Mountain Trainin Picture

Mountain Trainin Picture

Friday, 6 November 2015

High Sports Boulder Re-set...

Yesterday (5th November) I spent the day at High Sports Plymouth helping the team set the barrel, 40 degree wall and 20 degree wall. Plenty of problems for all to try.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

3 consecutive days of granite rash...

Joshua padding up a slab at Down Tor...
Over the course of the weekend the South West was blessed with glorious weather. A real rarity for Dartmoor at this time of year. 

On Saturday (31st October 2015) I headed to Down tor with Joshua to make the most of the weather for the day. Armed with chalk, shoes and my new bouldering pad we wandered through the jumble of boulders. This allowed me to tick off a few problems, such as 6b Arete (f6a) and potentially a new first ascent on the pyramid block, Right wall sit direct f5. Having done a handful of problems and watched Joshua scrambling around on the rocks we made for the summit of Down Tor before heading back to the car park to meet Aj. 

Myself on the classic 'Hanging Flakes' V4 6b...
The following day (Sunday 1st November) I headed out on a solo mission to Cuckoo Rock and Combeshead Tor. A venue I had not visited before so I was keen to try out some of the classics in the area... 
During my 4 hour stint among the boulder strewn slopes I managed to tick off no less than 13 problems. Of these, the two that stand out were Problem 87 V4 6b and the classic Hanging Flakes V4 6b. By this point I was topless as the sun was out in full glory. A perfect November day! Towards the end of my session I was keen to tick of Proof of Concept, V5 6b. A classic f6c (maybe even f7a..?) but it was not to be. The lack of skin left on my fingertips was a hint that it was time to go. Such is the nature of Dartmoor Granite. Would you have it any other way..?

Cuckoo Rock with the sun setting behind. Fabulous Dartmoor...

On Sunday (November 2nd) I awoke to a glorious blue sky and sunlight shining through my bedroom window like a cars headlights at full beam. How ironic is it that friends Jack and Henry are currently holed up indoors in Costa Blanca,  Spain, whilst the rain batters the limestone crags outside. Could this be another day for Dartmoor?

Joshua high-balling at Bonehill...
Myself, Aj and Joshua wolfed down several homemade pancakes before racing up the A38 towards Bonehill Rocks. Hold on, something isn't right! The sunshine is now behind us and we are heading towards grey skies and advection fog! By the time we reach the car park we can barely see the crag which is less than 30 metres in front of us. Is this Karma for having a joke about Jack and Henry's current predicament in little Britain. Aww well, here now so may as well make the most of it.

The ground is wet but the rock is cold allowing for better conditions than expected. Myself and Joshua spend a few hours wandering around with me doing (attempting) the odd problem whilst Joshua eats more babybels whilst scrambling and weaseling.

I manage to make a repeat ascent of Llama Farmer V4 6b first go and also make a quick flash of P25 f6a. We wander around some more before I make a quick ascent of P86 f6c above a very precarious landing. A sharp spiked rock and Joshua directly below!

We hear a group of 15+ kids turn up in two minibus' and decide to make ourselves scarce. We jump in the car as the raindrops start to hit the windows. Impeccable timing.

A truly fantastic week spent in one of my favourite places. Unfortunately this will be the last session on Dartmoor for the foreseeable future as we move to Bonnie Scotland on the weekend. Time to get strong over the winter for the sessions at the one and only Dumby! Time to chase that illustrious 7a...  

Sharpitor and Leather Tor...

Joshua scrambling to the top of Sharpitor...
Having finished my last ever instructing session at High Sports Plymouth I decided to take Joshua out for a wander on Dartmoor (28th October 2015). We parked up below Sharpitor and headed off...

Within 30 minutes Joshua was standing on the top of Sharpitor Summit with a real wind wafting his hair around like a dodgy toupee. A few babybels and gold coins and he was ready to set off again. We dropped down the South West side of the tor and we were soon heading South East towards Leather Tor. Not long before Joshua was standing on the ridged summit before we dropped down and headed back towards the car.

Before we got home Joshua was out for the count in the back of the car.

Joshua with Leather Tor in the background...

Joshua, top of Leather Tor...

A great day out. Just what kids need...

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

BMC FUNdamentals 2

After participating in the BMC FUNdamentals 1 course over a year ago I finally got round to booking on to the FUNdas 2 course. (Attended on the 18th of October 2015)

This I done with a number of colleagues and friends at High Sports Plymouth. The course was run by Mark Garland. All info on the workshop can be found here: BMC FUNdamentals 2 workshop

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Orkney Outdoor Learning Programme (week 5) 22nd - 26th June 2015

The first half of this week saw myself, Dave and Mick working on Hoy with both Firth and Evie Schools. The school pupils were participating in a residential setting.

During the week, Firth and Evie pupils participated in coasteering, bushcraft, gorge walking and tyrolean crossing sessions. According to the feedback, the puipls particularly enjoyed both the tyrolean crossing and coasteering.

Firth and Evie pupils in the Candle of the Sail gorge

Firth and Evie pupils bush-crafting in the Hoy Lodge Plantation
Glaitness pupils on the mobile climbing tower
On the Thursday, myself, Mick, Dave and Chris were all on the mainland running a range of activities for Glaitness School. Based on the Peedie sea. The pupils participated in bushcraft, canoeing and climbing tower sessions. The local paper even turned up to get some shots of the activities which are to be published in the forthcoming newspaper publication.

Another great week with some fantastic pupils and teachers alike.

Next week we will be working with the Hoy Development Trust before packing up and heading to the Mainland for the July programme.

Orkney Outdoor Learning Programme - (Week 4) 15th - 19th June 2015

The first half of this week saw both myself and Ron working on the Mainland delivering activities for both Stennes and Orphir Schools.

Ron ran a range of open canoeing sessions on Scapa Beach and I ran abseiling sessions on the West side of Scapa Bay.

The 2nd half of the week mself, Dave and Mick were running sessions on Hoy for Shapinsay School. Shapinsay pupils enjoyed a range of activities including; coasteering, gorge walking, raft building, bushcraft and a tyrolean crossing.

Abseiling at Scapa Bay with Stennes and Orphir
Raft building on Sandy Loch with Shapinsay School
Tyrolean crossing at Muckle Head, Hoy, with Shapinsay School

A great week with some fantastic groups.

Next week we will be working with Glaitness School and both Firth and Evie.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Orkney Outdoor Learning Programme - (Week 3) 8th - 12th June 2015

This week we continued our work with Robert Gordon College. On the Monday the group participated in a hill walking day. The group walked from the centre, over the top of the Cuilags, and passing St Johns Head before arriving at the Old Man of Hoy. After watching 2 teams climbing the stack we headed down to Rackwick before leaving Hoy for the bright lights of the mainland.

On Tuesday myself, Mick and Chris were on the Island of Rousay delivering activities to the local community school.

The pupils enjoyed bushcraft, open canoeing, abseiling and rock climbing. The climbing was particularly interesting as the site had never been used before. Meaning that the pupils were effectively the first ascensionists. Brilliant.
Abseiling at Li-Ber, Isle of Rousay

On the Friday myself, Mick and Dave went on a reccy mission to find a new coasteering venue. In the end we managed to open up a new coasteering site at the Hill of White Hamars.

Next week we will be working with Stennes and Orphir schools on the Mainland and Shapinsay school on Hoy.

Orkney Outdoor Learning Programme - (Week 2) 1st - 7th June 2015

This wek myself Dave and Mick have been working with Stromness Academy, Kirkwall Grammar School and Robert Gordon College. All groups have been participating in a residential capacity.

During the week Kirkwall Grammar School pupils participated in raft building, coasteering and sit on top kayaking sessions and Stromness Primary pupils coasteered and done a walk to and from the Old Man of Hoy.

On the Sunday, Robert Gordon College pupils participated in a very swell-tastic coasteering session at the Hamars. Great.
Stromness primary pupils at the Old Man of Hoy...

Next week we are working with Robert Gordon College on Hoy and Rousay Community School on the Isle of Rousay.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Orkney Outdoor Learning Programme - (Week 1) 25th - 29th May 2015

For the last week I have been based on Hoy, Orkney, where I will be working for the summer (3rd year in a row!).

During this week myself, Dave and Mick have been instructing pupils from Kirkwall Grammar school who have made their annual pilgrimage to the isle of Hoy to partake in a residential programme. This week has seen the pupils participate in sessions from coasteering to gorge walking and climbing wall tower to tyrolean
Tyrolean crossing...

Climbing wall tower...
1 week down and 9 to go for myself. Lets hope the weather improves...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

CWLA Assessment...

Today (22nd may 2015) myself, Andy, Jack and Selena participated in a CWLA assessment course run by Mark Garland of Channel Training.

Aspects of the assessment included:

Personal belaying...
  • Introduction to centre facilities.
  • Risk assessing.
  • Session planning.
  • Warming up strategies.
  • Personal climbing (at F6a) and belaying.
  • Progressive teaching of falling and best practice.
  • Running a learning to lead session with mock students (teaching clipping, lead belaying, falling, catching falls etc).
  • Practical discussions.
  • Review of test paper and discussions on various results.
  • Individual feedback.
  • Results. 

Teaching a method of clipping quickdraws...

Massive thanks to Mark for running the assessment and thanks to the 6 mock students who volunteered for the day.
Massive well done to everyone who passed.

[Photos taken by Mark Garland]

Monday, 11 May 2015

Climbing for all CPD...

This Saturday just passed (May 9th 2015) I participated in a Climbing For All CPD workshop which was run by Graeme Hill. Graeme is the team manager for the GB Para-climbing team an is an avid enthusiast for the inclusion of all individuals within sport regardless of physical and psychological ability.

Aspects of the syllabus included:

  • Appropriate and inappropriate language.
  • Hoisting systems.
  • Types of harness.
  • Sight assisted climbing.
  • Wheelchair abseiling.
Wheelchair abseiling...

Sight assisted climbing...

An informative course and highly recommended for coaches working with individuals/groups with additional needs.

Until next time...

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Morocco - April/May 2015...

On the evening of Tuesday the 28th April 2015 a group of ten of us touched down in Marrakech airport, Morocco. We were met there by one of our Moroccan fixers who organised our transport to the village of Imlil. Once here we swapped vehicles and all piled in to a death-trapesque minibus which had only three conventional seats. Following a ten minute journey up terrifying mountain tracks we finally arrived at our hostel for the night in the higher region of the village. We were treated to some tasty Moroccan soup and bread and lamb tajine before winding down for the night.

Myself on the trek to the Toubkal Refuge...
Day 1 - Imlil to Toubkal Refuge (1,740 - 3,200 metres): 

We woke early in the morning and were greeted with bread, jam and some morning tea to set us up for the long trek ahead of us for the day. Once finished we helped the muleteers load the mules with our rucksacks and equipment before they disappeared up the valley out of sight.
The trek between Imlil village and the Toubkal refuge is a very gradual trek with a distance of roughly 10 kilometres and a height gain of 1,460 metres. The group done the trek in roughly 5 hours, allowing a gradual increase to a higher altitude.
Once we had all arrived we were treated to copious amounts of food for both lunch and dinner before resting for the next days walk.
Refuge altitude...

Day 2 - Toubkal Refuge to Mountain Pass High-point (3,200 - 3,680 metres):

Ben nearing the col high-point of 3,680 metres...
On the 2nd morning we planned to have an easy day. This allowed for the whole group to acclimatise slowly and for some members of the group to get a feel for wearing crampons and using an ice axe. It was agreed that we would head for the high-point of 3,680 on one of the many mountain ridges in the area. Myself and Ben, feeling comfortable, made quick progress  and reached the col where we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. Enjoying the view and taking the obligatory tourist photos we headed back to the refuge before the snow had a chance to soften in the early afternoon sunshine. Once back at the refuge we made the decision to rest and to ascend Jbel Toubkal the following day.

Day 3 - Toubkal Refuge to Jbel Toubkal Summit (3,200 - 4,167 metres):

Ben, Lou and myself on the summit of Jbel Toubkal...

We woke just before 5am, had breakfast and were ready to leave the refuge at roughly 5:30am. We left as a group of 10 and progressed up the normal route of ascent as the morning light extinguished the need for our head torches. By the time we had reached the bottom of the broad ridge leading to the summit we had separated in to 3 distinct groups. Myself, Ben and Lou led off and reached the narrow ridge which leads up to the summit. Weaving our way between the ridge the 3 of us reached the summit of Jbel Toubkal, 4,167 metres  at 9:20am. Here, we took more obligatory  photos whilst we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. At roughly 10:15am the whole party was on the summit for the group photo. Once completed, myself and Ben descended quickly down the ridge in an attempt to beat the sun which would soon be turning the snow underfoot in to wet slush. We arrived back at the refuge after a successful ascent and descent at 11:48am. Our first peak over 4,000 metres in the bag we relaxed in the midday sun before tucking in to more Moroccan cuisine.

Day 4 - Toubkal Refuge (3,200 metres) to Ras n-Ouanoukrim (4,088 metres) and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim (4,083 metres) Summits:
The 'nutcracker stone'...

Having arrived back at the refuge early the previous day we had adequate enough rest to have another early morning and another mountain day. This time, myself, Ben, Lou, Ben and Jon had breakfast at 5:30am and left the refuge at 5:50am. The objective was to reach the summits of both Ras n-Ouanoukrim and Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim. The 2nd and 3rd highest peaks in Morocco. Ben led off and we made quick progress arriving at the high col at 7:30am. Ahead of the estimated guidebook time. We headed up past the 'nutcracker stone' and reached the East Ridge which we scrambled to reach the summit of  Ras n-Ouanoukrim, 4,088 metres at 9am. After a few brief minutes enjoying the view from the summit we descended to the bealach and started heading up towards the summit of Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim. We made quick progress up the easy angled ascent and arrived on the summit of Timesguida n-Ouanoukrim, 4,083 metres at 9:39am. We had a quick look at the queues amassing on the ascent of Jbel Toubkal through the binoculars and decided to descend. We made quick progress on the descent and arrived back at the refuge at 11:57am. Another successful day and for myself, Ben and Lou another 2 peaks over 4,000 metres in the bag.

View of Jbel Toubkal from Ras n-Ouanoukrim...

Day 5 - Toubkal Refuge (3,200 metres) to Aguelzim (3,650 metres) summit and Azib Tamsoult (2,250 metres) Refuge:
Myself  under one of the waterfalls...

On this day we planned to ascend Aguelzim (3,650 metres) and then trek to the Azib Tamsoult refuge. We had a late start this day having breakfast at 7:30am and leaving the Toubkal refuge at 9am. We left the bulk of our equipment with the mules and set off along the track which makes a gradual ascent just below the Aguelzim ridge before arriving at a high mountain pass. From here, a handful of us headed further along the ridge and reached the summit of Aguelzim (3,650 metres) at 11:30am before returning to the rest of the party. Now altogether we made the long trek down the valley through some stunning terrain and passing several waterfalls before arriving at the Azib Tamsoult refuge at 15:20pm. Here we were treated to fresh salad, omelettes and Moroccan mint tea . Having eaten copious amounts of food and packed our bags we had some rest for the following day.

Day 6 - Azib Tamsoult Refuge (2,250 metres) to Imlil Village (1,740 metres):
View looking back to the Azib Tamsoult refuge on
the trek to Imlil

As planned, this was to be our last walking day of the trip. We had breakfast at 8am, left our equipment with the mules and left the refuge at roughly 9:50am. We trekked through more stunning terrain and finally reached the village of Imlil after roughly 5 hours of trekking. Here, we enjoyed some lamb tajine and mint tea before we were driven to Marrakech where we would spend the night before travelling back to the UK.

All in all a very successful trip for the whole group. Special thanks must go to the 2nd year degree group who allowed us to participate in their expedition. Thanks also go to Ben and Jon.

Group shot outside the Toubkal Refuge...

Until next time...

Monday, 27 April 2015

Equalising anchors with slings...

Using slings to create a belay on both single and multi-pitch crags has various advantages.

Firstly; Less rope is used which potentially allows longer pitches to be climbed by the leader.

Secondly; It can create a single attachment point at the belay reducing clutter and tidying the stance.

Thirdly; Slings are relatively light-weight and extremely strong. Many rated at 22 kN.

There are several methods of using slings to equalise anchors at a belay. 4 methods are described below.

This first image shows two anchors equalised with a length of 120cm sling with a figure of eight.

The sling is clipped through both carabiners, pulled down to create a V and the the figure of eight tied.

Advantages: Quick, simple and effective.

Disadvantages: Requires a 120cm or larger length of sling, particularly when anchors are not close together.

This second image shows each anchor tied off with a clove hitch and then equalised with a figure of eight. Again, a 120cm length of sling has been used.

The sling is clove hitched to one carabiner, a loop of slack created and then clove hitched to the other anchor. Once both clove hitches have been tied the sling is equalised with a figure of eight.

Advantages: Quick, uses less sling and is easy to adjust.

Disadvantages: Must be proficient with each knot, harder to create with less than a 120cm length of sling

This third image shows three anchors equalised with a figure of eight using a 240cm length of sling.

The sling is clipped through each anchor, pulled down to create a W and then equalised with a figure of eight.

Advantages: Allows more anchors to be incorporated in to the belay, quick and effective.

Disadvantages: Requires more equipment and a large length of sling.

This fourth image shows two anchors equalised with an over hand knot using a 120cm length of sling.

Tie an overhand knot in the sling, attach a loop either side of the knot through each individual anchor and then have the overhand knot rest in the balance point. Ensure that the carabiner is clipped through both halves of the sling.

Advantages: Effective and tidy.

Disadvantages: Tricky to tie.

Points to remember when using slings to create a belay at a stance:

  • Ensure that each anchor is independently tied off.
  • Ensure that each anchor is equally loaded.
  • Slings must remain under a static load and must never be shock loaded.
  • You can shorten large slings but cannot lengthen short slings.
  • As slings do not absorb as much energy as dynamic rope the anchors will be put under greater pressure. Choose your anchors carefully.
  • Try to ensure that the angles between anchors are 60 degrees or less. This will ensure less force is placed on each anchor and the direction of load is correct. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Bonehill and Hound Tor...

Managed to get out on the moors for a spot of bouldering with the family yesterday (23rd April 2015) and managed to tick off some classic problems that have been on my eye for a while.

Whilst at Bonehill I sent Rippled Wall V4 6b. One that has been on my list for a while.

After letting Joshua scramble up a few boulders and do some weaseling we crossed the road and headed towards Hound Tor. Whilst there I flashed 5c Wall and got Cosmetix V5 f6c on my 3rd go.

On Rippled Wall V4 6b with Joshua behind...

Friday, 10 April 2015

High Sports Plymouth - Setting

Had a good time helping re-set an area of the bouldering room yesterday with the setting crew. 22 new problems in total!

Friday, 6 March 2015

Norway - February 2015

Team ready to board flight to Oslo...
I recently returned from a  successful ice climbing trip to Rjukan, Norway just over 2 weeks ago (17th February 2015) and thought I would share an account of how the trip went...

On the 11th of February myself and good friends Andy, Jack and Nick flew from London Stansted (after a brutal overnight bivvy in the airport) to Oslo where we then traveled to Rjukan where we would base ourselves for the coming week.

Whilst in Rjukan we stayed at the Rjukan Old School Hostel, A very friendly and well equipped hostel filled with similarly minded climbing bums. Essential when on a climbing eXped. The accommodation is renowned within climbing circles as the place to be in Rjukan and is a well established Black Diamond test centre.

The climbing:

12th February - Day 1. On our first morning in Rjukan we decided to head to Ozzimosis. Ozzimosis is an easily accessible 'ice crag' close to the hostel and is an ideal location for anyone venturing out on ice for the first time. Whilst here we got our first taste of pure ice climbing and managed to bag several leads each. Including grade 4 water ice.

Climbs completed at Ozzimosis:

Minidisken WI2
Julevask WI2
Juledusj WI3
Ozzimosis WI4

Team descending from Fabrikfossen WI3...
13th February - Day 2. After our successful day at Ozzimosis we were all feeling more confident and decided to do one of the longer multi pitch routes in Rjukan Centre. The route we chose to do was the 3 star classic route Fabrikfossen WI3. After the 30 minute walk in my self and Andy partnered up and Jack and Nick partnered up and set off. Both teams completing the climb in 6 pitches before the long abseil descent back to the car. A classic waterfall in the bag and all 4 of us surviving Friday the 13th...

Myself looking down the 2nd chimney pitch of Bakveiein WI4...
14th February - Day 3. After being recommended by no less than 3 others we decided to head to Rjukan Upper Gorge to attempt the 3 star classic multi pitch route Bakveiein WI4. From the topo in the guidebook the climb does not even look slightly appealing (personal opinion). The 2nd pitch is hidden in the picture and the 3rd pitch looks extremely slabby. How wrong could I be... Myself and Andy arrived and the bottom of the route and had to stand around for an hour whilst the team ahead of us systematically quarried the ice down the whole route. Due to the nature of the climb any ice dislodged by the leader flies down to the base of the route through the 2nd chimney pitch. Which didn't help was the fact that the team ahead didn't shout down to us whenever they dislodged any ice. Once they were done Andy headed up the 1st pitch and belayed below the chimney pitch. Arriving at the belay I finally wondered what all the fuss was about. The climbing on the chimney pitch was one of the best pitches of climbing I have done anywhere. Truly brilliant. Whilst Andy led on up the 3rd pitch Jack and Nick were slowly catching up with us on the route. I quickly followed Andy up and topped out beside the Industrial Workers Museum where I was met by 2 fresh faced armed guards. Bizarre. Once Andy was up we checked out the museum and headed back to the car park where we waited on the others.

Once we arrived back at the hostel we cracked open a few beers and relaxed in the sauna. Suppose I've had worse valentines days...

Myself on Gaustapokelse WI4 at Krokan...
15th February - Day 4. On our 4th morning we decided that we would climb in the huge amphitheater that is Mael which was recommended to us by the Danes who were staying in the hostel. However after a long and tiring walk in we managed to get completely lost and some bad words were thrown around... Long walk back out and we decided to have a coffee back at the hostel and head to another 'ice crag' called Krokan. Krokan is one of the highest crags in Rjukan and the conditions here are generally stable over the winter season. A lovely little place complete with blue ice, deep snow and hanging icicles. All that's missing is the reindeer. A true winter wonderland! Although we did have to dodge the French punters who were hanging on top ropes attached to tiny sized mailions hacking away at the suspended icicles we managed to get some decent routes done.

Climbs completed at Krokan:

Jomfrau WI4
Bullen WI3
Gaustapokelse WI4

Andy on the 3rd pitch of Tjonnstadbergfossen WI4...
16th February - Day 5. On our last climbing day we decided to head back to Rjukan centre where Sam (Hostel guide) had recommended another classic 3 starred multi pitch route. The route was Tjonnstadbergfossen WI4. For this route we stayed with our regular partners and both set off at the same time. Much of the ice on the route was very frosted and ice screw placements were hard to come by. On the 2nd pitch I placed 4 screws within 50 metres of climbing! The overall route was excellent and we had a brilliant view down to the town square in Rjukan. A great climb to end the trip on...

However as we had finished in good time we headed back to the hostel, had a coffee break and decided to go back to Krokan to do some night climbing. A brilliant shared idea and a brilliant experience to climb ice in the dark with head torches whilst the snow is falling. Brilliant.

Night climbing at Krokan...
Routes completed at Krokan at night: 

Bullen WI3
Unknown (RF 4) WI2
Unknown (RF 4.5) WI3

All in all a very successful, and surprisingly cheap, ice climbing expedition to Norway.

An amazing country, great hospitality, fantastic company, brilliant ice climbing, lovely scenery, deep history... The list goes on and I'm sure that we will be returning in the future...

Thanks to Jakob and Sam for the hospitality and thanks to Andy, Jack and Nick for the great memories!

Until next time...