About Me

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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What a Difference A Week Can Make!

  The weekend before last was saw me squeezing the schedule so I could get some more winter miles before the thaw.

 Leaving work at 1am in Leeds I packed my kit and set off on the 2.5 hour drive to the Ogwen Valley in Snowdonia.
 After around 2hrs sleep in the car I was awoken by my mate Alan tapping on the window. Alan and I had met on a trip to the High Atlas in Morocco during 2014. Alan would be joining Rob Johnson in Scotland in a few weeks and wanted to sample a lo grade winter climb as a idea as to what he was in for.
 We made our way through ever deeper snow to the foot of the chimney that would take us up to Bristly Ridge and on to the summit of Glyder Fach. It was at the foot of the route I found I'd left my crampons in the car, again!! I blame it on the sleep depravation. I should make it clear that if the temperature had been lower and the snow firmer I wouldn't have carried on but I felt confident I could make the climb of the chimney in my boots and then the 'mushy' snow would be passable with a little extra care.
 After negotiating the chimney we found ourselves in deep snow before getting on to the ridge proper where it was obvious there had been a number of people crossing the ridge over the weekend.

  We then made our way past the 'Cantilever Stone' before finding our way through the murk towards the Gribben Ridge which we would descend.
 A good accessible route for a winter day though I would recommend crampons!
Well done to Alan for what was his first winter mountaineering route and maybe just a little insight into what he can look forward to in Scotland.

Monday morning I met up with my mate and occasional climbing partner Rob Gurr of Summit Adventures. Rob is also on the Winter Mountain Leader Scheme so was eager to get out and get a few miles under his belt.

 We decided we would head up to the summit of Snowdon via Crib Goch. Crib Goch is arguably the most famous ridge in the British mountains, possibly due to its accessibility from Pen y Pass car park.
 We made our way up to the ascent into the ridge where we put on crampons (remembered them for a change!) as the snow became firmer as the temperature dropped.
Visibility was low as we crossed the ridge and made our way up to the summit of Snowdon.
 At Snowdon summit we decided to continue on and completed the 'Snowdon Horseshoe' rather than walk back down by the Miners or Pyg track.
 Covering the summits of Crib Goch, Crib y Ddysgl, Snowdon and Llywedd Bach the route is just under 12km long with just under 1000m of ascent and it took us a respectable 6.5hrs I. Winter conditions.

 A good day and especially good to catch up with Rob to spend the day setting the world to rights.....

 What a difference a week can make as the thaw set in and saw heavy rain clear most of the snow 😕
 These pictures show the entrance to the summit cafe on Snowdon, around 6ft of snow cleared within a week due to a warm front and heavy rain.

 Also after finding that I was definitely getting winter stronger and fitter I managed injure my back doing absolutely nothing adventurous, not the best week!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Big Bad Bob's Brecon Beacons Birthday Boot Bashing.

Earlier this week it was my good friend Bob's birthday which gave us an excuse to meet up for a couple of days in the Brecon Beacons.
I met Bob just over a year ago on a trip to the High Atlas of Morocco and was also lucky enough to meet up with him again last October to share a memorable trip to Patagonia.

 'Lord Bob of Putney', to give him his proper title, originally hails from the dark satanic smog filled streets of Salford (on t'wrong side o'ills)  but moved to London some years ago to be close to his beloved Arsenal Football Club. Bob gained the title Lord for his heroics in the Napoleonic wars, helping to defeat the diminutive power mad Frenchie at Waterloo. For Bob's role in this famous victory he was given vast swathes of London where he built a family home on stilts so he could watch the Zebra, gazelle and wilder beast graze majestically on his lawns when he was not 'down the Arsenal'.

 Being a life long 'Gunner' Bob was the obvious choice to take command of the big guns during the North Africa campaign of the Second World War where his input was decisive and helped Field Marshal Montgomery turn the tide of the war. Being a modest man and already having a 'Lordship' Bob shunned the lime light and let 'Monty' take the credit for getting 'zee krauts on zee hop', though his famous catch phrase does live on in the memory of many North Africans where the mention of his name will have waitresses scampering down to the medina in Marrakech will the call of 'nuts please, some nuts for the table!'.
 (Lord) Bob is also credited as being the inventor of the pencil with an eraser at one end incorporated in the design for which countless children were admitted to hospital to have the rubber removed from their ear. He was the inspiration for The Beatles 'Sergeant Pepper' album after describing the vivid dreams he experienced when guiding countless teams to summit Everest (i've seen the ice axe he used!) to an overawed Elvis Presley and, it turns out, John Lennon who was 'ear wigging' whilst waiting in line to get an autograph  from (Lord) Bob. Recent years have seen (Lord) Bob select his projects carefully so he can spend more time with his beloved Arsenal where he is head coach.


Meeting (Lord) Bob in Brecon on the Sunday evening we looked at maps and weather reports before hatching a plan to walk up the famous Pen Y Fan before heading East to take in Cribyn, and Fan y Big before dropping down to pick the vehicle up in the village of Pencilli.

Setting off after our kit 'faff' we made our way South along 'Cefn Cwm Llwch and were soon making our way to the summit of Pen y Fan, meeting the snow line and bitingly chilly winds at around 700m.
North Face Of Pen Y Fan with steep drops covered in snow, nice!
(Lord) Bob makes for the summit.

Myself and (Lord) on Pen Y Fan

After the compulsory summit 'selfie' (Lord) Bob kindly checked my bearing and we set off through the low cloud to descend then rise steeply up to 'Gribbin' then onto 'Fan y Big' meeting a school group on the way. We didn't get the opportunity to go on mountain trips whilst at school, I suppose it would have been a long way in the horse drawn carriages....
He's not camera shy isn't (Lord) Bob!

No complaints as to the weather.
 From Fan y Big we hand railed along the path following the rim of 'Craig Cwareli' before descending 'Gist Wen' and into muddy farmland before reaching Pencelli.
 Overall we completed the slightly over 16km route in just under six hours, including snack stops and photograph opportunities. Neither of us had been to the Brecon Beacons before and we both stated how much we had enjoyed the route and the landscape, (Lord) Bob also stating the area would fit rather well into his property portfolio!

 Tuesday - and unfortunately I awoke to find my constitution in a somewhat delicate state. With this in mind I studied the weather forecasts and put forward the idea it would be a bit of a struggle attempting anything more than a low level stroll. We were to meet up with our friend and local lad Dan Bryan so decided to make use of his local knowledge. 
 I had also met Dan on the same Morocco trip where I had met (Lord) Bob. He is a qualified Mountain Leader and is also a member of the local Mountain Rescue team, we had met up many times during the summer as I am teaching him to climb.
Team orange 'Tango'
 With the rain unrelenting, strong winds and a forecasted -15C wind chill on the tops Dan suggested a low level walk to the Sgwd-yr-Eira (the Snow Waterfalls), I happily agreed.
 Leaving Penderyn, fully waterproofed against the constant rain, Dan led us along the sodden track until we reached the descent towards the waterfall. I have to admit, even as a native of Yorkshire (God's own country), this was an impressive waterfall and on top of that it was possible to walk behind the falling water.

Suitably impressed, and with waterproofs tested to the maximum, we retuned walking back behind the waterfall and retraced out tracks to Penderyn.

Summary - it was good to meet up with (Lord) Bob again and for us both to enjoy our first visit to the Brecon Beacons, the National Park may not have the height and ruggedness of some of the other National Parks but is a very interesting and beautiful landscape which is easily accessible to many people.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Winter!

Earlier in the week I was fortunate enough to be climbing as a 'mock client' in the Cairngorms just as winter seems to have eventually arrived!

I joined John Crook who is currently an aspirant British Mountain Guide preparing to take the winter climbing assessment section of the extensive training and assessment process and is therefore keen to get out and prepare as fully as possible with a range of ability 'mock clients', even those with less ability like me!

Sunday evening had seen a drop in temperature and snow fall which was perfect for us, though the 40-50mph winds were less perfect. Monday morning we walked into Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms which is a mecca for winter climbing due to its towering Northerly facing crags and relatively short walk in.

John had selected a climb from the Fiacaill Couloir up onto the Fiacaill Ridge, Invernookie climbs 120m and is graded at Scottish III 4** to start our few days and to judge if I had any ability at all!
Despite 'blowing out of my arse' (Yorkshire term for breathing heavily due to exercise) as John led us up to the base of the climb I was keen to get on and get winter started.
It's fair to say John was climbing well within his undoubted ability and it was a case of me belaying for a short while before following his route up the crag removing gear placements, and this how the few days would be. 
John at top of the route

Winter views
John at the belay stance.

Its fair to say it was a touch on the chilly side and we had spin drift for company on most of the climb too, before topping out on the ridge where we had gale force winds too - Scottish winter!

Tuesday John chose Fingers Ridge for our climb which at Scottish Grade IV 4*** was a grade harder than the previous days Invernookie.

Loving winter!
 Its was good climbing with a few technical moves that I actually thought about though the 'beached walrus' technique that i used to get over the final wall drew some ridicule from , obviously I hadn't been there when he went up the route so who's to say he hadn't done the same.....? ;-)
Topping out we then made our way to the 'Goat Track' and descended in to the coire.
Another group looking tiny in the Coire an t-Sneachda

Wednesday and we were joined by Josh for the first day of his week of winter climbing, with Josh having plenty of previous Alpine and climbing experience I would have to hide my tears whilst stood at the belay!
 John had decided progression was the way to go and so chose a route which was technically more difficult than the either of the previous climbs but would hopefully be within my limits where he wouldn't have to start rigging hoists to haul me up the crag!
The climb for the day would be The Message which has is graded at Scottish IV 6***,the 6 for how technical the climb was had me a little worried.
Again John would lead making gear placements trailing two ropes so Josh and myself could climb in parallel. I made an error right at the start of the climbing by not pulling the hood of my waterproof up properly and this filled with snow and spindrift, failing to remove all the snow before managing to get my hood up over my helmet it soon melted and ran down my collar with gravity helping it find an exit route out of my waterproofs from the crutch area = cold!
 It was soon obvious to me that this climb was a step or two (or three!) more technical than anything I had climbed before and really had to fight to get up in a couple of places. Given that the more I climb, learn about climbing and watch good climbers I see elegant, seemingly effortless movement and precise body positioning I would have impressed no one with my scratching around for ice axe placements, sparking crampons and blowing like an old steam train. Fortunately visibility was terrible and the wind drown my heavy breathing.
A progression John assured me....
Josh climbs through the spin drift

John getting battered by the wind at the final belay
Frozen eyebrows!

Topping out into skin numbingly cold winds and little visibility we quickly packed up the ropes and John navigated us back to the ski centre.

Summary - It's almost impossible to explain what makes winter so special for people that enjoy the mountains to anyone other than people that enjoy the mountains in winter. As somebody who loves the winter I would have been happy just to get out, add winter climbing and a bit of progression to the equation and it was a top quality few days for me. A couple of bouts of 'hot aches', putting a crampon hole through my salopettes and the occasional comment regarding my 'beached walrus' technique couldn't put a dent in my enjoyment.
I have of course to thank John for taking me out, I hope I was a worthwhile 'mock client' and he should give himself a pat on the back for leading me on routes more technical than I had done before. I always felt confident that I was in safe hands and his judgement and selection of routes was correct for the conditions and my ability.