Saturday, 3 October 2015

Tignes 2015 - The Movie

As promised in a post I made earlier in the year - 'Tignes January 2015'. Here is the FULL video that I edited for Staffordshire University Snowsport Club's visit to Tignes in January 2015. 

I've not really done much video editing before, in fact, this is my first attempt editing a video on any program other than windows movie maker. I recently bought myself an iMac before my student discount ran out so that I had the power to edit my gopro videos, and I've never really used anything other than windows before. So here we go, a video that I've tried my best to edit on iMovie. Please leave me a comment with any hints/tips if you have edited videos before, I'm open to constructive criticism. 

Excuse the tiny post. If you want to read more about our trip to Tignes, I'd suggest reading the post I linked above as I wrote about it in depth there.

Emma :)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Return of Mountain Girl!

As you're all aware I haven't posted in 5 months, terrible of me, I know! However, I am back, with good news, lots of exciting upcoming posts and videos. I've done lots of exciting things over the summer and gone to lots of exciting places that you guys will find out about soon enough.

So first, the good news, I received over 1000 votes for the Simply Hike Climbing Blogger of the Year thanks to you guys and I WON!! I got a beautiful trophy that I will upload a picture of it at a later date, however I'm still waiting for my 'goodies' which I'll do a review of when I receive.

Have a look at the other winners and finalists here:

Unfortunately with good news also comes sad news, I was unable to complete my trip up Jebel Toubkal that I'd mentioned in a previous post due to the doctors telling me I couldn't as I had a chest infection. I still went to Morocco to have a 'relaxing' holiday that I will do a short post about. However, this has reaffirmed my dislike of beach and sun holidays. I need adventure and excitement to keep me occupied!

I will post more soon, I promise!

Thanks for bearing with me in my absence,

Emma :)

Thursday, 28 May 2015

SPA Training - Plas Y Brenin

12 months of climbing, 15 lead climbs and a lot of sweat later and I find myself sitting in the beautiful setting of Plas Y Brenin, about to embark on my Single Pitch Award (SPA) training. 

This has been the aim all along, for me to be able to provide opportunities to people who wouldn't usually be able to get out, and help them experience the great outdoors from a different perspective. There is no greater 'closer to nature' feeling than using nothing than your own skill to climb a crag that was originally formed hundreds of millions of years ago, that thousands of people have climbed up and felt that same pleasure. Through doing my SPA training (and hopefully passing my assessment) I will be able to share that feeling and that personal experience with many others. 

Plas Y Brenin is the perfect location for SPA training. Not only was the center set within the stunning north wales mountains, it is within a good distance of many crags suitable for group climbing. The facilities at the centre are outstanding. There was a climbing wall with varied types of climbs and ascent types. There is an indoor roll pool for watersports, a big lake, a dry ski slope and much more.  
During the SPA training I learnt many new skills that I can apply to my own personal climbing as well as leading groups. The first session we had was a discussion about our previous experience and coming to an agreement on what the SPA 'remit' was, the conclusion our group came to was that we are allowed to take a group of people to any single pitch crag within the United Kingdom, to lead a top rope, bottom rope, abseiling or indoor climbing session. 

The following sessions included:

Personal Climbing After making sure we were all on the same page as to what 'lead climbing' entails we worked on the different types of systems of setting up anchors to bring up the second. We also learnt how to set an abseil up from a single rope whilst using a prussik to lower ourselves safely and how to lock the prussik off in case we needed to work hands free (e.g. if you were retrieving stuck gear). Finally we learnt about the use of cowstails and keeping yourself safe whilst setting up the system at the top of the crag, and how to 'get out of the system' that you have built in the case of emergency but whilst keeping your second safe.

Indoor Climbing I didn't really learn much in this session as it was all common sense. However, it was more a case of making sure that we were all comfortable with the process of how to run an enjoyable but safe session. The framework of which being - warm up, gear fitting, coaching points or activity specific introduction, belaying instruction and then the main part of climbing but making sure it's still constructive through using coaching points. The two main points I took from this session were that I didn't like the matting in the indoor climbing wall as it was slanted down towards the wall and could prove to be an ankle twisting hazard. Also I took away some coaching points that I can apply to my own climbing, as I have never  been 'taught' to climb I just kind of did it myself. Minor things such as looking at your feet a lot more and how to move your centre of gravity are things that I have never considered before. 

Group Work
The final day consisted of how to set up top rope and bottom rope systems and how to set up belays in both of these systems so that everyone is safe but the instructor isn't part of the system. This links in with the next learning point which is how to get a person down when they are scared, tired, physically stuck or injured, therefore you as the instructor need to be free so you can attend to the situation in the best possible manner. Finally we learnt how to set up releasable abseils (which I already knew how to do through work). 

I really enjoyed my time at Plas Y Brenin and will hopefully go back there for my assessment. The food was great, I attended a brilliant evening guest lecture about an expedition to the arctic circle, and I'll also be bringing their tradition of tea and cakes at 4pm home with me. 

Before my assessment I need to get a lot more personal climbing done, I need to go out to a wider variety of crags and be more than confident leading at S 4a. In turn this will help me to become more confident at the top of crags, allowing me to move more confidently therefore meaning I can set up quicker. However, I did have the least amount of experience in my group by a few years but the fact I didn't hold anyone back so that was a major positive. I also need to brush up on my history around the whole area of climbing as it is my job as an instructor to be a good role model so I want an in depth knowledge of how the sport has developed to become what it is today. On the plus side the instructor said that I was "clearly very clever" and picked everything up quick and easy and it was clear to see that I have a good level of experience leading groups.

Overall I had a brilliant time and would recommend SPA training at Plas Y Brenin to anyone that has an interest in leading rock climbing groups, although it is not the right course to improve your own personal climbing. 

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Outdoor Blogger of 2015 Finalist!

I'm pleased to announce that this blog has been nominated for the Simply Hike Outdoor Blogger of 2015 awards! There was over 1000+ entries, and as far as I'm aware I got nominated for a few categories, but have been shortlisted in the climbing category! I'm such a proud blog owner. This little blog has only been running for 4 months and I've only been climbing for just over a year. To be shortlisted in a category of 8, when all of the other bloggers in my category are either professional/full time climbers or have sponsors is a huge achievement for me. 

If you would like to vote the link to the website is I'm really excited and will appreciate any support that I can get. Whilst you're over there my other half (The Electronic Mountain Leader) has also been nominated in the Camping category so if you could spare a vote for him too that would be amazing. Without him I wouldn't even have this blog as I wouldn't be doing much climbing if at all any so I have a lot to be grateful for. 

I was asked whether I get paid to do this blog or if I get any prize money, and the answer is no. I do this blog completely as a hobby and do not get paid for it (as you can see through the lack of advertisements). With regards to the competition the top 4 receive trophies and the winner receives the opportunity to guest blog for Simply Hike. So as you can see this is an amazing achievement for me, and is the only thing keeping me going through my revision for my last ever Law exams at the moment.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and the continuing support. Also good luck to everyone else who has been shortlisted.

Here's to the future


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Climbing - Return to Duty

Just before the break
As some of you may or may not know I broke my scaphoid a few months ago whilst doing a slalom race taking part in a charity ski to raise money for Dementia Friends. Making it almost impossible to climb. After numerous xrays, a cast that was forever causing my thumb to go numb and physiotherapy I’m back in business.

 Me and the Electronic Mountain Leader took a small group of cadets from the Air Training Corps Squadron (235 Squadron) that we volunteer at out to the Roaches, with the aim of getting some group experience towards my SPA with my training dates quickly approaching.

It was a really enjoyable day with a good group of lads. We did various climbs ranging from Diff – Severe 4a. I really enjoy personal climbing, but it’s a completely different type of enjoyment that I get out of climbing with groups. To be able to see people who have little climbing experience develop to the standard of being able to tie themselves into a top rope system, and be competent climbing these grades within the space of a day is amazing. This also relates to my previous article “children at the crag –ethics in climbing”. I know the lads that came out with us were high school age so they can barely be classed as children, but anything that we can be doing to encourage the younger generation to get out of the house, off their games consoles and outside surely should be done.

The group
I couldn’t just stand back and watch, obviously I ended up leading a few routes. After a while though my wrist started to get sore so I just joined in going up the top ropes and belaying the others. This gave me the confidence to carry on as if my wrist decided that it had had enough it was preventing me from taking a potentially nasty lead fall. 

Taking it slow in my walking boots
For a while me and Chris have been talking about developing an ATC Rock Climbing Proficiency scheme, well it was Chris’s idea and then I jumped onto the boat. After this climbing session it was confirmed as an attainable target and it has now gone live within our squadron. Once we have developed it within our squadron and ironed out any beginning glitches we will roll it out to the whole wing (Staffs wing) and then hopefully one day the whole Air Training Corps. The purpose of this scheme is to get cadets used to filling in log books of climbs and hill days, so that when they’re old enough, if they want to they can easily transfer these dates into any other logbooks for awards such as SPA or ML. For now I’ll keep you all updated and let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Black Diamond Magnetron Karabiner - Useful Gear or a Safety Risk?

The Black Diamond Magnetron karabiner comes in three different sizes and styles, these being the:

RockLock - RRP £22.00
Weight: 87 g
L-R: RockLock, GridLock & VapourLock
Gate Opening: 21mm
Open/Closed Gate Strength: 7/24 kN

GridLock - RRP £27.00
Weight: 78 g
Gate Opening: 21mm
Closed Gate Strength: 8/22 kN

VapourLock - RRP £24.00
Weight: 56 g
Gate Opening: 20mm
Open/Closed Gate Strength: 8/21 kN

I received RockLock as a present after completing my first lead climb and I can honestly say it's one of the most innovative and useful pieces of gear that I own. I've read a lot of mixed reviews on the subject of magnet locking karabiners so thought I'd write my own after clearing up a few questions that I've seen asked.

Q) I dropped my magnetron in a box of iron filings which has rendered it useless (genuine post!) 
A) What are you doing keeping a box of iron filings with your gear? That's like keeping ice cubes next to the fire

Q) Will the magnets wear out?
A) No... It's a magnet

Q) What if I get sand or grit in the locking arms?
A) Wipe them? getting sand or grit in the locking mechanism of a screwgate will probably cause you more problems

What is clear to me from these questions is that there is a lack of common sense, and also there are a lot of 'what ifs'. I could pose the question 'what if I cross loaded the karabiner whilst wrapping the rope around the two locking arms and pulled it tight in such a way the karabiner came open and I became unclipped?' Well there is 2 possible answers to that 1) I'm really unlucky, also I need to find a new climbing partner as they aren't keeping me tight on the rope while they are belaying, 2) I'm on the floor (probably at home on my settee) trying to make this situation happen, not really putting myself at any risk at all.

How does it work?
It is pretty simple to open, all you require is one thumb and one index finger, pinch together and pull towards your hand in one swift motion. Locking it is even more simple, you just have to let go, and there is a magnet in an indent that attracts the protruding magnet on the arm that completely locks it shut.

Footage showing how the karabiner opens

Useful piece of gear?
I love my magnetron. Yes you can probably buy two other karabiners for the price of one of these, but for me the personal advantages are completely justified in the pricing. As I've mentioned on an earlier post, I really struggle with circulation and numb fingers in the winter months and this karabiner is perfect for these situations. It means I don't have to worry about getting to the top of a climb with painful fingers and have to fiddle with a load of screw gates to open them and rig my belay. All i have to do is pinch, pull and let go, my karabiner is now placed onto the belay loop of my harness ready to get to action. Also the locking arms are pretty easy to open whilst wearing gloves as well so if I was belaying a group of children on a bottom rope on a cold day I could keep my gloves on whilst setting up. Everything about this karabiner is smooth, there are no sharp bits that catch on the rope, the actual locking arms are pretty low profile so don't get stuck on anything unlike the screw on a screwgate. The locking arms are pretty substantial and require a fair bit of force to open them, not a lot, but just enough that you don't have to worry about them being flimsy and easy to knock open. The pinch point on the locking arms are also ribbed so that it is easily grippable.

Magnetron Clipped onto my belay loop

Safety risk?
The only real problem I could possibly see occurring using a magnetron is if you used it to clip children or beginners onto the rope. If they got half way up a climb or half way down an abseil panicked and grabbed onto the karabiner. There is one way to prevent this though, don't use a magnetron in this situation. I believe when introducing children or beginners to climbing you should introduce them to traditional practices and use traditional gear, such as a screw gate karabiner. For example, you wouldn't buy a child a macbook as their first laptop. Also, you might use gucci high tech gear, then they may go to somewhere else at a later date who don't have gear as high spec, and then they wll have no idea what they are doing or how to use it. However, if they were taught how to use a screwgate karabiner, they'd have the extra safety of not being able to accidentally undo it while they were flapping, and they would have a rough idea how to use most other karabiners then.

In conclusion I feel it's an extremely useful piece of kit, I'm yet to experience any problems with it, and until such time as I do it will remain my favorite karabiner. I feel it is worth the money and would definitely recommend at least trying one out to everyone.   

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Children at the crag – Ethics in climbing

“Whilst there are no rules in climbing a code of ethics has evolved over time.” – The BMC

After a recent trip to Windgather whilst the weather was particularly warm, I realised how many families actually come to climb together. Most of my climbing has been conducted over the winter months when we’ve been the only people at the crag, and to see how many people actually climb during warmer weather has completely astounded me.

Over the short period that I’ve been lead climbing I’ve quickly picked up the prejudices around climbing ethics such as bolting, erosion caused from groups, and etiquette at the crag. I’ve never really heard much around the subject of children climbing, I was aware that it happens as I know there are kids clubs at my local climbing walls. I’m also an instructor at an outdoor education centre, and we take children of all ages out climbing, but they’re always well supervised.

I started off the day with a positive attitude towards all of the families at the crag, thinking that it’s amazing that there are parents that are getting their children outside and off their computer games. All the children looked like they were really enjoying themselves, and the parents were getting a good amount of climbing in too, setting up routes for the children whilst belaying each other. But then throughout the day different events happened, which made me question my earlier views, but not about the children, it was about their parents suitability.

Positive start to the day

The way I see it there is a spectrum of types of families that rock climb, but the two most important points for consideration should always be safety and enjoyment. If your children are safe and aren’t causing safety issues for other climbers, and they are enjoying themselves then that surely is all that matters?

The first incident was only a minor incident but it really annoyed me and I felt sorry for the child. It was a boy who was probably about 8 or 9 climbing with his dad, he’s clearly not done a lot of trad climbing as the first thing that came out of his mouth upon arrival was “where are the bolts?” Well the dad looked absolutely horrified, he quickly had a look around to check no one had heard and then shouted at his son “Do not say that word around here you will get us into trouble”. I have two problems with this incident, firstly, I know most trad climbers are against the idea of bolts, however I don’t think any of them would spring to action and beat this man and his son up because they’ve done some sport climbing. Secondly, if the father knew the son had never done any trad climbing before why has he not given him a briefing on the process of how to do it before they came out of the house? Rather than scolding him for just asking a question that he knew nothing about. Later that day he was trying to tie his son into the rope, but the son was running around playing with a stick, he then turned around to me, unaware that I heard the debriefing he gave him earlier and said “you just can’t get the seconds these days”. I just laughed this off and normally I would have thought none the wiser, but I just thought to myself why are you here if you can’t put up with bringing your son? It’s meant to be enjoyable for you both not just a stressful exercise.

The second incident was something that really gets under my skin, pushy parent syndrome. There was a child next to us that clearly had plenty of climbing experience as she was sat there reading a guide book looking at the routes, she had all the gear and had been up a few climbs earlier. She just didn’t want to climb anymore, and had clearly had enough. Yet her parents were stood there giving her a loud debriefing on the fact the route was a lot easier than many climbs she’d done before, she just needed to get up there and she needed to concentrate and stop picking up bad habits. The dad had lead the climb and the mum was sat at the bottom shouting at her. When she got up to about head height she was struggling with the crux move on an overhang, and her foot kept slipping. Yet her mum was shouting to stop being pathetic and she’d seen where her dad had gone and she needed to shut up and just get on with it. At this point the girl jumped off the wall shouting for “god sake stop being so bossy” to her mum and sat there on the climb dangling in her harness in a strop for about 5 minutes.

The BMC have information available for anyone interested in getting into climbing as a family

The final incident was one that quite frankly horrified me. Safety at the crag should always be a top consideration, whether it’s your own or other climbers, but when it’s your own child’s it should be top of the list, no questions asked. The dad of the family in question clearly had experience as he was setting up top ropes for his kids, the harnesses were fitted well and while the children were in his eyesight were always wearing helmets. As soon as he left to set up a top rope all hell broke loose. The kids were running around squealing, two out of three of them had taken helmets off. Frankly it’s just irresponsible parenting, you don’t need to be a climber to have the common sense of knowing running around under climbers squealing without a helmet could result in a head injury, whether this is from a trip or something falling onto their heads. You can guarantee that the moment this happens it won’t be the kids or parents fault, it will be the person climbing, and they will get an earful off the irresponsible mum.  Also I then realised the helmets that they were wearing (when they had them on) were cycling helmets! I know wearing a cycling helmet is better than no helmet if a rock was to fall and hit you on the head, and that’s an informed risk you have to take for yourself. I won’t bore you going into the different types of impacts and how the designs of cycling and climbing helmets are different as you probably know more than me. In my opinion if you are prepared to take your children to do an extreme sport then surely you should ensure they have all the proper safety equipment in place to prevent injury, you can’t put a price on your child’s safety, but obviously in this case they can.

And all of this came after all three children were climbing unsupervised on a barbed wire fence, it made my nerves bad just watching, I dread to think what could have happened if one slipped. Later the little boy (probably about 4 years old) started running around with his ‘bits’ out chasing after his sister, with her screeching “mum he’s trying to wee on me”. The mum then proceeded to ignore the commotion that was going on and tell the other daughter off for sitting there upset saying “well this is very unprofessional of you” (she must have been about 7 so I don’t know what is professional at that age but obviously the mum has a clear image). The little boy then proceeded to wee right up in the air like a fountain all over himself and his harness and get it over some of the rocks people sit on for a break. While this was going on I was mid-way up a climb, it was quite an easy climb so it wasn’t that much of a distraction but you can imagine how distracting this could have been for a climber on one of the harder routes.

Wearing the right head protection

In conclusion I am not against families climbing, as there were plenty of families there that weren’t doing anything unsafe/distracting to other climbers. I also don't want to put anyone off getting into climbing, it's just a plea for the application of common sense. We all have to start somewhere, and I’d have loved to have climbed from a young age, I can only imagine the sheer amount of experience and how good they will be when they’re my age. It’s a brilliant way to get involved with the great outdoors, challenge yourself and you can see and feel your own personal development. What I am against is unsafe practices and the lack of such affecting the other climbers at the crag. I’m a very positive person and absolutely hate moaning, but if I’ve managed to pick up on this other climbers must have too.