The Golden Age in the Digital Age

I have for the last few years, ever since I started researching my book hanging by a thread, been obsessed with reading and dare I admit it collecting old climbing and mountaineering books.

Whilst in the main I have found what I needed in reprints of the classics and some collections of the best writing from across a wide array of climbing literature. I have been lucky enough to read a few classic books of what can only be described as the Golden Age of Mountaineering, through what can only be described as the wonders of the digital age.

Google and the Gutenberg Project have really changed the way you can research as at the moment I am part way through Wanderings in the Alps by Alfred Will published in the 1800s. I have another five books lined up to read on my iPad. I have chosen to read them as a PDF, as the pages are direct scans of the originals.

I can only recommend the wonders of and I think I am going to try and collate a list and mini reviews of the books I have read on one of my other domains. Although I will endeavour to publish some of the reviews here as well in the time being.

Catching the Media Off Guard

So the photo above is actually from a trip to Yosemite a few years ago. Probably about five years ago now I come to think of it. The story behind this shot is that a ‘documentary’ film maker was trying to capture peoples stories from climbing in Yosemite. So he was walking around trying to get anybody to tell him a story.

I had sat down with Andy Kirkpatrick as he was preparing to take the guy from Help the Heroes up El Cap. So we were chatting about what each of us were up to and in came this film-maker.

“So have you got any climbing tales about Yosemite you’d like to share”

Andy looks and me and I looked at Andy.

“Andy has one or two!”

So for the next five minutes Andy talked about a bear, I can’t remember the story but like most of his narratives it has been worked into a fantastic stand up routine. Which he masterfully gave in total dead pan seriousness. At the end the filmmaker turns and ask me.

“Is he for real.”

“Totally, not a word of a lie.”

I did wonder what happen to that footage, whether he was caught hook, line and sinker or not.

Anyway if you are preparing for a trip to Yosemite and would like a course in ‘How to Big Wall Climb‘ then visit the link

Classic Rock Climbing: The Ogwen Valley

Over twenty years ago I came to North Wales with the Cadet’s from the school where I did my A-levels. We were on an adventurous training week, based at Capel Curig Camp and to this day driving from Capel Curig to the Ogwen Valley still elicits the same excitement that I felt in the back of that mini bus all those years ago as Tryfan’s East Face came into view along with the Glyders.

Back then we were just scrambling up Tryfan and the Glyders, and back then none of my career advisers had even heard of the job of outdoor pursuits instructor. I think it was on that first trip that I started to ask the right questions of how and why you would go about working in the mountains.

It resulted in me eventually coming to Bangor to study at University and quickly descended into a life long obsession with rock climbing and mountaineering in North Wales. One of the first routes I ever climbed up here was a route on The Idwal Slabs, a stunning 450ft rock staircase. Where sometimes the steps were large enough to accommodate a team but most just enough for a foot or less.

I love the Slabs, but what I love about them the most is the chances I get to introduce people to the sport I know and love on the same routes that grabbed my soul and never let go. Helping someone climb their first multi pitched route is a true privilege.

In the twenty or more years since that first climb here I have written many words about the Ogwen Valley. Most recently a article on how it is a novices playground. Yet still a place where even I can find and have adventures. A few years ago a friend and I climbed Groove Arete at night. It was a truly awesome experience and one that I will never forget.

Alone in a 6ft bubble of light I lead the route slowly and steadily, below me Duncan followed as I belayed. Then on a belay I turned the head torch off to save battery and I am immediately transported back to half way up this 12 pitch mountain route.

It seems like too long ago that I had one of these madcap adventures, a midnight ascent of a classic easy route. Sitting late into the night waiting for the sky glow red as the sun sets. Although saying that I did enchain most of the mountain crags in Ogwen last year.

If you are a trad climber and want to move from single pitch climbing to multi pitched adventures then I can’t recommend Ogwen Valley enough. Whether you start out of Tryfan Back or make your way up the well worn Milestone Buttress or join the masses on the incline of the Idwal Slab. The day out you’ll have will be second to none.

The valley is typified by slab by rock, that is very clean and often reasonably polished, but not enough to be of detriment to the routes, as modern rubber has over come the problem somewhat. Most of the crags are within 20 minutes or less of the road save for the highest cliff that can be approached in around 45 minutes.

A full breakdown of crags in available in Climber this month.

Top Ten Sub-Extreme Ogwen Routes

  1. Faith, Hope and Charity – Any of the these VDiff on the Idwal Slabs are amazing.
  2. Ordinary Route – the trough that leads very easily to the top of Idwal Slabs.
  3. Grooved Arete – A long mountain route on the east face of Tryfan, of which there are few finer VDiffs in the UK.
  4. Direct Route, Rowan Route and Pulpit Route – All classic VD on the Milestone.
  5. Tennis Shoe, Lazarus, Groove Above and Grey Slab/Lost Boot Climb – One of the best link ups of routes in North Wales.
  6. Direct Route (Glyder Fach) – A monumental Hard Severe  that will leave you gobsmacked when you realise it was climbed in 1909!
  7. Zig-Zag, Flake Crack and Hereford Crack – VS – HVS on Gribin Facet.
  8. Sub-Cniefion Rib and Cniefion Arete – VD and a quieter version of the slabs that leads up towards the base of the fantastic alpine style ridge, which is more of a scramble than a climb.
  9. Marble Slab and other route – Severe – VS on Bochlliwedd Buttress.
  10. Gashed Crag – Another massive VD on the East Face of Tryfan. This one has a bit more character in the form of one chimney.

If you’d like to be guided on a mini enchainment, or be taught how to multi pitch climb or be coached to climb harder. Then I do offer various courses through my other website Snowdonia Mountain Guides.

Beeline Britain

Land’s End to John o’Groats is something of a cliche when it comes to charity fundraising. Please don’t get me wrong cycling the length of Britain is a very great achievement, but everyone does it. Most of all people who actually like cycling do it for charity and you wonder whether they are just having a holiday where they get fell slightly better about themselves for the charity aspect they have bolted onto it.

My guess is has been done on unicyle, roll skates, <insert funny form of transport here!>  by men, women, children, cats, dogs, sheep etc… So coming up with a new take on a classic challenge must be really hard. I have known for a while that a friend had come up with a variation on a theme. That variation being a close to a straight line as possible by human powered transport.

Enter Beeline Britian, whilst not climbing. I think it is pretty impressive, although I am pretty sure there is a safety vessel with them so don’t worry about them. The top photo allows you to get the idea of what they are doing, so less cycling and more paddling seems on their horizon for some time.

There website is and you can track them on a map here. There is a link to there charity just giving page as well.

For me it seems one of the more adventurous ways of doing the trip, save swimming it!

A Social Responsibility

As part of my job, I have to keep my first aid certificate valid, I have to admit that I was out of date for about 7 days due to a problem booking a course when I wasn’t working. However I have probably been trained in first aid since I was about 8 years old. From about age 16 I have a valid first aid certificate save a few days here and there.

It can feel really dull re-certifying, although the various resus councils seem to change the protocols every 3 years just to keep us on our toes. Most of the stuff we are now taught is very similar to what I was first taught in terms of the core ABC. It is also great to have a little confidence boost that you haven’t forgotten everything in those three years.

Apart from my job, I also think that as rock climbers we owe it to our climbing friends to go on a first aid course. If you don’t believe me, then ask yourself this. Faced with a friend falling off a route, would you be confident in yourself to do the right things to maintain their live until a rescue team gets there?

If the answer is no, then you need to go on a first aid course, as the last thing you want to live with is the guilt that will haunt you if your friend has an accident and you are stood about totally oblivious as what to do.

The basics of first aid are, well basic and at the same time something totally simple can and does save lives everyday.

As climbers an urban first aid course is probably not wholly appropriate, but there are more outdoor orientated first aid courses like REC (Rescue and Emergency Care). I recommend a two day course with someone like Active First Aid, Kath also wrote one of the first books dedicated to outdoor first aid.

Even if you just do a one day basic first aid course, at least your climbing partner will have a fighting chance

New Route at Tremadog?

So I headed out today with Llion for a climb. I had mention previously about what I thought was a new route at Tremadog on the Merlin Buttress. Having looked at the new guide the wiki and even asked the guide author, I am pretty sure we climbed something new. So I am claiming it as Hippogriff.

As I remember a few years ago climbing what the guide describes as a 4c pitch to the right of Merlin, that goes more or less direct to the belay after a little traverse out right.

Our route traverse right as for this route and keeps going until you are on the very edge of the buttress, looking down Giereagle/Vulture wall. You finished the traverse on some undercuts and good cams. As the slab runs out for your feet arrange gear in the upper break and make a long reach to a sloper and then pull round the overlap on improving holds and move right to the arete to savour more of the amazing exposure.

The route is amazingly only HVS 5a, the crux is like rych y ddin on Pant Ifan. I will undoubtedly be told by someone that I did this in the year 1909, my point is that no one has actually claimed it, and it is probably worth two stars. It was the easiest new route I have done as it require no cleaning and was done pretty much ground up (I remember top roping it about 15 years ago, although it may have been the route to the left, such is memory!)

The photo shows my new route in red, the existing and described variation in yellow and the original merlin in green. The traverse is foreshortened at this angle and comes a good 15 feet right of the yellow line.

Anyway after that we climb another great classic The Fang, which is every bit as good as I remember it. Llion took on the first pitch and I climbed the top.

What I have discovered lately is whilst I haven’t been climbing much, at around E1 I seem to be pretty happy. As if those last twenty plus years of climbing have given me a pretty handy base level.

Cwm Silyn and The Crucible

Today my friends kid had her first multi pitched climbing experience with her dad, scaling the tiers of Lion Rock to the top. She is 6, had previous never got to the top of the climbing wall, but loved climbing outdoors. I had tea with her and her dad, as well as another young family from Llanberis whose kids do gym, ride horses and there mum wants to get them into ‘circus skills’.

North Wales is nothing if not an eclectic mix of people who do all types of wild and wonderful things. Whilst another handful of my friends took part in the Slateman Triathalon, I walked into Cwm Silyn on a lovely day that was trying its best to be summer but was fighting a pretty persistent and chilly wind.

Where I met another friend who was taking their friend daughter out for her first ‘real’ multi pitched route on Outside Edge. I can only think that that would be a really special day out and when we met them again half way up they all seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I climbed with a friend I have never climbed with before, which is always tricky. As you don’t really know what they are really like at climbing. Simon obvious thought I was still climbing like I did a few years ago so gave me the crux pitch of Crucible, which at E1 I knew  might be tricky as a friend previously suggested that it feels as hard as Jabberwocky the E2 to its right.

Anyway Si dispatched his pitch pretty quick and left me to mine. I got to the crux and was up and down widdling in gear. I then committed hung around placing another runner and got pumped and scuttled back down to the ledge.

It all seemed to be taking time, but eventually I committed and got through the crux, which was pretty good and reasonable testing for an E1. I then made my way across what I hoped was the rest of the pitch with plenty of Si re-reading the description with me trying to make the route fit.

Si ran up the last trick pitch and we join our friends on the Sunset ledge, before firing up the last easier angled rock to the top. It was the first time I have been to Cwm Silyn and it is a mighty fine crag, which gets a fair bit of sun.

I was surprised to see the VS’s mobbed by around 5 or 6 teams.

If you fancy coming to wales to enjoy some classic mountain routes or want to learn to rock climb then visit snowdonia Mountain Guides.

The Classics VDiffs: Dinas Cromlech

So I had a lovely day today in the sun up Llanberis pass. I reclimbed for the first time in years Flying Buttress and Spiral Stairs. It must have been nearly twenty years since I first climbed them. It would have been a similar afternoon on a sunny day.

Being twenty years braver I actually soloed them both. Flying buttress was more memorable both then and now. Reinvoking the thoughts of a young man who soloed with ease to the last pitch of Flying Buttress only to have to spend five minute there not so much have words with myself but an entire conversation.

I was glad that the same move still exists and that with a rope attach to your waist and a runner above your head it was only a word I needed to commit today.

We headed down and then up Spiral Stairs, which is ultimately easier but much more blind when it comes to route finding. Despite authoring two guides  that include the route. I choose to not look at one whilst the other too heavy and big for me to fit in the small bag. A bag that I wrote a review for and had to rewrite it twice.

The first review might have said both an advantage and disadvantage of said bag was its size. As it was so small you could fit a whole rack in it. The disadvantage is obvious, however the unobvious advantage is that if you can’t carry everything then you climbing partner will.

Fortunately using the force and mountain sense I managed to stay on the line that was of least resistance. Finding my way up the spiral stairs.

Both routes were amazing and I wonder how much easier they were when they were so polished. As to be totally honest my main way to stay on route was that if the holds I was on were polished to a mirror like hue then I was off route. Both routes are over 80 years old, so I guess we have to forgive them for being over used in that time.

Anyway, lovely weather so looking forward to more classics.

Slideshow of Hanging By A Thread

So I was in London for my talk on Monday night. I was a small and intimate gig. Around 30 tickets were sold and it was a great opportunity to share some of the ideas of the book and maybe get a few more sales as a result. I did the talk for Overhang Climbing, who run a series of lectures down there.

I decided to repeat the talk in North Wales tomorrow, as a) I can remember it and b) I thought it would help raise funds for the North Wales Bolt Fund, now the BMC has stopped supporting all bolt funds through their better bolts campaign. Maybe see you at the beacon at around 7pm.

I drove up from Bournemouth yesterday and did a CPD in coaching climbing movement outside. Sadly there was only one person on it, but I thought I might as well head out for a quick boulder before hand. I ran into some Mountain Equipment people and AI called harry and used there pads for a 30 minute quick hit at the RAC before running the course.

It reminded me of working at Joe Brown’s years ago and heading to the RAC Boulder for lunch where I could eat and do two circuits before returning to work.

Today I was supposed to be going up Grooved Arete on Tryfan, but unfortunately my client was a no show. So I headed home and did some writing work, collected my new glasses and then went out bouldering for ‘research’ for an article.


Cornwall, Devon and Dorset

So I have had a great few days in Cornwall, working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Mountaineering Club. Such a great bunch of people and alway humbling to work with the military. It was also a trip down memory lane as we stay at a place where I did my first rock climbing courses as a young lad of about 18.

I met the group at the Quay Climbing Wall on wednesday, and climbed for a couple of hours with them before I continued down to Land’s End in the hope of surf. There was surf but it was pretty epic with massive outside sets coming in.

The following day I headed out with two of the group and did a rope rescue/climbing coaching day at a small crag just outside Helston. We had a pretty poor weather, but managed to stay reasonably sheltered.

The next day five of us headed to Bosigran, I then coached them on Black Slab and Ochre Slab Route II and Little Brown Jug. We had a cracking day and even saw some sun.

The last day was wet again so we drove back via the Quay and I did a couple of days coaching. I ran into Neil Gresham who was down there with Sherpa Gear giving some masterclasses. Was great to catch up with him the first time in a year, I also got to congratulate him on his F8c tick.

I am now in Bournemouth and went to The Project Climbign Centre in the Dolphin Centre in Poole. Was a pretty good bouldering session, although I ache now. I also met with a friend from school. It has been 18 years since I last saw him. So we had a quick catch up and boulder, as he is trying to get back into bouldering.

I am now prepared for my talk that I am giving tomorrow in London Town and later on in the week for the North Wales Bolt Fund at the Beacon Climbing Centre.

I also have to get back up to Wales for Tuesday evening for a climbing movement course at the RAC boulders at 6pm. However the end is insight for the climax of this busy week.