Rock Climbing Course and Snowdon Marshalling

clogwyn du'r arddu
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Just had an amazing weekend.  The weather was blissful and the work I was involved in was a pleasure to do, so I have no regrets and don’t feel I’ve missed out by working.  North Wales is epic in this weather, spending time and living in Snowdonia is probably the best place in the world when it’s good.

Kicked off Friday morning, I was running a ‘Intro to Lead Trad Climbing’ course for Jez at JBMountainskills.  James, the client for the two days had a fair bit of indoor bouldering experience behind him, and a little indoor lead climbing.  So we focussed on guidebook reading, gear placements, anchor building, belays, rope management, hanging belays, abseil retreats from a multi-pitch crag, amongst other things.  I love trad climbing.

Saturday night was then one of the best parties I’ve ever been too.  Liam and I set off at about 8PM, I was feeling a little tired, so I insisted we stopped off at a petrol station for a coffee.  In my haste I removed the cup after the frothy milk stage, yet before the coffee stage.  Replaced it with a cup for Liam, which proceeded to fill with an espresso.  Only in the van halfway to the party did I realise that Liam had necked the coffee, and I had a warm cup of milk… probably the opposite of the waking up I needed.

There was a 3000watt music and light system run by generators on a beach surrounded by high cliffs.  It was the longest day of the year, the tide was out and we only got 3 hours of darkness.  I left the ravers to keep on going, but needed sleep for the next day at work.  Unfortunately the front seats of Liam Flemming’s van, were surprisingly uncomfortable and didn’t allow me to get more than 30 minutes without cramp.  Still an incredible night.

Sunday was another stonking sunny day… I can’t remember seeing a cloud in the sky.  It was the annual charity 3 peaks for a company called Kier Group.  They managed to raise over £26,000 which is a fantastic effort.  I set off up Snowdon and based myself just past the halfway house, clipboard and radio in hand.  I was there for about 6-7 hours when the final group made it back down to me, and we could all head back to base for chicken curry and chips.  A wonderful day spent sat in the sunshine, chatting to the numerous people walking past, playing with various dogs, eating a lot of food, reading my book and luckily not having to do any rescuing, searching or first aid!

Looks like the weather is set to change Wednesday night, maybe a good thing so I can catch up on all the admin I’ve been putting off, tidy the house a bit, and give my forearms a rest from all the rock climbing!

Until then I have a day out on my Climbing Course to prepare for, enjoy the weather all.  T

clogwyn du'r arddu

View of clogwyn du’r arddu from my seat on Snowdon.

Intro to Outdoor Rock – Trad and Sport Climbing Course

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This weekend I was joined by a keen bunch; Liam, Pralad, Sam and Karl on an Outdoor Rock Climbing Course.  They all had about 6 months indoor experience with some lead climbing.

Day one we headed out in glorious weather to Tremadog upper tier… the walk in nearly killed them, but we were safe once rock climbing.  We hit up a few of the harder VS and HVS routes on the left hand end of the crag.

Rock Climbing Tremadog Upper Tier

Pralad with a lack of colour co-ordinated plastic jugs to hold

Firstly I took the guys up top to show them how I was rigging the ropes to hold them.  Placing a few wires and hexes then backing everything up with the iron stakes that are insitu at the crag.  It really is an SPA climbing paradise.

After a stiff warm up (K.M.A. HS 4a), we got into discussing all the kit that I had along with me for the day.  Dyneema Slings of differing lengths, Wallnuts, Rocks, Hexcentrics, Dragon Cams, 4CUs, quickdraws and extenders.

Quatre Fois, Tremadog Upper Tier

Quatre Fois, Tremadog Upper Tier

Next up, they each climbed the cracks of the VS (Madog VS 4c), with a steep learning curve in the art of toe / foot jamming and embracing the pain.  Except Karl, who lay-backed the whole crack sequence, again!

For lunch, I was entertained watching the guys try and eat yoghurts without spoons, a great crag food!  At least they bought a picnic blanket with them… I’m not sure who lugged that up the walk in, but good effort that man.

Orchid Flowers in Bloom

Orchids, North Wales

Next up was Myomancy (HVS 5b), which is a really good and interesting route.  Whilst a pair of the lads were climbing on this, I was talking through belaying up leaders to stances.  Two point belays with a sling, and with just rope.  Three point belays with ropes all coming back to clove hitches on an HMS carabiner.  It was about this point of complexity that we decided to go sport climbing the next day, and rein it in a little!  Though I could see the minds of the three engineers ticking away watching the shiny kit like magpies.  I don’t think I’ve ever had so much interest in demonstrating a 3to1 mechanical advantage hoist of a climber.

For a warm down to the day and as the light turned fantastic for photos, we headed up Quatre Fois (VS 4c).  Unfortunately the wind dropped, conditions were absolutely still and delightful, BUT for the midges too… they promptly came out and attacked us all.  Most of us fine, with a few little itches, but Liam’s legs suddenly showed signs of chicken-pox and were swelling up.  Time to call it a day. 9.30 meet tomorrow at the service station on the A55 for some Sport Climbing.

More Than This, Castle Inn Quarry

Karl warming up on More Than This, Castle Inn Quarry

Day Two; Castle Inn Quarry.  Another North Wales climbing gem.  This place is an intro to sport heaven. Routes from french 3 through to 7a, with a significant number around 4-5.

Sport Climbing Course

Sam working out his clipping tactics

I kicked off by leading and putting up a rope on Mogadishu and More Than This.  Whilst climbing and simultaneously talking through the safest way to clip the bolts, manage the rope and organise the lower off.

Ffrind Castle Inn Quarry

Steep section at the top of Ffrind, Castle Inn

Then it was for the guys to lead and set up One Fine Day.  This is another fantastic way to Learn to Lead as the route itself is french grade 3, so all concentration can be put into the lead climbing without any worry of falling off.

North Wales Rock Climbing

Hidden Gem, Lost World, Castle Inn, North Wales

After a few plays with the Beta-stick (engineers remember), we headed for Nain, Ffrind, Taid and Hidden Gem.  The team pretty much clean onsight/flashed all of these routes which was a really great effort, especially on such a hot sweaty day.

Sport Climbing Course Crag Castle Inn

Super friendly intro to Sport Climbing Crag.

Nain Castle Inn Quarry, North Wales

Sam pulling through awkward moves on Nain

The top of Hidden Gem is another great site for learning, that I often use.  The bolt belay includes two hangers close together with a ring through each.  As well as this, as the instructor, I can scramble around the side and watch/supervise the cleaning out of the route.  This involves the climber clipping into the belay, pulling through a couple of meters of slack rope, threading it through the bolts, retying their knot, then cleaning out all the quickdraws placed on lead as they come down.  It’s a fairly complicated process, which on the first few times, is great to practice at ground level, then with the eyes of a qualified Mountaineering Instructor (or experienced and knowledgeable climber) watching on.

How to strip a sport climb

Liam cleaning out the anchors / belays and stripping the route

All these routes in the stonking heat had taken their toll.  So I quickly lead and put the draws in Route 2, acting as a bit of a test piece for Liam.  He moved quickly and precisely up the route with never a glimmer of falling.  Good effort, star player.

Nice one guys, pleasure to climb with you.

Lightning and Thunder, Simultaneously. Mountain Leader Training

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A dull rumble shatters my already broken sleep, my ears prick up to full alert mode before I can say I’m awake. I lay there in my 1 man tunnel tent, like a translucent coffin, listening to the heavy rain starting to bang against the outer sheet, no pitter patter nonsense, each drop makes its own heavy thud.

Mountain Leader Training Ropework Day

Mountain Leader Training Rope work Day

2 days ago, I was on the Gribin ridge with my group, enjoying the role of hopping between each pair on a rope work day, ensuring that they were safe… keeping it simple. There were overhand knots going on left right and center, the sun was blazing, wind howling, the surroundings of Cwm Idwal giving a real mountain milieu, these guys are training to lead their own groups in the mountains, eager to learn, and a strong group. The day finished with with an ice cream, Magnum white. My ice cream being too sickly was the only objective danger of the day. I felt in control and on top of my game, totally comfortable in that environment.

A flash lights up my tent, alerting my eyes to the same sensitivity levels as my ears, before I realise what the sensation is, thunder cracks all around the tent, like a boomerang whooping 360 around you in a state of the art surround sound cinema. It’s close.

Navigating to Lliwedd

Navigating to Lliwedd

The day previous we set off with bags weighing in the region of 12-18 kilos, mine was at the lighter end, the guys with pyjamas and deodorant at the other. After some paperwork and organisation my group took turns to navigate from the Pen y Gwryd, over the horns, down to the lakes in the amphitheatre of the Snowdon horseshoe, up the other side and over the rocky ridge line of Y Lliwedd. My team, slightly different from yesterday were again strong, a few climbers, a few outdoor ed staff, and some more than adequately switched on learners. Finding a flat campsite at 6PM in cwm Tregalan in the shadow of the Snowdon – Lliwedd bwlch, was no drama.

3 or 4 hour Night Navigation

3 or 4 hour Night Navigation

Will’s team camped in the same spot making 14 of us, with about 11 tents forming a hamlet (of aluminium poles) at 450m altitude, surrounded by mountains in their June alpenglow. We readied for night-navigation with an excited anticipation of being out until 02:30, the weather was ideal, a waxing quarter moon shone down.

Quickly getting dressed, opening the tent, peering out at a dark dark sky, this time it is not a flash, but a intracloud luminosity. Lightning above us. The clouds are not far above our heads and the mountains to the sides are fully engulfed. Thoughts extremely rapidly change from how the clouds are earthing their charge separation to; we’re in a tricky situation here… Time to turn on the autocratic tone of voice that the trainees have not yet heard.

Before reaching their tents, which are just 20m away, Will is already bellowing at the top of his voice, “Get out of your tents, now” “Get up”, “….ing move”. I join in to deliver the same message in much the same way, like commanding officers in a war zone coming into contact, concise, accurate, directive information. The tents are wriggling as bodies battle slumber with adrenaline. Will and myself leave the hillock we’re shouting from, it’s been about a minute since the last bolt landed a few hundred meters away, we’re due another. Running low to the middle of a large flat area we all spread out, crouch down, and I think about how it’s impossible for me to directly and actively be in control of protecting my group from the sky.  [info on what to do in a electrical storm]

As I tie up my boots holding sockless feet, zip up my jacket, and watch my open tent and sleeping bag fill with the torrents, another bolt lands very close indeed. The thunder is simultaneous. The lightning stays alight for more than a flash, maybe 0.3 sec, then the scarring on my eyes stays for longer. I look around the group, Will and I unable to communicate with all of them, but just leading by example in what to do. Everyone copies us, our posture and patience.

The sky over Moel Siabod is now looking brighter, just 10 minutes after the first burst of electricity. Another flash goes off, with thunder less than a second or two after, but clearly it’s moved on top of Snowdon and out of our home for the night. As the brighter sky creeps towards us, I can see a smile of relief on Will’s face, I return it with nervous laughter. Still the storm carries on, but always moving North, the lightning to thunder time differential growing.

After a fair while, we pack down our tents with a sense of urgency, and navigate the best way down the hillside. A great course with excellent feedback, and a glitch in the weather on the final day! We head through the old quarry workings. I wonder how many storms the miner’s confronted. T

Rainbow Gallt y Foel

A more friendly looking storm – 10 hours after our very rowdy wake up call