About Me

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I'm Alex (also known as Midge, Al and the Guy in the Neon Orange and Black Leathers). Three main passions in life: Mountains, Motorbikes and Old Stuff. Currently in North Wales, at Bangor Uni with my Transalp 600 and Snowdonia on the doorstep. The purpose of this Blog is a combination of discussing the above and highlighting other blogs and videos of interest.

Slideshow Info

The Slideshow contains various pictures (all taken by myself), ranging from my Dogs to hanging belays at Gogarth. Hopefully they give you a flavour of what I get up to.

17/12/2011

Tumble and Fall.


This blog is not the one I had planned to type. I had been thinking that I would be telling you about a three day winter walk in Snowdonia, however the actual events are never exactly to plan.

The weekend before (3/4.12.11) was the BUMS Christmas meal on the Saturday, a good evening with friends, then Sunday was a trip to Parisella’s Cave on the Orme. The Parisella’s trip was cold and just avoiding the rain that was coming down all over North Wales. It primarily involved standing in a down jacket psyching myself up to have another go and to take the jacket off.

Pete Wanless in the cave.

Pete Globe in the cave.


I’d been talking to my friend Tristan about going on a walk and we decided on the next weekend (9-11.12.11) to go into Snowdonia, baging various peaks (inc. the Carneddu, Tryfan, Crib Goch and Snowdon) over the three days and to have a “play” in the snow.

Shopping and packing was done on the Thursday night, tent, crampons, ice axe etc. were in the bag (along with six malt loaves each for lunches). Friday morning involved me finishing an essay and we were off.

 

Setting off from Bethesda, the plan was to walk to the base of the Black Ladders at the Carneddu, turn left top out on Carnedd Llewelyn, then go roughly north-east to the bothy at Llyn Dulyn.

The walk to base of the Black Ladders is easy (and surprisingly warm) but with great views as these black, gigantic cliffs come into view and patches of snow and ice start appearing. It is some of the most foreboding scenery I’ve looked at. We turned to go up Carnedd Llewelyn, finding the aeroplane parts (the remains of a WWII bomber that crashed with the loss of all the crew) and almost magically frozen plants next to the stream. 

Looking up at the Black Ladders.

Black Ladders area.

The crashed aeroplane.

The frozen plants.

 

We then topped out on Llewelyn, time for full winter kit was the decision. It was freezing, you couldn’t have your gloves off for more than five minutes if you still wanted to be able to feel your fingers. With ice axe out, crampons on and goggles on it was time to descend and reach the bothy. Although the sun had gone down about half an hour ago the moon was bright and visibility good. Nevertheless my head torch came out, I needed to navigate. Tristan, psyched, followed me into the darkness. 

Tristan in winter gear.

Me in winter gear.

 

Knowing that there are dangerous cliffs around Llyn Dulyn I made the decision to descend early to ensure our safety. We started down a snow gully (roughly grade I possibly pushing to II in places), with fantastic thaw-freeze snow, the crampons were biting brilliantly. Tristan was above me with his mega-bright head torch, I was cutting the trail. 

Tristan up there.

 

Then, about halfway down, I started sliding. I still don’t know what caused it (all I can think is that I didn’t have a crampon in correctly and stepped down). This wasn’t in the game plan. I grabbed my axe in both hands and rolled into an ice axe arrest. The axe ripped out of my hands and I was tumbling, my head torch ripped off, now I was tumbling in the dark. Up, down, left, right suddenly became meaningless, all I could think was ‘any second now I’m going to feel a smack on my head and it is going to all go dark’. Those thoughts were strangely disassociated from my body, I don’t remember being scared just pissed off that this was it. I didn’t want to die, especially now, I’ve had got/still have got too much to do.

I came to a stop, I don’t know how or why but I stopped. A wave of relief spread though me. A quick check, no broken legs/arms; good, left hand hurts; not good, there is lots of blood; not good. My forehead was bleeding and my left knee was sore. Looking up, I saw my head torch falling down the slope (minus the head band). I grabbed it and started yelling to Tristan. ‘I’m Alive!’, ‘Arrgghh, my hand/leg/head’, ‘Oh, F***’ and ‘S***’ were what I remember shouting. (Tristan says I also shouted ‘Hurry Up’, what a stupid thing to say to him after disappearing into the gloom. Good job he took his time, two casualties would have been a nightmare). Whilst talking once we were off the mountainside, I found out that Tristan reckoned I’d tumbled for about thirty metres.  

Tristan had found my axe, planted in the ice, pick completely buried. It would have held me if I’d have managed to hold on (another reason to get stronger). He joined me, did a quick first aid check, and then we had to move. We had no signal, I was bleeding, we were in the cold and sitting on snow, not a place to stop.

I slid on my backside down the rest of the slope, with the angle easing every few metres, using a combination of ice axe and crampon spikes on my heels. We then started walking. I’m not entirely sure of our route, shock, adrenaline and head wounds don’t make navigating easy. I recognised the cliffs and outline of the mountains in front of us we were in Cwm Eigiau, as kind of planned. I knew there was a farmer’s 4X4 track near the base and the path eventually led to Dolgarrog.

About thirty minutes later we got some signal. Tristan called 999, asked for the Police then Mountain Rescue (the correct way to get help in the mountains). We got off our names, injuries but not our location before we lost signal. Our only option was to keep walking, to find the path, to get signal again.

After around four miles walking we had signal, we were about half way down Llyn Eigiau. The cavalry arrived, the yellow bird of hope, the Squadron 22 RAF Sea-king Helicopter. Waving it in with the head torches, it landed. I was determined to walk onto it, I’d already made it off the mountain, another hundred metres was going to be fine and a stretcher was not an option. Within minutes I was at Ysbyty Gwynedd, A and E awaited.

The fantastic skill of the staff in all the departments I visited cannot expressed in words. They were extraordinary. Once my clothes were off, I was x-rayed. Luckily I’d only broken my thumb and wrist on my left hand. My knee and face required stitches. 

WARNING: GORY PICTURES!

My face.

Broken Wrist and Thumb.

In the ward.

 

After a weekend of being stitched up, plastered and forcing bits of my body to work I went back to my uni home. It had been a long weekend and certainly not the one I’d planned. Maybe I’ll get the route done next year. I’ll certainly be doing it in the summer.

My thanks go out to Tristan; for saving my ass, Hannah; for visits and deliveries at all times of day, James; for bringing me home, all those other visitors and well-wishers; for making it a much easier time, Llanberis and Ogwen Mountain Rescue crews; for looking for us, Squadron 22; for collecting us, and the great staff at Ysbyty Gwynedd (especially those in A and E and on Conwy Ward); for putting up with me and patching me up again. Thank you so much. I’m in your debt.

Now comes the recovery phase. I’ve got about eight weeks out, minimum. I’m going to get focused, plan a training schedule, build my core strength and generally work on keeping psyched. Anybody want a belayer? Single Pitch only, easy access, must provide a gri-gri, and be prepared for lots of moaning.  

Here are the links to Owgen and Llanberis mountain rescue websites:

Owgen

Llanberis

If you, or anyone close to you ever might need their services please donate, they are voluntary organisations with determined and dedicated crews. They do a fantastic job in the worst conditions.

 

In other news:

Here is an amazing video, it is currently on the home page of UKC, of two friends climbing regardless of disability. The determination that Paul Prichard shows is incredible, it just serves to show what can be done if you want something enough.

Christopher Hitchens has died. Although I may not have agreed with all his stances, in particular his weird view of the political arena, he was a great man standing against the religious nonsense that is spouted out by so many of those people in powerful positions.

Dave MacLeod is being a beast again: http://www.davemacleod.blogspot.com/

 

And for some more music:

Here is a song that kept going through my head in hospital: Bob Marley: Three Little Birds. 

Feeder: Tumble and Fall.

Rusted Root: Send Me On My Way. (Made famous in the film Matilda, and later Ice Age)

Thin Lizzy: Dedication.

 

The next few blogs hopefully will have some cool adventure stories rather than how I stupidly slipped and battered myself.

Thanks for reading.

01/12/2011

Trad at Tremadog (and some motorbike stuff)

After what had been a wet week and a rainy night Sunday was proved to be a sunny, warm day. BUMS headed out to Tremadog, parking at Eric’s CafĂ© (I’d gone on the motorbike) we set off for a day on the rocks.

I partnered up with Ellie. We first looked at Grim Wall area but it was running with water. Passing the guide book to Ellie, she picked a route called Scratch (VS 4c). The only problem was that it is at the other end of the crag (Craig Pant Ifan) and a long scramble up, so by the time we were ready to climb to it was about midday. 

Scratch is a two-pitch route.  The first pitch led by Ellie, is a bit dull but with fairly sparse gear. The second is fantastic: A long corner crack climb, followed by a rightwards traverse, then another jamming crack to the top.  We abseiled off, almost sixty metres to the floor.
Ellie leading up the first pitch of Scratch (VS 4c).

Looking down Scratch from the top (Ellie is at the Belay).

Ellie at the start of the traverse.

Ellie joining me at the belay.
Next up was Barbarian (E1 5b) due to laziness and my misreading of the guidebook. We had considered doing Scratch ArĂȘte (HVS 5a) however I was looking at the wrong thing in the guidebook and by the time Ellie pointed this out I’d psyched myself up and our bags were conveniently at the base of the route. Ellie led off, again up a fairly easy pitch but with sparse gear into a really cool belay position. Then it was my turn… ‘Oh dear, this looks hard’ was the first thought through my head, looking up at two roof sections to come. Racked up and psyched up, I set off. A major faux par occurred, as I was standing above Ellie’s head I looked down and calmly stated: ‘Watch out, if I fall you’re going to get my nuts in your face’. After messing around over the first roof section, you travel up a slab and hit the second roof. Throw in a hex and a large cam and you’ll be safe travelling out to the belay. Embarrassingly I got mentally boxed out, not realising the belay was so close, therefore plenty of swearing and eventually a rest on the rope was required. As soon as I saw the belay my head calmed down and went straight there. The plan had been for me to do the final pitch as well however with bad rope drag and needing a breather I set the belay up. Ellie cruised up the first roof and slab. She had plenty of fun with the last roof, including a wonderful leg/hip jam half way out of the roof. She soon joined me at the belay then pushed on to the top. We ab’ed off as it was getting dark. Getting back to the road was fun with one head torch.
Watching Gwen, Meg and Will doing the first pitch of Scratch from the first belay of Barbarian.
Ellie at the first belay, note guidebook down top. My faux par was to happen in about five minutes.

Looking up at the roof sections to come.
Looking down from the second belay, notice Ellie's little blue helmet in the corner.
A fantastic day out for both of us. 

As for motorbikes, the Transalp is running fine, apart from giving a false neutral whilst overtaking the other day (a heart in mouth moment!) but that was more down to my error and having to now wear winter gloves (also Hondas are known for it, it does feel like the smoothest first to second gear change ever, though!) Yes it is now cold, winter gear is out and I think that the thermals will be out soon as well. I’m looking at getting metal panniers and other luggage, if anyone else is interested this company gets good reviews and is reasonably priced: http://www.touratech.co.uk/.  

Charley Boorman is doing silly things again in Canada, involving motorbikes and other adventures. The T.V. show is called Extreme Frontiers, it is being shown on Channel 5. Web address: http://www.channel5.com/shows/charley-boormans-extreme-frontiers.  

There is a great charity in Africa that has realised the potential of motorbiking, ‘Riders for Health’. Their website: http://www.riders.org/default.aspx. With it being that horrible time of year (Christmas), it might be worth looking into them as a present for family, friends etc. 

And for some music:

P.s. Malt Loaf is a wonderful food for cragging and I would recommend it becomes a staple requirement in any climbers rucksack. 
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