Tracking down the ghost in the machine

I noticed a while back that there was a clich in the matrix of self coaching icoach app that I put together over the winter, and thanks to Steve Golley at the theSend, and a friend Aly who was in the pub last night, and got me motivated to finally sort the problem out, I set about coding with a slight headache from the previous nights socialising.

I am happy to say the problem, that was you had to wait a month to re-evaluate you performance profile wasn’t working, so you were never able to come back and reassess that profile. It now works, so hopefully it will be of more use. I do have some more ideas for the app that I am saving until next winter season or when I have finished writing these books I am working on.

Until then it is still a really good and scientific way to assess you weakness, and give you five things to focus on in your climbing and training. I would like to think you are all out there on real rock at the moment but the weather is so bad I guess a few of us are still indoor climbing.

I shall add a few more courses to my Snowdonia Mountain Guides Site to reflect the courses I offer in the catalogue fairly soon as well.

Bus Stop Quarry: Fallen Down!

Wall or real rock, that was the question, and faced with the choice I have to say that it would be real rock everytime. The weather has been pants though, but the rain held off long enough to justify heading out. So Llion and I headed up to Bus Stop Quarry, and as soon as we walked in the change struck us, the rock to the left of Fool’s Golds that has been bad for some time, has seen a reasonably significant rock fall.

Fool’s Gold looked unaffected so Llion headed up that, and low down there was very little difference, however as you pull through crux there has obviously been some movement, as the jug you pull on in the crack is a really loose, its not going to come out of the crack, but it moves which it never used to. The ledge you reached for at the end of the crux, has also come away from the wall a bit, and is now extremely hollow and booming, it might take a few years but it is destined to come off at some point, I just hope its not when someone is pull up on it. (Having pull the flake off the base of Solitice, I might leave this one for someone else to ‘make safe’)

Above the crack is similar, although it may have widened ever so slightly, and there is now a feint dip where the crack cuts back through the whole pillar. Now to be honest climbing it was fine, but Fool’s Gold days are definitely number! So if you want to vlimb it I suggest you get on it sooner rather than later.

After that we climbed Gnat Attack which is still a lovely climb, I much perfer this trad bolted style of the ‘old school’ slate climbing. Those new sports routes as you enter the quarry just don’t even inspire me to put a rope on anymore.

We finally went onto try a interesting new line. I now need to find a drill, two bolts and find the money for new rock shoes! All I am saying is crimp tastic! I’ll post some pictures to Facebook and Twitter.

Bear Grylls Does it Again!!!

Anyone who has read this blog for long enough will know I much prefer the fat boy scout ray mears for my survivalist knowledge. Bear Grylls, who thankfully lost his contract to show that he is a ‘Born Survivor’ or whatever his latest discovery channel project was. However I found this on YouTube, and as a climber, it made my blood boil, almost as much as when he cost the BMC hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Anyway, check out the badly hidden top rope in this clip, that he tries to have believe he is somehow soloing the route!

Pant Ifan: The Arete Trilogy

After Simon took a rest day yesterday to hanging out with his heavily pregnant wife, we headed out today to try and find some dry rock, and given a rather murky start and a looming shower that was just about to hit Tremadog, we sat and watched the end of the Grand Prix, before heading off.

Now both of us have lived and worked in the mountains so its always hard to find a route we haven’t done and one that we can actually do. This is the way when you live in the heart of North Wales climbing territory. So we headed up to Pant Ifan, and after climbing Scratch Arete as a warm up, one of the best HVS route anywhere. Simon sounded like he was keen for Mangoletsi, having previously watch an OAP get tangled in his ropes and fall off the lip.

However looking across as I have done so many times at the amazing looking Spare Rib, I put that out there as an idea, and Simon bit. I was hoping to get the top arete but as it was Simon’s lead, and as he is also about to have a kid which will curtail much of his climbing I happily handed him the reins. I nipped up the first pitch of Mangoletsi, and Si followed.

Now just a few minutes before when we had been on the top of Scratch Arete, the route look reasonable and quite slabby. However the persective you get from the base of the Scratch corner it looks like a horendous steep and impossible line. Si looked slightly less confident at this point, but set off up to see what he thought from closer inspection. Great gear in the roof, a hard move and then some runout climbing.

He stood psyching himself up for a while, and apologised for it profusely. However when your pushing the boat out you can have all the time in the world, as I know I would want it. As he set off up, he made the difficult and balancy move to make it over the lip, and then composed himself. Above was the arete, about which the route follows but no gear. He continued up and swung back right round the arete to the steep face, at which point he shouted, ‘Oh Shit’, or words to that effect.

Looking up I am thinking two things, one thats a really long fall you might be about to take, and two that person on Scratch may well be your landing pad! Fortunately he was just realising that he needed to go right not left at this point, and powered on to the ledge. Now if you go and do this route, I would really advise not slaping for that ledge, as it is rather slopey. To me it was a E4 6a to turn the first lip followed by an E4 5c.

Anyway success, I followed and managed a no falls and no drama second. Then it hit me we needed to finish on Silly Arete, that way we will have ticked the *** trilogy of classic aretes at Pant Ifan. Now before anyone argues there is Intergral Direct as a fourth arete to the trilogy, I like to see that route as similar to the prequels to the Star Wars trilogy, in that its rather poor in comparison.

So I headed up Silly arete, something I have done a million times before, and having ribbed Elfyn saying is only one hard move over the lip rather than the sustained grovel of Pincushion. I promptly nearly fell off that hard move, when as I was rocking over on those tiny crstals my left hand kept feeling like it was going to pop off the hold at any minute, so I stopped to chalk up. At this point I realise I no longer have the momentum to finish the rockover, and appear to be stalled halfway over the lip. Pushing 10% more than i’d have liked to I eventually get stood above the lip.

At this point my youthful memories of the route was the next gear is close at hand, and not wanting to traverse into pincushion, I am force to start running it out to the first good gear some 20ft above, after this the route climbs like a dream. Good friction, lovely holds and some steallar exposure. Although note to self, need new rockboots, and these ones were so thin the rubber was stretching on the tiny holds.

With that we had to head home, just in case Lakey Jr. was on his way. What a great demi-day, ticking the three, three star arete routes at Pant Ifan. A might Arete Shone of a day.

PS, that last joke was the only real reason I wanted to climb all those routes, pun-tastic

First Drafts and a Quick Dervish Hit

Well, I have spent the last few days typing, as well as a rather bizzare book which has made it to the first draft stage (I don’t want to tell you what its about at the moment!). I have been working on a couple of eBooks, which are more in keeping with my coaching. One on The Coaching process, that looks at how we can effective teach someone a skill, as well as some other aspects of coaching like team and relationship building and reflective practice. This book is coming along nicely, and if I get a US Tax ID soon, it will be initially available for iPad users through the iBook’s store.

I have also been working on another small ebooklet on Avalanches, and spent the last couple of days working on some illustrations. I have a few other ideas for books, but have decided not to start writing them before these are finished. Although I have found writing two things at once has given me enough time away from the other projects to allow me to read them with a bit more objectivity.

There still isn’t much work on the instructing front, so this writing is at least keeping me busy. Although trying to make sure I only do it when the weather is poor. Today was just such a day with some right deluges of rain and hail. This evening the clouds parted and the slate seemed like an option, so I sent out messages to a few people and got a response.

So Liam and I headed up to the Dervish Slab, where after an initial shall we warm up, or shall we just get on it, the consensus was to man up. I headed up first, and it was the first time upit this year I think. Can’t really remember, anyway, it was about par for the course, not too hard and not too easy, which is a good place to be this early on in such a poor climbign season so far.

I abseilled off and stripped the route for Liam. He did really well, and it started lightly spitting as he reached the crux, by the overlap it was more persistent. Then  finally everything was wet, Liam put in an awesome performance to remain composed on the top crack, well more of a seam to be honest. He had to dry the large sloping ledges off with a chalk ball, so if you get on it and those holds look painted, it was Liam making them hangable.

Back in time to cook Lasagne. Sweet.

There are pictures on my twitter feed @verticallife, feel free to join me over there, as I do add some stuff on there thats not published here. I also have recently made a FaceBook page for Snowdonia Mountain Guides.

A Dorys Day

The Beautiful Craig Dorys
The Beautiful Craig Dorys just outside Abersoch

Usually heading down the Lleyn for a climb is filled with fear inducing trepidation, and friday was just such a day. Why? Well we were heading to Craig Dorys, for most the loose nature of the climbing is a risk too far, but a for a few, the brave and the fool hardy it is a lovely piece of tottering tot. As beautiful as the sublime setting of a secluded cove hidden from all but the chosen few who call this place simply “Dorys”.

A typical Lleyn day has several stages to it, first is the decision to go. This often comes down to meteologicial reasons, as the mountains suck in in all the bad weather, and Tremadog and Gogarth lose their appeal, and the memories of last visits fade the Lleyn beckons. Then you remember the breaking rock under foot and hand, the soaring exposure, and the complete experience these route hand out in the bucket full, and with it bravery takes over.

Having laid down a proposal a few days before, you end up in a situation where you have to put your money where your mouth is, so as it was drizzling in Llanberis, Llion and I made our first pilgrimage of the year to this femme fatale of a crag.

Thus started phase two getting, there. Which might seem as simple as pointing your car west, but with all things that take that much mental commitment, you need to make a pit stop in the Spar in Pwllheli, often referred to by me and my friends as the super deli in Pwllheli. The caffine and cake stop does as much to delay your arrival at the crag, a form of procrastination, as it does serve a functional purpose to actually stock up on food and water.

Stepping out the car, and the jitters are already apparent on my body, the walk in does little to calm the nerves, and racking up below the Stigmata Buttress will fray most people nerves to shreds. This 120ft high cliff of questionable permanency somehow overhangs, and seems to be held up by some form of magical spell, easily boken with the lightest of touchs.

Stigmata Buttress Craig Dorys
The ugly beauty of the Stigmata buttress, Cripple creek follows a right hand most hanging groove.

The initial rock band is the worst, although it barely improves as you gain height. My plan for today was the classic Cripple Creek, a single hanging groove line that shoots a direct line up the cliff to an overhang that protects the last 15ft. Racking up I go with the battlefield mentality of you can only place as much gear as you bring, and paraphasing Ed Douglas commentary on the iconic Gogarth video, Protection is based on quantity not quality. Loading myself down with over a double rack of cams, wires and about 20 quickdraws, I could barely move as I made the first move up the initial wall, and place a cam, that may have stopped me dropping down the slopes below to the sea.

That initial wall, is loose, real loose, its like playing a game of vertical jenga, as you work out which holds you can use, the higher you go the more commited you are, until you finally gain a ledge at the base of the corner.  A weiry peg, and a tiny cam offer a small reward for the intial foray up this wall, two body lengths above is the next gear, beyond that is unimportant, and like a war, the first battle lines are drawn.

With a move upwards the battle between body, mind and rock begins. Shapes flow, height is gained and the gear is reached. Stuffing gear into the small crack like a bloated christmas turkey, anxiety falls and attention is focused on the next gear, and then the battle plans are drawn for the next skurmish upwards. Will that hold support my weight, will that one…

Before long you are sucked into a war zone that resembles downtown mogadishu, I have enter the zone though. Processing a million variables every second, body and mind working in perfect synchronisity. Half way up the crack, and I have four quickdraws left and about three cams that will fit the crack, a new battle of the mind to work out what I should place where adds to excitement, time has gone from my world and in what could have been and instance or and hour I am at the roof.

Wild moves round this, and I am bridged across the lip, looking down forever. Yet it is here I feel the least in control, as ledges like this one have regularly fallen off under the weight of climbers. Chris Wentworth and Lee MacGingley attempting to repeat War and Peace an epic traverse of this crag ended in a ledge collapsing, broken ribs and thousand yard stares. Tim Neill of Honey dew, stood on a  ledge looking 100ft down a pitch, barely a move from the top when the ledge collapse, 94ft later he stopped feet from the ground.

I quickly move off and through the last difficult to an undignified mantel to the belay ledge, My two remaining runners somehow manage to fit the only two decent cracks that constitue a belay. Sat at the top I chuckle to myself, as whilst I had gotten lighter with every piece of gear place, I now knew that llion was getting heavier and heavier with almost every metre he gained.

Interestingly many people consider the route to be bold, and it is, but in a little over 30m of climbing, I managed to place over 30 runners. The climbing is easier than Cenotaph Corner, but be sure you have the the mental capacity and experience with loose rock to enter this arena for the unwell. For me I have learnt to not so much master but control this environment, and the years of climbing, have made this a place where all of my climbign skills are tested to the full, technique to reduce the weight on holds, gear placements to make it ‘safe, and mind control to remain calm and collected throughout.

Cripple Creek Rack
The rack Llion cleaned from Cripple Creek!

After that Llion did Knowing Her, another great piece of loose horror up the golden wall, and with that we had slane our emenies for the day, sounding the retreat we headed to Abersoch for caffine, medals and the most important part of climbing a well deserved cake.

The amazing Yellow Wall, Craig Dorys
Broken Wire
This wire was insitu, it fell apart when removed! The quality of teh rock is seen in the background!
Knowing Her Craiog Doris
Llion on Knowing Her, Craig Dorys
Llion on Knowing Her, Craig Dorys

BMC Warning Notice at Tremadog

The BMC has issued a warning to climbers at Craig Blwch Y Moch for Sunday, after the farmer who owns the land above the crag revealed that his planned diversification into new animal stocks has gone horribly wrong, and as of Saturday there is a unknown number of lemmings occupying the top of the crag, some of the early jumpers have already cause several near misses for climbers.

Helmets are recommended, for the next day or so, as the jumping season comes over them. Countryside Council for Wales Officer Aled Jones, has warned that due to the waning moon the lemmings who have evolved to purge there population on a regular basis, will be prone to throwing themselves off the cliff, and adding that although small they can pack quite a punch at the end of their 150ft plummet.

The BMC Access and Conservation Officer for Wales, was unavailable for direct comment on this issue. However his office gave us the following response “Nid wyf yn y swyddfa ar hyn o bryd”.

BMC Lemming Warning at Craig Blwch Y Moch - Tremadog