Escapados de Bouldering en Tenerife

Tenerife? Jeezo, you might say. Think of a volcanic carbuncle with a union-jack cocktail umbrella sticking out of it and you're pretty close. Two gin and tonics I needed just to be persuaded onto the plane. I stuck flight-mode on the phone and jacked in to something chilled while the plane got Britishly lathered.

Tenerife does not promise much unless you're an over-hormoned 17 year old from Essex, then I guess it looks like a soda-pop dream sequence from Grease - all cheeky eager lads, fast cars, sunglasses, drinking games and all-night partying. Whatever floats your boat. We got our bags and were first in the hire car queue.

Tenerife is a volcanic island off the coast of Africa, in the Canaries. That's from the brochures... think hot, black sand, sulphur etc. The island above the lucky-bag bracelet that is the the tourist strip is first of all banana plantations, then dry pine forest, then all spewed lava and crumbly ashy soil. Even the rocky coast is frazzled like burnt egg and the most attractive rocks turn out to be mostly jenga towers of choss. Meandering around the island on the bendiest roads up 2000m to Mount Teide was fun for a while. The Star Wars desert was cool but I still hadn't found anything to climb and was beginning to dream of sedimentary rocks, smooth flowing sandstones and marbled schist. No such thing. More barren lava-scapes.

Nights were languorous and argumentative, trying to keep my cool with plummy ex-pat types who fed me too much beer and kept bringing up the bloody Falklands War, must be an island thing, I thought. One guy kept lifting his T-shirt to show me his Paras tattoo and how he was 'fraternising with the enemy' (I am Northern Irish). He told a good story about arresting Gerry Adams though. I tried to avoid buying the Guardian in the morning.

Still no rock worth a second glance. I sat on burlesque towers of coastal lava watching the crabs scuttle up and down the surf line and decided to try the south.

The road along the south coast is not promising either... a long strip of terrifying motorway more like a sequence out of Tron... I now think nothing of cutting any c@*t up just because I can... after a week of it you begin to change, and not for the good. Anyway, aside from various spats with other drivers (in a unique gestural Esperanto), I found a haven... a climbing shop, stuck at the end of a little village in the hills called Granadilla. The shop was open, the owner was pleasant and spoke a European English, he seemed surprised that I did not believe there was any climbing on the island. He handed me a colourful guidebook and off I trotted to find these fabled Barrancos - gorges washed clean and smooth by flash-floods, with perfect hard orange basalt.

I was not disappointed. The gorges are hot little affairs, but pleasant and quiet, like linear rock gardens. You can meander along them for ages, ankles pricked by strange plants and creepers, birds twittering and flashing in the shadows, lizards diving into noisy undergrowth. You expect to come across an old granny in a sunhat out watering the Geraniums, but instead you find perfect boulders nestled amongst pleasant sport routes on the gorge walls.

These Barrancos are like a greenhouse version of a climbing centre , I thought, but one which is populated only by the occasional crusty (it's free camping under the pines, just bring a wok, wine and cheapo sleeping bag). The bouldering was excellent, the vibe quiet, I'd go back if I could face the Hire Car company...

(for a new Tenerife bouldering guide to the island, check out the Topos page on

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