Returning some from time away.

Starting this blog was a commitment for me, somewhere to record adventures alongside  thoughts. Now, looking back over the past over the past 6 month I have realised I have done so much, yet documented so little on this little site. Becoming busy with university, rushing around with lots of work, and accomplishing so many wonderful feats over the past from months took up my time and I may have documented it on Instagram, yet, photos can only convey so much. Words can portray so much more and as once again summer time is nearing, the academic year’s end is in sight and life is looking up. The sunshine is out so much more, and I don’t want to jinx it but it might be looking like it’s here to stay!
This is simply an update as to what has happened in the past half-year…

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Scotland – Dec’ 2017

So, primarily it has been filled with many assignments, much more university work than last year, but also some super fun moments here around Aberystwyth too. The harbour sessions this year have been super awesome, with so many people turning out to lots of them. We have a super strong club this year with a good mix of beginners, as well as advanced paddlers to help get as many people out as possible. Highlights include the session in which the tide was so low the harbour turned into a fast flowing river and we almost lost people to the waves never to be seen again! In reality, we only lost a pair of paddles to the sea in the end.

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Sophie and I out in Aberystywth Harbour.

The new university year began in September, and it kicked off with many Aberystwyth Mountaineering club trips. The main one being a weekend up in North Wales. Day one consisted of driving up to Tremadog and hitting the upper tier in the hope of teaching some gear placement and leading skills to the new crop of freshers to the club. However, low misty cloud meant the rock was sopping wet and rather unclimbable, so we did as much teaching as you can do at ground-level in terms of gear placement before making the decision to move to the Slate in Llanberis to get on with some leading.

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This turned into a brilliant day with many people confidently both top-roping and leading sport routes . The best route of the day for me was helping a friend Mads complete ‘CyberWorld Sl@te heads ‘; we both had a good hard go at climbing it wearing our selves out, eventually reaching the top after a few falls.

The second day was spent back at Tremadog, this time in the sunshine, taking out small teams onto the rock to teach leading. The group I was leading spent lots of time on Yogi (VS 4b) to help people with gear placement and illustrating anchor building using mine at the top of the big ledge. This weekend was spent staying at Eric’s Barn, the wonderful legendary cafe which supplied us well with lots of fun in the evening, and then breakfast for the morning.

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Sunset over the Slate.

Another personal climbing achievement which occurred in October was attending an SPA (RCI) Training course. This gave me some wonderful experience and knowledge for running group climbs, as well as improvement of personal rock skills, anchor building and gear placement. Ben W and I had a two great days in the sunshine, even if we did struggle to find somewhere to sleep for the night!

October also meant another big paddling event rolled round -Teifi Tour 2017! From the 27th-29th of October many university paddling clubs descended upon the small town of Llandysul to partake in one of the biggest paddling festivals. Our own club, AUCC, made a brilliant effort with over 70 current members and old boys tuning up to the event to represent Aberystwyth. The first day involved a major party on the Friday night, everyone had lots of fun, drank a lot, and a surprising amount of clothes stayed on. With many sore heads the next morning AUCC finally made it onto the river at about 1pm. We had so many paddlers so we split into two groups but ultimately ended up merging, over taking and leaving a certain sleepy Ben R to float down the river of his own accord. My favourite rapid on the river was an interesting weir with a big tongue in the centre, it was fun to paddle towards the edge knowing you were going to drop and then whizzing down the tongue. The final rapid was also awesome, I followed Maddie down with Caro behind me, it went so well (I may have overtaken Maddie on the final sections, sorry! photo below) and felt confident paddling this. Caro styled the rapid then took a rather big swim on one of the tiny bumps after, a moment I would rather not remember as I’ve never felt more useless watching someone stuck in a hole. We all got back and the Saturday evening got well underway and was an equally awesome party as the first night, however this time it was fancy dress. The theme of evening was ‘Llan Vegas’ and it was fully embraced my many attendees with many in hot pants, drag, poker cards, brides, grooms and all sort of interesting combinations, let your imagination run wild because what ever you can think of was probably there. The clean up action ready to go home occurred on Sunday morning after a packed weekend, and we all head back to Aberystwyth to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Mid-November I got woken up with a phone call early one morning asking if I wanted to head out to climbing, no idea where but did I want to go and climb something? At first I was a little unsure but after a quick look out the window to see blue skies and sunshine it was decided to go. We decided to hit up Idwall slabs and I took Ben R up the classic ‘Tennis Shoe’ (HS 4b) and had the chance to work on building completely rope free anchors as I was leading the whole route, and thus, needing to keep the rope separate making things easier for Ben. It was a beautiful day and we completed the route with little difficultly, bar a slightly run out top pitch. We headed back to the van, had some coffee and enjoyed the stars for a while before heading back.

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View out from Idwall Slabs.

Over the rest of November I went out a couple of times with the University Hiking club, the most memorable being a trip to the Elan Valley. This is such a beautiful area of Wales, and it was wonderful to see this area of the country for the first time. The whole area is full of many dams to create multiple reservoirs providing water for much of Birmingham. One of them, called Nant Y Gro, was used by the British government to test the ‘bouncing bomb’, which eventually lead to the bomb which would demolish dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a story that became legend in the infamous film “The Damn Busters”. It was a great day out breathing the fresh air and soaking up the late autumnal sunshine.

The next event was the Kayaking Club’s seasonal North Wales weekend. We all headed up to Eric’s Barn & Cafe on Friday night, and as usual an evening of drinking ensued, many people got rather bamboozled, particularly young fresher Gabriel who managed to finish a whole bottle of Fireball whiskey, and certainly felt the effects the next day. The next day, once everyone had risen, river levels were checked and it was decided to run the Seiont. This was wonderful river which I would love to do again with less boat drama. All was resumed about 35 minutes from the end as Cookie became the kindest man I know to this day switching boats with me to make the paddle into Caernarfon Harbour with him, John and Jiri superb and so much less painful. We then headed back to the Barn, with people tired out from the days paddling and the previous evening it was a much quieter night.

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The Gamlan.

The next day we tidied up and headed home via the Gamlan. This is a big waterfall which only runs in higher water and its fun, and scary one, to run as one of your first big falls. I didn’t run it this yer, decidedly helped out by hauling boats out instead, but it looked like everyone had a lot of fun. Above is a photo of me running it the previous year so you can see what it is we were up to!

Next up in the year came a trip to complete Snakes and Ladders in The Llanberis Slate Quarries. A day of climbing with Tom, Claire, and Hanna got called off due the dismal weather but we turned it into a wonderful day by completing this lesser visited route within the quarries, a definite rainy day route using the ancient ladders, chains, and newer abseil points to explore the lost parts of the quarries. The best part was exploring the old building around the site, especially the big one’s right at the top, now turned unofficial bothy, with all the inscriptions on the walls. It’s a wonderful day out and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants some rainy day fun in Snowdonia.  It is not in any of the guide books for the area, however, I am informed there are some blog reports on the route floating around online.

Finally , we are into December and this meant I received an impromptu invite to Scotland from Jiri. We had a great time exploring the Glens in the van and I finally got to fulfil my dream of visiting Scotland, now I can’t wait to go back again soon! We started in Bangor, Wales driving up through the Uk dropping off Waka Kayaks along the way. Finally, reaching Edinburgh at about 2am we stopped for a rest (even though I’d already been asleep for quite a while before this) and met up with Peter the next day allowing Jiri to catch up with him. We explored Edinburgh in the afternoon and both of us to attend the Edinburgh University pool session that evening. This was great for me as I was able to perfect my roll, and get some coaching off Jiri and some of the other awesome paddlers there.

We then carried on to explore more of Scotland, stopping off in Glen Coe and Fort William over the coming days. We even went climbing at the Three Monkey’s Climbing Gym one evening which was a lovely interlude to the kayaking trip. Yet so far very little boating had occurred as we were on our own and not keen to paddle just the two of us. Therefore, we met up with Aberdeen University club; based in Roybridge we were able to head out each day seeking water in the snowy lands. Jiri got a run of the Orchy in, and I went on a lovely walk along the side.

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I enjoyed the time taking lot’s of photos and taking in the epic scenery as we traveled out each day trying to find rivers with enough water in. We also managed another run of a wide river mouth estuary with a broken weir at the top, it was fun to practice ferry gliding but I was really struggling with the cold temperatures as my right leg kept seizing up and going dead due to the weather.

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Glen Coe.

We ended up leaving Aberdeen as they headed back home, they were lovely people to spend a few days with and it would be great to see them again soon. We spent the rest of our time catching up on some work (using the McDonald’s wifi) and looking at the touristy stuff in the highlands before heading back a few days before Christmas. 

After the Christmas break came Spain 2018, the first adventure of the year. I will include a photo here but am going to make a separate post about this because so many great things happened that there is just too much to try to fit in here. So keep an eye out for a report soon!

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Montessa – Spain 2018

After all this climbing in Spain, the weather across Britain over February lived up to expectations and was awful. Sadly, there was very few opportunities to head out over this time so the majority was spent climbing indoors at Beacon Climbing Centre, in Cearnarfon, and Indy Climbing Wall, on Anglesea, with friends. This was good as I could improve my fitness over this period, as well as my technical skills on the wall.

However, there was a brief interlude in the clouds which meant we could hit up Llanberis slate one of the days in the month, it was amazing. The sun was out almost all day and we could climb in just our jumpers and woolly hats. The highlight of the day for me was finally getting on and sending ‘Looning the Tube (HVS 5a; although this route is a contested E1, I firmly agree it is a HVS). For my first Slate Trad lead it was awesome, the climbing is great out across the slab traversing on some rather small holds needing technical footwork to reach the first bolt, then on to the old mining chains which make the first piece of trad gear. Here your reach a nice split in the face filled with nice protrusions to get your fingers around. The climbing flows amazingly as you continue up, popping a Cam in about half way along the top of the route, until you reach a narrow point in the split at which you have to move out slightly onto the main face using some small crimps or laybacking. Then its back into the crack to place a sling over a small spike, a few more moves and you’re at the top. It is a very freeing sensation to be stood at the top of this climb so high above the many layers of the old mining chasm below.

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Looning The Tube – Llanberis Slate.

March carried on much the same as February with increasingly bad weather and the arrival of ‘the Beast from the East’ which put a hold on pretty much all climbing for me. I therefore continued to spend much of my time working on university assignments and exploring Bangor when I had the chance to visit Jiri which lead to watching some brilliant sunsets over the Menai Straits and a visit over to Anglesea to see the Island and enjoy the beautiful view back across the water to the snowy mountains of Snowdonia National Park.

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The Menai Bridge.

In this time I also brought my Aqua Marina Stand Up Paddleboard. I’ve managed to get out on this a few times since and it’s really beautiful way to experience the nature around you. It slows down your traveling speed which means you can appreciate more of what is around you, which for me is the beautiful Cardigan Bay. I hope to eventually see the seals which I know live in the bay, and possibly even the dolphins which make  surprising appearances occasionally. I would also highly recommend the Aqua Marina SUPs, they seem to be super durable, yet lightweight which makes for easy manoeuvrability on the water.

Easter then rolled around the corner which for me opened up many work opportunities, I started as a Duke of Edinburgh supervisor and assessor and helped with training some Bronze groups with the company Entrust-Outdoors. This will lead to more over the summer which I am looking forward to as it will get me out across the country with work on Cannock Chase, up in the Peak District and down in the Chiltern Hills. I also got to spend some days at Standon Bowers OEC where I helped run some climbing sessions with Adam and had a great afternoon running the High Ropes course with Laurence. I have never been given the chance to put on all the safety gear and actually help run something like this. I learned lots in just a few days and hope to put it to good use in the coming months.

Over Easter it dried out enough to get some climbing in too, we headed out for a day on the Grit. Oli and I met up at The Roaches and started the day on a nice lead for me in a route we didn’t know the grade or name of. We just looked at the rock and thought the line looked good so why not try it. I got to the top and it was a big move to pull out and over a wide crack, so I got my arm nice and deep and went for it. Just as I got both arms over my foot blew and I almost came off but somehow stuck it and came over the top triumphant.

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The next route we chose was and it had technical starting sequence; the whole climb felt like a technical boulder problem, but up further and further into the sky. It took a few tried to be able to pull onto the problem for me as the moves were very reachy,  but I got there and the rest of the climb was great. My final lead was called ‘The Black Pig’ (VS 4c). As a Slab climb it was a rarity on the grit. With one thin crack running up the centre of the climb the aim was the bridge up between the slab and the wall at 90 degrees to it, then from a large ledge move across to the slab using a big deep hold. Yet, this hold was just out my reach meaning this climb required some though and some different beta in order to reach the top. Over to the slab I got though and it was a clean and smooth climb to the top. Our efforts to climb some of the other harder routes at the crag were squashed due to the sogginess of some of the cracks. so decided upon a quick route under a humongous roof . This ended up working in our favour as the heavens decided to open everyone go soaked, bar us as we were protected by this large overhand our climb was sheltered by. We got to the to and ended up caught in the full force of it though as we tried to frantically untie and rack to rope in order to return to our bags at the bottom of the crag and layer on the waterproofs.

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The final event of April was visiting the National White Water Centre for the day to photograph Jiri and Charlotte partaking in the BC Raft guide training course. It was great to get out into the fresh air and see them having so much fun whizzing down the rapids. Over the day I got to work on my photography skills as I got the chance to properly sit down to experiment some of the settings on my camera and see what effect they all have on the final photo.

It truly has been a wonderful past few months, I can only hope the coming summer is as exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

Pembroke Peninsular Surf.

A breathtaking beautiful place, filled with golden sands and sunshine… I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to visit this wonderful place.

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Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire.

Heading off with five boards, five people, all five people’s luggage, and the tents in a little car felt like a proper cram it all in and go adventure. We were off on a mini summer holiday with a good surf forecast and an equally good sunny weather to enjoy. Thus, we arrived and awaiting us at Freshwater West on the first day was some epic surf…

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Matt warming up by the flags.

Landing upon the beach was the promised forecast of 3-5 foot waves with on-shore winds (the wind blowing into the shoreline creates a nicer cresting curve to the wave) meaning the waves were more big and barreling onto the shore. The sea wasn’t lumpy at all, it was strictly linear waves rolling in with a precise order, making it super easy to pick out each amazing set, then ride the crest of these big waves all the way back to shore.  It was so cool to be out there bobbing around alongside friends with waves crashing over our heads, experiencing the freedom it brings to be on, or in, the sea.

You look off to the horizon awaiting a wave and think what is out there on the hazy horizon. Sometimes a large cargo ship, or Irish passenger ferry, would pass by in the distance and, then it would bring in thoughts of what was even further out there, I was looking out to Ireland and even past that the Atlantic with America’s east coast staring back at me miles and miles away. However, not just what is out there in terms of distance, but also what is in the depths below, the endless ocean full of amazing sea creatures, notably huge jelly fish which Lindsey and Matt saw while sitting out back waiting for a set to come in. It didn’t happen while we were out in Pembroke this time, but in Aberystwyth, seals and dolphins have been known to come up and say hello. We have seen the seals while out in the harbour kayaking; the local university sailing club have has the Dolphins come up alongside the bow and journey alongside them on some trips.

Even though I saw no animals or sea creatures, it was still fun for all four of us catching waves in the sunshine. Matt caught a few big enough to even attempt some aerial moves off the top of on this first day, and we have more fun over the next few days sticking around Freshwater West and venturing to Manorbier Cove one morning where Joe and Matt decided to out over the reef to catch the biggest waves on the beach, while the rest of us enjoyed the sun on the beach. The best part for me was paddling out and happening to suddenly realise you’re sitting right close to a friend, both waiting for the same thing. An epic wave to track you back to shore, feeling the wind and water in splashing in front of you. Many times I came rushing in on a wave and could only liken it to what it must feel like to fly.

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Manorbier Cove, Pembrokeshire.

Ventures up Valkyrie – The Roaches

An exciting morning on this classic route in the Peak District lead onto a day of sunshine and fun climbing for all of us.

A quick plan to head off climbing was created after a days of work for all of us; Oli, Will, Lewis and I. Multiple route ideas were thrown around over the coming days and finally we settled on a mad 4 person ascent of Valkarie (VS) at The Roaches Lower Tier.

We headed up to this beautiful location, starting the day with the brisk walk up to the face. Once there we decided upon a link up of Pebbledash (HVS 5a) to Valkyrie (VS 4c) as this alternative start looked like an enjoyable extension to this Peak District classic.

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Pebbledash (HVS).

Climbing in a team of four was an interesting logistical challenge, working out leaders and seconds climbing order to create an anchor point capable of swinging leads while also incorporating two ‘spare’ people at the belay stance, even so all four of us racked up ready to go. Will took charge of the first pitch which started as an open cracked gully containing what looked like many solid gear placements. Lots of bridging got Will up this pitch and he then deftly negotiated the scary looking traverse across a rather blank section void of hand holds apart from two widely spaced cracks. He edged out towards the safe and secure foot hold, however getting there was a trusting a strechy move out on one handhold; once the foothold is gained though the move across becomes easier. Once Will made his belay spot at the top of Pebbledash, we all followed up and easily fitted all four of us on, and in, the belay stance, relaxing in the sunshine while Oli climbed on up and readied himself for the main pitch of Valkyrie.

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Seeing the ‘Nose’ of the main route for the first time from the ground was a little daunting, made only worse by Oli explaining we would have to climb up, over, and down this rocky outcrop. Not only this but also attempting to find “a sneaky foothold” under the Nose of the route complicating this already scary, yet exciting, route. He set off making easy work of the pitch. However, for the rest of us climbing this was a scarier story, the description from Oli was “just before you bottom drops out you’ll find the secret hold” and proved to be wholly correct. So, after Will had lifted me up to reach the first holds which seemed to be miles above my head, I hand railed across and down the large crack. Jamming all the way up to my elbow at points and leaning back across the gap using a side press and low undercling to inch slowly over finally stepping through, without any notion of where this elusive foothold could be, and wiggle out along a small sloping ledge. All of us climbed cleanly over the gap (eventually) at the base of the nose and then enjoyed a rest at the corner before moving on up.

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Down-climbing the ‘Nose’ of Valkyrie (VS).

After the scary bottom-dropping section is a high reaching, slabby climb which suited many of our styles of climbing. The pinnacle of this route came for me when the move required a large rock-over pulling on some small slopers, which I loved, and came up over the top to find Oli beaming in the sunshine. Lewis came up this pitch next and it was great watching someone with little outdoor climbing experience take on such a challenging climb and complete it with what looked like relative ease. Will came up next after deconstructing the anchor, Lewis and I watched from the side as we had descended from the top anchor point and enjoyed lounging in the sun for a short while until everyone was back together again. This was a proud moment for all as we looked back at the previous pitch, congratulated Oli on his lead, and Lewis on one of his first climbs being such a notable classic.

One thing we certainly didn’t realise was how long this climb would take us, and it was now late in the afternoon so we took the descent path back to our bags and had some lunch. While we were snacking Oli and I wandered off to retrieve a piece of ‘crag swag’ (forgotten gear) I’d spotted on an easy VD route. Oli free-soloed up Prow Cracks reaching the nut and quickdraw easily came out, we decided to give it to Lewis to start his rack off.

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Lewis enjoying the view after the climb, upper tier in the background.

After this short break we headed up to The Upper Tier, Lewis and I had a few routes in mind but only managed to get one done, I chose to do a lead repeat of Right Route (VD) almost exactly a year on from when I climbed this route as my first trad lead. I was able see how much I had improved not only in my climbing technique, but equally my trad placement skills. I remember the fear I felt the first time, needing to place gear every few moves, on the other hand this time I was comfortable climbing the whole thing. Especially my anchor building skills, which previously I had to be guided through, this time I was able to make quick decisions on placement and angles of the nuts and slings used to get Lewis up by me with no difficulty at all.

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Joe’s Portholes (we think?).

From what I was told, Oli and Will took on a much harder climb, an E1 Oli had been wanting to tick off for a long while we tried our route. However, they seemed to get terribly off route after sequencing an overhanging section wrong leading to an off route adventure but nonetheless had fun all the same it seems, and got some suntanning in at the belay point.

While these two quested up their challenge, we finished ours and planned another route, Kelly’s Shelf (S), however found I had the wrong size cams and nuts for this climb, mainly needing tiny ones when I had the largest ones on my gear loops, and thus have decided to go back and try it again soon. So turned to the many boulders scattered around the location and created our own routes up them using any chalked up holds we could find, and challenging each other with some crazy dyno moves as well as a sticky traverse for the final climb of the day. We all walked out and went home our separate ways with promises to be back again soon.

Thank you for reading.