Blasting out the Tremadog Classic’s

Well, continuing on with the early season smash fest of classic routes. I headed to Tremadog today with Llion. He is a few days behind me on the early season climbing but we still managed to knock out 4 classic routes.

Starting off on Grim Wall direct, a route that is never grim, and always a pleasure. We then abbed back down and went up One Step… which as anyone who has done will testify, is probably one of the nicest routes in the country at the grade, and would certainly make my desert island climbs.

Finally on this area of we climbed Shadrach with teh brothers start as other people were festooned across the crag. Llion lead this in a pitch. At which point we headed to the cafe, and had a great coffee and cake.

Our final route was a hard one to choose, as we had limited time, as Llion had to be back for 4pm. So we decided to do Merlin Direct, another fine route, and I got the top pitch. Which I have to say is another crack climb that is just pure pleasure to romp up.

All that cragging and we still got back in time to have a BBQ by the lagoons in Llanberis. Sweet day, nice evening.

More Pass and Beacon Boulder Bash

Well yesterday, I managed to tick off the last of the major south facing crags by nipping up Rift Wall, it was still a bit damp, but after the initial wall, it dried up. Although in terms of weather, then what a difference a day makes, it was cludy and the cold wind meant we only managed on route, which was good, as I was invited to compete in the end of season Boulder Bash, that ends the aggregate.

So at 6.30 I was up and ready to climb, and managed to climb all but one of the 25 problems set. I narrowly missed out on that as I was too tired to finish it, and fell of the last move a few times before admitting defeat. Two people managed to tick all the problems, and Ollie Cain won a climb off with a rediculously powerful and shouldery problem.

However I was surprised to find that all the young blood in there hadn’t managed to match my score on those 25 problems, so I came 3rd overall in the boulder bash. Not bad for a 36 year old with grey hair and a arm injury that seems impossible to shake off.

Anyway the problems were really good, and I managed to flash a lot of them, and get the rest second or third go. Good scenes, and a great pub social after, where I spent my £20 winnings. I tried to leave before midnight as I was meeting Llion in the morning.

More Pass Action Shots

Murdoch on SS Special.

Well another day and another few routes done. Si and I started off on Scimitar Ridge, climbing the E1 Troy, and totally amaxing route that feels way bigger than it actually is. The photo I took of simon is only just off the ground! We then met up with Llion and Katie and climb Hangover which I was pleasantly surprised that it has been upgraded to E2 along with Slape Direct that Si climbed yesterday. I then finished on SS Special, and it felt reasonable which was a nice surprise as well.

After such a long lay off it has been good to get the gear eye in, and start to read real rock rather than a selection of bolt on holds. Anyway I have put some images that I also took today along with this posts.

Llion battling with teh amazing crux sequence on Karwendel Wall. Clogwyn Y Crouchan.
Llion on Karwendel Wall, again facing the crux, sorry for the repeat!
Rocio on Leftover, Clogwyn Y Crouchan.
The awesome Troy on Scimitar Ridge, Llanberis Pass.
Rocio again on Leftover.
Llion on Karwendel Wall, with Rocio seconding up Quasar in the background.

Early Season Pass Mileage

Simon Lake gunning up the first pitch of Cemetry Gates, Dinas Cromlech

Well, after what seems like an age of not being able to climb outside on rock, the weather has truly outdone itself the last week. As such I have been out and about mainly in the pass. Yesterday, I managed Cemetry Gates, Cenotaph Corner and Sabre Cut. Sabre Cut was a route that I had never done before, mainly because my first route at the crag was Cenotaph Corner, so I missed out on many of the classic VS, of which the top pitch of this was one of teh finest examples of a classic VS.


Today, again with Lakey, we headed to the Crouchan, meaning if I managed to get to maybe Craig Ddu tomorrow, I will have ticked all the sunny side, although I am thinking about the thumb, as I have never been there and nor has llion.

Again we went for the easy ride at the Crouchan and climbed, Karwendel Wall, Wind, Slape Direct and Spectre. So another host of classic routes under our belt, more sunburn and big smiles alround. Really good to get out moving on the rock and just moving quickly and efficiently over some nice terrain.

Liam on Resurrection, E4 Dinas Cromlech
Liam topping out on Resurrection.
One for the Ladies, Ollie Cain top off and guns out, about to fire up the final headwall of Foil, Dinas Cromlech.
Si Lake, throwing shapes on the initial part of Karwendel Wall, Clogwyn Y Crouchan
James McHaffie, hard at work guiding up Hangover

Friday Teaching Lead Climbing to Bangor ODA students

The Team at the top of Teenage Kicks and Stairs on Holyhean Mountain

I am very lucky with my work as I get to work with some great people, and I am often called into work for the conway centre and work on one of there collest courses, which is delivering skills training to students from Bangor University, who are studying Sport Science with Outdoor Activities at the School of Sports, Health and Exercise Science. Which is also where I went to study my MSc in Applied Sport Science.

Anyway, around this time of year for the last few years I get roped in (pun intended), to help deliver some lead climbing coaching to the students in their second year. Many of them already lead in their own time, so its good to see what they are doing, and usually tell them that there gear is fine and so is their leading.

Anyway we had a great day out at Holyhead Mountain, I promised I’d put up a few of the better images. I forgot whether I mnentioned that on the way back we called into one of the students houses, as they’d forgotten the team chocolate brownies, it seems there is a theme that has run through this group with mini bake offs! Tasted amazing.

The team leading Teenage Kicks on the left and Stairs on the right.
Teenage Kicks amazing little step up the arete.

The Wicked Wastad

A climber approaching the roof on Old Holborn, Carreg Y Wastad

Well, after failing to find a climbing partner yesterday, I managed to find one via the wonders of Facebook, and I met up with Tom Ripley for some Llanberis Pass action. Tom is a student at Bangor, who managed to have a nasty accident in Peru last year, involving a petrol stove and a hotel toilet, I had never climbed with him, but have had a few Facebook chats with him.

I knew he was trying to get back to fitness, so suggested the pass, as it has a host of great E1’s, and I felt like a change from flailing and failing on routes that are too hard for me, and instead just get some nice mileage in the sun. The sun was my only care as to the crag, and Tom had been benighted on Overlapping Wall, so he had unfinished business, so having done the route many times I gave him the main pitch.

It was very much early season for me, and probably for Tom, so I wasn’t expecting a super slick ascent, as unlike climbing with Llion and Katie who have run as many laps as me on these routes, Tom was onsighting it. Despite this he made quick progress, and was soon at the top.

For our next route I suggested Elidor, is very similar neighbour, and again I took the approach pitch to give him the meat of the route, and again he charged upwards. At the top we both mused what to do next, and this time Tom suggested a route he had done, but I had not, Old Holborn.

Now Llion climbed this last year without me, and raved about it, however I did remember that he suggested it was ‘good value’ for the grade, and as such I was aware that there was some potential sandbagging from Tom. So after Tom made the approach pitch, I racked up for my first real trad lead for a few months it felt, it was very much my turn to shake up the rock.

The first crack was strenuous, and I managed to make a great schoolboy error of place a wire in a strenuous position, only to find a rest one move later. Plugging my way up wards I get to the crux of the matter, a traverse below a roof and round an arête. Making it to the good flake, I tried to get a cam in the lip, but I had already used the size that it needed, fortunately all that failing and flailing on routes that made this roof look like a slab, meant that in my favourite words of Alex Huber, “I have power to spare” .

I reach round the roof, body threatening to barn door in a spectacular position, and find a crimp on the ledge I am in the process of trying to stand on. Adjusting feet to shut the door, I eye a jug further back. My instinct from sport climbing and bouldering is to lay one on for it, but my trad head takes over and settles into the crimp, knowing there is plenty of time in the bank to look for more stylish options, and I find a good hold in reach, and stand on the ledge, and breathe deeply with satisfaction.

The top pitch was no push over for Tom, more 5a than the guidebook 4c to be honest. We walk down and Tom talks of heading to the Mot. It is getting on and my feet have swollen, and my shoes, are now crippling me, so I suggest the hitch back to the village, and home. So this is were I am sat beer in hand supping back the memories of a great day in the Pass. Many thank to Tom Ripley, the link is to his blog, he might even blog on our little day out soaking up the sunshine?

Tom firing up Elidor E1 on Carreg Y wastad
A Climber fight to keep the door closed on the lip fo the roof on Old Holborn, Carreg Wastad
The awesome and exposed Crackstone Rib, one of the best severe routes in North Wales, and therefore the world.
Does my Bum look big in this? Me mid 'will I or won't I barndoor' on the crux of Od Holborn

How to Big Wall Course

We’ll I have spent the last two days in the very pleasant company of Andy and Tim, teaching them the skills they’ll need to attempt a big wall in Yosemite. We spent yesterday in the Beacon going through all the basics before getting them to aid a route outside today.

I really enjoy teaching these courses, as it is a challenge for both me and the students, me for breaking the skills down and teaching them in a nice safe, whilst at the same time making sure they have all the basic skills started to be engrained before they head off and do the hard work of practice, practice, practice.

The students don’t have it easy either as whilst hanging about in aiders and jumaring looks straight forwards it very easy to get you head in a total knot over what can be a simple thing. Both Tim and Andy had read my two articles in Climber Magazine on Big Wall climbing, and came to me for this course, and is a course I usually run about two times a year.

So if you are thinking of going to Yosemite or further afield then do get in contact if you’d like to make the crossover from trad to aid climbing. I now have to repack my rucksack as I am out teaching climbing with the ODA students from Bangor University with The COnway Centre tomorrow.

Postcard from Llandudno

Well, I was back down at LPT on Monday, again hard work, harder than friday, I felt so weak it was awful. However tonight I ehaded up the climbing wall, and all that trying on routes thatare way too hard for me is paying off, as I was getting back to climbing wall form.

Anyway enough of that shzazzle, I am really here to put up the images of the day at LPT, despite how it looks it was freezing down there!

Emma Twyford, warming up on the classic Under the Boardwalk. I have to admit, now I am getting to know this route better I am starting to like it more and more.
Keith trying some link up Over the Moon direct and out left across all sorts of tough terrain!
After Monday and Friday's belaying super steep terrain, I no longer think Jim looks like a tit with his funky climbing glasses. At £90 a pair, I think I will have a sore neck though!
Jim wasn't the only one whose fashion statements were laughable.
Emma making good work on Over the Moon Direct, she was looking very steady on most of it.
Emma at her redpoint high point, she narrowly fail to finish the route after hanging this move, which is quite a throw for her. Amazing effort.
Llandudno Pier, thank good it wasn't playing that damn sea side record!

Why a Court Ruled Against Climbing Wall in Injury Claim

Before you read on, I would suggest you first read the UKClimbing News item on the matter, and then the Telegraphs piece on the case. As arguably one does not reflect the facts very well.

When I first read of this story on UKClimbing I was in full support of the wall, as someone falling from a bouldering wall is a common thing, and injuries can and do happen regularly, some of which cause breaks and even more serious injuries. As such, as a climber I undertake these activities at my own risk.

You will have to excuse me in this case, as if you actually read the piece in the Telegraph, then a totally different story of exactly what happened becomes apparent. That climber wasn’t in my mind a climber but a student to Craggy Island who was on what was essentially a taster session, which was aimed at team building.

So the difference in that person’s ability to judge risk on a wall, instantly comes into question. As according to the report they had little in the way of a safety briefing on the bouldering wall, something that despite being contested by craggy island the judge felt was not covered well enough to open up the opportunity for the individual to sue the wall.

Now in the past I have done many indoor taster sessions, we are talking probably thousands over the years, and many for a well-known centre in North Wales, where it was drummed into all the instructors the importance of a proper brief and appropriate supervision of both roped climbing and bouldering. It is the appropriate supervision that may well have lead the judge to rule on this, as a beginner should arguably be spotted by someone suitably trained to do so. I say suitably trained, as is it appropriate to have beginners spot beginners, if they have no idea just what you expect them to do, or should the group be trained and brief to spot each other, or should it be the responsibility of the instructor.

My argument would be that it’s a sliding scale of teaching them, and you actively supporting them in spotting, until you are happy that they are OK, and even then keeping a close eye on the group and stepping into assist when the need arises. In order to keep an eye on the group, it is my experience that you simply can’t let the group head off on there own, instead corralling them into smaller sections of the wall, where you can see them all is required.

Louise Pinchbeck, now walks with a limp and cannot participate her favourite sport of running because of an accident that an instructor may well have been able to prevent, or at the very least have suitably briefed the group on the risks of bouldering and falling, as well as employed suitable spotting. These second aspects may well have stopped the incident making it to court.

Sadly, like the judge, I think there was some responsibility that falls on the owner of the wall, for failing to get its supervisor to manage a group of novices that paid for that supervision, in a way that prevented claims of negligence. However it has some important aspects that any indoor instructor should take away and learn from.

1. Bouldering Walls are not a playground, they require as much careful supervision as roped climbing.
2. A proper briefing as to the risk of bouldering is required prior to people engaging in the activity. This should be done as a group so there are witnesses to that briefing.
3. Who should spot beginners, YOU the supervisor or do you think you can train beginners to spot effective? (This peer spotting has been an issue in the Mountain leader qualification for a many years, as if someone or some step needs spotting, it should be the instructor, unless they have ‘trained’ the group in the appropriate skills)
4. Be Insured.

As a freelance mountaineering instructor I am insured against this kind of claim, however an accident doesn’t instantly mean I am negligent. If you use appropriate procedures, and stick to acceptable practice you minimise the risk of becoming found negligent in a court of law. If you fail to do so, then you open yourself up to being sued for negligence.

In this case Craggy Island believed by getting the individual to sign a disclaimer they bypassed any responsibility. However, anybody with any basic legal background (This is often covered in the legal and morall guiduance of qualifications) will know that disclaimers aren’t worth the paper they are written on, especially if sign by a novice. This comes down to the Volenti Non Fit Injuria clause, or a willing volunteer cannot sue for injury. However that volunteer needs to be able to have the experience to make judgements on the risk they are been exposed to, as such a novice cannot make that judgement without prior experience or training to a certain level.

It is why when teaching leading, instructors build people up slowly, and only when they are happy with the client move them onto leading. I have written a piece on my coaching blog about how I deal with briefing a group for lead climbing.

As such I feel that in this case the judge may well have ruled correctly, however terrifying it is to the industry at large, not to mention arguments of increase cost of insurance. This is however my opinion on the information I gathered from the Telegraph’s article, and there are no doubt others out there who might disagree with my thoughts, and others who know more about the incident. I just felt I should write something, as there are learning points for all instructors.

UPDATE – I ripped this off UCK forum – it is a case summary:

In March 2008, the claimant visited an indoor climbing centre, owned and run by the defendant company. The claimant attended, with a number of colleagues, as part of a team building exercise organised by their employer. The claimant did not have any prior rock climbing experience. She and her colleagues completed a two hour session, overseen by two instructors employed by the defendant. For most of the day the claimant was climbing on a high wall with a safety harness. Upon reaching the top of the wall, she would be lowered down by the harness rather than climbing down. For approximately the last ten minutes of the session, the claimant and her colleagues were allowed to use a lower wall. That wall was around 4 metres high and unlike the high wall, had no safety harnesses but instead the floor was covered with crash matting over twelve inches thick. Only one of the instructors was supervising the low wall. On one occasion, the claimant jumped down from the wall, turning in the air as she did so. She landed awkwardly and badly injured her ankle. Whilst waiting for an ambulance to arrive, she accepted that she had apologised for the inconvenience that was being caused. The claimant brought a claim for damages for the injury to her ankle. The instant hearing was concerned with liability only.

The claimant’s case was that no instruction was given for the use of the low wall other than that only two people could be on the wall at the same time. The defendant’s case was that a formal safety briefing was given before anyone began to use the low wall and that that briefing had informed the claimant and her colleagues that they should climb down the wall rather than jumping. The claimant maintained that she had jumped down on a number of occasions previously and had not been told that she should climb down. The defendant’s case was that the claimant had admitted that she had been told not to jump down but have chosen to do so anyway. The principal issues that fell to be determined were: (i) whether the claimant had been told not to jump down from the low wall; (ii) whether a duty of care was owed to the claimant by the defendant; (iii) whether the defendant had been in breach of that duty of care: (iv) whether the defendant could rely on the defence of volenti non fit injuria (volenti); and (v) whether the claimant had contributed to her injury, and, if so, to what extent.

The court ruled:

In the instant case, on the balance of probabilities, no words were said to the claimant or her colleagues that clearly explained there to be a prohibition on jumping down from the low wall. In respect of (ii), the defendant had assumed responsibility for the claimant by providing instructors. In respect of (iii), the defendant had known that the claimant had, to that point, only climbed upwards that day and had therefore known, or ought to have known that she was at a disadvantage on the low wall. By not instructing her not to jump down from the wall, the defendant had failed to discharge its duty of care to the claimant. In respect of (iv), as the risk of injury could and should have been avoided by proper instruction, volenti did not apply. In respect of (v), the claimant could have climbed down or asked for assistance but she had not done so. She had chosen to jump and to turn as she did so. The claimant had been contributorily negligent and the appropriate proportion was 33%.

Judgment on liability would be entered in favour of the claimant, subject to a finding that of 33% contributory negligence.