Even More Rescues

We had another couple of rescues yesterday, a fallen climber on Cryn Las, now having responded to a couple of these in the past i know that they are often not pretty sights, and that the winch out is a little hairy to say the least. So as I boarded the helicopter i knew I was in for a potentially rough time. The first to MR troops out were winched to a lower ledge as a small over hang prevented the direct winch in. A nasty cut to the casualties bum meant that she was quickly scooped up whilst myself and another Mountain Rescue member sat on board the helicopter for what seemed like 20 minutes or more looking at the sheer face of cryn las.

It was so close I felt I could each out and touch the cliff. I was glad i couldn’t see the rotor blades as they would have been virtually scraping the cliff. The winchman later comment it was the scariest winch he had done in his career. It is certainly the scariest place I have been winch out to on previous rescues. When the casualty was finally winched on board I said hi, as i had previous worked with her. I tried to reassure her as the winchman started taking details, and we were quickly at the Ysbyty Gwynedd Landing Zone, before we were returned back to Llanberis.

The winchman said the immortal words ‘see you later’, and like a prophecy he was right, at 8.30 in the evening we responded to another casualty on the Llanberis Path, and this time we quickly got them onto the helicopter, as they managed to land on a flat piece of ground.

There was a bit of a debate about number of rescues back at base, and it would appear that we are well into three figures around 105 rescue for the year to date. Totally ridiculous, it works out at nearly three rescue a week, which is quite draining on a voluntary service, when each rescue takes at least 2 hours but more common from there commencement to the conclusion can take anything up to 12 hours, although sometimes more.

I have had days when I have been bumped from one job to another for several jobs, having gone on the hill for a quick job at 2pm, I have eventually got back after the pub has called last orders! Which is never a good thing.

Snowdon: Death Mountain?

I recently mentioned that Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team is at 99 incidents, apparently the truer figure is around 110 already, although this might include some that did require a response. However far more alarming than that is the death toll this year. To date Snowdon has claimed 10 lives this year, now on average we get up to five a year. So why is Snowdon becoming a killer mountain, as 1 in 10 rescues becomes a fatal incident?

From an local perspective, the very harsh winter condition contributed to many of the death around five in about two weeks when heavy froze and icy conditions caught many people unawares on what in summer is the ‘easy route’ but in winter is the worst accident black spot.

On top of this we have had the usual death from falls, but we have also had to contend with what seems from the inside to be a growing number of suicides and attempted suicides. Whether it is the recession that is driving people to take there lives I cannot say, as I am not party to nation statisitcs, there does seem to be a growing number of incidents where self harm is an issue.

I just hope we can get through the summer without to many more serious incidents however having just been up to Pen Y Pass there seems to be a steady trail of people some well equipped some not so making their way up the mountain. One thought I was being over ambitious taking my friends two year old 300 metres along the miners track in her summer dress, climbing over the rocks. I guess if they knew my background and the fact that I wasn’t going any further than that the eyebrow wouldn’t have been so raised.

Snowdon Sherpa Bus

The Sherpa Buses have run up Llanberis Pass from the village for many years, however I have never in my 15 or so years living here every gotten on one. However early in the week when I was out for a stroll with a friend and her kids she said she was keen to head up to Pen Y Pass on the open top bus for a picnic. I thought it would be an ace idea, so tagged along today for the mini adventure.

The open top buses leave Llanberis at quarter to and quarter passed the hour, and arrive at PYP around fifteen minutes later. My friends 1 and 2 year old seemed to love the trip, and even for me it was a different perspective on the Pass that I have spent so much time climbing in. I was expecting the Bus to be empty, but having got on board outside Joe Browns we manage to get the best front row seats on the open top bus.

The bus steadily filled to Nant Peris, and then we were in the mountains proper. The view are spectacular, and one lady had gotten on the bus because of the 4 hour wait for the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Now given the Railway cost around £20 per person, and the Sherpa Bus a mere £3 per adult, it seemed that what you got was a really good value excursion, that would also allow you a short reasonable flat walk up the Miner’s Track, before heading back for one of the buses that turn up at quarter of an hour intervals.

We had our picnic on the Helicopter Landing Zone and then went for a short walk up the path. Which was so boring for my friends two year old that she started to want to climb all over the boulders on the side of the track. She seemed to love the idea that she was climbing a mountain. At one point another little girl saw her climbing the steep grass and wanted to have a go, but her dad didn’t allow it, poor thing. Maybe working as a instructor lets me gauge the risk and think well she be fine as long as I am right behind her.

We were gone for around 2 hours and the kids seemed to love it. It is a shame that the Sherpa Bus doesn’t try to market itself a little more as a great mini adventure for kids. As we got off the bus and saw another friend who said that her kids love the open top bus and a short walk from Pen Y Pass. A really lovely way to spend a morning.

99 Jobs for the Llanberis Team

It been a busy day, having slept through the initial pager message in the early hours of the morning, I awoke to find a two hour old pager message on my phone so skipped breakfast and went to Nant Peris, where seven team embers where deployed to the hill, to come to the aid of an unknown injured walker. It later transpired that other than her physical injuries she had possible tried to take her own life, making the incident a major one. These are always tragic incidents to attend or be a part of I can only hope she pulls through.

The next incident occurred just as the first incident of the day was drawing to a close, and this signalled the 99th actual rescue of the year, the number of incidents that we have dealt with but not had to deploy to is into the hundreds now. However think of that number for a while 99 rescues, if over a year it would be more than two a week, but we are only 8 months through the year, so it looks like we are well and truly set to break a record that if we are honest is one that you really don’t want to break in terms of record number of call outs.

Based on the fact that the whole Mountain Rescue system in the UK is voluntary then when you look at teams like Llanberis, which is by far the busiest in the UK, then the amount of hours each individual puts into the team in terms of call out and training then it is a wonder how any of us manage to hold down a full time job. If the number of jobs keep coming we will be looking at well in excess of 150 call outs by the end of the year.

The team were out for most of yesterday afternoon, not to mention from 7am till 2pm today.

In order to help raise the profile and money for the rescue team, myself and another team member are running the Snowdon Marathon. If you would like to help us raise money then please use the donate button in the left column or click this link where you can donate via just giving, where for every pound the team will receive an extra 20p from the government through the gift aid initiative.

Man on Wire

I spent last night spellbound by the short film Man on Wire, a retrospective documentary that looks back at one mans burn desire to tightrope walk between the Twin Tower in New York. The film was on BBC two, and if you missed it then it will be BBC iPlayer for the next five days, and it is more than worth the watch.

The basic context of the film is a series of interviews that documents the whole build up to the eventual successful tightrope walk between the towers. Interspersed by some staggering stills photography of his amazing stunt, that dates back to the 1970’s. I was blown away with how big a personality of the ‘aerial artist’ was, along with the sheer audacity of the undertaking. He made Dean Potter look like a bit of a punter.

If you have ever tried a high wire or high slack line, which a few years ago had the luck to try the difference between just off the ground and high up even with a safety wire is ridiculous. Anyway please explore BBC iPlayer and enjoy Man on Wire. Totally breath-taking.

For a trailer see below, a DVD is also available on Amazon

The Long Run Home

Was at work at Plas y Brenin today, and decided that I would run part of the way home, i had arrange a friend to pick me up when he passed me on his way home about an hour after I left the centre. I have yet to hear his excuses, maybe he stay to go bouldering, or maybe he forgot me and drove past, either way i was abandoned, so had a 12 mile jog back, so as I write this i am totally knackered.

I think it was he forgot that he had offered the lift, as he is very special that way. He reportedly turned up for a ski tour, having forgotten his skin for his ski’s that allow him to go up the hill without sliding down. At the top of the lift, he asked who had his skins! Similarly He also asked me once have been teaching at Idwal Slabs with him whether I had picked his ropes up from the bottom of the crag. ‘Well no Dave, I did carry YOUR rope down from the crag for YOU!’

Anyway lesson learnt, don’t rely on the special one, although I should thank him for the extra training. If he does it again I will have to put the ‘special’ image I have of him!

Carbon Neutral Cragging

Yesterday I had arrange to go climbing with Llion, at midday I got the call from llion, ‘mark I have a problem, no tax on the vehicle’, ‘Llion I have a problem no keys for the van, they are at work!’. So it was back to the old school, thumbs at the ready, we hitched up the pass and young Geroge Ullrich pick us up, hoping to get a rope on a desperate new route possibility on a crag up the pass, so we hopped in and it only took five minutes of waiting to get up there.

Just as we arrived the drizzle started, the rock was still dryish so we warmed up on the roadside face of the cromlech, then on passed the heelhook traverse, before heading over to Browns crack area, by which time my finger tips were on fire, the cromlech rock is so painful on the tips. Simon Panton’s first topo in Northern Soul Fanzine had a diagram that joking had a morphine dispenser at the crag!

We then headed up to Utopia, where we lost the motivation, our tips getting the best of us so headed back to the road and got out thumbs out, walking down we saw the most awful mess, first a new high impact bridge, you’d have thought they were spanning something far more major with this structure, then down to the abandoned tent, which has been there over a week. I know this because we have chatted about it at work, where one of the staff eventually reported it to the police.

What has really annoyed me with the tent is that the National Park Wardens whom seem to do nothing tangible at Pen Y Pass, but several of which will pass by here everyday, have done nothing to tidy up the mess. Admittedly I was more pissed off with the owner of all the stuff simply abandoned at the side of the road, but surely the Wardens should try and step in with situations like this. I guess their normal attitude of not my problem was shining through, and they simply hid in their office at PYP.

Anyway does hitching mean the day was carbon neutral as the feul used belongs to another person(s) carbon footprint?

Slate Day’s

Dave Rudkin eyeing up the finishing Jugs on Horse Latitudes

Well the plan had been to go to Gogarth, as it is the ‘glorious 1st’ afterall, the day the Bird Bans are lifted and a whole new world of hurt, suffering and fear are opened up to us until again. The seasonal restrictions make climbing on places like Red Wall extra special. However today the weather started foul, it was lashing down with rain in the village until about 9.30, and I had also lost my climbing partner to babysitting duties.

I had anticipated the problem, so went out drinking last night, on my first proper friday night session in a long while. So when I got the last Bus back from Nant Peris I knew I was going to be unwell the next morning. At lunchtime though I got a call to see if I wanted to head out to the slate, for a little rainbow walls action, with Dave and Dave.

Dave Rudkin loving the Slate

It really was a laugh a minute with these guys, both extremely talented climbers, they mused at the end of the day that is was nice to have an ‘easy’ day out to recover from teaching on the kids climbing courses. Our easy day was to include Horse latitudes, Over the Rainbow and Over Taken by department C.

Horse lats is an awesome warm up, and it was one up all up. I have to say that on lead I felt rusty on the slate. i can usually pull it out the bag on Slate, but my feet seemed detached from my legs. Probably the booze to be honest. We then climbed Over the Rainbow, sending Dave Evans up to try not to pull the first pitch down on us. It tries to climb the greenstone pillar, however the start is neither slate nor greenstone but the shit non rock/dust that inhabits the realm between one and the other.

Dave Evans thankful for good wires on the loose initial section of Over the Rainbow
Arriving at the first gear Dave apologised for the delay, however having since spoken to the first ascentionist he was off route climbing a bold direct start, rather than following the obvious easy ramp that lead in from the left. He also avoid pulling on what we dubbed the fin of death. A reasonable size fin that looks and sounds detached, and also appears to be the only thing hold the first pillar up. When I seconded I pulled and jump on it and it didn’t seem to move.

The second pitch was other Dave’s, it was like rolling out our very own rope gun. Dave’s tick list from this weeks after work cragging alone is a reasonable selection of extreme climbing challenges. Having climbed the Disillusioned Screw Machine (E6) on the Ormes and The Dark Half (F8a) in the quarries. He flew up the most amazingly positioned top arete of the route, recently re-bolted by the first ascentionist and extra bolts reduces the grade to E4, but the climbing and position are incredible.

Dave Passing the Fin of Death on Over the Rainbow

Accumulating at the top we looked across at a newly bolted route called Over Taken By Department C, with none of us having climbed it we scrambled round to it and all had a go. The route is one of the best newer routes in the quarries, it follows a slender dolerite intrusion, over steep and bulging terrain, yet the climbing is all in balance and the climbing just F5+. Whats more the route looks like it needed virtually no cleaning due to the solid nature of the rock. None of the clean till you make a route of the grade you want, instead a pleasant little route.

Dave Rudkin Launching his way Over the Rainbow

Over Taken By Department C

The Special One!!!

Gear Review: ME Astron Hooded Jacket

Mountain Equipment Astron Jacket

I very rarely get given kit now days, however I was given a new jacket by a centre I work for, and I have worn it this week, during what can only be described as ‘mixed weather’. Whilst there was no need for me to review the jacket, I do appreciate being handed free kit especially when it is as good as this.

The jacket is the latest softshell jacket, and is made up of Polartec Powersheild material in the main areas of the jacket, it has stood up well to the rigours of teaching rock climbing, something that can destroy lesser materials in days. The material is shower proof and the water beads off it, whilst I doubt that will last for long as durable water repellency often wears off. Unlike previous incarnations of the softshell, the jacket is extremely light and flexible, giving a good range of movement.

The sides of the jacket are made of powerstretch fleece, making it warm yet extremely breathable. The jacket id seems an extreme simple yet practical design, and it will no doubt become a firm favourite for both work, play and the pub. If you want this jacket then it is available in Joe Brown’s who stock all clothing that PYB staff are given as part of there contract.

Possible the best softshell jacket i have ever worn. Warm, comfortable and practical.