How Can Specialist Outdoor Shops compete?

I was perusing UKC, as I tend to do, looking for a) something that I might be able to help someone with, b) something interesting or c) something totally stupid. I often find lots of C’s, but choose not to comment now. However there was a B last time I was on there, it was referring to a lightweight 1 man tent from Agros (mum this would be a useful Birthday present!) It cost a shocking £34.

Now as someone who occasionally has to take a Mountain Leader Training courses, so has to carry there own tent. Not very PC to jump in with the group, besides it is nice to have a few hours peace. As such a single man tent is useful. However it got me thinking, in the time of crunching credit, where we all are watching the bottom line on our finances how does a specialist manufacturer or shop for that matter compete with Argos or Tesco’s for that matter.

I brought a thermos flask from Cotswolds, and it broke within a week, as the lid basically fell apart. It was a long drive to replace it. However the next time I was in Tesco’s I brought two flask for half the price I paid for the Thermos, they were probably made in the same factory. Similarly my Gelert backpack and hydration system cost way less then what I saw in Joe Browns and V12, so much so I could justify shopping in these stores that my friends own, and they certainly could justify selling there produce at a similar price.

I know that V12 stopped selling GPS units because you could buy them cheaper at the supermarket, the same is true of small bags for bouldering which can cost as little as £5, I also know of an Outdoor Centre that buys all its fleeces from Tesco because they are cheaper than they can be sourced anywhere else.

I really would love to support my local specialist businesses more but they are being seriously undercut, and I am probably in the eyes of the government on the borderline of poverty. Not that I live and impoverished life, but I work to live not live to work.

Dinas Cromlech

The sustained upper pitch of Noahs Warning VS ***, although a little loose rock probably warrents one of the stars being taken away to be honest.

Its always good to get out climbing when the weather is nice in Wales. As if I hadn’t seen enough rock in the last few weeks I headed up to the Cromlech, a crag which seems to have a long walk in compared to other Llanberis Pass crags, however it is short lived compared to the Half Dome Epic last week!

I went climbing with a local guy called Will, who like myself is part of the local rescue team, although it was the first time we had climbed together, so we headed up to do a couple of classic VS’s. The first Dives/Better Things, apparently pronunce divas better things, not dives. A great route, which Will got the crux pitch of.

Dives/Better Things VS ***

After that we did Noah Warning, which was a bit more of a battle for both of us as I got the crux 5a, which is a sustain face/crack climb. It was only the second time that I have climbed on this wing of the Cromlech, as most of the time I head to the main event that is the open book face around cenotaph corner.

I was a social day as well, one guy recognised me from here, if you reading hi, it is always nice to meet people who seem to be enjoying my blog. I try to make it as interesting as possible, and the readership does seem to peak and trough. I also saw Owen from Ibex out guiding, and Fran from the Vagabound Club heading up to climb Left Wall as we were heading down. I hope she gets the ascent. (Just checked her Facebook and she succeeded on Left Wall, go Fran!)

Will leading of up the top pitch of Dives Better Things

We headed down mainly because it felt like another route whilst possible would have been pushing it, and having ticked two *** VS’s it seemed better to head down and get ready for the pub, than flog a dead horse. Both Will and I had a great day, and we chatted about how being in the Mountain Rescue can effect your own climbing, and how sometimes your keen and other times you are not. Anyway just as we got back down I saw this carved into the cromlech boulders, about 30 ft from the road.

Now I appreciate that this person may have been specially involved with the Mountains of Wales, however if they were I am sure they will have not so much turned in their grave but choked on their ashes, having seen the damage done. If it wasn’t someone who was into the mountain, it seems a ridiculous thing to do. I am sure someone is grieving over this person, but for me as a climber it doesn’t seem very right. Although I guess we have to appreciate that not everyone holds rock in such high regards.

Although I would say that the Cromlech Boulder isn’t a graveyard, and I personally don’t want it to change into one.

 Vandalism or Remembrance?

To Tweet or not to Tweet?

I am not a tweeter, in that I don’t use Twitter, not because I don’t like it. My problem is I fear losing too much more of my life to technology and communication explosion. Having returned from America it seems most of my friends were more than aware about what Llion and I have been up to. Now given that various climbers are fully sign up twitterers. Ray Wood is one and Andy Kirkpatrick is another.

The rapid rise of the micro blog, allows you to send a text message to the world, or your followers anyway. So for the time being I probably won’t tweet, however I have been starting to follow Andy K on his twitter, who has just climbed the Zodiac in a rather long push by the sound of it prior to Phil Packers fund raising climb up the same route.
Again visit Phil’s website for help the heroes.

Ground Hog Day Llanberis

A Heron has its dinner whilst we have our on the shore of Llyn Padarn, I have gotten to used to Al Fresco eating!

I always find it funny when I return from holiday, that no matter how long you go away for virtually nothing ever happens in Llanberis. I took a photo of the high street the night before I left and I could have taken that exact same image last night on my first night back. As i visit friends the majority are well you’ve not missed anything!
I went for dinner with Huw and Ursula, a BBQ in the sun by the lake followed by a few ales, after all I am still theoretically on holiday. Anyway I caught up with a few friends and one mentioned that crazy Dave, so called because he is both crazy and called Dave, had taken part in the Nissan Outdoor Games, and his team have won the competition.

The Daddy of picnicking BBQ’s ‘The Weber’

The general idea is that as a team you produce a 5 minute film which includes five different extreme sports. The film rather than the actions of the canoeists, basejumpers, paraglider etc… is what wins the comp. A great effort to the Team Golgoht. If you’d like to see more of the videos then visit their YouTube page

GUIDEBOOK REVIEW: Colorado, Red Rocks, Toulonme Meadows, Desert Climbs.

Having been involved with the development of some guidebook, I feel that there are a few key things that the selective genre should achieve to be classed a success, that is they should identify the best routes, get you to the crag, then direct up the right route and get you safely down. Beyond that a little history, first ascentionist information and some please images add to the whole product, however unless those key components are meet then the guide is as much use as a chocolate tea pot.

Red Rocks Guidebook

Red Rocks was a funny place, in that we only spent a day there, and I had been told the route to do by the sandbagging first ascentionist. We were set to do epinephrine, an uber classic chimney/wall. Most people only do the first five pitches, however there are 18 in total, although many now link together to become 60 metre epics. What we found was that the guide was a little out of date, and that we need new supplemental information that we downloaded off the SuperTopo website. Whilst the topo was adequate, perhaps a better selective guide based on the use of the free pages we downloaded off the would be the supertopos Red Rocks Guide.

Click here to buy Red Rocks Guide
Click here to buy Supertopos Red Rocks Guide

Tuolumne Meadows Guidebooks

Having been in the desert too long, Tuolumne Meadows was a great place to cool off. At a reasonable altitude, you can feel it in your legs if you over exert yourself. However the climbing is most roadside, we climbed four route given *** and everyone of them was amazing. What’s more the guide had just enough information for us to get to the climb and follow the various topos, although on the more complex Cry in Time Again, there were a few parts that seemed a little vague, but given a little mountain nouse we didn’t really get lost.

Again when we climbed fairview dome we used the free supertopos guidebook, and despite not seeing which routes are in there. I would imagine that this more visual book has both more to offer in terms of route finding, and a lot more to say about descents and history.

Click to buy SuperTopos Guidebook to Tuolumne Meadows
Click here to buy Falcon Guidebook to Tuolumne Meadows

Classic Desert Climbs

This was the best of the selective guide we took on our trip, it had everything that is worth climbing in the desert, however the only thing it didn’t provide was cool enough weather to climb, but that was our fault, as we had to go over the time frame we went. As such we managed to get some climbing done before it got too hot most mornings. What was really impressive was the detail about where you can camp which whilst not actually missing from the falcon guides, was presented in a far better way. Whats more this guidebook has a little history and some great pictures some of which threaten to give you a woody the size of standing rock, a la Naill Grimes Stylee!

Click here to buy Classic Desert Climbs

Colorado Guidebook

The Colorado Selective guide, was one of the best of the selective Falcon Guides, and was fall of classic routes and information on many crags and areas all over Colorado. This State alone would validate a road trip in itself, such is the number and variety of rock types and crags. Much of it is concentrated around Boulder and Estes Park a short drive north. However there where whole areas we just drove past in order to meet our deadline of finishing up in LA in three weeks.

Click here to buy Colorado Guidebook

LA LA Land

Getting the baby to sleep LA Styleee

LA LA land was about as mad a place as anywhere I have ever been, having hung out on the Santa Monica Boulevard, hoping to see the cast of Baywatch, I was disappointed when they didn’t show up, as the freak show you are treated to is amusing to say the least. I took a few candid pictures of a few sites from around LA, a few were so un-PC that I decided not to publish them.
The funniest thing I saw was a extremely large lady, clad head to toe in Lycra, pedalling a racing road bike slower than most people were walking with her personal trainer saying “go on you’re doing really well”. I had to walk away with a giggling fit.

Anything with wheels goes on the Santa Monica Boulevard

Dog walking! One of the more manly dogs, most others are dress up in Pink and walked by a couple of middle aged men, I thought San Francisco was the place to go for that?

The astro turf and plastic flower power bike!

Robo Cop, it even has a siren!

Home Sweet Home

Having survived the Trans-Atlantic flight, with a kid screaming as loud as I have ever heard one scream. At first I thought that the mother was trying to hammer a nail through her sons foot, but apparently not. I just wish that they banned kids under the age of four from long haul flights, its not fair on them or the rest of the passengers! The Tube and the Train weren’t that much better, hot, overpriced and overcrowded.

I am sat in trying to stay awake in the hope that I can reset my body clock for UK time, and looking forwards to a long soak in the bath. Llion and I have been reflecting on our little adventure as we travelled back, and with retrospection we are under the impression that we had a kick ass time, and that to repeat the same routes we have in the same time frame would be an epic undertaking for anybody, and I would urge anyone to attempt it.
Imagine turning up and on sighting a *** classic multi-pitched route on a different route virtually everyday. The experience was like no other trip I have been on. Not only did I see half of the USA, we also climb their best routes.
Anyway must nearly be bedtime, if only it gets dark!