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

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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Solid tactics are the key to successful navigation, putting together the building blocks made up of your various navigation skills.

When assessing Mountain Leader candidates we sometimes see people who have good skills but aren’t able to successfully put together a plan to hit the target feature.

mountain leader navigationWe teach the 4D’s:
Direction – no point going any further if you don’t get this right
Distance – measure it, ACCURATELY
Duration – using the distance work out the timing, and include pacing in this too
Description – the one people forget, but which is absolutely vital, describe the leg and the target

Do you have another system? Great, use it, as long as you’ve got a good system you’re golden.

Some of my favourite navigational methods to achieve a target:
Hand railing – if there’s something to handrail, use it
Attack points – if the feature you’re going to is small, pick something better close by
Catching features – we all switch off on occasion, pick something to wake you up if you’ve overshot

In poor vis, it will make your life harder if you use “woolly” nav. That is not having decent, solid tactics and wandering along hoping you’ll recognise something when you get there. Use bearings, use pacing.

mountain leader skillsWhen you get to your feature, relax. Ignore the map. Look around and milk all the info from the ground that you can see remembering to use everything, but contours are the king. Once you’ve gleaned everything you can, then look at the map. If you do it the other way around it’s too easy to try and make the feature fit the map.

Keep using these tactics, and keep them simple, especially when you’re tired, it’s all too common to see candidates’ performances deteriorating as the tiredness kicks in over the course of the expedition. Look after yourself, eat well, stay hydrated – you will perform better.

There’s a lot more to passing your ML, group management, steep ground skills and camp craft to name a few, but if you’ve already got your building blocks dialled improving your tactics will give you more chance of hitting each and everyone of those features.

Tactics, tactics, tactics!

Need a Mountain Leader training, assessment or refresher from one of North Wales’ leading providers? Get in touch!

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“Say hello to my little friend!”

This pack is a beast. If you’re looking for a lightweight pack for floating up alpine routes or such like, then step away from this one! It’s 2kg in weight and is built like a tank.
Black diamond creek rucksack
It looks a lot like a haul bag at first glance and is designed to be as tough as old boots, but thats not to say it doesn’t have some level of refinement.

The material this is made of is the same sort of thing you’ll find on a haul bag, so you’re not going to have to worry about ripping like you do the thin fabric on your nice light Patagonia Ascentionist / Arcteryx FL / Mountain Equipment Tupilak. It’s ultra durable and waterproof too.

It is however really comfy! Coming in two back lengths you should be able to make it fit and it is designed to carry big loads with nicely padded shoulder straps and a mega hip belt – which is removable leaving a skinny webbing belt, which is what I’ve done.

It’s got a stiffened base so it stands up nicely making it easy to load up without falling over. Sounds like a minor point but my Ascentionist is a right pain, being almost impossible to keep upright. In terms of unpacking it’s flipping awesome having a full length side zip which is a feature I’ve never had on a pack before. The zips, like most elements of this pack are super chunky so I don’t think they’ll prove to be a weak point, I fear I’ll miss this feature when I use other packs from now on!black diamond creek 50

It has another side zip too which reveals a separate section which ideal for those other bits and pieces you don’t want floating around the main compartment, with a couple of smaller zipped pockets in there as well. A good place for wallet / phone / keys / theraband / snacks etc.

I bought the 50 litre and it’s massive which is exactly what I wanted. I was after a cragging bag to swallow all my kit without having to worry about what to leave behind or having to battle to fit things in, chuck it all in ropes and all, give it a shake, job done.

The top strap doubles as a rope strap, not that I envisage using it much and there’s also a little rain cover hood thing which again, I don’t expect to use, but it’s nice to have the option.

I’ve used this bag a bit already and I’m completely converted!

What I’ll use this bag for:
Cragging type work and play with short walk in’s, think Gogarth, crags in the Pass, slate quarries. Rock Climbing Instructor (RCI) courses

What I won’t use this for:
Anything where I’ll have to carry a pack on route, mountain days, Mountain Leader courses etc.

Retail: £140
Shop around: £110

Black Diamond also do smaller versions of this bag which could be good for you, be warned the 50 is a monster, but a monster I really like.