During the cold winter months, when rock is covered in snow and ice, our Winter ITC trainees and a handful of lucky staff head off to the warmer climes of Spain for two weeks of rock climbing training. With sunny days, warm temperatures and beautiful limestone crags, there can’t be a much better place to escape the winter and learn to climb.
Our home from home during the rock climbing training module is a spacious villa nestled between orange tree groves in the quaint town of Pedreguer. It is surrounded by sunlit mountains, and just a short drive from several great climbing spots.
With many people having never climbed with ropes before, the first afternoon session is a chat about climbing equipment, followed by a practical lesson of how to tie in and belay. And so begins the quest for the perfectly tied figure of 8 knot.
The first day at the crag is for many, the first day climbing on rock rather than the conveniently coloured resin holds of an indoor wall. With a few bottom ropes set up along the rock, everyone is given the opportunity to get a feel for climbing on natural features. Under guidance of the team of knowledgeable instructors, safe belaying and good practice are things that we insist on perfecting from an early stage in the training course.
The focus of the first few days is on sport climbing; the routes follow a series of bolts in the rock to a bolted anchor at the top with a ring to lower off. It allows the climber to focus primarily on the act of climbing rather than the placement of gear. It does require a vital lesson in the safe rethreading of rope at the top of the route in order to lower back down. Clipping quickdraws correctly is another skill that is mastered at this stage and learning how to avoid back-clipping and Z clipping.
After a couple of days of sport, the focus shifts to trad climbing; this is where the climber places their own protection along the course of the route. With instructors ‘jugging’ alongside each climber, advice and guidance is given on the placing of each nut, hex, cam and sling, with a rating from 1 (placement purely for psychological value) to 5 (absolutely bomber). At the top of a trad route, instead of the convenient bolted anchors used in sport, the climber then is required to build their own anchor using gear they place in the rock and various ropework techniques.
Over the two weeks of climbing training, people will become ropework masters. Going from not knowing a half hitch from a clove hitch, they will soon be tying off Italian hitches and using fold overs with bunny ears.
The last couple of days focuses on group set ups- skills that are integral. It also incorporates some scenarios that require problem solving and rescues.
The 2 weeks shows a progression from total beginner, to a personal climber, to learning how to set up climbs safely for others.
As well as all the technical skills and logbook entries, the Spain trip is about sunny days spent at crags, lunch with views over the Spanish coast, overcoming challenges and supporting and encouraging each other, building strength and self-confidence, feeding a growing addiction and just having a lot of fun!