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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.