Over the Moon and the Pocket Rocket

A few weeks back, I was at the wall three times a week, and trying to get outside in between this, however a few Scottish hits for winter walking work, and a week down south visiting my mum have destroyed my guns, moving the limited amount of muscle my upper body had and moving it south to my legs.

So when I was invited to the Ormes, I first asked who’s going, second was how long you are heading there for? The reply came back with the answers I was looking for, that it was a small team looking for a quick hit, most of the team dropped out over the space of morning coffee, so it ended up with Me, Ollie and some lass called Emma, hence forth known as the pocket rocket. I knew Emma was fairly handy, but there is nothing like seeing with you own eyes a first class climbing performance.

I have climbed with many talented people in the past, Leo, Pete and James are just a few of the better people who have dragged me up the types of Extreme classics routes that you simply can’t pay for guiding up, as generally guides don’t climb that hard. As such I would like to think I have seen some big guns, firing on all cylinders.

Today we were having a look at Over the Moon direct, a F8a it might get a plus I don’t know as its on Slimestone. At the base seeing who’s going first, I looked at Ollie, Ollie looked back and shrugged. We both looked at Emma, and given the time constraints (the tide was coming in) it was decided (by us) that she should warm up on the route. She made quick work of it, and had a couple of rests before she kindly put the rope in place for the main event, Ollie and I top-roping the route.

I went next and where Emma had used technique and finesse, it soon became apparent that I was lacking both of these and strength and stamina and endurance and …. I was shut down by the crux, but glad to have got there and lowered off. Next up was Ollie, and after a battle and fight and a few ‘breathers’, he too topped out.

Emma’s proper redpoint attempt was next and it was an awesome sight, she’s a tenacious little $£@!)!!!, and as lovely as another female friend of mine Jude to watch, as the grace and subtle technique are just magical. As well as this there was some out right pulling which saw Emma get through the crux and to the last hard move, a fairly long one, one that beat her this time, but I doubt it will for long.

My next attempt I got no higher, but at least this time I set up for the crux, even if my body had a total reluctance to let go with my left hand to drop it into an undercut. Ollie followed, stripping the route in front of a small crowd of heckling climbers, who mainly had to point out he was stripping the pitch, after he had climbed past quickdraws.

Anyway, great day, thanks to Ollie and Emma for having me along. All I have to say is that I need to get up the wall a few more times to refind that form from three weeks ago, as well as get out more.

Easter Climbing Courses

Hi All, I have several Easter Rock Climbing Coaching Courses coming up, if anyone is keen to kick start thier climbign season with some guiding or coaching on some of the classic routes in North Wales.

Come and Enjoy the magic of Snowdonia's C;lassic ROck Climbing

31st March – 1st April – Sea Cliff Climbing Course – £250 pp

A two day course looking at the art of Sea Cliff Climbing, based on from LLanberis we journey out to either Gogarth or the Lleyn Peninsular to enjoy the delights of sea cliff climbing. Suitable for people climbign VS or above. More details of the Sea Cliff Climbing Course on Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website

2nd – 6th April – Lead Climbing Coaching – £500 pp

A 5 day course on lead climbign coaching, designed to help develop your lead climbing skills over the week. You will be spending you time on lead, learning how to place better gear, use tactics to inprove your performance and mental skills to combat negative thoughts and anxiety. More details of Lead Climbing Coaching Course on Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website.

7th – 8th April – Guided Classic Climbs in Snowdonia – £250 pp

This two day course is a whistle stop tour of the best routes in North Wales, we may end up visiting multiple crags each day. You’ll not onyl get to climb the routes of your dreams but improive along the way with top tips from you guide. More details on Guided Classic Rock Climbs Course on Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website

9th – 13th April Intro to Lead Climbing – £500 pp

Have you climbed insode and want to get out on real rock, and learn how to place gear and make belays, before going to to make your first lead climbs. Then this is the course for you. More details on the Intro To Lead Climbing Course on Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website.

14th – 15th Sea Cliff Climbing – £250 pp

A two day course looking at the art of Sea Cliff Climbing, based on from LLanberis we journey out to either Gogarth or the Lleyn Peninsular to enjoy the delights of sea cliff climbing. Suitable for people climbign VS or above. More details of the Sea Cliff Climbing Course on Snowdonia Mountain Guides Website

Full details on all courses can be found in the New Snowdonia Mountain Guides Course Brochure 2012/13, a downloadable PDF.

Temp Inversions and Brocken Spectre

The team cast their Brocken Spectre onto the Clouds below.

Well I headed out today and had a feeling that the chances of popping through the clag to sunnier conditions was highly probable, but you never know. I was out assessing a few people on thier summer ML, and had a great day as we covered the ‘mountain day’ element. However as we gained the football pitch on Y Gribin the skies open and we were floating in a sea of cloud.

I set the group some rope work tasks and whilst they went about completing them I set up my iPhone in time-lapse mode. Below is a video of the quick video I made. However as we were doing the ropework it occured to me that we might get a brocken spectre.

Now I have been in the mountains for over 20 tears but never seen a truly great example, however the sun was above us, and about to cast a shadow down on the cloud below and the conditions seemed perfect. So after the ropework the spectre came out, and I got my first amazing example, and was kicking myself for not draging the main camera up the hill. Instead though I got some great images with my iPhone.

Me and My Brocken Spectre, looking out across at Tryfan and a beautiful inversion.

Back to Wales via Dartmoor

As part of a few days retracing the routes of youth, I drove up to wales via Dartmoor, and managed to climb Wogs at Chudliegh, Bulging Wall at Haytpor and Needle Arete on the Dewerstone before heading North. Now before anyone says it, I can tell you now that if you are going to drive from Bournemouth to North Wales, then Dartmoor is definitely en route.

However it was great to do these routes on teh way back up, although also totally knackering. So I rest for a bit of today before heading out as the cloud and clag kept clearing to give a beautiful day. So headed up the pass to do a quick bouldering circuit of the Cromlech Boulders, the first of the season. It was lovely up there for a march afternoon. Hopefully the weather will stay for the foreseeable future, as after this winter of rain and ming, its so nice getting out in the sun.

Where is that place beyond Corfe?

Far Corfe, or so thje locals joke goes.

I headed out for another day mainly walking along the Jurrasic Coastline, although I did sneak a little climb in at Subluminal in the Morning, and eventually walked from Dancing Ledge, where I had been climbing on wednesday, along the coast past Hedbury Quarry and onto Winspit. I also managed to get lost but rather than back track the 100m to the junction I missed I carried on in the knowlegde that the wrong way was now in fatc the right way, as it would take me past the Square and Compass pub.

After that I headed back from Worth Matravers to Langton Matravers, and to my car. A really nice day in the sun, and managed to clock up a few more miles than I was expecting, I have put some of the lovely coastline in from the days re-exploring the area after a few years absence.

Looking across at Corfe Castle
The Priest way along the top of teh Purbeck ridge
The Cock in the Square and Compass
The Priest's Way - unsurprisingly past a pub.
Someone Climbing at Winspit.
Another person clibming the same route at Winspit
Some Coasteering, makes the Cable Bay traverse look simples.
I have put this one in for the hardcore climbers, this cave looks emmense. I think there are a few hard trad lines on its far side. Contact me for locations

Walking Up Memory Lane

Iain on redpointing F7a, that was steeper than it looked from the ground.

Hanging out at my mum’s in Bournemouth, has given me a great opportunity to re-visit my old climbing haunts, and today I met up with a couple of people who responded to my UKC lifts and partners post. I forgot how awful Bournemouth is for travelling across at rush hour, little known fact, is that when combined Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and Ferndown, is the 5th biggest urban area in the UK. Yet for some reason there isn’t a climbing wall anywhere, if only I had a £200000!

Anyway I managed to get to Swanage for the Wolfgang start in a cafe, meeting up with Mark and Iain. I had met Mark before, I think during his epic enchainment over 25 days of all the Hard Rock Routes, probably after he had his near epic on Cloggy’s White Slab. Iain was a wild card, although a worked grade of F7c on his UKC logbook, made me nervous, as would he be too much of a wad for mine and Mark’s more pedestrian aims. As it was he was fine, and we ended up doing some great routes, but before we headed out we had to decide where to climb.

I rather fancied heading to Dancing Ledge, as it has many great memories for me, it was the first place I climbed, it was the first place I ever lead, and it was the first place I ever climb F6a, and I hadn’t been here for what seemed like years. Fortunately Mark hadn’t been there, and Iain was relaxed about venue, so we headed down into a perfect suntrap.

Descending into the quarry, the memories came flooding back of how I got started climbing. I was studying A-levels at the time at Bournemouth School, and at some point I had come down here climbing with school, psyched I brought Allen Fyffe’s and Iain Peters’ Handbook of Climbing, it was my bible I cherish this book with my life and practice the ropework, and studied gear placements endlessly, it was probably why I nearly failed my A-Levels, and climbing certainly contributed to my Desmond two two at University.

It seems incredible that armed with just that book we achieve so much, more incredible was 15 years later and I would have Iain Peters as my boss when I was on the Instructor Scheme at Plas Y Brenin, and would sit on a committee on coaching climbing with the very lovely and softly spoken Fyffy. What I have achieved in those years when I look back has been incredible, if you had suggested back then that I would right my own book on climbing at some point I and most people I know would have laughed you out of the room.

Other than that book and a few karabiners we had no other climbing equipment, but at the age of seventeen, I got something far more important than a rope or a rack, the one thing that I had waited forever to get, a driving license and my first ticket to freedom. When my mum would be stupid enough to loan me her car, and I only crashed it once!

However, Atholl my partner in crime back in those first forays onto the rock, and I still didn’t have a rack, but we had a plan. That plan consisted of robbery, and it was going to require cunning, guile and potentially getting dragged in front of the headmaster, a stern authoritarian scot who ruled the school with an iron fist. You see hidden in the back of the games store was a shinny rack, ropes and harnesses, all we had to do was find a way to lift it from there and get it to my mums car without anyone getting wise to our heist.

I think made the climbing seem easy, as we used to turn up to school every Friday with a larger empty bag and before the first bell went sneak in to the games office borrow the keys, empty the store and get the gear past prying eyes and safely to the car. Then after a weekend of epics we had to sneak everything back.

One Monday morning our cover was almost blow, as Atholl that weekend had been lead a route that was probably barely severe. As he went up he place a rock 8 sideways in a horizontal break, and declared to the crag that this piece was bomber, so bomber in fact he’d drop a bus on it. Moving up into the steeper finishing groove, my heart stopped as at first his foot popped and he flailed to get it back on the hold, no sooner was that foot back in place and the other went, then one hand and then he was cart wheeling down onto the slab below, where he bounced out and hit the ground in front of me.

Being a true friend, I saw he get up, and notice there was no blood and did the only thing I could think of and start laughing hysterically, and when I got that under control just utter “A bus Hey!”. Everyone else at the crag was more concerned than I was, so embarrassed we headed home.

On the Monday though, Atholl had to tell the games teacher, Mr. Gibson that he could play rugby that week because he had hurt his hand. No I don’t know whether you have ever told a games teacher you can’t play in the first 15, but you might as well have shit in there mouths. An explanation was demanded immediately, Atholl thinking on his feet, he was a great bullshitter, later going onto to be a cars salesman, until he wrote a Renault 5 Williams off that he was driving 2om from the back of the transporter to the forecourt. So almost instantly, he said he fell over drunk, and to be honest this was more than plausible and the game continue until we finally finished our A-levels, and Mr. Gibson ordered us both to the games office.

If there was one thing worse than being called in front of the headmaster it was being summon by the Games department, as whilst capital punishment was technically illegal, I think they knew that neither my or Atholl’s parents would have objected to some impact counseling be inflicted on their darling little angels.

“Right, you two where are my cams, karabiners and ropes, if they’re not back by tomorrow there’s going to be a problem”

“Em, sorry I have no idea”

“Don’t play that game with me, I know you’ve been sneaking them out of the store every weekend for the last term”

The game was up, well there hadn’t been a game all along, Mr. Gibson had known everything, but using the words of a modern day politician by turning that blind eye he had plausible deniability.

“They’ll be back tomorrow, and… erm… thank you”

We returned them the next day, and he invited us to help out on the year 9 camp, it was the first instruction I had ever done. He let us rig the crag, and manage the session, carefully checking our every move; I loved it and probably decided then that a career in outdoor pursuits was for me. A few months later I did my SPA and ML training.

Those early days we climbed at several crags across the south west, from Swanage to Dartmoor. Those first climbs with Atholl captured an adventurous spirit that was developing in me. One of the hardest routes I lead before I headed to Bangor was Date with a Frog (F6a) on Dancing Ledge.

So today, I headed back and got on that route, a route that took me three attempts before I managed to climb it some twenty years ago. Today it was a warm up, still not easy, but its amazing with so much rock having past through my hands since that those moves seemed friendlier and my technique a million miles away from where it was back then, and so it was I walked up memory lane.

Anyway a massive thanks to Mark and Iain for letting me come climbing with them today, it was ace. Although I narrowly failed on a F6c+, we still got about 5 or 6 routes climbed.

The Jurrasic Coastline
Iain just about to pass my high point on the awesome, "Haunted By A Million Screams"
Mark on Date With a Frog, my first ever F6a
Warming up on another route.

Making KONY (in)Famous in 2012

It seems like a strange idea doesn’t it to try and make someone famous, yet this is the aim of a growing group of young activitist based in America. The KONY in question isn’t a business, a actor, a singer, a sportsperson, nothing like that. He is no oridinary person, at all, he is someone who should be as famous as Hilter, and for the same reasons.

Genocide, sex crimes, and other aweful acts have made this person the most wanted man on the planet, yet there has been no real effort to capturing him. The idea of this film is to make him famous and make him infamous, and help make governments go out of there way to capture him.

The video was launched on 20th Feb, and had around 20 views a day, until three days ago when 58000 people watched it, yesterday 2.5 million viewed it, and today already 2.8 million have seen it. here’s there website. If you watch the film share it on facebook.



Have the Welsh Government Made the right decision on Adventure Licensing?

Well the Welsh Assembly announced today that it is ignoring the advice from the Lord Young’s report on Common Sense, Common Safety that essentially recommended to the Adventure Training Sector (See page 36), that the government abolish the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, and replace it with a Code of Practice that could be self-assessed.


However a statement by the Welsh Government read like this:

“As you will be well aware from discussions at the group, the decision whether to abolish or retain adventure activities licensing in Wales is a matter for the Welsh Government. I can now advise you that, after careful consideration, the Welsh Ministers have decided that they wish to retain adventure activities licensing in respect of Wales. Clearly, this decision does not affect the question of the future of adventure activities licensing in Scotland and England, which is a matter between the UK and Scottish Governments and still to be resolved. Our Ministers are mindful that the system for the management of adventurous activities in the UK is becoming more differentiated and will watch with interest the systems which develop in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and take these into account when, in due course, the licensing system is reviewed.”


This brings into question, especially for a small businesses like mine, who in the past an AALA license has been prohibitively expensive, as I get about two requests a year to teach young people how to climb, something that I have done regularly for other centres with an AALA licence. A self certification may well have been more financially viable alternative.

A spokes person for the institute of outdoor learning has already seen a potential problem and possible loophole in the system. In that if I had an English address I would come under the English legislation which is set to abolish AALA. However what would happen if like for many centre they came across the border to Wales to carrier out the activities. Would they be required to comply by Welsh Law, if so who would police this system, or a much wider question of is it even policeable?

Marcus Baille from the HSE Adventure Licensing Service has put the risk into real perspective, here. 1420 youngster a year die in the UK through accidental or sudden death, 700 of these are road related, 200 happen at home, 200 suffer skin cancer, 140 suffocation, 125 poisoning, 110 commit suicide (these are not part of the 1420), 90 Drown, 80 are burnt to death in fires, 70 children die from fall related injuries, 50 kids are killed and 3 die on school trips.

Of those three that die on school trip, 1 is attributed to some form of road traffic accident, and there are no official statistics of the number that die at an activities centre, although last year, one child died on a canoeing trip, although the activity wasn’t to blame, as the result of an inquest pointed towards a unknown medical condition. This prompted the Guardian to write, ‘Just about the safest place for a child is on a school trip.’

ALAA was set up after the very tragic and ultimately totally avoidable accident at the Lyme Bay Adventure Centre, back in 1993, after the Lyme Bay Tragedy where four teenage died. It was the first and one of the few successful cases where the managing director of the company was prosecuted under ‘corporate manslaughter’ for what was essentially gross negligence.

ALAA was established to stop such tragic incidents occurring today, however there are still a few tragic accidents and some that are arguably avoidable that happen in ALAA licensed centres. (Caving Tragedy in Yorkshire and Pool jumping death in Scotland). However these are few and far between, as the statistics point out.

My point is that in spite of ALAA these accidents have still happened, and Lord Young obviously see’s this and recommends not wasting the £750000 a year it cost to run ALAA, instead relying on a self-certificating system. However for some reason the Welsh Government seems to be against the idea, my question to you is whether it is doing the right or wrong thing? Add you views as a comment.


A Little Run

Having driven down from Wales yesterday, I spent today doing not much, but a friend had phone me and asked me if I wanted to go out on a little run. He is training for the Brighton Marathon where he is raising money for Cancer Research UK, you can visit his giving page just here.

Sadly Ollie lost his best mate to the Big C last year and has since been focused on raising as much money as possible for the cause. Last year he got an award for his fund raising efforts, which included raising thousands of pounds for the charity, and cycling the John O’Groats to Lands End. This year he is running his first marathon, so I agreed to go along for a short training run.

A short run extended to a planned 14 miles, which I managed to cut short, and only made it to about 10 Miles (16.5km). I surprised myself as its been a while since I have put that distance on my legs, and I was pleasantly surprise. As ever it was a joy to hang out with Ollie, we had a good chat about the marathon and life as we pounded the promonade. I joked it had had been years since I had been down to Bournemouth Beach, but even at 8pm on a cold dark night there were still a few honeys down there. In fact the last prom, I was on was Santa Monica in LA.

Away, good run as I can’t walk anymore. If you have any spare money, and would like to donate it to a very good cause click the link above, as your not just donating for someone to turn up and run a marathon. You are supporting him and his team of runners who have trained through those long hard nights out in the cold running along the prom in the rain and driving winds, just so they can stand on the start line.

Heading South: Anyone keen for some Portland Action?

Well, I am heading south tomorrow to visit my mum and borther, I am keen to get out on either swanage, portland or dartmoor, to break in the awesome RockFax guidebook to the area.

I don’t know many climbers down south, so I am keen to try and find a few partners for the week/weekend. If you have a free day, I am happy on trad or sport and not bothered about grade. Contact me through this blog if you are keen.