Monday, 17 October 2011

Gold Duke of Edinburgh Practice with Therfield School

For the past 5 days I have been training up a group of students from Therfield School in preparation for their Duke of Edinbugh Gold Expedition next summer. I really like working with this School and I love to see the progression and development of the students as they take on the challenge. I spent the first day with my group in the Northern Carneddau looking at navigation techniques, dealing with emergencies, discussing how to look after themselves and most of all enjoying a warm and sunny day in the hills!

On day 2 we headed out for a harder challenge and summited Moel Siabod. This was a fairly tough day out for the group as they had to carry full expedition packs and cope with low cloud. This really tested their navigation and made for some very greasy conditions underfoot. They all did superbly so on Saturday we cut them loose and they completed a 2 day hike in excellent weather.

All 23 students did fantastically and I looking forward to the Brecon Beacons and their qualifying expedition next spring.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Gogarth Video

Here's a little video of Jen and I climbing North West Passage - E1 at Castell Helen, Gogarth. Enjoy!!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

New Slate Guide Book Reveiw

Wow! That was my first impression on getting my hands on the long awaited Llanberis Slate Guidebook by Ground Up. The front cover shot is all that a front cover shot should be - an awesome image by Ian Parnell showing off the the most famous route that Llanberis slate has to offer. It also manages to capture the raw and unique atmosphere of the quarries and the intense nature of its climbing.

The next thing I noticed was its size, which increases the visual impact of the cover photo. The guide is larger than previous Ground Up offerings and at A5 is not a book that you can slip into your pocket. But why would you need to as most of the slate routes are single pitch and those that aren't are not over complicated in line (routes on the back wall of Twll Mawr excluded). As you open the guide up the advantages of the larger size are immediately apparent - large numbers of excellent and highly inspiring photos and clear photo topos.

On flicking through I was instantly drawn to the Diary of a Slatehead -  a number of short pieces by Martin Crook, which "provide a fascinating window into the slate climbing scene during its 80's glory days." There are also numerous short pieces detailing the characters that have been responsible for the development of the quarries over the years - The Slateheads. These include all the infamous characters such as Joe Brown, Redhead, Dawes and Crook.

Last Tango in Paris, Vivian Quarry

The action photos are just stunning and made all the better by the A5 size. They illustrate the odd beauty of the quarries, the strange juxtaposition of the natural and the man made and the unique and sometimes baffling style of climbing. A particular favourite of mine is Ray Wood's shot of George Smith on The Wall Within which encapsulates the atmosphere and 'other-worldlyness' of the Lost World perfectly. I also like the historical photos that grace the guide - lets face it we don't get enough bright lycra these days!

The guide is layed out in the usual and user friendly Ground Up style and features all the aspects that you would expect a modern guide to have - graded list, comprehensive route descriptions, photo topos, index etc.
It has an excellent introductory section with lots of info on style and ethics and access, which I would implore you to read. Access to the quarries has at times over the past years been slightly delicate so lets hope that the extra influx of climbers this guide will bring does not cause any problems. My one negative comment on the guide would be the photo used for Dali's Hole -an area at the forefront of current access negotiations. It shows a busy climbing scene, with groups enjoying the previously easy bolted routes - precisely the cause of access issues in the first place.

Looning the Tube, Australia

The guide features 900 routes - 200 of which have been added since the previous guide! There is now something for everyone in the quarries. When I first started my slate career whilst at Bangor Uni, there where very few easy routes - in fact if you couldn't climb HVS there wasn't much point in visiting the quarries. Now there are lots of grade 4 and 5 well bolted routes for the aspirant Slatehead to cut their teeth on - including a few multi pitch offerings such as the excellent '362' in Never Never Land. It also features the quarries on the other side of the valley - Glyn Rhonwy, which are a quiet back water where the seasoned Slatehead may venture to find a whole realm of new adventures.

Also featured in the guide are some 'Slate Walks and Adventures'. These detail various ways that you can explore the unique atmosphere of the slate quarries and find those hidden gems from times gone by - ideal for a wet day. Included in this section is a description of Snakes and Ladders - a journey though tunnels, up chains, down big holes, escapes via rickety ladders and there's even a bit of climbing thrown in for good measure!

A guide book should not only be practical and accurate but also inspiring. A guide book should make me want to delve into to it, read route descriptions, find hidden treasures, fill me with pysch and make me want to get up off my arse and go climbing. It should also be something I can read on wet days and in quiet moments.This guide definitely ticks all those boxes. In fact I think this is one of the best guidebooks I have seen. Congratulations to Simon and his team - it was definately worth the wait!

Get your copy of the guide from V12 Outdoor today!!