Jaén – Castillo de Santa Catalina and Reguchillo

We’d pretty much wrung the last drops from the climbing available in Portugal, which coincided perfectly with the first day of dodgy weather in ages. Time to head East! We used the opportunity to put our foot to the floor and blast across southern Spain to Jaén, towards the east side of Andalusia.

After six hours behind the wheel we arrived at our favourite Jaén crag, Reguchillo,


…and were a little dismayed to find a dozen vans parked up for the night; we’d come to think of this as one of our “secret discoveries” – it shows that you can’t keep a good thing quiet!

Happily, Justin and Chris were already in situ and had baggsied us a van spot. Even better, we were just in time for beer-o’clock and had a first chance to sample the salubrious surroundings of their swanky new van, complete with wood-panelled ceiling and LED mood lighting!

Things thinned out the next day, after the weekend rush, and we had the crag largely to ourselves.

We did a few routes on Sector 007, a 70m two-tier affair with easier entry pitches leading to steeper 6c-7b fare on the upper wall.

With current levels of fitness / injury we confined ourselves to the lower tier. Here’s Helen on CIA, V+

The sector to the left, Frontal, gives a vertical orange wall of crimpy 7s and then a more featured grey zone of Vs and easier 6s. I failed on a couple of 7as (piccies courtesy of Justin, thanks!): Isaac

… and Calienta Motores

… but not by that much, and managed to top rope Lucky Luke (also 7a), so the hardest day’s climbing of the trip for me so far. Not quite firing on all four cylinders, but getting there (though the turbo is going to take a while to kick in!)

Next day we all fancied an exploration of some of the rest of the huge amount of climbing available in the province – Jaén is a beautiful city surrounded by a staggering amount of rock, and there are almost 30 crags within a 30 km radius. The most obvious of which guards the Castillo de Santa Catalina, which dominates the city.

The Castillo is now a Parador (swanky but remarkably good value state-run hotel), and you park a few hundred metres down the hill from this at a well-appointed picnic area. Access is easy via a path which slopes gently down beneath the crag.

It’s the longest established crag in the area, and we were braced for the possibility of a polished horror show, so were pleasantly surprised by the clean and sharp rock, splattered with jugs on the easier routes, and crimps (razor sharp in places!) on the harder lines.

We made our way to the farthest sector: Chaparron-Diente, which looked to have the longest routes. The eponymous route, Chaparron, and the adjacent Directa, at V/V+ provide an excellent intro to the climbing:

Here’s Helen and Chris in a race to the top…

… and Justin with the city of Jaén laid out beneath his feet:

Working rightwards we did a bunch of 6a/bs which were very good but pretty stiff! Here’s Chris on Voluntos, 6a+

…and with the castle ramparts just about visible in the background:

It’s an absolutely stunning setting, and gets all the sun going (and there’s a lot of it around here!) – and we were grateful for a bit of shade to enjoy lunch.

Just further right, the soaring corner of Santa Catalina, 6a+, is presumably one of the original routes here:

… whilst the direct finish of Maldita Pasion proved a bit too stiff at 6c, as did the super-crimpfest of El Alcaparron, also 6c (but some great photos!)

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