Lots of Work

Well I have been super busy, if I haven’t been out checking routes for the rockfax guide then I have been working on a variety of things. This weekend I was teaching on an Mountain leader training course for PYB. Then straight into five days working on a Outdoor Tourism Instructor Scheme, teaching the team to climb and giving them some tips on coaching as we go.

I finish work at 5pm drive home and do 4 hours work on the rockfax guide. Then I sleep, rinse and repeat. Then yesterday the BMC asked me to write an article for a booklet on climbing they are bringing out so managed to throw a quick draft together over a couple of nights as well.

As such limited climbing has been done, other than work which has been castle inn quarry and Tremadog so far this week.

Right time to check Slate and the Pass chapters!

Are Indoor Wall eroding mountain sense?

I have to say I am a big fan of indoor climbing walls, maybe that is because I live in a place where it rains, a lot! I also used to work in one and have had many hours of joy climbing with a how host of friends and acquaintances. Yet I read a piece today from Rock and Ice which made me ask myself this question.

The article was called ‘Climbing’s Big Mistake‘, I see parallels between the author and my own introduction to the sport as down south there simply weren’t many indoor walls and instead we went outside to learn. Whilst the article is uses Tito tragic accident as a launching pad the questions then asked are very real.

This week I was out on the Plexus Buttress of Dinas Mot and when I walked down a climber was in the throws of being rescues with a badly broken leg. I walked down with another friend who had witness what had happened. The Climber had managed to get off route on a HVS and onto an E1. My friend had pointed this out and also that where is was going there was little gear. The climber already shaking then carried on upwards and eventually took a very nasty fall and all the chaos that followed.

One thing I try to distill into my clients is if it doubt don’t run it out. As that is a game for mugs. Unlike a climbing you won’t necessary find another bolt, gear placement or jug. Instead essentially climb yourself into a worse position. Whether you call this mountain or crag sense, I don’t know its something that I have learnt and try to teach in other.

Don’t get me wrong, Climbing walls have pushed up the grade of beginners. It is not uncommon for me to have beginners who have climbed inside a lot leading VS by the end of a week course. I try to again instill that it is all well and good leading this grade with me their guardian angel on there shoulder, but it is another thing altogether to do it on your own. Leading is a lonely ride, where you can doubt every judgement, placement and route  finding decision you make, leading to you becoming a jibbering wreck.

Anyway I suggest you read the article and question whether you think the Indoor Wall is eroding mountain sense. As it offers a short cut to climbing, whereby climbers are missing out on making small mistakes on easier routes that are far more forgiving.

Snowdon: No Sign of the Sacrificial Cow

I can live with the 2010 a space odyssey pillar signs. But why can't they remove the old ones?
I can live with the 2010 a space odyssey pillar signs. But why can’t they remove the old ones?

For a few weeks or months now Snowdon has been sporting several new way markers, in the form of large stone signs. It has been a bone of contention with local climbers and hillwalkers for years Only a a few years ago I was one of those locals who was dead set against them. In the intervening years of I have not so much come round to the idea but accepted that the decision is beyond my control.

Whilst I understand the argument that it is the thin end of the wedge from the more staunch traditionalists. To a degree I actually agree with them, in that I would not like to see signs proliferate onto other mountains other than snowdon. More on why later. The main argument other than helping guide tourists that literally swarm over Snowdon at the slightest hint of good or fair weather, is that they will reduce accidents.

What I think it is important now is that the National Park actually check with the Llanberis Rescue Team to see whether they do in fact reduce the number of rescues. Both in terms of number of call outs and where and when people get stuck and why they went that way. It is all well and good saying that they will reduce rescues, but there is one thing for sure, a change in any systems no matter how simple or well planned that change can and will have unforeseen consequences.

I also get a bee in my bonnet about false claims, I saw one the other day and was like wow, Really. What were you thinking? It was basically a claim for a course that said that it help raise performance in a certain group and hadn’t taken into account that for the year they were talking about that group had just started using a brand new climbing wall that was twice the length of the old one and almost identical to where a championship was held. Yet it was the course that made the difference not the facility!

One of those unforeseen consequence might be that Crib Coch is now signposted, so whilst the main footpaths may see less accidents and rescues as people now just need to follow the signs, but how many people will wander up there having heard that Crib Coch is the ‘hardest’ way up Snowdon? What do the signs say for hillwalking in general, as to me it says forget the map there are signs up there, which will of course lead to even less experienced people on the mountain and maybe even more call outs. If you think people can remember where they parked,so they can follow the signs down think again. I have come across people who couldn’t remember if they came from Pen Y Pass or Llanberis.

The one thing that is good it is has turn Snowdon into an even bigger honey pot than it already is. Which is good for business in North Wales and something that I like to see the promotion of this amazing resource of the Snowdonia mountains. As such to a certain extent I am all for making Snowdon a sacrificial cow. There are many places that are off the beaten track on the mountain, places I know and love. The main paths are from years of experience taking groups up there, lost to the avid hill goer. They are busy, noisy almost urban affairs where users abuse the mountain tucking litter into cracks, discarding anything that is slowing them down. In places it can look like extreme fly tipping. I try to avoid the summit as often as possible, unless I want to laugh at ill equipped idiots who are borderline hypothermic.

My one problem though with it all is the parks inability to remove older signs. Which was why I took the top photo.


Pass Esoteria

More fine weather and today we headed out to climb Black Spring on the right of the Dinas Mot. Mainly because it seems that the time is right for ticking all the routes that are normally wet. Unfortunately we were’t the only people. Two friends got on the same bus as us from Nant and they too wanted to climb black spring. There was also a team of 3 on it as we started walking up from the Cromlech Boulders.

We should have realised that it was going to be a long day when the leader on the 4a first pitch hadn’t moved in the time it took us to walk from the road to the crag. Then they decided to second separately and after giving them a further hour head start we then got held up for about an hour on each pitch.

We joke about Bamboo growing quicker, glaciers moving faster and some mammals producing offspring quicker than these were going top climb the route. Unfortunately both Llion and I had done every other route in the area so we toughed it out untiul I got on lead and lead through them, follow by Llion doing the same.

I hate being rude like that but we would have been benighted if we had waited for them. To give you an idea we descended Jam Boulder Gully via two abseils, walked to the base. Sat around chatted, walked to the road and got on the Bus and they were still on the same pitch as when we passed them.

So if we past you, sorry!

Work done time to play

The Groove on Llech Ddu, a simply stunning E1/
The Groove on Llech Ddu, a simply stunning E1/

Since my last blog I have spent two days teaching climbing for the conway centre. Then four days two walking up Siabod and two teaching climbing to Army Cadets from Scotland out of Capel Curig camp. Interestingly my of School were also there and managed to catch up with a friends mum who helps out at the school.

Friday I tried to catch up with RockFax work putting in more detail in cloggy and slate. Then it was up the pass in the evening. We headed to Craig Cwm Glas Bach and climbing Spitting Image, a burly HVS. The crag had just come back into the sun and was furiously hot. It was an ideal time to climb it because for once it is dry. We then climbed The Stebbing, which was ultimately much easier than when I last did it in damper conditions. It was probably easier than Spitting Image.

Today I headed to a new crag for me and climbed The Groove on Llech Ddu. A simply fantastic 6 pitch E1. Really interesting collection of pitches that are rarely dry. However today there was barely any water on the route. What was more unbelievable was that despite being the first day of the school holidays and a saturday, with awesome weather we had the whole crag to ourselves and only saw three walkers all day pass us, five if you include two lone figures on Yr Elin.

Not sure what tomorrow brings but I am off work for about 10 days before another five days teaching climbing. I can only hope that the weather holds and we don’t get any thunderstorms.

A Great Day on Lliwedd

Simon on Lliwedd's greatest route
Simon on Lliwedd’s greatest route

I had a great day guiding a regular client Simon on Lliwedd. He had wanted to do a mini enchainment. Instead I decided to go to head up Lliwedd and tick the classic Avalanche/Red Wall/Longland’s Continuation. About 12 pitches of climbing at severe or below.

I think in a month or so there is an article on Seven Severes in Snowdonia that I wrote for Climber magazine. Hopefully you’ll like it, and this is one of those route I chose. From the look on Simon’s face I am pretty sure he loved it too, but whats not to like about a 12 pitch three star route in North Wales, in a heat wave.

There was one minor hiccup, I forgot the guide after showing the route to simon in the cafe this morning. Fortunately I have climbed it at least three times and so how remembered where it went. A line of chalk also helped a bit!

More of Avalanche/Red Wall/Longland''s
More of Avalanche/Red Wall/Longland”s


Indian Face gets two more repeats in a day!

Callum Muskett Indian Face
Callum Muskett making the 6th ascent of the Indian Face

I took a long time for The Indian Face to see any repeats, yet in the space of three days it has seen three. A truly incredible week of weather has lead to the crag being in amazing condition. Shorts and t-shirts at cloggy is a rare thing, almost as rare as ascents of the crags hardest route The Indian Face.

A route that has beenn the stuff of legends seems to have lost some but not all of its mystic. Luckily I was there to witness two of the ascents and can only say how impressive these climbers are. Caff chose to place the gear on lead and managed to get it four RP’s below the crux one of which he described as possibly being able to hold a small fall, but probably not. Caff worked the route off a gri-gri before going for it and is probably the quickest ascent so far.

Callum Muskett worked it on a gri-gri for a couple of days and top-roped the route yesterday and today, before launching up the wall with the gear preplaced. The crag fell silent as he worked his way up to the 8 RP’s he placed, again he doubted if they would hold a fall. As he reached the crack and easier ground the on lookers breathed a sigh of relief. Myself included.

I had to head down to get ready for work, but George Ullrich then had a top rope and if Caff Facebook feed is anything to go by he too made an ascent. So now the route has had seven ascents (Johnny Dawes, Nick Dixon, Neil Gresham, Dave MacLeod, Caff, Callum Muskett and George Ullrich) nearly half of them in a few days.

Why this happened is a great question, one argument is the four minute mile effect. After Bannister finally broke this record, many other managed to break it as well. As if the psychological barrier had been moved slightly. Of course it also need the runners to be in awesome condition as well. I think this is what has happened here. We seem to have so many great climbers in Wales who are in great form that it seemed inevitable. For more i psychological barriers read The Indian Face Onslaught on my coaching blog.

One happy face after the Indian Face
One happy face after the Indian Face
A very poor distance shot of George on the Indian Face. I think he is probably top roping the route in this picture.
A very poor distance shot of George on the Indian Face. I think he is probably top roping the route in this picture.


You know the gear is bad when you take 'Blu Tack' to help protect a route!
You know the gear is bad when you take ‘Blu Tack’ to help protect a route!

Caff climbs The Indian Face

James McHaffie on Indian Face
James McHaffie climbing the Indian Face on Cloggy.

If like me you were glued to the set to watch the Murray final you’ll know just how nail biting watching sport can be. Today I headed up to cloggy to climb, as the weather was so nice it seemed like the place to be.

I kind of half knew Caff had plans and I arrived at the base and Caff was quieter than normal. I shared a few hello’s with the rest of the team, but I could see Caff had other things on his mind. Racking up I headed off as I didn’t want to break his concentration. We went up Great Slab and ran into Paul Poole and Bryn Williams two local instructors enjoying the great weather. At the top of the first pitch I got a good view of Great Wall and spreadeagled across it making rapid progress was Caff.

We sat and watched as he edge higher like some peeping tom, stealing a glance at a forbidden fruit. I know enough about the history and route to know where the ‘ledge’ is and there caff arranges the last one can only assume joke pro. No sooner is it done and he is off again. Commiting quickly to a line of white dots, like a monsterous dot to dot. Each move another into ridiculously run out terrain. But each move gets him closer to the end of the difficulty.

Just like watching Murray there is an inner voice, urging him on. “Come on Caff, Come On!” Then like firework display it is over, and the cluster of climbers shuffles off to the next route. Move along nothing to see here! We carry on up Great Slab and down.

Can’t wait for tomorrow, to be back up there. I wonder if it will see another ascent anytime soon?

Facebook Graph Search …. Would you be kind enough to like my page?

Facebook are rolling out a new graph search. It basically is a personalised search that searches your friends and there friends for related posts. I don’t know how popular it will be but I am thinking it might give Google a run for its money as it is almost like giving people a personal recommendation.

So if you haven’t like my business facebook page for Snowdonia Mountain Guides, it would be lovely if you would. As it may help my business in this new Facebook search.