James McHaffies Lecture

James McHaffie on one of those Cutting Edge ascents, The Serpents Vein, Dinorwig Quarries.

I have just recieved an email from one of the Officers at the BMC asking me to big up James McHaffie’s friday night lecture that is part of the BMC AGM. The presentation is set to start at 8.30pm, and is titled Cutting Edge Climbing at Home and Abroad. I am sure Caff will entrall us with his tales of dare doing, although he does seem to find things that hard that often.

Full details of the BMC AGM are available here!

UKC Article

Well, many years ago now I wrote a short article on Cryn Las, I think I put it on this blog, however I might not. I did send it to Jack ‘UKC’ Geldard who has a new blog by the way, and worth a visit. The article went live today, and Jack also like the Sun Chaser Wall post on here and wants to expose it over on UKC, in return I just got a commercial profile on UKC, so I have a link next to my name when I post. I think it also allows me to post links to my site? (might be wrong there).

Jack also asked me to report on the BMC AGM, seeing that I am going to be there. So on saturday I will attempt to write a non-bias, non opinionated piece on the AGM for UKC. The traffic that UKC drives to this site is pretty large, and its good for me to see a growing base of people checking out my life in the vertical. Hopefully next month it will get really exciting when I go on holiday to the USA, although not sure how often I will get to update the blog when on the road!

I also ran into Johnny Dawes last night in the Gallt y Glyn, he gave us a small example of his declumsification masterclass round the table, and I have written a short piece about one section on my coaching blog. However

Declumsification: Johnny Dawes

I was in the Gallt Y Glyn last night and amongst the other people who were in there was Johnny Dawes. We managed to get him talking about what he does on his coaching workshops. Now this is only one part of it, but i was interested, as Johnny comes from a non-instructor/coach education background. What he does is take what he has known and done for years and try to distill it as simply as possible.

His three word approach to a single move is very interesting when you approach it from the more science based approach of sport psychology. Johnny uses the Shape, Voice and Face of a move.

Now the Shape is the end product, the shape that will most effective allow you to hang the hold you are move to. You have to imagine that shape before you attempt the move. Seeing the move and the end position that you want your body to adopt. Now visualisation is a very powerful tool and one that has much empirical support to showing how it improves performance.

The next part of the single move is its voice, the sound that is associated with the move. Now I did mention this to one of my lecturers before I heard Johnny’s voice of the move. In that the lecturer was an expert in Self-talk, however he dismissed it. I do believe that in climbing, i use a sound to help me control the timing and intensity of a movement. This is what Johnny has done with his voice.

The last aspect of the individual move is the face of the move, or the face you will be pulling when you hang the hold. In that a really hard move will end up with quite a gurn. Again this can be linked back to visualisation, in that it gives you another thing to help make your imagery more vivid and controllable, which has been link greater imagery effects in research.

All in all, whilst Johnny doesn’t realise it, he is using several powerful mental tool that sport psychologist call on to help performance, and what’s more he is using them in a way that climbers should be able to connect with. Whats more he isn’t just giving a climber the solution, he allows them to find there own solution through experimentation, what he gives them is a method to reach that solution, by considering the move through implicit knowledge, rather than explicit rules.

Of course there is far more to Johnny’s masterclasses than three simple words, if your interested then click the Johnny Dawes link to be transported to his website, where you can book a session.

Getting Off a Cliff Safely: Abseil Stations

A badly Damaged Lower off, It looks like someone lower off with rope on rope!

Whilst I am willing to concede that the ethical argument for retreating off a cliff by abseilling has many pro’s and con’s. The fact is that climbers often do avoid that walk round and down the cliff, by abseiling in order to either retreat due to rain, over ambition or ease. The debate as to whether we should and where we should is best left to BMC area committees to pontificate over. There are however many long established abseil station scattered around the mountains of the UK and beyond.

Often these stations are rigged off natural gear/features like spikes, pegs, trees or threads. Whatever the station many of them are rigged with both a rope or even a chain, and a mallion. If it is a rope then it is essential that you thread the mallion to prevent damaging the rope, and although abseiling on a system of rope against rope is OK, if you are lowering off rope on rope then it is a big no, no. The image above shows what happens, it was retrieved from the top of Tremadog, it doesn’t bear thinking about the possible consequences if it had burnt through and snapped!

Another top tip on staying safe is available at my coaching climbing blog.

Abseil Station with a mallion to thread the rope through.

Is your life really worth less than the cost of a single carabiner or mallion, which would have prevented this extreme wear. Rope on rope retreats are generally a bad thing, ropes much prefer to run over metal.

The West Face of Vivian- aka Sun Chaser Wall

Looking down the West face, at the rising shade
A while ago I climbed a new route above Comes the Dervish called the missing link, its purpose for that was the only reason I climb it was to allow a continuous link up of a series of routes on the west facing wall of Vivian. I climbed the link over a couple of days due to rain, laziness or some other excuse that I can’t remember at the moment. Then with the flights to go to the States booked it seemed like a great training ground, being only 2 minutes from the house, and seven pitches long.

So last night after llion finished work we headed over with a rack and rock boots to try and chase the sun from the bottom to the top of Vivian quarry. The sun made it pleasant to climb in only a T-shirt, and whilst we did manage to stay ahead of the sun, we weren’t really going all guns blazing but we did manage to climb the wall in 1 hour 57 minutes, which for a first attempt was reasonable quick for a couple of average climber. When you consider that the route climbs a large selection of pitches well worth climbing in there own rights.

The link we chose and the standard for the wall was Mental Lentil (HVS), Monster Kitten (E1), To Bald to be Bold/Turkey Chant (E2/3), Comes the Dervish (E3), The Missing Link (E2) and The Madness (E1).

It is a stellar outing well worth ***, and now we have laid down the starting time, how fast can you get up there? We have incidentally left a few carabiner in-situ to help get down off lower-off without having to rethread them, it would be great if they would stay in-situ, however climbers being as they are I suspect they are already gone!

P1 – Mentil Lentil

P2- Monster Kitten

P3 – Too Bald to Be Bold

P4 – Turkey Chant

P5 – Comes the Dervish

A route adjacent to Pitch 7 the Madness, here Mike Hamel Climbs One Step Beyond E3, another possible final pitch, although there is another E4 above this called Powertool Resurrection.

The Sun Final Sets as we get to the Van

Top Tip: Lowering Off from the top of the cliff

Being lowered off the top of a cliff.

I posted some pictures of one of the course I was working on last week, and someone asked why in one of the pictures the rope had been clipped through a carabiner behind the belay plate. It was to add additional friction when lowering people off the top of a cliff or pitch. It makes a real difference to the control that you feel when lowering someone, you just have to remember to remove it and belay normally when the person is climbing up. It also means that the rope is locked off by holding it forwards rather than backwards.

 Belay plate set up for belaying from the top of a pitch/crag, with an extra carabiner with the rope clipped through to add extra friction

The extra carabiner in action, whilst the belayer looks like he has locked the rope of incorrectly, the extra carabiner means that the rope is locked off by pulling it forwards, not backwards like when the belay plate is used normally on its own.

Admin day

Well I made a list last night of things to do today, it had four things written down on it:

1. Apply for passport
2. Sort out Car Tax
3. Join BMC
4. Invoice Plas Y Brenin

These four simple things should have been easy, they should take less than a day to achieve, so i got up at 9am after a but of a lie in and headed to Bangor DVLA office to get a replacement Tax disc. Failed miserably as i didn’t have the necessary paper work. So one strike out there.

I then went to get a passport application form, and failed to find the new post office in Bangor, which was in the WHSmith store, however not the WHSmith store that has been there for the last 15 years but a new small and inconspicuous one that I walked passed twice, before giving up, and deciding to go to get the photos take instead.

Now if you have tried to get a passport then, you will be aware that the photos have a very strict set of rules that need to be obeyed. No Smiling, no hair in front of eyes and no glasses. I took me £30 of photos to achieve that for various reasons. Suffice to say I am bored of automated photo Boothe’s at the moment.

To console myself I went to Blue Skies in Bangor as it had been recommended as a nice lunch spot, and in particular the Onion Bhaji Ciabatta (pictured). Which was just as good as I was hoping. I also ran into a friend out with her kids, so quickly mellowed out and got the direction to the Post Office that I had walked past threes times that day already.

So I got my application form, photos so now i went home to invoice the Brenin, fill in the forms get a photo signed, pick up the DVLA paper work, head back into Cearnarfon post office then bangor DVLA office, before heading back to join the BMC.

I ran into Kath who filled in the form and signed photos, she managed to get one date wrong which meant that when I got it checked at the Post Office to speed up the process, I was about to scream as the return trip to llanberis wasn’t going to help me relax. However the post office said I didn’t need a signed photo! For the loves of god, why is it never simple.

Anyway I got the Car Taxed till November now, and even joined the BMC (Half price if you set up a Direct debit), just got to send my proxy vote tomorrow, to vote for Rab. Although I will be there on Saturday, I am hoping to duck out at voting time, and go climbing!

Anyway, hopefully tomorrow I will get to go climbing or at the very least enjoy the sun! Those four things took all day to complete.

After Work Run

Well after being cooked in the sun all day at work I managed to get out for a run and climb this evening. Running from Llanberis to Seamstress slab, which is a seriously steep climb, followed by a solo ascent of Seamstress. I have to say although a very simple route, after a run like that it is pretty hard to slow the old breathing down and relax. After that we ran back out to bus stop and down Fachwen, before run back along the cycle track on the other side of the lake.

Feeling ever so healthy after that I went and got some chips and bread for a chip butty supper!

Anyway I am absolutely knackered now and looking forward to a week off work!