New Websites and Facebook Pages

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.

Snowdonia Mountain Guides

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.

How To Climb Harder

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.

Vertical Life

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.

Climbing Coaches

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.

Again it also has a Facebook presence.

Meeting a Legend….

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 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.

The classic Bardsey Ripple

Busy at Play…Child’s Play!

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.

Simon Lake on Jack of Shadows, E4/6c+ on Colossus Wall, Dinorwic Slate Quarries

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.

About to follow Si Lake up Belldance, E5 6b on the Dervish slab. I took the lob from just below where he is on this route!

Long Form Writing

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.

Welsh Winter Trad 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.


Wintering the Sun

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.

Sports Climbing Holidays in Costa Blanca

Back in the Room….

…well kind of.

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.

Darwinian Processes

Family of four - No Ice Axes - they were later seen traversing above Clogwyn Coach
Family of four – No Ice Axes – they were later seen traversing above Clogwyn Coch

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.

Top of the Pyg Track - About Grade 1 at the moment.
Top of the Pyg Track – About Grade 1 at the moment.
Five hillwalkers and not a ice axe or crampons between them!

Best Crag’s in the World: Dinas Cromlech

Whilst many crags in Llanberis Pass are strafed with quality routes and stunning lines, none quite match the beauty of the open book corner of Dinas Cromlech, home a selection of best routes across the grades in this Valley, if not the UK.

Spiral Stair

For Beginners there is both Spiral Stairs and Flying Buttress, both outstanding outings at the VDiff grade. Flying Buttress was first ascended by Menlove Edwards, a notable homosexual and pioneer of rock in the early years. Menlove originally called the route Sodom, but the Climbers Club refused to publish the route under that name so instead the name ‘Flying Buttress’ was used. Which if you think of it as Flying But Stress will tickle you every time you climb it!

A Cunning rest of the uber classic Cenotaph corner

Above that grade there are several VS at the crag that are notably good, however the main events are the routes that surround Joe Brown’s ultra classic line Cenotaph corner, named along with its neighbour Cemetery Gates after the destination on front of buses (or was it Tram’s?) in Manchester. These routes often both get E1, however ‘The Gates’, is somewhat easier and the climbing more open, and being split by a belay on the girdle ledge, seems to make for a better climbing experience than the obvious corner.

Martin Chester runs it out on Cemetery Gates

After you’ve ascended Joe’s classics, then most people become fixed on Left Wall as the next goal. Yet another *** route that follows a slender crack, that dog legs it way up the wall to the left of the corner. Most people make it easily up the initial crack, but place too much gear, so abundant and enticing are the placements. You need to remember to save some of your guns for the final crack. Where despite the aesthetic direct finish, most climbers shuffle out left to the arete on some convenient jugs, before flopping exhausted and elated on the belay.

Left Wall

There are other bench marks on this cliff, Memory Lane, Foil and Resurrection that help bridge the grade gap, however none are as important to your climbing CV as Right Wall, I had put off this route for too long. After climbing it earlier this year after I was effective shamed into climbing it, I can say that the climbing is better than I could imagine, and the situation totally out there.

Nick Bullock ‘Warming up!’ on Right Wall.

To say I was ready for this route was a bit of an understatement. I felt like I levitated up, and actually savoured every move. The crux headwall seem float by and before I knew it I was alone hanging on jugs looking down the coolest wall in the world. An up turned football pitch and for that instance I was David Beckham, basking briefly in my own glory before topping out.

My glory was brief as Pete went onto to climb Atomic Hotrod and Tess of the D’erbervilles both E6! All climbers are equal some are more equal than others! (which film I have just watch?)

Private Guiding and Instruction

For private guiding, instruction or coaching up any of the Cromlechs many classic get in contact with Snowdonia Mountain Guides, we have professional qualified instructors who climb from up to E8.

Proper Planning and Preparation prevents poor performance

This classic coaching maxim is often applied to a whole manner of different situation, and it also holds true in climbing, especially if you are planning on pushing your boundaries. At its most basic it is refering to having done the ground work, for instant there aren’t many people who are going to get up after a prolonged period on the couch and climb at there previous limit. However if you have been out climbing at your limit for a few months and feel comfortable, then prehaps you’ve done the neccessary work to push those limits and step across that line in the sand to a new no mans land where anything can happen. If that’s the case then there are a few things you can do to minimise the unexpected.

This diagram can take the form of anything from a very basic pencil drawing showing the expected path, and main features like corners, aretes, cracks, holds and quickdraws. If its and indoor route, try to include all the hand holds and which direct they look best to hold them, were you can shake out, which holds you clip off and where the crux section of the route is. These diagrams can also be used to break the routes down into sections.

Eventually you will find that there is no need for you to draw a diagram of a route, as you can build a mental picture by breaking the route down, into easy climbing, hard climbing, crux sections, possible rests, even where there is protection. Often to achieve this you’ll need to view the route from several different view points, to get a better 3D image of the route, alternatively it is also posssbile to climb an easier adjacent route, allowing you a birds eye view of crucial holds.

Climbing an adjacent route will also allow you to get used to the type of holds, the angle of the wall, and even the style of climbing. This in turn will help you to imagine how you might climb the route in your own mind (see imagery post). At its most advance level you would include imagining a series of ‘What if’s’ – the gear isn’t as good as you thought, the holds are smaller, the rock is steeper, the crux is harder, the gear is better, etc…

The key Points are:
Draw a diagram
Breaking the route into sections
Where are the likely rests
Look at the route from several different view points to get a better 3D image
Climb an easier adjacent route to get a feel for the rock and another view point
Imagine how you might climb the route

How to Climb Harder Course

On the how to climb harder course we cover these skill sou planning and preparation as a tactic to improve peoples climbing. You’ll be amazed at how effective they are. To find out more or to check out when out next How to Climb Harder course follow the link.

How to Climb harder courses
how to climb harder courses