Possible few days for MIA Trainee

I have some work coming up, and have had a few requests for some experience/shadowing from various MIA trainees. I have emailled most of them, but none are available for the course. If you think you might want to come along and see how to manage a client on some multipitch venues then please get in contact.

The course is a 5 day climbing course 1:1, and the client would like to possibly get onto lead climbing by the end of the course. So essentially you would be belaying, however you would also get to see what routes I choose and how I go about breaking the skills and pitch down to teach leading. I would also be happy to chat to you at the end of each day to explain reasons behind route choice and other decision made during the day.

Sadly I can’t pay you for this, but might be a good few days in your logbook. Just thought I would ask and see if anyones interested.


Olympic Torch on Snowdon with Sir Chris Bonnington

Sir Chris Bonnington on the Summit of Snowdon with the Olympic Torch. Photo Copyright: Mark Reeves no reproduction on any media.

Well many people have known about the Olympic Torch going up Snowdon. Yet actually getting concrete information was woefully poor. Eventually we narrowed it down to early today, so myself and three friends set out to scale the peak to watch the Torch make its way from the train to the summit.

There was about 200 or so people up there, all but the media and officials had made early starts to get there for the event. As such the atmosphere was great, and shows something of a growing acceptance of the fact that the UK is about to host one if not the most important world sporting event in a couple of months.

Sir Chris Bonnington on the Summit of Snowdon with the Olympic Torch. Photo Copyright: Mark Reeves no reproduction on any media.

The torches making the summit of Snowdon came just days after Kenton Kool took one of the 1924 Olympic Medals awarded to the multinational team of mountaineers and porters on the 1922 Everest Expedition. Mallory was already preparing for his next expedition, and may have never seen his Olympic Medal as he was to vanish on Everest until his body was discovered a few years back.

Speculation over whether he summited is still a debate among some climbers. Sadly though Everest took his and many other peoples lifes from those first attempts to the present day. As Kenton Cool took the medal to the summit, 4 people were reported to have died, and the usual stepping over the dead, dying and unwell occured as on one day around 200 climbers attempted to summit the mountain. Which sadly has very few ‘true’ mountaineers on it these days, save for the guides.

However the Olympic Torch reach Snowdon should be seen as a celebration, as not only did it get there, but might highlight the fact that the BMC and UIAA have made a bid for climbing to become an Olympic Sport. Where it is currently on a shortlist for sports that may or may not make it to a Olympic Games in 2020 sometime.

I have put a couple of images up, these are the copyright of Mark Reeves and this site. You need prior permission to use the images, failure to gain that permission constitutes thieft. Any theft of these images will result in a hefty invoice coming your way. You have been warned!

Sir Chris Bonnington on the Summit of Snowdon with the Olympic Torch. Photo Copyright: Mark Reeves no reproduction on any media.

North Stack Wall

Another great day although there was some rain threatened in the mountains. So Si and I headed over to Gogarth as he had a couple of routes he wanted to do on North Stack Wall. There was a lovely breeze blowing into the zawn that kept the temperature bearable.

I started the day off with South Sea Bubble, been years since I did it. Rememberign the start to be rather tricky I was pleasantly surprised when I made my way through it with little difficult. I was then pretty much at ease, as I knew the route eased off and just stays sustained. I headed up to below the bulge and got some kit in. As I started up the crack I pause briefly to get another runner in. My ease almost undid me as I started to barndoor and quickly had to dash my hand back onto the sidepull I had nochantly let go of. I flew up the top crack, almost forgetting that I was leading the route, so stopped at a good foot hold only to fail to find a decent runner. After that it was plain sailing to the top.

Si then did Blue Peter, and flew up it with ease. Last time I climbed it I carried my SLR camera and it was quite trick with an extra few kilos. So I chose tie the camera to the ab rope this time. Although on saturday this resulted in my smashing the lens filter again when Caff had to haul the camera out of the last pitch of his new route. When I told him how much the lens was worth he was quite shocked. Although at least this time it wasn’t in Patagonia where there are no camera shops!

I have put some pictures on my facebook page, feel free to like the page if you do!

Tomorrow I have an early start, hope get some nice pictures if it doesn’t rain.

North Wales Rock App iPhone Update and Andriod version

Just after christmas I worked on an update for North Wales Rock, this has been ready to go for a while, as I just updated the database. It resulted in nearly another 100 routes being added to the database along with 16 topos. I rejigged a few other things as well. Steve then dabbled with the code some more before we then decided to wait until the we had an Andriod version ready so we could launch them on the same day.

Yesterday was that day, so we now have a both an iPhone/iOS version and the Andriod version of the NWR guidebook app. You can find out more at theSend.co.uk or visit iTunes or Google Play.

….and the Hardest route in the Pass is…


The shadow of the cliff we were on today. Sorry but no reproduction without prior permission.

Well to be honest I don’t know, but I am pretty sure I belayed Caff on it today.

The story started late last night when I was 4 pints into an evening in the heights. So the morning was hard work, although after walking up to Cryn Las I had an hour or so to lay about in the sun, as Caff ran round to the top of the crag, worked a few moves on the top pitch before we started up the Grooves.

I did the first pitch, and I hadn’t been on the Groove since climbing it with Tombstone Tom as Caff knows him. That was back in the mid nineties during the university years. I forgot how good that pitch was so nice to climb and the conditions on the crag were the driest I’ve seen in a while. Caff then lead off to find the first ‘easy’ pitch of his new route.

Looking up it seemed inoculous, follow an E2 then move out right to a groove, before finishing up a wall above. Caff made the E2 look about E4, but the 6c section look like 6a. The climbing on this pitch is really technical with only just adequate protection. The rock is quiet dirty so if you are off with your foot work your shoes will soon be covered in lichen. On a previous attempt with Caff someone else suggested that this pitch might warrant E7. Caff thinks more like E6, but expect an old school E6 grade and solid climbing that is desperate. I resorted the gear, much tension and pulling from caff and swearing a lot to get up the pitch. I am pretty sure I cheated past the 6c moves!

Caff on the easy 6c pitch. Sorry no reproduction without prior permission.

Arriving at the belay exhausted, above me is a leaning wall capped with roof. Already my heart was sinking as I had struggled with the ‘easy’ pitch. Caff description was its easy to a    ledge then you get some gear before doing the crux. A small pointless wire that is there for show breaks up this sequence, before you quest on up to jugs and good kit. Above that you traverse the roof on undercuts to reach a flying arete. Getting from the jugs to the end was F7b. I am currently climbing about F7a maybe a + if the wind is in the right direction and that is from the end of the crux which to my expert eye appeared to have very limited supply of small holds, which if you could hold might lead somewhere.

Caff flew up to the ledge, widdled in some gear and then down climbed to get psych for the battle ahead. A quick brief on what rope was being clipped into which runners, where the hairy section is and he booted up. One more runner and a quick rest on the ledge and caff unleashes the beast, and fires up the leaning wall on tenuous sidepulls and fancy foot work. Pausing momentarily to fire in a tiny micro wire, I heard something I haven’t heard for a long time, Caff power screaming. I instantly think, shit, Caff power screamed on that move. Now I have witnessed this once maybe twice before, and it means the climbing is actually impossible for all but a very few good men…. and women.

In the briefest of moments Caff is now hanging on jugs jamming cam after cam into a break. Shaking out the rest of the climb is easier, but pumpy. Where after gaining the roof, you undercut 20ft or more rightwards to reach a hanging arete at its end. As Caff rock round this, I could tell from the abrupt change in angle and the freshness in his arms (No bingo winging from caff) that he was more or less home and dry.

Anyway caff tops out and puts me on belay. I reach the easy bit to the ledge only realise that it wasn’t that easy and that ledge was more of a large edge. I then had to remove all the gear which was essentially as far as I got. Everytime I tried to even find the holds that start the crux. I found out that just as I thought having heard the power scream, the moves were impossible and I was not one of the few. That sequence is so hard that caff had to top rope this pitch to find a sequence that worked. Looking at the holds on offer, it looked like a similar angle as size of holds that are on Trauma an E8 on Dinas Mot. However where Trauma’s crux soon leads to improving holds and an easy top out. On this route your not even half way.

Caff above the crux on the top pitch, the route now gains the roof and traverse right to the edge of the image where it climbs the arete. Sorry no reproduction without prior permission.

Thats all I saw of the route, as I very rapidally lost contact with the rock. Whilst I could gain it again, actually pulling into a climbing position was near impossible for a man of my callibre. Eventually I got lowered off to the ledge and caff had to ab the pitch to strip it and then climb up to the top pitch of The Grooves.

I have been climbing in North Wales since the 1990’s. I was lucky enough to climb with Pete, Leo and Will. All of which were outstanding climbers. I have seconded them up many route, some E7 although I never even attempted Trauma when I belayed Leo the day before he successfully lead the route. I am convinced that what I saw today was climbing at and above that, given Trauma gets E8 and on Caff’s new route that only gets you half way, I was somewhat amused that Caff has given this route E8, but after that the route is well protected, so I guess he has more of an idea than me.

Caff is on form at the moment, riding the wave of the fitness he gained to climb the Big Bang F9a. He was close to climbing a hat trick of E7 in a day at Pembroke this week. He came back up yesterday, and described himself as feeling quiet tired after four days climbing some impressive routes down there. Yet unrested he managed to climb a route that I think will stand as a major modern testpiece for a considerable time. He had attempted all the pitches ground up, slipping off the mossy groove on the on-sight of the first pitch and then backing off the top.

It served as a reminder to me that my friends are awesome. Through chance I was there ringside seat, watching this amazing feat of climbing that will stand as possibly the hardest route in Llanberis Pass for a long time. I have exchanged texts with Caff why I have been writing this mainly with Caff asking what I though of this name or that name.

To which I had to reply that this route will probably be one of Caff legacies for years to come. Four pitches long with two very hard pitches on a north facing mountain crag. My point to Caff is it doesn’t matter what I think, its him who needs to be happy with it, and he isn’t just naming another route either.

He didn’t like my suggestion of Azkaban, seeing as all the routes in the area are names of Prison’s. Lubyanka is named after the HQ of the KGB and the associated prison. Long Kesh was another name for the Maze prison in Northern Island. Anyway I have left the naming in Caff’s capable hands however the overall grade Caff is offering is E8 6c.

I have a few pictures I tried to take as he climbed. I will try and put them up soon.


Leave Your Moral Compass at 8000m

The News today will probably be about Kenton Cool high alttitude Mountain Guide and now 10 times summiteer of Everest. Today he climbed it to put the Medal won in 1924 by the original Everest Expedition. When the medal was presented the team were already in the last phase of preparation for there ultimate fatal 1924 attempt on the mountain, where Mallory lost his life in striving to stand on the roof of the world. It was a dream for some of the original expedition to see the medal reach the summit

Some 90 years later and Everest is just another peak, plagued by the honey pot effect of being the highest in the world. My local mountain Snowdon suffers the same fate because it is the highest in England and Wales. In two short weather windows over 300 people have attempted the stand on the summit over about 3-4 days. With this summit rush comes risk.

In the news some four people have died already this year, however more alarming is the lack of respect for those that have perished. One 19 year old from the UK the youngest woman to complete the Seven Summits talks about walking over those that have fallen by the wayside. She is sadly not alone, as most simmiteers have paid upwards of $50000 dollar for a ticket to the top. To paraphrase an old climber, ‘They stop at not and nothing stops them’ would describe their blinkered approach to mountaineering.

Moral Bankrupcy seems to reign in the death zone. How people justify it in their minds stepping over or around people who have collapse and leaving them for dead if they aren’t already. The sad fact of the matter is that the only mountaineers on the mountain are probably the guides and sherpas, as I know very few of my peers who could actually afford it. Instead it is more likely to see some banker or business tycoon with more money than sense and a ruthless outlook on the world. Yet they will in effect tar mountaineers with the same brush.

If you’d like to read more about Moral Bankrupcy in the Himalaya then I can recommend Joe Simpson’s ‘Dark Shadows Falling’.

It begs the question ‘What makes some ignore the suffering and death of another?’

Cromlech Session and Cwm Glas

Well, last night I head to the Cromlech Boulders for a quick boulder. A good scene although we had to run away from the crowds and hide on the left hand blocks. Almost too hot to pull hard, but a nice session ticking the usual circuit.

Then this evening I headed up into Cwm Glas and climbed the Stebbing. A nice E2 on main wall of the area. Although this area is rarely in condition which is apparent by the ample moss and lichen. After that we went to a more obscure area, one that I had avoided for years, mainly because after one look I was disappointed.

Si wanted to climb Sugar and Spice an E4 next to Famous Grouse, after a friend recommended it. Now take from this what you will but having heard who the recommendation came from my internal alert siren was wailing. In that it was likely to be any route that person had got up or failed on, and turn lyrically by the recommender into the best route in the world.

There are many people like this who’s enthusiasm over comes them and every route is the best in the world. Whilst they are refreshing to climb with bringing with them enough psych for everyone. My old and ageing bones and a rigorous route filter that is highly tuned means I rather dully spend my life climbing the classics. I can’t rememeber the last time I climbed a no star route.

Anyway Simon got commited and grabbed for the insitu thread half way through the crux. I later found out that the recommender fell of instantly after clipping the thread. So whilst the climb was on nice rock it was rather lichenous and too short to be any good in my book. I’ll put some photos up on my Facebook page later.

The Best Route on Slate is….

I have climbed a lot in the Slate quarries and have climbed many of the classics numerous times. As such I like to think I have a reasonable appreciation of what is good and what is not. Whilst many newcomers to the quarries flock to the easy sports routes and good for them, its great to see a place I love and cherish feel vibrant.

I started climbing in the quarries in 1994, I was taken tio the Rainbow Slab and top roped Red and Yellow…. in a driving blizzard. I was hooked, the next year I moved to Bangor to study at university, and during that time started to explore the myriad of levels and routes. A year later and I ran into a 16 year old Leo Houlding and for most of the rest of my studies I escaped lectures early on a monday and met him in the Slate Quarries.

Paul Pritchard’s writing on the 1980’s lifestyle was being published in On The Edge Magazine, and the idea of being a Slatehead became something of a dream. I am not sure if I ever reached that level, but I have repeated most routes to E5, a few F7a+, worked the harder routes but never redpointed and even put up a variety of different routes from single pitch routes to a large gnarly and as yet unrepeated horrorshow.

In that time in the quarries, I have climbed one route more than others. That being Comes the Dervish, however to name that the best route in the quarries is something of a mistake in my humble opinion. For sure it is one of the most aesthic lines, and it climbs sublimely but for me it is simply the entry level route for those that want to become a slatehead. It is polished though, although a lot of that is probably from my regular laps of the route with many different friends.

However last night I saw a photo of another friend climbing my pesonal pick of the Slate Quarries, and another friend who hadn’t climbed it called round and wondered whether I fancied it? I haven’t moved so quickly in weeks, as it is a route that finding someone to climb it with can be hard. Why? Well it is E5 and has two pitches that warrent that grade, one for the ‘Hero’ and one for the ‘Married Man’.

I sent Simon, the married man up the Hero pitch, whilst I went for the safer but more sustained top pitch. Both pitches are as good as any E5 in the quarries, but together there is extra synergy. Simon plodded up the first pitch, ignoring my hand placed pegs in a break beta, then I set off up the top pitch.

Again learning from previous mistakes I doubled up on small micro cams and attacked the most amazing finger jamming crack in the quarries. Fight the rising pump, given it was 2 grades harder than anything I had climbed recently, but I knew up at the end of the crack there was another good rest. Pulling into it I think I might have let out a rather enthusiastic whoop as my knackered rock boots meant I was having to pull a bit harder than I would have liked to compensate.

So anyway the route is called ‘Central Sadness’ and is the very best route in the quarries.

North Wales Rock Climbing App and iPad brochure

Well it has been an interesting time in the last few days. First I returned from my mini break assessing on an ML to find a letter from the IRS who have allocated me a US tax code. What this means is that first of all my Snowdonia Mountain Guides Brochure will be available as an iPad book, and hopefully within the next month I’ll complete another project which is the ‘Coaching Processes for Climbing Instructors’. This will launch first onto the iPad before making it to amazon as an eBook. So potentially a very exciting time ahead as I enter into the world of publishing myself via the wonders of new media.

I have also received the latest news from Steve Golley at theSend about the North Wales Rock App. The next update for the iPhone version is imminent, so if you already have the app lookout for this update, as it adds an additional 60+ routes to the guidebook (The guide has somewhere in the region of 600 routes now!). That same data is also being used for the Andriod version of the app, and I know a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting the release on the Andriod smart phone platform. There are other developments in the pipeline all essentially tweaks to this great platform like some tide tables and intergrated weather reports.

This and my development of a training application that moves my initial performance profiling app on into something more useful is also underway. If anyone has experience of  JQuery/Javascript, JSON and potentially the facebook authentication API in the North Wales areas or beyond and would be keen to help me out with a few things do get in touch as I am keen to make the icoachclimbing site much better than the one that already exists on my Snowdonia Mountain Guides website.

Other than that I am looking forward to the week ahead as the sun is finally out and the temperatures are now in double figures!

Also we are looking for any Andriod phone users who are active bloggers/twitterers to potentially get a free andriod version or iphone version for reviewing purposes.

Getting Your Geek on

Many ofmyfriends know that I like to get my geek on. Spending hours at a time look at frustrating lines of code wondering how I can get something to work. When I grew up my school had a few BBC micro computors, most of the lessons where spent with the teacher trying to get all the computors to load the relevant program. No sooner had we done this and the bell seemed to ring.

Over the past year I have been learning PHP and SQL to develop a web based application. I am by no stretch of the imagination a programmer though. In learning this basic language I recently started wondering how we can use computors more in delivering coaching in climbing, but more importantly if and how we can use ICT in places like Outdoor Education through LEA centres.

I am on the waiting list for a device call RaspberryPi. For those that don’t know what it is. The computor was designed by Cambridge University who were disappointed with the level of programming skills that students were turning up with. As such they design a system that would run linux operating system, and a cut down computor specifically aimed at programming. As these devices cost £25, the demand is high, but there is a vacuum in the way that they could be used in school to teach software programming or other cross curicular development.

I saw a post on Facebook about a proposed event in Sheffield this september, they are interested in getting ideas from the front line of teaching, as to what type of projects the system could be used for and what lesons plans are out there already.

I would really like to bring to any teacher or techies attention this conference to see whether it is of interest to you. Saul who seems to be one of the people running with this idea has more details over on his blog, Brain Dump. I don’t know him but his blog seems like it is an interesting read.

I hope it goes well!