Wednesday 10 June 2015

Scrambling Skills Training Courses in North Wales. May 23rd & 24th 2015.

During the weekend of May 23rd & 24th, Iain spent his time in Snowdonia coaching Blyth Davies and his partner Kate in the skills of scrambling.

Blyth and Kate had originally booked their Scrambling Skills Training Weekend in North Wales with us ages ago - September, last year in fact! Initially, we were going to meet in North Wales in October, but the forecast was extremely poor so we tried in vain to reschedule over the next few months, but on each occasion, the weather was forecast to be wet, windy; and cold. Not an ideal environment for learning any skills outdoors!

Having rescheduled the couples course for this weekend, it was a relief indeed that the weather was, in part - at least! going to give us a break. The only problem Iain had was getting there as he hadn't consider the fact that this was a Bank Holiday Weekend - but we won't go into that!

We had all booked on to the same campground at the Snowdon Inn, which turned out to be a very good place to stay and the couple were able to travel with Iain each day rather than taking separate vehicles.

Day on found us under Tryfan and to the right of Milestone Buttress in an area called Milestone Gully Approach. We started off by looking at the skill of spotting (photo one). In spotting, scramblers literally help each other by hand to make progress on easy ground - generally grade 1 in standard. This is done by holding feet in place or pushing on backs or bums to prevent a slip turning into a fall. Spotting where possible, saves the need to get the rope out and get tied on - which slows everything down!

We spent some time spotting up & down the lower part of Milestone Gully Approach before Iain short roped the couple up it so that they could see what was involved in that skill.

Short roping is a technique commonly used by scramblers on grade 1 and grade 2 ground. The use of the rope is applied when it is considered that a slip could turn into something more serious.

Most scramblers will use a single rope of 10.2mm diameter although many single ropes are now being produced in 9mm diameter. Should you have a 30m or 50m length? Well, we'd recommend 50m as if you have to abseil on a doubled  rope - that extra 20m can make a big difference to how long it might take you to get off a route!

Iain demonstrated taking chest coils & locking them off, tying the pair off and protecting them through the use of direct belays whilst we ascended Milestone Gully. Once at the top, we needed to get back down safely, so Iain showed the pair how to set up a stacked abseil (photo two) and we actually needed to do two of these to get safely back to the foot of the gully - all good practice!

And then it was Blyth & Kate's turn to get on the sharp end of the rope with Iain providing coaching.

In photo three, Kate uses a direct belay to safeguard Blyth who is scrambling up towards her. A direct belay can take a number of forms - the simplest is just to run the rope around a rock spike keeping the tension on the "second"  as they scramble up towards you. Any form of direct belay must solid rock - not loose or badly cracked otherwise it may fail when loaded! Direct belays can also involve the use of slings around rock or metal anchors (nuts or Hexes to name a few) placed into tapered cracks. In this case, the belayer will always use an HMS (pear shaped screwgate karabiner) in conjuction with an Italian Hitch to provide the belay.

Some time later, we all reached the top of Milestone Gully, with Kate having done an excellent job of safeguarding Blyth. We were now into early afternoon, but with plenty of time to get another scrambling route in.

The pair both climb at a local climbing wall, so they already knew about tying on to the rope and how to use a belay plate. Iain decided to push the pair a little harder. We had already done a grade 1/2 route - so why not try the grade 3 above?

This route - Milestone Continuation, starts off hard and gets easier as one scrambles higher. Initially, one follows a crack-line that ascends a steep slab leading to easier ledges and shorter scrambling pitches. Blyth was keen to try this route although Iain insisted on pre-placing running belays for his protection as the slab really requires one to adopt climbing techniques ie "pitching". Blyth climbed this pitch fine and brought up Kate (photo four) who took over for the following few pitches. The afternoon was beautiful - hot and sunny, with great views across Lyn Ogwen.

By the time we finished, it was about 4pm. Time to pack up and head down. The pair had enjoyed a really successful first day out during their Scrambling Skills Training Course in North Wales with Iain.

As mentioned early on, the weather would give us a break "in part" over the weekend. Saturday evening was a lovely sunny one and Iain spent time relaxing at the campsite enjoying a beer & barbeque with the campsite owner Ted. However, overnight, the weather was due to change and Iain awoke to the pattering of rain on the tent. Looking out, he observed we had low cloud and heavy drizzle to contend with. Not ideal!

So the question was where to go today? Scrambling in the wet is not fun, the rocks become slippery for a start! After a bit of thought, Iain decided to take the pair to the Direct Approach to Seniors Ridge in Cwm Idwal - remembering it as a route that "worked" on a previous wet occasion; and the weather was due to improve anyway!

Photo five sees Blyth belaying Kate up the first pitch of this route, still in cloud; although by now the drizzle was starting to abate.

Photo six was taken some time later; and sees Blyth ascending the steep part of the Direct Approach to Seniors Ridge where it ascends to above the east wall of Idwal Slabs. This place is also the descent route for climbers coming off that face and returning to it's foot.

The Direct Approach to Seniors ridge takes a route up the slabs paralleling the cliff of the East Wall just above.There are several slabby pitches to be climbed and also a chimney and further up, an interesting steep corner which is quite hard.

The slabby pitches need to be climbed as pitches but then there are opportunities for short roping and moving together in-between. What Iain wanted to see Blyth do was to choose the appropriate techniques for each section he encountered; and safeguard Kate appropriately - something which, with Iain's coaching, he did very well!

Above the pitch in photo six, the pair swapped leads - after we had some lunch and enjoyed the view which had appeared as the weather cleared from the north. We had fantastic views from where we were over Lyn Idwal down the Nant Ffrancon Valley to Anglesey across the Menai Straits; and the weather had dried out the rock beautifully.

There were still a few hundred metres of ground to be covered above and Kate led on up these using short roping techniques and moving together where possible; and pitching short sections -applying direct & body belays where appropriate in order to safeguard Blyth.

In photo seven, Kate safeguards Blyth with a braced stance merely taking the rope in "hand over hand" which was all that was required as he moved up the easy section of ground below.

We still had time to kill when we arrived at the grassy col which separates The Direct Approach to Seniors Ridge from Seniors Ridge which reared up invitingly in front of us.

Unfortunately, to have continued up along this great scrambling route would have meant a pretty late finish and with us all having to travel considerable distances that evening to get home in time for work tomorrow, neither Blyth & Kate or Iain were keen to continue upwards.

Instead, we spent 45 minutes or so at the top of our route looking at placing the various types of anchor available on the market and what were & were not good placements.

We also looked at the methods used for bringing two anchor placements together to a central attachment point (photo eight) and also how to tie into two anchors using the rope.

And then that was it, time to leave and head down (photo nine) two days of Scrambling Skills Training in Snowdonia done & dusted with a lot of ground having been covered - both in terms of scrambling routes and techniques learnt.

Blyth & Kate were very happy with what had been delivered by Iain, in fact Blyth did say that the course had "exceeded his expectations". Whilst we were of course pleased to hear this - it is always something we try to achieve on every Skills Training Course that we run!

Blyth & Kate paid £180.00 per day for their two day Scrambling Skills Training Course in North Wales. This fee includes the provision of helmets, harnesses, ropes and rack as well as tuition by an experienced Mountaineering Instructor. All our scrambling Skills Training Courses are priced at £180 per day for a minimum of two days outside the Lake District, however, Lake District Scrambling Skills Training Course cost only £80 per person per day and you can choose to book a single day if you wish.

If you would like to learn the skills in order to go off scrambling in the UK's mountains for yourselves - then contact us here to make you booking. We look forward to working with you.

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