Welsh Winter Skills Courses

Well, there is now a fair amount of snow on the hills around Snowdonia, and there is talk of some more sustain cold spells. Meaning we should be able to deliver Winter Skills, and Winter guiding over at least the coming week. I know its all rather last minute.com but if you want to get some winter action in Wales you need to be fairly dynamic.

If you would like a last minute winter skills course, or would like to be guided up some classic mountaineering routes in and around Snowdonia, then please get in contact. More information can be found here.

Getting Government to debate Outdoor Centre closures

Someone posted this letter on my website, I thought it so interesting and important that I’d share it with you. If you have a blog or a website then, please re-post it, as the more people than look at it and possibly sign up on the ePetition the better. The letter from the Institute of Outdoor Leanring follows below

One in three Local Authority outdoor education centres are facing closure (some have already closed) which could mean large numbers of young people are denied potentially life-changing experiences, at a time when health, physical activity and contact with nature are all declining. Some children from poorer and disadvantaged groups may not have another opportunity to share a night away from home and visit places they would not otherwise see.

The sad fact is that closure need not happen, in many cases given extra time these centres could become self sufficient. If centres close they may not reopen again.

You can help by signing our petition, set up by the FSC with the support of Association for Heads of Outdoor Education Centres, English Outdoor Council, Institute for Outdoor Learning and National Association of Field Studies Officers. If we reach 100,000 signatures this year the issue will be considered for debate in the House of Commons.

To sign the petition visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/26661

To raise awareness of the campaign we have created a short piece of video which you can watch below:

Beaconeering – Boulder Problem Setting

Well I remembered that today I had to get up early and go to the Beacon to do some boulder problem setting for them. I have to say this morning I felt worked after yesterdays Indy Session. My abs were so sore I had to roll onto my front and push myself up, rather than just sit up in bed!

I set down in the School room, and managed to get 11 problems done. A few might seem a little tough for the grade, but a quick session with a few climbers after I set them and they seemed to think they were good value for the money. I did manged to flash all the problems, when I tried them, which made me take a hold or two off and spin some around. I was a little disapointed that I did the routes so quickly, but in order to set the harder problems I do find myself trying a sequence after I have set it, and think where might the next hold go, and how small it should be and what direction it should face. So they were more like redpoints for me.

I hope they are enjoyed by a few climbers.

Indy Session

Well we looked at the weather today, and decided we were tough enough to brave out the cold, so instead went for a long session bouldering at the Indy Wall. Had a great session, lots of V0 and V1 to warm up on followed by climbing most of the boulder problems up to V5.

Made a real difference to the psyche by going there and not the beacon, as we go to the Beacon so much we kind have done all the problems we can, so it was like going to a new crag, with lots to go at. We weren’t the only ones to hide indoors. With Caff, Floppy and Ollie all heading there.

Historical Book on Mountaineering

I have been doing a bit of writing rather than programming for the last couple of days, and in my research I have unearth a great book on Mountaineering. It comes from The Badminton Library on Sports and Pastimes, and dates from 1892. The book has been digitised by google, and there is an online link here.

I have been really intrigued by some of the information in there, as to a certain extent it has counteract certain claims (mainly by wikipeadia taken from modern sources) I have read about the history of design. This combined with another great google feature, where you can search for Patents has done something to skew the ‘convientational wisdom’ of who invented what an when.

Most people would attribute the crampon to Oscar Eckenstein and the carabiner to Otto Herzog. However there are references pre-dating the 1908 Eckenstein claim of invention of the 10 point crampon. Where as claims that Herzog’s made the first carabiner in 1910, are pre-dated by patents for ‘identical’ albeit not climbing specific snap-gate loops.

It part of a little project I am trying to write on the History of the Science of Mountaineering, where I am combining the contextual setting of the time in terms of culture and understanding of the world, put against the development of Mountaineering: Its equipment and practices.

Broadband….. No band

I got up today and started working online as i do most day, unfortunately that didn’t last long before my broadband dropped out. So I did all the usual, turn it on and off, change adsl filter, but still no joy.

I ended up using the fault tool that was appearing on my Internet explorer. I phoned the number and it was a automated message saying there were no faults in my area and I should go to a web address to report the fault.

How pray tell then does a person whose interweb is down get on the web to report a fault. Lots of hunting latter and a 45 minute call and I am eventually told it will take five days to fix.


Logbook Function added to iCoach

I have finally added the log book function to the iCoach facility over on my instruction website. What this should do is help you keep track of your training so you can start to add overload in the form of more routes, or increasing the grade of the routes you climb. More than this though it records your performance in not only grade but encourages you to rate each climb through you Percieved Rate of Exertion or PRE.

What PRE does is allow you to monitor your performance in a new way, as whilst in the short term your grade might not increase, the chances are that your PRE for a grade will descrease before your grade goes up. As such having finer performance measure, might help you stay motivated.

It also is a good way to make sure your warm up is a warm up, as if you PRE goes above 2 for warm up routes, then you are probably having to try too hard for the route to actually be easy enough for you to warm up. Anyway I hope you like the new feature, in a months time I will put together a page that allows you to explore your results in a variety of ways.

Outdoor Industry: Can it survive another year?

Whilst I am sure the answer to this question is yes, there are signs that the credit crunch is hitting North Wales’ outdoor industry with the force of a freight train. Whilst freelance work is usually pretty low on the ground this time of year, there seems to be even less than usual.

One centre recently made all its ‘teachers’ redundent, and offered them the oppotunity to reapply for there posts under different terms and conditions. At least another two centres I know of are seeing a record fall in student numbers, and could well close down by the end of the year. These are Local Education Authority centres that once close will be very unlikely to reopen as the government and local authorities strive to cut there budgets. Meaning that this sector of the market will no longer be provided by instructors with Education qualifications and a strong centre ethos of the educational benefits of learning in the outdoors, but by smaller ‘activity centres’, whose ethos is on fun and adventure rather than ‘education’, and sadly those skills of using the outdoor classroom to develop children will be watered down, and perhaps eventually lost.

Whilst another large centre cancelled two weeks of courses due to such low uptake that those courses were no longer financially viable. This same centre also appears to not be renewing annual contracts to staff, instead trying to offer them work as, when and if it appears.

Yet another centre was pretty much unoccupied by students for about two months before christmas, and most others are getting by on skeleton staff, employing only a small number of freelance staff, and only if they can’t rearrange there permanent staffs rotas to fit this.

What this means for North Wales who knows, but around ten years ago the Outdoor and Adventure Tourism Industry accounted for £140 million pounds of the local economy. After local councils it was the biggest part of the Economy.

What it seems to be meaning for me is that there simply isn’t any work. I have done about four days work since October, and at present I have two days booked in March. So its pretty bleak, and I am certainly not the only person whose work is drying up, if only the weather stayed like it was for the last few days, at least we could get out playing on the rock.

My prediction is there’ll be less outdoor centres in North Wales by the end of the year than there are right now. Those that do survive will be laying off staff and getting by on a skeleton crew.

…and then theres the outdoor shops…

Rainbow Warrior

Callum above the crux of Cytitus By Proxy after climbing the Stiff Syd's Cap E6 6b

The weather today was a little bleak in the morning, and given how cold it got last night, I choose not to climb today. Instead I headed put with Caff and Calum Muskett, to the Rainbow Slab, where Callum shot up Stiff Sid’s Cap. A run out and unsurprisingly technical and thin route up the left side of the iconic Rainbow Slab.

After that we headed up to Heatseeker, where I did tie on, but taking photos makes my fingers get too cold, as I can’t operate the camera in gloves. As such I barely got off the ground on this F7c. Caff however got it pretty quickly though.

Callum reaches the break with relief, on the bold start to Stiff Syd's Cap E6 Rainbow Slab
Caff loving 'The Moves' on Heatseeker! A great F7c arete on Rainbow Walls