Well it felt like spring in the run up to this weekend’s Intro to Scrambling Course, but come the weekend it felt very much like winter!
I was joined by Tavish & Colin for this course and it turned out that flexibility was key, as is often the case.
With snow on the ground we packed crampons and ice axes to give us some more options and headed into the Ogwen Valley, after the standard start – coffee in the Siabod Cafe! We went up the side of Clogwyn y Tarw which gave us the opportunity to start thinking about movement and how our boots worked on the slightly damp rock, before continuing on to the False Griben Ridge where we picked out good lines, making the most of the scrambling on it.
Near the top just before it joins the main Griben Ridge we found the perfect snow slope to get the ice axes out and have a play. We looked at how to use them including having fun practising ice axe arrests.
As we topped out on the ridge the weather got really grim so it was decided a hasty retreat was the best plan so we headed back to the cafe at full speed, where we took the rope in and looked at a couple of knots in readiness for day two’s plan.
The second day was supposed to be a grade two scramble on the East Face of Tryfan, using the rope and pushing Tavish and Colin a bit further, but with the face plastered in snow, plan b was enacted! Good delaying tactics in the cafe gave us the opportunity to talk through some map and compass techniques in the warm and dry! We then went over to Tryfan Bach for some roped scrambling which was really good, if a bit damp, and enabled the guys to get used to clipping in to belays with clove hitches and trying some harder moves. At about lunch time we decided to change venue and head over to the Crimpiau area to look at the navigation tactics we’d talked about earlier.
It will probably take me a couple of days now to dry out all my wet kit!
Colin had this to say about the course:
“Thanks a lot for this weekend. I had a really good time, whilst still learning new stuff under top notch instruction!
If you have availability for advanced scrambling in about a months time I will book on the course.
Thanks again for a great weekend!”
Last year was a good year, in many ways, but especially in a climbing sense. I’ve loved climbing for as long as I can remember, but 2016 was the year I really started training properly and I made a conscious decision to try harder.
In terms of training, I mixed it up with bouldering, finger boarding, laps on the auto belay and some core workout sessions. The single biggest piece of enlightenment came from bouldering, and I’m saying that as someone who would never call themselves a boulderer! It was the realisation that sometimes you have to try hard, I mean really hard, every last bit of energy you have might need to go into that move and instead of not trying, and letting go, giving it everything and trying might mean you get that route. Outdoors I bouldered Font 7a and indoors 7b and this has really translated to my sport and trad climbing, if you don’t give things a max effort attempt, you’ll never know if you could have got it or not.
The other biggest improvement came on my climbing trip to Spain. A month of climbing with super psyched people (in some amazing places!) really sorted my head out, not being held back by unrealistic thoughts of hurting yourself etc. really frees up your climbing. On that trip I managed to onsight my first 7a, then 7a+ and redpointed my first 7b then 7b+.
On returning to the UK I’ve been super keen to keep riding the wave of psyche so I’ve tried to translate the extra fitness I’ve got from the sport trip and the good mental state from taking loads (I mean loads!) of falls on sport routes. Yesterday I managed to get my first non slate E4, Katana on Holyhead Mountain, which has really got me excited for the climbing possibilities of 2017.
The list on my fridge helps give me some focus, sometimes I find the amount of climbing on offer a bit overwhelming and struggle to know what I want to do. Last year the list was 43 routes long and I only ticked about half of them, but the list provided a bit of structure and my total number of routes was just shy of 200. Highlights included routes like Left Wall E2 5c, The Strand E2 5b, Khubla Khan E4 6b, Heading the Shot 7a+, Quartz Icicle E2 5b and Dale Duro Negro 7b.
This year’s list is going to be hard to complete, I’ve made it quite challenging! But I’ll love every minute of working through it!
I love climbing, obviously, and I love sharing my passion for it with all my clients, none of us should ever stop learning so this year I’ve enrolled on some coaching courses to improve my own delivery so I can really make the most of my clients time with me.
A massive part of the fun hasn’t just been the climbing, but also the amazing places I’ve been and the awesome people I’ve met along the way that have made the last year so brilliant.
Anyone can improve their climbing if they want to, I’ve just been lucky enough to meet the right people to give me the drive and determination to up my game a bit, but if you need any help working towards your own targets, get in touch!
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.
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!
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We’re now into our third year of running these and we’ve just finished another Original Mountain Month, as always it was a great success.
Over the month the four participants got loads of climbing and hillwalking done.
Highlights include a great little mini break camping in Cwm Glas after a traverse of Crib Goch in stunning weather and climbing great routes like Grim Wall Direct (E1 5b) at Tremadog. We got loads of other stuff done too, scrambling over Tryfan, night navving in the Carneddau, staying in the Cwm Dulyn bothy, lead climbing loads of trad and sport on the coast and in the mountains.
At the end of the month they did their SPA training and ML training courses too.
Over the month we had five other highly qualified visiting instructors joining me to give a really good breadth of instructional knowledge and experience.
The next course starts in September and there’s just one space remaining… (for more info click here)
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