Rock Improvers for Young People

I have spent the last three days teaching a couple of young lads to climb for Plas Y brenin. The young persons courses are always a lively affair, as the clients seem to have boundless energy and enthusiasm for climbing despite keeping the centre staff awake until the early hours. It must be an amazing experience for the youngsters who basically have the run of the centre and are kept entertain from 8am till 9pm everyday.

During the week I took my pair up Kirkus’ Route and Slick on Clogwyn Y Oen, then they lead Bobo and Obleron of Tremadog, before I lead them up the outstanding One Step in the Clouds to fill and hour before we went for the obligatory Beddgelert Ice Cream. Then today we finished off with them leading themselves up Hope on the Idwal Slabs.

My hope is that I have managed to teach these guys some essential skill and techniques to stay safe when they go climbing, and that the both enjoyed themselves and were inspired by the routes to follow climbing as a past time and a passion. Last year I meet two people I taught to climb in Vivian Quarry climbing steadily up Psychotherapy E2.

There are other centres that offer ‘proper’ climbing for young people courses, however I haven’t come across a set up like Plas y Brenin. They have another week of course in a couple of weeks, so beware on the crags as these guys zip past you laughing and screaming like kids enjoying themselves should. Just know all the instructors have earplugs in and paracetmol for the headache from the constant noise.

Gwynedd Councils Anti-Tourism Plan: PYG Parking

A while back I passed the Pen Y Grwryd pub on my way to work. The pub was and still is a focal point for Everest enthusiasts, as the ‘training’ route that Hillary and his men used started and finished from the pub, it has since gotten the name the PYG track after the initials of the pub. Outside the pub there have been some road works for the last few months as they basically try to limit the ad-hoc roadside parking, and make a limited number of parking bays.

Well last weekend was the first time that I have passed going to work when the work has been completed. Now I have no idea at what the council was hoping to achieve by limiting the parking, as the demand for park was still going to be there, and interestingly even the park and ride car park was full to over flowing by 10 am. So whilst the early birds got the limited parking bays. All that has happened is the parking problem now extends further down Nant Gwynant and further towards Capel Curig.

So all they have successfully done is shift a problem not actually solved it!

Now rumour has it and I can not be bothered to check these rumours by looking at the planning application, is that they are going to change the parking to being a freeway down towards Nant Gwynant and Capel Curig. This legal change in the roads status means that those parking on the side of the road where there isn’t an official parking bay and soon to be Pay and Display Meter you can be potentially ticketed by the police for breaking the rules of the road.

Given that this happens already, and also happens on the road by Pen Y Pass, I would suggest that when this happens we advise everyone who can’t park in an ‘official’ area to park as close to Pen Y Pass as possible, as if you are going to be fined £35 for the privilege of parking to walk up Snowdon, then you might as well park closer to where you want to be parked then walk the extra mile up hill from the Pen Y Grwryd.

Yet another blindingly stupid idea from Gwynedd Council.

Vivian Quarry

I should really have a standard vivian quarry climbing post saved somewhere on my computer as it would save me a lot of time making them up every time, I guess someone would notice and point out I am using the same content over and over. I have to say that after the weekend working at the brenin I was a little goosed however I slept like shit, actually the term slept is misused as I didn’t sleep at all, so got up late and went to see my friend who daughter is potty training. I guess I can’t complain as at least I can’t remember the stress of it, but imagine you’ve pissed and shit in you own pants and then someone says we want you to sit on a plastic tub and shit and piss in front of everyone, I would be pretty anti that idea.

Whilst visiting I got a call of another friend to go climbing, I had arrange to put another subject through my research experiment so could only make a quick afternoon hit, now given that the top of the quarries are out of bounds (I didn’t fancy having to out run a truck again!), so we went to Vivian and I lead Last Tango In Paris and Comes the Dervish (I think it is the third or fourth time I have lead these route this year).

The dervish wasn’t so much hard but harder than I would normally expect. It kind of bugged me that I found it harder than normal it is a great ‘acid test’ for me as I know how it should feel to climb. Today though I put my performance down to being totally knackered. By the time I had gone to the beacon to do my research I was totally exhausted, i have to say i am looking forward to bed although I am hoping that sleep occurs tonight!

Friends in High Places

Angela Smith Climbing on a Plas y Brenin Rock Course this weekend

A while back climbing pulled off a bit of a coupe when we had a evening at 10 Downing Street, now it has been rare that any other sport has managed to get there feet into the door of Prime Ministers House. However due to John Mann and Angela Smith and other MP’s we got to showcase ourselves at the highest level. All the great and the good turned up on the night to highlight Great British Mountaineering Achievements.

So why am I dredging up this story now, well at that event Martin Doyle the top dog at Plas Y Brenin the National Mountain Centre invite Angela Smith to come on a Rock Climbing course, as whilst Angela has helped champion mountaineering, she confesses to really being a hillwalker. So this weekend I was tasked by Plas Y Brenin to direct the Discover Rock Climbing Course on which Angela and Her Husband Steve had come on.

We had a lovely weekend, where along with five other members of the public we went bouldering, single pitch, multipitch and indoor climbing. Managing to avoid the rain, and enjoy ourselves at the same time. Anyway I hope that Angela has left with a little more of an understanding of what climbing is. She seemed to have a reasonable understanding, and what was really good to hear was that she would like to see every school child have the opportunity to try at least indoor climbing.

She recognises the benefit of climbing as a lifestyle sport, one where participation doesn’t drop off at school leavers age like football, rugby or other regular team sports. She knew how many calories an hour climbing can burn. I was impressed by her background knowledge on the sport. As a member of the cross party committee for mountaineering, it seems like we as mountaineers may well be in save hands with friends in high places.

Smash of the Titans

Well I went for another training run today, wasn’t really sure where I was going to go, I just set out from the house and started running round the lake, at the end I thought I would head up the zigzags to Bus Stop Quarry, but half way up thought I would see what the film crew were doing. So continued past rainbow to Dali’s hole, and turned right to Seamstress without anyone batting an eyelid.

I eventually got stopped by a Security Guard who said I had to return, and so I offered to run out to Bus Stop, as i ran back I was accosted by a few more security guards, one of which started to run after me with the look of a man who was going to rugby tackle me to the ground, remembering my school days in the first 15 I gave it toes, and he disappeared, only to reappear in the front of a 4×4 truck, with a look of I am going to hurt you on his face, having embarrassed him in a sprint.
To be fair he did what his face was saying and tried and ram me into a barbed wire fence, only my athletic vaulting of the bonnet of the truck stop me being peppered with a host of ‘barbed shaped holes’. When the second and third vehicles overtook and four men jump out I knew my game was up, as two grabbed both of my arms and put me in an aggressive arm lock.
They asked me why I didn’t stop, well I don’t recognise their authority I am afraid, I don’t think the council did the right thing shutting the right of way, and given the recent news that the film company stopping using local hotels the whole its is going to bring ‘millions’ to the area is just rubbish. So far the whole thing has cost local businesses both directly in terms of lost income after cancelled booking, not to mention the lose of an area that has been used for locals and visitors to recreate for decades.
Ever since the mention of this film the landowner or in particular the Facilities Manager seem to have suddenly taken an interest trying to ban activities that have been going on for years. They use the dated Disused Mines Act to state that they need to make ‘reasonable ‘ measures to keep the public out.
Now there is a wide debate into what ‘reasonable’ might be. A low fence with warning signs is reasonable in my eyes, however what is reasonable in a court of law. With alleged plans to construct a 2.5 metre high fence across the front of Dali’s Hole to keep the ‘climbers’ out. Well unfortunately the chances are we can ‘climb’ over it. The clue is in how we collectively describe ourselves ‘climb-ers‘.
Another question I have been opened up to recently is whether the Mines and Quarries Act is fit for purpose anymore. Due to so many outdoor recreational areas being part of disused quarries which at the time just wasn’t anticipated. If we look back at the Dinorwic Quarries the first routes where climbed in the late sixties and early seventies, right after the quarry was closed. Development of the routes has continued until this day. 
Over that forty year period there has been very little conflict with the landowners, and over the years the areas has developed as a well know and loved area used for walking, mountain biking, paragliding and climbing, to name the most popular activities. Others have past the time creating amazing ‘art’ installations that eventually crumble back into the fabric of the quarries. 
So basically my answer of a silent running political protest was too complex for them to understand, however I question there approach to my capture as I was running, minding my own business when basically I was pursued by five angry men. Why did I run? Wouldn’t you, especially when one has tried to ram you in a truck. 
Why they jump on me was apparently because there are many vehicles driving about up the track, well most vehicles try to avoid running pedestrians down. Whilst I accept in the eyes of the law I was trespassing, surely you can’t justify running a man down in a motorised vehicle to collar them for what is a civil matter.
Anyway I am thinking that we should think about arranging a mass trespass, to say that these quarries are as much ours as they are the landowners. We have all used them the dog walkers, the mountain bikers, the paragliders, the hikers and the climbers. Yet because someone is putting money somewhere into the North Wales economy, rumour has it they are shipping many of the crew in from Chester, we are no longer allowed to access them, and the landowner/Facilities Manager seems to want to use this opportunity to attempt to keep everyone out.

‘High street was more like Beirut’

I had to buy the Caernarfon and Debigh Herald today because of the above headline, and it would appear despite arresting 7 people who came to the area to cause trouble, the police failed miserably to control the situation on llanberis High street last weekend. 

Interestingly the mess was reasonably predictable as many of the summer festivals, fairs and fetes around Gwynedd have been marred by loutish behaviour. So why the police didn’t see this coming and stamp it out early in beyond belief. After midnight when I walked home there was still the majority of on duty police officers that were in North Wales in the village.
Sadly someone died after being attack in another town, after there was no police left to respond to the incident. My post isn’t really about that though its is about what i found in the paper. One of my photos, that the paper had years ago and used without paying me the first time that really pissed me off. However they have only gone and used it again, this time without even crediting me.
Anyway I have written to the editor, I will see what they have to say on the matter. Probably, ‘no, that’s not your image’. 

Silly Season Starts

Snowdon on a good day!

Well the summer holidays started at the weekend, and after having a particularly quiet time in terms of rescues. The last couple of days have really been busy. Although I was working on Tuesday so I didn’t get out, I did get woken along with the rest of Llanberis when both the RAF and Police Helicopters started searching the immediate area for a despondent man. 

After searching from 7am to 11pm the search was called off, with most of the team exhausted from a day searching, when the pagers went off on the Wednesday on the first couple of jobs there was only three people present. Only when the third job went off at around 5pm did a few more people turn up.
By all accounts the Weather was a potential factor in all the rescues where strong gust winds seemed to have blown a few people over, one down a fairly serious drop. It does always surprise me that people seem to ignore weather forecast, and think to hell with it, the summit is all that counts and bugger the blood.
Now I have one observation from the job, not of what makes a casualty, but what happens when the helicopter turns up to lift a casualty. Now given that the rescue teams are meant to have a ‘what goes on tour stays on tour’ approach to rescues, it is absolutely amazing that given the presence of a flying machine every single camera or phone comes out and films and photos the scene.
If you know the right social networking sites or YouTube the right key words you’ll probably already be able to see the impressive flying.

Queen Awards Blizzard Innovation

Derek Ryden of Blizzard – Stolen from this Daily Post news item

If you have ever watch the Dragon’s Den then you are aware that it seems like everyone has a business idea, and that the majority don’t ever see the light of day. Several years ago I could imagine Derek Ryden the inventor of what is now called Reflex-Cell technology of walking into the Den to get some financial backing. Instead Derek develop the company on a small scale, and started to sell these unique and technologically marvellous survival bags to the ‘Outdoor Sector’.

Now I have had the pleasure of knowing Derek since he first started to prototype the idea, made in friends garage in Llanberis. I worked in the factory as well putting together the products. Back in those days we were making 100 a week, they have to make more than that a day now, that it is in the emergency bag inside every US military vehicle to help save lives across the world.
The funniest story was remembered to me last night, it starts when Derek was lodging at a friends and having built a prototype needed to test it. His original tests showed that it worked, however it has since been tested to the various sleeping bag standards, showing itself to be more efficient warmth to weight against both synthetic and down bags.
The funny story comes from when my friends daughter found a ‘adult doll’ in the loft. Thinking her mum had a right weirdo as a lodger, it wasn’t until Derek mentioned that he had used the doll, by filling it with hot water and comparing the rate at which it cool by using one of the busy professional ladies three working offices.
Blizzard Protection Systems has taken off in the last year, and that is why they were recognised in the Queen’s Award for Innovation. Now imagine that you were an inventor, creating one device would often be satisfying achievement, but before the Reflexcell technology Derek invented the Ropeman now manufactured by Wild Country.

RAF Crew Get Bravery Award

Over my few years in the rescue team I have worked alongside several aircrews from Rescue 122 the RAF Search and Rescue Team from Valley. I was looking at the local news on the BBC and saw that Rich T had won an award for his bravery, along with the pilot for a rescue off the Blackpool coast.

Rich T is often the only person we see on the team, as he is often the ‘man on the ground’ and frequently the first on the scene of the nastiest rescues. I had to do a double take when I saw Rich T in his posh uniform. I am used to seeing him in a dirty Paramo waterproof top over his Jump Suit overalls.
Rich’s face is always a welcome sight on rescues, and I am sure it was just all in a days work for him.

Race Weekend Antics

The Snowdon Race is a big weekend for many people, obviously the for runner it is a challenge that has come at the end of a long preparation trying to get as fit as possible to basically put your body through hell. I watched the event from the hill last year, this year I was working, although I would have preferred to be running.

So whilst I was teaching ML ropework, again, 500 runners were running up the Hill behind me. It is a common occurrence to have several injuries on the race the typical one being broken fingers and smashed faces. Yes your mum was right about running down hill, its dangerous. There were several injuries on the race this weekend, and sadly someone had a heart attack on the race.
However for anyone who was part of the race and had to go out in Llanberis last night, I really have to apologise, it was like a riot out there at points. The Police helicopter hoovering over the Padarn Lake Hotel and half of North Wales Police outside every pub on the High Street. It happens every year, a bunch of youths from the surrounding area turn up get drunk and start fights. 
Its ridiculous, the meat heads who were kicking off weren’t locals, so these guys are coming in from Cearnarfon and Anglesey for a fight. Interestingly though the locals all know the night as ‘fight night’ rather than Race Weekend. The Spar girl asked me if I was going out to join the ruckus yesterday morning, fortunately I had a party to go to.