Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toby Rees and big H - bedtime stories for outdoor folk

Near the coast somewhere very exciting live two brothers, Toby the youngest brother has the courage  and strength of a full grown Atlantic bull seal and was just as happy in the water. His big brother Harvey could move over rock like a ballet dancing Ibex, one day Toby and H were making their way down to the river for a swim, when they got there they saw quite a fuss. There was a big crowd of people shouting and pointing from the bank, what's going on asked Toby? "He's stuck!" Said a little girl at the back of the crowd. The brothers looked up stream to see a small boy stranded on a boulder in the middle of the river.
Toby stared through the boy at the features up stream, knowing that there had been a lot of rainfall in the night on the surrounding hills, meaning the boy on the rocks day, would get worse before it got better. Toby, even though he was very young had spent thousands of hours playing with purpose, in and around rivers whit his dad. He wouldn't just throw stones in, they would throw stones at Eddie lines and surf sticks in surface stoppers or rescue bottles from deep stoppers, so reading the river was never something he did on propose it just kind of happened.
He nodded to a noise stopper up stream of the little boy on the rock, H smiled knowing his little brother intended to body surf the stopper across to above the boy then float down feet first on to the boulder. "If you don't get out here, I will get you out there" said Harvey pointing at two eddies on their bank. Minuets later toby was approaching the boulder feet first just as he had visualised moments earlier. "Room for a small one?" Asked Toby as his feet touched the boulder. The little boy smiled he was very happy to see Toby, "are you going to help me?" Asked the little boy. "It's on my list of things to do" said Tobs nodding to his brother on the bank and establishing communication, he scans the river confirming both eddies (& his big brother) were in his line of sight, he chose a route to safety that should mean he would be able to avoid problems insted of having to cure them and his brother was clearly in the position of maximum usefulness to give assistance when needed. "Can you swim?" Asked Toby, the boy nodded "I'm just sceard ".
"That's fine, we are going to swim a bit, we are going to aim at that tree up river, we won't get there but keep swimming for it till I say stop, are you keen for that?" The boy nodded, after a nod to his brother Toby watched the boy jump in and unknowingly set a perfect ferry angle. Toby plopped in after him and began the job of shepherding him with his big powerful front crawl strokes. Moments later both boys felt the current disappear around them as the entered the first Eddie, "your such a show off" smiled Harvey as the brothers helped the little boy on to the bank where he could sit down and cheer up in the sun. Later that day, the boys got home soaking wet and covered in mud. "What on earth have you two been up to?" said their mum. "We saved a boy in the river mam" said the boys. "And what was this boys name?" Asked their mum "uummm.... We don't know mam" said the boys looking up and right, trying to remember if he had said his name. "Well, if you have to save a little boy again, then please don't do it in your new clothes" said their mother with raised eye brows and folded arms, "now, out of those wet clothes it time for your bath"

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Diary of an idiot Part 5

If you don’t drink, you don’t pee, if you don’t pee …. You die!



With two aid pitches under our belt, we decide it was time to get on a route. After chatting with some resident hard core types we decided that the Prow on the Washington column would be a good choice with straight forward aid, and less crowded than the more popular south face route. This day saw us shouldering our pigs ready for two days (three at a push on the wall.) walking in with our 70kg loads (I only weigh 75kg at this point) the feeling in my arms disappeared as quickly as the car as we trotted up the approach path.


For the first time in my life I had cramp in my hips as a result of the load I was carrying (that wasn’t in the brochure). Our progress was helped in no way by the 40 degree heat! The closer we got the bottom the steeper the track got. To say that we had perspired on the approach would be a fair statement.


Finally we broke cover from the trees and were faced with the enormity of the face (SWEET!) the corners of our route steep and obvious. Bright orange in the relentless sun! On inspection we noticed a team low on the route moving slow (even by our standards) it would appear that these gods were freeing the route!!!!


So after a short team talk we concluded the south face route though crowded would be the way to go. Gearing up at the bottom of the route another team appeared from no where. The lady of the group was all like “HEY!” and we were all like “what’s up?” and She was like “you guys doing the south face” and we were like “yea, you?” and she was like “skull queen” and were like “OO!?” and she was like “we’ll just follow you guys for a bit till the route split” and we were like “na you can go first” and she was like “na you were here first” and we were like “this is our first wall” and she was like “this is my 40th ill give you guys a hand to get started” and we were like “thank you Jesus”. After some secret high fives we were off, the first pitch was free at about 5.7 which I led and then began the epic ordeal of hauling two 70kg pigs up slaby ground.


Gearing up for the next pitch a steep awkward looking corner in the full brunt of the sun, it started to dawn on me that Matt was looking a bit peaky, gray almost. His speech was slow and his eyes seemed unfocused, he had tucked himself into the only shade on the ledge. While chatting he confided in me that though he was kind of aware that we were in rather serious place. He had this growing feeling that he couldn’t care less!


Now im no doctor however I began to harbour the feeling that something may be amiss, and had to make the bitter discussion to descend. Tipping out the water we didn’t need I was still uncertain as to whether I had made the right decision as I watched Matt wobble across the ledge dropping etreiers as he went I felt that uncertainty slip away. Close to 6 minutes after he had disappeared from sight on the abseil he still had not taken his weight off the rope. Finally the call came “ROPE FREE!” I later learned that he had taken so long because on reaching the bottom of the decent there was a branch on the floor across the track, nothing special just a branch yet in his hyperthermic and severely dehydrated state passing this posed a problem that was nearly unfathomable! After that the decent went like most others silent, me wondering why, since I had ditched 15 litres of water from my load how come it still seemed to weigh the same? And Matt probably wondering where it all went wrong, how did a well trodden mountaineer form the Isle of Skye (north west Scotland) succumb to the heat so swiftly? Some things remain a mistery to this day, however on returning to camp Matt drank around 3 litres of water and didn’t pee till the next morning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beau's Brecon Becons Bonanza!

Beau the ultra runner
Hi All Meet Beau. Beau is a Springer Spaniel but this Springer has recently confessed to harbouring an ambition to run across the Brecon Beacons. He said that when he runs up there amongst the rounded moor like summits, with his ears flapping and the crunch of the early morning frost under his feet, watching the south Walian sun as it arks over head mapping out his journey west, knowing he is following in the footsteps of countless spaniels, weekend walkers not to mention special forces personnel, he feels free, he feels its what he was born to do…. Yes he is rather articulate for a spaniel, however he is immensely cockeyed!

So it has come to pass that beau will get his wish and traverse the Brecon beacons this year. His preparation has begun already, with regular training runs. The plan is to do the journey in ten to thirteen mile legs first and then this summer to link them in a single weekend. Beau will not be alone on his adventure he has enlisted the services of Welsh Adventures staff Tony Rees (me) and Adam Roberts (not me) as his support crew. We will be keeping you up dated on his progress in the coming months here on the blog and on the Welsh Adventures face book page so keep an eye out for the photos and videos to come.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Heading out

Here is an article I wrote for an online magazine recently hope you find it useful (there is a little bit of repetition in there sorry in advance)

Looking through the rain smeared window of your local climbing wall, sipping a latte after another heavy plastic pulling session. You’d be forgiven for putting your aspirations of gracefully gliding over rock on hold for a bit, but don’t put it off all together!

While most of the crags in the UK don’t come with their own coffee shop, stockpiled with back issues of climbing mags, the pro’s for heading out onto real rock are an article in their own right (probably several volumes). Here I hope to give you a few points to make the transition a bit more pleasant.

Tony’s top five tips for climbing outside;


1. Orientation of kit on the harness

Now this is a subject that is always close to peoples hart, usually because when it goes wrong you’re probably doing your best Elvis impression, while staring into a crack, holding the wrong piece of gear in your hand with no idea where the bit you need is. Sometimes the soundtrack to this scene is your belayer giving you directions around your harness with your free hand to find what you’re looking for.

I find It useful to put my protection (nut’s, cams ect) on the front loops of the harness, starting with the smallest pieces first getting bigger the further around your hips you go. This means you can usually see what your looking for by glancing down and by putting the smaller stuff at the front the bigger stuff less likely to get in your way when moving about. Also if you have any monster kit (really big cams or hex’s) stick them right around the back out of the way.

Then put your extenders on your back loops, as these are a bit easier to sort through by feel. Ill stick my longest ones furthest back getting down to my smallest at the front, this minimises the chances of any cheeky bits of protection getting tangled around the longer sling style extenders.

Lastly all your bits and pieces like you belay device nut key, and prussic’s right round the back out of the way 

2. Racking Nuts

Heading off in the vertical world is always a gamble of efficiency do you go light and fast and run the risk of not having the crucial bit of kit to see you through the crux, or do you take the kitchen sink and struggle to get of the floor? With the majority of decent length trad pitches, I find it useful to have two sets of nuts (DMM wallnuts are my weapon of choice).

Split the nuts in to four sets, two sets of large and two sets of small. And rack one large and one small set on each side of your harness, this will enable you to do a number of things. If you were to drop a set of crucial sized nuts in to oblivion or can’t get at the set you need then all is not lost simply reach for the set on the other side.

Plus if you clip the nuts in towards yourself and you need to replace a nut on the rack then all you need to do is rotate the crab on your harness, this will put the crab in the best position to re-clip the nut. All this can be done one handed!

3. Helmets:

Now, I know your all big boys and girls, and can think for yourselves weather or not you want to climb with a helmet on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! However I’ve notice that. When heading out to the crag people often only associate helmet wearing as safety while climbing…. Your helmet is designed to deflect rock fall from above, not to protect you from a reverse penguin dive of the crag at half height. So on arriving at the crag (especially if you walk to the bottom) it’s worth thinking about the following:

·        How loose does the cliff look

·        Can I see the top and how does that look

·        Are there people climbing above me while I gear up, because a number 9 hex from 30m is not best caught with your naked cranium, nor is anything else they may nudge off.

·        Is there a safe area near by where I can sort my stuff out (I don’t mean a police station, just somewhere where the chances of something landing on your is as small as you can make it) sometimes at steep crags this is right at the base.

·        Are there wildlife (sheep ect) wondering the ledges above nonchalantly kick stuff off.

It takes seconds to do and could really make a difference to your day.

4. Harness:

A harness is a harness is a harness right? Sort of, well no not really, sizes and colours aside. There are some things to think about when heading out of the climbing gym:

·        Gear loops obvious one when you think about it, some sport climbing harnesses only have two gear loops which is ideal for carrying the hand full of extenders needed while climbing indoors or at a sports crag, but if your going for the kitchen sink approach to trad climbing then you will need to get more space on your harness. There are trad specific harnesses on the market that have three loops on each hip and one around the back (but just because you have all this space it dose not mean you need to fill it!)

·        Adjustability when and where are you going to be climbing outside? One trip to Gower once a summer, or all year around chasing the snow line on mountain crags? If it’s the latter you may want to invest in a harness with adjustable leg loops, to allow for the change in “leg girth” as a result of putting on all your winter layers (not to mention the insulation gained from the odd Christmas dinner or two).

·        Width of waist and leg loops often seems trivial when stood in the climbing shop trying to match the colour with you belay device, but if you intend on spending hours sitting in it on hanging belays with the ocean angrily nipping at you heels, then getting a harness that has waist and leg loops that are as thin as chickening wire will probably result in you enjoying the day considerably less. Not to mention probably building an impressive hatred of your climbing partner for climbing so slow!

5. Placing protection:

Shaking on your tip toes, dry mouthed, tears in your eyes, trying to stuff your nuts in to any crack within arms reach is a sure fire way to get yourself in trouble!

Take a minute to look up the route before you start and see what’s up there:

·        Are you following a crack line, if so what size nuts or cams does it look like you’re going to need? When you get there make a note of weather you guessed right or were they bigger or smaller than you first thought.

·        Are there trees on the route that you can put slings around? Over time you will become pretty good at spotting gear from the ground.

·        Are there obvious places to stand comfortably where you can get gear in?

When you’re on the route:

·       Are you in the most comfortable place to get gear in, there’s nothing worse than looking like you’ve just come 1st in the Vegas Elvis impersonation championships while placing a runner only to look and find the hand hold of your dreams is just above your head!

·       How much contact does it make with the rock? When placing protection you want to insure that it’s in as deep as reasonably possible and that the entire surface of the protection is touching the rock. This is a subject in its self and will be covered in a later article.

So there you have it some things I’ve found useful while out climbing, I hope they help get you started.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The feeling of exposure

As my feet cut loose I know that my technique has left a lot to be desired, I feel the sharp edge of the hold cut into my left hand, I glance down to check on the tumbling chaos that I know is there. Seeing it rules out any thoughts I had of letting go, the expressionless face and panicked eyes of my friend looks up at me while he franticly works with what he has, to put things in place for the expected airborne decent.

Its time to act, I free my right hand of the clumsy wooden handle and now with mind fully consumed by the task, I probe the brail like features of the wall with my feet to push back against the gravity of the situation. With subtle shifts in my weight and optimistic use of my feet and I begin to move right.

I become aware that the situation below has improved but letting go is still not an option, I scrutinize the rail of holds and give myself odds on making it to the platform at its terminus. As I start to make progress in my puzzle, I become aware of a creaking noises above my head. It turns out that I’m not the only one feeling the strain, this structure was designed to collect water not idiots, glancing across to my destination again and the asphalt of the flat roof looks so close but I’m no longer concerned about my problems solving and endurance.

Second ago I was joking about the ladder falling and being more concerned about the paint on the ground than the fall its self now here I am bridged out in a window with the hands of my fellow instructors like cress leaves below fragile and waving. Do I wait for the ladder and rescue or make a brake for the roof and safety?

My minds eye plays back footage of similar traverses undertaken on the limestone hulks of Pembroke, with an anxious sea pacing back and forth, reaching up and protesting, outraged at my presents. I ponder weather others in my position have made the same comparison, is what I’m thinking the correct response, or a sign of a miss spent youth? Either way the cries from the guttering are sounding more urgent by the second and the solution to this problem may well be out of my hands. I observe the angle of the underside of the structure change, as gravity and the masonry fixings work together like Meany of our groups.

Their task; to release pressure. Their solution… well that’s for them to fathom, I wonder weather my part in all this makes me a facilitator? Quietly observing their actions without offering opinion only ensuring they stay focused on the task. Probably not I’ve never really seen myself as a facilitator more a catalyst keen to agitate, enthuse and remain unchanged. There goes the miss spent youth again.

The familiar sensation of weightlessness, it’s the same weather your in the sea on a river or off the rock. It has its own sound but I can’t describe it, it never lasts long enough, do I tense now or relax?

I rejoin my friends on the ground, there is no fuss everyone has a job to do and they are all very good at doing them. They only speak and move when necessity dictates. I watch quietly proud of their efficiency in overcoming the problems I’ve presented them with. Am I a facilitator or catalyst… perhaps now is not the time?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Time for a quick one?

Staring into middle distance at the lights, the cars at the start line all look familiar, we are members of the same wave released from our grind to race our course home. Where the real work begins, but it has been a hard week for me and an even harder day... there is only one thing for it “I’m going to call in for a quick one son, you keen?”
Jon smiles and doesn’t even check his watch he’s young he doesn’t have to answer to anyone if he thinks it’s a good idea, then it’s a good idea.
But where to go? The wife has been released now and her race passes my favourite haunt. I know a good parking spot, a hidden parking spot you can’t see it from the road, not since they reinforced the wall after the massive storm last year.
We park up and on the way in I bump into an old friend from school. I thought he lived down south? Said he was back to visit the family and needed to unwind, not sure if this is the place to be it looks really busy. It’s the busiest I’ve seen it in ages, there’s Dan he’s shit hot at darts, plays at county level, surfs pretty good too. Whenever I do this I worry she will smell it on me or taste it on my lips, or just notice the change in me, it’s not like I’m cheating, just one or two on the way home, never longer than a hour, just an hour for me to catch up with friends, reflect on the day, the week, the month.
We go in, it’s even more crowded than I thought, but we find a quite spot and settle down. All the regular faces are here “feeding the habit” nervously checking their watches and surveying the horizon, they’re just like me they have “homes to go to” drains to unblock, mouths to feed, dishes to wash, but for now here we are and I’m not sure we could stay away even if we wanted to. I’ve had some good times here, the best of times, regardless of the season there is always is familiar face about a funny story that’s being told. Sometime’s that’s the only reason I come, to catch up.
But today I’m here for the swell, 5ft glass 13 seconds period. More power than I thought, queuing in the line up waiting for my opportunity on this busy evening constantly reassessing my position, trying to read what’s about to happen, like getting the attention of the busy bar man. Finally “I make eye contact” seconds later….. it all slips away, it’s just me, me here, I feel the weight of my week lose its grip, I become fully aware again. My vision sharpens; I dance tipsy on the ocean. I nod to Jon, time to drink up and head home. Drying myself in the car park I’m careful not to leave any sand on my feet or wet in my hair I wipe clean all signs of my mistress. The van starts first time and we both crane our necks for one last look as we leave.
Through the front door and a voice inquires “your home late?” is she talking to me or Simon Cowell? I poke my head around the door yea busy one today.. what’s for tea?
The hint of a smile lets me know that she knows, and that’s enough.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Diary of an idiot Part 4

30% of the time…. It rains every time!

Our trip was going swimmingly, we had done a load of free climbing including a fantastic day out on royal arches a rather straight forward 19 pitch route (after the 1st pitch chimney) involving everything from cracks to face climbing and a pendulum thrown in for good measure, all this with the impressive back drop of half dome. It came to pass that blindly assuming everyone from boulder Colorado can move fast on rock, was an error that added a number of hours to the outing and saw us racing a storm of biblical proportions down fourteen 60m abseils. We literally were pulling the ropes through on the last abseil as the cats and dogs began to fall. Deciding that this wasn’t cooking under the stars weather we opted for the all you can eat buffet (and got our moneys worth!). We later found that the storm had buried the entrance to our tent in a foot and a half of debris (my how we laughed in the darkness while digging away the mud with our bear hands in our flip flops)

                                                  the last abseil
Anyway on this particular day we checked the weather forecast which to our delight gave only 30% chance of storms. We had our sights set on a few single pitch aid routes at the base of El cap this was all part of our master plan of getting on a big wall (lurking fear) by the end of the week. Off we trotted like good little school boys up the path to our days education, today’s lesson ….. YOU KNOW NOTHING!

After a few false starts on awkward ground that really we would have freed had it been on a route, we set off up a rather steep thin corner crack/ chimney thing, the aid proved delightfully thought provoking and profanity inducing, two and half sweaty hours later Matt arrived at the belay fixed the ropes for me to clean the pitch. We both flirted with the notion that our preparation for this trip may have had the odd weak spot, if challenged we could have defended this conclusion with a compendium of amusing anecdotes that had taken place over the past few days. Anyway we decide that Andy Kirkpatrick’s approach of “fail… fail again better” was our best course. So I set of up that same pitch after cleaning it with the sole purpose of learning from the difficulties I could see Matt had encountered and to improve on his time even if just by a second.

Things were actually going to plan; I felt that I had dispatched the awkward chimney with relative speed and minimal swearing, and seemed to be making progress on the corner above… than Matt muttered the immortal words “I think you might want to come down mate?” that was my 10 minute warning before Thor himself unlashed his full fury the captain. Later while running like our lives depended on it back the to the car it became evident that we were not the only ones have a bit of an epic time, it began to rain climbing equipment, teams high on the face in the teeth of the storm were clearly in a fight for survival and were dropping all sorts of kit in the process (crabs, nuts, aiders).

We felt morally obliged to collect this kit and to claim it as our own, so that we would remember these warriors and tell their tale! It turns out that earlier in the day Matt had been chatting to a local who had told him if the forecast says 30% chance of storms it means 100% chance of storms!