Should have Gone to SpecSavers…. but i did!

Well I spent the day doing admin, including taking my producer to the Llanberis Police Station. Where I was informed I have to wait for the Cumbrian Police to get back to me. These things are never easy. After that it was off to Bangot wearing my glasses that have been gaffa taped together, to invest in a new pair.

So I was faced with both a receptionist and optician who looked in absolute disbelief when they saw the last time I had my eyes tested. Apparently it was 2003, however my eyesight had hardly changed since just a 1/4 of whatever unit they measure eyesight in. I will give an exclusive on my new look tomorrow. Although I have a few more chores to do, including popping into PYB to discuss some work at the end of the week.

I also spent some time adding more of my friends and aquaintances blog to my blogroll, that is somewhere down the left hand side tool bar. Of particular interest to anyone keen of adventurous winter routing in out there places are Nick Bullock’s and Andy Turners Blog. Both are currently in Norway in the Lofoten Islands on a totally elitist international meet, thats invitation reads something akin to Shackletons advert for recruiting a team for the south pole.

Which Iif you need reminding read:

“Men wanted for horendous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, safe return doubtful, Honor and recognition in case of success.”

Both Andy and Nick were selected for an invite to the event due to there elite climbing ability and staunch approach to a ground up style without the use of bolts. Andy recently made the first ground up ascent of The Hurting in the Cairngorms whilst Nick recently climbed the Needle and Citadel over two days, not too mention an near constant stream of hard repeats and first ascents across Wales, Scottland and the Himalaya’s. Nick also has a new blog, so hopefully he won’t run out of bandwidth. Although I quite liked it because it made his blog like something out of a peepshow, as the “This blog has exceeded its bandwidth – try again next month!”

One of Andy’s latest blogs shows him wearing just lycra, a total power stretch crime of the highest order. Although sounds like he is at home in the stuff, even if we aren’t as comfortable watching him in it!

Back to the grind stone

After what seemed like months of walking, actually come to think of it, it was months of walking, I returned back to Wales to work on a Welsh Winter Mountain Skills course at Plas Y Brenin. The only problem was that there was no snow, so we had to be extremely creative, and turn to the only developing glacier in Western Europe, the North Face Plas Y Brenin, AKA the Boards. On saturday we did a few skills sessions, mainly teaching the groups out how to move in crampons on the various angled railway sleepers in the woods in front of the centre.

Despite seeming artifical, these boards are extremely difficult to walk on in crampons, in fact i’d go as far to say that if you can walk on thiese boards then snow, ice or neve will be a walk in the park. I also took some bivi bags and got the group to run through the basics of ice axe arrest. As a whole group of 24 we also looked at the difference between summer and winter navigation. Before heading up some local hills for a practice of doing some head down compass work and pacing.

On the Saturday evening I did an Avalanche lecture to the group at 5.30, before giving them the edited highlights of the last six months of my life running just a few days ago. Which mean they got to see a sneaky peak at part of my LLAMFF lecture, which seemed to go down very well.

Today I head up and over Cnicht with my group, concentrating on navigation, and giving the group an idea of what they would have to be able to do n terms of interpreting contours, relocating, using bearing and pacing to find there way up, over and off a mountain. We made it down in time for a latte in the Gwynant Cafe, before heading back to the centre.

This evening I headed up the wall with the usual suspects. All I can say is that things are starting to look up, and I am not as pathetically weak as I was, although I am still weak. Hopefully now I am back and settle I can get some secret training in.

M Reeves – MIA, MSc and now WML

Sorry that I didn’t post last night, but things overtook me, as I was told that I passed just before dinner at Allt Shellach, which meant by the end of dinner I had topped up the first few beers, and totally forgot to add something here or on my twitter feed. I have to admit to being rather coy in my previous post, about feeling the day went well, as my feedback after each day was extremely positive. With both Carlo my PYB boss and Dave Evans my friend and colleague from PYB both being extremely impressed with how I presented myself for this assessment.

I know many of my friends said they didn’t have a doubt, but the Winter ML is possibly the hardest 5 day assessment I have ever had. I am a climber, and this required a whole new skill set to judge and manage people in the Scottish Winter terrain. Hopefully from my blog over the last month or two, you have come to see just how important it was for me not just to pass but to do well. The final de-breif from the man who does the booking of freelance staff at PYB, was amazing. I don’t really want to go too much into what was said, however I had impressed him with my skills and knowledge. Even more importantly we are going to chat about where I can go from here in the future with regards to directing summer ML training courses and assessing on them. Which was a reason for me pursuing this award, as it opens up a whole load more work for me.

I have to say that my performance on teh course is down to many peoples help, my friend Martin Chester help me get 6 days observation of the PYB staff on the hill in winter conditions. During that time Stu MacAleese spent a day during staff training drilling me with snowpack assessment, and then followed it up when I was observing him on a Winter Mountaineering course. I also followed Dave Evans and saw a many other staff teaching basic winter skills like walking with and without crampons, using the ice axe and ice axe arresting. Along with this observation came a lot of encouragement from the other staff at the centre.

I also have to thank Katie Haston for her Headtorch, its better than mine, which is why you hadn’t got it back yet. Maybe next week. Also Andy Newton leant me his copy of Chance in A Million, which I read and re-read in the week leading up to my assessment. There are probably more people to thank, for now I am back home in Wales, and looking forward to teaching on a winter skills course at PYB, I only wish there was a winter down here, maybe next week!

Its been an emotional journey, and finally after all those days alone in the Scottish hills its paid off. Now its cragging time unless you have some winter work for me!

ML Assessment 3 day Exped

All I can say is the horror is over, the suffer fest has ended. I am now safely back down in Allt Shellach and have warmed myself and soothed aching muscles in the bath. What has just happened has happened, there is nothing left for me to do but wait for the verdict at 7pm.

To give you an idea of what we just did, we headed up into the grey corries, and arrived at our snowholing site at 4pm, after a couple of wet hour digging, we made our home.Due to the weather, it was drizzling as we dug our holes, and the weather was set to get warmer and wetter, requiring me to invest in a new gore-tex bivy bag at £150 a pop, my sleeping bag has a waterproof outer, but I feared that it just wouldn’t suffice under such conditions.

The night was a short one, as I got up ever hour to check that the snowhole wasn’t in the process of collapsing on us. Then at 2.30 we got up, rather late, and hurriedly packed. Not getting any breakfast, and then traversing the whole of the grey corries in a series of zig-zags up and down from the ridge. Until day break when we kept on going down and up stob bhan, before journeying on to our new residence of a bothy.

A few hours of shut eye and then we headed back out for some more night navigating up on the flanks of Stob Corrie Easian, and then returning to the bothy, for nearly a whole nights sleep. We ran into some guys from the peak who were excellent fun, and a light relief after the assessment process. Whats more they had great food and cake.

We walked out this morning, and thats the story so far. I currently don’t know the final verdict, but I feel I have given a good preformance over the 5 days, and whilst there is always room for improvement on these things, I am happy with what I have shown. I just have to wait a few hours for discussions to be had, and decisions made. The latest is that I will have a result by 7pm, mainly due to the course director having to be out on the hill today working.

On reflection come pass, fail or differment, I have had a good time. At despite it rain on us throughout our first night of traversing the Grey Corries, in what was one of the hardest three days of my life. I survived it, it was onteresting to hear from Dave the assessor that it was one of the worse ML assessment he’s worked on weather wise. Even more interesting, whilst we were having it up the Easain’s on our second night out, the assessor got a text to suggest we head back that night, and do something today.

Possibly the funniest thing of the whole expereince was getting back to the vehicle, and turning the radio, and Crowded House comes on the song was Weather With You, and the very lyric we turned on to was something like ” wlaking down the road in stormy weather”, little did they know!

ML Assessment Day Two

Me and My Fellow Assesseeeee's

It was the steep ground day today, and we headed out into the Mamores. Another typical Scottish Day, with snow, winds and poor visibility. Again we had to perform a few set pieces like abseiling over and edge, lowering someone over a drop, Making a T-axe belay, Snow Bollards, and more snowpack analysis.

I was slightly less nervous today, and finally felt like I had relaxed into the process. Again I had some good feedback from the day. Although I am now packing for my three day expedition, and looking at the forecast of plus 7 degrees on the summit on thursday, so unless that changes then we might not spend two nights snowholing, as the thawing conditions don’t make for good snowholing, in fact snowholes are likely to collapse under such conditions.

The plan is to head into the Grey Corries, a place I have wanted to visit, but given that it is a long walk in and out for a day mission, I am looking forward to exploring this new area. I have a few picture from today, in particular one of John’s Snow Bollard, I have to say I had bollard envy when I saw his master piece of snowmanship! It is beyond a texted book bollard!

A Work of Art or a Snow Bollard
The summits up there somewhere!

ML Assessment Day 1

Well I got up this morning after a restless night, something that I am often plagied with on assessments, feeling physically sick. The good news was that unlike my MIA I wasn’t actually sick. We had a quick brief and then headed out to Buchaille Etive Beg, and did a mountain journey with a few numerous stops for talking about the snow conditions and the teaching of basic winter mountain skills like walking with or without crampons, using the axe, and some ice axe arresting. Not to mention a fair amount of relocating on the maps.

I felt that the day went OK, however my feedback from the day was a lot more positive than I was expecting, and in retrospect the day was good, and I think I managed to show the skills that I have for teaching & navigating. I did manage to forget to take my glasses out of my coat pocket when we did the sliding around ice axe arresting, so now they are in three pieces on the desk in front of me. Whilst this is a pain as I can’t see too far without them, on the plus side I can still read a map, and I don’t think I have changed them in over 10 years, so perhaps I need a new look! Although along with my probable fine on the drive up, I now have to buy a new pair of glasses, so even more expenses. I shall endeavour to put a sum on my quest for a Winter ML certificate when I am save and well in Llanberis!

Anyway Tea and Cakes are calling.

Clachaig Inn

The Clachaig Inn is perhaps one of the top tree mountaineering pubs in the UK, it is as famous as any of the routes that surround it in the equally iconic mountains of Glencoe. It had been over ten years since I was last there, rejoicing in having completed the rotue that is synonymous with the pub, due to the finish almost ending at the front door of the pub, and the infamous Clachaig Gully that often lures unsuspecting walkers off the  Anonach Eaggach Traverse.

Back in the pub mid week, and you start to see the that despite the initial olde world look, the public bar is little more than an illusion. With faux wooden beams screwed to the walls and ceiling, and that worse of all decorative sins from the 1970/80’s artext on the walls, that is still  nicotine stained from when smoking indoors was still legal.

Despite this the Clachaig is still great, it still attracts the mountaineers and climber, mainly because they still cater for them. Proper hill food are the order of the day, nothing too fancy but at the time tasty, Although it could be argued that after a day on the hills in Scotland during the winter, anything is tasty.

In the three evenings we went to the Clachaig during this trip, there was a one man band on one night, a beer tasting festival the next and another band on the last night. Their list of events seems endless, and a testiment to there dedication to keeping themselves as one of the most legendary pubs for hillwalkers, mountaineers and climbers!

As for the Beer tasting, as part of their commitment to the pub for stocking there beer, the Cairgorm Brewery does three beer tastings a year, and one happened to fall on the day we were there. These events are simply amazing, free beer and a free education of the brand. For instances there beer Cairngorm Gold and Sheepshagger are actually the same beer, but for some reason the sheepshagger does far better in exports to Australia and New Zealand. There classic beer Blessed Thistle, a great beer with some eldrflower and ginger is also stocked by Mark & Spencers as Scottish Ale. There also do a lot of beers that are more malty than those south of the border. Inparticular their Black Gold reminded me of Geraldo’s Stout in Patagonia.

I would advise anybody in Scotland to try out some of these great brews. Even better do it in the Clachaig after and epic day on the hill, and sit and wait for the dose of mis-adventure you’ve just had to become yet another tall pub tale.

Final Prep for Winter ML

Brian striding out across the Mamores

Well, I headed back up to Scotland, and I have to say it wasn’t the most successful journey I have ever made. I ended up getting pull by the police, and a long story. Suffice to say I think I am going to get some points on my licence and a fine. Not a good way to go into my Assessment, as my mind really doesn’t seem to be focused at the moment, hopefully, when I am on the hill I can leave the uncertainty tucked away in my sock draw!

I came up with the minor celebrity, and the man responsible for training up HRH in Search and Rescue flying, and now retired Chopper Brian of Total Wipeout fame. Who is on the Llanberis MRT with me, although I am still on my 6 months out from the team, and need to reapply before I can become active again. Brian is also going for his winter ML later on in the season, so we did a walk on thursday, then some skills workshop between the two of us on the Friday.

In Between we have mostly been in the Clachaig Inn, on thursday night there was a free beer tasting session, but more of that another time.

We had a couple of great days out despite the aweful weather, and we also managed to sneak in between the high avalanche conditions, which have been cat 4 on some aspects, it has dumped it down with more snow last night, and on the strong SW winds, means there will be more Cat 4 terrain out there on my assessment. So at least there will be some real decisions having to be made up there!

Today I intend to spend some of teh day in the Allt Shellach Hot Tub!

Total American Road Trip Music Cliche

I am really bad at deciding on Music, but I am really wanting to set a few images for my LLAMFF side show to some of the most cliche’ music possible. I have looked at quite a few tunes, but I am clean out of ideas. I was thinking of some total power rock ballard, but then I find something like the Whos Baba O’reily and I think again.

Anyway, any cheesy suggestion for classic US Rock music much appreciated!