Road to Hell

This ain’t no technological breakdown, this is the road to hell! Or it was this morning. My normal 15 minute commute turned into over an hour after the storm yesterday. It was pretty lively up here and I just managed to get back from anglesey on Wednesday hight before, they had just shut the Britannia bridge but the Menai stay open.

A tree had fallen on the Nany Y Garth hill, so I had to divert round it on the way home. This morning I thought that Gwynedd Council might have sorted it, but I think they had there hands full. So the road was closed. I had two options turn left to cearnarfon the way I got back last night or right to bangor. I opt to turn left. I got to the start of the Felinheli Bypass, and both the felinheli road and the bypass were shut. By the time I turned round the roads were near gridlocked.

Lots of crawling along at a snails pace and I eventually got to work about an hour and a half after I left. I guess we just aren’t used to hellish commutes up here. TRhe worse we get is a tractor in the road or some sheep making a bid for freedom!

The top photo was the telcos truck that parked up to block the road when I finally got to the bottom of Nant Y Garth.

Other than storm commutes, I have been working all week at the Conway Centre with kids from a school in the Lake District. A great week, lots of climbing wall sessions for me, but I have also been on the high ropes course for a bit of a change.

Sad Times – Ian MacNaught-Davis Dies

I am not really old enough to be in the generation when you lose a friend regularly. I am lucky and don’t look forward to those days. I was quite sadden to read that Ian MacNaught-Davis had died earlier this week. I had only met Mac a couple of times, both at film festivals.

Despite his age, there was a part of him that still had that little glint in his eye when he started talking about his climbs. For he was about in the days when Gogarth was first being developed, where along with his friends like Joe Brown he put up some truly amazing climbs.

I have climbed several of them, but he came to the attention of over 30% of the UK population when he took part in the most daring of outside broadcasts the BBC had ever undertaken, when in 1967 they televised an ascent of the Old Man of Hoy, where he was the presenter.

In my book Hanging By A Thread I talk a lot about the importance of this outside broadcast. As not only was it a direct effect of the ‘space race’ that we saw the rise of satellite broadcasting, it also help spur an entire generation of climbers to head to the hills. An important part of that broadcast was Mac’s added narration and banter.

Ian was still quite a character when I met him in the early naughties he could still hold court in the Kendal Bar and enthral all who’d listen with his fantastic stories. Stories that are essentially part of the fabric on climbing history.

He achieved so much like being the president of the UIAA but I’ll just remember him someone who I was lucky enough to meet twice and who managed to entertained me for those brief encounters. I am sure he’d approve of me raising a glass to him. I shall try and climb one of his routes this year, and try and think what it was like to be there in the 60’s.


Welsh Winter Skills Course

So having cancelled a two day course on Thursday, due to yet another hurricane coming in from the atlantic. I ended up instead with one of the group turning up today for a one to one day of winter skills. I also had a friend preparing for his Winter ML so asked if he wanted to observe.

We headed up into Cwm Glas, turned right to void the large accumulations of snow and the avalanche debris in Parsley Fern Gully and made it to the top of Carnedd Ugain before descending the Cryn Las Ridge. A lovely day and better than I was expecting. It really is winter on the tops. With the final 200m really well frozen.

I did see these posts on the way up. Trying to find out what they are for. But rumour is they are a hydro power scheme. Which is quite outrageous even for Snowdonia National Park.



If you are interested in a Welsh Winter Skills Course then you can find out more at Snowdonia Mountain Guides – Winter Skills Pages

The Thin White Line

Please don’t get me wrong, whilst I don’t want to take anything away from Honnold’s latest ascent. Hopefully I will add to it by the time you have finished reading. However I can help think that he is backing himself into something of perilous niche. Professionally it must fit somewhere between high end mercenary and full time russian roulette player.

It is almost a taboo subject in Climbing, the solo. In part as it is often an immensely person thing as to whether to solo or not. Don’t get me wrong abandoning the ropes in search of the ‘ultimate(?)’ climbing experience is something that I have partaken in and even enjoyed.

My soloing has almost nearly all been well within my climbing limits, it means I can enjoy the experience. There are routes I dream of soloing, yet my mind simply can’t see it happening. The Dervish is a perfect example, I have climbed it probably nearly 100 times, and never fallen off it. Yet soloing it is well beyond my mental capacity.

There comes a point in everyones soloing career, when they step outside their comfort zone and the realisation of the position and predicament they have put themselves in becomes painfully apparent. The ability to recover from that is quite literally vital to your survival.

I saw one of video of someone soloing the Nose a few years back, it might even have been of Alex Honnold, the climber was reaching up to clip a bolt. They slipped an inch, stopped and carried on like nothing had ever happened. My heart almost stopped watching them, and it made me wonder at the knife edge photographers and film makers are on documenting these dangerous ascents.

It took photos of two people climbing The Indian Face last year, both friends and both times it was horrible to watch. To be honest I think it was better seeing it through a view finder. As you are somehow one emotional detach from the real events when they are out there making tenuous moves 100ft off the ground where one wrong move could be fatal.

One wrong move and those amazing images or footage go from being historic to snuff. Now I don’t want Alex to stop doing what he’s doing he is a highly talent adult climber who can make his own judgements. We also have to remember that we are sold an image of him by the media. That image is of a solo climber, in part propagated by himself, after all he has starred in an advert soloing a sandstone tower powered by nothing but sun.

This short video may make you physically sick!


Are you ready for the close up?

I read this awesome post the other day by Stevie Haston, I mentioned it before, but had to again before I tried to add to its arguments. As it give a fairly shocking indictment to the state of the climbing and mountaineering industry. Which if we are to believe Stevie then it being taken over by massive multi-nationals who are busy stage managing the images of their athletes.

I have to say that in recent weeks I heard a acquaintance who climbed E9 last year was dropped by their rock boot sponsor. Which if it was a bloke you’d probably be like, what were they thinking. When you realise that they dropped a woman from their team who climbs E9, you will hopefully find it even more staggering. I am sure that it is in part due to austerity measures, to try and save a buck or two. It still shows you that there can’t be that much money if climbing E9 as a woman is no longer hard enough to get sponsored.

However, I guess it might come down to their social media presence (I did have more followers on twitter [yes it is a competition!] than her and may I take the time to thank you for following me, it must be the things I write, as it definitely isn’t my climbing!). I have another friend whose contracts are no longer gear towards photo incentive deals based on front covers of magazine, but the number of tweets, facebook statuses, instagrams or blog post they make a month. I got the impression that there was someone actually counting the number #mysponsors. That person at the crag one day, as he was about to embark on a loose and hideous E8, (he should watch his back, he could be out in the cold soon!), turned round to me and said, ‘What the fuck is twitter all about?” He found it harder to get his head round tweeting his life in 140 characters or less, than levitating up overhanging rotting choss.

Now I consider myself something of a professional belayer (#needasponsor), as such I get to see both sides of the coin. The climbers trying to make a livelihood from climbing hard routes and the work they put into it, over the images and stories that are portrayed of them in the outdoor media. They are often two very different things.

Things are as Stevie points out in his piece, about to take managing your public persona to a whole new level. Gone will be the warts and all approach and instead we will see manicured images, videos and social media post not so much to sell a lie, but mask a hell of a lot of the truth.

I have recently been surfing, and If you want to see where we are heading I suggest you watch a surfing/snowboarding film produced by/for a big company. I can almost guarantee the surfing films won’t show you the bad blown out days on poor waves, wipe outs or other darker sides of what these people are up to. I have notice that on a few big wave videos there is a move to cut the jetski out of shot. I have also never seen a professional surfer paddle out into a wave. I would be interested in that as falling down a wave I can do, but getting out back is not my forte, its all hard work and getting nailed.

Similarly, have you ever watched a jaw dropping good skate or snowboard film. One where the tricks are massive and impressive. You might see a fall or two to make them look human, but you know they have been nailing themselves 9 out of 10 tries, making it all the more impressive to be honest, but does it make a good film? Probably not, but more importantly is that the image #sponsors want to sell?

My guess is no. With the web rapidally developing into another TV channel, one where you truly have control over whats on, so their content needs to stand out. These companies know that they can get a more targeted TV advertising campaign through those social media channels then through normal TV or magazines.

The problem is the advertisers are right, one viral internet video is worth a fortune to these companies in its reach to its target market. If you remember a few weeks back I posted a photo of a crampon on backwards from #stayinside (I feel guilty as the manager lost their job over that incident as the CEO found out, probably when a friend shared it on Facebook, I did offer my services as a staff trainer!). I don’t know how many people shared it on Facebook, but I know that blog post went viral, and was viewed 17000 times in one day, probably nearly all of them climbers and mountaineers. All because I shared the post of Facebook and twitter. On the Brightside my friend who I stole the photo off bought those crampons from the shop at a well discounted price!

So look out for your favourite climbers, on perfect rock performing to apparent perfection. The route will take between 2 to 3 minutes to climb and they will tweet you to let you know how great it was to climb, send an instagram of them smiling at the top, all the while forgetting to tell you it took a whole days effort to get those three well orchestrated minutes of footage from over 8 hours of filming, and that it was there 5th day up there attempting the route.

It is all an illusion, the trick is to see through the BS.

Enjoying the Grab and Pull

I was busy setting boulder problems at the Beacon on Friday, it really takes it out of me now. I was utterly rinsed by the end of the day. To the extent that I took two days off this weekend to recover before besting myself again.

So today I headed out for an afternoon surf, it was so big I had to wait for another surfer to turn up to justify heading out. Safety in numbers! Anyway it was a good session and in between  wiping out I manage to catch a couple of alright waves. Eventually a massive set ploughed through and having paddled for my life in a vain attempt to get outside the breaking wave, I was instead washed very unceremoniously up on the beach. I took it as a sign as did the other guy as we got out within seconds of each other.

So after that two hour warm up, I went to the wall this evening to check out the problems I set on friday. Had a good session, not too long and got nearly all the problems down stairs. I didn’t venture up stairs, as I am hoping to get there again tomorrow even for a longer session.

When I was there I was climbing with a couple of people and we were working on one of my problems. I has a rather flamboyant final crux. Which whilst not desperate is quite a burly move that requires a fair bit of grace. They seemed to enjoy it, which is good to know.

So Time for a Change of theme

Hopefully it won’t put you off too much, but I think I need a change. So I am going to try a new theme on my website. Unfortunately whilst I can preview it to a certain extent I think I am going to have to go in and edit some post and pages to use the theme to its best.

I imagine that this might take some time, but I am going to start tonight and have a play about so if the blog looks like its been taken over by gremlins. It hasn’t, it just me playing about with it.