Heading the Shot is a route that I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, the trouble is it’s hard! It gets given two grades, E5 6b if you don’t pre-place the quickdraws and 7a+ if you do, as although it’s bolted there’s a couple of bits you’d deck out from – they’re pretty spaced. I’d long ago decided that if I was to ever get on the lead, I’d pre-place the ‘draws.

Over the last two years I’ve gone up there three times and worked the moves on a fixed line and every time I felt like I was so far off the mark. The holds are mega thin and the hard moves are sustained – they keep on coming! Although I’ve been training down the wall a lot over the last few months the strength gains don’t really help on a route like this, there’s no big holds to crank on, it’s all about delicate rock overs and balancy climbing on very small holds. What does translate though is the confidence and head game, I’m happy falling off and super confident that my belayer will be concentrating which helps massively. Having never climbed 7a+ before it was always going to be a big challenge.

So yesterday we went up to Serengeti where Heading the Shot is to have a play on a top rope. I abbed down the route placing ‘draws to keep the rope in the right place so we didn’t swing around too much when falling or resting, the holds looked as small as ever! Michelle went first and although she rested a few times got all the moves done. My turn, this is hard, shit. I got all the moves but lowered off pretty despondent about it and with toes in agony from them being crammed into tight Five Ten Whites, pushing onto tiny edge after tiny edge.

Michelle went for the lead getting up to and past the first bolt, there’s a tricky move to get in to a position where you can clip the bolt and her head wasn’t in the right gear so she took a small fall and lowered off. Now I had decided there was no point at all in having a go that day, but had a quick change of heart sensing maybe, just maybe I could do something Michelle couldn’t! Past the first bolt, all steady, up to the second bolt, still good. The next moves make up the crux sequence and I just couldn’t commit, I lowered down, happy to have got on it but still not sure I had it in me.


We made the decision to go back the next day.

Now one advantage I do sometimes have (apart from being lanky!) is if I really want a route I can switch my leading head on enabling me to concentrate and climb far better than when I’m practising on a top rope, and I really wanted this route and knew I could try harder.

Walking back up this morning with Michelle and Oreo, the weather was amazing with wall to wall blue skies and when we got there the slate was warm to the touch. Days like this put all the rain we’ve had to the back of your mind.

Michelle was up first, top roping it one last time before the lead, she got it clean which was great, this meant no more excuses for her about not getting on the lead. I’d decided not to top rope it, there wasn’t any point, I knew the moves and all I needed to do was try harder so after a quick warm up of jogging on the spot and swinging my arms around, I went for it.

Go number one (that tells you what’s coming up!), the climbing was just as hard but I was progressing move after move feeling confident on every one of the small holds. First bolt, second bolt, boom – crux done, clip the third bolt and I’m on to the big holds of the traverse. Arghhh! My foot popped when I really wasn’t expecting it and I was off. I was super pleased to have cruised the crux but so frustrated to have failed after the hard part of the climbing.

Michelle’s go, she has to do the crux differently to me and she peeled off the route coming up to the third bolt making what seems like a really hard move.

Go number two for me, psyched up off I go, second bolt clipped, noooo, foot popped before the crux and I’m dangling again.

Mid fall screen grab!

Michelle’s go number two and she fell off the tenuous move she has to do again after looking super solid up to that point.

Go number three for me. I didn’t want to have to get on this again after this effort so I was ready to give it my absolute all. Up to the crux fairly easily, this is it, awesome I’ve made it on to the good holds of the traverse. DO NOT FALL OFF NOW! I crimped hard and made sure I wasn’t going come off here again, this time I made it in to the finishing groove which still isn’t a push over and was standing on great holds – the kind it’s hard to leave. The fourth bolt was clipped, a fall would be perfectly safe, I just did not want to ruin this attempt so I took my time, stayed calm and stupidly proceeded to climb the top section via a completely different sequence, which luckily worked…

I was super stoked to get this route ticked, it had taken time and effort, afterwards I definitely felt a sense of achievement and a healthy dose of relief to have got it.

Michelle still hasn’t got it, but 100% will next time!

To put it all in to perspective for me, someone came along just after and on-sighted it with relative ease!


Heading the Shot is an awesome route on a great looking slab in the Slate quarries of Llanberis. There’s a brilliant guidebook for the slate by Ground Up and more importantly there’s great cafes nearby.

Check out the Facebook page for more shots etc. of what we’ve been up to lately.

The Single Pitch Award is the qualification that allows you to take people climbing at single pitch crags and a ticket that most instructors will want to work towards. Once you have it, it opens up a lot of work opportunities.

In line with other Mountain Training awards it is made up of a training course and an assessment with a consolidation period in between.

The assessment is two days long and will be mostly outdoors but does include a climbing wall element.

The first thing I do as an assessor is check out your DLOG prior to the course starting. Embrace the DLOG! Yes it can be a pain in the butt to log stuff from the past, but get it done as best you can and when you’ve been climbing adding the details to it each time you go out is pretty quick and painless. Turning up with your routes and supervisory experience scribbled on a scrap of paper doesn’t really set a good, professional impression does it? The number of routes and supervising sessions are on the MT site in black and white, if you don’t have enough, I can’t pass you however good you are. At the other end of the scale if you well exceed the minimum requirement, this can sometimes buy you a bit of “benefit of the doubt”. Remember, a MINIMUM of 40 routes with a decent amount of Severes, in three different areas.

The amount of things you are assessed on over the two days is actually pretty small, take a look at the syllabus. An assessor will want to see you lead a Severe, set up a personal abseil, top rope, bottom rope, group abseil, teach/supervise some appropriate belay techniques, solve a simple problem or two and do a bit in the climbing wall. There’s other bits a pieces you might get asked about like fitting kit, taking care of kit, a bit of flora etc., but there’s no great surprises.

If you’ve practiced the above you should be nice and efficient (no need to rush!), you should also be placing solid bits of gear and appearing nice and confident. Assessors will be making judgements from the outset, so even the way you rack up will tell us a lot, are you faffing around unsure of where to clip your quikdraws or is it all well dialled?

When you lead your Severe, you’ll probably be given a guidebook and told to go and climb a route. Once you’ve found an appropriate route we’d like to see you climb the route efficiently, not sketching your way up it, placing quality gear placements, extending stuff appropriately and then setting up a text book belay at the top. Did you do a buddy check at the start, did you use appropriate climbing calls, are you sat down or stood up, is that rope running over your leg, can you see your second?

Later on you’ve set up an abseil to go and get some stuck gear back, how have you backed it up, where have you clipped your prussik to, how have you backed your prussik up whist getting that stuck bit of gear out, how could you protect your mate who’s forgotten their prussik?

Next up, you’ve set up a top rope for a group of intermediate people. Are you going to use a belay plate or Italian hitch, where do your clients go once they’ve topped out, why have you used that nut instead of that tree, are you tight on your anchors, your client is refusing to move off that nice comfy ledge because they’re scared – what are you going to do (you are out of the system aren’t you?)?

Then it’s off to the climbing wall for a bit of bottom roping and bouldering. What games can you play and importantly what do your group learn from the game, you did do a warm up didn’t you, helmet or no helmet for that auto belay, how many routes can you manage at once, what considerations are there when using a climbing wall, tie in or clip in, you clients traversed miles off route – quick what you going to do?

Few, day one over!


Second day.. First job, fit these harness’s to the rest of the group and give them a brief about the day etc. What’s that plant over there? What’s the rock type here?

Right, group of novice climbers, that’ll be a bottom rope then. Hopefully you’ve set something up on a suitable route and the ropes not running over any edges or anything, as always we’d give the setup the once over, hopefully seeing some good gear placements and something safe and simple. How are you going to get all the group involved, you going to use an ATC/Grigri/Italian Hitch, bell ringing or “proper” belaying, little Johnny is scared on that ledge again – refusing to move – sort him out, lowering time – you did practice that lower down didn’t you?

What’s left to do? Oh yes, the good old group abseil! So when I come up to check that one I’m going to be looking for the standard safe and simple setup, good gear etc. I’ll probably ask where your clients would be waiting, how they’re going to get to the abseil “zone”, you have considered that haven’t you? I hope they haven’t got to step over that pile of messy rope you’ve forgotten to get squared away…

You’ve done well so far…

Whilst one of the other candidates is abseiling down your line, surprise surprise, they’ve got their hair stuck (you didn’t check they’d tied it back?!), hopefully you’ve set up a releasable abseil?

Debrief time.

Hopefully you’ve done well, presented a good DLOG and have a valid first aid ticket. Brilliant, that’s a pass then.

A bit weak in one or two areas, never mind, a deferral and action plan. No stress you’ve performed well in most areas, come back after a bit of work and you’ll smash it.

Too far off the mark on too many areas, sadly that’s a fail. Did you read the syllabus and get out practicing? Oh dear, again here’s what you need to go away and focus on. Come back after that and I’m sure you’ll cruise it.

Hopefully that was worth a read!

The stuff I’ve written isn’t exhaustive, you maybe asked to do the odd other bit and you may be quizzed on a few other things, plus there’s a home paper, but it gives you an idea of what goes on. The vast majority of assessors are super chilled out, a lot of the time, we’d just leave you to it whilst setting up but will give you good feedback – you should be learning lot’s on an assessment no matter what level you’re at.

Can you set up all that stuff and answer all the questions?

The theme is – Practice, have a decent logbook, stay relaxed and it’s just a nice two days out on the crag.

Check out this PDF I made a while ago with some specific setup info etc

Also read the SPA hand book and the Rock Climbing book by Libby Peter/Mountain Training, it’s super useful.

Check out what we’ve been up to lately on the Facebook page…

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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