El Rio

Another crag to achieve the acclaim of a 5 karabiners rating in Donde Escalar, El Rio also has sectors that face multiple directions and a range of grades – sounded like just the job for another scorcher of a December day, the last before the Solstice; 22C and wall-to-wall sunshine.With an early start to make the most of Tash’s last day, we were on the crag by 10.30am (Hint – Park as per GPS coordinates in the guide, then walk a short way up the road past some fancy gates with gargoyles on the posts before stepping over a chain and turning left on a dirt track which you follow round the north end of a water storage pond and down towards the dam. Concrete steps lead steeply down the last section to the track beneath the crag).We arrived just in time to bag a route in the shade on Sector Presa (near the dam) before the sun hit. Granitos d’Arena, 6a, was typical of the style here, climbing quite like a route on quarried grit (maybe Millstone) despite being a volcanic rock (Trachyte apparently…) Lots of cracks and square-cut edges. A bit of jamming helps take the sting out of a tough start.Jake, meanwhile, was enjoying the last of the coolth on the steep stuff to the right, with Casa Me Mato, 7b.A bit further left, La Encrucjada and La Tuqueque, a couple of V+s which shared a lower off were much more amenable, but served to underline that a move to a shady sector was overdue!Sector Fondo fitted the bill – a couple of hundred metres further down the gorge and on the opposite, east-facing side. Not quite such inspiring lines but much cooler. Dinamic Girl, 6c, bucked the trend by being fairly fair for the grade, which is more than could be said for the two 6a+s to the right. How on earth La Perla Negra’s initial V3 boulder problem is consistent with 6a+ is beyond me (here’s Leah demonstrating the steepness!)And its neighbour, Capullos Evolutions, had a major roof a bit further up (here’s Tash showing it who’s boss!)Making an early finish for the Dad’s Cabs airport run for Tash, we could admire the whole of the Presa and El Acebuche sectors, now in full sun, running up to the dam.… and looking back we could just make out Leah leading on the eponymous El Acebuche at the far left hand end.