Open Ceremony: Tim Bernese-lee

The Olympic opening ceremony was amazing, a true celebration of all that is British. From the industrial revolution through to the digital age. Including the guest appearance of Tim Bernese-lee, who on Christmas day 1990 launched the world wide web. Through which you get to read this blog and many more like it. The tweet Tim sent for the Olympic games was sent to thousands of pixels round the stadium. “the is for everyone”.

All those years ago, Tim could not have realised what he had started. His initial plan was to provide a way that scientists all over the world could collaborate on big science. He was working for CERN at the time, and this was before they built their large hadron collider under Switzerland.

Just over 20 years later and the internet has become something of a revolution. There were more tweets made during the opening ceremony than over the whole of the 2008 Olympics. So rapid has been the developments of the world wide web that unless you can find something on google it may as well not exist.

However we need to remember that the Internet is dependent on computers that another Brit created the idea of. The great Alan Turing who help break the enigma code using his logical processors the earliest form of computers. However those first computers would not have been possible without the man Bose who developed the first seminconductors used in radio that form the back bone of computation or the man at Texas instruments who create the first integrated circuits.

I have been research all these people and more for my book the science, history, culture and technology of climbing. Where I explore just what these and other great leaps forward in technology have meant to climbing and mountaineering. Plus how occasionally mountaineering has help influence science and medicine,

The fact that Tim was honour in the Olympics is great as to me sport is not just about fitter, higher stronger. It’s about technology and science helping achieve those. I can still remember when tennis rackets were wooden, then aluminium and finally the carbon fibre we have today.

I am sat in a train right now heading to watch the greatest show on earth, although I could easily be sat at home on my computer plugged into the Internet to watch whatever sport I wanted.

I’ll try and tweet some pictures or blog before, after or even during the event!

Climbing Connections: British Cycling and the MOAC

Everybody in the UK knows the name Bradley Wiggins after he dominated the Tour De France, eventually winning the event and helping his Sky teamate Mark Cavendish fire over the finish line on the final stage of the TdF in Paris. Not only did Wiggins win but the dominance of Team SKY was undeniable during the event.

It of course begs the question of who coaches this amazing team, well the head of performance at Team SKY is David Brailsford. Brailsford was raised in Deiniolen just outside Llanberis and after taking degrees in Sport Science and Psychology he went onto study a MBA at Sheffield business school. He now manages not only Team Sky, but is the British Cycling team’s performance director, where in 2008 he helped us win all those medals in the last Olympics.

His father was none other than John Brailsford who invented and developed the first purpose built climbing protection, the Acorn and subsequently the MOAC.

The world is one very small but amazing place. I hope Dave keeps up the success over the coming two weeks!

Why was Hillary invited to the 1953 Everest Expedition?

Well, exactly what the title says really. I have been research this for my book on the science and culture of climbing. I am exploring the class divide at the time and nearly all the other climbers were either educated at Ox-bridge or came from officer stock in the British Army. I am keen to find the reasons why Hillary and Lowe the two Kiwi’s were invited along on the expedition, other than they impresse Hunt on the recce.

I have my suspicions, but if you have read something and have a reference I can chase up, That would be great. Although I suspect the details will be filled away in the archives of the Alpine Club and Royal Geographic Society, where I assume the minutes from the Joint Himalayan Committee might throw light on the question.

Why did the Heights Hotel choose to close during the Snowdon Race

Every year Llanberis host a few great sporting events, the big three are the Snowdon Race, The Snowdon Marathon and the Slateman Triathalon. All three see thousands of competitors, supporters and spectators turn up and the village never looks so vibrant. Because of the arduous nature of these events they also attract a few great athletes and to me form the show pieces of what Llanberis has to offer.

Sadly for as long as I have lived here there has always been problems with youths often from small villages in the surrounding area who like to descend on Llanberis and get carried away drinking during the day and eventually as night descends fights often break out in the pubs and bars in Llanberis.

About two years ago I was giving a ML talk in the classroom above Pete’s Eats and gang of youths were having a running fight along the high street and there wasn’t a Police man in sight. Again not so long ago someone was stabbed in the Padarn Lake. First off we should blame those individuals who seem to think it fun and neccessary to spoil the great events that Llanberis hosts, however socail problems aside, it is as much a problem with the historic policing or lack of it.

This resulted in the Heights in Llanberis being shut on the evening after the race this year. Where for a time the Heights developed a reputation for bad behaviour, since its new management it has done great work to establish itself as a modern bar with good food and nice beer. In an effort to get rid of the elements that gave it that reputation it charges much more for food and drink than other pubs but as a result has managed to kick trouble into touch.

Despite this, they felt that opening on what could be one of their busiest nights of the year, they choose instead to close. One assumes to maintain their growing reputation for being a more family oriented pub. However I can’t help think that if the Police had successfully manage the situation that surrounds the big events in Llanberis then this situation won’t have had to occur at all.

A few years back, I was walking back from a friends house, the night someone got stabbed, and all there were on the high street were two Community Support Officers. Whilst a cheaper form of Policing, they lack the ability to actually arrest anybody, meaning that you put the power into the hands of yobs. Much like what occurred in the riots of last year when the sheer number of trouble makers handed power to yobs when the police failed to act quickly enough and with enough troops on the ground.

On subsequent events the policing has been much better, often with a Police survelliance vans parked on the high street mid way between the pubs. Last night was similar with an obvious Police presence and seemingly calm streets. The fact still remains that a business lacked the confidence in the Police to successful manage the situation and therefore closed.

In the main, you hear little of what happens to anyone causing trouble at these events and despite high profile calls for a zero tolerance on anti-social behaviour. The rural nature of community Police where support officers rather than police are tasked to the area means over the past few years a belief from those not so local yobs that travel into the area, that they can get away with causing trouble, means they do just that.

It would be nice if for the few nights these events happen that the North Wales Police forget ticketing the sportsmen’s cars and putting up speed traps and instead managed to sort out the problem of anti-social behaviour that surrounds the evenings after the event. Making very public arrests will no doubt serve as an effective deterent like the public court cases and draconian prison sentences that surrounded the london rioters.

As for me, well you can see that I was annoyed that it meant I couldn’t go for a pint yesterday evening!

Why I can’t wait for the Olympics

A few people are quite down on the Olympics, they cost too much, they are over hyped, they are…. Well I for one don’t care about the cost, I love the hype and for the last 37 years of my life I have loved everytime the Games has occurred. Whilst never a cutting edge sportsmans, many of my early heros were Olympic athletes, and not neccessarily champions either.

The reason why is that whilst you can watch world championships in a variety of sports, the Olympics has always seemed more important to the athletes, like the world championships of championship. As such the Olympic Motto runs true, Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. Dream are made and lost, and real drama unfolds in front of your eyes.

I remember Daley Thompson snapping his pole vault, Paula Radcliffe’s emotional crumbling after an injury made her drop out of both the marathon and 10000 metres in the 2004 Athens, the amazing feats of the British Cycling team in Bejing, the rowing machine that is Steve Redgrave especially winning his fourth and 5th medals. The shock on Dame Kelly Holmes face as she crossed the line in first placed and the few seconds she waited patiently to see if she was indeed the winner. Those are just a few of the british moments I remember.

When you include the other countries, then in the last Olympics seeing Osain Bolt break the world record in the 100 metres when he stopped running about 10m short of the line. The thorpeedo winning 8 medals, a perfect 10 in the gymanstics or diving.

Everyone who enters is a hero, and I just can’t wait to see those that dig deep and win the mental game of their sport. However the Olymipcs won’t be the Olympics unless there were valiant losers, the athletes who choke under the pressure or try too hard and pull up injured. There  was an american gymnast many years ago, I remember vividly, she injured herself  on a vault. However she had to make another vault to win, and despite injury she lined up. Sprinted down the runway and absolutely nailed her last vault. Landing essentially on only one leg having basically torn ligaments in her legs in the previous vault, in tears she was carried off.

All in all for me its about watch the bravest and most talented people in their sports push themselves to the very limit and occassional beyond. As a climber I like that, in fact I love it. Thats is why I have climbed to my limit on occassions to win the mental and physical challenges to succeed.

Citius, Altius, Fortius


Do you own an Online Climbing Shop?

Just what the title says really. I am looking for a online climbing shop that stocks both sepcialist climbing equipment and coaching books. The reason is that I have been looking into ways to eventually help monetise my new website, and whilst I can very easily set up a amazon store and get a return from the sales, as a writer I am also aware that Amazon constantly undercuts most specialist shops because they demand better wholesale prices than anyone else.

What I would perfer to do is have a partnership with an existing shop who maintains a website. In effect giving you a shop froint that links between the online library on iCoach and the icoach/Your company store so I can add a buy this book or video now button, as well as have a dedicated online store which is essentially a duplicate of your stores eCommerce site.

I return I would of course like a percentage of the profit, of which I am very open to negotiation as I am aware that the margins are extremely tight, especially on print media. Whilst I am unsure of the exact way to impliment it, I think that if you use an existing eCommerce solution then mirroring that site onto my site should be too difficult and then I can link from products directly to the store, and set a new account that tracks the sales form the site.

Even if your not interested, but own a store I would be curious as to what you thought of the idea. My fall back plan is an amazon store, but I really don’t want to do that. Seeing as the site is in its infancy, the chances are that for at least two years only limited traffic will be generated.

Snowdon Sings the Blues

Today I took a group up Snowdon, the weather was appalling but the group were great. They really knuckled down and fought through what can only be described as torrential rain to reach the summit. It is the first time for a while I have used the PYG/Miners route and whilst the weather did little to help. I can’t help feel that Snowdon is lost to a certain extent.

Whilst there are amazing parts of the mountain, many of which I have been to recently on ML training and assessment courses. Those hidden places are the types of places I’d like to keep to myself. The reasons why are hard to make without sounding elitist and other less ingratiating words. It is only when I occasionally venture up the PYG, Miners or Llanberis paths, the most popular routes up ‘the mountain’, that I am reminded that like so many of the peaks that fit into the group where the word ‘highest’ is use to describe them that the peak becomes less of a mountain and more of a honeypot for tourists.

Everest is a prime example of how a mountain that used to be held in such high esteem, and a place for mountaineers is now a place for those with enough money to be guided to the summit and to hell with the consequences. I recently joked to a friend that these corporate mountaineers seem to leave their moral compass at basecamp. After all if you have paid somewhere in the region of £50000 to climb the mountain would you stop if someone was to drop down dead in front of you?

Whilst Snowdon does not suffer from commercialisation, in fact it is more the peoples mountain, as it is free save the parking fees. As anyone with two feet and enough time can easily walk to the summit. Instead Snowdon suffers from being too popular, being the highest mountain in England and Wales, hordes of tourists flock to the mountain. If you are a mountaineer and ever go up there in the summer you will wonder why more of them don’t require rescuing.

However my bug at the moment isn’t poorly equipped people but the lack of respect the mountain gets from many of these tourists who have gone to extreme lengths to escape the city. Only to throw litter away like they were in a slum. The amount of rubbish strewn across the hillside infuriates me, no one seems to have educate these guys with the simple notion “Take only pictures, leave only footprints”. Instead they discard water bottles, cans, fag buts and crisp packets everywhere sometimes going to length to jam them between boulders in the hope that someone will come along and collect he rubbish.

I am sure some of this comes from the many three peak challenges that are constantly rolling into and out of Llanberis. Which don’t get me wrong is a great boost to the local economy, and we certainly get more from three peakers than the poor Lake District or Fort William. But again these people often seem poorly educated in how to treat one of the great mountainous and wild places left in the UK this side of Hadrian’s Wall.

However when you get to the summit, what should surely be the iconic centre piece of the experience I am astonished at the mess. Now whilst there is still rubbish, it often is blown away before too long. Nor is it the Summit cafe, I actually think it looks great compared to what used to be there. However as soon as the cafe was finished the workers seemed to think that the job was finished. Builders rubble and relics of past structures make the area immediately adjacent to the building look awful.

In my mind the Snowdon Railway, who no doubt make a lot of money from the cafe, should take metaphorical ownership of the ground within 10ft of the building and finish the job they started. Snowdon to me is the greatest asset North Wales has. It is visible from miles away and attracts people like the proverbial bees round the honeypot. Yet on closer inspection despite a £9 million facelift, it is still the highest slum in Britain.

I don’t know what the answer is, it just pained me today looking at the state of such an iconic mountain that despite me bemoaning it here, is actually my favourite mountain.

Caff succeeds on the Meltdown

Caff on the meltdown
Caff working the Meltdown, two weeks prior to the ascent

I got a call last night from Caff who had succeeded on the long standing Meltdown project. He was celebrating in the pub, and invited me along for a beer. A good night with too many sound bites to rememebr or mention. That aside the route sounds as hard and awesome as history has told.

Originally a Johnny Dawes project, the line is a staggering F9a. I was glad to pay my park in it by belaying him on one of his more recent sessions working the route. In fact the weather has been so bad I haven’t really been out since then. Although it is part due to the tendonitus I have been battling with for the last few months.

Anyway, Bon effort caff.

Caff on teh Meltdown F9a
Caff on the Meltdown two weeks prior to the first ascent