8th October 2016

Winter’s coming!

Whilst I dislike having to turn the bedroom light on in the mornings when I wake up, it’s quite exciting to notice a little chill in the air!

Although winter is a little way off yet, it’s hard not to start thinking of winter climbing and mountaineering. We are running a few courses up in Scotland this winter and I hope to get lots of personal stuff done too.

Scotland is transformed in the winter to an absolute playground for people who like the white stuff. There are additional challenges to playing in the summer, avalanche risk, different equipment such as crampons and ice axes, even harder navigation, shorter days and the cold. To be self sufficient in the mountains in winter conditions is quite an achievement.

We may even get lucky in Wales this year and have a really cold one, that’d be ace!

But I don’t want to get carried away! I have a couple more months of trad climbing and training to be done before I head off to Spain for a few weeks of sport climbing in the sun, psyched!

As usual check out the Facebook page and our Instagram feed.

Ready for action!

Ready for action!

18th January 2016

Scotland Part 1: Snowy hills and an icy van.

This winter I’m spending quite a bit of time in Scotland logging days towards my Winter Mountain Leader qualification and this means I’m spending a fair bit of my time living in the van with my 7 month old spaniel Oreo. Queue mornings waking up to frost on the inside of the windows! As much as I enjoy van living I can get a bit fed up trying to clean pans full of porridge and it’s a little depressing when the coffee is already cold by the time it has brewed in the cafetiere…

I’ve already made a few improvements to the van and hope to get a few more done before I head back up.

I have been climbing too, but I’m trying to be strict with myself so I’m fully prepared for the upcoming assessment. I followed Stu up a VI, 7 on Aonach Mor called Stirling Bridge (It was absolutely nails! It was super thin for the feet, with slightly rubbish ice, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done..), Mynd am Aur which is a 7a sport route in Llanberis with a tough head height rock over and Goose Creature at E3 6a in Llanberis where I got lucky, just beating the rain!

The conditions in Scotland have been a bit mixed so far, currently there is shed loads of powder lying around which makes progress a little slow going and hard work, plus it’s lead to lots of “considerable” avalanche forecast making route choice a bit more limited. It could all do with a bit of a thaw and a refreeze to bring the climbing into really good nick.

I started off in Aviemore with a couple of decent days in the hills, including a really challenging weather circuit on the Cairngorm Plateau where me and Russ practiced what we taught walking accurately on long bearings for a good few legs. After being valley bound for a couple of crap weather days I had a stella day going over to Ben Macdui in almost perfect weather conditions (unfortunately for Russ this was the day he had to head home!)

Oreo has been getting out with me some days, when the routes and weather have played ball, he’s done the traverse of the Grey Corries and even got up the Carn Mor Dearg Arête on Ben Nevis! He loves being out and about on the hills but looks a bit grumpy in this shot ‘cos I made him sit still for more than 30 seconds!

After a couple of weeks away I’ve come home to Llanberis for a week and this weekend was the Association of Mountaineering Instructors AGM which was a great event and I was voted on to the AMI committee too. I’m pretty excited about being able to do my bit for the association and hope I can do the role justice!

I’ve got back into the training already at home, I don’t want to let all the hard work over the last couple of months fade away with all the snow plodding, sadly decent walls are few and far between in Scotland, although there is an awesome project going on in Fort William, so hopefully there’ll be a great facility later this year.

For plenty of photos etc. check out the Facebook page as always and if you’re keen to check out the Association of Mountaineering Instructor’s exciting new website click here!

 

30th September 2015

Original Mountain Month September ’15

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.

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!

 

 

 

 



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20th May 2015

My top five bits of kit for work, Jez Brown – Mountaineering Instructor.

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..!

Fuelled by an extra strong Lavazza coffee this morning though, I had a flicker of inspiration for a blog subject. It’s been written about a thousand times before and isn’t the most thrilling subject I’ve ever written about, but it postpones me reading my Open University degree textbooks, brushing up on my Kurdish or watching more Breaking Bad in bed!
What are your five stand out bits of kit you use for work someone once asked me (they didn’t really…), well, let me tell you, in no particular order…

Black Diamond Speed 30 Rucksack

This comes out with me virtually everyday I work, be it cragging in the Pass, overnighting on Mountain Leader courses or lugging seismic kit around the Middle East.
It’s the previous model and sadly it’s probably not long for this world, but I have a newer version at home still in the wrapping ready for the day this one dies.
It is comfortable, light enough whilst still being tough, strippable, versatile, brightly coloured (all about the photos..!) and has just the right amount of features.
I think it must come up slightly larger that 30L as I can fit all my overnight kit in it including tent, 4 season sleeping bag and all the other paraphernalia.
My BD pack nearing the top of Mosoraski, a cracking multi pitch route in Paklenica, Croatia.
But equally at home on a Summer Mountain Leader assessment

La Sportiva Trango S Evo – the blue ones

Similarly to the BD pack, my blues are on their last legs and looking pretty sorry for themselves but I’ll be getting another pair! I’ve too many boots to count but these have been my go to pair for a long time. Guiding up a damp Idwal Slabs – take the blues, teaching an advanced scrambling course – take the blues, ML course in the Moelwyns – take the blues, Cosmiques Arete in the Alps – take the blues, you get the idea.
Comfy, light, just stiff enough, good to climb in and even take a crampon, there’s a reason you see so many instructors wearing them.
The view from the tent somewhere in the Lakes on a Mountain Leader training
Me looking cheesy on the Cosmiques in my blues, before I decided to only wear bright kit for shots!

DMM Sentinal Karabiner
If I could only ever take one type of screwgate to work, this would have to be it. I love DMM kit, it’s well designed, locally made and reasonably priced.
The little Sentinal is light and small but still takes a couple of clove hitches, I also use one for my belay plate and another one for using the plate in guide mode.
Whether it’s Gogarth, Bosigran or Stanage I’ll definitely have a couple with me.
It’s a krab, so there’s only so much I can write about it, but the Sentinal is ace!
I have a lot of DMM stuff…! A couple of Sentinals in there somewhere.

Terra Nova Laser Competition tent
First off let me say what I say to everyone when I talk about this tent, I don’t really like it! Yet it is my go to one person tent unless the weather is really grim (windy). 
So why do I carry it? It weighs less than 1kg, it packs down really small and I picked it up at a ridiculous bargain price of £125 a couple of years ago.
The silly little titanium pegs it comes with are Gucci but crap, I only have a couple left, it’s a bit fiddly to pitch well, you have to add your own extra guylines, you have to add your own pull tags to the zippers, it’s draughty, my God it’s flappy in any wind, you can’t sit up in it, you have to put the silly pole bra on to 1. Stop it leaking and 2. Provide you with two more precious guy lines and did I mention it’s as flappy as a prayer flag on top of K2?!
But I still carry it and will continue to do so simply because of it’s weight and pack size, I have a genuine love – hate relationship with it!

A classic Mountain Leader camping spot in the Moelwyns

Mountain Equipment Citadel Jacket
Luxury. That’s my one word description of this one. I carry this far more than I should. It’s pretty much as close as you can get to the warmth of a down jacket from a synthetic Primaloft belay top. At almost 900g the Citadel’s a bit of a heavy weight compared to my normal kit choices but it’s like being hugged by a friendly Polar Bear when you put it on. From standing around at Lion Rock on a Single Pitch Award assessment to belaying halfway up a winter route in Coire an t-Sneachda this jacket is a feel good item and provides a little haven from the surroundings. A good hood, great pockets, a good fit and thumb loops make this a winner.
If you want something lighter, the Fitzroy is an awesome jacket too, just a bit lighter.

Topping out onto the Cairngorm Plateau, lots of layers including the Citadel on top.
Honourable mentions should go to:
Patagonia Super Alpine jacket, love this but let down by a lame hood.
Black Diamond Z Poles
Black Diamond ATC Guide belay plate
Black Diamond Vapor helmet, so light and comfy but fragile
Adidas Terrex trainers
Mountain Equipment Eclipse fleece hoody, great top but the hood will wind you up
Suunto Core watch
5.10 Greens, sticky as a sticky thing.
Oakley Holbrooks. I was told two very important rules on my MIA training a number of years ago and they’ve stuck with me ever since. Rule 1. Always look cool. Rule 2. When shit goes wrong, refer back to rule 1. Unsurprisingly passed on by a Guide!

Well there you go, that’s passed an hour or so of my day sat in camp!

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