14th September 2018

September’s Rock Climbing Development Course

It’s been an ace couple of weeks climbing some amazing routes in North Wales! The guys improved loads, it’s not all about grades though, their movement is loads better, their route tactics refined and their geeky rope work stuff even slicker.

From Slate routes like Bella Lugosi E1, Solstice HVS, Mental Lentils HVS, Fool’s Gold E1 to Sea Cliff classics like Lighthouse Arete VS and North West Passage E1 and so much more. All sorts in the Pass, Tremadog, even indoors at the Beacon which is perfect for some coaching.

As obsessive climbers we absolutely love running these courses, mixing awesome routes with coaching and guiding, developing peoples climbing so they can go on and tick their goals, leaving as better more rounded climbers.

Thanks to Doug and Rich for making this course a blast and to Angus for helping out so I get the occasional day off!

Get in touch if we can help you reaching goals!

 

27th August 2018

Nordisk Telemark 1 LW Tent Review

Nordisk Telemark 1 LW Tent Review: Lightweight tents, they’re always a compromise, they have to sacrifice something. Durability, stability or space? For years I’ve used a Terra Nova Laser Comp when I’ve been camping on Mountain Leader expeditions and it was always a love hate relationship! They’re both priced around £300, but how does the Nordisk Telemark compare?

nordisk telemark lightweight tent

Photo from the Nordisk website

Firstly, what did I like & not like about the Laser? I liked it’s lightness, it’s sub 1kg and packs nice and small, I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by it’s durability the only things that didn’t last were the guy lines, they all snapped over the years, but I’ll take that! What I don’t like… being slapped in the face by the inner fabric all night long. The inner is very narrow at the ends and I’m very tall, this was a constant source of annoyance. The actual tent proved to be pretty stable in bad weather, but like most one pole tents, it is a bit flappy in windy weather – although I added two guy lines at each end which helped massively. I also did not like Terra Nova’s laziness at not putting those guy lines on themselves, or bothering to put pull tags on the zips and would one pocket inside have been too much to ask for?

How does the Nordisk compare? Well it’s lighter, at 830grams (before I added a couple of guy lines and a couple more pegs) and packs a touch smaller even though it’s actually a little bigger in terms of footprint (a touch lower though 86cm v 95cm of the Laser). It’s similarly flappy in the wind but it has wider ends so, hallelujah, I don’t get slapped in the face like I do in the Terra Nova. Nordisk did bother to put pull tags on the zips and they even put a decent pocket on the inside – woop woop. The little clips that tie back the door and attach the inner to the outer are positive and easy to use with chilly hands and the guy line pegging points are nice metal, durable rings, little points that keep me happy.

nordisk telemark tent, mountain leader

Somewhere in the Moelwyns, standard ML territory!

It must have some downsides though? It’s too early to comment on the durability of the fabric, but it is pretty thin so we’ll have to see about that, but a lot of users have complained about the amount of condensation that builds up inside over night and I’ve had mixed experiences of this. I’ve had a couple of nights where I’ve had far more condensation than I expected, despite there being a gentle breeze that I thought would move some air through the tent. I’ve had other nights which weren’t wildly different weather where I’ve had virtually zero condensation – the weather must have been a bit different but I’ve not been scientific on this one I’m afraid.

Like the Terra Nova, it’s a doddle to pitch, the single pole slides easily into the sleeve and folds down nice and small for when it’s in your bag, the Nordisk can be pitched with just 4 pegs. You can use the mini end poles to create a pole for the porch, but I’ve not felt the need for this and probably never will. The inner floor is on a slider so you can make the porch a little bigger and the inner a little narrower, or vice versa depending on your preference. Even with the inner at max theres enough space for your pack, boots, and of course a Cocker Spaniel! Whilst the tent feels more spacious when you’re lying down, the ten centimetres less head space is noticeable and I wouldn’t want to spend a long time living in this tent, but that’s not really what it’ll be used for, it’s an arrive late, leave early type tent. There is also a two person version which does give some more height – as well as a bigger footprint of course.

nordisk telemark tent review

The little bear!

As well as the two person version, there’s also an Ultra Lightweight version, costing £495 ish and weighing in at 770grams, I decided it wasn’t worth the extra cost to me.

At the moment I’m really happy with the Nordisk and it’s my go to tent for Mountain Leader duties, I am slightly concerned about how the condensation will play out and I am considering a slightly bigger tent for when the weather becomes a bit more wintery – something a bit more stable with more space to sit up and have the dog inside, maybe something like a Terra Nova Superlite but I don’t think they make them any more.

For more details on the Nordisk Telemark, take a look at the Nordisk site.

As always, check out the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds for what we’ve been up to lately!

23rd July 2018

Not So Social Media

Why the title? Well, it’s because I think that being successful with social media requires far more time and effort that people realise, so it will eat in to your social time. The first thing I do when I get home after a day at work isn’t relaxing, it’s sorting my photos from the day ready for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

These are just some scribbled down thoughts, it isn’t meant to be a how to as such, but to give people some ideas and direction, it’s a bit random, hopefully it’ll help. Social media works well for me. 

sport climbing

Nothing to do with this post, but got to have a climbing pic somewhere! Falling off Empire of the Sun, the best 7b, 7b+ in the UK, maybe. I did later tick it, amazing route.

Facebook

The most popular platform and in my experience the most useful to a business. 51.5% of the UK population use Facebook, that’s around 34.5 million people, think about that for a second! Facebook allows you to show off your photos and tell a story.

  • Get good photos, I can’t stress this enough. Crap photos look, well, crap. You don’t need an expensive camera, although a decent camera helps, but give composition and subject some thought. Editors like Snapseed are very useful, but don’t over do it.
  • Short videos work really well, longer ones if they’re really good.
  • Tag the people in your photos, then more people will see them.
  • Tag appropriate groups where appropriate, such as the cafe you started in, the company who’s kit you’re using etc.
  • Say something useful, ideally engaging, ask questions, elicit responses, find something share worthy – thats when your reach will really go up.
  • Share your posts to appropriate Facebook groups.
  • Don’t like your own posts, you just look silly.
  • Be helpful on Facebook groups, get your name know.
  • If in doubt, take a selfie – if you don’t know that story….
  • Research good times for posting on Facebook, not all days and times are equal, schedule might be your friend.
  • Paid posts. If you’ve got something worth advertising this can be a really cost effective way of advertising it. Research this further but get involved.

Instagram

Ah Instagram with your nice shiny photos and brief but worthwhile amounts of text! A world of tagging, hash tagging and influencers. 25% of the UK population use it and it’s especially popular with the youth of today, innit. I love it and get a fair bit of work from it, but more than that it really does help with brand awareness. I’ve bumped into people (literally!) in a white out on top of the Cairngorm Plateau who have said “Oh hi! You’re Jez aren’t you?!” “Yep, who are you?!”

  • Get great photos, you don’t have long to catch someones eye as they scroll down a massive amount of lovely photos.
  • Tag people and groups like you do in Facebook.
  • Go to town on the hash tags, this is how you’re going to grow your audience. #climbing #snowdonia, keep them relevant, 11+ hash tags is shown to get the most engagement.
  • Follow other people, comment on other peoples posts, this will get you more followers.
  • Post every day, yep, every day.
  • Post at the right time, checked your business account info to find out that time?
  • Don’t buy followers, they’re not going to create quality engagement, it’ll just massage your ego looking at your follower numbers.

Twitter

Pain in my butt Twitter. I don’t really like it. I don’t get it. But millions (about 20 million in the UK) do so what do I know! You can share your photos (not as well as Insta) and you can write some text (not as well as Facebook, or Insta for that fact). The advantage here is that people are keen to retweet good tweets and big companies seem inclined to engage.

  • As always, tweet something engaging.
  • Use the appropriate hash tags.
  • Although you don’t need a photo, use one.
  • Keep posting, once a day, at least, but don’ overload people, they’ll get wound up and unfollow.
  • Use an URL shortener to save characters.
Mountain Leader maps

A picture of a computer! How exciting! At least there’s some maps there too. 154 likes on Insta, mad.

Websites

Maybe not strictly social media, but massively important. Even if your potential customers have found you on FB / Insta / that silly bird one, they’ll probably want to look at your website to find out more – bear in mind also they’ll probably be using a mobile device for this… Google. Who hasn’t heard of Google, even my mum has, it’s market share is around 90%. Before people can look at your website it has to be found. So help people find it! (Consider Adwords if you have the budget but research it carefully)

  • Get a good domain name, I didn’t and that’s ok now I’m established. Someone I know has The Climbing Company, how was that never snapped up years and years ago?! (We were all too slow and dim witted!)
  • Content
  • Content
  • Content (it’s quite important…) Google will judge you on your content. Make sure it’s relevant and make sure if it’s a blogs it’s going to get shared and viewed by loads of people, Google loves this
  • Make sure the site performs properly and doesn’t have coding errors, missing image texts etc
  • If you can get other (well ranked) websites to link to yours that is a big bonus for your search rankings
  • Keep that bounce rate low. Don’t know what a bounce rate is? You should.
  • Consider the keywords you use and how you use them

Now they’ve found your site…

  • Make sure it looks good! Please! A bad site is worse than no site! You’re an outdoor instructor of some flavour, not a web designer (well not most of us!), so don’t be tight, make an investment and pay someone to do it for you. Honestly, just do it.
  • It’s hard not to have an overly complicated site, so decide what you want it to do
  • Make sure you’ve got secure online booking, it’s a nice feeling to get home to bookings worth over £1k that have required zero effort.
  • Keep it updated with fresh photos, decent blogs that are interesting to your audience
  • Websites probably want to be updated every 3-4 years
  • Sell yourself
  • Consider your target audience
  • Consider your competition.
  • Get Google Analytics so you know what’s going on.
  • Use something like www.serprobot.com to look at key word performance.

Alternatively, sack all this off, go away, work hard, provide a great service and forget about social media! People will come flooding to you because you’re ace! But social media might get you to that point more quickly…

There’s loads of experts out there, with far more knowledge of all this than me, with more followers than me, so I’d love to hear back from anyone with more tips and ideas!

Social media has been the biggest key for me to creating a business that (sadly) has to turn people away at time due to being so busy so whilst its not the only way, it was my way. It’s not rocket science, but remember it takes time and effort, it can be a right chore at the end of a hard days work.

Happy not so social media’ing!

Oh, and check out my FB, Insta and bird thing 😉

8th July 2018

Mountain Leader Expedition Rucksack Packing 2018

Mountain Leader expeds = light is right, but we have to be sensible…

I’ve written about the contents of my pack before, but thought it was worth an update as a lot of my kit has changed slightly over the last couple of years. I think it’s worth mentioning that you can definitely go lighter than I do, but as a fairly skinny (I say athletic but people just laugh!) person I do feel the cold and I do want my kit to be properly functional.

Everyone has their own preferences, but here’s my take… (some items change depending on weather, mood etc – I’ve got too much kit to choose from!)

Mountain Leader Expedition RucksackPatagonia Ascentionist, 35L. My go to mountain pack. 900 grams, comfy, simple and tougher than the material would suggest. Nothing fancy, one big compartment, one zipped lid pocket. Ideal.

Nordisk Telemark 1 person tent 830 grams (plus a few extra pegs). I’ve only used this for one night so far, but I’m impressed. Would I take it out in a storm, no, but as light weight tents go, I rate this one and prefer it to my Terra Nova Laser Comp. Packs very small (smaller than in the photo).

Mountain Equipment Titan down sleeping bag, 650 grams, no longer made. It’s a sleeping bag, it’s down, it works. This is ok for late Spring to early Autumn for me.

Thermarest Neo Air XLite, 350 grams. I love this thing! Comfy and light it does exactly what it should do and seems to be a lot tougher than you’d think judging the thin material it’s made of.

Alpkit 900 titanium pot, striker, MSR Pocket Rocket 200 grams. Simple, effective and big enough to cook super simple stuff, which is all I do! Lighter and smaller than my Jetboil. I use a striker instead of a lighter. Small gas easily lasts an ML assessment.

Patagonia Cloud Ridge Jacket, 390 grams. Made of H2No rather than Gore Tex. Simple jacket that fits well, has a good hood, keeps me dry, and looks good in selfies(!).

Crux Torq over trousers, 375 grams. Event material – not particularly a fan but they do the job.

Patagonia Ultra Light Down Hoody, 300 grams. Super nice, and super warm for the weight! I’ve got other options too such as a Nano Air Hoody or Nano Puff Hoody.

Patagonia Levitation Hoody softshell, 450 grams. A fairly thin soft-shell that is tough, well fitting and simple.

2 Maps, of different scales. Personally a cut up 1:25k and a full Harveys 1:40k

2 Compass’s, got to have a spare. Both Silva.

2 Head torches. My main one is an LED Lenser SEO7 back up is a Black Diamond something, plus one set of spare batteries.

First Aid kit. It’s got what I want in it, rather than a shop bought option.

1L of water. This is pretty standard whatever the weather. I normally work in N Wales, there’s plenty of water for topping up. Less than 1L is not enough for me.

Bag of bits, buff, whistle, string, zip ties, battery pack, midge spray, small bottle of sun screen, that sort of stuff

Hat and gloves, more in winter!

Spare Merino t shirt, boxers and socks.

Suunto Ambit on my wrist, phone in my pocket, Black Diamond Z Poles in my hands.

Food. Not in picture. Keep it light, keep it tasty, make sure it’s got a decent amount of calories.

You’ll probably notice there’s no group shelter in the photo. Being honest, I’m probably not carrying one as there’ll be a decent sized one within the group. My shelter weighs between 250 and 320 grams depending on size, they’re Summit Supalight shelters and pack super small.Mountain Leader Expedition Pack

So what’s the weight?!

Without food but with water: 7.5kg
(weighed on the scales today)

So can you go lighter? Yes absolutely. We’ve all got our levels of acceptable comfort.

There’s things I don’t think we should skimp on such as proper water proofs, proper warm kit, 2 compass’s, 2 maps, 2 head torches (I’ve had one break on me). I also like my waterproofs to be a bit on the burly size – it rains a lot in Wales (but not lately!).

As I said at the top, light is right, carrying less weight means you’ll operate better. However I know plenty of people who carry far more weight the me and don’t care – there’s nothing wrong with that is there! Some people prefer a more spacious tent, and yeah I’ll probably look across at their tent with a little jealousy in my eye! You might want to carry more water than me, you might want a flask, you might want to cook up a feast and therefore have a bigger stove. Want a luxury item, like a blow up pillow? Awesome! My luxury item is a pair of headphones.It’s all good, this is just my take on being reasonably light whilst still having the right kit.

As usual, give us a shout with any questions or comments and check out the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter stuff!

6th July 2018

Rack ’em up! Trad climbing racks…

Go in to V12 or any other quality climbing shop and you’ll be hit by vast amounts of climbing kit of all different shapes, sizes and colours. Much of it will be different brands versions of stuff from locally made quality DMM kit to lovely US made Black Diamond stuff to name just two.

But what do you need?

That’s a very good question that will elicit all sorts of answers from all sorts of people. The experienced amongst us carry what we carry because we’ve learnt through experience and refined what we carry, which for the most part will be pretty similar, but we all have our little nuances!

trad climbing kit instructionNuts
DMM Wallnuts 1-11 and another set 1-7.
1,1,2,2,3,4 on one DMM Phantom snapper, 3,4,5,5,6,7 on another and 6,7,8,9,10,11 on another – all colour coded
DMM Offsets 7-11 on their own DMM Phantom snapper

Cams
DMM Dragons 0-5 (silver -blue), each on their own colour coded DMM Phantom snappers

Quickdraws
12 x DMM Phantom ‘draws, 2x15cm – 2x18cm – 4x25cm – 4x60cm (sling draws)

Trad sea cliff climbing

Screwgates
One big DMM Boa HMS that’ll take some clove hitches when building a belay
One DMM Sentinal, a mini HMS, that’s a good general purpose SG.
One DMM Phantom small SG.

Slings
3x120cm DMM 8mm each on a DMM Phantom snapper
1x240cm DMM 8mm, on a DMM Phantom snapper

The other bits
Belay plate – BD ATC Guide on a DMM Sentinal SG
Nut key – DMM Nut Buster on a DMM Phantom snapper, plus a piece of cord so I can attach it to be while I’m persuading a nut out of a tricky spot
Prussiks – Two, one 5mm, one 6mm, both made up of cord approx 150cm tied with a double fishermans and on a DMM Phantom snapper

What no hexes?!
Personally no, however when you’re first starting out they a great bit of kit to have – I have a set of 4 DMM Torque Nuts for work. In personal climbing I’ll carry them only if I think the route really suits them (Ruckle in Swanage for example).

Why all Wallnuts and not have the second set a different brand?
That would be a good idea for sure, I just find Wallnuts work for me, but worth checking out Wild Country Rocks or Black Diamond Stoppers.

Are Dragons the best cam out there?
Maybe! They are absolutely ace, the extendable sling is quality, I love double axle cams, they feel nice to use and they feel solid in a good placement.
I have a set of BD Camalots too, they’re lovely…
I haven’t used the Wild Country cams much, but I don’t really like the feel – that said they have their fans and are still a quality piece of kit.Trad climbing big cam

What grade will this rack be good for?
A lot! E1 and above I might add two smaller cams (a Totem Basic Blue and Green) and if it’s a long pitch (like the 40m E2 Left Wall) I might add a couple more ‘draws. For some routes I’ll add a set of brass micro wires too – DMM IMPs and Offsets, on their own snapper. For Gogarth I might complete the second set of nuts to 11. You might even add bigger cams, if you’re into wide cracks – I’m not!

Sounds like overkill for a route at Stanage?
Well yes, it probably is! This rack wouldn’t leave you lacking in many places so a short grit route might mean you carry one set of nuts and 6 draws, like wise Kubla Khan a great E4 on the slate won’t require this much gear (one bolt, a metal spike and a couple of manky nut placements!) Experience helps you make those calls.

You seem to like DMM Phantoms?
Yep, they’re nice and light and I’m weak! They are small karabiners, and some people find them tricky to handle, if they feel too small try the DMM Spectres.

Hope that helps, get in touch if you’ve got any questions and most importantly, Happy Trad Climbing!

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