Cover Image – Hopefully

I was just on Climbers website, seeing when the new addition was coming out, as I have a full length feature from my states trip, those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will no doubt have read about our exploits. This article is a cut down story, and they are probably going to run the fuller article on their website.

When I visited the site I saw a mock up for the front cover if it goes to print like that then all I can say is woohoo. I have been taking picture for a long time now, and one ambition has been to get a cover shot on a magazine. It seems to have alluded me up until now. Hope the readers of the magazine will enjoy the iconic image of one of the most famous climbing summits in the world, not to mention the article.

The magazine is due out on the 10th Spetember. I can barely contain myself with the excitement. As another ambition is achieved, now if only I can find happiness!

Wall Session

There were a couple of call outs today but I missed them despite being in the house. So rather than standing by at home I went up the climbing wall for a quick blast around the bouldering wall, made a difference to not be up there testing but instead be playing. I did a few circuits and then a couple of hard problems before calling it a day as I was exhausted, just not wall fit at the moment. It wasn’t as busy as I expected, and nor was the village, I think many people have left early after what was literally a washout weekend.

It is still pissing it down with rain relentlessly, hopefully we don’t have a repeat of a few years back when it rain at least once every day for 90 consecutive days. It drove everyone to despair. Still on the bright side I get to sit in front of the TV watching crap. Although it is now started to rain so hard that even sky has stopped working!

Late Night!!!

Well my pager went off at 9.30 last night, and by the time the team to nant was sent out it was gone 10pm before we were at base. A team of nine three peakers, were stuck on the miners track by the intersect with the PYG track. The first team headed up, and I was in a second party assisting them. By the time we got there, one of the casualties was semi-conscious, as the weather was appalling. When I say it was wet I mean it was sheeting it down, not to mention the fog.

I assisted 8 of the group down with another member of the team, which given that we both guide people for a living was like doing pro-bono work. Even more insulting was the fact that they had paid for a ‘professional’ guide. Someone who if actually qualified, which isn’t a pre-requisite in the UK should have been trained and assessed in there ability to navigate and lead at night in such terrain and conditions. Considering all they needed to do was follow a path down it seemed stupid that they had chosen to sit where they were, ‘Frozen with fear” and await rescue.

To me it highlight two things, astonishingly bad leadership for the guide and a more impressive display of ‘group think’, where an idea no matter how stupid seems to a group in panic to be the best option. It is often only in times of stress that the group think mentality comes to the fore. One of the roles of a leader is to stay rational and make ‘informed’ decisions. I will no doubt get in trouble for this assessment of the events with the team, but as a professional mountaineering instructor, but from the skills i try and teach and develop in the Mountain Leaders of tomorrow, I feel that on this occasion a lack of judgement of the group, the weather, the terrain, and the darkness all contributed to the situation.

It appeared that they didn’t even have a group shelter, and certainly when I was leading the group down many of them were traumatised by the ordeal they had unnecessarily been put through. I am told on regular occasion that ‘the teams’ job is not to judge, and by and large I agree but when a ‘professional’ makes such bad decisions, I find it hard to shut up.

I teach a five lemon concept of catastrophe it came from new zealand where they observed that an incident often had a series of bad decision made leading up to it, where each lemon represents a bad decision. So from a mere observational point of view. the group were knackered from Ben Nevis and Scafell (lemon one), The weather was appalling (lemon two), The route would have to be done in darkness and many of the headtorches where inadequate for the job (lemon three), The terrain was rough and in the prevailing conditions with such a group was probably not suitable for them (lemon four), No decision was made to turn round earlier (lemon five), The group didn’t have an emergency shelter (lemon six) and finally rather than keep the group moving the decision was made to go to ground on a extremely wet unprotected hillside (lemon seven).

Whilst many of these decision simply come down to a bad decision on the hill, and every instructor will have made one or two of those in there career, many of them were apparent before the group embarked on the final mountain of there challenge, and no doubt a little summit fever, where an attitude of well we must complete this for the charity we are raising money for and bugger the blood prevails.

These are my opinions and not those endorsed in anyway by Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. I just have to help put thing right when they go wrong. I returned at 1.30am soaked to the skin.

Inspirational People

My world is full of people who inspire me, Llanberis seems to attract people who pursue a sport with a passion be it climbing, kayaking, canoeing (yes there is a difference) and even running. It goes without saying that some of the best Trad climber in the UK live here, however I work with some truly amazing paddlesport people from UK GB coaches through to adventures who are into long distance sea kayak adventures and more. However on UKC last night I was reminded of my local running heroes, Sarah and Iain R.

I have from time to time read their blog, which if your into running and specifically running through the mountains then you should really check it out. They also have set up a kind of mountain running guiding/coaching service. Taking the skills of the ML and Fell running and mixing them together for those that what to try their hand at Mountain Trail Running.

Last night at about 23.30 UK time Iain finish a 29 hour race, consider this for a moment, 29 hours of near continuous running, around Mont Blanc. Iain came in 53rd. To achieve this in under 30 hours is flabbergasting. Considering my goal this year is to run a marathon and finish it in around about 5+ hours, puts his efforts into perspective for me. My longest run to date is two hours, up and down Snowdon.

What kind of miles he puts in to train for these type of enduro evens is quite frankly beyond me. It is not just Iain, climbing legend Noel Craine did the Paddy Buckley round virtually every mountain in Snowdonia in a continuous 24 hour push. These guys aren’t necessary super human, but super determined and focus on achieving their ultimate goals.

Anyway, I just want to big up Iain and Sarah, because she was involved in a slightly short enduro challenge as well, I went to watch her talk at LLAMFF on trail running and it was inspirational in its own unique way. At the time I didn’t think it would be a world that inspired me, however since I have started training for the Snowdon Marathon I am more and more inspired by what people can put there bodies through. Whilst a marathon is nothing like Iain and Sarah’s challenges this weekend, it will be a test of my determination and focus. I hope I can find at least one tenth of their mental strength on my way round Snowdon in October.

Fisherman’s… or is it Galaxy Zawn?

I headed out today hoping to find some goof weather over on anglesey, we head to the new crags developed on the east coast. Some easy sports climbing was what I was after. So we headed straight for Fisherman’s Zawn, as the tides were right as long as we went there first. The water was only just out enough, but a bolted belay lead straight down to a small dry ledge. We climbed the route graded F5, I think it could probably warrant a + if the truth be known, it was a reasonable pull up the wall to reach good holds again. We then did the VS to the right which is fine with a a rack of wires and a few quickdraws.

What was more interesting was a couple of weeks ago some scally from the caravan site was sitting in their parents car listening to their MP3 phone, when she dropped it so reached over into the foot well and released the handbrake. She managed to jump Hollywood style out of the car just as it was about to launch over the edge of the cliff. Now this made the national news. However like scally’s everywhere they are prone to littering, and now their Ford Galaxy is the newest tourist attraction for the rest of the scally’s in the caravan site. Not for looking at but for throwing a variety of different size rocks onto the roof.

Now when we went down there were several groups of Yoffs, throwing rock from all over the zawn, not to mention a group of four yoffs drink at the cliff edge. So abseiling in there was more than the average amount of objective danger. It was like down town Baghdad as the thuds of rocks hitting the wrecked car reverberated in the zawn. I had to climb quick as well because the four yoffs were eyeing up my rucksack for goodies.

So with that stress it was really great that by the top of the second route, probably around 20 minutes in total it started to rain. I am beginning to think that it will never stop, well not until 2012. On the way back we stopped in the Panton Inn, shabby on the outside and very well laid out on the inside, as if it was trying to be a gastro pub, unfortunately given the food i ate they forgot to employ someone who can cook!

So it was back for boredom and TV. I’ll put some photos of the day up later.

More Marathon training

After my illness I have been struggling to get back on the running wagon, however today i manage to head out into the rain and run a good distance (about 12km from a breif look at a map!)c over clegyr road to the beacon road, up past the beacon and then over the last hill that the marathon will tackle. Whilst totally knacker I still managed to run the whole way round. Whether that will be possible after 21 gruelling miles needs to be experience.

The route is a punishing one as it has three majors hills the first right out of the house before a short descent to Llanrug, before the road to Waunfawr where the up hill kicks in again, you get a flat section to the Cefn Ddu road, where a good mile and a half of constant up hill punishes you.

I virtually fell back downhill to the village, where a nice bath was the order of the day.

I might do the telegraph valley, down the ranger path to waunfawr and back over Cefn Ddu next week. Which should be a good test as I would have to complete the whole up hill section of the marathon that hits you at miles 21 to 23. Whilst i won’t have done the whole distance to reach there it is a good 12 miler with two massive up hill section.

Pavlov’s Dog

Pavlov was an early psychological researcher, he used dogs to assess whether he could programme them to associate food with a sound rather than the visual presence or smell. He basically rang a bell and put the food down in front of the dogs and after a period of time removed the food but kept the bell, and watch to see if they still salivated.

I was reminded of this experiment at work the other day, I work at a centre well known for is cake. Now for the staff we all wait in the staff room for the cake trolly to appear. Now before was see or smell the cake there is a distinctive rattle of the cups as it is pushed along the corridor, and like Pavlov’s dog we don’t so much start salivating, at least not to the extent of drooling, but there is a certain amount of jockeying for position and speculation as to what the cake will be.

It made me realise that we have all been programme to the sound of the trolley rather than the sight. In a way the centre uses it to get the staff back to the centre for 5pm.

Anyway I am not working for a while so maybe I will de-programme myself.

It also appears that i definitely lost my phone, which is a right pain in the arse. As whilst I could eventually switch my number back, I unfortunately have lost all my contact details. If you know me and have my email address please send me your phone number, as I am very lonely at the moment, and how else am I going to hassle everyone who climbs to come and do my study up at the wall!

On the Blog: Pembroke Rock Fax

My house mate has just brought the new Rock Fax guide to Pembroke, and for the past week it has resided in the Bathroom. Now I am not very experienced at climbing in Pembroke, I have however climbed a few of the classic lines. What I have really liked about this book is the visually rick layout. Crag topos thta make you want to climb there. Now i have a good friend that lives a stones throw from Carreg Y Barcud, and having seen the whole crag topo now. I think I need to head back down there as soon as I have handed in my thesis.

If I do I will have this guidebook in my hand. My main wish for modern guidebook is inspiration and accuracy, and with this book i think I will be able find the routes I want to climb as well as have a whole host of new places to go have an adventure at. To say that this is one of the best Rock Fax guides to date is perhaps an understatement. Alan James long association with the area, really shines. The inclusion of the 50 best routes, will make it easy for me a relative new comer to Pembroke to find the best and no doubt busiest lines.

One thing is for sure though i will have problems getting to the rock, as the last time I was there I took up surfing, and well to me it is as good if not better than climbing. Although I can see myself have multi activity days. Climbing in the morning and surfing in the evening!

Anyway I love this guide, you can buy it at V12.

Touching Stone

Was out yesterday, well if the truth be known I was in, as the weather was so awful that we didn’t venture outside instead opted for the more positive learning environment of a indoor climbing wall, so wasn’t so much touching stone but touching plastic. We covered a whole host of skills from making belays with ropes and slings. Right through to belaying from the top of a crag and abseiling off with a prussik to back up.

In the afternoon we did a movement skill workshop with them looking at the fundamental skills of good movement, to looking for hands off rests in a variety of situations, the difference between making upwards movement and stopping to place/clip protection. Before putting it all together on top ropes, where we added activities like climbing as corner by only pushing off holds and then back and footing.

The feedback was good, and despite being inside the team seemed to see the cross over of the skills. Hopefully they will be outside today. Although not with me, and actually get to touch some stone.

I didn’t get to the Beacon for any data collection, as I had been there every night for the last week and a half, instead I took the night of and went to the Gallt Y Glyn. There was a reasonable team there although a notable absence was Pete “Liquid Amber’ Robins. Despite finally redpointing this amazing F8c, a route that is rumoured to be extremely hard for the grade. He had been poisoned by Pizza Hut during his celebratory meal, looking at the photos on UKC, it looks like it might have been his first meal in a while. I have not seen Pete that ripped ever. It seems to have worked though. A great achievement for local climbing, as the 8c grade is starting to get worldclass, if the conversation i had with Stevie Haston is anything to go by.

Stevie lives in the Pyrenees, a place where he assured me that the starting grade for ‘climbers’ is F6a. and that the average cavers climbing grade is F8a. Shit the bed I need to buck my ideas up. Just think about that people who describe themselves as cavers climb F8a, and grandads who climb 8c. We are all little fish!

Performance Climbing Clinic DAY 2

Today we braved the early rain and punched on through to Castell Helen for some more climbing action. I warmed my guys up on Rap before having them lead Light House Arete Direct. We then had about one and a half hours spare so I ran them up the top pitch of Northwest Passage.

It really wasn’t like work as the sun came out and we were just cragging, and i have to say to be lucky enough to finish up NW passage was awesome. I forgot how good that pitch is. 
We arrive back at the van with minutes to spare, unfortunately I left my phone in the corner of the car park, so if anyone is there and finds it I would love to have it back. Curse my stupidity!
Anyways it was back to the beacon for death by experiment again tonight. Still need loads of people and still no end in sight. Argghhhhh!