This summer has been awesome!
Work has been top drawer fun and I’ve been enjoying my climbing loads.
Work has mostly been local which is ace because I love North Wales, but I’ve also done a bit in the Peak District and the Wye Valley as well as a two week work trip to Croatia, which I can only just call work. The majority of my work has been teaching / coaching leading and such like, which I really enjoy.
In my down time, training at the wall has dropped off a bit but I’ve been getting plenty done outside including a mega trip to Chamonix in the Alps. In North Wales I’ve ticked some classic routes like Kalahari E3 at Gogarth and loads of other equally brilliant routes.
I’ll make the next blog more interesting, but in the mean time check out our Facebook Page for more regular updates!
I was at school when I got in to climbing and mountaineering, when I was 16 – 17 my parents very kindly paid for me to go on a couple of courses at Plas y Brenin where I not only learnt loads, but realised the job of being an outdoor instructor actually existed. In my quest for more information about this career I got the Mountaineering Instructor Award and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate handbooks from Mountain Training and they are still somewhere in a box in the attic. Looking through those handbooks, I was hooked on the idea that I could be working on a cliff somewhere teaching climbing, but as a novice climber it seemed like a life time away and I wondered if I would ever be able to get the prerequisite experience.
Fast forward a year and as all my mates were off to uni I went to France to earn the grand sum of £40 a week whilst living in a tent working for an activity company where I ran taster sessions for youngsters going climbing, kayaking, shooting bows and arrows and such like. By that time I had started getting my qualifications, I had done my SPA training and I think my ML training, although may have been the next year – but being a Mountaineering Instructor still seemed very, very far away. In the early years of my outdoor career I met and worked with a few of them and I was always impressed with their experience and knowledge, to a young and impressionable instructor these people seemed almost like gods!
Yesterday, about 16 years after doing my SPA training, I had one of my best days at work ever. Rob Johnson (expeditionguide.com) emailed me last week to ask if I wanted a days work, guiding a client of his up A Dream of White Horses. Errrr, yes! The forecast was great, it looked like it was going to be sunny in the run up to the day (the final pitch can seep a lot so a dry run up is ideal) and then pretty good on the day itself – psyched. When I opened the curtains in the morning I was surprised to see some standard North Wales drizzle and wet roof tops, not quite what I was after. Oh well, no drama it’s always sunny on Anglesey!
I met Simon in the Siabod Cafe, he was excited to be getting out even though I said we may end up having to do something else if Dream was dripping wet, my mate Mike had been over at Wen slab the day before and it had been a bit damp then even in the sun. We decided to go and have a look as either way Gogarth was the best shout with the weather as it was, the drive over was sunny one minute, rain spots the next but it was quite breezy which meant although it was chilly the rock should be drying (I like to stay positive!) Walking in it was much the same, except even more windy… Down on to the promontory Simon was in awe of the crag, if you’ve been you’ll know why, if you haven’t, trust me it’s an impressive slab of rock. The last pitch had some wet patches, but nothing that looked like it would cause us a problem, Dream was on!
Setting up the abseil, I could tell Simon was a little nervous, he hadn’t done a massive amount of sea cliff climbing and Wen Zawn is quite an imposing place, but as much as he may have been a little nervous, he was even more excited! When we were both at the first belay it was time to get tied in and sort the ropes out, which I did as Simon was worried about dropping one in the sea whilst he was getting to grips with the position we were in!
The climb went super smoothly, Simon was following with a great big smile and I was constantly grinning at the thought that this was work, I’d promised Simon he’d see a seal and right on cue one popped up and floated around watching us for a few minutes! Whilst leading the big flake section on our second pitch I said to Simon that if he didn’t enjoy this section he should give up climbing – a few minutes later as he followed up he told me he didn’t need to give up climbing as he was loving it!
Before long we were at the belay by the Concrete Chimney ready to set out on the last pitch. The last pitch looks so improbable, taking in some really steep terrain and while I was happily taking a selfie, Simon was looking at it trying to work out how on earth he was going to follow me through it. As I climbed it, placing lots of gear to protect my second and extending everything to make sure nothing pulled out, I was really enjoying it and shouting back to Simon that he must remember to look around and soak up the atmosphere – it’s a special place. Before long Simon was cruising along it himself on the great holds that just keep coming and coming and through the odd wet bit, then up the final little chimney to join me at the top.
It was absolute pleasure to not only climb an amazing route, but have the privilege of guiding such an enthusiastic client on it.
I never take my work for granted, although I’ve put the effort in to gain my qualifications and to be able to climb something like Dream super comfortably so I can completely concentrate on my clients rather than myself, I still feel super lucky to be doing it. If anyone reading this is at the start of their career, working really hard for not much money – it’s worth it. The higher level qualifications are completely achievable by anyone if they want it enough and in terms of the MIA, it’s just a good excuse to get climbing!
Happy climbing 🙂
You can check out what other stuff we’ve been up to on our Facebook page
Here’s the feedback that Rob very kindly forwarded to me:
It was absolutely awesome. I can’t believe I’ve finally done it, and it lived up to, no it exceeded, expectations. Jez was great. What a really nice guy, very personable and clearly knows his stuff. A fantastic days climbing. Shame I had to leave as would have loved to have climbed more!
Thanks for sorting.
The Strand at Gogarth has been a route I’ve wanted to do for a long time, it’s a well known endurance test piece on the Upper Tier and weighs in at E2 5b. It’s a brilliant looking line, a classic steep crack that goes on for about 40m without any ledges to get a proper hands of rest on.
A couple of weeks ago I went to do it with Stu, I felt super confident after a winter where I’ve been at the wall a lot and ticked some cool routes like Left Wall (E2 5c). We did a quick warm up route called Dirtigo (VS), which was better than it’s name suggests! The weather was really cold with a bitter, strong wind meaning it was winter belay jackets when not climbing. After our first route, I was stood at the bottom of The Strand ready to go. A couple more quickdraws than usual, up to 14 and a few more larger nuts as well, but not enough to make a noticeable difference, and off I went upwards.
It was going so well, I was climbing in a really fluid style and finding the climbing super enjoyable, properly in the zone and placing gear, but not placing anything unnecessary. I got to a half decent rest where I could shake out and after my arms were back to a point where I felt fresh, I set off up again. After a few metres though, my head left that zone I had been in! Suddenly I really started to notice the wind buffeting me and I was no longer on autopilot, I was still making good progress but started to over grip and place too much gear – I sensed failure was taking over from success. My forearms began to scream and try as I might to recover, I could only stop it getting worse and I wasn’t able to recover. No choice, on a bit more, mega nut placement, green DMM Dragon cam placed, tried to make the next move and my arms were just completely powered out – I had nothing left to give, TAKE! That was followed by an angry tirade directed squarely at myself, gutted to have blown the onsight I lowered off (in two sections).
The training down the wall bouldering and on the Beastmaker had been super beneficial, I didn’t find any of the moves hard, but my endurance was awful – for my time at the wall I hadn’t climbed a route there for almost two months. I was disappointed to put it politely, however I’d learn’t loads from the experience and told myself I’d be back there very soon.
Over the next couple of weeks I kept bouldering, I kept having sessions on the Beastmaker and I kept doing my core workouts, but I mixed them up with route sessions as well as the biggest lesson learnt was that was my improved strength was great, but couldn’t make up for that lack of endurance.
The forecast had looked good so I made plans with Tom to go back today, warm up properly (the VS I did last time just didn’t work my arms) and get on it. The trip didn’t start well when my helmet fell out of my bag onto the path and cracked….
So, after doing the Gauntlet (HVS) and rehydrating and snacking, I was once again stood at the bottom of The Strand. The weather though couldn’t have been more different, sunny, warm and only the slightest hint of a breeze – T-Shirt weather at last!
Time to go, progressing upwards, I was climbing terribly, not remotely cruising I felt like I was climbing like an arthritic robot, after the first couple of bits of gear I was genuinely thinking about just lowering off but for some reason I kept on going. The gear on The Strand is awesome and plentiful, but I was placing kit only when needed so as to save some gas and before long I was at a good rest, it’s not hands off but it’s enough to recover and I miked it and then milked it some more. My head was in a better place now, confident in the gear and my ability. I shouted down to Tom to check he was still awake after my eternal rest!
Can’t stay forever so onwards and upwards, getting pretty pumped now but still progressing, green cam in and I was at my high point from last time but feeling better, somewhere around here I was able to get a heel hook in to help with a cheeky rest. Got to keep going or my arms will fade, more solid gear, but arms still fading, I’m through what I think is the crux and on to great holds, the trouble is they don’t feel great in my current pumped condition, I’m so close though. I have a word with myself (quite loudly!) and hear a bit of encouragement from Tom the best part of 40m below, just pull hard. Boom, got it! I’m on the ledge with a couple of easy moves up the finishing slab to the abseil point. Job done.
More lessons to be learn’t (more endurance and I still need to warm up much better, this alone would improve my getting pumped issues), as always, but I’m mega happy to have got it this time. As I abseiled back down, retrieving the gear I relived most of the route section by section, it is a stella route, get on it!
As usual, check out the Facebook page for more about what we’ve been up to lately.
The end of our fourth Mountain Month is upon us and the sun’s been out to finish it off in style.
We’ve had another great month, this time joined by Anne Rebecca and Carol. The course is always bespoke to the clients and this time it’s been a fairly even mix of mountain days with a Mountain Leader focus and rock climbing, whilst we’ve kept the Single Pitch Award scheme in the back of our mind, the main focus of the climbing has been to get lots of leading done.
Anne Rebecca and Carol have been navigating us around the hills, micro navigating their way up and over Moel Siabod, getting us safely across Crib Goch, walking on bearings over the Glyderau plateau, amongst many other days out on the hill.
On the climbing front they progressed from me leading them up climbs like Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs, to them leading me up routes such as the mega classic Crackstone Rib and Skylon on Carreg Wastad. We have visited loads of great crags around North Wales, including the cliffs on Anglesey, Bwlch y Moch and Upper Tier at Tremadog, crags in Ogwen, crags in the Pass, the slate quarries, even sport climbing on the coast.
Both of them have now completed their SPA training so will now need to get out climbing as much as possible to consolidate their new skills with a view to working towards an assessment and all that’s left is the official ML training which takes place next week
They’ve both done really well and have been a pleasure to work with throughout the month! A big thank you goes out to the other instructors who have played a part in the month too – Terry, Mike and Anthony.
Moving into our third year of running this course, the next one we have running starts on the 29th February and we have already got one client signed up so there’s only on space remaining, get in touch for more info and take a look at our Facebook page for loads of photos of what we’ve been up to and have a look at the Instructor Training page for more info.
What a busy start!
We’ve had all sorts of courses going on….
A couple of Mountain Leader training courses including one with a little bit of snow and one with overnight winds of 95mph!
A few Single Pitch award courses both trainings and assessments where we’ve been super lucky with the weather.
The third Original Mountain Month has just finished which was, as always a great success! We climbed some awesome routes at loads of different crags, from Gogarth to Tremadog and loads in between, plus had a good few mountain days looking at navigation, rope work and wild camping.
In amongst those there’s been an intro to scrambling course, an ML refresher and some D of E work.
Outside of work I’ve had some cracking days climbing in North Wales and over the winter some absolutely stella days mixed climbing in the snow and ice of Scotland,
Now the suns out in North Wales it’s time to really start making the most of it!
For loads of shots, check out the Facebook page!