Rock Climbing Courses

I have a couple of rock climbing course coming up, they both still have place on them.

Learn to Lead Climb Course – 18th – 21st July 2011 – £400 per person – 1 Space Left

The first is a how to Trad Lead Climb Course, which will be based in North Wales which is the best trad climbing area in the UK, the course will use a mix of single and multipitched climbing, and you will probably lead at least one classic route in the North Wales Area, the course is four days long and cost an amazing £400.

How to Climb Harder – 20th-21st August 2011 – £150 pp – 3 Places left

This is a holistic look at your rock climbing from technique, tactics and mental technique to help you improve your climbing. The course runs on a 1 to 4 ratio, and takes place on single pitch venues. The lessons are based on those that are in the great self-coaching book ‘How to Climb Harder’ by yours truly.

There are many  ore courses I am running below is a brief over view

3 day Sea Cliff Climbing 1:2 ratio – 11th, 12th, 13th – July £300 pp
2 day Lead Climbing Coaching 1:2 ratio – 23rd, 24th July – £200 pp
4 day Learn to Lead Climb 1:2 ratio – 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st – £400 pp
2 day How to Big Wall Climb Course 1:4 ratio – 30th, 31st – July £150pp
2 day Rope Rescue for Climbers 1:4 ratio – 6th, 7th – August £150 pp
3 day Sea Cliff Climbing 1:2 ratio – 10th, 11th, 12th – August £300 pp
3 day Lead Climb Coaching 1:2 ratio – 15th, 16th, 17th – August £300pp

Visit my coaching site for more details

Summer’s Finally Arrived!

Well the weather has been fantastic for the last few days in North Wales, however the summer finally arrived last night in the form of deluging rain, that was hammering again the side of the house, it got so loud I had to shut my window, which to be honest did little to muffle the distant sound of thunder!

I guess its time to head back inside!

Review: Blue Ice 45l Day Pack

My Blue Ice Rucksac on the the infamous Canon Stone

A few weeks back now I received a new rucksack from Blue Ice – a new company based out in Chamonix that is aimed at developing some high end products for ‘real mountaineers’. Their equipment has been developed with the Alps as a test ground, and as such the equipment has been designed with Alpine mountaineer in mind, in spite of this whether you are a Rock Climber, Ice Climber, Ski Mountaineer or Alpinist, the rucksack is perfect for the all round mountaineer.

I have been road testing the new Blue Ice 45 litre Day Pack, and have used it all over the mountains and cliffs of north wales. For walking I have found the pack very comfy to wear, and its narrow design, has made it good for scrambling. Whilst I haven’t used the zip to get into the main compartment of the sack, as being based in the UK the rain means that I always use a rucksack liner when out on the hill. However, that said even out in the rain, and there was a lot when I was testing it, there was very little evidence of water inside the pack at the moment, I suspect that will change like it does in all rucksacks given enough wear and tear, and of course real biblical English rain.

In terms of adjustibilty, there is some degree of length that can be changed, although it is a bit of a faff, however you should only be changing once. So not really an issue in my mind. Most importantly for me I like to carry as much weight on my hip, and one problem I have had with some packs is the waist belt doesn’t tighten enough, not here though, and with adjustability on both sodes you can get the buckle centralised.

My only problem has been with the compression/side straps hook releasing from the loop that attaches it to the bag on a couple of occasions, but I put that down to me not tightening them up when I throw my rack in, so more me being lazy than a real problem, even when they have detached there was no fear of losing them. This feature though, strikes me as being pure genius though if you were to use the pack Ski Touring and needed to stash your ski’s on your pack rapidly.

Where the rucksacks has come into its own is for rock climbing. I have found that I can fit a whole UK trad rack in the sack, with harness, helmet and a single or half rope. With a little room for lightweight waterproofs and extra warm clothing. Then a small lunch in the lid pocket, in which I have managed to not loose my keys for sometime!

Basically this bag has been used in all my climbing in the last couple of months. It has survived the sharp edges of the slate, the rough sandstone of Hoy and the rugged quartzite of Gogarth, and seeing as I am not kind on my kit, with a tendency to hammer it until it falls apart it is doing well. My hope is that this bag will be with me for a long, long time, and looking at how its standing up to the rigours of Wales I have high hopes for it.

I was asked by someone looking to buy a new Scottish winter mountaineering bag, about it, and I hadn’t really thought about how it would work, but my initial thoughts are it will work well. It has a different way to stash the axes, seen in the picture below. However I am more into storing my axes down the side straps so I can access them easily if necessary, as I have a habit of forgetting about them until I need them, rather than realising that I need to use them, especially when winter climbing. For winter walking, when the axe is in my hand a lot more, I doubt it will make too much difference, and I suspect that I will have a few chocolate bars and my flask just inside that handy zip pocket for rapid retrieval.

This rucksack is more than a comfy, practical sack, with plenty of space, I really like the design of the Blue Ice 45l sack, I also like that it is only available in one shop at the moment, so it feels exclusive. Hopefully by the end of the year it will be in a few more shops and on a few more backs, and Blue Ice will take off, as what they have started to produce is really nice kit with a great style, and its certainly an improvement on my 10 year old Karrimor.

If you want to buy the bag in the UK you have to go to where they are selling the rucksac for a reasonable £100. Which is definitely not going to break the bank, compared to other bags of similar sizes.

Strapping on Ice Axes and Ski's
Lets go Cragging - The 45l Blue Ice day sack does the job!

Climbing Shortlisted for the Olympics 2020

A few years back when I was sat on the National Council for the BMC, this topic totally divided the council to a certain extent. Although to be honest when put to a vote I remember those that could vote were in favour of it, as the BMC is a member of the UIAA and the IFSC, we had to make a decision to back the UIAA’s and IFSC ‘Olympic Dream’ or not.

The major players in the BMC council who where against it seemed to be the stalwarts that seemed to hang onto some kind of power by having a small non-voting position on the council but a large opinion. I guess these people have nothing better to do than sit on committees and make proposals for things like turning the BMC in a bank for climbing clubs to repair huts for only the club members, or write a proposal to write a proposal on something similarly out of sync with the actual members of the BMC.

Still the Olympic dream, caused a split in the UIAA briefly hence there is the International Federation of Sports Climbers and the UIAA. The IFSC is the competitions side of the UIAA, I think?

So eventually the UIAA or IFSC got round to petitioning the IOC whose Executive Board tasked the Olympic Programming Commission to look at some new sports. The OPC recommended to the IOC EB that climbing be put forward onto a shortlist, and the EB has accepted climbing onto a shortlist, where one lucky sport may well be chosen to feature in the games in 2020.

So who are our competitors? Well its baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu. So lets look at them all, and consider our chances, as above all the sports needs international competition and good TV ratings.

Baseball is big in America, but I am not sure that it has enough participation world wide, Is there for instance a UK, French, German Baseball team? The game to me is totally unfathomable, but on it is plus side it’s American, however given that America is one of the countries behind the international monetary problems and countless pointless wars, it will probably count against them. Same arguments go for softball, which is essentially baseball for kids!

Karate is a good sport, but isn’t there enough fight sports in the Olympics? Boxing, Fencing, Greco-roman cuddling, judo. Then there’s roller sports, which are what exactly?syncronised Rollerdisco? Or are they going to go and follow the ESPN extreme games and have a skate park at the next Olympics? Similarly the Wakeboarding doesn’t seem a brilliant idea, have you heard of Wakestock or as the North Wales press called it last year drug-stock! I can see it now the rowing lake transformed into wakeboarding run, someone cutting spray across Sir Steve Redgrave as he comments on the cockless fours.

WTF is Wushu you ask, well think crouching tiger hidden dragon, swords, sticks and mayhem. Basically its a kind of Karate with brighter costumes and Jet Li as a director!

About the only sport that has a chance is squash, its fast, its furious with modern one way glass it is probably a good spectator sport, its played the world over and they have had there act together for a long time. I am actually surprised is not an olympic sport already.

Then there is climbing, or to be precise sports climbing. At least understanding the competition is simple, climber starts at the bottom and gets to the top. They either succeed or fall off. However if you have watched any of the IFSC bouldering comps that have been televised online, the format is getting much better, as climbers spend a set time on a problem and they can work it a few times before the time runs out.

Climbing is also getting more international, as top climbers are coming from a more and more diverse areas. Where the UK dominanted in teh early years the europeans then took over, followed by teh american, now the eastern european and so Japanese climbers are starting to make there mark now.

So will we make it to our Olympic Dream, I can tell you one thing I am not keeping my finger crossed for that long!

Link to the IOC Press release

The Nose of Dinas Mot: Ticked

An overview of Dinas Mot

Well almost, I should perhaps start from the beginning of my long story with The Nose of Dinas Mot. The routes, the climbers, the good times and the suffering.


Way back in 1995, I sat down and choose a university, it had to be close to climbing, it had to have mountains. Sheffield and Leeds only covered one of those bases, the University’s in Scotland are a reasonable distance away from both the climbing and the mountains, but Bangor seemed to have the best of both worlds, so I found myself enrolling on a degree in Environmental Planning and Management, and for the next three years I went out of my way to climb as much as possible, probably to the detriment of my studies, but I got the climbers degree a Desmond Two Two.

The first week I arrived I met a guy called Tom, we are still friends to this day, and managed to get about one or two routes a year climbed together, and I try to visit him in Pembroke under the guise that I will go climbing with him, when really all I want to do is borrow one of his many surf boards and annoy any surfers with my total lack of skill.

With Tom in that first year we did nearly all the VS’s, HVS’s and E1’s on Dinas Mot. Learning the ropes as we went along, and ticking all the classics that the cliff has to offer. I’ll never forget the first time we did Superdirect, as that last pitch still puts the fear of god into me, so steep and powerful for E1, but as I have become well aware all those top pitches are the same.

Intermittent journeys across this great steepening slab of rock has lead to a few more routes, and then I kind of forgot about it for a while, until I got better. Returning with Pete to climb Stairway to Heaven a thin E3, with a top pitch that made Superdirect look like a veritable walk in the park. Then it was GBH, and aptly named crack pitch that is as intense as it is short lived.

I then went up there with a young Leo Houlding, when he was working the route that became known as Trauma, and it was a fitting name, as we headed up there the wind was utterly biting. Sat on the ledge on belay duties it was horrendous. At one point I had so many jackets and hats on, I must have looked like a orange ball balanced on teh ledge from the Cromlech Boulders.

A few days later at it was Leo’s turn to try and lead it, up he went to fiddle in the wire before he down climbed back to the ledge and we bounce tested the runner. A quick run round to the gully to get out of the wind and some jumping jacks to warm a now frozen body and Leo was back up there. Four times he took the fall that day, the last time I clearly remember him way above the crux with a move to a backhand, on top-rope he had done it easily, however on lead, pump he could get to it. If it had been a flat hold he would have used a bit of power to slap it, but as a backhand he couldn’t.

The wheels fell off his wagon, and I can remember him being scared for the first and only time I can remember in all the time i climbed with him. High on the Mot, with the potential of hitting the ledge if the gear rips from about 50ft, even I was gripped as he plummeted from the rock. Every time we went there he offered me a go, but I always turned him down, mainly because I feared that I might have been able to do the moves, then I might end up where he was!

There was one route left on the Mot that was going to be a problem, Truncheon Meat, at E6 I was never going to lead it, but went up there with Caff and Tim one day, and after a bit of team work, mainly caff strength to reach the first runner, then Tim’s reach to get another and it was in the bag so I waddled up it on top-rope.

I have a great memory of my personal climbing day on my MIA assessment, Ollie the assessor had taken us to the crag, and simply said can you do pick a route you haven’t done before? Well, no, as that’ll be Trauma, I can do one I haven’t done for ten years though.

Unfortunately I was wrong, there was another route on the Nose of Dinas Mot that I had yet to climb, and it was a feature that for a while now I have really liked the look of, the arching groove between Trauma and Direct Route, it is taken by Crossties, a rather esoteric HVS, it only gets a star, but if you skipped the first pitches and only climbed the final groove it would be worth 2 at least.

I can say that now, because today I headed up in the sun, as the only real time to climb on the Mot to be honest is in a heatwave, and climbed it. There were no fireworks at the top, no champagne, just another day, another route and another experience on this great cliff. I guess most people will say, well you never climbed Trauma, and you’d be right, but I have to say those few days on belay duty, in the freezing cold watching Leo take horrendous falls, was at least worth 7 or the 8 E points it now gets, as them were the days before everyone realise you can get a good pecker below that lonely wire


Shade Bathing: The Plexus Buttress

Llion on Gardd HVS- just right of the plexus Buttress

Despite a poor forecast a couple of days ago the weather has been awesome today, blue skies and sunshine, with it being hot from early on. So we decided to head to the Plexus Buttress, as the few days dry weather, combined with the shade would make this the crag to be at today.

The usual problems with late weekend starts was the parking so I dropped of the team at the Cromlech Boulder and rushed down the Nant Peris Park and Ride. The price is down to £1 a ride. I arrived just in time to catch a bus almost instantly up the Pass. The it was all systems go.

Dinas Mot was utterly rammed, There was someone on nearly all the easy routes, and every belay, a team was on Jubilee climb, and then we arrived at the Plexus Buttress, and it appeared that we weren’t the only people with the same idea, as there was someone of the trilogy of classic routes, Nexus, Plexus and Ten Degrees North. So Llion did Gardd, a little HVS/E1 to the right of Plexus.

Having done that the routes had cleared through and I set off up Plexus or Nexus, can’t remember its the right hand E1 anyway. Llion lead through, and we had a fun time with the ropes on the traverse, so I managed to take some snaps.

A great day out, really nice to see the Pass busy, even if it did mean we had to wait to get on the classics. I just hope the weather holds next week.

Someone of Plexus or Nexus? its the right hand one anyway
Pete Rowlands on the awesome 'Ten Degrees North' - E2 Plexus Buttress.
Gripped! The thank god jug!
Someone called 'Dave' on the second good pitch 3rd real pitch of 'Ten Dgrees North' - The Steep Jug fest over, he now has the crux of ...xus, the reach right for the thank god jug