New Resources on Snowdonia Mountain Guides

As ever even when not on the hill I have been busy, mainly with North Wales Rock climbing guidebook for rock fax. Although I have had the last chapter of the technology and science of mountaineering and rock climbing back, so hopefully not long now till that is released as an eBook and maybe even a Print on Demand paperback.

I finished a section of the rockfax book and was waiting for the all clear to push on and delve into another section. So I took the time to write a few new sections for Snowdonia Mountain Guides Resource section.

So I have added links to the North Wales Rock photo section and short piece introducing the enchainment video/epic adventure I had last week and wrote a mini route card for Bilberry Terrace. Hopefully I’ll add some more route cards and dream routes to whet peoples appetite for some adventures with me through Snowdonia Mountain Guides.

Bilberry Terrace – Snowdonia Hardest Scramble?

Chris enjoying Bilberry Terrace Grade 3 Scramble on Lliwedd, Snowdonia

Earlier this week I had a last minute request to guide Bilberry Terrace on Lliwedd. This is the hardest scramble in Snowdonia. Well in retrospect, it is not the most techincally difficult but in combination with a few steps, its length and inescapability make this the most commiting line. So much so not many people climb this route.

However I have climbed several of the climbs on Lliwedd and whilst the size was not an issue, the route finding might be. So I took the work on on the provision that it was dry on Friday. Despite some low cloud and high humidity Chris and I headed up on the first Sherpa Bus to Pen Y Pass. The walk in is relatively short and pleasant, being not too steep or too boggy, save for a couple of places.

At the bottom of the route, looking up at a cliff drapped in flag, we set off. I was hoping that the line would ‘reveal’ itself to the mountaineer in me. To acertain extent it did as whilst there are a few vague descriptions in the guide they are close enough to make the line reasonable to follow.

We short-roped the whole thing mainly in pitches, but with the occasionally walking between steep sections on the ramp line. The route is a work of genius, never desperate yet nearly alway exposed to the massive scale of this route which proabably covers 400+ metres of terrain.

The initial step to reach the Bilberry Terrace is one of the cruxes, with a balancy move to reach the ledge and the only place I had to belay of wires. A long walk along the ledgewe did in pitches, with me running along to a spike and bringing Chris up to me. At the end of the the route heads up a corner, another of the cruxes to a ledge, before it traverse right on a continuation of the terrace.

This is followed to Pinnacle Corner, which ironically is a notch in a ridge. The guidebook says that this is the half way point and the end of the ‘easy route finding’. We had made good time to here. With words of warning like this I rechecked the guide and headed out across the next pitch. What I found was that the route finding was OK, however what the guide should probably say is that this is the end of where Mr Ashton took reasonable notes, as despite being in the near 10 reprint the guide was pretty vague where it needn’t be. I am going to add a route card to Snowdonia Mountain Guides website with my amendments.

Having ample time we opted to follow not the gully to the right of the final ridge you traverse out to, but the shattered ridge. This was because it looked more interesting and in keeping with the rest of the route and whilst the desciption says arrive on the top 4 steps away from the summit. The ridge meant that instead we had the rather unique experience of stepping straight onto the summit.

It was barely 1pm so we turn right and headed to Y Gribin and descend down this to the Miner’s Path and back out to Pen Y Pass. It was a fantastic day out at work, especially as it was a route I hadn’t climbed before and is perhaps the most challenging scramble in the whole of Snowdonia.

Sandbagging Yourself

I went out for a climb back on Tuesday or wednesday evening with the Evans, as ever it was a bit of a hunt to find a route that we wanted to do and potentially neither of us had done before. The route also had to be close to the road as I had been on a 4 hour topo shot around the quarries retaking many topos for the rockfax guide to make the design and layout look much better.

We eventually slumped for Twisted Sister a variation around Erosion Groove Direct, I had heard bad things about the top pitch of Erosion Groove Direct, our route had to climb this so I opt to lead the first 5c pitch. Progress was good and then I got to the steep bit and made steady progress to near the point of no return. I committed too quitely to this point and the gear was rather poor and backing it was very fiddly. After an age I got some kit in but I was already in the red and after making an effort to move straight up off undercuts I looked left and saw my mistake. I was meant to swing left here, unfortunately by not reading the guide very thoroughly I sandbagged myself so head down and had to rest.

I carried on up some alarming wastad rock that seemed to be held in place by teh Van de waals force. As there was no other reason for it not having fallen down. I worrying traverse got me to the belay and Dave’s pitch. When Dave arrive I think I just looked at him and the amazing valley around us and said, ‘Our Live’s are Shit’. After all I have had about two weeks of work and play in a sunny Snowdonia, a place where I can nip into teh hills for an evening, afternoon or even a whole day.

Dave struggled up the crux of Erosion groove direct, although I suspect everyone who has ever done it will also exhibit some form of distress flicking their arse round into the groove. To his right now across the wall is a steep hand crack. The rock to get there is poor as is some of the rock around the crack. But with hands buried to the wrist in the crack it is like moving from belay to belay. The top out though was somewhat alarming, tottering pile of something that used to resemble a crag.

The moral of the story is to look at the guidebook before I climb, and of course next time choose a route that isn’t a one star piece of esoteric on the Wastad.

Memories of Tremadog

The weather was so bad this weekend that I cancelled a client for today, as it seemed little point to him driving up from london to spend a weekend at the beacon. So I had a day off. Facebook helped me track down a friend who was also off so we headed to Tremadog as the skies started to clear.

The crag was a little damp, so we choose the Vector Buttress which is steep enough to stay dry, so dries quicker. I ran the first two pitches of Vector together, I was over dressed in a hoodie and wooly hat and was dripping with sweat at the cave. Although I was trying to climb as quickly as possible, which wasn’t very fast.

Dave followed and suggested we push on and do The Croaker, I have done the route at least twice and everytime was under same circumstances. Once was with Leo who failed on Bananas, another was Will who also failed on Bananas and I might have also belayed Pete when he failed on Bananas, although it might not have been pete. All of this was almost a lifetime ago, or 15 years in real money.

Leo of course went onto great things and I follow his career with a little jealousy as to where his skill has taken him. However I know I could never do what he has done. Will is sadly no longer with us, but was also a fine climbing talent who is missed by many. It is good to remember these fun times with good friends.

However they don’t make me feel any younger or fitter. The Croacker in my memory was straight forward to the roof with a bit of a throw from a jug on the lip. Today it was hideous, steep and reachy.

After that Dave lead the Leg Break Combo on the Grim Wall area and then we climbed Daddy Cool/The Thing. We had only finished up the easy finish, and whilst the 3rd pitch was a little overgrown it was a nice route. The thing top pitch is desperate, I remember trying it by mistake as the final pitch to the HS Reinetta, before I realised my mistake.

A great day out with Dave, who I hadn’t climbed with for a few years. Great to catch up and knock out some classics.

Weekend Coaching in the Peak

Just got back from a great weekend coaching in the Peak. We were based out of the North Lees Campsite and I was working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines climbing team. The weather was pretty bad so we spent saturday at the Foundry.

Was quite exciting as the foundry is in my mind a bit of British Climbing history, as it was the first dedicated indoor climbing wall in the UK. Sparking somewhat of a surge in participation as many other walls opened using the same model. We had a good session and I think we tired most of the team out, although some escaped to Stanage Edge for the afternoon/evening. They were all really psyched and we looked at movement, tactics and the mental side of coaching climbing.

I  was working alongside Ben Bransby and it was really good to see another coach in action and see how he presents coaching information. Especially as he used to compete indoors to a high level when he was younger.

The following day we headed to High Neb and I got quite a few of the team to try their first leads. It was so much easier than working in Wales as I think I only jugged about 60ft all day. With route close together I could stagger the team and get through about 8 people on their first lead climbs.

I have to say it was an honor to be asked to work with the armed services, the RN/RM inparticular have a much harder time training when on ship. Although I did hear about some funny stories of using a beast maker finger board on a moving ship whilst execute tactical turns!

Book Review: Outdoor First Aid by Katherine Wills

Nobody wants to ever have to use any first aid, least of all on your friends or colleagues when outdoors. However the fact is that in a remote setting like the side of a mountain or even a crag within sight of the road, we are far enough away from a ambulance and crew that those initially minutes are even more precious than in an urban setting. That golden hour of what we can do to stabilise a casualty as we wait for mountain rescue to turn up are vital.

Personally I would like all my friends and climbing partners to be trained in first aid. As most of the people I climb with are instructors, this usually means that should the worse happen to me or my friends then help is at hand. None of us set out to have an accident but sadly they can happen to anyone, regardless of ability or experience.

As such I was really excited to get one of the first copies of Outdoor First Aid by Kath, a good friend of mine who has been working hard on this book for the last 6 years. It was partly my fault she started as I was writing ‘How to Climb Harder‘ and she asked me about the process and Pesda Press. Two days later she ran in Paul Gannon, who was writing Rock Trails Snowdonia. Kath too signed up with Pesda Press.

Over that time I have help by providing a few images and have tried to keep in contact with her progress. As such I know just how thoroughly Kath has researched this book, as the majority of first aid advice has been aimed at Urban setting and not remote. In doing so she has contacted the resus council for advice in remote protocols. As in an urban setting we are told to continue until help arrives, whilst in a remote setting this might be impossible as it maybe hours until we see outside help.

Kath also got advice from one of the UK’s leading doctors on Lyme’s Desease, Frostbite and from many mountain rescue experts and A&E consultants. These A&E consultants are primarily from areas who receive trauma victims from outdoor accidents of a wide variety. As such this book isn’t just current but probably cutting edge on advice.

Well illustrated and written, it is in my mind the new bible of first aid for people who engage in any form of outdoor pursuit where the setting is anything beyond 5 minutes from a road. Whilst this book is no replacement for a first aid course, of which Kath runs REC (Rescue and Emergency Care) Courses that are aimed specifically to outdoor users and are almost industry standard with outdoor instructors. What this book is a aide memoir for you in the three year gap between each course.

I guess, if you are a climber, mountaineer, hillwalker, Kayaker, Mountain Biker, Horse rider, Paraglider or have any other outdoor passion then this is the book is absolutely essential reading.

Epic Enchainment: Success and Failure

A couple of weeks back Si had come up with an idea to try and enchain as many routes as possible in a day. Starting at Craig Y Ysfa’s Amphitheatre Buttress and ticking the major ogwen crags and then onto the Pass and Lliwedd and maybe even cloggy. It was a great plan that needed lots of daylight, like we do now. Work got in the way for a few weeks but a week off and Si managed to get a pass for climbing.

So this morning we got up at 3am and left the house at 4am, started walking in by 4.30am. We soloed Amphitheatre Buttress and were back at the car by 5.30. At 6am we were on Pulpit route on the Milestone and by 7am we were starting up Groove Arete on the East face of tryfan. 8am we were at Glyder Fach climbing Direct route before heading all the way back down to the base of Idwal Slabs for 9.30am.

From here we did Charity, Lazaruz, Groove Above and then up the Grey Slab on the Upper Cliff of Glyder Fawr. Knowing that we won’t get park in the Pass we walked/ran down to the Craig Ddu and climb Rib and Slab. By which time my legs were feeling it, I was probably very dehydrated and the clock which had seem to stand still in Ogwen was ticking away fast. We had got to the the Pass at midday, yet this two pitch route took us 30 minutes.

We had stash some more food and drink in my car at the Crouchan car park and had a rest to try and recuperate. As I headed up to the Crouchan for Nea, I think I knew the bid for the link of at least two valley was done for. I was moving like an arthritic pensioner and Si led Nea in one long pitch and I moved up to the crux as he reached the belay. Above I managed to slip twice on easy terrain and I had to let Si know I was spent.

To carry on would have been possible but we’d have to pitch everything, but seeing as we have 11 hours of light left it was possible. However the utter fatigue, I had not felt this spent since the Snowdon Marathon, and safety seemed like it was become an issue. As moving quickly when fresh on easy terrain is fine. Which isn’t surprising as we had probably managed near 1500m of rock climbing, with at least 2500m of ascent and descent, over around 20 to 30km in around 9 hours.

I am now sat at home virtually unable to move, the stairs are a major obstacle.

I learnt many thing today these are amongst the most pertinent.

  1. Never try this massive enchainment of route without lots of running training, or never try this enchainment again.
  2. If I ignore lesson one choose a day when it isn’t baking hot by 8am.
  3. The link up from Amphitheatre Buttress to the top of Glyder Fawr is one of the finest links in North Wales with several great mountain three star routes.
  4. Whilst we failed in our original plan, what we did was pretty immense. Maybe like an easy el Cap of climbing and a half marathon. I have a new respect for those guys linking up Yosemite Walls.
  5. I will sleep well tonight, it the pain isn’t too great!

Cnicht and Orpheus

I decided to give my clients an easier day today, well physically anyway. Instead of scrambling we headed up and over Cnicht for a day focused more on navigation. They did really well and the weather was still awesome I am more sunburnt.

After work I had a go at Orpheus on Crag Ddu, a rather funny experience as part of teh description says climb the bold pocketed wall. Which is neither bold nor that pocketed. Which I proved by placing far too much gear and getting pumped and blowing the final move onto a slab. Although the CC guide had the topo finishing right of where the route should go and thats is my excuse for blowing the final move. Saying that the way I went over the final roof was very interesting. I was also not convinced of the the two 4c pitches above being 4c.

I then did something really stupid and took a tumble walking out of the crag and effectively cheese crated the sunburn on my legs! Ouch!


Classic Scrambles Week

I currently have two clients on a moutnain skills course so far we have done Senior/YGribin circuit. North Ridge of Tryfan and today we did crib coch. They have totally lucked out with the weather and we have been fried alive everyday wiith two more left.

I will get some photos up on Friday or the weekend, as it has been a few days of total kodak moments. We are planning a shorter walk with more nav for tomorrow, as we have ticked the greatest grade one scrambles in Snowdonia so far. Might also add in a bit of rope work on the last day, as strictly speaking it is a private Summer Mountain Skills course.

There are a few photos on my facebook page for Snowdonia Mountain Guides