Thursday, 10 January 2019

Kicking off Jan 2019 nicely spicily icily on the cold side of Crib Goch, a glorious day traversing the Yr Wyddfa horseshoe, slipping betwixt the thin inversion layer.


A glorious day traversing the Yr Wyddfa horseshoe, slipping betwixt the thin inversion layer.

Route – Snowdon Horeshoe 04.01.2019
From Pen y Pass via Pyg Track as far as Bwlch y Moch then path to Crib Goch, summit pinnacles ad drop to down to Bwlch Goch, then onto Garnedd Ugan. Deecsend to Bwlch Glass finger post and then follow path to Snowdon Summit. Descend to Fingerpost on Watkin Path and descend to Bwlch Ciliau, ascend to Liiwedd West then East Peak. Descend to Lliwedd Bach and follow path to Miners, return to Pen y Pass

Weather
Clear Cold winters day -2 degrees start, clear skies. Cloud inversion at  approx. 950m

Ground conditions
Some frozen turf and ice on path in remaining all day on sections out of the sun.

Time
Length: 16.1k approx, Height gain: 1158m approx Highest point Snowdon (1085m) Time: 7hrs 45min hrs approx. 1 ½ hrs stopped for food and taking pictures.



Group -

4 Person (plus 2 persons picked up on route!)

Description
Weather conditions reported as good. Light wind. Excellent visibility in all directions. A cracking days winter ridge walk. Cloud inversion and Broken Spectre seen. Due to available daylight decision made to save time by take the upper balcony route missing out Ridge and Garnedd Ugain. This saved approx 20mins. Below the summit of Lliwedd we met up with 2 Chineese students who asked if we could help them get back to Pen y Pass. They accompanied us from Llewedd to Pen y Pass, very grateful the students offered us their cookies which would have been their emergency rations had they been benighted!

A reflection on last years trip to the Canadian Rockies

Ok so how do you get the best out of a limited 2 weeks annual leave (16 days) trekking holiday in the Canadian Rockies? 

Mount Rundle
Takakkaw Falls
Well if you don't have friends over there to steer you in the right direction or have never been there before, you basically have two options, either sort it yourself (as i would normally do) or make use of a reputable trekking company. The likes of Edward Whymper would happily 'engage the services of a local guide' so was Whymper a tourist or an explorer?

Planning the visit yourself can be as much a part of the holiday as the actual trip, and it does engage the 'pioneer spirit' but, however well you pre plan it, your still probably going to loose some precious time getting things wrong. Of course these 'lost days' can on reflection be the most memorable, but its all about finding the right balance.
Saskatchewan River Crossing

Whistlers Peak trek to Indian Peak - Jasper
Path to the Stanley Glacier
Classic shot of Bow Lake
The key benefit of using a good trekking company is that they maximise your time in the area, they make use of local guides who know the best trails, and have an in depth knowledge of the Flora & Fauna. Ok it takes a bit of the fun out of finding things out for yourself and you may not want to feel like occasionally being in a tourist bubble but if you choose the right company they will endeavour to embed you into the 'local scene' as much as possible. As in the UK the local Canadian guides have their reputation to maintain, and with the ambiguities of social media, 'word of mouth and referrals' are still a very powerful marketing tool. 


Five lakes hike - Jasper
For this trip we chose HF Holidays https://www.hfholidays.co.uk I think I can guarantee in the two weeks, we met more of the local community, and were shown more of the unfrequented best bits of the Rockies than we could have possibly managed by planning it ourselves. 

For our Rockies adventure we were lucky to have local guides Dave Honeyman from http://canadianrockiesalpine.com/about_us.html and Ward Cameron from 
http://www.wardcameron.com both with tons of experience and a burgeoning plethora of local knowledge.

With a small group the guides have the flexibility to re arrange treks on the spot due to adverse weather conditions or local environmental conditions i.e. Bear and Wolf issues. Quite often decisions and options have to be made the day before or even on the day itself. During our trip we had to reschedule a number of days due to forest fires in British Columbia, and subsequent road closures.
Most of us have experienced the nightmare problems of parking in the Lake District during high season, the key benefit of an organised trekking holiday is having the transport provided.


Five lakes hike - Jasper
Front Country & Back Country?
The explanation of either of theres terms is I think where the vastness of the Rockies comes into play and makes the experience somewhat different to that of hiking in the European Alps. 
Most of the day trails in the Rockies are regarded as 'Front Country', due to the terrain a lot of these tend to be out and back along the same route. If you want to do a circuit then it usually means heading into 'Back Country' often requiring a permit for hiking over and into a different mountain range. Typically 'Back Country' trails can only be reached by foot or boat, and often require several hours of trekking, meaning you are some 10 miles plus or a days walk from the nearest road or developed area. 

I guess you need to consider how much of the Rockies you want to see in your given time. Most of the well known adventure trekking companies offer linear routes through the Rockies with some limited Back Country camping. Remember the Canadian Rockies are vast, and each of the main National Parks, Yoho, Kootenay, Jasper & Banff, are distinctly different. 
View from Whistlers Peak - Jasper
A linear trek can be a great idea if you're staying for longer than 2 weeks. So consider the options of a multi centre visit first and then a linear route after, this will give you a more informed idea of your preferred linear trekking area. Conversely a linear trek first then a multi centre break, will allow you to wind down and recover in some of the very convivial Front Country accommodation, but you might find that you wished you had spent more time in just one of the National Parks.

The mightly Athabasca Falls

Highlights
Almost too many to mention, you will get AVS (Awesome View Syndrome).

Banff - A great centre to start from, with some splendid coffee shops and pubs, a good few short riverside walks to Bow Falls & Cave & Basin National historic Site, just to break you in on the first day.

Icefield Parkway - Just for the drive...Bow Valley lake and the view from the Saskatchewan River Crossing

Yoho NP - The towering Takakkaw Falls, and the turquoise-coloured Emerald Lake trail.

Johnson Canyon - Hike up the canyon to the Inkpots, and meadows, a beautiful introduction to the Rockies. 

Athabasca Falls & Glacier - Try and hire a local guide to walk on the glacier from the base

Jasper - Take the Sky Tram to Whistlers Peak and trek to Indian Peak, plus visit The Other Paw Bakery and Cafe. Stay at Becker's Chalets, If you can get in?

Kananaskis - Burstall Pass Trail, almost into Back Country

Do's & Don't
Bow River from BeckerS Chalets
-Do set off very early as it gets busy and car parks fill up quickly.
-Do visit the Nat Parks website to check the latest trail conditions and restrictions. banff
-Do pack, and more importantly, learn how to use Bear Spray.
-Do read the Rules of the National Parks i.e. fires warning/cooking/camping restrictions.
-Do take a polarising or grad filter for your camera.
-If your there for the photography, do think about the time of day and the direction the sun will rise and fall, look at some of the best images you have seen of the Rockies and try and evaluate what time of day they were taken before you set off.
-Do pack a good hat and a spare.
-Do take midge repellent, I can highly reccomend Smidge but take more than 1 can for 2 weeks. https://www.smidgeup.com
-Do get a decent map for each area, Gem Maps are pretty good recreation_maps.html

Not many but
-Don't underestimate the distance to be travel.
-Don't go to Lake Louise mid afternoon.




Sunday, 27 May 2018

New Central Wales guide

Ahh..the fragrance of a freshly minted climbing guide. Chuffed as hell to receive a copy of the new Steep Stone Central Wales guide by Dave Williams & Doug Kerr, with a v small contribution from moi for the Ynys Lochtyn section. Available from Cordee.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Grivel G14 crampon Step In Heel Clip replacement?


I had a problem with my Grivel G14 right crampon, they are a few years old and show a few scars. The G14 is the real workhorse for steep snow and ice, and I love em to bits literally… the Black plastic threaded adjuster block that sits within the Yellow heel clip clamp is worn, at some point I’ve over tightened the heel tensioning screw and the steel heel clip rod has pulled through and passed the locating rebate on the threaded Black block, I managed to re locate it but I think it’s weakened it.

I’ve always checked the fit to the boot before setting off but having both a pair of B3’s & stiff B2’s ready in the boot of the car, depending on the conditions i tend to swap boots at the last minute. It’s easy to misjudge the amount of physical effort you need to lock the heel clips, especially if it’s freezing cold and your wearing thick gloves, or occasionally a bit of ice gets trapped between the boot heel and the crampon. Crampons are expensive but thankfully spare parts are available and those nice folks at Needle Sports were able to assist with a replacement heel assembly, check out https://www.needlesports.com/2650/crampon-accessories--and--spares.aspx
The only difference I have noticed is that the steel rod on the available replacement kit is bent rather than straight, this means that on the most accommodating volume setting they just about fit my B3 Nep Ex’s there is very little extra adjustment available. As I said this shouldn’t be a problem as I have few other boots with a greater heel height. The solution I would guess if need be, would be to straighten the steel heel bracket in a vice.

Overall advice would be check you’re not exerting too much effort to lock the heels, thoroughly clear away any compacted snow/ice between the heel and crampon, fitting should need just enough pressure to hold the heel in position, but not so loose that there is a chance that the clip jumps out of the heel slot under compression. 
Happy trails....

Blencathra, Sharp Edge and the Fireball

4am ish start up the M6, passing Stoke and heading in the same direction as us, a large fireball illuminates a star studded morning sky.
‘Fook.. that was a  big un’ we both mutter.
Last time we saw one that size was driving back from climbing at Llanymenech on a late summers evening. Heading East, it was that impressive we were expecting a Terminator 3 style warm glow on the horizon. Ooops there goes Dudley. We even re-tuned to a local radio just to check for reports of utter devastation. Nothing, not a jot, no one else had seen it and it hadn’t caused any damage, unless it had but nobody noticed.
The staggering absence of any comment of the phenomenon we witnessed should of surprised me but it didn’t, I’d been there before.

No real reason for this little story other than to get it off my chest... 
…..One winters evening some good few years ago on the way home from a rehearsal for the school play Oliver!, an elite band of tatty workhouse boys gathered on some old railway sidings to chuck snow at passing trains, with a bit of luck someone’s shot would find an open window and an expecting passenger would get plastered. Such fun…the consequences of such rude actions were in those day immaterial. Back to the main event..
Above the black outline of the local houses a very bright light rose in the southern sky.
Wow look, a helicopter no a plane no… a I dontknowhatitis but it’s getting bigger and closer, soddin hell surely chucking a snowball can’t rouse the militia, or an armed response. I can safely say watching this light getting closer wasn’t just putting the willy’s up me it was freaking us all out. The light suddenly rocketed erratically in every direction, repeatedly stopping dead still for a few seconds then starting again. No noise nothing just the light. A minute later it shot off and disappeared behind the silhouette of the church on the horizon some half mile away.
In unison we all exclaimed “What the f**king hell was that” a comet a meteor a SPACESHIP? yes we all agreed it was a spaceship so that was that.
Anyway…. The massive SPACESHIP had likely landed in the graveyard near where i lived, and by now an alien advance party with vicious probing weaponry were stalking unsuspecting Black Country folk in the swirling mist amongst the gravestones…
“Ahem”…I bravely said ”Chaps I’ve seen what happens in the movies, I don’t think I’m going to walk past the church tonight, I’m go the long way through the brightly lit village, If I’m not a school tomorrow alert the relevant secret agencies”
The next day had anybody else seen it, had they hell, not a sod, so it was just the 4 of us who knew about the MASSIVE SPACESHIP that crashed to earth last night, or maybe us and the chap hit by the snowball on train who in reaction ran to the train the window to hurl abuse. We will never know. Throughout the following week I critically observed the local inhabitants for signs of replicant behaviour, they indeed all looked very weird.

Back on the M6 there was far more traffic than I expected for 5am, where are they all soddin going at this time of the morning. Pedal to the metal we cruised into the crisp Pink morning sky of the northern lakes. Ahh man.. today is looking awesome.
The plan was to go for Sharp Edge, for some inexplicable reason, and I can’t think why I’ve never been up Blencathra, so joy, this will be one of the few remaining classic Grade l/ll Lakeland ridges I’ve left to knock off, and in top winter conditions. It’s been freezing cold for at least a week now, most of the gullies are still soft and only good for digging turf but the ridges look good. Driving in from Penrith a warm alpine glow illuminated the ruptured massifs of Skiddaw and Blencathra, and it looked like there was more snow left on the hill than I had expected, Magnificent!!

So now for the most difficult part of the day. Three hours in a warm car, the simple operation of opening the door, exposing our puny bodies the cold morning air how easily a ‘put off-able a task’, like ripping off an old plaster from a hairy leg, best get it over with quickly. Whoo hahh!!! Ssshhhfoook….there that wasn’t so bad.

Bags pre packed were off… fecking hell! …zip zip ssswoosh, it’s icy!! Three steps the splits and a Triple Salchow later I learn how to walk again. Taking a few more pics of the rosy fingered sunrise we headed up towards Scales Tarn. The welcome crisp crunch of boot on snow unusually loud in the still air fades slowly as we rise from the confines of Mousthwaite Comb onto the broad Col linking Souther and Scales Fell. To the north, the wonderful of white rump of Bannerdale Crags and White Horse Bent, the thin black line of the River Glenderamackin girdles and gargles towards the safe harbour of Mungrisedale. The profile of Sharp Edge is glowing as we contour the side of Scales Fell, as we gain height and temperature slowly rises, slender bridges of ice bracing Scales Beck crack and tinkle into the stream. Scales Tarn is Bible Black, The relatively flat triangle of ground created by the conjoining paths to the east of the tarn shows traces of a relatively recent overnight wilderness camp, thankfully nicely cleaned up. Time for quick brew and bite to eat. Not a sole in sight we grunt up towards Sharp Edge. We stop before the ridge proper to tool up.

I’ve got a problem with my Grivel G14 right crampon, they are a few years old and show a few scars. The Black plastic threaded adjuster block that sits within the Yellow heel clip is worn, at some point I over tightened the screw and the steel heel clip rod has pulled through passed the block, I managed to re locate it but I think it’s weakened it. I’ve always checked the fit to the boot before setting off but I must have swapped boots, it’s easy to misjudge the amount of lock you need on your heel clip, especially if it’s freezing cold and your wearing thick gloves, or occasionally a bit of ice gets trapped between the boot heel and the crampon. Crampons are expensive but thankfully spare parts are available check out https://www.needlesports.com/2650/crampon-accessories--and--spares.aspx

Ok it’s not the Eiger but the ground ahead still deserved respect. In practice for the an unpredictable UK snow season we wanted to take advantage of the conditions and practice some winter rope-work as close to the edge all the way. There had been a hard frost the night before and the ridge was sparkling in the bright early morning sun. We were going to be moving quite slowly so to save any bunching we wanted to be the first on the route, some meters below down at the Tarn a few others were arriving and gearing up. Taking your time to rope protect one another really makes you think that bit harder, leap frogging the lead and flipping the rope for protection, we were soon moving together pretty well.  Even managing couple of sling over a spike belays.
A few meters after the awkward step and we only have the final headwall leading up to Atkinson Pike ahead, the usual route is slightly to the right following a groove, which probably keeps to Grade 1. We opted for a slightly spicier left hand variant, pristine smooth and sparkly White it looked straight forward enough with a few reasonable protuberances of rock to place a sling if required. Looks are deceptive… I should have brought my two smaller technical axes...


A few paces to the left, and we’re on an angled rounded buttress that overlooks quite a steep drop down to Scales Tarn, Deej my climbing partner takes the first pitch, moving tentatively on points up to the first block, he stops and turns with a grin. ….’Ooooh nice' he’s says in his best 'Carry On' banter. The edge behind the block isn’t brilliant but it’s enough to take a thin sling. I follow up and head passed scanning for the next bit of protection. In the summer you would just skip up this but a layer of snow certainly sharpens your wits. Ice has filled the cracks and verglas coats the rock. Front pointing at this angle my knees are catching a cold. I slip the axe head round a likely rock and after a few tugs it holds firm, it’s a genuine hold and not a rock glued in with ice. A pull a grab and a step, pull a grab and a step I’m up and safe(ish) in a good bracing position. Another sling is possible slightly higher above me so I run an Italian hitch and bring up Deej. With a  big smile on his face
“Spicy aye it” says Deej as he cruises on past making for the next belay. One more pitch and I’m up top.

By now a few others on the edge have caught up with us, they have taken the sensible groove to the top, a bit of mountain chat ensues.

“Fair play guys, we were watching you on the buttress” says other climber 1
“Oh yeah cool” says I “did you get any pics of us”
“Nah.. sorry we had our hands full” Says other climber 2
“Sigh…nobody notices when you shine the most” mutters me
“Ehhh…”says Other climber 1
“Nothing” says I, I’m dehydrated and rambling, what a cracking day eh”

The sun flares and fades as we pack the ropes and hardware, we head to the top of Blencathra and take in the view. Well we had it pretty good on the ridge so can’t complain too much if the clag comes down. A quick brew and we head down. 
Another grand day out, we'll come again, bring on winter.






Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Patagonia, Torres del Paine - Flora & Fauna

A few pages i pulled together from a presentation i gave after a trip to Patagonia back in 2014. We circumnavigated the Torres del Paine, the route known as the 'O'. The shorter southern trek just visiting the honeypots is known as the 'W'. Info might be useful for anybody thinking of making the trek. Pictures by myself, with thanks to Dave Beer for the splendid wildlife close ups.