#YOLO #1

Back when was growing up, although I am sure people would not have to look too hard at my lifestyle to say I have been afflicted with a serious case of Pete Pan syndrome, we did not have hashtags. This makes me seem rather old and quite frankly past it, which I probably am if you’re as old as I was back then when all this happen. The term to surf the internet was something of an oxymoron, as it felt more like paddling a raft upstream with nothing more than a spoon.

Today we complain if out internet can’t stream four TV channels at once, whilst we simultaneously used Facebook, twitter and instagram on our laptops or tablets and whatsapp on our phones. As a result of dial up connections mine is the last generation to grow up and get to do all the dumb stuff you do before you are old enough to know better and before someone filmed it and instantly uploaded it youtube.

I am not sure anyone every said You Only Live Once before diving headlong into some hair brained plan for adventure. We sat round a friends house bored because there was no Facebook or twitter to waste half a life away updating your status. This meant when someone suggested something or to be quite honest anything we would embrace it with open arms like borrowing a boat and paddling it across to Vivian Quarry in the dark one cold November night, heading out at 9pm to do the 5 hour underground trip through disused mine in fancy dress, simply because it was more interesting than TV. Or simply paddling across the lake in a canoe to have a party on a beach the other side.

We just did it, no blogging, no social media stunts just real face to face kudos with some of the finest people that ever walked this Earth. Whether it is my age or a total change in the nanny state it seems people like to take less and less risk for either fear of making fool of themselves of Youtube or Facebook or the fear that risk is bad, dangerous and to be avoided.

What has made me wonder at the world and living life to the max has come in several waves, first off I hear or see people using You Only Live Once or #YOLO all the time, often for the lamest of things. Secondly a friend asked about a route I climbed years ago and the state I climbing it in really was one of those real YOLO moments. I am not sure how we got there, but we ended up at Gogarth below the classic The Strand.

I could barely stand up, the tequila, vodka and red bull that seemed like such a good idea at 2am were somehow living onto haunt me. As I racked up and tried to keep my breakfast of coffee and a slice of toast down the reality was dawning on me that I wasn’t too sure I was going to succeed.

I set off and the instant I exerted myself my head spun violent, as if being thrown around a tumble drier. Every half rest I stop and lower my head to my hands and put my cheek against the cool rock, like a most people do with the porcelain of toilet bowl after an over exuberant night. After a minute I would come round from this stupor and realise that I was in fact still climbing. Where I managed to keep it together to climb another 10 or 20 ft before shutting down again.

I really can’t describe how terrifying it is to essentially come round after a mini nap and find myself slowly getting higher and higher up what felt like the living end of all climbs. Although given I was on it for what felt like a week, I am guess that it is a steady away E2, I did once have a disagreement with a guidebook editor once saying it should be E3. When I told him about my ascent he quite rightly point out he can’t grade a route for when you are hungover.

I came round one last time and was nearly at the belay, and with the last of my remaining energy and psychological composure I fought on to the belay where I collapse in a heap and emptied my stomach till I was left dry retching. My friend followed and I suggested he stayed away from the belay and I’d lower him down.

You Only Live Once, I am just glad I did this years ago when I was young and stupid!

Another Day and Another Year Older

So Yesterday I was 39, nothing special, I have almost given up counting. I am though as I will put it frequently, usually when I am about to be burnt off by a younger man or woman, nearly 40. Or as my friends who are younger than me put it, nearly past it!

So yesterday I went climbing in the Pass and did the awesome Spectre on the Crouchan and then went bouldering on the Cromlech boulders with a few friends. I took some beers so we enjoyed a social climb and a beer before heading to the Heights for more beer.

I woke up rather hungover today and managed to follow Si up The Plum, that direct start is nails and I fluffed the move and managed to bounce back to the floor on rope stretch! I then went up the easy start on the right. We then climbed a variation on Blinkers or something on Grim Wall before retiring feeling more ropey than when I started.

Anyway was a good couple of days and really looking forward to next year when I hit the big four O. I am trying to arrange what I have dubbed project over the hill and far away and the count down has started and there is less than 365 days.

100 Lakeland Extremes in a Day

So a good friend James McHaffie has just soloed 100 Lakeland Extremes in a day, which is an amazing achievement. I am sure when the dust settles and the video comes out of his achievement that people will see just how amazing this achievement is. Things like number of pitches or metres climbed and distance travelled between crags.

I have done two big enchainments in North Wales, and none included an extreme grade route or 100% soloing. Both were 12 hour efforts and both destroyed me physically and mentally by the end, they are the climbing equivalent of the ironman. Needing good mountain sense and fitness to get between the routes and then great crag mans skills to climb the routes quickly and efficiently.

I’d like to think that those two enchainments have given me a slight appreciation of what caff has achieve. Although we kept going for 7 hours less than caff and he climbed 10 times as many routes at a much higher grade. What I can say is that the getting between the crags is much harder than you think and getting enough food and liquid in you becomes problematic on such an endurance event.

Caff has climbed E9+ on many different rock types, F9a on limestone, F8c+ on Slate, Freed Multiple Big Wall Routes and now this, I know he doesn’t like being in the limelight all that much but as Adam Hocking said this probably puts him in the top 10 of all British Climbers. I am not sure about that as I am struggling to think of 9 people who have achieved so much so I might put him in the top 5.

If you really want to have an appreciation of this achievement then why not try you own mini enchainment with a rope. The days are still long for another month and hopefully the weather is good. There are two to choose from in North Wales (Ogwen and Snowdon) and you can try and tick as many 3* routes at Stanage in your grade as another.

Anyway such a great achievement by Caff and I would keep an eye on his blog to see what he has to say about it!


Coaching Climbing

As well as getting out for myself last week, including the epic enchainment and a quick evening hit where we climbed 5 routes from F6a-6b and two E3s. The weather has been great and everywhere seems drier than ever.

Yesterday I was out doing a days coaching for James and Said, they wanted to work on VDiff/Severe territory so we headed up Hope and Lazarus. It was an awesome day and the sun and shape that Idwal Slabs provided was awesome. We had a great day out and they seemed to think they picked up a few great tips for improving their climbing.

If you’d like to learn to lead climb or just want some lead climbing coaching then check out snowdonia mountain guides

Snowdon Lost under a Mountain of Rubbish

It has been silly season for me on Snowdon, the extended daylight and good weather means I have summited four times this week alone. Twice last week and both days at the weekend. As the days progressed the state of the mountain has deteriorated. It is still standing and still fine, but from a lover of the outdoors and nature it seems that there is an annual stampede that has little regard for the mountain.

As I walk down the mountain on Saturday with a group of businessmen from Reading or somewhere similar they ask about the local economy and I jest that if Llanberis wasn’t at the foot of snowdon it would be Bethesda. They asked where is bethesda, i said exactly!

I don’t mean to insult anyone from bethesda, but a drive along the A5 reveals an old quarry village clinging onto an economy, there are few cafes, even fewer B&Bs and more than one or two closed down shops. Llanberis on the other hand flourishes through its position at the foot of Snowdon, a sacrificial cow held up to people as the highest point in England and Wales.

As I headed down from the summit that last saturday there was barely enough room to walk there were so many people filing along the final ridge from the finger stone where the PYG, Miners, Llanberis and Snowdon Ranger Paths converge into what was the walking equivalent to a friday afternoon/evening on the M5/6 around Birmingham.

Among those caught in the congestion are a whole bunch of people who would normally have no place on a mountain. They have come to raise money for charity, they have seen Chris Moyles and Cherly Cole climb Kilimajairo and Snowdon and want some of that action. They are potentially a problem on many levels. First off they have a kind of zealous approach to the mountain that means they are getting to the summit come hell or high water. As if charity is a cloak of invulnerability.

More than one walker I past struggling their way to the top suggested they would get the train down. To which I point out that the trains are full and it is going to cost twenty quid if they can find a place. Where is the idea that getting to the top is optional but ensuring you can get back down is pretty vital. I wonder how many people break themselves raising money for charity?

They have no idea what a mountain is and many therefore don’t know how to behave. I heard many people complain there was no rubbish bins. Oblivious to the concept of leave no trace or pack it in and pack it out approach. My opinion is somewhat backed up by the no doubt tonnes of litter that is strewn across the hillside. The top image is just one such image, but look under a stone or in a crevice and some would be mountaineer has probably stuff a crisp packet or water bootle.

They have probably headed to the heights for an escape from the Urban and concrete jungle, only to treat a mountain the same as they would street in a city. As street cleaner will be along soon enough to clear their mess away. They just seem oblivious to the fact that snowdon isn’t hyde park, it is much more beautiful and fragile.

This Sunday in the afternoon the summit cafe ran out of water. I heard some great comments, like what are they thinking running out of water. They actually provided alcohol cleaner instead by the way, but no one seemed to think that all that water needs to be bought up on the train, and that this weekend had seen so many people on the summit it made my head spin. The demand for hand washing must have been massive as I saw two 1000 litre tanks on their way down from the summit that morning! The only time I saw more people on the summit was for the Olympic Torch Relay. Then everyone went there for one event after that the crowds cleaned.

No wonder snowdon is straining under this load of people.
No wonder snowdon is straining under this load of people.

The problem of Snowdon is immense but it only last a month or so. I am not sure what the solution is, education, but how can you educate people when they think Wales is in the dark ages because no one has worked out how to pump tonnes of water to the summit to let them wash their hands and have some free water to drink, because it obviously doesn’t cost to get the water up their in the first place.

I breaks my heart almost every time I climb the mountain. I don’t know what the solution is but I guess pointing people to the countryside code and point out that people should try and take only photo and leave only footprints. Or simple leave no trace!

Where is the Line?

A few days ago I headed up to a new bouldering area dubbed Fontainfawr, after its supposed similarities with the amazing forest in France. It’s name to be honest is where the similarities end. Whilst it is a great climbing venue, to even mention it in the same sentence as the hallowed forest is somewhat insulting the french climbing mecca.

Naming aside, the climbing is definitely worth the journey if you can time it to avoid the midges that frequent the boggy hillside. We had a northerly breeze which kept most of them at bay. There was a few things that make me question the climbing here.

First off reading the mini topo guide I noticed that they ask you keep the noise to a minimum. Fair enough, not everyone wants to here you curse after falling off that 6b for the 8th time. But also ‘Leave No Trace as the block lie on the edge of a nature reserve’.

This second one is where I became rather taken aback. First the blocks have been very heavily gardened, removing years of moss and vegetation. The work involved must have been immense and taken days, and whilst I can only thank the developers it kind of leaves me uneasy given it is on the edge of the nature reserve, I wonder whether it is inside or outside the reserve?

That leave no trace also doesn’t seem to extend to the large blue gym crash pad barely concealed under a large boulder or the construction of a permanent wooden ‘landing platform’.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that in the mountains boulderers might spend a few hours ‘landscaping’ the boulders to make a flatter patio. I guess I have come to accept this as well, and have even rejigged a landing myself in the past, although it was more like moving a small rock than shifting something that makes the Atlas Stones look like child’s play. It seems to be an acceptable practice, as unless you know the area really well, you probably won’t notice that the area has been flatten into a nice patio by some community spirited boulderers.

However, I am not sure I agree with the landing platform here, which is essentially a wooden platform like some north shore cycle track but made out of wood from B&Q in the middle of the forest. I am not sure the Bleaussard would stand for it, but I might be wrong. Maybe I am just not up with current practices in bouldering. I just can’t help thinking that if I turned up and built a decking below the roadside face of the Cromlech or the Plantation boulder in Stanage I’d get linched. Yet in this place where we are being told to leave no trace by the developers, a landing platform and in situ mat is fine.

I guess the debating point is whether the platform is a step too far, or are these boulder suitably obscure that they are immune to what might be consider ‘normal practice’. It just strikes me the platform is there so they could climb a few extra problems without the potential for a nasty fall. There certainly feels like some double standard going on. Especially as there is absolutely no reference to it in the mini guide.

I guess the question I am trying to ask is where is the line in the sand when it comes to not only developing new areas but also landscaping landing zones? I give you this video from America to kind of illustrate the point, although it is worth noting the frame wasn’t constructed of fallen wood.

Whatever your thoughts the venue is well worth the journey, maybe you’ll see the platform and you will almost definitely use it and probably the in situ mat.  The Grand Fissure is perhaps one of the best recent 7c lines I have seen in North Wales, although not seen a lot recently, I might even get fit again for it.

I am not saying what they did was wrong, I am big enough to know that not everyone will agree with my thoughts when it comes to bouldering ethics. I will  certainly be using it when I go back. What I am wanting to do is simply open up this for debate. As there is no mention of the construction or in-situ pads in the topo, yet a wish for us to ‘leave no trace’, simply not mentioning the elephant in the room doesn’t remove it. How far should we go to landscape a landing when bouldering? Where is the line in the sand?

Twitter Milestone: Follow me….

I am trying to decide if I am sad or just ever so slightly egocentric, the thing is I am slowly approach a twitter milestone of 2000 follows. I say slowly because I gain about 1 follow a day on average, so I have 140 days till I reach the rollover. Although as I use it as a marketing tool, I also think it is fairly important to get the right balance between marketing, useful information and just a little part of my humour across in 140 characters.

It is fairly amazing that there are nearly 2000 people who want to follow me anyway, although given the expanse of social media there is a lot of noise and very little in the way of signal nowadays. Anyway thanks to the first 1860 followers it has been a pleasure doing the digital conversing thing with many of you over the years. I hope it can continue.

In terms of how I use twitter the marketing side is fairly fixed as I am simply giving people a link to one of my hopefully inspirational pictures everyday at about 5pm, which in turn leads you to my Snowdonia Mountain Guides website. It is all automated to pull just one image at random from a sizeable database. The rest is usually headlines and links to Facebook and this blog, which again auto populate.

I then try and engage people as and when they ask questions or most recently posted a picture of me looking exhausted as I slogged my way up to the summit of snowdon on my enchainment day yesterday. This is the bit I think is best about Twitter, the conversation with often people I have never met save for a tiny avatar/photo on their profile.

So if you’d like to know when the next blog post has been made, want daily inspiration or just want to read utter rubbish from me as I drivel on about climbing, surfing, mountains and other exciting pastime then it would be a privilege to have you follow me.

I have to admit I am useless at the whole #ff and #tt (follow friday and throwback thursday).

You can find me @verticallife 


Mid Summer Madness

About this time last year, a friend and I set out for an epic enchainment. A year has past and a the memory of the pain and suffering has subdued enough to make us think about doing another. We had a brief discussion about it and had ‘Enchainment Two: The Reckoning’ lined up for a day when yin and yan aligned .

So in the last week or so I have been out climbing with various people. mainly just doing easy routes. A day at Tremadog at the weekend doing Scratch Arete and Great Western. Then yesterday we went to the Mot and did Stairway to Heaven and the amazing Super Direct. In the evening we then climbed at some new boulders in Waunfawr.

The plan was made yesterday that today was go day. Unlike last year when we started in the dark, today Si had to drop his daughter off at child care so we started at 9am.

Our first routes were on Dinas Mot, The classic The Crack mixed up with a little of Lorraine due to me route finding. We then head right to Slow Ledge Climb another fine route, it is worth noting that whilst Black Spring initial pitches are still too wet to climb you can get to the great top pitch via Slow Ledge Climb.

From the top we walk across and down to Cryn Las, where we climbed Main Wall. Again one of the most marvellous HS in the world. The last time I climbed it was twenty years or so ago and I was soloing jt onosght. So much nicer enjoying the 200m route with a rope.

From here we soloed up The Parson Nose which is grade two scrambling. The second time this week I have done this the last time was with clients. We then descended all the way to the PYG track and miner Track and traverse around Llyn Llydaw to the base of Lliwedd where we climbed Avalnche and Terminal Arete, which we managed in something like 30 minutes.

We then march to the summit cafe on Snowdon where we got some lovely ice cold drinks and had a chat with the manager who was on my recent first aid course. The rest was great and we then headed to out last route on Cloggy.

We chose Longland’s Route because it started from the decent gully.  It was nice starting up know we had enough daylight and time left to nit have to rush. Almost giving us a chance to enjoy the finale to our day.

It was hot and exhausting and felt really great to tick the last route and we congratulated ourselves, but we still had to walk the several miles back to Llanberis. Where we collect the other car and had a well deserved pint of lager shady, the most refreshing drink in the world.


EDIT a photo from a twitter follower, I was right goosed at this point our final really uphill slog to the summit of snowdon. Walking was definitely the crux!

Climber Magazine: Cloggy Issue

So I am really please to have been involved with this epic issue. There is a massive 16 page feature on Cloggy. With an early history from me and some thoughts on the hard routes by Indian Face ascentionist James McHaffie and an interview with Joe Brown all about Cloggy.

If that wasn’t enough then to commerate D-Day landings we look at the Royal Marines Cliff Assault Wing and how they trained and effected climbing development down in Cornwall.

I also think there is probably and evolution of climbing gear article in there, and to top it off I am on the cover belaying someone who I first met as a client on a climbing course and who has ended up becoming a friend, James Oswald.

Anyway it should be available in your local outdoor shop or newsagent now.



Burning the Candle at both ends and cleaning in the middle

So I was up early for a 6am surf, along with half of north wales’ surfers at long beach Rhosneigr. Really good surf, and pretty clean. It got big and a bit messy late on and I had to head in walk to the side to stand a chance of getting out back. Even with nearly 20 people in it was a really good scene with several of my friend getting in. In the end me and dunce left exhausted.

I then returned for some house cleaning duties as my mum is coming to visit the house tomorrow, as she has only seen photos so far. Then she is heading up snowdon tomorrow on the train why I work.

I then heard it was good at low tide at Aberfraw, so decided to head back and rinse the last few rides out of the residual swell. It wasn’t huge but it was clean and totally amazing sat out on the board in the sun. I do love the view from this beach.

So I am now tidying the house some more and feeling very ready for bed.