Monday, 9 April 2012

Silvia Fitzpatrick working for Channel 4

Silvia was approached by Channel 4 this Spring to help organise a day of rock climbing for the Four in a Bed television programme. - the link works for about a month. Silvia is on starting at about the ten minute mark.

The programme pits 4 sets of B+B/Hotel owners against each other and this series was based in Andalucia. One of the B+B's was based in Torcal and the owners wanted all the contestants to try climbing.

Silvia organised a day of climbing at the nearby Villanueva del Cauche where there was a slabby corner that was ideal for those climbing for the first time.

It was a fantastic, sunny day although a touch cool and Silvia rigged up a top rope for the hoteliers and a series of filming positions for the film crew.

The day worked really well and Silvia even sported an Association of Mountaineering Instructors T shirt to help promote the organisation.

Silvia Fitzpatrick invited to Buckingham Palace

The last 12 months have been pretty hectic and this blog was the main casualty, but a couple of reallly great events have prompted us to start it up again.

In the Autumn Silvia was invited by the Queen to a reception at Buckingham Palace for those involved in Exploration and Adventure.

Silvia was unusually nervous before entering the gates, but the presense of another DMM sponsored climber - Nick Bullock - definitely helped make everything more real.

It was a quick blast down to London and a faster drive back after the reception, but not before Silvia was hit by the Congestion Charge cameras and received a £60 fine - a nasty tax for the unaware.

Sivia's mother in Buenos Aires was incredibly proud and the local paper ran a piece on her.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Camino del Rey - El Chorro

The Camino del Rey is fast becoming the focus for adventurous holidays in southern Spain.

The small Andalucian village of El Chorro lies next to a large lake at the foot of the narrow rocky gorge that contains the Guadalhorce river.

In 1901 the Spanish authorities decided that it would the perfect location for a hydro-electric facility and started work on the project; a key element of this was constructing a floating walkway along the sides of the Gaitanes Gorge (Desfiladero de los Gaitanes) that had been carved out by the Guadalhorce river. This walkway was to allow the plant workers easy access between the village and the pumping station at Gaitanejo Falls at the top of the gorge.

The gorge is over 100m high with vertical side walls and the brick, concrete and iron walkway was bolted onto it over a period of 4 years.

The walkway gained its name - El Camino del Rey/The King's Walkway - when the then King of Spain, Alfonso XIII, officially opened it in 1921.

Over the next 90 years a combination of time, the weather and the occassional man-made event (it was used for the final scenes of Von Ryan's Express - explosions and all) have left it in a poor state. The last 20 years it has deteriorated badly - I remember strolling easily along it to go climbing in the Gorge loaded down with a big sack and ropes - and large sections of it have fallen away into the river far below.

It is now advisable to treat it as a horizontal Via Ferrata route and clip into the safety lines that run along the most exposed sections.

It became famous as the "Most Dangerous Walkway in the World" when there were a spate of accidents at the turn of the century and the local authorities made accessing the start very difficult for non-climbers. Then a couple of years later a UTube video of someone doing it without ropes, very fasy and whilst holding a video camera went viral and it's popularity as a classic adventure was ensured.

I am now regularly asked to guide the route either as a half day or full day adventure using ropes, harnesses and Via Ferrata lanyards to keep everyone safe. Martyn and Bryan Tolcher did the route with me in November of last year and were great; then out of the blue I received a copy of an article Martyn had written for the Guernsey Press and which had been published.

Fame at last!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

New Routes in Andalucia

The high mountain areas of El Torcal. Villanueva del Rosario and Villanueva del TRabuco have seen a lot of attention this summer as the summer heat has made the low lying crags unclimbable.

First off the impressive walls on the left hand side of El Corral at Villanueva del Rosario received attention from Bernabes Fernandez - Bernabes has been injured for some time and was looking for a project to keep him busy.

El Corral had already been breached on it's lower central section with a dozen 35m routes in the grades 7b - 8a and by a couple of multi-pitch routes at 6c level routes that exploit weaknesses and weave their way up the wall, but the left side was a lot blanker.

The upper walls of El Corral (El Paso de Viento) had been bolted last year with 8 routes accessed via a narrow rock gangway a via ferrata safety line. Bernabes used this safety line to as his anchor points to create 6 monster 60m piches between 7b and 7c+. The routes can all be split at a halfway point just before the rock becomes super steep and this gives 6 pitches that are 30m long betwween 6c and 7a+.

Over in Villanueva del Trabuco the local council are keen to improve the area in the eyes of climbers and have provided local climbers with the resources to create both a new via ferrata and new rock routes. The new routes om El Puente del Roca are quite technical on rock that is quite smooth - more details to follow.

The development at El Torcal has continued and the new areas are fantastic - very unlike the "gritstone" type limestone that is found near the summit visitor centre.

Even the Ventana area at Villanueva del Rosario has received more routes.

These high areas have been brilliant this summer - I left the village yesterday thinking that it was too hot, but climbing comnditions at Ventana were perfect - I needed a fleece for belaying, but the friction was amazing.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Via Ferrata at El Torcal

Via Ferrata routes are being constructed at a fast rate in Andalucia - in addition to the routes at El Torcal a new route has been constructed at Villanueva del Trabuco just 5 miles from our base in Villanueva del Rosario.

Plus we have received news that another 3 via ferrata routes are being built near Ronda just to the north of us.

The via ferrata at Villanueva del Trabuco does not look quite finished - all of the rungs are in, but the safety lines are not installed yet. The route is quite short, but steep and impressive taking a direct line to the summit of the highest rock summit on the Puente Roca.

Via Ferrate has become an increasingly popular choice for clients and last week I took Bastien and Emilie from Seville to Antequera and El Torcal to do the first half of the via ferrata route there.

The route at El Torcal is comprised of two parts; the first tackles a steep pillar that sits on the flank of Camorro de las Siete Mesas . This part of the route kicks off straight away with some vertical climbing to reach a platform. An exposed traverse with a couple of tricky steps then leads to the base of another steep wall and more vertical climbing. A further short physical section gains a steep slab and easier ground. A slightly exposed ridge traverse then leads to the famous tyrolean traverse across the gap that splits the pillar from the Camorro de las Siete Mesas. Pulling acroos this quickly leads to the far side and the last pitch on via ferrata rungs.

A short scramble then leads to a broad shoulder where it is possible to unrope. A lot of people finish here and traverse past the various goat herds back to the starting point. This section takes 3-4 hours depending on how confident the members of the party are in tackling exposed ground.

The second part of the route involves a steep 90 minute walk to gain a group of pillars that guard the summit of the Camorro of the the Torcal Alto - at 1336 m this is the highest point in El Torcal. 3 good pitches of via ferrata including a great traverse lead to the summit. The walk down is long. but overall it makes for a fantastic day out.

Overall the local authorities seem to be recognising that tourism is a key method of getting the Spanish economy back on its feet and are putting a lot of resources into establishing walking routes, via ferratas and new climbing areas. The Villanueva del Trabuco development includes both the via ferrata route, new rock climbing routes and a series of trekking routes that connect into the GR7.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

It has been a long time...

It has been a long time since I updated anything on the web, not least this blog. It has just been too busy....I was worried in January that all the economic doom and gloom would stop people going on climbing courses, but the opposite happened and it has been manic.

I am about to take a couple of weeks off and this will be my first holiday of the year. We are heading south to explore the crags in Portugal armed with a Jingo Wobbly guide.

Many thanks to all the many people who booked courses this year.

I have just updated the site with a few tweaks that include some of the latest "Thank You" mails.


Hi Silvia!

We just wanted to say once again, thank you for an incredible experience!! The Camino del Rey was all that we expected and so much more and we know it was in large part because we had you as our instructor.

Also, a big, big thank you for arranging our stay in the beautiful town of Villanueva del Rosario. You were right, it was truly worth it to stay. And of course, please pass our thanks along to your friend who so graciously offered us his home. Kaileen and I both couldn't be happier with the entire experience.

If we're ever in Spain or the UK and looking for more courses, we'll be sure to get in touch.

Warmest regards,

KS - Camino del Rey - August 2010


Dear Silvia,

We returned from Spain this weekend, and wanted to thank you again for our wonderful three days with you. We all really enjoyed your company and are very grateful to you for sharing some of your great skills, knowledge and experience with us. I am sure we will always remember it. Victoria is looking forward to getting back to the climbing club at school, where she will perhaps demonstrate some new-found confidence!!

With thanks and love from us all,

J, S, A and V McB - Climbing /Scrambling in Spain - July 2010


Hi Silvia,

I just wanted to say hello and thank you again for 4 great days. I got back safely, last week was pretty crazy at work - but I feel still pretty relaxed !
Hope you had a nice Sunday afternoon with alot of climbing with Ale ? And a good week ... even if it was very busy.

I will be thinking about coming back, maybe to El Chorro in Dec or Jan, lets see ...

All the best and have a good week,

BW - Guided Climbing - July 2010


Dear Silvia,

Just back from our holidays and thought I would let you know what a fantastic day Seb had with you.

Many thanks for making his holiday perfect. He enjoyed both the climbing and bouldering and is busy telling all his friends at climbing all about it.

Many thanks

C F-S Performance Coaching - August 2010


Hi Silvia

We arrived home yesterday evening. Thanks for arranging our training, Rory was excellent. We met as arranged and Rory showed up spot on time. We all appreciated his friendly, easy going and professional manner. Rory's training methods worked really well for us. I particularly learn well with 'monkey see;monkey do'! We covered all that I hoped to and I am definitely now confident to take my sons out scrambling. We are all looking forward to increasing our experience.

Best regards

AM - Custom Scrambling - August 2010


Hi Silvia,

I have paid the rest of the money by paypal!
we had a really good time, thanks a lot!


FK - Climbing Outside - July 2010


Dear Silvia,
I hope you are well. Many thanks for a great couple of days climbing instruction. I feel that under your guidance we made a lot of progress from our very basic starting level. Your whole approach was very methodical and clear - as well as a lot of fun!..............

I have spoken with my family and we would like to visit you and do some climbing over the Christmas/New Year period in Spain.............

I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best,

SW - Outdoor Climbing - July 2010


Hi Simon,

We had a great time despite the weather on Saturday. Cat was an excellent instructor and I think she covered exacly what we wanted. Our intention now is to return to N. Wales and practice what we were taught.

Many thanks,

DH - Learn to Lead - July 2010


Hi Silvia

Just a quick line to say that we had a fantastic two days climbing with Pete.

I've managed to retain some of your equipment - a small screw-gate karabiner and two prusick cords - which I will post on to you.

Thank you for all your help.

Best Wishes from D and MK - Scrambling/Climbing - July 2010


Hello Silvia

Some pictures follow once we’ve downloaded them all and chosen the best (you took some really good ones- thank you!) but I wanted to write as soon as possible to thank you very much for two great days.

It was exactly what we needed (even though I had not been sure quite what we needed beforehand) and you struck the perfect balance between making us feel comfortable enough to learn and then pushing us to do things we would not have attempted otherwise. I had not thought that anyone could have convinced me to step backwards off the edge of a bit of rock but you managed it – thank you!

We have been practising our knots and are looking forward to our next day off when we can go in search of some (easy!) crags and try out our new techniques. We are also determined to brave the climbing wall.

M+NR - Climbing Outside - July 2010


I wish to say thank's for a great days climbing. I was really delighted by the cliffs at south stack. Please thank Rory for making (it)such an easy climb(ing day). It was also my first trad climb which has made me feel I would like to try leading myself on a trad route. Who knows maybe I'll be back one day and take a few tips from yourself or Rory.
Thanks again I really had a good time.

AT - Guided Climbing - July 2010


Hi Silvia

We had an excellent weekend with Pete, despite the horrible conditions on the Sunday. He’s a very clear teacher, as well as a good guy, and as a result it was a fun and highly constructive couple of days.......

SB - Climbing Outside / Learn to Lead - July 2010



Our thanks for excellent climbing - it proved great fun, instructional and hit the nail on the head for difficulty, height exposure etc for our group.
Particular thanks also for your flexibility matching to the weather to hit a lovely sunny day.
Great instruction - we will certainly recommend you to friends - Thank you

with very best

GR - Climbing Taster - July 2010


Hi Silvia

Hope you like this photo of you and KJ....Thank you so much for a wonderful experience.

Kindest reagrds

RW - Abseiling - July 2010


Hi Silvia,

I just wanted to thank you so much for the course: it really went above and beyond my expectations, and I shall most certainly be back for more! :-)

Kind regards,

HJ - Climbing Outside - June 2010


Thanks Simon

All three of us really enjoyed our day with Pete. It was so useful and what a fabulous guy he is. A great assessment of what we needed and delivered in such a great way with his gentle manner. The boys really liked him – and so did I. Definitely worthwhile.

Please pass on our very best to Pete and feel free to use any of this to endorse your services. I will be recommending you to any of my contacts who are contemplating climbing in Wales without any hesitation.

DVS - Climbing Outside - June 2010

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Dyneema Slings breaking under direct loads / falls

A couple of months ago there was a long discussion on UKC about how dyneema slings performed when loaded directly. There are a couple of common situations where this could happen:
  • Clipping directly into a belay with a sling, not keeping it under tension, allowing slack to develop and then slipping or falling onto the belay i.e. on a mutipitch route, clipping into the belay with a sling and then moving around to get comfortable/keep the climber in sight. If you then slip or have to hold an unexpected fall the belay will be shock loaded via the sling.
  • Working a move on a route whilst on the lead and using a sling to keep yourself in position, then trying the move with the sling still attached to the anchor. If the rope is slack and you fall you will be falling directly onto the sling.
The guys at DMM had been meaning to perform a series of tests to highlight the huge forces that can be generated in these and similar situations, but the poor weather and the fact that the drop tower is outside put the plans on hold.

The arrival of spring allowed DMM to dust off the drop tower and invite Ray Wood along to film a short video article that should appear on the DMM web site fairly shortly.

Dyneema and nylon slings were both tested using a 80 kg mass in a variety of situations that invoved anchors being loaded directly via dynamic force applied to the sling. Slings of different lengths were tested both with and without knots in the system. The force at the anchor point was measured with a load cell.

The nylon slings generally were a lot more forgiving than the equivilent length of dyneema sling because there is more natural stretch in the nylon fibres that can help absorb energy and reduce impact forces (Dyneema slings are a mix of Dyneema and nylon fibres, but the Dyneema fibres tend to characterise their performance).

The loads generated even with relatively little slack in the system were fairly massive. A fall factor 1 using an unknotted 120cm x 11mm dyneema sling registered 25 kN (surprisingly the sling survived, but whether the climber or belay would have is another matter), a fall factor 1 with an unknotted 11mm x 60cm dyneema slings generated 15.5 kN.

Adding a knot into the system severely increased the risk of the sling breaking i.e. a fall factor 1 onto a 11mm x 60cm dyneema sling with a loose overhand knot in it broke at 11.6kN when loaded.

A test was also performed with a 25cm Dyneema QD sling with carabiners attached - in a fall factor 1 fall this generated 12.5kN.

The tests were simplified and there are always parts of the chain that will absorb energy (the climber/the harness), but the forces are still pretty big considering that nuts and cams max out at 12kN and harnesses are tested to 15kN.

There is risk that the tests will be taken the wrong way and people scream "Dyneema- danger!", but it is all about understanding advantages and disadvantages. Dyneema can be used to make lighter, thinner and less bulky slings compared to nylon plus it is very UV resistant and very resistant to being cut, but it does have disadvantages - it has less inherant stretch and melts at relatively low temperatures (plus it tends to be a bit less durable).

It is easier to mess up with Dyneema, but knowing its weaknesses allows you to act accordingly.

You would have to be a bit of a numpty to get into any of the situations that will be outlined in the forthcoming DMM video, but anyone one can be a numpty at times.