Little and Big Tryfan

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Today I was out with return clients Angie and Jareth, who arrived with enthusiasm in abundance, despite the overnight storm nearly blowing their tent away. Rich Gentry was also out working for me, with Keiran who is over from Cork, Ireland.

I headed to Little Tryfan to focus on leader placed protection and multipitch climbing skills. For instance, nut, cam, sling placements and building belays along with stance/rope management. This is a two day course making them competent to trad climb in the moutains on their own.

Rich headed for the utmost of classic routes ‘Grooved Arete‘ on Tryfan, guiding Kieran as part of my 1 day climbing courses listed on my website. A great decision based on the howling westerly winds, and they found almost complete solitude up there.

Here are some pictures of Angie and Jareth climbing their way up the gentle routes on Tryfan bach to get them leading on the rock with confidence.

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And here are the pictures of Kieran having a blast of a day seconding Rich up 8 pitches of mountain classic. With the famous Knight’s Move on the chequered slab. And Kieran topping it off with a jump across Adam & Eve!

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For any more information about the skills based climbing instruction myself and my freelance instructors provide, please visit my website terryjameswalker.com

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Life’s too short… A Summer roundup

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That’s 8 fingers

  • Climbed F8a

After warming up and falling off Nightglue F7a+ in early May, and not being able to do more than 10 of the moves on Over The Moon Direct, I committed 15 sessions to Lower Pen Trwyn (LPT), and sent it. Pretty happy with that, considering minimal training and niggling elbow injuries. Hardest grade I’ve ever climbed and now I have a fingerboard in the alps, I should come back with a little more than zero strength in April, so 8a+ next.

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Mid Technical Crux – OTMD – 8a

  • Onsighted some E4s

I didn’t climb much trad this summer, but had a great day out being belayed by my girlfriend Jacqui, who then almost followed E4 clean having not climbed for probably 3 years. Effort.

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Sunset after an evening climbing with my girlfriend

  • Bouldered f7B

This was an anticlimax really as I was trying to get Jerry’s Roof f7C done in the autumn, but a sore wrist put an end to specific power endurance training and therefore it never got done, despite the moves all feeling totally fine after about 4 sessions.

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Mid Crux – Jerry’s Roof – V9

  • Worked 3 days a week on average

My contract with the Military was 3 months late in coming through, so I was actually free to work with my own clients and therefore had a very successful Summer. I’m also grateful to the other instructors in North Wales who trust me enough to send work and clients my way. 3 days a week on average was a perfect compromise, I earned enough to pay the bills, and put a fair bit of time into climbing for myself.

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Sea Cliff Climbing Course

  • Started a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Exercise Science

I’ve enrolled in a Master’s program in the Clinical Sciences and Nutrition department of Chester University. The course is fairly intense as my background is not like the others on the course (medicine, physiotherapy, sports science, etc.). I’m currently writing a 4000 word assignment on the BioChemistry of Metabolism. Incredibly interesting stuff, and very useful for clients and personal training alike.

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It’s easier to learn a 45 move climbing sequence

  • Development Climbing Coach Award

I’m currently going through the process of becoming a qualified development coach. Although I’ve been coaching in my instructional role for many years now, it’s nice to have an official ticket that represents a level of competence. The scheme is great and makes up for a lot of the soft skills that are lacking from the Mountaineering Instructor Award (MIA).

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Coaching at Castle Inn Quarry

Now to concentrate on the ski season, which kicks off on Saturday. The ever reliable Val d’Isere has come good again, looking like a huge number of slopes will be open and perfectly groomed for this weekend. Early season is some of the best piste skiing you’ll ever get.

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

 

 

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.

 

Assessments – Be prepared (Pleeeease)

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I don’t work on assessments for the increased pay – it isn’t.

I don’t work on assessments for the interaction and banter – there isn’t really any.

I don’t work on assessments to teach everything I know and can – it’s not training.

I don’t work on assessments for an easy day out – it isn’t.

I don’t work on assessments for shorter working hours – they’re not.

I don’t work on assessments for egotistical reasons – there is nothing to show.

I don’t like the weather on assessments – it always rains/hails/snows.

So why do I work on them?  Maybe to enjoy using a high level of skill and judgement… Maybe to try and get the absolute best out of people, so they have the greatest chance possible of success.  I enjoy seeing people succeed and get reward from that.

In short

  • Don’t try and rush through the system, ignore your peers and employers
  • Balance ambition with reality in terms of your ability. Get a pro’s opinion and advice. Refresher?
  • Get real life experience of the job you’re being assessed on.
  • Write lists of things to help, and time lines to stick to and revise.
  • Bad ropework, navigation and group management (decisions) can kill people. Be good at these things!
  • Go scrambling.  Your personal performance should be good enough to inspire and enthuse your group, and give confidence in tough times.
  • Don’t refer to kids in a derogatory way… they are usually more able than adults.
  • Experience leads to slickness.  Be fast and efficient at everything. Don’t faff and chitchat
  • Release so much environmental chat that your assessor has to tell you to shut up because he’s bored.
  • Regard your trainers, instructors and assessors… try and copy their ambience.
  • Take ownership of your skills and ability, don’t blame others if you defer/fail. This is a big life skill
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Glaslyn – Snowdon

Deferral: Awarded where the candidate has generally performed well and has shown the necessary
experience and attributes, but where complete proficiency has not been attained in certain aspects of
the syllabus or where a lack of experience has been identified

Why don’t people seem to show up on my assessments prepared?  I don’t know.  Having a lack of experience and trying to rush through the system can be a result of increased pressure from one’s workplace/employer, maybe people try to compete with peers going through the system faster than them.  Ambition is deemed fortuitous in our society, and we’re encouraged to aspire to greater things… this may lead people to hastily book onto exams.

A lack of real experience is going to be par for the course.  By definition, most assessees in a chosen field won’t have real experience behind them, as they’re not qualified to gain it.  I implore that if you are training towards an exam, you do everything in your power to gain experience as close to the real thing as possible.

When I was going through various NGB awards, I set out to cover all possible bases that would help me achieve it.  I am still going through this process at the moment.  One thing that rang true for me was the British cycling team talking about marginal gains.  When considering buying a new map before my MIA, I thought “The old map is only 3 years previous to this one, but, that tiny bit of extra detail or accuracy on the new map IS NOT going to make me worse, it is not going to make life more difficult.”  So as small as the gain may have been, it helped.  Write a timeline, like a training gym plan, of when to do things, tick it off as you go along.  This can help realise the small things to have in place… such as a flawlessly well presented logbook. Then you’ll know if you’re ready.

Real life experience is therefore slightly excusable on an exam, and I as an assessor will account for this.  But rope work for instance can be practised for hours at home on a staircase with a weighted rucksac, whilst watching X-factor if you wish.  It should be absolutely slick on assessment, so slick that even if the candidate has a complete brain-fart in panic and nervousness, with the most dreaded of assessors, they can still run through it with their eyes closed.

Navigating in whiteouts should be easy

Navigating in whiteouts should be easy

Navigation must be to the same level!  I don’t think the standard for ML navigation is unachievable high for 90% of the population, it’s fairly basic, but must be accurate.  When going out getting the 40 odd days required for a logbook, set up on 5-10 minute legs to practise navigation.  Don’t walk for an hour then get the map out for a token check… that’s not setting yourself up for success.  1:25k and 1:50k.  get someone or a GPS to check and give feedback, it’s hard to learn and improve at anything without good feedback.

Please get some decent scrambling in before training, and definitely before assessment.  If you gather experience before training, you will have a point of reference with the instructor on your training course, you’ll know what he’s talking about.  After training is possibly too late.  Buy the book.  There are scrambling guides and ridge walk guides to the Lakes and Snowdonia.  They will help to gain an idea of what the remit of an ML is.  What is too hard for Grade 1, what is definitely easy enough to take a group of people up.  No heroes, and no cop-outs.  A good understanding of the grey area of middle ground is what you need to be a good mountain leader.  This is the hardest part of the syllabus.  JUDGEMENT.  It’s also the hardest part for me to assess, because just about everyone messes up at some point.  Admit it, talk it through with the assessor, go back on decisions if they’re wrong… back yourself.

Don’t think that kids groups are the least able and require the most looking after and cautious route choices in the steep rocky ground.  In my experience the kids with borrowed leaking kit can be far far more able than a bunch of middle aged office-bods wearing patagonia kit, some of whom may have been guided up 6000m peaks.

Flora/Fauna/Geology/Glaciology/Folklore/Local Language/Place names/History/Architecture/Fungi/etc.  a candidate should be able to talk about this stuff for hours.  A lot comes with experience and learning from others. I’ve walked with a few geologists and been out on AMI CPD courses to increase this knowledge.  But a Collins guide or Mike Reine’s book is sufficient to start out and get through an assessment.  If you don’t tell me stuff, I’ll start asking what this fern is and what that rock is … likely result, you’re not going to know.

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Navigating, and leadership skills in good weather

I think there must be a fundamental flaw in UK NGB systems… or maybe Brits just think the assessment is going to be easy.  Maybe people are too busy earning a living to train and practise.  Maybe they watch too much television and drink too much alcohol.  I don’t know the solution.  But my patience probably has about another 5 years before it wears out, teaching, training, helping, assisting, facilitating success, etc of people who clearly haven’t prepared well enough.  Well, I don’t think the benefits of assessing outweigh the frustrations of that.

I come from a rugby playing background. I love team sports, but couldn’t take football.  The thing I learned playing rugby, is to take ownership of yourself. If you don’t pass an exam, and get deferred, please take this on board yourself and ask questions of yourself not the assessor or training body.  Placing blame on other people will not help you progress.  It’s like shouting and swearing at a referee. You yourself haven’t met the grade, which is not the end of the world (see definition of deferral at top of page), and trust me, the assessor will have done everything in their power to try and give you the opportunity to pass.

I don’t like deferring or failing people.

Best Limestone Scramble in North Wales

TerryJamesWalker.com
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Travelling East on the A55, I’ve always looked at the curving arete of ‘Penmaen Ridge’, and wanted to scramble/climb it.  Below and around the line, there is lots of scree which has always put me off thinking it would be chossy and loose.  I checked it out on ukclimbing, as the route is not in any of the guidebooks I own, and many people recommend it, saying the rock is solid.

Well, on my way to Oxford yesterday, Jacqui and I did the route, and it was fantastic.  Here is a bunch of photos showing the way and the ridge itself.  Enjoy.  T

Scrambling Penmaen RidgeWe parked on Old Mill Road, opposite Ger-Y-Glyn SH741769.  There you cross a small river and head to the end of the houses to follow a footpath into the forest.

Scrambling dwygyfylchiGo up some steps, probably hidden by the summer overgrowth, and follow the path to an awesome rope swing in a tree that’s been rigged up with fairy lights.

climb footpath

 

Rope SwingDon’t gain too much height, as the route starts at SH743780, which is pretty much sea level, at the end corner of the camping field, through a gate and about 150m on the right.

Penmaen Ridge StartAfter 10m of scrambling, you are on the ridge proper and can enjoy the exposure of both side falling away from you.

Penmaen RIdge Scrambling

There are a couple of tricky steps along the way.  You definitely need 3 points of contact for these, and it’s worth checking each of the important holds to see if they’re loose before committing all of your weight to them.  I didn’t find anything too loose, but I’m sure there is if you search around, or are just very unlucky.

Penmaen Face ScrambleThe views in both directions are excellent.  The noise from the road is a bit annoying, but with such a short walk in, you can’t have the solitude of a full on mountain day.

Top of PenmaenFrom the top of the scramble, you can continue up grass, heather and gorse until on the top plateau, heading South-West there is a stone walled area that forms part of the farm… Travelling South along this wall, you will find yourself on the North Wales Path, which leads back to Dwygyfylchi.

TerryJamesWalker.comIf you’re interested in guided grade 1 Scrambles, or want to get involved and learn the ropes for higher graded ones, then check out my website at Terry James Walker

New Bolt in Belay of Solstice and Equinox

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Last night I attended a Bolting Workshop at Bus Stop Quarry, delivered by Chris Parkin.  As part of remaining current and striving to improve our knowledge technically and professionally, us members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), register a certain number of days CPD (continual professional development) per year.  Last nights workshop will count towards 0.5 of a point towards those CPD required.

AMI Bolting Workshop

Chris demonstrating the placement of a stainless steel expansion bolt and hanger

Firstly we talked through the professional ethics and law to do with having a good understanding of bolts and their quality… If a bad one were to fail and an instructor’s client injured, there may be a case for negligence.

Then Chris drilled and put in a 10mm stainless steel expansion bolt, nut and petzl hanger.  Rated to about 25kn, we tested it to 10kn (1 tonne), and it held totally fine.  Should a bolt like this receive excessive use over 5 years in a softish rock like the Slate Quarries, then it may start to wobble and move around.  Recent testing by Mark Reeves showed bolts in this category still hold to about 1kn outward pull.  Which isn’t in my opinion overly dangerous as was reported by BMC etc, but I certainly wouldn’t be top roping groups of clients on those bolts.

He then placed an alternative which is a 6mm rod hanger, held in by resin.  It was a hot day, and after less than 1 hour, the bolt tested to 5kn of outward force (6-7 climbers all hanging directly outwards from it, and it would hold)  These bolts are believed to be slightly more suited to the slate, as long as they are not constantly being loaded sideways to create twisting.  The correct placement by the person doing the drilling and glueing is therefore extremely important.

Bolting Slate

Old bolt circled, New bolt with arrow.

I then asked Chris’ opinion of the single bolt belay that exists above Solstice and Equinox (used last weekend).  It is an 8mm bolt with hanger, the bolt sits inside a barrel in the rock… Both the bolt and barrel looked to be heavily corroded.  There is a sling placement around a big bolder to the right that forms the main part of my belay, but it would be tragic for the bolt to not be backed up by a climber and failure to happen.

So, Liam and Konrad were properly keen to get the drill going and resin in a new bolt for practise and to work the new skills we’d just seen.

There is now a new 6mm resin bolt directed towards the climb which should be good for 20 years at least, and would probably hold 30kn directionally (2 ford fiestas).  Considering the traffic these routes get, I think this new bolt is a good thing.  Shame about some of the old bolts which are there, I think the hangers were taken from them for no good reason (that I know of).

Think I’ll go and have a look at the ‘Gnat Attack’ belay next.  Safe Climbing people.  T