really good (don’t be put off by the weird looking rock – it’s a bit crumbly in places at the bottom, but very well bolted and has really interesting features) . We did 4 routes on Hiponeja – two on the main crag: a great 5+ that snakes its way from left to right up to the top of the highest pinnacle, and a new route to the right at a similar grade with a big pull to get over the initial overhang. We also did a couple on the final aiguille to the right: the tough open groove of Innominada, 6c, and the stunning corkscrew arête which goes at a remarkably amenable 6aish.

We finished off with another couple in the Moro sector: Al Loru con la Hamlha, 5+, up a long and slightly polished runnel; and La Batterie no Quiera, 6c+ which takes another stunning arête up the right hand side of this pinnacle.

A really fun day of exploration and interesting climbing – well worth a visit. 

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