5 best “First E1s” in North Wales

Standard

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

Standard

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.

IMG_0895.jpg

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

IMG_0938.jpg

IMG_0939.jpg

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.

IMG_0941

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.

IMG_0925.jpg

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

IMG_0942

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

IMG_0943

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

IMG_0944

Straddling the arete ‘sur cheval’

IMG_0945

Cwm Idwal, North Wales

 

 

Mountaineering Course – wild camping

Standard

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.

IMG_0867.JPG

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

IMG_0878.jpg

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.

IMG_0880.jpg

Eastern Spur of Carnedd Llewellyn

IMG_0887.jpgIMG_0886.jpg

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.

IMG_0893.jpg

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

 

 

Multi-pitch Rock Training Course

Standard

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.

IMG_0844.jpg

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.

IMG_0841.jpg

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.

IMG_0836.jpg

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.

IMG_0845

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

Day 5: Little Tryfan for multipitch leading of routes.

 

Assessments – Be prepared (Pleeeease)

Crib Goch
Standard

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.

Best Limestone Scramble in North Wales

TerryJamesWalker.com
Standard

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