Giving the Beacon nothing but problems!

Well today I have been giving the beacon problems, about 11 of them to be precise. They range from easy to V5/6. They are all on the slab area and range from thin crimpy little numbers, slopey volume and a few power moves in between. Hopefully the weather will stay good, but if it doesn’t then get in there and see if you can get in there and have throw.

I also had to head to my hopefully soon to be new house, to see if the leak had been repaired, sadly it was not. I am hoping it will be by tomorrow so we can complete on wednesday. Starting to get exciting now, although going to be hard work getting it up to the standard I want! DIY, here I come!

Missing Out

I have been up the top quarries a few times this year and everytime I am somewhat bewildered at people who flock to the new easy sports climbs in Bus Stop. Please don’t get me wrong, I do not want to be elitist, but I cannot see what the attraction is. These routes are generally scrappy and are barely scratching the surface of this amazing area.

If you want some really good easy slate with clean rock and good climbing then I recommend Australia or maybe even the new stuff near the peppermint tower. The first route in Bus Stop alarms me, I did it once and was more than a little nervous lowering off the perched block into which the lower off is place.

Today was a prime example of the sports climbing generation who turned up there this evening to climb. Whilst Llion and I ticked our way across the sundrenched rippled slab climbing Gnat Attack, Massambula and Scarlet runner (I use a long stick clip to clip the first bolt from a ledge, making it a nice E3), about ten climbers were in the shade sport climbing.

On the plus side for people who want to climb the classic slate frighteners, the very routes that to me make the slate what it is, all the sport climbing has taken the brunt of the people. I remember a time when everyday there seemed to be someone on the Dervish. Nowadays I am wondering if it is just me who climbs there?

Climbing does go in cycles and I wonder whether in a year or so when everyone has climbed all the modern sports routes, whether they will move back towards routes that you remember for good reason.

Whilst I have climbed all the rippled slab routes, it is perhaps the first time in a year I have done the slab circuit. Each route is exciting, committing and at the end of the day I get to savour that complete climbing experience.

If you do want to visit the slate to savour the ‘experience’, then remember that the sports cimbing is just one tiny facet. My personal favourite of the sport routes are Steps of Glory, a F5b above looning the tube and a little harder at F6a+ We Speak No Americano in California. There are of course other fantastic easy sports routes, however none are in Bus Stop quarry.

So next time you think about sports climbing in the quarries maybe think about the other routes that are a little bolder, but probably no harder. You never know, the penny might drop and you’ll realise what your missing out on! Seamstress, Mental Lentils and Looning the Tude are all sub-extreme and excellent trad routes.

If you see me walking by shaking my head, it is just I can’t get my head around the appeal of some of the easy sport climbing on the slate. Remember that Castle Inn Quarry is only 30 mintues drive away.

If you can’t place gear then maybe come on my Learn to Lead course or maybe I should start offering a Slatehead for Beginners Masterclass.

Busy Bee

Well, It has been over a week since I was last on here blogging. It hasn’t been due to doing nothing to blog about. In fact it is quite the opposite. I have instead been bogged down with too much stuff and trying to find time to write here has been hard.

First off I have been very busy with a guidebook for Rockfax, and have spent much of the rainy days tapping away at a keyboard. This has meant that I have not really wanted to sit in front of a computor in the evening and blog, or instead I have been working on the guide in the the evening because I have been climbing or working during the day.

Those climbing and working have included training and assessing ML candidates, and Teaching people to climb. The last two days were a challenge as I had two severe climbers who wanted to push on through teh grades and check that they are doing everything right. The first day it rained so much it was more like vertical swimming but the second day was awesome as the sun came out and Tremadog. So I had them lead Christmas Curry with the micah finish and the Top two pitches of One Step….

For my own climbing I have been on the Slate a fair bit (Railtrack Slab was a good after work hit, were we climbed about 5 rotues up to E4) and down the Lleyn. Where I climbed Friendless. Which although given E1 feels more like E2 given the rotten nature of the rock on the top third. I have also managed to sneak in some indoor training when it was too bad to go outside.

Last saturday I went out bouldering with Dave Simmonite to get pictures for an article on a bouldering destination and at the same time arranged to write an article on some climbing in North Wales for Climber. So there are three pieces by me coming up soon. One called the Fear Test which is out in July, another on bouldering and then another on routes. All of which have required more time in front of a computor. Further taking up blogging time.

After the photoshoot I headed to the fantastic Tremadog festival, and hooked up with Tom Livingstone who climbed/aided/cleaned Void. I kind of knew he would probably fail but didn’t say anything. As he made the pod look desperate, as he had to layback it! The boy can’t jam!

Finally I have been in the throws of possibly the most stressful time of my life. As I have all but brought a house. Surveys are done, searches completed and I am just waiting for a leak to be fixed before we complete, as the solicitor already has all the cash in place to send at a moments notice. It is exciting and gripping at the same time, although when I move in I probably have around 2 years of DIY to turn the place into a really nice home. First job is mould removal, as it hasn’t been lived in for 3 years and is rather damp.

To add further complexities I receive the penultimate chapter back from my editor for my Science, History, Technology and Culture of Rock Climbing and Mountaineering Book. This one was on why people engage in risky pastimes like climbing. Reading it back after a few months. Even I was riveted by this chapter.

So I am full steam ahead with work, life and climbing. If you want to come and join me on  for some coaching as the summer arrives and help me pay off my house. Then please visit Snowdonia Mountain Guides.

Evening Sends

Since lobbing off Belldance, I have been back on the slate. I have had a couple of evenings around never neverland, one with Llion and one with the Evans. We did simialr things and managed to rack up ascents on Freshair Crack, Scheraerzade, Kubla Khan and Short Stories. On both days we got rained off. Thankfully just as someone finished seconding a route.

Yesterday I went up to Australia and Llion did Goose Creatures, then I did Looning the tube. We then headed down to Railtrack and did a new route on the left. It is a candidate for worst route on slate. Llion then lead Gerboa Racer, a rather scrappy E4. I then lead Mad on the Metro an E3/4 5c. The latter is a really fine route and whilst bold is never hard, so it might warrant E3. Think Off the Beaten Track with bigger runouts.

Today I was forced back inside to the beacon and did a few routes up to 6b, and then a some boullering up to V6. Not sure what to do tomorrow, but probably the wall again.

What goes up must come down!

Well in keeping with the pushing myself. I had eyes on a hard route on the Dervish slab, I choose it because despite being bold it is essentially safe on the crux. I made it more so by climbing the Dervish to the overlap and arranging lots of gear there before heading all the way back down to the jug and stepping out right onto Flashdance and start eyeing up the top of Belldance.

At which point I am instantly bamboozzled by the way ahead to the overlap. The description clearly makes this the crux, chatting to Charlie yesterday he mentioned this is the crux and that you go much further right than you think. I essentially tried to go two ways each time scuttling back down to the good footholds each time, wonder what goes on. Out further right is a third and only remaining option, a hairline crack with a few what look like holds in it. After what seemed like an age I committed to see what the holds were like, knowing i’d be commited to the sequence, but with runners level with me I was going to be OK.

I managed to onsight the crux moves, a sequence of testing 6b tech to the overlap and quickly got my hands establish on two crossly crimps above. I look left at the rope arching towards the runners now level with me but about 30ft away, gulp. It took me a while to calm down and find the footholds to get over the overlap but again I committed as the climbing eases slightly above and I know it’ll be fine when I am stood on my handholds. Stepping my foot high onto a tiny dink I rock over and get my left over the overlap. Up and right are better holds, reaching up I am 4 inches short. Undetered I extend onto my tiptoes and bam.

My foot pops, I drop like a sack of spuds back down over the overlap, my feet brush the slab and send me backwards down the slab. I slam into the slab with my back, like I have been thrown by some Olympic Judo champion for ippon. By now was expecting to have started my deceleration but I seemed to be going faster. Just as I had enough time for the thought to go through my mind that shouldn’t I be stopping by now, the ropes start coming tight but I still keep pumpeting as Llion is pull off his feet, offering me a ‘soft catch’.

I come to rest way below the crux of the Dervish, in fact I fell more than half the height of the slab from where I was, slightly winded and crest fallen. Yet again I had done the crux of the route and blown the easy climbing as my foot pooped. I lower off. Llion climbs the Dervish and retrieves my gear. I recon it was a good 40ft+ fall although, just like the fisherman, each time I tell the story the size gets bigger. So it was a 50 footer now.

Before you all get worried for me. Remember that I choose this route because despite being bold, with gear in the overlap I felt it was ‘safe’. Be careful out there as what goes up must come down. Just after Llion came down from the Dervish, The Evans turned up, fashionably late, with a good excuse but very bad news. A friend has not been so lucky and is in hospital in Europe in a coma. I am not sure what happened, but we can only hope he pulls through. He’s in the best hands now.

Convincing myself I can still climb!

By modern standards I consider myself a reasonable climbing. I can turn up at a crag and happily climb in the lower extreme. However I have before operated at high grades, the one thing different between then and now other than an ageing body is that I find it all to easy to coast through climbing. Doing what I know I can climb without too much effort.

Having been climbing with a few very talented people recently, what I was missing was drive and motivation to push myself. So I have tried to make myself push myself physically mentally or both everytime I climb. Which in itself is both tiring and emotional. However I have reach a point where I don’t neccessary need to convince others that I can climb, instead I need to convince myself.

So anyway, I went out after work yesterday and and climbed the Dervish, I know I have do it before but hopefully in the next week or so the reasons will be come clear as to why I needed to run up it. At the very least I know I am climbing OK, when it felt reasonably steady away and a pleasure.

Today despite the rain, I managed to sneak out from behind the desk and go to Serengeti, where Charlie was so, so close to redpoint the Medium it was damn right unfair he narrowly missed the final throw, not once, not twice but thrice.

In between his attempts I warmed up on Seamstress, which was an error on my part, I the rush to get climbing I managed to start up the wrong crack! After another near miss from Charlie I set off up Heading the Shot, a classic E5 6b, and one with perhaps the most sustain cruxes out of all the Slate E5’s. I was a little psyched out, as it had been years since I climbed this and I remember very little about it, other than there were three hard sections, with an easier top out.

I cruised the first two sections and reach the second bolt. Then proceeded to cruise the crux and reach the traverse to the groove. I headed up the groove and then made an error by head back right rather than staying with the groove and fell off on what should have been easier ground. I think because the hard climbing was what I had focus my psych on I let go of my focus in the top groove.

So whilst I failed, to me it was a success as I climbed the 6b slab well, just blew the top out! Anyway it goes a way to convincing myself that I can bare down when I have too! What’s next?!

Lead Climb Coaching Weekend


I have had a great weekend working on a lead climb coaching weekend for Plas Y Brenin. I had two clients who climb together regularly. Which meant we had a great crack from the  word go. They climb a lot so I got them started on Oberon at Tremadog and they made quick work of that, so they went onto climb Yogi and then Rio.

The programme for the weekend had a 5.30 evening session, with the words, “Skill appropriate for the course”. The skills we were focus on were tactics for climbing harder. Like placing gear from appropriate places and saving energy. Having got them to put them into practice all day and them asking to climb on the Slate and Gogarth if possible. I decide the appropriate thing for them was to try pushing themselves on second on the Slate.

So I took them up Last Tango in Paris in Vivian Quarry, as it filled the box of them seeing just how small a ledge can be to rest on if the route is off vertical, but also it is a fantastic route in a great setting. I tried my best to practice what I had been preaching all day so they could see how it can be applied to harder routes.  They were a bit nervous as they hadn’t really climb E1 before, but they did fine and we all had a good evening.

The following day they were really keen for Gogarth so we went to Castel Helen. Which made a lot more work for me than somewhere like tremadog, but I always think it is worth it. Afterall I love Gogarth and really enjoy introducing people to the climbing there. They led Light House Arete and then Adam lead to the top pitch of Rap. It was a great weekend with great company and I got the impression that the guys really enjoyed and learnt how to change their tactical approach to climbing to improve their grade and make routes feel easier.


Success and Failure

I have had a few days off and tried to pack a lot in. So on my first day off I went out with Neil Gresham who had come back up from London to attempt the pass trilogy, after 5 hours trying Jerry’s roof and coming so close to linking it he eventually gave up. I also got close to doing Jerry’s from a stand up after about 3 hours I was worked, so will be back later to see if I can do the problem again, as I have not climbed it since I first did it!

The next day I head down the Lleyn with Llion, Caff and Neil. Caff repeated The Apprentice E7, and I thought I repeated a Pat Littlejohn route Fossil Fool. However my looking at the description for 30 seconds before leaving the house resulted in a new route. No name yet, but a nice E3 5b at Porth Ceriad.

Today I had to rest after a stint of work and a few days climbing. I had to shop, send some photos to Rock and Ice magazine, for an article by young Callum on the slate. I also had to do some more work on the rockfax guide as I have taken a bit more responsibility so I am trying to edit and add to what we have.

I also had to phone up my solicitor, as I am in the process of buying a house, which is both exciting and terrifying at the same time. I have to go back to work tomorrow to try and pay for the house.


Awesome Wales – Superman of the Pass and Ice Trilogy

I have for that last three days been out teaching winter related things. This included Sargents Gully and a bit of parsley fern friday. winter skills on saturday and guiding up snowdon yesterday. I have a rest day now, before back to winter skills tomorrow.

Snowdon was in amazing good winter conditions, however as I fully expected people are thoroughly ill prepared for arctic conditions. My client and I were among the few with ice axes and crampons. The most important thing I taught my client was to pass people without crampons above them so they didn’t become collateral damage in someones idiotic quest for summit glory!

As expected the Big Yellow Taxi was out above Clogwyn Goch, I just hope the people involved managed to stop before their quite possible untimely end.

Why all this was going on a few of my friends were laying to rest a mythical challenge of gaining the title the king of the pass. Whereby the challenge was to climb Cascade a Grade V ice route, then Right Wall an E5 rock climb and then Jerry’s roof a V9 boulder problem. The ultimate climbing triathalon.

Caff decided that this would be too easy, so climbed Central Icefall grade VI, Lord of the Flies when it was damp and then Jerry’s Roof. Creating the Superman of the Pass. If that wasn’t enough then Tim Emmett and Neil Gresham had driven up from london to Climb the Welsh Ice Trilogy, The Devils Appendix, Cascade and Central Ice fall in a day. Starting out at 4am they managed the feat.

Tim got a few hour kip and then joined the team at the Cromlech and lead Left Wall and Right Wall before also ticking Jerry’s Roof.

All I can say is conditions are really shit here at the moment and I am working. Maybe later in the week I can get involved! I might try the Punter of the Pass with Sargents, Cemetry gates and the Ramp in 24 hours!