More Beaconeering!

Well i had a slow day, and seeing that i have been on the go for two weeks or more a day off was a day off. Although i did try and get my phone sorted out as it is not hanging up when i make calls as the button is somewhat buggered.

I also had to babysit for my friend, which is more difficult than wandering round the mountains. It was quite funny as when i was first ask it was babysitting. The next night it was picking them up from the child minder as well. Then finally it was feeding them as well.

Now picture the classic TV comedy the royale family, when the excitement in the house is electric because they are going to the ‘chippie’. Quadraple that and times it by a million, and you get somewhere near thw excitement in my friends lovely kids.

After that we ended up heading to the beacon. Where i finally manage to pull down like i used to. Somehow, from nowhere the form has returned. Just in time to hit the rock if this weather sorts itself out!

Final day “waterfall” climbing

Well it was a horrorshow at tremadog today, it started wet and got wetter. My two guys did really well under the condition, and I am still basically damp, and probably will be until tomorrow. We climbed Boo Boo and the first pitch of Obleron both had a steady stream coming down them, both were exposed to a cold and wet wind.

It was in the words of Peter Kay, that fine rain that soaks you through, as basically a never ending wall of murky drissle collided with the cliff turning it to vertical teflon, with some post-modern water features. The type of thing the Tate modern would just eat up!

Anyway that was my last day, and it is a shame to finish now, although looking at the weather that lays ahaead for the week. Maybe its better that I am safe and at home in the dry!

Learning to Climb

As an instructor I often find myself flabbergasted that people out there pay me a reasonable wage to teach them how to tie a few knots, whack some metal into a cliff, and call themselves safe. I am a climber first and instructor second, although at times I do feel that it ends up the wrong way round, and as a climber I have often learnt things the hard way, then been reassured through qualification that what I learnt the hard way could have been taught to me over a much shorter course.

Now I know I should discourage people from getting instruction, especially if they are going to employ me for it. However back in my day, and we are talking the early 1990’s, before anyone starts thinking I was talking the dark ages, the idea of instruction never really crossed my mind. I had one book, The Handbook of Climbing by Iain Peter and Alan Fyffe, I looked at every picture on every page and try to replicate everything I saw. It was simply amazing, as at the time I only had a short 3m piece of rope and a couple of prussicks.

I had been introduced to climbing at the age of 16, I had changed school from a rough comp to a Grammar School. I had wanted to go to the local FE college, but my parents insisted I go to Bournemouth School for Boys, I think they have re-branded themselves now dropping the for boys. I hated it at the time, I had to where a suit, everyone was more intelligent than me and seemed slightly less wild.

The one thing the school had was a Combined Cadet Force, a kind of Hitler youth for the UK armed forces without the genocide and indoctrination. I joined this immediately, as they had subsidized adventurous training camps all over the UK over nearly every school holiday. With them I went to Dartmoor about a million times, The Isle of Arran, The Lake District and Snowdonia. I learnt a lot about mountains, navigation and climbing; I still to this day credit me being a climbing instructor down to the love and passion I found for the mountains on those trips.

It didn’t end there, as the school also had a teacher who was into climbing, and he ran a year 9 camp in Exmoor, where the whole year at some point went climbing. As such they had a reasonable supply of rock climbing equipment. A friend of mine Atholl was also getting into climbing, and we hatched a plot so devious that we thought it was infallible. Every Friday, when the games teacher was out on the field, we had a free period, and so we’d sneak into the store with and empty bag and come out with a bag full of climbing gear. First thing on a Monday morning we put it all back.

This went on for most of the two years we were there, as soon as one of us could drive we were off over to swanage every weekend. Sometimes we’d walk from the ferry, or catch a bus. At first we top roped at the only place we knew Dancing Ledge, on one of these visits we decided to try lead climbing, and Atholl lead up, and was doing really well, he’d just place a runner that he declared to the whole crag of university students that it could hold a bus. Moments later in almost slow motion first one limb then another peeled from the rock and he bounce onto the floor at my feet. Who’d have thought there could be anything more dangerous at a crag than a university climbing club!

My immediate reaction was to laugh my nuts off, ‘Hold a bus hey!!!!!’. The students showed a little more concern. Although the incident nearly resulted in the game being up for us and the kit, as Atholl was on the rugby team, and his hand was about twice the size it should be, and he couldn’t play that week. When ask why he replied, ‘Oh I fell of arghhhhhhh …….. arrr, Bike!’

The internet didn’t exsist then, so it was by total accident that we found a CC guidebook to the area, which was already out of print, back then. In this we found new areas to try and kill ourselves. One of my favourite, as it was the scene of our first real leads, was Subluminal. One day Atholl abseiled in and I followed, only as I got to the ledge I realized I forgot the rope, too embarrassed to admit it, I remembered the easy solo out round the corner, so made and excuse about having bad guts, and hopped across a few chasms, soloed up, got the rope, soloed down and hopped back. On my return Atholl just said, “Wow, that must have hurt shitting that rope out!’.

As well as the Swanage guide I also had the Pat Littlejohn South West Climbs, and my dad used to travel all over the area for work so during the summer holidays he would drop me and a friend off at Chudliegh or the Dewerstone and pick us up in the evening. It got worse when I got my driving licence as I used to borrow my mums car to drive to “Swanage”, and instead carry on west to Haytor, or at worse I think I took it to Land’s End once! (Sorry Mum! At least it kept me out of trouble!)

What I did have was quite a number of near misses, at least a couple of unnecessary ground falls and more than my fair share of hard knocks. I somehow survived and developed my rock climbing craft to what it is today. However all I had to learn was that one book, by Alan Fyffe and Iain Peters. I have worked with both now. One was my boss at Plas Y Brenin and the other sat with me on a committee that looked into the development of coaching awards in climbing. I have never thanked them for such a fine and inspirational book, my hope now of course is that some day a climber whose pretending to be an instructor will come up to me and not say thank you for a life time of fun they got out of my book.

As an end note to this little piece I will add that on my last day at that school, that games teacher cornered Atholl and I, all he said was ‘Thanks for bring the equipment back every Monday, I hope it helped!’ I have always wondered if he knows I make a living from teaching climbing now, there is a part of me that is convinced he does!

Upper Tier with the PYB Rock Imps

Given the weather forecast today stu and I decided to take the team to the Upper Tier Tremadog, which is now more popular than ever thanks to Jack Geldards North Wales Classic’s Pocketz guide. Where before there only used to be centres and the occassional climber the crag now has far more climbers using it. Meaning that as Instructors we have to be extra careful so not to upset the climbers.

It is one of those things that instructed groups often get a hard time of climbers, as they can be seen to monopolise routes with bottom ropes. I think we managed very well today, and only held a couple of climbers up by a less than a couple of minutes as our guys were mainly at the top of the crag rigging top ropes, and then belaying each other up to the top. As such we had a low impact on the cliff, but it is certainly a growing concern for this crag, as centres have often not clashed with climbers like they do in the peak, as most single pitch crags in North wales aren’t particularly good for climbers.

The main thing was it didn’t rain until we started heading down to the vehicle for an ice cream in Eric’s. It then stayed dry for the drive back to the centre.

My mission for this even was to try and climb in Bus Stop Quarry, as I sat in the car waiting I ran into a couple of friends who had just climbed “Wonderful World of Walt Disney”, I was and still am very jealous, as it a route I have wanted to do for ages, but never got the bottle to get on it! After they left it started raining so Bus Stop was off, and a quick text had me drive to the damn climbing wall.

I have to say it wasn’t a happy place this evening, as it was mainly full of people who had been wanting to climb outside but were repelled indoors. Looks like the ming is starting to hit, and just in time for when I finish work!

Rock Improver with PYB

Bus Stop quarry

Well spent the day with Stu MacAleese and a great little team on a rock improver course for Plas Y brenin, we visited bus stop and seamtress areas on the Slate. The weather was amazing as you can see. I think I might have actually caught the sun a little!

After work I quickly headed to the Cromlech Boulders and did a few problems before Teaming up with Martin, who I have boulder alot with at the beacon to climb the amazing route Phantom Rib. A fantastic day oot!

Ml Training Expedition

Walking down from Moel Elio

Just got back from a glorious two days walking around Snowdon. The weather was supreb, although it was hard to make any form of diifficult navigation as the visibility was measurable in miles, despite the heat haze. So we head up Moel Elio and across the ridge before contouring round Moel Cyngorian, and then up to the Lake Below Cloggy. I was surprised to see the crag devoid of climbers, as it was a nice day, with little to no wind and the rock was bone dry. Perhaps I should blame the climbers, as faced with a long walk into the shade, or a short walk into sun-drench rock on the ‘sunny side’ of the pass. I’d know where I would be.

We then went for a night time stroll, taking in a nice circuit just below the Llanberis Path, as we were finishing we caught sight of the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team hwo had been searching Snowdon for a couple lost in possibly the only bit of mist on the mountain, as the west side was totally clear.

With the clocks going back we got an hour less in bed, and headed out along the Llechog Ridge down to Pete’s Eats and for me the compulsory fry up. Where we met up with Andy Newton, who was running the course, I have started to advertise Andy courses on my SMG website site, so if your thinking of doing an SPA or ML training check out the course dates.

Amazing colurs in the Cloggy Lake, looked lovely for swimming, but I bet it was baltic!
My Room with a view!

Cromlech Circuit

I sneaked off this afternoon to hit the cromlech boulders. Think that if I hit them early enough then they wouldn’t be that busy. As I arrived the sun was beating down and a nice cooling breeze was sweeping over the rock. However in the car park there was a familiar van parked up, in it was a even more familiar face, that of a Llion, who had finished at work and was looking for a similar quick circuit, what was even better was for me he had a crash pad, and for him I had a chalk bag! I have just finished reading some stuff of communal thinking, freaky.

Anyway we did the usual cromlech boulders circuit, we both looked to be on fine form, which is alway good when you start to feel your age!

Llion on the Boulders
The lightness of Being!
Unknown climber styling the Heelhook Traverse

Review: Wonders of the Universe

Love him or hate him, I happen to find Brian Cox a great presenter, with a great understanding of science, and an ability to put that understanding across to the lay person like myself. My christmas present was a Blu-Ray DVD of the series, however I don’t have a blu-ray player at home, so had to watch it very quickly, and in that watching I seemed to miss what he was saying, but wondered in teh CGI imagery, as I watched in on a hi-def projector on a screen about 8ft by 4ft.

I have to admit to having a general interest in science and its history, having read much of Dawkins books on evolution. What I really like about this series is the fact I learnt something from it, like where all the elements that make us and the world around us come from, and where the first possibly origin of organic material was discovered in a nebula.

I hope that you have enjoyed this series or if you haven’t check it out on the BBC or iPlayer. I also hope that you have enjoy the few posts I have done on the history and background of science like the Schehallion Experiment, Altitude, Nylon, Goretex and performance enhancing drugs. I am working on a new altitude piece, that I have dubbed Bad Altitdude, I hope to get it up before too long. I have to admit it is these type of documentarys that have inspired me to look beyond the assumed to what made these things happen. In the mean time I hope you enjoy Wonders of the Universe.

For further reading on the history of science I recommend Longitude, which is an excellent book on the quest to find a way to discern longitude, in the days long before we had GPS.

Last Beaconeering Session of the Season?

Well, after a long drive, and I mean long, I think I clocked up several A roads and more motorways In my drive from Kent to Bournemouth then up to Wales. I did however arrive up in wales in time to make it to the last team Beaconeering session hopefully this season. Although that weather can be a fickle thing.

This is of course due to the clock changing tomorrow night when I am out on Camp, with a Summer ML Training course. I think I am going to suggest that we don’t put our clocks back/forwards until we are off the hill. Unless I remember whether we loss or gain an hour in bed. If we gain an hour I might just allow it!

The beaconeering session was great, finally getting to a reasonable level of strength and power, and I have to come back outside! In a way gutted, but in another way not at all. Its funny but many people don’t like climbing indoors, I however love bouldering indoors, as it is really gymnastic, and something that I don’t do that often outside. Outside though I love to climb trad and sport, but its trad climbing that truly inspires me.

Something about the challenge of protecting yourself, whilst climbing up a route that seems far more rewarding, as it requires far greater skill, and somehow feels more primal than the clip and go of sports climbing. Anyway here’s to after work cragging, sadly I won’t manage it on Saturday, unless someone runs up with my rack, rope, harness and rock boots to Cloggy!