How to cut / chop a climbing rope

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After some mileage indoors or sport climbing, your rope may become fluffy, frayed and worn.  Generally about a meter infront of the tying in section of rope.  Look for signs on the outer sheath, and also test the core (bobbins strands) by feeling and bending the rope… it’s very unlikely any of these will have snapped, but they do become stretched/worn/twisted inside the sheath (mantle).

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Fluffy section above

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Tired core on the left

This kind of wear is very unlikely to happen on a trad climbing rope, because its caused by the repetitve resting or falling on to the quickdraws.  Though it is very possible to get a nick or cut in a trad rope, and the same process of cutting or chopping the rope may be necessary.

I start by feeling the rope and getting the section where it becomes ‘good’ again.  It’s not fluffy, bendy, and holds a nice loop as you pinch it together.  This is the safe part you’re looking for.

I then tape with good quality duct tape as tightly as possible around the section I am going to cut.

Heat up a sharp knife with either a few candles or lighters, or on a gas hob… take care not to burn yourself and do it either outside or near a few open windows, as this is smelly and gives off fumes.

Cut straight through the duct tape.  Then use a lighter to melt the duct tape into the shealth and into the core, so that it all welds together and won’t fray.  I then roll the still hot edges on some newspaper to round them off a bit and avoid any sharpness.

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Be sure to clean all the black gunk off the knife before you put it back in the draw and your non-climber wife/girlfriend/mum finds it.

After chopping the rope 3 or 4 times, take a moment to consider the state or the middle section, the rope is probably quite tired, and could do with being retired.  For £150 the price per usage is negliable… check out V12 Outdoor shop in Llanberis for some great deal, and you get 15% off, if you are or have been on one of my Rock Climbing courses.

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5 best “First E1s” in North Wales

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Rock climbs that anyone would be proud of ticking, and that are particularly suitable for your first step into the grade.

For the ease: Bella Lugosi is Dead

I have coached many people through this route as their first E1 on my climbing courses.  It’s steady enough, with some small fiddly gear required, but your weight is always on your feet and the holds are obvious.  Run up the crack, placing tonnes of gear until it gets thin, then place some bomber micro wires or Brass Offsets, and do a couple of moves trusting smaller foot holds. At the top, the gear is very good again for some longer reaches. Job done.  Not the easiest here, but almost!

For the borderline HVS: Looning the Tube

This route is in my opinion at the very bottom of the E1 grade.  If you’re not very confident, maybe tie your belayer to something.  After a couple of very thin moves above the pipe, mostly protected by a good bolt, you clip a mega chain. Then fire in some cams and finish up the slightly awkward off balance split in the slab.  It might feel tricky, but it’s not.

For the technically footed: Precious Metal

Probably the most obvious section of rock to climb at this area of the Great Orme. Visibly from way off, it’s the diagonal ramp that entices you in.  Quite small feet and smears are required, but the gear is good. Maybe wear some newer shoes.

For the marathon climbers: Cemetary Gates

An absolute classic from Brown and Whillans.  Not the easiest here, but a proud E1 for anybodys first.  The gear is great and take loads, because you will place it. 35m of broken crack climbing and looking after your arms to avoid over pump.  It’s an incredible climb in an even better position.  One of my all time favourites.

For the jammers: The Grooves

Another outstanding climb from the Llanberis Pass.  This time a bit more hard work and slightly more bicep action… but it’s a safe as houses, plugging in cams and bomber nuts all the way.  If you’re up there, the E2 finish up the Overhanging Arete is unbelievable terrain at that grade.

Good Luck, and give me a shout if you need any help or check out my climbing courses page.

Rock Climbing belay

Just clip everything

 

Scrambling Course – Mont Blanc Prep

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The stunning weather has continued in North Wales this weekend, and I was lucky to be working for Ibex Guides, a company run by friends of mine, IFMGA guides Rocio and Owen.  The basis was for six guys to be prepared for a guided ascent of Mont Blanc in a few months time.  So we aimed to cover the basics of ropework, and a large amount of ground, moving quickly and in good coordination with one another on the rope.

It was great to be working with somebody else in this terrain to share ideas and experiences. A new route on Tryfan for me which is very rare these days.

Day 1: we both headed to East Face Tryfan, to do Pinnacle Scramble (3+), which follows a fairly hard purely rock route up the central buttress, finishing on the Summit.

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Mike, Olly, Gary and I got very cozy on a ledge, 1st pitch of First Pinnacle Rib!

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It just keeps coming!  About 350m of Grade 3 scrambling

 

We chose to descend down the North Ridge (1). Where we practiced some roped lowers and stacked abseils.

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On the Cannon Stone, Tryfan North Ridge.

Day 2: I think Rocio headed up the Seniors Direct Route, then Cneifion Arete.  While my team went up Idwal Buttress (2) and the Continuation Route (2), then I let them practice their lowers, short-roping and descent down the Idwal slabs exit gully.

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Gary leading off, the photo of the day. Llyn Idwal in behind

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Had to walk past this guy on the approach to the route. #scary

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Olly rigging a 2 point belay, equalised, and running an italian hitch

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Straddling the arete ‘sur cheval’

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Cwm Idwal, North Wales

 

 

Mountaineering Course – wild camping

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This week just gone I have been working for the Joint Services again, at their mountain training wing in Llanrwst, JSMTW (L).  The course was a Summer Mountaineering Foundation, which lays the foundations and gets some of the pre-requisites for the Mountain Leader Award.  I was joined by members of various Regements, from Royal Gurkha Rifles, to Army Air Core.

Day 1: Navigation basics, including bearings, contours, distances, pacings, timings, etc. For this we headed from Capel Curig, over Crimpiau and Craig Wen.  Perfect terrain with lots of features to attack.

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Crimpiau

Day 2: Mountain day and basic scrambling. We covered Y Gribin ridge from Llyn Idwal, then went over Gylder Fawr and down Devil’s Kitchen.  The day was North Wales tropical, but our friend from Brunei didn’t agree.IMG_0871.jpg

Day 3: A long day on Snowdon, working on more advanced navigation using mainly contour interpretation.  On 1:50k maps.  We travelled up from Pen y Pass, across Lliwedd, and down the Rhyd Ddu path.  I then found out the Gwynedd council had given me a parking fine of £25 at the Pen y Gwryd car park. Cheers

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Carneddau Wild Ponies – Ffynnon Llugwy

Day 4: First day of expedition.  We travelled from Gwern gof uchaf to Carnedd Llewellyn.  Then descended the East side to camp in Cwm Eigiau.  We saw the plane wreck site of Canberra Wk129, a jet that crashed on the Summit in Dec 1957, the debris was spread about a mile across the hillside and on both sides of the impact ridge.  Truely an impressive site.  Many of the parts still remain there.

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Eastern Spur of Carnedd Llewellyn

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Day 5: It was one of the first times I can remember camping on a North East facing cwm, so I pitched my tent so that at 05:30AM, I could unzip my tent door and see sunrise.  A seriously cool way to wake up.  I put a brew on and enjoyed the hazy sunrise then went back to sleep.

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Looking towards Colwyn Bay from 820m on the Carneddau at 05:30AM

 

 

Multi-pitch Rock Training Course

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Last week I was out climbing with Graham and John, working for the Joint Services Mountain Training Centre at Indefatigable, Anglesey (JSTMC).

Day 1: Single Pitch Award Training, (SPA) at Holyhead mountain.

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Graham acsending a rope, and self belaying back down.

Day 2: SPA training and an introduction to more advanced rescues, sport climbing and stripping out routes, at Dinorwig Slate quarries.

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Me on a cold, windy day up on the Cromlech

Day 3: Multipitch Training, climbing uber-classic routes on Dinas Cromlech “Flying Buttress” and “Spiral Stairs” in the Llanberis Pass.

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John and Graham about to second Pitch 4 off “Flying Buttress”

Day 4: Rock Lead Climbing training at Craig y Tonnau in the Moelwyns, to escape the weather. More advanced rescues and improvised solutions to multipitch problems.

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Me coaching Graham a little on “Diane’s Approval”

Day 5: Little Tryfan for multipitch leading of routes.

 

Slalom – Enjoying my pastimes when they are also my job!

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People often make the choice not to turn their hobbies into your work, for fear of losing the love.

For me, I just keep challenging myself and trying to get better at stuff.  Doing it as a job, just makes me better at the sport when it comes to higher levels of performance.  Days spent out with clients on Idwal slabs or East Face Tryfan all contribute to getting my eye in with gear placements, quick/fast ropework, and trusting my feet even in big boots or floppy comfy shoes.  So when I get on harder routes, I can worry about fighting the pump rather than faffing with nuts and cams.

With skiing, it’s exactly the same.  Whilst a client is following me down a blue run doing parallel turns, I always try to make my stance and balance as perfect as possible, this all contributes to the accuracy required, and the same movement patterns I use at much higher levels of skiing.

In terms of challenging myself, this Autumn I’ve tried my first few days of Slalom racing.  It is highly technical, fast, thrilling and a lot of fun.  I’ve taken a bit of a beating from missing gates with my pole and taking them to the face, chest, shoulders and thighs… but that’s all very motivational to make me get it right!   Here’s a short snippet.

http://youtu.be/OTCdCK4M_t4

North Wales Coastal Path – Bounty

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Fortune definitely favours the brave.  We headed out for a walk today despite the massive rain showers that were pounding North Wales and were hugely well rewarded.

Field Mushrooms

Agaricus Campestris

We headed along between Penmaenmawr and Abergwyngregan, and came across a ring of mushrooms under a Scots Pine, clearly symbiotic with it.  I still can’t identify the large pale gilled fungus.  I think it’s lactarius something or other, and I’m pretty confident it’s not edible, so will be composting that one.

We picked a few of them, and left others.  Just enough for dinner, the rest can obviously go on acting as the fruit bodies of the organism to spread and grow stronger for future.

They were not our only bounty on this short trip…

Should make a fantastic house decoration when painted black.

Should make a fantastic house decoration when painted black.