CPD Workshops for AMI

I have been busy trying to arrange some CPD for AMI and MTA, two professional organisations for instructors, leaders and supervisors in the UK. Whilst some of these are provisional, I should now fairly quickly whether they are accepted and they should soon make it to the MTA/AMI website.

In the mean time I really need to start advertising them so here is a list of the CPD workshops I have on offer. If the dates don’t suit or one course seems popular I will run it again. All course are delivered by Mark Reeves a highly experienced MIA and Author.


An introduction to reflective practice for climbing coaches, instructors and supervisors.

Evening Workshop 28th April


Exploring the pros and cons of using sport climbing venues

Full day workshop 6th July


A course that explores teaching lead climbing beyond an introductory level.

Full day workshop 8th June & 12th July

Getting to Know North Wales Crags Weekend

This course aims to notch up several classic routes on the most used MIA crags in North Wales.

25th-26th April

Managing Sea Cliffs for the MIA

This course explores the use of sea cliffs with clients.

17th May

Using Indoor Climbing Wall to Teach Outdoor Skills

This course looks at how we can use an indoor climbing in imaginative ways.

7th June

Teaching Rope Rescue Skills

Here we look at how we can use teaching progressions to aid the teaching of Rope Rescue Skills

18th May

Teaching Big Wall Skills

This is an introduction to Big Walling Skills that maybe be of interest for MIA looking to push themselves on teh worlds big walls.

5th July

Bolting Workshop

This is a workshop for those who want to get involved with re-equipping  and checking sports routes in North Wales.

10th April

11th April – full

The History, Science, Technology and Culture of Rock Climbing

This is an evening lecture based on the History and Sciecne of Rock Climbing

12th May – London

16th May – Beacon Climbing Centre – To raise money for North Wales Bolt Fund

Slate Bolting concerns explained

The story started on a friday over two weeks ago when I was CC’d into an email from a local climber who had found a worrying bolt and he had removed it with his hands.  The handful of people in that email circle were asked by the BMC Access Officer not to say anything publicly until he got the chance to speak to First Hydro and we checked & clarify the situation. The Access officer tweeted the bolts are ‘worrying’ on the slate today, I thought I better ‘clarify’ what I think the issues are, the BMC will undoubtedly release a statement as will the NWBF, but as questions are already appearing on twitter, this is me putting my head above the parapet with an answer.

After a weekend of email tennis, I took it upon myself as someone who was involved in the re-equipping on the quarries 6 years ago and someone who used to consider themselves something of a modern slatehead, to do some initial checks and have closer a look at the problem. This has turned into 7 days pull testing bolts at various points in the quarries and gathering data.

These initial tests made it clear that firstly the one bolt pulled out by hand appears to be an isolated case, but there was a problem with mainly 10mm bolts in lower offs pulling out below the force that we tested them as holding 6/7 years ago in a test bed of bolts in Bus Stop quarry.

What seems to happen is first the wear caused by weighting and unweighting lower offs in the soft rock of Slate makes the bolt stud starts to move from side to side. Then eventually as they wear even more a very limited number of studs have started to move in and out. Most bolts that moved in and out held around 5kn of direct outward pull or around 500kg, those which move from side to side held over 7kn direct outwards pull.

I personally believe wear and tear of heavy usages combined with soft rock is the cause as I have only found two lead climbing bolts with the same issue compare to several more in lower offs. Those lead bolt might be below the crux so ‘fallen on’ most often causing the same problem, but I am not too familiar with the routes where I replaced a lead bolt.

When I started pulling these bolts for the testing, with great support from the North Wales Bolt Fund, I have also managed in the main to get the bolt out and then replace them the same day with a resined in anchor. I have also added a second lower off anchor to a few routes that only had one.

If you want to know exactly what I have been doing for the last two weeks then there is a list of the routes that I think needs checking along with any actions I have implemented so far. The list came from UKClimbing/Rockfax logbook database, who within hours of asking very generously produced a list of the 100 or so most popular routes on the slate. You can help the process by checking the lower off bolts/lead bolts for side ways movement or in and out movement and e-mailing me your results, I can then update the list. I might consider coding up a fixed gear reporting system at some point, but maybe UKC/Rockfax or even the BMC are probably better placed to do this?

So I think the take home message is the bolts are ‘worrying’ but in the bolts I have pulled (10+) only one failed below 5kn and that moved in and out alarmingly. Other bolts that move in and out still held 5kn. All of these tests were direct outwards pull not the kind of sheer pull that happens when the climber falls or lower offs. Making them even less likely to fail. The bolts that were questionable have nearly all been found on the extremely popular sport routes.

So remember to check your bolts, and if they do move in and out reduced any direct outward pressure on the bolt. Report it and hopefully someone will get round to sorting it as soon as they can. Just remember there are no bolting pixies, if it is replaced it is done so by volunteers so don’t expect instant results. If you want instant results then maybe volunteer yourself, I am more than happy to help train people up in how to remove and replace bolts.

What we are trying to do at present is slowly replace at least one bolt in a lower off with expansion bolts for a resin bolt and then bring the two bolts to a single point steel ring with chain and maillion. It is costing the North Wales Bolt Fund around £20-30 per lower off to carry out this remedial work and the BMC has just stopped funding its better bolts campaign. As such now is a good time to delve into your pockets and give generously to the North Wales Bolt Fund for there work here and along the coast on the Limestone around Llandudno.

I am busy trying to give as much time as I can to a fairly expansive project, and the North Wales Climbs guidebook I helped author is giving £1 for the first 1500 books sold to the NWBF. I think we are close to selling that many already so another way you can donate a similar sum is to buy your copy  direct from the Rockfax website. In doing so you not only help the bolt fund but it also allow me to have more ‘days off’ to do the much needed work.

Although just as beneficial is to get in contact with either myself or the NWBF and share your support and maybe help out in the actual replacement and/or removal of the bolts. Even if you don’t want to do any actual bolting work then there is a list here of routes that need checking and even a hand carrying the equipment to the crag and a belay to get up to some lower off is pretty helpful.

Essentially the situation can be summed up as:

  • heavy use and the soft rock of Slate has reduced the pull strength of some bolts in lower offs and even fewer lead bolts.
  • That reduction in our test has shown it is not life-threatening.
  • We are however taking action to check, test and replace some 10mm expansion bolts with resin.
  • We need your support to both check, fund and help replace lower offs.

Celebrating 50 years of Ogwen Cottage?

So according to their website it is the 50th anniversary of Ogwen Cottage Outdoor Education Centre this year. Sadly though it will also be its last year as a centre funded by a Birmingham Council who announced they are to stop funding this as several other centres at the end of July this year. See this BBC new item.

A sad day and I wrote in Climber Magazine about this at the beginning of the year and as I said in that article one of my heroes Jack Longlands will hate me for saying it but the centre wasn’t even nearly financially viable. So sad to see it close but I think as an industry and we are an industry, that if a LEA centres cannot break close to even then councils are likely to close them.



A Journey to Serengeti

I have always loved the quarries for climbing, ever since the first day I went there and was taken to Rainbow slab in a snow shower. I lowered down and top roped Red and Yellow….

The places has inspired and enchanted me for twenty years since then. There are still places that are left to explore. Forgotten memories round every corner. Climbing with friends from a life time ago, those who are on the edges of your Facebook friends and even some no longer with us. So many of those not so young people now who shared the ‘best years of my life’ at University.

Today I remember Craig taking the whole height of Watch Me Wallaby…., Llion taking the monster lob on Short Stories and my first time up Seams the Same, when the top required a rack of RP’s. The placement of so many over the years has cause the soft rock that is Slate to enlarge and all you need is a good few rock 1’s.

I also headed up to Slippery People on Yellow Walls, a less frequented area but still packed full of classic routes. I started off on Slippery People I think it was one of Tom and I’s many adventures in the quarries. I knew full well that the reach for the first bolt was awful for a man of my stature. Still none the less I headed up and spent a good two minutes trying to reach that extra inch without letting go. I think both me and Si breathe a sigh of relief, as I was slightly above ‘catching height’.

The rest of the climb is OK, but it is a really good example of how Trad routes on Slate differ from the modern Sport offerings. This route has character, you will remember it for a long time. Yet most of the easier routes fit into a generic bracket and it is sometimes hard to tell one from another.

Si then lead Short Stair Case to the Stars and nearly took the prophecy of the route, when his foot popped going for the bolt. He was at a spottable height and I thought I was going to get squashed, but he somehow hung on in there!

The weather quickly crapped out as the sea fret became hill fog. So we retired for coffee and cake.

More Climbing than Surfing

So since last saturday I have gotten more climbing than surfing in for a change. Although I did have a couple of really good surfs as the swell eased off on Saturday. I am hoping to go out tomorrow morning and may get back in time for some climbing.

So I have managed to make it out to various single pitch crags with work and both the Slate and Tremadog for myself. It is funny no matter how hard you train the transition back to real rock is always a  rough ride. I also saw the first climbers using the Rockfax guide I helped author, I have to avoid calling it my guide as Jack, Mark and the whole rockfax team made it what it is.

The guide has help put me in a rather pleasant position as I am starting to reap the rewards from all the hard work. So I have been able to put some hard work in for the North Wales climbing community for three days this week and I will no doubt continue if the weather stays dry. I will explain more later, but lets just say it has taken me back 7 years or so!

Anyway I hope you aren’t stuck in a office too much. If you are try following me on Twitter (@verticallife), I am posting a photo everyday of north wales climbing. I also post some more pictures from my ‘daily grind’, aka teaching climbing on my Facebook page for Snowdonia Mountain Guides.


Business Meetings

So it is very rare that I ever have business meetings. No high powered luncheon appointments to discuss the pros and cons of particular stocks, shares of investment opportunities. Today I had one meeting ‘scheduled’ with the development officer from the Association of Mountain Instructors who wanted to catch up to chat about some proposals for Continuing Professional Development courses that I had pitched to him and my book ‘Hanging By A Thread’.

The meeting was really positive and hopefully I will over the coming months or so get a couple of CPD courses for AMI members. It should be really good work and it is always great as these workshops work both ways and I can learn as much from the attendees as they can learn from me.

The development officer was also reviewing my hanging by a thread for Mountain Pro Magazine. He was generally very positive about the book, but he felt a few things could have been changed. In particular he felt the intro was out of place, which is fair enough but to me it explains why I wrote such a book.

He also felt the notion of curiosity as a human trait that sets us apart was not ground breaking. However I still feel that framing it as I do with the research as to why curiosity and learning are so important to not only humanity but our explorative spirit is a core component to the story I told. I am looking forward to his review in a future Mountain Pro as they reviewed North Wales Climbs in this quarters mag.

We both agreed that for a climber who starting off indoor climbing who’d like a whistle stop tour of the history of climbing in one book then it more than fits the bill. I look forward to his full review.

During the meeting I got a call from the North Wales rep for the Mountain Training Association. He to wanted to chat about providing some CPD workshops. So I stayed in Pete’s Eats for the next round of Latte’s. Again we chatted and agreed a few ideas that I need to start putting on paper along with dates, ratios and costings.

What was really interesting and I guess one of the reasons I like my job is that I get to think outside the box to come up with ideas to pitch to both organisations and of course the public at large through my array of climbing courses. So I came home to think and layout ideas for AMI and the MTA. Which link, which don’t, What can be achieved after work and what needs a whole day.

I like to think I can occasionally have moments of inspiration, I don’t know how or why it happens. If I could bottle it I am sure it would sell though. I sat down think about whether I can develop one or two workshops that address the needs of both groups, killing the two birds with one stone. Which quickly turned into how can both associations work together to improve engagement at a regional level for free as this seemed like a theme in both meetings. So I asked myself what does each separate group have that the other group need, and can this be reversed?

Anyway I think I found a answer so have emailed both MTA and AMI reps with this one idea, the rest of the workshops I am still working on. My hope is it will be of benefit to members from both associations, be free and help promote all organisations involved. Be interesting to see what happens with it, as I would like to run the idea, but I do wonder whether I have just unwittingly handed over a baton, that will move out of my hands forever.

A Coaches Dream

I should have probably put this on my coaching blog. But I have few dreams for my coaching. I have no real hankering to get a climber I have coached into the British or an International event. I am not saying that I wouldn’t be immensely proud of achieving that, it is just not what my coaching is about.

Instead my coaching dream is to see someone I have taught to climb years after I have finished teaching them outside or inside climbing, enjoying a climb under their own steam. Today I met a lad at the wall I coached for a few months. He is just getting back into climbing again after by the accounts from his Facebook page he found women and drink when he was at university.

Another young man I taught to climb at a kids club years, although I can’t say any of his success is mine. As he is an exceptional climber and all-round nice guy. He has started a job as a duty manager of a wall down south.

I guess that is what I like about my job, the ability to touch many peoples lives for a short period and seeing an occasionally glimpse of them in the future using some of the skills I helped develop.


Some Rock Climbing

So after making the video the other day. I then managed to sneak out  on Last Tango in Paris. The 6 months since I last really trad climbed, my thought that training of a 45 degree overhanging board would help my trad and the comfy boots. Made it interesting to say the least.

I then took the rest of the weekend off, although to be fair the weather was fairly rubbish. I was all set for a surf today, but I got a email at 4pm yesterday of someone looking for a days guiding. Sadly my boss told me I had to go to work as it would mean that I hit my quoter for March of three days work in the first week! On a serious note, hopefully the work will start picking up soon.

So today I headed to Tremadog and climbed Christmas Curry, Yogi, Boo-Boo and the first pitch of Oberon. It was awesome down there, really warm and sunny. The rock was pretty much dry by the time we started climbing just after 9am, as I met the couple at the crag.

Was definitely another spring day. I did head to the beach in Criceth after work but the surf was deeply disappointing so I headed home for tea and tele. Hopefully the weather will for tomorrow day at the ‘office’