Climbers Against Cancer Website Now Live!

Unless you are one of the few people who don’t use the internet or facebook, in which case the chances are you won’t be reading this. Then you have probably already heard that Climbers against cancer website is now alive and well in cyberspace. You can also follow the love by following their facebook page. You can find out more in this UKC news piece on John Ellison and CAC

The chances are this t-shirts will eclipse all others this summer, or at least I think so. Mainly due to the coverage and support the charity is getting from big name climbers. Until now it had been reasonably hard to get hold of these T-shirts, with the launch of the website and online shop. The T-shirts cost £15 and include postage.

So what are you waiting for?

We Have Touchdown

We Have Touch Down.... The Devil's Appendix has connected and was climbed today.-

After yesterdays efforts, the least of which was the hike up and down. I was dead set on a route with an easy approach and some interesting climbing. Idwal seemed the answer and  it seemed every winter climber from here to nottingham and asked the same question and got the same reply. I blame blogging for letting people know what is in condition!

We headed straight for the Screen a lovely IV, 4 and joined one of the shortest queues. My plan had been do the Ramp then the Screen, but the volume of traffic seemed too much. So we were content with the Screen and follow/past a couple of climbers who had broken the first pitch in half and then left our belay in as there was nothing else other than a poor screw and a couple of sketchy hogs.

After that we had to wait for the my warthogs for a while, but to be fair the top pitch was not in the best condition with a few wobbly sticks to get over the main bluge. To give you an idea there were teams on Idwal Stream, South Gully, Chicane Gully, The Ramp, The Screen, Devil’s Pasture and in reference to the post title The Devil’s Appendix.

Yes the icicle has finally touch down and I suggest if you have it on your list then tomorrow is the day to do it before the thaw due friday/saturday. I am not sure if the top pitches were climbable as I only saw one team on the first pitch. The gossip going round the Cwm as we waited to depart was earlier someone had fallen off and possible KO themselves, but later walked away. Last night as we walked out the RAF were rescuing a fallen climber from around Devil’s Pasture. So be careful out there.

My little finger is the size of my thumb as well after my axe penetrated further than anticipated. Don’t think I have broken it but it is throbbing like mad. So rest for me and maybe time to hang the axes up for another year given the weather coming up over the next few days. Although if it re-freezes then the Trinity face may well be worth a visit, we shall have to see what is what over the next few days.


Safety in Numbers

Simon leading the top ptich of El Mancho. Thank to Chris Guest for the photo.

My life is governed by numbers (….and some letter!), E6, F7b, VI 6, V9. They are all numbers that I know, I have operated safely within those grades at various times in the past. Knowing your numbers is good, they are a benchmark we can measure our ability against. It is bragging rights. It is a whole host of stories. It is friends both present and absence. It is part of my life as a climber.

I will never be good enough to set the climbing world on fire with one of my ascents, but that’s not the point of it all. The point, if climbing has one, is to find where you are right here and right now. It is about pushing myself occassionally in a myriad of climbing displines and drawing a line in the sand. A reference point through which I can judge myself, we are our own harshes critics after all.

This last week those numbers have been winter climbing oriented, and having lead a V, 5/6 pitch last week, that line had moved. Mainly because the amount of mixed climbing I have done is limited.  The line was unknown and in trying to find the boundary, I headed out today to reappraise the situation. Having never made it to the top of Clogwyn Ddu it seemed appropriate to climb El Mancho, its number is VI, 7 and it even has 4 stars.

It has another number, it is 850m up the side of a mountain, a steep mountain. I did not count the steps, it felt like a few thousand too many. After all that sweating I was disapointed to see other climbers there, until a friends Chris Guest came into focus (My glasses steamed up so were in my pocket). He and ian were going for El Mancho as well, so we agreed to follow them.

Si led up the ramp and joined Chris at the belay. I joined them all below the now seriously steep wall. Ahead I saw the pitch, remembering its number I quickly tried to remember that it is a number within reach. For those who don’t climb and even those that do this may sound weird, but in my mind within seconds I had climbed the route. That to me is the hardest part of climbing, the belief. When its there, its there and when its not finding it can be more challenging than the actual physical climbing.

Today it was there, and I was chomping at the bit. Hooking along the ramp, good gear abounds for a route this steep. A few committing pull up off good sticks and the worse was in the bag. It was now my time to join Chris and Ian for a chat. It was like hot desking on the belay, which a few years ago would have ruined the expeience for me. Today it was the social side to climbing that I enjoy. The short chats with a band of brothers in pumped forearms.

Me leading the first hard pitch of El Mancho. Thnak to Si Lake for this.

Chris went up and Simon moved in to fill his space. Cameras, jackets and rack are swapped. Words are said and simon disappears after Ian who is now on the infamous bellyflop ledge, looking down at us. Like a beefed up winter man sized version of  Shadrach chimney exit.

All too soon and the rope goes tight and simon calls on belay. This pitch despite being on the blunt end of the rope I am unsure of. Straight away I use brutal force and ignorance to thug my way up on bomber hooks. Only to be stuck by a wide crack. I resorted to fist jamming, it is mixed climbing after all.

Si on the first steep corner with uber hooks. Here he shows good technique, I opted for brute force.

All too soon and I am level with the ledge, eyeing it up. The ledge stares back. My attempt at a dignified approach lasted less than the time it took me to wedge my axe in the crack at its back. Torquing it in with twice the force as was actually needed and there I am. Facedown looking down the crag. My mind has Charlie Croacker’s expression as he say ‘right no body move’, but move I must.

I do the 6th thing I ever learnt and rollover followed by the 5th sit up. Above I find a hook and manage to move to number 10 and stand up with the aid of funiture. Whilst physically getting stood above the overhang is the crux, the bomber hooks mean I go for option B in winter climbing, pull like a tractor. Above the holds sketch out and mental I am push to get my head round what will hold my weight and what won’t. My best guesses play out and I join Simon at the top of El Mancho my finest ever winter route.

The numbers fade along with the sun, but the deep satisfaction of the battle lingers like the warm glow of windburnt cheeks.

Thanks go to Simon he has a guiding website like me at North Wales Climbing and Chris Guest who also does what I do through Skylark Mountain Adventures. They supplied the photos from todays adventure.


Good Weekends Work

Had a great weekend introducing some winter climbing to Simon. We headed up into Cwm Glas and climbed five short easy pitches up the right hand side of Cryn Las, and hten across an up to Face Route, which looked good.

The following day we followed the crowds to Idwal Stream, which is the perfect introduction to Ice Climbing. Was meant to head out today but a nother Simon had to bail last minute. So we are rescheduling to tomorrow. On the plus side my legs have had a  rest!

Winter is definitely here!

Well just as forecast the snow has turned up today and I have had to move my car of my non gritted road to the high street. In hope that I can drive it to Bangor to pick up a client later. Whilst I have fully expected to give refiunds for winter courses for lack of conditions. I might be in a situation where I give a refund due to too heavy conditions.

At the moment my client is stuck in London trying to find a train to Bangor that isn’t cancelled. We shall have to see. A few friends were heading up to Clogwyn Ddu today. My guess is that it is artic up there ATM!

Anyway, we shall have to see what the day brings. I have lots of availability next week for Welsh Winter Skills. So if you want to come find out about ice axe, crampons and other winter skills then get in touch.

If you want to brush up on your avalanche assessment skills then you can get my new Mountaineer’s Guide to Avalanches on iPad and Kindle.

Mixing it up

I am prone to short bouts of winter climbing usually getting a few routes done a year as living in Wales getting conditions and a day off are tricky. However today I headed out with Dave Evans to get on Blenderhead on Clogwyn Ddu. It was great up there today no wind, frozen turf and fairly easy to remove rime and dry cracks.

I lead the first pitch off the ramp, a nice tech 5 according to the guide, but consensus was it was probably tech 6, it certainly felt way more technical than any mix stuff I have done before. Dave then laid seige to the main pitch and kept plugging away at it and made real progress as he edged his way through the crux. Eventually in his own words his snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Rocking/squirming/thrutching into the niche at the top of the slot he blew a stick and was ejected. Some good air was taken!

He was all up for a second go, but time was growing short and after a short rest he realised just how worked he was from his effort. He felt it was the hardest thing he has tried and suggested maybe the tech 7 grade for the pitch was maybe out. But the guide did suggest it might get harder as the turf disappeared.

It was a busy day up there. Two guys from sheffield were on El Mancho, which looks amazing. Nick Bullock and Libby P did a new route from the base of Y Gully Left hand and up the wall on the left to the base of pillar chimney. Nick found the time to comment on my tommy two coats approach to surviving winter, I probably looked like the michelin man.

He then literally ran up pillar chimney and then off up some mixed terain above. He must have had a lecture to get to as he seemed to rushed to place any gear! Was an awesome display of his winter waddage. Although there seemed to be lots of people having it there today. Another team were trying something futuristic over to the left of the crag and I heard Pete H did his project there yesterday, so things are obvious in good nick.

Anyway was good to mix it up with a little mixed climbing. The short pitch I lead even managed to put a spring in my step this evening. Sadly all the picks are on Dave’s camera, hopefully he’ll send me some over at some point.

Tryfan is rather Icy ATM

Yesterday I was working teaching someone how to scramble on Tryfan, the weather was dry but with a very cold wind with rime starting to form fairly low down. However as we ascended there was a thin film of ice covering the rock, not really verglas but enough to make it fairly spicy. We made into the gully that leads around the North Tower.

At this point I made the decision to rope my client up as the icy rock made it look like bambi on ice. The reason I decided to rope up was I felt it would be easier to safeguard my one client this way rather than spot as I normally would. We kept the rope on till the base of the South Ridge. It was a good day and Keiran enjoyed the day out, although he was a little apprehensive at times due to the conditions.

It looks like we are due a few more cold days, hopefully we will get some snow and ice build up over the next few days, and who knows we may even get some winter conditions by the end of next week. If it does pan out to winter then I still have availability on welsh winter skills courses and private tuition.

New Beginners Guide to Avalanches eBook

It has been a rather hectic week for me dealing with the iBookstore amazon and ISBN, not to mention finishing off part 2 of the avalanche series over on UKC and writing another piece on winter skills for them. After my post yesterday I thought i’d give a breakdown of the new book as well as point out my next publication as I dabble i the world of publishing.

The Mountaineer’s Guide to Avalanches is a simple book that is around 15000 words long and has around 30 illustrations to help give any UK winter hillwalker, mountaineer or climber a better understanding of Avalanches.

It starts off with a story about me being avalanched many years ago and moves into a few stories of others who have not been so luck. If you like giving a backdrop of why you need to know something about avalanche risk when heading in the mountains in Winter. The next chapter gives  a brief history of our understanding of avalanches and the start of avalanche research.

The following chapter talks about the basics of snow and the many types we can get. Inparticular we finally start to talk about what helps bond snow together and what can have both positive and negative effects on the stability within the snowpack. This if you like is a underlying principle of snow mechanics and how snow changes or metamorphosises beneath our feet.

The fourth chapter describes the parts of the avalanche, if you like giving you a basic vocabulary of avalanche specific terms. What helps keep snow in place and what increases the risk of slab avalanches. Again fairly fundemental principles with which we explore more practically as the book progresses. Topics include convex slopes, optimum angle for avalanches, conice hazards, and the effect of aspect and altitude.

The next chapter is the start practical elements and looks at the Scottish Avalanche Information Service avalanche reports and how to interpret them. Before the next chapter takes this forecast and looks at making real time avalanche assessment on the hill. At its most basic it is about looking around you for telltale signs that may confirm or otherwise change what forecast said. These observations are described as you might experience them on a day out before we look at digging hasty pits and get our hands in the snow. We end this chapter by reconstructing it in the WARTS approach to avalanche assessment and avoidance, if you like giving us a framework to work within.

The penultimate chapter looks at what we can do to both survive an avalanche ourselves or help others we have seen avalanched get out alive. We look at what to take on the hill to aid our searches and recovery, as well as how to go about searching and avalanche for survivors and digging them out quickly.

The final chapter looks at some of the ‘black spots’ in the UK and links to the SAIS map of known avalanches and finishes on their 7 top tips for avoiding avalaches. All in all this a really good guide and introduction to the subject of snow and avalanche danger. It is just that though, an overview,  although it will help point you in the right direction for a greater understanding.

The book cost £5.14 on amazon and is available for kindle devices and it cost £4.99 in iTunes as an iBook for iPad. Whilst the content is the same in both, the layout works much better as an iBook, as Kindle users will know layout is not the devices strong point. All the screen shots are from the iPad version. Sadly this year the book won’t be available in paper form, I may make a print on demand version for next winter, however the cost will be considerably more.

New Mountaineer’s Guide to Avalanches Book on Kindle and iPad

Well, I have finally got both versions of my avalanche book through Kindle and Apple iBookstore. Personally I think the layout is better for teh iPad version. There are two articles on UKC on a beginner guide to avalanches based on this book (part 1 & part 2).

There are also samples in either book store.

iPad version is here.

Kindle version is here.

I am heading to the wall so will give more information later.