Project Over the Hill and Far Away

So for the last year I have been telling my friends about this project. As next year I am forty and decided that I should try and go travelling whilst I am still young enough to enjoy it. By telling people I think it forces your hand more.

So in an effort to ‘pay’ my way around the world, I contacted the company that employed me to teach rock climbing in Patagonia in 2010. They have welcomed me back into there program, and I have just bought the tickets to Santiago in Chile.

I had planned to start travelling in June, around my birthday, however I am leaving just after christmas for 42 days work, followed by some more exciting travel plans for a further month. Including heading to Machu Pichu, An attempt to find and trek to Mount Llullaillaco and a visit to a high altitude city called Potosi.

I am keen to find some travel companions, so I have asked my friends, some of which do actually read the drivel I knock out here whether they want to join me. If you think you might be interested in joining me then please email me, the more the merrier.

It’s Official Snowdon is Broken

The BMC has just released a press statement that takes no prisoners. It says it like it should be said, and jumps off the fence of ambiguity slapping the National Park Authority, the Government and a Coroner in the face and begs them to wake up and smell the onions.

It comes at a time when messages from the Head of the Wardens Mair Huws warns that the summit of Snowdonia are not a place for children and the BBC picked it up and basically said families should stay off the mountain. Before this a coroner returning a verdict in an enquiry into the death of a walker, cited ‘false paths’ as the real problem on Snowdon.

The BMC instead picks up on the fact that close to half a million people headed up Snowdon in 2013. A staggering number, given the local rescue team is called out on just under 300 occasions, with only a few deaths a year, I personally think that is amazing. Given that my experience of working on the mountain is that there is inexperience everywhere.

The BMC picks up on the problem of inexperience and suggest the National Park Authorities, removal of false paths is a knee jerk short reaction and short term fix.

Jon Garside the training officer for the BMC said, “It is wrong to say that paths, summits or any other physical aspect of the mountain environment are inherently dangerous. The key factor is people themselves and their ability to deal with the hazards they encounter.” Or in other words false paths don’t kill people, people do.

What to me lends more weight to the BMC statement, other than of course they being a national governing body for rock climbing and mountaineering. Is that the Access and Conservation Officer who is also a key member of Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team. The very team that has to deal with any fall out and emergencies from the half a million people that flood the mountain every year.

Instead of knee jerk reactions the BMC are calling for a well funded education program. One that will require government to give more money to Snowdonia National Park to help manage Snowdon which the BMC claim is the busiest mountain in the world.

I suggest to read their statement and make your own conclusions, it certainly to me says that the park is reacting to what a coroner has said is the cause of an incident. The BMC also questions that coroners conclusions. Is it good or bad that the BMC has spoken out against this?


TV Presenting Work

So last week I was contacted by Steve at the Association of Mountaineering Instructors about whether I could help by doing some presenting for a BMC TV video. It was the kind of random work I really enjoy, as it is something totally different.

I have done a bit of presenting on my own coaching videos and done safety work for various production companies. So it was going to be interesting having the added pressure of two cameras and representing the Association of Mountaineering Instructors, DMM and the BMC.

We did a few videos of multi pitched climbing followed by another of prussiking. It is hard to tell how the edit will turn out, but I early hope it look great as I do have some plans to make more videos doing some more presenting.

Anyway it was good to catch up with Steve Long from AMI, Calum Muskett, Ben Pritchard and Rich Heap. Incidentally Ben and Rich have made one of my favourite climbing videos of all time Hard Grit. It was great to get some advice off them for filming project, and a pleasure to be in front of the camera when I wasn’t belaying!

New Routing

So I have been pretty busy with work and now I am all quiet again, although it looks like the weather is about to break. Before it did I headed to Vivian with Llion who suggested we try a new route on the Prow. So we abseiled in and climbed the arete right of Blade of Green Tara, an existing E2.

We have both scared ourselves climbing this route, and wanted to make a sport route, but at the same time also wanted to leave Blades… as it was. Out route climbed the arete and Blades only goes near it twice, we hope we got the bolts in the right place. Even if you can clip them, which you can in two places if you traverse off the original line.

The route we did is a great F6b+, we headed back on a different day having established it was climbable and getting hold of the drill and some bolts. The result is an as yet unnamed route, as Llion hasn’t got round to naming it, or he hasn’t told me what he has called it yet.

The route was repeated later the same night, a short video below shorts where it is and some of the climbing. The still pool creates a surreal mirror effect.

Dream a little Dream

Sometimes things fall together and we can either achieve great things ourselves, or if you are like me and teach then occasionally we can succeed through others achievements. Yesterday was one of those days, the evening before I met my regular client Simon. We had planned for me to guide him up Grooved Arete, so that he could get some classic mountain rock mileage.

At some point Si had asked me what I thought about Dream of White Horses, as he had seen Coast. I tried to explain that it is a traverse, and very hard to protect him with just me. I have guided five people across it over the years but I have insisted that we do at least a day together first and I have the right to say no if I don’t think they are up for it.

Some people in my line of work might think it a step too far because in the words of a guide who was filmed on coast when asked about what might happen if the second falls, as apparently “you’ve got big problems”. I have heard this from many people, but I always ask them what you think would happen if someone fell off.

Nearly everyone thinks you’ll be hanging a space, which if this was the case would be a ‘big problem’. However no one I ask has ever seen someone fall off, the thought is so horrible that most people hang on and don’t fall off. The legend of the ‘big problem’ and the free hanging climber theory continues.

However years ago stood on the prow looking back at the last pitch, I saw someone on the crux, shaking like the preverbal dog having a dump. In my mind was don’t fall off, you’ll be hanging in space, as he leader had barely placed any runners after the crux. He fell off, it wasn’t pleasant to watch, he pendulumed like a sack of spuds, he came to rest and was conscious, uninjured and not hanging in space. Despite the 30ft swing to hell and back he quickly climbed back to the route. As such I believe with good protection the traverse can be made safe and having safely guided around five climbers across the route over the years, as well has helped friends it seems possible to manage. It is still extremely serious and I don’t take it lightly taking someone on this journey.

During our chat over a pint a friend came in, a very good friend who had the day off the following day and an idea came to me. Put my client Simon between me and Llion and what we have is the most extreme baby bouncer in the world. I asked and he agreed to the scheme.

About half an hour later Simon came round from the shock and asked whether we were serious. Which unfortunately for him we were and the following day we headed down to Wen Zawn and set to work. This is by far the best work I have ever had, although it is also the most extreme in terms of management.

Managing this route requires every skill I have as a MIA and coach. I have to short rope Simon round the top of the crag to the descent gully and down to the abseil. We then abseil in to a small ledge where we all clip ourselves to the belay and sit back in comfort. Before placing enough gear usually just after any hard climbing to reduce the swing potential, rather than to protect yourself that much.

I then set off and did what I call the Wen/Dream Link, this is far easier to managed and meant I can climb in one very long pitch to belay in the concrete chimney, the joys of 60m ropes. The pitch is a steadily rising traverse and it is damp in Wen, and Simon finds the 60m pitch rather tiring, but he plugs away with all the encouragement we can give him and he joins me soon enough.

Simon looks left, and I can sense a little apprehension in his voice when he asked where the last pitch goes. We point it out as Llion racks up and leads us out. As LIion leaves I can feel Simon trembling slightly through the belay, I am pretty sure I was trembling the first time I looked across at that last pitch too. One that I once described as having the ‘utmost cheek’ to traverse such ground and such a low grade! I turned and talk to him and can see from looking at his eyes that he is actually OK.

Llion talks Simon through the crux as he climbs it and then makes the rest of the pitch look easy. As Simon prepares to leave I nonchalantly talk through the baby bouncer scenario. Explain that he won’t be left hanging in space, how he is in good hands and really not to worry too much about falling off.

Simon makes it through the crux, he climbs it really well when he gets his feet sorted and pushes on to the rest and the runner just beyond it. With a rope coming back to me he was pretty much on top rope from me rather than Llion as he did the crux. He carried on and made it round two grooves, as he got to the last groove before stepping down on the slab he got flustered, stepped through too far and fell off.

Anyway the baby bouncer worked and he barely went ten feet, he climbed back to his high point and re-climbed it without tying himself in a knot. He then pretty much walked across the final slab and groove.

The grin on his face said it all, although later he said it was “The best route I have ever climbed!”. Like many people he had seen Leo Dickinson’s classic shot of the route and was hooked, that was around seven years ago and had want to climb the route ever since, but like so many people he felt it might never happen. It was really great to help someone realise their ‘dream….’.

Some marketeering guru recommends you sell dreams not products. This is hard to put across in a few words, a sentence or even a small piece of writing on this site or Snowdonia Mountain Guides. It is part of why I like to coach, instruct, guide or whatever you want to call the job that I do. Helping someone realise their dreams is a privilege, I am occasionally helping people gain memories that can last a lifetime.

Anyway after Coast I have had one request for guiding on “A Dream of White Horses” which I turned down as I think you need to know that the person can climb first. But after this experience, I might think about setting up a ‘Dream of White Courses Guiding Course’, with a ratio of 2 guides to 1 or 2 clients. As it is a much better way to manage the route, and one where it feels far more controlled than with just one guide.

What do you dream of climbing, maybe there is a climbing course for you, or maybe I could design one for your specific needs?



Coco-Cola are bidding for iconic Welsh Cliff

Coca-Cola International Limited have lodged a strong interest in buying the iconic cliff of Cloggy on Snowdon. Just days after the BBC published a story saying that the farmer that owns the “good for nothing cliff”, wants to try and cash in on the whole Blencathra thing and see if a community group will bow to his demands. Dafydd Morris said in a sinister voice whilst stroking his pussy,  “ONE MILLION POUNDS….. Mawhahahahahaaa!”.

On hearing this Coca-Cola International realised that 1 million pounds is a drop in the ocean, for a publicity stunt. They see the opportunity to advertise their number one product using the cliff as a massive billboard and that a precedent had been set for paintings on the cliff. They also had high hopes to sell the water to Californians.

The company have spoken to Jean Veran the Belgain artist who painted the painted rock in Morocco, who said he was very interested in the project, but feels the work is beyond just him and is look for would be “Redhead’s” to help him bring project to life.