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.

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

 

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)

Crib Goch
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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
Glaslyn

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.

Heath and Moorland

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.

Concentration and Writing Complicated Articles

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Just tried to finish Part 2 of my hoisting articles for my website, reasonably complicated and would normally take me 20 minutes to get it right, then bang out the HTML.  But with Jacqui knocking around the house, incoming emails, new North Wales Limestone book at my side, new BASI manual in front of me, French homework for tomorrow and food, I have found the maths slightly tricky to get right first time.  So if there are any mistake in the article, I apologise.  But generally it takes people about 10 minutes to get back to me after first publishing to pick up any bugs.

So, with that done, now need to start thinking about Winter articles with a Ski/Snow/Season type subject.

Hoisting

Trying to bang out an article in 30 minutes.

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