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.

 

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.

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

2 day Trad Climbing skills for Alpine Trips

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This weekend, I had the joy of working with Ashok, whom like Geoff from the week before, also has a trip up Mont Blanc planned for August.

The Aims of the course were to take an indoor climber and teach all the necessary skills to be a competent trad climber, skills that will definitely help in the Alpine climbing.

Day one saw some of the worst weather of the whole summer so far, so we immediately retreated to the Beacon climbing centre.  Teaching people indoors, although not as pleasant, is far better set up for understanding the systems.  I’ve never seen an introductory Rope Access course taking place on an oil rig in the North sea!  Yet we strive as hard as possible to teach climbing techniques and skills outdoors where the gear placements and the belays are often awkward.  Well, it is definitely easier to teach some stuff indoors, such as abseiling and all the different methods of attaching oneself to a belay:

2 bits of gear, sling clipped to both, big overhand knot in the sling, clove hitch rope from harness to carabiner on the sling.

2 bits of gear, clove hitch the 2 ropes from harness to each individually

2 bits, run each rope through a carabiner on those bits of gear, then back to a clove hitch on HMS carabiner on harness.

These methods obviously all work for 3 pieces of gear in the rock (or trees etc), with slings, single rope or half ropes.

Beacon Climbing Centre

A keen young audience watching on whilst I was teaching

After talking through and then practising all of these methods, and looking at each of the nuts, hexes, cams and sling placements (The Beacon centre has holds that are designed to take nuts/cams and show this), we did a bit of abseiling in prep for the next day.

Come 3 o’clock the weather had dried up for about 30 minutes. The wind was blowing a breeze from the SW, so with a bit of local knowledge, I thought we could try Bus Stop quarry for a quick hit, and put into practise some of the things we’d seen indoors all day.

Bus Stop Quarry Climbing

Equinox or Solstice at Bus Stop, I can never remember which?

After a route and a half, the rain came again to call an end to a intense learning day.

Sunday, we visited V12 Outdoor shop, where I gave Ashok a 15% off voucher as my client, because I am a member of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors (AMI), so he bought a few sets of nuts and a rope.  Then we headed straight to Cwm Idwal Slabs.

I’ve never really seen the slabs that busy, there were a large contingent from the Peak Climbing Club, two groups from the Aylesbury Climbing Club, another MIA and her two clients and a group in front of me climbing as a 4 (very inefficiently and dangerously too).

We shot up the slabs on the right of the Charity crack, to sort of devise our own route and stay out of everyone’s way.  I placed about 15 runners on each pitch to show as many combinations of trad gear placement as possible, and get some of the shine off Ashok’s new kit for him 😉

Idwal Slabs Rock Climbing

Belay #3 on Charity, Idwal Slabs

After a few pitches, and letting Ashok build belays when he arrived below my belays, I was confident in his ability to determine the difference between a 2/5 marginal placement and a bomber 5/5, and also knew he is a very switched on guy.  Above is the photo of us switching gear and alternating the Lead for Ashok’s first go on the ‘sharp end’ of the rope.  The weather started to come in, with thick cloud rolling over the Glyders onto the slabs.

Lead Climbing Course

Ashok Leading up the final pitch

Once at the top, I thought we’d try a quick 2 pitch route on the Holly Tree Wall… “Original Route“, first done in 1918 which was a massive massive effort back then… The foot hold that you have to use to do the hard moves has been used by just about every person to ever do the route… it is very very polished and slippery!  The rain from the previous days didn’t help either.  Once Ashok arrived at the belay, having done the hardest move of the weekend, we left a bit of gear behind and abseiled down so as not to miss his train.  I then short roped us off the slabs and down the scramble back to the bags.

After a very fast pint of cider in the Fat Cat, I dropped Ashok off at the station, and will hopefully see him again later in the Summer and possibly in the Alps for some skiing.  T

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.

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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.