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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Building Pyramids in El Chorro! + Bonus Day πŸ€—

 This past week I have been on my first climbing trip to El Chorro in Andalusia of Spain with Instructor Andy and fellow clients Janet, Simon and Ray.
 I had previously made a conscious decision to concentrate on my mountain leadership awards and so had limited my climbing to occasional trips necessary whilst gaining the Single Pitch Award. This may not have been a bad decision as now I am climbing regularly I have become totally enthralled and could have easily of had my attention distracted from the leadership awards to getting out enjoying myself climbing instead!
 Whilst enjoying regular climbing trips over the last summer and winter I managed to improve my grade quite a lot and am now toying with the idea of gaining climbing instructor qualifications.

As part of this I attended the BMC FUNdamental 1&2 workshops which were being held by Andy Swann. Andy holds the Mountain Instructor Award , is an experienced climber, outdoor instructor and owner of 'Grit, Track and Trail' based in North Yorkshire. After meeting Andy during the BMC FUNdamentals I also had a couple of coaching sessions with him in order to improve my technique. Him being a fellow 'Yorkshire lad' we got on well whilst his knowledge and passion for climbing were obvious, with Andy running a trip to sport climb in El Chorro I thought it too good an opportunity to miss!
 Over 5 days we covered climbing technique with attention paid to conserving energy through careful use of feet and movement. Having attended the FUNdamentals courses Andy had ran I was aware and beginning to appreciate his big emphasis on good foot work with small precise foot placing and triangular body positioning to improve technique and climb efficiently.
I may have mentioned something about needing to ensure a solid base on which to build a solid pyramid once or twice.

 As well as the general aspects of climbing we specifically looked at the demands and skills of Sport Climbing such as belaying a lead climber, clipping sport quick draws, tieing in to the belay, rethreading leader rope and lowering.
 The El Chorro area is a well developed sport climbing area of limestone crags North of Malaga.
 Crags we visited were Desplomilandia (Buena Sombre, La Vida Misma), Frontalis-Sector Austria, Escalera-Araba (also known as the Arab steps).

 Throughout the week we have had mixed weather which meant at some points we had crags to ourselves as everyone else 'scuttle' off as we carried on in a British climber way!
 The weather improved as the week continued with the final day being of glorious sunshine but this made it difficult for me and my Northern European skin!


 We have been staying at the 'The Olive Branch' which stands on the hill above El Chorro town and is a honeypot to climbers and walkers. This is a great guesthouse, bunkhouse and campsite that is extremely sociable and relaxed. As a base for climbing you couldn't ask for much more as the Las Encantadas crag is just 200 metres from the bunkhouse and Frontales and Escalara Arabe can be walked to in around 30 minutes (an ideal warm up!). The food is good, the staff all very friendly and extremely helpful and then to crown it all the 'honesty box' operated beverage fridge was very well priced!



 Late in the week we met Roy Thomas who was staying at the 'Olive Branch', a bit of a legend and a real character who had spent more time climbing than I had spent on the planet.
 One of the reasons I have fallen so in love with climbing is the social aspect as so many people from different back grounds have one common interest in life.

Summary - I would struggle to look up enough words in the dictionary to explain how good this trip has been!
 If you climb you need to come here, I will be back without doubt.
Big up to Andy for organising the trip and his coaching, not the shit banter ;-) 

Bonus Day! - After the rest of the team had left for home and I had spent a couple of days on and around Gibraltar with my good friend Anna, I returned to the Olive Branch to meet up with Roy Thomas again for a cheeky extra day at the craggs.

With the weather overcast and rain in the air we headed to Frontalas Medias where we could gain a little shelter. As it worked out the rain soon halted and the limestone rock soon dried out.
Climbing with Roy was an absolute bonus, not only because he's a 'bit of a legend' but also as I had relied on Andy Swann to provide the rope and guidebook the previous week. Roy had his own 60m rope and the guidebook was stored safely in his head.
 After a few routes on Medias Medias suggested going around to Frontalas  Bajas where there were a couple of long and well known routes.
 Wether he knew the grades exactly or not Roy had me finish on Yailhouse Rock which was a lovely long climb and as I found out later at 6b* was the highest grade I have climbed so far, and to be be honest I was fairly comfortable on it.
Although it was myself that did the climbing, my success on the route was in no small part due the previous weeks coaching from Andy and the pressure of having Roy belaying me.
 Time spent being coached by, watching and climbing with experienced good climbers is as valuable as time spent climbing as far as I'm concerned.

2 comments:

  1. That looks a fantastic trip mate

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    1. Hello Alan. Having just started to really get into Sport Climbing El Chorro was a bit daunting, 1500 routes in the area! Obviously I couldn't have thought of climbing a lot of them due to the grade but I'm working on that :-)

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