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.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Weather Forecast for Climbing in El Chorro, Malaga and Granada

The crazy weather that Spain has seen this winter finally seems to have run its course and days of sun and blue skies seem have returned. The strange weather did mean that it was really important to plan the days carefully and I spent a long time scouring the web looking at weather forecasts - not just checking rain and sun predictions, but looking closely at wind strengths and wind direction.

These are the best sites I found found providing solid information about the weather in Andalucia.

Meteo Blue this has been the most accurate weather forecasting site this winter.

El Mundo Tiempo A good site with a neat map facility that gives you a quick overview of Andalucia if the weather is bad near you

There also a few web cams spread around the coast which can prove really useful when the weather is bad inland and you need to know whether to trek down to the coast for the climbing at Mijas, St Anton or Los Vados.

There are not any web cams inland around El Chorro at the moment, which is a shame.

The key thing to remember is that there is lots and lots of climbing between El Chorro, Malaga and Granada and it is very unlikely that you have to lose a day - yo may have to travel for 40 miles / one hour, but at least you will be climbing.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Rock Climbing Articles

The number of articles I have written for my site seems to continue to grow and so I decided to put a list of them in one place. The articles are normally below the main course information towards the bottom of the page.

Rock Climbing Articles:

1. How to Start Rock Climbing.

A short article that offers information on how to start climbing and lists the best reference sites and books.

2. Choosing Climbing Equipment and building a rack of hardware.

A general overview of what to look for in carabiners, nuts/wires, cams and slings

3. Building a Rack of Climbing Equipment.

A more detailed view of what you need for specific types of climbing and the composition of different climbing racks.

4. Climbing Carabiners

A more detailed of what to look for when choosing rock climbing carabiners

5. Choosing Rock Climbing shoes

A short article on choosing your first pair of climbing shoes with some recommendation.

6. Choosing and Placing Nuts, Wires and Hexes (Hexcentrics) for Climbing ( Part 1)

A look at how to choose and place nuts effectively, especially hexes (Torque Nuts and Rockcentrics)

7. Choosing and Placing Nuts, Wires and Slings for Climbing (Part 2)

A look at how to choose slings and nuts / wires with information on the features to look for.

8. Choosing and Placing Cams / Camming Devices.

A look at how to choose and place cams (Friends, Camalots and 4CUs) with information on the features to look for.

8a. Choosing a Small Camming Unit

Information on the best micro cams on the market - CCH Aliens v Metolius Master Cams v Wild Country Zeros v Black Diamond C3s

9. Choosing a Climbing Helmet

A look at how to choose a climbing helmet with some recommendations.

10. Choosing a Climbing Harness

Information on choosing a climbing harness - different styles, features to look for and getting the best fit,

11. Abseiling and Prusic Loops

A short article on abseiling, protecting the abseil and ascending the rope using prusic loops

12. First Aid Kit - Contents for Climbers

A personal look at the contents of a climbers First Aid Kit

13. Climbing Accidents - common causes for how they happen

An analysis of common accident scenarios at climbing walls

14. Corroded Carabiners - Strength Loss

A quick look at a corroded quickdraw and how it broke when tested.

Mountain Scrambling Articles:

1. Mountain Scrambling Grades .

A short description of the scrambling grades used in the UK and a look at the territory likely to be encountered.

2. Choosing Scrambling Equipment - Ropes & Hardware.

A general overview of what to look when choosing ropes and a rack for scrambling. There is information on choosing helmets on the Advanced Scrambling Course page

3. Constructing Rope Coils

How to make rope coils, short roping and moving together. There is a direct link to the photos on how to build hard locked coils for scrambling here

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Latest Courses in Spain

A great week long course with Steve that covered aspects of climbing needed to be an climbing instructor - rope work, looking after clients, belays and lots of climbing - was followed by a quick trip down to Tarifa for a couple of days bouldering and performance coaching.

The week with Steve was largely spent in the area behind Villanueva del Rosario on El Corral, Los Pinos and Taco del Madera with a couple of trips to Villanueva del Cauche on cooler days to make the most of the sun.

The photo to the side shows the terrain behind our village - karst limestone hills that are typified by the well known crags of El Torcal that are just 15km to the north.

The big blob of rock behind Steve is El Chamizo, the highest peak in the area and the "small" diamond shaped buttress of clean rock to its left is the 250m high El Diamante.

We are actually standing on top of a 300m buttress after completing a multi-pitch trad climb.

After dropping Steve off I headed south to Tarifa and had one day on the Mosaic Walls and one days on the sea side boulders with Andy and Sarah.

The last time I went to Tarifa it was really windy, but conditions this time were perfect and I even managed to sneak in some personal bouldering as the sun went down.

Back tonight to Malaga to pick up India for a coaching course - the weather looks good for the week ahead so we will probably stay in the hill behind the house.

DMM Dragon Cams

The DMM Dragon cams were on show today at the ISPO trade show in Munich.

The cams on the DMM stand were taken from the first production batches going through the DMM factory and have evolved from the prototypes that were shown at the Friedrichshafen show in July.

The Dragons now feature an anodised 7075 aluminium thumb grip – this patented feature allows the Dragon to use a doubled 8mm dyneema sling to reduce the number of quickdraws that climbers need to carry.

The doubled 8mm dyneema sling can’t be used on a standard wire loop because under load the loop collapses and the dyneema then cuts through the wire at around 10kN (the same does not happen on the DMM 4CUs because the rear spacer stops the wire collapsing.).

The aluminium thumb grip is massively strong and lighter than the steel wire it replaced.

Other features include:

• Cam lobes that are massively strong in all positions not just the positions dictated by the CE test. DMM think that they are probably a bit too strong, but it build in some extra safety and could allow them to
• Cams have a 13.75 degree camming angle
• The cam springs are relavtively strong so the units seat well and resist movement.
• Terminations are very short so that the flexibility of the stem is maximised.
• The stem uses a specially treated zytel nylon cover that is very flexible across a massive range of temperatures and yet is very durable.
• The thumb grip is very strong in all directions and the sling resists over 14kN in any orientation.
• The doubled 8mm dyneema sling extends to form a 25cm long extender and saves a quickdraw.

There are more images below and there is a page on the Rock Climbing Company site that offers info on camming devices in general and building a climbing rack.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Climbing in Spain

A strange week of weather, but it all finished well with a couple of days of sun and blue skies. I had couple of days at El Chorro guiding on the Camino del Rey - this is the slightly ancient walkway that sits 50m above the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes gorge. When I first went to El Chorro in the mid 1980's it was quite normal for climbers to walk freely around the walkway to get to routes in the gorge - sectors Recodo, Africa and Santimonia etc. The walkway has now deterioated to such an extent that it is advertised as "the most dangerous path in the world" - a bit of an exaggeration, but it is certainly good fun and exciting / atmospheric if treated as an extended via ferrata trip.

The later part of the week involved a trad (traditional) climbing course with Stephen. The first couple of days were hampered by showers and coldish winds, but the last days featured the normal sun and blue skies. We headed up to Los Pinos behind Villanueva del Rosario as this strange, pyramid shaped lump of rock has lots of trad routes that are great for learning how to lead climb.

A day off now before two weeks of back to back rock climbing courses and I'm heading to a newly developed crag near Antequera - 40m routes on perfect orange rock. This crag's location is secret at the moment, but if you are looking for new routes then El Torcal is worth a visit. The new lines are on more typical limestone than normally found at El Torcal i.e. crimps rather than slopers.


Friday, 15 January 2010

Good weather comes back to Andalucia

The good weather is returning to southern Spain and the long term forecast is for warm dry conditions to stay for a while - hurray!

It is easy to moan, but the varied micro climates around the Malaga have allowed us to find dry crags and a bit of sun despite the odds being against us.

Last week a combination of venues including Villanueva del Cauche, St. Anton de Pinares and Valle de Abdalajis provided sanctuary from the last of the rain.

This weekend I am heading to El Chorro for a course with Justin and Alex and we will stay overnight at the Olive Branch.

The guys are keen to do some multi-pitch leading and the Frontales area is perfect for this.

The climbing season is getting into full swing now and I am fully booked for the next 4 weeks, but have 10 free days in February (14th -24th) and 12 days free in March 15th - 27th.

Back at base Simon has added a booking system to the Rock Climbing Company site with online booking and payment.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Climbing Wall - Villanueva del Rosario

My climbing wall in Spain is almost finished - all the boards are up, all 300 T-nuts are in place and I just need to do a bit more painting to finish the structure

Then I just need for the holds and mats to arrive.

In typical fashion the weather is improving rapidly despite some torrential rain on Monday night. Renee and Cheryl arrived on Monday for a Learn to Climb Outside / Learn to Lead Climb course and were obviously hoping for some Spanish sun afteer escaping from the artic conditions in the UK. They were defininately looking a bit forlorn when it was still raining on Tuesday morning - but the sun was out on the coast and St. Anton on the outskirts of Malaga was dry and warm.

St. Anton East is a great crag for learning how to lead climb because it is bolted very well, is not intimidating and has a good spread of grades from 4 to 7a.

The rock on most of the local crags has dried remarkedly quickly after the Christmas rain and it is only really the the tufa lines that are still wet - the forecast is for a more typical cold, dry weather system to take over now.