I loved the outdoors when I was a kid, playing outside with my friends, making dens in the woods down near Westover Farm and suchlike. I was afforded a lot of freedom when I was growing up in our little village, sometimes I’d disappear for hours, most of the day with a well stocked rucksack, an OS map (more of a Harveys man now) for identifying footpaths and Boswell the dog in tow. My brother took me to North Wales one weekend, while he was getting fit for a trek to Everest base camp in the days before it was quite such a circus, and that was me hooked. The North Ridge of Tryfan and the Glyderau on the Saturday, with dinner in the Stables in Betws, followed by the Snowdon Horseshoe on the Sunday. After that, life really did take a different path.
Sometimes with school friends and sometimes on my own I’d head up in to the hills of the Brecon Beacons, Yorkshire Dales, Snowdonia or the Lake District, wild camping with kit borrowed (often stolen to be honest) from my brother. I have so many awesome memories, from clear, sunny, frosty mornings waking up on the col between Pen y Fan and Corn Du, long before I could pronounce their names properly to getting lost on the Glyders before a chance clearing in the cloud gave the game away and I sorted myself out. I can only assume my parents had more faith in my survival instincts than I did!
I’d wanted to join the forces for years, but his changed when my parents sent me on a couple of courses at Plas y Brenin when I was 16 -17. There I learn’t to scramble with a rope for back up and eventually I learn’t the basics of lead climbing, I also realised that people earned a living from teaching beginners like myself, wow. They seemed like gods though, I’d never be as experienced as them! I’d written off to Mountain Training (remember those days before emailing was the norm?!) and they had sent me the prospectus for the Mountaineering Instructor Award and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate, which I still have in the attic at Mum and Dads. Those awards seemed impossible, but what about others like the Mountain Leader or Single Pitch Award, they seemed more attainable. As soon as I turned 18 I was on a Mountain Leader training course, again at the Brenin and to be honest I don’t remember much of it, other than map reading in glasses was a pain (thank god for laser eye surgery!) and that we hunted around for tent peg flags to practice our bearing and pacing skills. Not long after that I did my SPA training too, down in Devon where my first job in the outdoors sent me to do it, staying at a manly bunkhouse that I’ve had the misfortune of going to since too.
At that time I would never have believed I would one day be a Mountaineering Instructor who’s an approved Mountain Training course provider for the ML and SPA schemes and also a committee member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors.
There’s a lot of waffle there, without really addressing the title of the blog!
We’d love to hear what you love about the ML from your experiences and likewise we’re always here to answer any questions you might have, or even if you want to book on to one of our courses which are always fun and relaxed, whilst covering shed loads of information and journeying through some awesome areas – even on assessments!
For more info on the ML scheme visit the Mountain Training site, and for more info on our courses, take a look around the site.
I was recently sent a couple of bits of kit to test, a jacket and a tent by a relatively new British company called OEX. I didn’t know a huge amount about the brand to be honest other than it is sold through Go Outdoors and a D of E group I worked with last year was using OEX tents, which had performed admirably in some pretty brutal weather.
When the parcel arrived I sort of knew what to expect from the tent as I’d checked it out online, the Lynx EV 1 is a one man tent costing £169.99 (if you’ve got a Go Outdoors card) and perhaps more importantly weighs in at 1.65kgs. The jacket however was a mystery, I can’t say I was expecting great things but I was pleasantly surprised when I got it out, it looks smart!
OEX Lynx EV 1 Tent
Let me start by saying I’m a bit spoilt by currently owning a Terra Nova Laser Comp as my lightweight tent, which retails at over £300, but can be had for significantly less. I’ve written a brief bit about this tent before (kit blog here), even though it’s the tent I love to hate, it’s still the tent I reach for though when I’m camping on my own for work due to the fact it weighs less than 1kg. So, the Lynx costs a lot less, weighs a bit more, but is it any good. Well yes, it’s really good.
Putting the tent up is really straight forward, it’s a one pole affair (decent Yunan T6 aluminium, better than most), but it is a funky pole with four branches which makes quite a stable frame. The inner clips onto the poles with some fairly naff looking plastic clips, I’m a little dubious about how long they’ll last, then you chuck the siliconised outer on which has a few little tie in points to attach it along the pole. The tie in points are pretty fiddly with cold hands after a day out in the cold, as I found out working on a Mountain Leader training. On the same ML training it was pretty windy overnight but the tent wasn’t flappy or unstable so big plus points there. Inner pitching first tents tend to be more stable, with the disadvantage of the inner getting wet if you’re not quick in poor weather but personally I’ve never had a problem with this, just be quick!. A nice touch is that it comes with a proper dry bag which is actually big enough to easily take the tent without a battle.
At 6’3″ I fit in it comfortably, although getting in and out of the entrance is a bit of a squeeze, I can however sit up at the front end of the tent for cooking and eating etc. The porch is a lttle on the small side, once your pack and boots are in there, you’re not left with much room for cooking and the porch has one of those silly door mat type things which I find pretty pointless. Inside the roomy interior you get a pocket to tuck the door into (simple but really good idea) and a couple of other decent sized ones (which is better than my Terra Nova which for some silly reason has none!)
I’d be more than happy to spend more time in this tent, I guess it’s main competition is some thing like the Wild Country Zephyros which costs a bit less and weighs a touch less with more porch space, but it isn’t as stable. I see a lot of candidates with those tents on ML courses.
OEX Hydra Stretch 2.5 Jacket
So in a similar vein to the tent, my normal go to jacket is a Patagonia Super Alpine which retails at, wait for it, £450. Now these jackets are aimed at wildly different markets, but I use my kit year round and all over the world so I expect high standards. And this is why the OEX one has been such a surprise! It retails at £75, yep that’s correct £75, without even considering it’s performance it looks like a jacket costing a lot more.
My test jacket was a medium (weighing 370g) and it was perfect in the body fitting my athletic/skinny frame, but was a little short in the arms, I do often have to compromise somewhere in terms of fit though. Stretchy fabric, two big chest pockets that easily swallow a map and pit zips that do a good job of venting excess heat are great, the hood though wasn’t any good for me as a climber and mountaineer though as firstly it doesn’t fit over a helmet properly and secondly the draw cord adjusters for it are not retained so fling around in windy conditions. When one of those flicks you in the face it feels like your going to die (well, nearly).
I’ve had this jacket out in some honking conditions and it’s done really well, it seems just as waterproof as my Gore Tex Pro kit, but doesn’t seem to breathe quite as well as I expected. For me this is a great, lightweight hill walking jacket or to have stowed in my rucksack when I’m running rock climbing courses, it’s comfortable to wear, looks good and keeps the weather out. Seems like a bargain to me.
Go Outdoors – OEX page
Photos by me, or courtesy of Ilana Miller.
Loads more pictures…
September is super busy!
Our Original Mountain Month is in full flow with our two clients Carol and Anne Rebecca already improving lots. They been navigating in the hills, leading on the cliffs, improving their technique indoors and mountaineering on the East Face of Tryfan. Lots more to come too!
I was also directing a Brian Dent Single Pitch Award assessment last weekend with 8 candidates, the weather was super kind to us and I really enjoyed the weekend, as I always do.
Last week Terry looked after the mountain month for us, whilst I was working with an MOD group down in Dartmoor. We had an awesome week of good weather and had fun biking, climbing and a mini expedition. I had a brilliant group who learnt a lot and developed many skills, as well as providing top banter.
Loads more to come this month, so I’m thankful my new puppy Oreo is sleeping better at night!
As usual, check out the Facebook page for loads more photos!
Whilst I’m really enjoying my six weeks working in Kurdistan, we work every day and even when we have a quiet day, we can’t just go out for a climb or scramble – even running is restricted to a certain area of the camp. This results in not much opportunity for blogging about routes of the week or particular courses that I’ve been working on..!
I’ve had a great few weeks work, but not many days off!
It started with a trip down to Dartmoor with a group of MOD apprentices who were up for a challenge and full of banter which made for a top week. We did an overnight walking expedition, a challenging day on mountain bikes and a chilled but productive day climbing (including some leading) at Dart Rock. The group of instructors on the course was top class, mostly made up of other MIA’s and other really experienced people, which really makes a big difference to the “product”. We managed to get an evening out bouldering at the wall as well, where I got pretty shut down by some cheeky grading!
Then I ran a learn to lead course up here at home in Wales for Chris who was looking to build on his previous leading experience. I made some inspired crag choices (or got lucky!) and we escaped some really grim weather going to Milestone Buttress on day one and Tremadog on day two. Quality couple of days!
The next week was another local one working for CCAT, which is a military camp in Capel Curig. I had another enthusiastic group for the week on a Summer Mountain Foundation course which runs along similar lines to a Mountain Leader course. We had some really challenging weather and one stunning day where we were treated to some stunning scenes on the North Ridge of Tryfan. All the cadets passed comfortably.
Finally this weekend I was running a Single Pitch Award assessment. The weather was challenging again but we made the most of any shelter we could find. We went to Lion Rock, Union Rock, The Beacon and Colgwyn Cyrau. The candidates all did well so there are three brand new enthusiastic SPA’s out there now.
In amongst that lot somewhere I got out with my mate Paul who was practising his rescues for his MIA assessment which he then went on to pass the next week!
For more shots of what we’ve been up to check out the Facebook page!