My First Fell Race

Me Focally Tucked on the descent from Moel Ellio, Photo comes from the Welsh Fell Running Association website, and photographer Alistair Tye

Well after last night pleasant even cragging, my friend Miranda suggested I get involved with a fell race this evening. Now given that I protested a lot about racing saying that I was mainly running to try and get fit for something bigger, I was surprised at myself when I turned up and paid my £1.50. Imagine paying for the biggest beasting of your adult life, an aerobic shoeing of gargantuan proportions.

The race registered at the Heights so my body thought it was just going to get drunk, until it went straight back outside to prepare for the race. I was disappointed to see many familiar faces, most looking at me in shock, as if I had turn up naked. I did check, and yes I had remember to get dress. Looking around everyone was look very athletic, stretching and warming up, I sat on the wall, turn the iPlod on and waited for something to happen, as the skies opened and I realised that my road running shoes were going to be a right laugh on the way down!

Suddenly everyone started running out of the village, up towards the Youth Hostel, shit had I missed the start. No, the start was a kilometre up the track. I thought I would be late as I couldn’t keep up, but instead I just waited around in a midge infested hell hole. It was only after I had the look of someone about to kill himself to end the midge hell that someone from the Great Arete the sponsors of the race offer me some industrial strength DEET, that started to melt my headphones.

Now usually I head out for a run it takes around an hour and then I am done, here I had to watch the under 8’s run up and down a field, fair play they didn’t take very long. Before we then moved again to the actual start of the race. This was the practice that I wanted, having never really raced before I thought it important to practice the ‘mass start’ which was a little more exciting and epic than I thought. I was very aware that as we started to spread I was doing alright, my well I just plod round was right out the window, as I realised that the person in front of me was going to slow, and then the next person.

Now forget pacing, I had to get to the top as quick as possible, as I wasn’t going to set the world alight on the descent. It became an addiction closing down on the people in front, and after a little backwards momentum I found my pace on the final up hill and started to reel in a few more people. I powered up, and it looked like I was about 10th at the summit, but it was probably the fact that the people at the front were so far ahead that they had disappeared out of sight.

It wasn’t long before the people started flowing past me on the descent, I had pipped Miranda to the summit but she destroyed me on the way down. I finished in what I thought was a respectable time, just over 40 minutes. I have to admit that I am not sure about racing as it brings out the competitor in me, a side that I try and repress. I enjoy running and it just seems that it makes it a little bit more of a chore.

As for the social side, maybe I will try a few more of the races, as this was the last of the Tuesday night race series. What was good was that for my £1.50 I got some soup, a roll and some pizza. If I had known that I would have entered and not bothered running. All in all an enjoyable experience apart from waiting in the midge cloud, I will try and do another race or two before the big day just to get used to the whole thing. I think I need to concentrate on running my own race, rather than getting involved in competing.

Life at the Blunt End: Belaying the (Im)possible

A post by Simon Panton on the UKC forum, on choosing the cover shot of the next Slate guide mentioned that if the Quarryman was chosen then the belayer in the last two Slate guides cover shots would be the same, That’s right I would have the cover tick on the two slate guide virtually ten years apart. What it prompted in me was a reminder of the fact that i have been as scared belaying as I have leading.

Whilst belaying might be just belaying, I do know that some sport psychologists are currently researching the dyad between the climber and the belayer, and whilst I don’t want to say that success is as much down to the belayer, as the climber. I can imagine that some of the evidence will point towards whilst a good belayer would not adversely effect performance, a bad belayer will.

So I now see myself as a expert belayer, I have belayed people of what was E9, although modern gear has reduced that grade to a mere E8, held the life line on on-sight attempts of E7’s. Along the way I have had some heart stopping moments and amazing adventures. Who knows one day i might even step onto the sharp end of one of these bad arse routes.

My first truly hard belaying duty was on the front cover of the last Slate guide, belaying Leo on Bungles Arete. It goes back beyond that, the first time I met Leo, he was working the route on a shunt, and I took some photos of his attempt, a few months later and I was belaying him on a lead attempt, and then posing for photos which ended up on the cover.

I remember, that the first meeting, we walked down to Pete’s Eats and had a chip butty before I headed back to Bangor. Leo forever the blagger back then got a portion of chips and a loaf from spar!

Later on I belayed Leo on four or five failed first ascent attempts of Trauma, back then there was no pecker before the wire, just poor RP’s about head height, and the knowledge that if the wire fails the fall ends up on the slab below the belayer. Leo graded it E9, it has settled at E8. Whatever the grade leo got a long way through the crux, on the last attempt I belayed him on.

As he realised that the next hold was beyond his reach, and reversing the crux impossible, he became increasingly scared, ‘Mark I’ve fucked it’. He seemed to hang on for an age, not wanting to let go. Basically he got himself caught twixt the devil and deep blue sea. As he screamed, I half look away and wait for what seems like an age, as I take in a handful of rope, I am pulled sharply upwards.

That I have to say is a theme throughout belaying hard routes a waiting for fate to play out, whilst headpoints the difficulty is known and the judgements often made before anyone leaves the ground. Belaying E7 onsight ascents is perhaps the most gripping experiences I have had when climbing. Climbing a route you know how pumped you are you know how good the gear is, you know how you feel at any given time.

All the belayer has to go on is what is presented to them, at times that becomes apparent when the climber is frantically pedalling there feet or feeling fanatically for anything that resembles a hand hold, as a belayer I have worked out this translates to ‘where the fuck is the hand or foot hold’. Panic has set in and failure is imminent. Similarly the bingo wings (elbows around the ears), with a 2 downward glances to everyone upwards one, predicts failure with 98% certainty.

Pete was quite a way up Rumblefish when he started to display all three of these characteristics. The lone skyhook some 10ft below him seem inadequate now, his voice had broken, the final nail in the route to failure, as he accepted the inevitable. Falling, I got a handful of rope in again, and looked away, and got ready to slow him down.

As the rope came tight I jumped up to reduce the impact force, it was at this point there was a 50/50 chance in my mind, would I drop back to the ground as the skyhook started to take the strain and then fail or would I carry on my upward path as pete’s fall was gracefully slowed. I honestly thought I was going to have to deal with some first aid nightmare, alone at the top of the cromlech, I couldn’t look. Then the confirmation, I am ripped off my feet and pete dusts himself off and has another go at falling off, before nailing it.

To me being a belay bunny can be as mentally challenge as climbing, but here you must show no fear and offer only encouragement from the demons that the leader is dealing with!

Snowdon Summit Fiasco Continues….

The latest rumour surrounding the newly finished summit station/cafe on Snowdon is that despite years in the planning, months to construct and over £8.5 million to complete. It appears that someone hasn’t done there maths, in the whilst the Snowdon Summit Cafe is an isolated system, with a very finite power need, the generator that has been built into the structure doesn’t appear to be up to the job, in that they are drawn too much power from it and it can’t keep up.

You would have thought that someone would have been responsible for adding up the power consumption of all the lights and appliance to be installed and then simply doubled it to make sure it was powerful enough, but apparently not. I don’t know what the solution will be, my guess is they will just dump a new generator next to the fortress and be done with it. As I would imagine that removing the old one might be a little trick without taking parts of the building down.

Anyway as far as I know it is just a rumour, but a great rumour at that, and one that is very likely to be true given that it was a publically funded venture, and nothing has been easy about building a new Cafe/Station on the Summit of Snowdon.

The Pass with Thundery Clouds

I left the village at about 4 pm, to meet Dave and Miranda up at Drws Y Gwynt. I beat them to the car park, and headed up the hill in the scorching heat. I knew right away it was going to be sticky. The crag looked miles up the hillside however the walk in only took ten minutes. The climbing looks butch from below, a series of crack mark the ‘lines’ of the crag.

The easiest a thin hands to hands crack up a corner, Miranda laybacked it after gersumping herself by placing all the cams that fit the crack in the first 10 feet. I was an awesome effort, given that it is graded VS for the jamming, it look a delicate and pumpy layback!
Dave then climbed the classic of the crag Too Hard for Jim Perrin a classic E1, that only gets ** in the latest Pass Guide, but put that route along with Little Sepulchre the VS and the route I then lead A Touch of Class on any Gritstone crag and they would get three stars of anyone’s money!
Too Hard… was stunning a sustain finger to hand crack with the emphasis on hard fingers. I had my tourist boots on, and struggle with the crux until I had to rest briefly, before pedalling like mad and pulling like a loon to reach the next foothold I could get my feet onto.
My lead was ace I haven’t climb a steep E1 that I haven’t climbed before in a long time. The route was intricate and technical, with the odd wild move to get between good holds. It was hot though even at 8pm as the sun was dropping I found myself sweating like I was Murray in this evening gripping Wimbledon match. Which was part due to the the heat, but part due to the fact that i ran out of quickdraws halfway up and had to keep removing gear I had place to get wires in higher.
The even was amazing the wind kept the midges away from the high crag, and even better on the way down I was left a late birthday present from ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ who left me two cams. At least I think it was the blind watchmaker, as in Richard Dawkins‘ book of the same name he suggest that evolution is so amazing as it has built machines so intricate and complicated that should you stumble across Watch in the middle of a bog that it is just as likely that nature put there than a human.
So I propose that when you find gear at a crag it isn’t some unlucky person who forgot it or couldn’t get it out or dropped it, but its the Blind Watchmaker leaving you a present. That’s my belief anyway, if you want your gear back remember I didn’t find it, it was left as a present from its maker!

Ropework and views – Dave atop Too Hard for Jim Perrin

Topping out on Too Hard….

The Dramatic Backdrop to Too Hard…

Dave Rudkin Busting a move on the Classic E1 – To Hard for Jim Perrin

The difficult first few moves.

Miranda on Little Sepulchre

Life in the Vertical: Analytics

I started blogging on the 11th November last year, and have been extremely interested in watching my site grow in popularity, at first I had a handful of people who would check my blog out, and over the months it grew and grew. My most hits in one day was for the report on quickdraw failures, which was seen by over 4000 people. That was also my most link to page, and did exactly what I wanted it to do, which was publise this potentially lethal error.

Along the way I have upset a few people, but handing out my opinion is bound to differ from other peoples from time to time. Not being related to a major manufacturer, has allowed me a certain freedom. However I made some money since those early days, around £100 in total since I started, so I am not going to retire to the internet just yet.

However recently I am regular getting 2500 visits a month, around 1500 of them are Absolute unique views according to google analytics, and that results in over 4000 page views. Not bad for a part time venture, which I have been having emmense fun with over the last nine or so months.

People have been able to share my adventures, my life, my work and even my holiday, hopefully enjoyed themselves along the way.

My thought today is that maybe with so many visitors some manufacturers or small companies might like to have some permanent banners in exchange for equipment or preferable money. I have reviewed a few products that I have purchased, and unfortunately I have been too honest at time, and fear that no company in their right mind would want a review of me, however with direct link through’s to company websites perhaps the time is right to try and widen the source of income I generate from this I would say cottage enterprise, but it is more like a terrace enterprise.

Anyway I am pretty chuffed with the number of people who regularly call into here and at my coaching blog,website and slate and gogarth wiki’s

Gwynedd Councils Anti-Tourism Plan; Cont…

I previously mentioned that the local council planned to turn the lakeside layby into a pay and display car park. After numerous writing complaints and business owner speaking up in local meetings the council decided that they know best. Well they would won’t they on there council salary guaranteed regardless of any economic crisis. I wonder what their expenses are like?!

Anyway their wisdom seems to be to try and wipe out any trace of tourism in the area. It seems ridiculous that a bunch of nepotistic idiots get to decide the villages future. There is now virtually nowhere that you can park without getting ticketed without paying for more than 1 hour. Funnily that is a bigger problem for local residents whom can’t park anywhere near there own house.

The house I rent a room in has double yellow lines everywhere in sight, the high street has parking restriction all the way up the the local councillors house (funny how he has unlimited parking outside his house!). Now the Lakeside Layby has been turn into a pay and display I feel like I have lost a fundamental human right, especially for someone living in a rural area where public transportation is a joke.

I couldn’t for example get a bus to work in Capel Curig, to go shopping in bangor would take over two hours of journey time on a bus. So I need a vehicle and somewhere to park it, and the village needs free parking to encourage tourism. I at present am still parking my Van on the Pay and Display, as I am furious that I can no longer park anywhere, and will prefer to have my time in court over failure to pay a parking fine than spend half hour driving the few streets with free parking to fine a space for my van.

Now I wouldn’t mind if we had been given an opportunity to buy a reasonably priced residents pass, but at present there has been no forthcoming information. Just rumours, I have yet to be ticketed, but it can’t be that long. although again rumour says they won’t start enforcing it till next year. There used to be about 10 cars park there over night a couple of weeks ago. Now there is just mine, I hope they have all gone and parked outside a councillors house! If I get an address for them I will post it up here so you can all park there!

Trouble Shooting Techniques

Well, after a busy week of partying for my birthday I had to sober up, and go to work at Plas Y Brenin where I was directing a Trouble Shooting Techniques weekend, showing people how to get out of all sorts of difficult situations by giving them some tools to hauls, pass knots on abseils, escape the system, and even the most basic of skills locking off a belay plate, so you can think and use both hands.

we did a lot of repetitive practice to help get these guys in the ball park of what is needed to each individual skill, breaking it up into building blocks and working through it one stage at a time, until we can eventually put it all together. More importantly, we went through ways to practice the skills safely, mainly not at the top of a massive cliff, instead just on small bouldery outcrops, or just of the ground in a climbing wall.

I think all the people of the course had a good time, and they certainly went away with a great understanding of various problems to avoid, and skill to get them out of the situations if you haven’t managed to avoid it. If your interested in learning the skills of escaping the system, then you can see a video here or below, alternative book on a course with mehere or Plas Y Breninhere.

After work each night I managed to get a short evening run in, just round the lake, so still going strong on the training. It was interesting, because after work I was really tired, so i wonder if training when knackered will help for the latter stages of the marathon?

The Day the Music Died

Having grown up with Micheal Jackson, from pretty much the end of the Jackson Five through a million classic albums and a never ending roller coaster of Jacko being Wacko. Now I have already heard about a thousand bad taste jokes revolving around his danger to children. Although the one about whats the difference between Micheal Jackson and Alex Ferguson…………………

Ferguson will be playing Giggs in August!

He died of food poisoning……. he ate some 12 year olds nuts!

Gary Glitter has just made a record bid on Ebay for Micheals Jacksons computor.

Bad News Micheal Jackson dies, good news Maddy McCain found in cupboard.

Now don’t get me wrong I like his music, especially his earlier stuff, but I really don’t see how his music can effect these equally wacko fan to the extent that it does. I have recently had problems liking his music, and I certainly wouldn’t have brought one of his records again, I know he was aquitted of the second allegation of child abuse, but he did pay off the first. I also remember that fly on the wall documentary, where he basically admitted to sharing a bed with a 14 year old. It was cringe worthy.

It hasn’t been 24 hours since his death, and the BBC and other media outlets are going Jacko mad, my local news programme has of course highlight that in 1998, 1992 he played in Cardiff Arms Park. I dread to think of the next week of Jackson Specials.

What has pissed me off the most with his death is that he choose my birthday to die on. Selfish Bastard!

Anyway I have chosen one of my favourite songs Billy Jean, it was probably the first time I saw the ‘Moonwalk’, I tried for years to do it myself.

The day after the night before

Like all good nights they must come to an end at some point. I think the last man standing was Mike who sensibly hadn’t drunk as much as Huw and Me. I have no idea what time that was, just that the following day was going to be a very painful affair. True to its word I awoke to feel like I had been half batter to death by a team of baboons.

I had done nothing today other than sleep, and watch Tele, and then the pager went off. The sound went right through me. I did manage to respond but it took ten minutes of walking round the house thinking what I need to put in my bag and then trying to remember where I put it, then finding it, then loosing the gloves, socks, hats again, and then finding them. I got to base and fortunately I wasn’t deployed on the hill, I would have probably been a liability.

I just have to hope the pager doesn’t go off again! (In fact I might whip the battery out!)

As an aside the weather has turned back to summer up here, heavy rain etc…