Sunday, 27 December 2009

Climbing Wall in Spain


The recent 7 days of horrible weather made the decision to install a large climbing wall in the Spanish house very easy - fortunately a lot of the ground floor is taken by a massive garage.

The useable area in the garage is now smaller and the skelton of a reasonably sized wall is up and ready for the boards to be attached.

The building work was organised by Julio who runs the climbing wall in Torremolinos - his brother is a carpenter and together they have built a lot of home walls and a large part of the Torremolinos wall.

My little wall is 3.5m wide and 3m high with a few different angles built into it from vertical to 35 degrees overhanging - the idea is that it is not just a training wall but a coaching and instructional facility.

Thus I can use it not only for movement coaching, but also for teaching rope skills - threading belays, clipping bolts, resting...lots of things. Plus I am keen to have a small abseil / anchor station built into the wall so that all descent issues can be taught effectively.

Plus it will keep me fit...

It should be finished by Wednesday and I can't wait to play on it properly.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Rock Climbing in Murcia + Almeria

The bad weather continues in Andalucia ( Malaga /Granada / El Chorro / Loja + Archidona are all totally wet ) and a couple of climbers have asked for more details on the climbing in Murcia.

Mula: The page is in Spanish, but all the info is pretty obvious. The crag is not easy to find and there is a bit of dirt track driving, but the map on the site is pretty good. The topo is OK and will give you enough to go at for a couple of days. The topo outlines the main sector "Ferrari" and the routes range from 6a to 7c (ish).

Cacin: There is less info on the web about Cacin. The link gives access instructions, but you will need to get hold of a copy of an old Desnivel for the topos.

The best weather service I have found for Spain is Meteoblue

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Storms in Andalucia


The long, long indian summer came to an end dramatically with the arrival of some monstrous storms that have battered the whole of Andalucia for 4 days now. There has been widespread flooding throughout the region together with high winds.

The bad weather was supposed to arrive on Saturday and unexpectedly having the weekend off I headed to El Chorro fully expecting to be using the Poema Roca cave as shelter; however the weekend was fine - a bit cold when belaying but great for red pointing.

I returned home wondering how the forecasters could get it so wrong and then bang - the storms hit and carried on for 36 hours - there is a lot of wet rock here now and none of the usual dry spots escaped. This is the first time I have seen this happen.

Normally St. Anton in Malaga and Los Vados near Motril are safe bets, but they were both hit by the rain. John and Becky from the BMC were in Chorro and phoned for advice for where to go - normally I could suggest half a dozen places for them to go, but this time I could only suggest Los Vados as a forlorn hope...Apparently even climbing in Poema Roca was not possible apart from a couple of routes.

The closest dry crags now look to be in Almeria / Murcia - certainly this is where all the Malaga and Granada climbers are heading. The favoured crags seem to be Mula and Cacin - both are brilliant. The crags in Almeria are not well known to UK climbers, but often offer great winter climbing - I did hear a rumour that Rockfax were planning a Murcia guide, although I am fairly sure the locals will not be too pleased about this.

It looks like I will head up this way as well to meet up with some friends for Christmas before coming back down for my next climbing course on the evening of the 28th - fortunately the weather looks like it changes back to sunny conditions in Andalucia on the 27th.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Learn to Lead Course in March in Snowdonia


I am busy in Spain at the moment and it is looking busy well into the new year. I will be coming back to the UK on the 30th March for the summer season in Snowdonia.

I have been fairly lucky with matching people up on courses this season, but am having trouble with one particular course...

Paul would like to do a 4 day combined Climbing Outdoors / Learn to Lead Climb course in Snowdonia / North Wales between the 1st and 4th March. I can't do this course myself as I am already booked up in Spain on those dates, but I can arrange for one of our regular instructors to run the course.

Paul has climbed a fair bit before and wants to use the course to refresh his outdoor skills and learn how to lead on trad gear - if you are interested in sharing this course then please just get in contact with me and I will set it all up.

The cost is £290 for the 4 days and includes the use of all the technical equipment.

There are full details of the courses on the Learn to Lead Climb and Climbing Outdoors pages of my main Rock Climbing Company site.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Choosing a Climbing Harness

One of the questions I am regularly asked is "What climbing harness should I get? / how do I choose and fit a climbing harness?" Last week I was asked twice for information on climbing harnesses - so I wrote a short piece that is on the Rock Climbing Company site in the complete version.

There are other articles there that cover other aspects of choosing and using climbing equipment.

Climbing Harnesses - Choosing and Fitting.

  • Background
All climbing harnesses sold in the UK (and EU) are tested to meet certain mandatory standards as set out by the European Union Directive 89/686/CEE on personal protective equipment. The EN standard within this directive that deals with sit harnesses is EN 813 (Full body harnesses are covered by EN 361)This directive sets out the conditions under which products may be brought onto the market, the manner in which they may be used by member states, and their free circulation within the European Community. It also sets out general rules pertaining to design and defines the certification procedure for equipment.

As far as climbers are concerned a key part of the testing requirement is that a force of 15kN (equivalent to a static load of 1500kg) is applied to the harness and it must hold that load for 3 minutes - so don't be worried about falling off in any new harness. It is one of the strongest parts of a climbing system.

A climbing harness is a core piece of kit for any climber so it is worth spending some time choosing one that fits correctly and has the features that you need.

Don't buy your first harness on Ebay or second hand - it is most likely that you won't have the experience to determine if it is safe and it is very unlikely that you will get the best combination of fit and features that you need.

Head down to a good climbing shop that has a wide range of harnesses and shop staff that climb. The shop should have some means of letting you hang in a harness so that you can check that the harness will hold you in the correct position in a fall /during an abseil. This also lets you gauge how the harness spreads the load / how comfortable it is.

Then spend some time choosing the best harness - the article below will look at types of harness, features and fit and should hopefully give you a few ideas about what to look for...


1. Types of Climbing Harness

Thus the first thing to decide is what type of climbing that you will use it for – this may sound silly, but each different climbing discipline is best served by a harness with specific features. The majority of climbers will not have a harness for all the different types of climbing, but knowing what features you will and will not need should mean you don’t make compromises in the wrong areas.

Centre Harnesses: Centres and groups want harnesses with a simple design, great durability and wide size adjustment amongst other things. Thus most popular centre harnesses are constructed from un-padded 44mm nylon webbing with a minimum of gear loops. Many have a high tie-in point because they are often used with children and this feature helps reduce the chances of children inverting (children have under-developed hips and a higher centre of gravity compared to adults). They are perfect for groups, but their limited features means they aren’t perfect for personal use.

Examples: DMM Alpine and DMM Brenin

Mountaineering and Alpine Harnesses: These harnesses need to be light, easy to put on when wearing big boots / crampons, have a wide range of adjustment to go over a multitude of clothing systems and have drop away legs for calls of nature. Ideally I prefer these harnesses to have 4 or more gear loops, although a lot of people use bandoliers in the mountains. They are normally worn over several layers of clothing and so do not need padding for comfort, in addition unpadded belts are lighter and absorb minimal water. There are two main styles – harnesses with fully opening adjustable legs and those that use a nappy design. Nappy designs tend to be most popular because there is only one buckle to do up/carry up the hill.
You will be using this harness with gloves so check that everything can be adjusted with gloves on. Features that are fiddly in the shop will be impossible to use on the hill.

Can you use the harness with your rucksack on? Is it comfortable or will the sack cause the harness to dig in? Stop you accessing your gear loops?

Examples: DMM Super Couloir and BD Bod (not the Alpine Bod which lacks a belay loop).

Rock / Cragging Harness: This is the harness for general summer cragging duties. It is probably the hardest design to get right because of the contradicting demands placed on it – it also (unfairly) increasingly unpopular as climbers have moved/been pushed towards fully adjustable harnesses.

The harness needs to be padded so that it is comfortable on stances and yet be lightweight and unrestrictive, so as not to hinder athletic movements. This is best achieved by using a sculpted waist belt that is wide at the rear and is then cut away at the sides - when designed correctly this should provide support in the small of the back and yet not restrict sideways bending. The quality of the foam padding is also important – there is no point in having padding if it collapses under load. Squeeze the waist and leg loop padding and see how it behaves - if is collapses easily then it is unlikely to provide much comfort..............

This is continued on the Guided Climbing page of the RCC site in the tab under the main text.