So a few weeks ago I was climbing at Tremadog working alone on a 1 to 1 rock climbing course where I was transforming a Sport Climber into a trad climber. This is a course that I run from time to time, but it does seem more common nowadays to have people sport climb first and then transition to trad.
Anyway it was 3 in the afternoon and we were abseiling down Yogi, a classic VS, and an abseil I had made a week before. So I was not really concerned as it is a non-threatening easy to manage abseil.
I nonchalantly threw my ropes down and followed them on abseil to about half way where I stopped to untangle them and make my way the rest of the way down. This time I was just seconds into recoiling the rope when I felt the first of the stings. Within an instant I felt more.
My initial thought was one of self preservation, ‘don’t let go of the dead rope’, ‘finish the coil’ and ‘get down safely and quick’. I did this all the while being stung multiple times. On the ground I ripped off wasp after wasp. From my hands, ankles and face. Panic over, I then wonder what to do with my client.
I told him not to abseil but to pull the rope up and coil it. I would run round and collect him. The thing was I already felt rather light headed and funny. I had a bad feeling already that this might be a bad decision.
As I walked, ran and power marched up the gully. Heart pounding I felt my face, hands and ankles starting to swell. By the time I got to Adam the facial swelling was starting to make its way to the back of my mouth. I could feel the throat starting to swell.
I hurried poor adam along. Telling him what was happening to me and that I needed to get to the van quickly as I had some antihystermines there. Having gotten him down the worse steps I then made an agonising decision to call 999 and get outside help.
The decision did not save my life this day, but if things had gotten any worse then it may well of. As it was I spent the next 40 minutes on the floor of Eric’s Cafe with my face and throat swelling up even after the meds I had taken. Only after 35 minutes did the reaction start to calm down. 5 minutes later an ambulance arrived and I was on my way to Bangor A&E.
I was taken straight into resus and then move on to a observation ward for 4 hours of observation. Despite the delay in the ambulance due to it coming from so far away my treatment was second to none. Despite the fact that by the time I arrive I was starting to feel fine, and as a result felt I was putting unnecessary load on the NHS.
It took three days for the swell to come down, during which I thing Adam my client must have thought I looked peculiar to say the least! We did have a really successful course with Adam leading two E1’s and A Dream of White Horses in his first week Trad climbing, he was a solid F6b leader though!
The moral of this story is that you can’t train or plan for every eventuality. We all abseil without prussics from time to time. The key is survival instincts. Secondly I am guessing that you should not be afraid to dial 999 and get outside help if the proverbial feels like it is about to hit the fan.
Ever since my previous employer went belly up, owing me a considerable amount of money I decide to start running my business more like, well a business rather than a lifestyle. If you like I have become more proactive in developing the sites and building what I hope are a couple of strong brands to push what I do.
This is my main business arm and at the moment is it doing really well at attracting every one from charity and families waling up snowdon through to my private climbing coaching work. However my desire to get back to Spain for some hot rock climbing next year doesn’t really fit with that branding.
If you want to keep up with what I do then I would suggest liking and follow the Facebook page.
This brand is more reflective of the book I wrote in 2010. The website now has many lessons and videos all aimed to help people climb harder. In an attempt to offer more hot rock trips in the winter I have turn to this site to focus more on the rock climbing courses. As it really does explain my approach to coaching rock climbing.
Again I have moved to a new Facebook page to help keep people informed about the latest events here.
This started life as a place for me to publish older articles that had previous been published in the climbing press. As well as showcase some of the short videos I made over the last few years. However in an attempt to turn it on its head i have instead started to try and link the articles to what I do on How to Climb Harder and Snowdonia Mountain Guides, in as much as they are about climbing and mountaineering around the world.
In a way it tries to sell mini and not so mini adventures across a whole level of experience. Again it now has a Facebook channel of its own.
Finally you will see a logo going up on all my sites along side the AMI logo. The Association of Mountaineering Instructors is great but to me misses the obvious connection to climbing and the coaching I do. In a way I also felt that to offer climbing coaching you need more than a Mountain Instructor Award. Instead you also needed the add on of some form of coach education and a declaration of what level you actually climb at.
So I design Climbing Coaches to do that. It os free to sign up and you can share you D-log or UKC climbing logbook as well as tell people what addition coaching qualification you have in addition to the CWA, SPA or MIA.
So when I first started to rock climb I lived near Swanage and for years I never had a guidebook to the area. The old yellow one was out of print and so my only recourse at the time was to turn to South West Climbs by Pat Littlejohn. The adventures I had with that book as I started to climb are still dear to me. My first trad leads at Subliminal, a early adventure to The Dewerstone and Chudliegh on Dartmoor.
It for me defined my climbing pre-moving to Wales for university. From time to time I head down south and pick another classic route from its pages. Although it is a little dated now.
Pat then was one of the first modern names of rock climbing I knew. His routes down in the more adventurous parts of the South West were, well to be quite frank, out of my league and most still are. Like any legendary climber you tend to build them up to be something they are not.
I have since had the pleasure of running into Pat a few times over the years, either through BMC committee, local issues like the paint in Cwm Tregallan above and most recently over climbing on the Llyn. After a few messages back and forward we met to discuss a future project on the Llyn and it sounds really exciting. I can’t wait to help develop a resource for climbers for this really adventurous area.
An area that Pat is highly passionate about and to be frank is probably the leading protagonist of. Having done around 40 routes since he published the latest supplement to the area, which to be honest was already full of routes he had done since the last guide.
So in a nut shell we are hoping to develop a wiki-type site on NorthWalesRock.com with the hope of sharing all those great adventures on the Llyn.
For me it was great to get a feel for what Pat wants to develop over time and at the same time to sit down and have a conversation with one of the best adventure climbers in the world about a subject that lights him up.
So since returning from Costa Blanca where I was climbing 7a on sight. I have continue to mix it up between trad and sport. Climbing many routes around the E3/4 mark on different rock type and also some sport climbs on the slate and Limestone.
Whilst I managed to flash a 7a on the Limestone when I nipped up Quicksilver as well as leading an E4 or two plus some 6c+s. As such I feel the fitness remains and have managed to switch back between trade and sport really easily.
On the Slate I managed one day to onsight a 7a+ and then do the the amazing route Cig-Arete on my third go and my first proper redpoint attempt. This has been followed up with a play on Child’d Play a 7b+, where I got the moves, so need to go back and link it.
I also onsighted the amazing Great Balls of Fire, E4 on Colossus wall. It has been a good few months since I got back and mingled in-between this has been some great and varied work.
So my blog has always been a place where I beat words out like a machine gun. Often riddled with grammatical and spelling errors. I do however spend a bit more time on the longer piece I write for magazines and stuff.
Rather than let these old pieces stay in the magazines, I am currently going through the process of publishing pieces more than 6 months old on a sister website Vertical Life.
So maybe you’d like to check out some of the pieces I have written there is certainly a variety of subjects from climbing.
So having returned from Spain just in time for Blizzards to envelope the Costa Blanca. It seems appropriate that the the weather goods have shone on me for a couple of days rock climbing.
After attempting tremadog I pulled the shear desperation card of heading to the Lleyn. Where Jez and I climb the spectacular Samurai. This is a great E2 and well worth seeking out. It climbs over 7 overlaps yet never really gets steep. The rock is a micro granite and the main gear is a couple of quarryman shot holes that form great threads. Although you need RP’s and cams to get around the rest of it.
Two days later and I head back to tremadog this time the weather was fine. The wind was blowing over the top of the Crag and Owen and I quickly climbed Kestrel Cracks a stunning HVS, that I think has been rescued from the brambles recently. We then climbed the first pitches of The Ned into Broken Edge, giving a stunning two pitch E2. The first being technical and sustain and the second exposed.
I don’t have v any photos of this because I lost my small camera working at the weekend. I was gutted to be honest, but some kind person on UKC posted up finding it and I have now been reunited with it. All I can say is there are still some beautiful people in the world.
So many years ago now, probably when I was scatting around scotland trying to find some winter conditions to consolidate for my Winter ML. It finally struck me that we have three seasons in the UK now, Warm and Wet, Cold and Wet and a a very brief but satisfying dry period. It was then I realised that pursuing the MIC to take people winter climbing given global warming was not the best option open to me.
Instead the last few years I have managed to find work teaching rock climbing abroad for various people and you know what its ace. I left the UK last September and have work in Spain for 4 months, as well as having a few week free for my own climbing.
I was based loosely out of Madrid but the company had four basecamps. One in Miraflores a beautiful village bear the granite sierras, Chodes a climbing venue near Zaragosa, La Pobla De Segur in the Pyrenees and Finally a place just outside Calpe. All these areas offer something slightly different and later this year and early next I want to start offering course to these places as well as Picos Du Europa climbing adventure course as well, where I was two years ago working for three months.
Climbing Around Madrid
The climbing around madrid is fantastic, Pedraza is a national park with climbing on par with Touloume Meadows above Yosemite. Run out friction slabs with space spaced bolts, means the route feel anything but sport climbs. High up is the amazing Yelmo, granite dome that look down on Madrid.
Further tot the east and you get to Valdemanco, another granite area, which is friendlier and less run out and challenge than prediza, and a great place to serve a friction slab apprenticeship.Finally there is La Cabrera, a steep venue with more cracks and with it some great trad climbing.
All of these venues are in the mountains within 15 minutes of Miraflores. However if the weather is bad you can head down to the Patones. A series of dams for water control mark the end of limestone valleys. The best of which is Ponton De Oliva. Vertical limestone with large pockets means it is jug hauling all the way to the top with a couple of thin moves thrown in to keep you entertained.
One of the best thing about these venues is that they offer great climbing to the 5th and 6th grade climbers. Especially if you have served a trad apprenticeship in the UK.
Chodes and Calcena
Rhodes is an old climbing area, as such it is just right for the 6th grade climber, because it features loads of steep and thin slabs. Don’t be lulled into a force sense of security though. Chodes requires great technical skill to tame, without it the routes feel desperate.
The ora is quite compact and you can walk to any crag within ten minutes from either car park. Its age does mean the easy routes are polished but this does not detract from the cleaness of the rock. With four major crags there is at least a weeks worth of climbing for anyone here, probably more.
If however you get bored you can drive just over an hour up the road to Calcena. A newer are where a climbers hostel is taking responsibility to re-equip and develop the area. Again there are lots of routes here and the refugio is cheap and the climbing easy to access. It is a little higher than Chodes so can be useful to escape the sun.
Climbing around La Pobla and the Pyrenees
The climbign around La Pobla is pretty spread out. The Congeals Valley is five minutes away, but further south is the amazing Tarradets which offers either multi pitch climbing for the 6th grade climber or steep sport climbing for the 7th and 8th.
A newer area being developed is Abella La Conca. There is a good selection of routes for the 6th grade climber. Although many of the details are still not well know and you’ll have to visit the refugio to get the latest developments.
My favourite venue here was a mutlipitch area with unique access. Where by you walk across the top of a dam and walk down a man made staircase cut into the rock on the far side to the base of your chosen route and then climb back up, before walking back down to the car through tunnels and small via ferret type affair.
Climbing Around Calpe – Costa Blanca
This is an amazing place to visit and has climb for everyone from the 4th grade to the 7th and a little beyond. The area is spread out but there is a lot of climbing and each area tends to have its own unique feel.
Later this year we are really excited to head back to run some climbing courses from near Calpe. We are going to be renting a villa for a month or two and enjoying the winter sun all over again.
About two years ago now I decided to stop blogging for a while and start making short videos of my travels. When I got back I stayed away as I was busy with all sorts of stuff that life throws at you.
Hopefully my life has calmed down and I am now back to work in North Wales for a while. As such I thought I would start blogging about my life and work again. Albeit less intensely than before.
So in the last year I have worked about 8 months in spain, travelled the world and had a lot more important things to deal with than this blog. I am now back looking to promote my little business and hopefully from time to time say something interesting.
Well I was utterly baffled when I went up snowdon today. People must know that they need Ice Axe and Crampons on the hill at the moment, not to mention the ability to use them. Although it is quite nice at the bottom of the hill, but as soon as you reach the old snow line, there is deep, bullet hard snow/neve.
I was amazed that so many people had managed to slip there way to the top, and then slip down again, and at the time I write this there hasn’t been a call out. I did however question walking down the mountain as I fear only having to head back up there to help one of these hapless fools. Which kind of got me thinking that if I knew that someone who call out the team was so badly equipped would I still bother attending the call out.
I probably would, but there would come a point. Today though I was disgusted by a family of four (see photo). With two kids about 9 and 11 with no ice axe and crampons between them. They then head straight down the railway line towards the killer convex and clogwyn coch, which took so many lives last year that you’d think people would be aware of the risk by now.
They were lucky, I headed down there to see what it was like and the railway isn’t totally banked out, but it is very close to being deadly.