Raging Hardd Hyll Drem Action!

Whilst Hyll Drem is synonymous with wet days and laps of the Girdle, you (or I for that matter) forget that it has some stellar routes that are worth a visit when the conditions aren’t sub-optimal. Choosing a venue for a day like today, blue skies and sunshine if in the right place, and frost still on the ground as we drove back if the shade remained is a bit of an art.

However, if you then put into the equation four climbers with different agendas, then you can spend half the day arguing the toss and get little actual climbing done. Not that we were arguing but before we left we had to watch Ollie on Mr Fantastic (waddage!) and Katz of Elementary Wall. Not to mention some other Facebook actions.

Like Newton who came up with the inverse square law of gravitational forces, I to have done some research crunched some number s and above all created a mathematical rule of thumb. Its call the Reeves’ Square Law of Pontification. You take a meeting time and place for climbers, say ten o’clock at Dave’s, then to get the time you actually leave Dave’s you do the following.

Time for Pontification = N2+∑EFV+CN

Where N is equal to the number of climbers and E, F, V represent the grade of the last route climbed by each of the climbers present in either E grade, F Grade or V grade, and C refers to number of coffees to the power of N.

Simples, so it took us an age to leave the house, and Dave had tagged me for climbing, whilst we had set the big guns up together. Ollie despite climbing V Hard, wanted an ‘easy day seconding’, So we teamed him up with Caff, and tried not to laugh too loudly when Caff declared he was getting on Raging Bull, a tricky E5 6c.

Basically it is an upside down coffin, with less pegs than the guidebook suggests, and various big names have seen epics on the route.

Dave and I went for Hardd, E2 neither of us had climbed, and what’s more it was *** and in Hard Rock (Well we think it is, can’t be bothered to Google the list). Dave did pitch one the main event, and did well. I seconded and just looked at the awesome swing potential as I stripped the gear before the crux. Thankfully my feet stayed on.

I then lead the last 4c pitch, and I swear given a 4c grade I was thinking of a nice VS pitch. Whilst it was never desperate, if a VS leader got on it they’d be pumped before they left the belay. It goes through some truly outrageous terrain, on good holds, but generally you feet are below you. I got back and looked in the old guide and they gave it 4b. I mean what were they thinking?!

All the while whilst this was happening Caff was engaged in more the sort of behavior you’d expect from those crazy wide boys Randall and Whittaker. At one point there was almost a defeat as the words Samurai Groove came up the cliff, but after some climbing up and down Caff put his foot to the floor, and I am gutted I missed the action, but cutting loose onto an armbar, and other wild moves.

As Caff and Ollie returned to the bags, I had to say well done to the youth. To which Caff said thanks, to which I replied, “Not you, you getting up there was a sure bet I was talking about Ollie!”

Good times in the sun.

….and then the sky ran out of rain

Well, it was amazing to wake up to blue skies, sunshine and a light breeze. I am possibly every other climber in North Wales was starting to go out of my mind with the weather. As being unable to get out climbing due to a near constant deluge, then cabin fever can start to set in.

Today we headed to Rhoscolyn, and I really wanted to get on a route in Fallen Block Zawn, sadly the tide wasn’t on the same page as us, so after traversing in we traversed all the way back out and climbed Little Queenie, a classic E1. Although I did note that since the demise of the peg, the start is really nasty, as you can potentially deck from about 10m up the route.

Having seen Llion’s limp from half that height, I decided not to let go at any point. However, I am more convinced that the route could possible warrant E2 just for the boldness of the start. Maybe I am getting old, and finding the boldness harder to justify.

Anyway by the time I got to the top the cloud had appeared again, and it instantly turned baltic. We made a hasty retreat home, but at least we managed to get a route in on perhaps one of the only pleasant days in recent history. Hopefully it’ll be nice tomorrow, but I think the weather will turn before too long. So get what you can when you can.


Ansy about to have a heart attack

I headed out today with Kath Wills from Active First Aid, and Andy Newton and Paul Poole. We were taking photos for Kath’s forthcoming book on outdoor first aid for real outdoors people.

This is a photo of us setting up a shot. I won’t put the actually images up, but Andy did look properly ill in many of them as we turned him ashen with some white and blue facepaint. You’ll have to wait for a little while until the book comes out.

Winter Skills Dates for Jan/Feb/March

In case anyone is looking for some winter skills training in the coming couple of months, then I have got a few course dates coming up. Some are based in Wales, and will only run if we get conditions, the others are in Scotland where hopefully the winter conditions will be more stable.

If  you have headed into the hills in summer and want a bigger challenge, but would like to learn all the additional skills for safely travel across a rugged icy landscape of Scotland or Wales then these Winter Skills Courses are ideal for you.

On the courses we will cover route choice, navigation in  Winter conditions, two skills that have a big impact on staying safe, as they are often the key to avoiding undue risk from avalanches, as well as making the day as enjoyable as possible, as faced with a choice of walking into the teeth of a artic storm of going with it, or even better seeking shelter, then route choice and navigation are key skills for independent travel in the Winter Mountains of the Wales and Scotland.

We will also cover the use of Ice Axe and Crampons, the two most essential pieces of equipment for winter travel. We try and cover this as part of a mountain journey, and start looking at how to stop ourselves slipping, from our first steps. The reason for this is that in winter a simple trip can result in a very long slide. As such we try to focus on careful footwork with and without crampons, before we move onto arresting a fall with an ice axe.

As well as footwork we will teach you how to use the ice axe as a tool for securing yourself on the move, cutting steps and ledges. On our 5 day courses we will also get a rope out and look at ways we can use a rope to negotiated winter hazards, like the conices, steep gullies and icy steps.

Throughout the course we also look at and consider the assessment of the avlanche risks and discuss ways in which we can avoid them. Covering theory and practice as we move through different terrain. Teaching you key tell tale signs that will help keep you safe by observing conditions both before we leave and on the hill.

By the end of the course you will be fully armed with a whole array of Winter Mountaineering Skills, and feel confident to make your first step in to the wild and rugged beauty of the snow-capped Mountains of England, Wales and Scotland.

January Course Dates

23rd – 27th January – Welsh Winter Skills Course – The course is dependent on conditions, if you’d like a course on this date, but would prefer Scotland, we can arrange this – £400 pp

30th Jan – 3rd Feb – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisionally based in Aviemore, however we can move to Glencoe of conditions dictate – £600 pp.

February Course Dates

11th – 12th February – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisional booked to run out of Glencoe – £300pp

13th – 17th February – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisional booked to run out of Glencoe – £600pp

18th – 19th February – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisional booked to run out of Glencoe – £300 pp.

March Course Dates

5th – 9th March – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisional booked to run out of Glencoe – £600 pp.

10th – 11th March – Scottish Winter Skills Course – This course is provisional booked to run out of Glencoe – £300 pp.

For more information on our winter skills course visit my Welsh Winter Skills or Scottish Winter Skills courses pages.

First Running for Years

Well, after reading ‘Born To Run’, I had been threatening to go back out for a run, I had brought some new trainers about 6 months ago but never got round to it. However I couldn’t put it off anymore so headed out this morning to lap the lake.

This 5 mile ish loop has a good bit of up and down in it, and was quite a challenge after such a long time off. I tried the Map My Run  app, but its GPS is rather shocking in the woods, as it had me running nearly twice that distance. However, the tunes kept me going, I am awaiting the arrival of a new iPhone holder, so I can look a tool with it strapped to my arm, as I can’t run without tunes.

I am contemplating getting some minimalistic shoes, like the Vibram Five Fingers, as aparently barefoot running is potentially better for you. Until then I am trying to focus on leaning forward and having a forefoot strike rather than a heel strike. Focusing more on style and technique than speed, so it took me about 55 mins to do the loop, and I felt better on the second half than the first.

If anyone has exprience of teaching themselves to forefoot strike rather than heel strike, I’d appreciate any tips. At the moment though I am just trying to ease myself back into the miles!

Hitting the Slate and the Slate Hitting back!

Before I go on, first and foremost remember that no one was hurt in the making of this post, although some slate was damaged and minor injuries were had. I thought I’d add that before a relative, friend or bystander gets concerned.

So today the weather was dry from early till 12pm, for once the forecasters got it right. Myself, Llion and Katie headed over to Vivian Quarry and tried to tick a few classics, first up was Psychotherapy, then Last Tango. Although dry to look at the slate which has been blasted by weeks of rain was rather odd today.

As despite being dry, as soon as you placed you hands on it moisture appeared to leech out of the rock, or it was that cold it actually sucked it out of our fingers. I noticed this on Last Tango as I traversed the flake. I even had to take a moment on a move that I would usually fly up, although I put this down to the fact its been ages since I touched real rock.

Llion was undetered, and went for what must be his 100th lap of Comes The Dervish, a route that we have done so many times that it is usually a great day out. As Llion racked up I got a call from a recruiting agency, apparently one of the CV’s I have sent out was actually read and they wanted to talk to me some more about my web development skills and experience.

So whilst I was tucked out of the way chatting, Llion headed up the Dervish and then out of the corner on my eye I saw an inbound Llion and then heard the thud as he hit the floor from reaching for the first cam slot 5m up. I rushed over trying to explain to the person on the phone that my friend had taken a tumble, and I would have to go, but he was already getting up.

A lucky man, who has bruised his heel and probably caused greater damage to his pride (I am not helping by writing abut it), and a single blemish to a previous clean Dervish record. I guess its a lesson for us all to keep our guards up even when on familiar terrain, most driving accidents afterall happen with 2 miles of your home!

Oh, and Sorry Llion, but I had to blog it!

An iCoach Tester

I ask for a few people to try out my little web based app on my Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website. So far there has been quite a few people sign up, and I am trying to get the training log pages online.

One reader of this blog is going to give it a proper trial and record the results over on his blog. So I must thank Dave for doing this, I hope it helps him reach his climbing goals for the year.

His blog post is here. If you are interested in trying out the iCoach facility, it is just a tool to find five aspects of your climbing to focus on, at the moment but I have plans to develop it more in the future if i can find a way to make it work financially, it is free at present, and I’d liek it to stay that way, however it takes a reasonable length of time to write these bespoke pages and add the logically decision the programme makes.

It will be interesting to see what Dave thinks, he has brought ‘How To Climb Harder‘, which goes hand in hand with the performance profiling tool, which is a process that is covered in the book, all I have done is automate the process and give the pages you need to read to give you training ideas for those five training factors of the month.

“Born To Run”

For christmas a friend got me a book, now I haven’t really read a book for a while, so was in two minds about the book, especially as it was called ‘Born To Run’. I had put my running days behind me (hadn’t I?), and really wasn’t that convinced about the book at all.

Having time on my hands I decided to give it a trial run, and no sooner had I picked the book up I was hooked. It had mystery, suspense and science all rolled into one. The title of the book refers to all of us, we were born to run, whether we like it or not. Not fast but as endurance athletes we are the best in the animal kingdom.

As the book tells its story I was sucked into the world of ultra endruance running, the type of races where a marathon is a merely a warm up. Each of the characters we meet are at first enigmas, and soon you have brief sideways glances at them as both runners and modern day philosphers.

Slowly the author Christper McDougall, starts to peace together research and antedote into a gripping tail in search of answer to questions not just about running but the evolution of man. The tale comes to an end in an epic race between some of the best ultra trail runners the US has to offer against a little known tribal people for whom running is a way of life.

Whilst you might expect pride and competition to take over in this 100 mile race through the rugged Seirra Madres, what we find is compassion and respect between Mexicans, Tarahumara and Americans. Whilst I can’t say who wins, you are left with the impression that everyone in that race was a winner, even the author who comes in last in a time that would have allowed the front runners to lap him.

If you like science, running or the true spirit of adventure then this book will please you. If you are a runner dogged by injury, then maybe in this text you can find some answers. I know I hate amazon for there pricing policy, but heres a link to the book.

No More “Kodak Moments”

For a company that spawned a the saying “Kodak Moment”, that reflects a situation that just shouted photograph me. Kodak have fallen on rough ground. Despite actually inventing the digital camera in the 1970’s they failed to capitalise on this, and focused instead on film technology.

Sadly in todays society film is dead. We all have (well most people have) a camera on there phone and the ability to publish those images to social media at the touch of a button. Last year iPhone overtook all other cameras as the source of the most unploaded photos to flickr.

I can remember Kodak from my youth, and more recently in the late 1990’s and early naughties when using my SLR. Kodak have over 1100 patents, but sadly it seems that despite having many ideas and inventions, few are relevent in the modern digital age. I doubt many of us could have forecast the rapid boom of the digital age. I recently tried to get a decent slide scanned for Climber, and it took Ray Wood a good few hours to scan and process 9 images, which were so poor they could only be used as small images. Sadly the art of processing film and scanning slides is dead in the water, given you can now get a small pro-sumer digi camera capable of producing good enough images for print media.

News from New York is that Kodak may well be filing for bankrupcy in the near future. Sad days, will the CEO have a final ‘Kodak Moment’?

Admin and Stuff

“There are two certainties in life, Death and Taxes.”

The last couple of days I dealt with the taxes, by doing my books for last year and even managed to get them up to date for this year. I have to say that it was quiet upsetting doing this years books, I really don’t want to say how much I earn, but lets just say it wasn’t very much. Given that I have done a handful of days paid work since October its not surprising.

I have also been working on an article for Climber thats not due for a few months. It is on Mental Toughness, which is a term we will probably be fed up of hearing about by the end of the Olympics. But it is an interesting thing to look at from a climber perspective, given most top end climbers have never seen or heard of a sport psychologist, yet when you look at their performances they have organically develop the key attributes of Mental Toughness that sport psychologist have spent years deciphering.