First up I’d like to apologise for my lack of blogging in the last few months.. I’ve been pretty busy and I’ve not really been doing any properly interesting days out in the mountains due to the lack of good conditions. I’ve been out loads though and Ive been enjoying training, climbing and skiing on my days off.
This summer I was in North Wales preparing to take me British Mountain Guides Summer test. The other Trainees and myself had lots of days out learning the finer points of short roping in the rain and I also rediscovered my love of Trad climbing. It feels like the past few times I had been back to the UK to climb Trad I’ve had an underlying agenda of ticking off routes for the application to the scheme so I forgot to enjoy the climbing 100%. I managed to get some great days out climbing in the mountains and at Gogarth as well as going out with some great folk to practice my guiding skills. In August, with the test looming in the first week of September I was feeling quietly confident about passing and being able to move on to Scotland for the winter climbing module. Things didn’t quite pan out perfectly….
The test is divided into 6 days and 5 parts. Day one is the personal Climbing day where you show your ability to climb E1 5b. I ended up climbing an E2 5b at Gogarth called Resolution Direct at main cliff which is a totally mega route for that grade and proved to be a good choice for the day.
Day Two is Rescue Day where you show the assessors you can perform sometimes complicated rescues on multi-pitch terrain. We ended up going to Wen Zawn which felt pretty wild as the thick sea-mist and drizzle made everything super greasy and the wind buffeted us as we were hanging off belays trying to stop the ropes from touching the waves bellow. The day went well and we managed to get out of the zawn in one piece which probably counted for most of the mark for that day.
Days Three and Four are the formidable expedition. Starting off in the morning the drizzle was drifting up the pass and myself and Duncan where trying to get motivated for what we knew was going to be a long couple of days. After a false start on Dinas Mot I took over and started leading us up Jammed Boulder Gully which is a notorious Grade III scramble that can feel like E4 when it’s wet, which of course it was. I resorted to full aid on one pitch and a little later I gave up and decided I’d had enough and it would be to dangerous to carry on. After managing a somewhat slimy retreat down the gully I got to the bottom and was thankful it was Duncans turn to lead the way. We navigated and scrambled over Crib Goch, and down to the bottom of Persons Nose. I took over again half way up that and took us over to the top of Cloggy where Paul Warnock asked me to lead us down to the bottom of the face so we could have some food. I’d never been to Cloggy before so it was an interesting experience short roping in very serious terrain in the mist, on a cliff that I’d not even seen before.
At the bottom we cooked up some grub for the team and headed back into the night for some navigation. We went up to the summit of snowdon and down to the other side to a Bivy at the col. In the morning we woke up and got the bodies going again despite no water. I did my usual and didn’t bother with a sleeping bag so I was happy to get moving for sure. We made our way down and around to the Llanberis pass and headed for some sunny cragging at Careg Wasted. The last route of the day was my chance to show I could climb VS in big boots which is also required. I started up Ribstone Crack feeling a little jaded but slithered, knee-bared and jammed for glory despite feeling like I could be off at any moment. The heat of the day had sunk into the rock and without a chalk bag to soak up the sweat on my fingers it felt pretty insecure whilst I was placing gear. After I made it to the top and we headed back to Plas Y Brenin for a much needed pint!
Day Five and Six are client days. You get some information about the client at the end of the expedition and have to give them one day Guided Climbing and one day Teaching. My client was already a good climber and had done quite a bit in wales before aswell as being a mock student for the past 3 years. Tricky would be a good word to describe the two days. Although the Guiding day went well I made a total pigs ear of the Teaching day and this meant I had to come back to resit the day at a later date. I basically didn’t teach enough and was restricted by only having 2 ropes where three would have been better. I learnt a lot from the day though.
I was pretty crushed when I got the result especially as the rest of the week had gone relatively well. Still it wasn’t catastrophic and I was able to rectify my mistake without having to take a year out. I went back to the drawing board, looked at a load of teaching techniques, different clients and their needs and came up with a good plan with how I would deal with the reassessment day.
I organised the day for two weeks after the original assessment and went out again with Paul and had a great day with him and Sarah my mock student for the day. It was great to finish on a high note and draw a line under my time in wales. Now I can move on to Scotland with good knowledge about how I perform under the pressure of the test and with extra practice on the teaching.
I’m back in Chamonix now and Ive been enjoying climbing, and recently skiing due to the massive dump of fresh snow we’ve just had. Im looking forward to moving on with the guides scheme and getting some good climbing done up in Scotland too. For now I’m pretty happy getting out skiing as much as I can to get my fix before I head up North for the winter proper.