Sadly this is not a positive post, despite a good few days enjoying the wonderful cold and icy conditions Wales has currently been offering.
No, this is not a pleasant musing over some gorgeous ‘alpine’ weather days and beautiful mountain situations.
This, is a rant.
Firstly I want to say a massive thank you to the ‘climber’ (one of a group of three soloists, who were so rude, technically inept and downright dangerous it wasn’t even a good laugh watching), who failed to shout a warning after he dislodged a 2-3kg chunk of ice from the ice fall some 45m above us, and which hit me firmly on the top of the head. If you happen to read this (and I know who you are!) then I would appreciate a payment being sent to me to cover the cost of my new helmet (either cash or cheque would be fine – just email me and I will give you an address to post to). Also, one quick word of advice – either learn how to climb ice competently and thereby safely if you are going to continue soloing routes at all, or just learn to use a rope and gear, that way at least you’ll be a touch safer whilst you flail.
Whoooo. Ok so now that one is off my chest, a slightly less bitter and more generalised rant about winter climbing and the prolific availability of information via the internet.
Now, information and communication can hardly be argued to be a bad thing, and this is not what I am trying to say. However, the likes of the ‘definitive’ conditions blogs and UKC are providing very easy means for every climber who has ever so much as sneezed at an ice route to know where to go to find Welsh ice routes in good condition. Not a bad thing at all you may think? Well it wouldn’t be if the more popular and perhaps more easily accessible or ‘classic’ areas and routes weren’t suddenly being inundated by climbers whose skill levels are often akin to my level of ability at glass blowing (which for those of you who don’t know, is something I have never tried, and therefore something I’m unlikely to be good at…). Routes have long queues (for the sake of your sanity DO NOT go to the Devil’s Kitchen on a weekend, not unless you really want to experience the ice climbing equivalent of Stanage on a sunny bank holiday). The main problem in my mind however, is not so much the need to queue for routes, as people’s complete lack of consideration and etiquette (cat’s cradle with ropes as 3 pairs compete for the same 3m wide strip of ice?!), and often, lack of ability meaning the routes are quite literally being hacked to pieces. How there have not been more accidents lately I do not know.
So please, if you go and climb a classic ice fall that isn’t currently known about by the general population, for god’s sake don’t go and post on UKC about how fabulous it was, or let Baggy Richards know so he can tell the world it is in condition (no offence Baggy, I think your blog and the work you’re doing with it is awesome, but sometimes a little knowledge is good to keep quiet about eh?).