Living in North Wales I’m spoilt with multi pitch crags on which to run learn to lead rock climbing courses, but Milestone Buttress on the side of Tryfan stands out as my favourite.
My first lead climb was the classic Tennis Shoe, HS, on Idwal Slabs during a climbing course when I was about 17, but some of my first independent leads were over on Milestone and eventually I really enjoyed the brilliant Super Direct, with a top pitch that feels a bit cheeky for HVS 5a. It’s not all great though! I’m sure plenty of people have enjoyed climbing the HS Soapgut, but it was green and slimy when I did it years ago and I’ve never revisited it! I also got a bit lucky on Mountaineering Instructor Award assessment, spending a day of it at Milestone teaching multi pitch climbing, which was great as I know every route and pretty much every belay really well!
So why do I love it? Firstly it’s almost roadside and that’s always a bonus, especially in a work sense, from having coffee at the Siabod Cafe, you can be gearing up at the bottom of the crag within 30 minutes! The climbing on the main face is really good, the rock is solid and positive – even the polished bits don’t really effect the routes too much. The solid rock also provides loads of opportunities for excellent gear placements and comfy belays, which makes it a really friendly place to get your multi pitching skills dialled.
You might think that if friendliness is a factor, then Milestone falls down here. It’s not a simple walk off once you’ve finished to get back to the bottom ready for the next routes, but the descent here is great for teaching abseiling. I will normally skip the very top of the routes when working and traverse off right across the big sloping ledge section to where there is a chimney with great anchor choices (take some tat) and a short abseil into an easy scrambley descent (watch your ropes when you pull them though, there’s a naughty block that likes to snag your ropes). It’s possible to top out and traverse into the main gully and either scramble down or make a longer abseil back down, in a work sense this all takes a bit longer and isn’t of so much value to me.
The bulk of the routes on the main face are Diff – V Diff which are exactly what I’m after for teaching leading or introducing people to multi pitch climbing. Depending on quite what the aim of the day is I’d look to be getting a couple of routes done at these grades, maybe Pulpit Route, V Diff and Direct Route also V Diff (polished first pitch but mega gear). After doing those we’ll probably have done about 8 pitches, as I break them down a bit compared to the guidebook descriptions, and two abseils.
To cap the day off I like to jump on the first pitch of the aforementioned Superdirect which is a good bit of fun at VS 4c and really makes you trust your feet! From there I’ll normally lower my clients back to the ground and I’ll scramble off to the side.
With only a 15 minute walk back to the road, tea & cake isn’t far away!
There’s plenty of other routes there to to fill a day such as Rowan Route Diff and Ordinary Route Diff, or to make a “proper” mountain day of it you could do a route on here before traversing around to Heather Terrace for one of the awesome long routes there, such as Grooved Arete – but move quickly!
If you want to climb these routes they’re in a few guidebooks, the Ogwen guide by the Climbers Club is the definitive one though.
Rack wise you won’t need anything out of the ordinary, something like:
Nuts 1-11, doubled up in the medium sizes, on a couple of snappers (DMM Phantom)
Cams 1,2,3,4 (Dragons) or the equivalent hexes (Torque Nuts) on snappers
10 quickdraws of various lengths
3 x 120cm slings with a snapper each
1 x 240cm slings on a snapper
Nut key and snapper
Prusiks on a snapper
Screwgates – DMM Phantom, Boa and a Sentinel
Belay plate – BD ATC and DMM Sentinel
Ropes, doubles or a single (the abseil I use is fine on a 50m single)
If you want to learn these skills on a course with us, check out our climbing courses page!
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 🙂
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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.
I’m a creature of habit, every morning starts with an espresso, fruit smoothie and porridge. I think climbing is the same, you can get in the habit of climbing certain grades which can lead to a plateau and sometimes you need a little push somehow to get up off that plateau and push your grade a bit. Then this new grade can become habit.
I’ve been having a great time at work this week in the sun and my Original Mountain Month clients have got loads done, climbing at Milestone Buttress, Holyhead Mountain and the Slate Quarries plus an ascent of Crib Goch with a wild camp in Cwm Glas. I’ve also ticked two really great routes over the last two days, yesterday was the mega classic route on the Cromlech, Left Wall E2 5c and today was SS Special E2 5b on the Grochan. I’d really like E2 to become my grade of habit, over the last few years my average grade has been HVS and if I could extend this to E2 I’d be really happy.
The training I’ve been doing has mostly revolved around bouldering and the Beastmaker, it was really nice to climb these routes and feel the benefit of all the effort. None of the moves on either route felt particularly hard, but they did highlight that I need to train on the routes indoors too as my endurance doesn’t currently match my strength – so this is something I’ll add a bit more of over the next few weeks.
So the routes?! Left Wall has been on my to do list for years, it’s a stunning looking line on a stunning crag that I drive by almost daily and the climbing did not disappoint, the moves were never that hard, but there’s a lot of them and you should really temper the urge to place too much gear so as to save some energy. If you haven’t done this route and are capable, get on it and if you’re not yet ready it’s definitely something to aspire to!
Last year I went to do SS Special after work on a lovely summer’s evening, the banter was good, I started climbing, I fell off! I got back on it but was knackered and did a variation of it at HVS – SS Sickle. But today was the day and I met Stu at about 0830 and after a quick bit of traversing to warm up I was on the initial crack placing a number 4 nut, then I down climbed back to the floor, should have warmed up more! A few minutes later I was feeling good so I fired back up the crack quite easily, placing a couple more runners on the way, first third done and you’re at a hands off rest, relax and recover. Place another nice nut and you’re off up the middle third which is sloper city, easier than the crack but pretty pumpy for un-warmed up arms. Now with the pump properly set in I was beneath the final third of the route, on a slopey ledge with a really creaky jug of a handhold. I built a mini belay here of a couple of offsets and a couple of cams, because the next bit looked a bit steep for tired arms. Pull up through the overhang and there’s mega undercuts and you’re back on vertical rock where there’s more runner options, one more section of cheekiness and you’re at the top. I’d climbed pretty slow but was really happy to tick this off the unfinished business list! Quality route.
My 2016 wishlist of routes has a few ticks already and I’m feeling super psyched to tick the rest off too, just need to work on the endurance a bit, but hopefully E2 will become habit and will be the average grade of the year…
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Dark evenings, rubbish weather, and wet rock all mean one thing. Frustration!
To ward off the frustration we have to make the most of what we have available to us and for me at this year that is time. Work is less busy so I have time to run, time to get down to the Beacon climbing wall, time to use my Rock Rings and time to make plans. All of this means that when the weather does relent and show us some dry rock then I can hit the ground running.
Running: I like to run, it gives me a chance to clear my head away from admin and other distractions, I put my headphones in and get some miles under my belt. I think the cardiovascular side of climbing is often neglected, even if it only means the walk ins are easier then it’s got to be worthwhile! In addition to this though it helps burn off some useless fat and in my mind helps me feel fitter and fresher whilst on routes. If running isn’t for you maybe try swimming or cycling.
Climbing Wall: The best way to get more climbing fit is to climb! If you’re climbing at a higher level then specific training regimes are going to be the way forward and you’ll find loads of info to this end on the internet. If however you’re climbing at slightly lower levels then just get the climbing mileage in, don’t forget to concentrate on your climbing technique as well as things like clipping with a straight arm at chest’ish level. Falling off is super important too, this will help you with your head game massively and this directly translates to outdoor climbing – if you’re scared to fall off even when it’s safe to do so, you will not fulfil your potential. Try routes that you might fail on (keep doing plenty that you can do too!) and work hard on them, you’ll soon be crushing them, feeling fitter and stronger.
Get strong and work on your weaknesses!
Rock Rings: Great for snatching a quick hit on at home in front of the TV… Metolius have some great work out routines (click here for their page), but personally I stick to my own sets of pull ups, offset pull ups and a couple of types of knee raises – don’t forget the importance of a strong core, especially on the steep stuff. Mine are hanging off the stairs in the living room meaning I can either get some music on the stereo or watch yet another episode of Big Bang Theory!
Planning: It’s cold, wet and dark outside which makes it hard to stay motivated sometimes. For me my motivation comes from having a few “just out of reach” routes that I’m working on at the wall but more importantly I have a wish list of routes for the upcoming year. I’ve just made my list of routes for next year, a top 40 that I’m aiming for – I usually tick around 150 – 200 routes a year plus what I get done with clients at work.
Although I will climb all over the UK as well as abroad my wish list is North Wales centric
Well that’s my plan for the winter and it’s going well so far, back up to steep 7a+’s at the wall and managing to snatch an E3 on the slate in a brief period of dry weather this week (Goose Creature – E3 6a).
Good luck with your own winter training and even better luck with your goals for 2016, whether that’s your first outdoor lead or on sighting an 8a!
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