Monday, 11 January 2010

bitter and twisted

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?).


  1. Hmm ... Now there are 3 reasons why the exact location of "local ice for local people" hasn't yet been revealed to you.

    1. At present you do not appear to have reached the advanced stage of grumpyness that's an essential and basic prerequisite.

    2. Your *I Climb on Ice South of Tremadog (But I'm Not Really A Snob)* add-on has yet to be fully enabled.

    3. You haven't yet managed the linguistic acrobatics that will enable you to swear in Welsh at other climbers. Once you can do this, you be well on your way to being considered both (a)local and, more importantly (b)Polish.



  2. Did said soloist start behind you, over take you, then drop the ice on your head? Or did you start up the fall behind him or her? Because the second case is a bit 'morally' different from the first I would say.

  3. Oi, cheer up, i'm just glad the rich kids didn't hit the deck and get mashed, it was certainly looking that way for a while! I know where you're coming from - generally this is how I feel about climbing -

  4. Toby, I completely agree - anyone starting up a climb behind people already established on the route, whether roped or soloing, take a degree of responsibility for whatever lands on them from above.

    Sadly, in this case (and I have deliberately been leaving out the specifics of route, venue, climbers etc), the easiest simple way of describing where I was on the route relative to the soloists in question is that I was on the ground at the base of the route which ALSO happened to be the main descent path for all the routes in the cwm, and the main path up or down for all the walkers and mountaineers out - how no-one else got hit or hurt I do not know.

    So in short, my irritation over the falling ice thing was simply that these guys had recklessly chosen to solo a route (for which I would argue they were not adequately prepared or capable, and I know this is a subjective thing) which travelled up the back wall of the cwm directly above a descent path being used by a great number of walkers and climbers constantly during the day. They were in my view thereby exposing all those people to an unnecessary degree of danger - and it was unnecessary as I don't think I had to swing my axe even once on the route - it was hooked and stepped out all the way!!

  5. Interesting observations Lauren, which I felt the need to reply to, so I suppose they had the desired effect.
    There are plenty of great Welsh winter climbing spots away from the hordes of Cwm Idwal... try seeking them out during the next freeze! To be honest I don't think the availability of information made much difference to the numbers in the Idwal honeypot; its a very accessible venue with a wide variety of grades and everything was visibly in condition... I for one think it was great to hear about so many folk out enjoying the winter conditions, I didn't see many myself as I chose to take the road less travelled.


  6. Chris,
    Firstly thanks for the comment and I'm glad you had a good few days during the cold snap - as it happens I did too - mercifully I did spend some time away from the honeypot areas as quite frankly I can't stand queuing and as anyone who climbs with me will know, I much prefer to enjoy myself away from the crowds, and I do love experiencing new areas!

    So in short, I completely agree with you, and I'm delighted that we had such a good start to the season and so many people had a good time. Truly!

    My rant has probably come across to most readers (especially new ones and those who don't know me personally) as a touch short sighted but I can assure you that it's well out of context. My ranting about the internet and spread of information was written with my tongue firmly in my cheek (although there is an element of truth, mainly to do with my experience on Maesglasau Falls...but that's another story!)

    I look forward to exploring many more 'lesser frequented' climbing spots should good conditions return (and I'm not in Norway or Scotland at the time) and I would strongly encourage everyone else to aswell!