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Chilam Balam

The cave that is home to Chilam Balam is the definition of limestone perfection – huge tufas, beautiful stripes, overlooking a thick grove of olive trees, and the small town of Villanueva del Rosario. The route itself has a history full of outstanding human performance as well as controversy.


Sport Route






85m (260ft)

First Ascent

Bernabé Fernandez

Date of FA


Chilam Balam

Ascent Log

ClimberSuggested GradeDateNotes
Bernabé Fernández9b+/5.15c4th July 2003Even though he made the FA, there are doubts surrounding the legitimacy of his ascent. Instagram Post
Adam Ondra9b/5.15b13th April 2011Adam spent only 3 days on the route and gave it a low 9b grade due to how quickly he managed to send the route. Video
Seb Bouin9a+/b – 5.15a/bMay 2015Video
Dani Andrada9a+/5.15a14th Nov 2015Video
Edu Marin9a+/b – 5.15a/b24th Nov 2015Video
Sindre Sæther9a+/b – 5.15a/b2nd Dec 2019Sindre spent a total of 85 days and 3 years on the Chilam Balam. 8a News Post
Jonatan Flor9a+/b – 5.15a/b8th Nov 2021Instagram Post
Yu Okumura9a+/b – 5.15a/bJan 2021Instagram Post

Climb Profile

The Route

Chilam Balam is a next-level endurance test piece. The climb is nearly 85 meters and has 235 moves. To put this in perspective, the average tall sport climb is at most 40 meters, allowing for it to be climbed and lowered with an 80-meter rope (the longest standard climbing rope on the market). Chilam Balam is more than twice this length. 

The beautiful limestone cliffs of Villanueva del Rosario

Because of its length, it can be thought of as three routes stacked on top of each other. The first of these “pitches” is around 5.14c and climbs through the roof and tufa systems with a crux at the fourth bolt. After this, there is a pitch of 5.14b that features powerful gymnastic roof climbing. The final pitch goes around 5.14b and ascends the vertical headwall on top of the cave with small crimps and poor feet.

On top of its bold difficulty, the route is extremely aesthetic. It ascends through perfectly molded tufas and bullet Spanish limestone all in a remarkable setting. The movement on the climb appears to match the line’s aesthetic quality, as well.

Wall of Glory


First Ascent: Bernabé Fernández

4th July 2003

bernabe fernandez

Chilam Balam was first climbed by Bernabé Fernandez and graded at 9b+/5.15c; however, this was a huge leap in difficulty from anything that had been done at the time and seemed unlikely put next to Fernandez’s previous ascents. 

Nevertheless, Fernandez put up a long fight to get to the top of Chilam Balam. He spent 4 seasons trying the route, which he split up into three different sections. Since he estimated the climb would take him an hour and a half to complete, he focused a lot of his training on endurance, doing 200 move traverses most days over winter. 

Even though it did take him over an hour and a half to complete the route, Fernandez said that much of that was spent resting. In fact, he rested for 20 minutes on one section to preserve energy for the last section, the crux, which consisted of tiny crimps and non-existing footholds.

Fernandez refused to name his belayer or speak to the media about the climb which sparked controversy and questions about the legitimacy of his ascent. The route has since seen several repeats and has been downgraded to 9a+/b.

Whether Fernandez truly sent the route in 2003 is the topic of much debate. Because of this, it is thought to be the most controversial Spanish rock climb.

bernabe fernandez chilam balam
Fernandez taking a kneebar rest on Chilam Balam ©Bernabé Fernández

Second Ascent: Adam Ondra

13th April 2011

Adam Ondra snagged the second ascent eight years after Fernandez in just three days of effort. Ondra spoke to Planet Mountain about his process:

Well, I tried the route for three days in total and some of my attempts were spent specifically working the hardest section at the end. I had planned to just work the route on the third day because of this really hard boulder problem finish and so I originally just wanted to work it to get the section really wired. So I tried it once but then I felt pretty strong and I realized that there is probably no better solution for the top, and so I decided to give it a go… and sent it!

Ondra suggested the grade of low end 9b/5.15b.

Third Ascent: Seb Bouin

May 2015

Seb Bouin

Seb Bouin made the third ascent of Chilam Balam in Spring 2015. Not to be confused with French Chilam Balam, which he did the first ascent in May 2017.

When it came time to face Chilam Balam, Seb admitted that he didn’t feel at his peak that day. He found the initial part of the climb more challenging than expected and struggled during the rest periods. But despite his initial reservations, he remained focused, and his climb was marked by a series of fluid movements, a calm mind, and no mistakes.
The route has since seen repeats from Dani Andrada, Edu Marin, Sindre Sæther, Jonatan Flor, and Yu Okumura.

Video Library


Born and bred in Atlanta, Georgia, Landon cut his teeth on the rocks around Chattanooga and the Red River Gorge. These days, you'll find him splitting his time between guiding fellow adventurers in Moab, Utah, and living out his nomadic dreams on the open road.

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