Escape to El Chorro

October is always a tough time of year. Only yesterday we were planning midsummer post-work raids on The Cobbler and suddenly it's dark all the time and I'm having to scrabble around at the back of the drawer searching for some gloves to out running.

Happily, for the past few years, we've been lucky enough to have an October blast of sunshine. This time (through cunning use of the words 'sport climbing holiday') we managed to get a gang together to head to El Chorro, not too far from Malaga.

I was pretty intrigued by the sound of the biking there and a new and very, very exciting bike was going to be making its first appearance with me on holidays. I'd convinced myself I needed full suspension after trans Wales and the Tour de Ben Nevis, both of which had really tired out my arms. In reality, I was just suffering from bike-buying delusions and I know full well there's no justification. Still, it was nice to know that the new bikes first ride would be on dusty trails rather than the Mugdock mudfest I'm used to.

The trip was always going to be more than just biking. Straight off on the first day, we dived into a big adventure, exploring El Chorro. The guide book description of how to get to the crag seemed so simple yet somehow we squeezed in some Via Ferratta on the Camino del Rei (scariest thing ever to walk across those big iron bars in flip flops or look through the massive holes in the walkway) then a wilder-than-anticipated river crossing, followed by leg-shredding jungle-hacking and a scramble up a cliff. And this was supposed to be me on a non-biking 'rest' day.

I had been looking forward to a lot of rest and visualised myself idylling by crags watching the proper climbers. Maybe a tiny bit of climbing. Bit of running and yoga. Lots of good books, good food and wine. However, my relaxing instincts aren't as good as my racing ones and, without really meaning too, I entered a 63km marathon race on the Sunday. It just sounded too good to resist and, possibly, I made the winning girls feel a bit better as at least they had another girl to win against. I thought the female contingent of xc racing in Scotland was low but the 7 women out of 300 racers was the lowest I'd ever seen. I don't speak much Spanish but I am sure the girl at the start line was saying 'it's nice to see more girls'.

Me and my racing buddies from Blazing Trails

I don't think the Spanish are really so into technical biking and (for probably the only race of my life) I was one of the slower ones on the ups and one of the more confident on the downs. There wasn't much technical riding at all but somehow fate meant that day was the first rain in nearly six months and it really, really rained. Normally dusty trails were turned into slimy off-camber horror shows and my Mugdock-survival biking really came into its own. I may have been easy to pick out at the start line due to my nobbly tyres and white legs but by the end, the tyres were good for the job and we all had brown legs from the mud! A fun race and a nice bbq at the end but much harder than I expected. It turned out we'd climbed all the way to the top of a 900m mountain - no wonder it felt hard (6000ft of ascent in total).

In the end, I never climbed a thing the whole trip. I just enjoyed the biking (miniMoab), a bit of running and a bit of watching the others climb hard stuff.


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