How to Climb Harder: Update

How to Climb Harder - coming to a book or climbing store near you soon!
How to Climb Harder - coming to a book or climbing store near you soon!

Well in a flurry of work this week, I have made the final touches to the book and tweaked it to a standard that both I and the publishers are happy with, and made the deadline for the printers. It culminated in me doing an all nighter on wednesday night to check the document after the proof reader had checked through. Then today i spent a good 5-6 hours at the Pedsa Press HQ in Cearnarfon to sign off the final proof.

This was a arduous task of signing off each individual page, having checked the writing, photos, diagrams and caption. My hope is that the book will be well received and an essential manual for the modern climber throughout the climbing grades. I really can’t emphasise how happy I am with the book, and the length and breadth of knowledge. It is a totally different beast to Dave Macloed’s 9 out of 10 cats.

It should be in the shops for the first week in september, all things going well at the printers. Hopefully if you don’t go out and buy one as soon as its in the shops then it will be top of your christmas present list. The advertised price on the pesda website is £15.99. The same as 9 out of 10 cats… For that money you get 240 odd pages rammed full of pictures, diagrams and text.

Duke of Edinburgh Assessor in Botched Rescue

Well I was sat having my morning brew before work in Pete’s Eats yesterday, trying not to think about what I have seen upstairs on the alternative menu. Incidentially there was a man exposing ourselves to us the other night, although the girls I was with might have encourage him. This is by the by though as I read this great story from the Daily Post on a totally botched rescue attempt from a Duke of Edinburgh Award Assessor, who attempt to go to the aid of the group he was remotely supervising.

It would appear that the group got totally lost. They were meant to go from the Pen Y Grywrd up to Glyder Fawr and then across to Glyder Fawr, before heading down to Ogwen. Instead the group ended up in Cwm Cniefion, which isn’t a bad mistake in poor visibility. As the navigation on the summit is notoriously hard. However it does beg the question, that just because the group had planned the walk and had the route assessed by the local Duke of Edinburgh Head Assessor, who happens to be based out of Plas Y Brenin, why they choose to make such an walk in very difficult conditions.

Especially in place that is hard to navigate, and surround by steep and dangerous ground. It is often the ridged sticking to the ‘planned’ and officially sanctioned routes that can lead to problems when the weather is poor. A do or die mentality often prevails within Duke of Edinburgh groups, certainly those that I have been involved in rescuing off the hills have been. In one particular case the group almost refused to come down off the hill with the rescue team, despite having one of the group stretched down the hill and then airlifted to hospital. I think we had to say that if they went up we would as a team contact the local Duke of Edinburgh assessor and request that they fail.

Anyway back to the group, they somehow, managed to end up on steep ground and radioed their assessor for help. It would appear that he managed to reach the group before the rescue team, and fall a reported 20m, although my guess is it might well have been less, as 20m is a long way to go only to lacerate a knee!

What I really liked about this story was the MR spokeman said “there were lessons to be learned” and the Duke of Edinburgh awards spokeswoman said that the group reacted correctly. So who do you believe a spoke persons from somewhere in London or other office or the local rescue team.

Now I for one don’t want to see something good for youth development as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme end. However there are some very important question that I feel the organisation needs to look at. One being the ridged sticking to a route planned for a given weekend or week, sometimes months in advance and then stuck to come hell or high water. Despite the group often having to make ‘contingency plans’. The fact that the assessor ended up needing rescuing, and was in a worse state than the group, makes me that he just didn’t have the sort of experience to make the sort of judgements you need to make in mountains.

Snowdonia is a mountainous region and not merely hillwalking. Mountains are serious and need to be treated that way, if a DoE group doesn’t have an experienced assessor or trainer then they need to hire in suitably qualified and experienced professionals. Remote supervision is a skill, personally I don’t believe that it should be done from the road in Snowdonia, when I have remotely supervised groups, I have been on the hill and intercepted the group at key areas of risk. I once followed a group in bad weather over the glyders. I was 40ft behind them for over a kilometre, and the group didn’t realise I was there until they saw me pass them after I observed them choose and start to follow the right path.

I also think that for some groups the preparation has been rather sub standard. Which begs the question who is training them, and has the DoE organisation looked into the incidents of their groups needing rescue, and found a pattern or trend. I suspect that inadequate training and inexperience in supervision in mountainous areas might well be a common factor. Over the years I have been called out to several DoE groups, and thats just on Snowdon in the whole country.

In terms of statistics, if they are having that many accidents and need foe rescue it is only a matter of time until one of the children that this experience is meant to help develop, will die. It has happened in Australia. Although Prince Edward the now Chairman of the scheme made an outspoken comment just like his dad, saying the death had made the scheme more popular.

It took the death of the a young Scout in 1999 for the Scouting movement to go back to the drawing board for its accreditation scheme for leading its young members in mountainous terrain. Anyway probably just a storm in a tea cup, however if the Duke of Edinburgh scheme doesn’t want to get a bad reputation then it should really consider getting expert help from people who are experience at training leaders to train young people. I am sorry but I personally don’t believe that currently the scheme has a robust assessment of who is training the kids, and who is supervising the groups, and making decisions as to whether the routes are appropriate for the weather that day.

Anyway, that my opinion on the matter. Rant out.

Crag Clean up and BBQ at Peanmean Head

There is a crag clean up tonight at Peanmean Head, aka the 70 degrees crag in Colwyn Bay. The clean up starts at 5pm and the BBQ courtsey of the BMC will be served up at some point in the evening, there will also be the opportnity to climb some of the great routes here. As well as a few copies of the great new mini guide to the A55 sport climbing venues.

Unfortunately I am working until 9pm at Pen Y Pass, so I don’t expect to see any of you up here!

If you are local, and climb at this crag then this is a perfect opportunity to put something back into the areas development.

Burning the Candle at both ends….

…and roasting it in the middle.

Probably best describes my life this week. I have just handed in, well emailed the final few tweaks (1.30am). It will be finalised on friday, when I have to go into the office and sign off the final proof. This will ensure that it makes its 1st September deadline. On top of this I have been at the cafe a for a few days this week.

Not to mention my first bit of instructing work for about two months. Maybe there are some people out there with money enough to pay for coaching. Anyway, we managed to climb three routes at Tremadog. I lead them up Oberon to get a feel for there ability and check them out, before one of the group lead another two routes. First Boo Boo and then Rio.

I think they had a great day out. They seemed to get a lot out of the day. They can rest assured that the money earnt has already been spent of a gri-gri and jumars ready for the states. Which this even we booked our flights out there, don’t know where I found the time to do that.

Anyway, I think bed is in order, as I have to work at 2pm tomorrow, and I think I am getting a wake up call from a TV company tomorrow morning, about the psychology of climbing. Which might well be interesting to hear what they have to say. Nothing will probably come from it but I do like the odd calls I get from researchers looking into climbing, its hard to remember that all they know about the sport is what they have found on google.

Big Walling Course 14th & 15th August

How to Big Wall Photos
How to Big Wall Photos

I have decided to offer a “How to Big Wall Course” over the weekend of 15th & 16th August 2010. I guess it is the last date that would be available to anyone heading out to Yosemite to attempt a Big Wall. What this course offers is a run through all the skills you need to convert all your UK Trad climbing skills to Big Walling.

The course is ideal for anyone wanting to ascend routes like Salathe Wall, The Nose of El Cap or the Regular NW Face of Half Dome. The weekend revolves round a series of skill based workshops, that gradually build new skills in small chunks until at the end of the weekend you will have put them all together to realise just what it takes to Lead a pitch of aid or french free, fix the ropes, allowing the second to jumar. How that second can jumar past roofs or deviations in the fixed line, and how the leader can haul.

The course is £150 per person, and is based on a maximum of four people attending, if you’d like to find out more visit the link to the course here, or contact me here.

New Coaching and Instructing Website


I seem to have a habit of changing my websites on a regular basis, this time I choose to try and teach myself how to use joomla based web site to up grade my coaching and instructing site snowdonia mountain guides. It is still under the Life in the Vertical domain, but I plan to set up the independent .com eventually. These thing do take time.

I also plan to move much of the information from my climbing coach blog to the site, so I can set it up as some attached articles. Hopefully masking it easier to browse than searching through the archives of the blog. Anyway, as ever I appreciate feedback, and bookings!

Cyber World of Pain

Having a new computor has meant that I have had to import all the photos I want onto my laptop, from where they were backed up onto a hard drive. The problem has been that I have around 13000 images that I need to sift through in order to find the images that I want.

It has also given me the opportunity to add keywords to the images to make the database easier to search. Hopefully in the long run it will help with the efficient search of my older images. Also I have only kept the better images on my computor.

I seems like it has stopped raining outside, however I am back up at the cafe again today, after doing the evening shift again yesterday. Anyway looking forward to a weekend off. Hopefully it will be sunny, but probably not, as the monsoon looks very well set in.

New Laptop = Short Holiday

MacBook Pro
MacBook Pro

Well, my old mac simply won’t turn on now, so I forked out the cash for a new MacBook Pro. Ouch, it really hurt paying for, it, as I can now only afford realistically to go on holiday for two weeks. Unless work picks up, but seeing as I have heard of no work instructing for over a two month now, things don’t look very good!

Anyway, team El Cap have been doing some training. We have spent a couple of evenings at the climbing wall doing a some big walling essentials. I have introduced them to the concept of aid climbing, frech free climbing, and Jumaring fixed lines.

Basically a mini Big Wall Workshop. I have run similar curse for climbers this year. So if anyone needs a quick Idiots Guide to Big Walling Course before the middle of September, then get in touch.

Rain Rain Go away

Well its continuing to lash it down, which is an arse, after all having so much time on my hands it would be nice to get out climbing. However I have been stuck in doors twiddling my thumbs, trying not to get too bored. I might take up knitting to while away the hours, seeing as I am still waiting for my battery for my laptop to arrive from Hong Kong. I was gutted, the gits had a website! I am getting ready to accept that I have been ripped off, fortunately it was only for a few quid from my paypal account.

Anyway I hope it brightens up tomorrow afternoon like it is promising to do so on the metoffice site, as I want to go climbing, I also have a client who wants guiding upa few E1’s on saturday. So I am praying that either Tremadog or Gogarth will be dry. Other than that its been ground hog day around here.

What’s New on the Pete’s Eats Menu?

Well I spent this morning running round Ogwen with Llion, looking at the various descent off the Milestone and Idwal Slabs. we of course soloed a few easier routes to get to the descents. It was a little frantic as we had a 2pm deadline, mainly due to the the rain moving up from the south. After that I decided to have a pop at Monolith Crack.

If you haven’t heard of this route, or climbed it then it is a quintesential tight chimney. The first pitch is a doddle, the first chimney of teh second pitch is fine, as long as you don’t clip your harness into the stuck wire, and wonder why you can’t make headway no matter how hard you try. Getting untangle from that was something of a mini epic. The main event though is a third, very tight slot.

Now I don’t consider myself very large, but I couldn’t get into it at all. Even after some serious relaxation exercises and breathing out I would get to a point panic and have to force myself back out.Now this continued for a good fifteen minutes before I realised that I was too scared to go any further. As to actually move in I had to breathe out, and when wedged it was hard to breathe. We escaped out right and this way the monolith crack light was still a great route. So I can safely say I failed on a VS today!

As we drove back it started raining, and sure enough the call outs started. I headed up to find a group that could barely place themselves on Snowdon. Let alone give a good grid reference. I kind of lost my sense of humour with them when after a bit of a wild goose chase I finally caught up with teh group on teh PYG track, and two of them were paddling, boots off in a stream! I can’t remember my exact words but it revolved around getting you &*$£”!!! boots on and walking down the mountain as I have a life to get back to!

A couple of the rest of the group that wee further ahead asked me what I do for a living, and when told that i was a mountaineering instructor, they asked what that entailed. I could resist the sarcasm of saying that I teach people to use a map and compass, read the weather reports, plan an appropriate day and to dress appropriately for a walk in the mountains and not the high street. I think it may have been lost on them.

I had an invite for dinner at a friends, he has a great place with a window that overlooks Pete’s Eat, I could sit there for hours. I saw a guy I had on a climbing course a while back, and had a breif chat through teh window, but nothing was as good as what my friends saw last night in the top window of Pete’s Eat, a suitable censorship really. As, how can I put this so my mum can read it, a man was being a cunning linguist, drinking deeply from the furry cup, chowing down on her unkempt kebab. I did try and search Roger’s Profanasauras, but there isn’t an online version!

Anyway the show seems to have been for one night only, as to our disapointment there was no one there this evening!