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.


Upwards and Onwards

'Getting there' seems to be the mantra that keeps going through my head at the moment. My strength and stamina is improving almost weekly now. It feels good.

It is to such an extent that in the last couple of weeks that I’ve ticked off three routes (Pel, Cemetery Gates and Hydro) that have been lined up for some time.

It was an early start on a Saturday morning that kicked my trad climbing back into gear. Having loaded the bike with all the gear; one fairly large trad rack, three ropes (one 70m, two 60m half ropes), helmets, harnesses etc., Dale and myself hit the road. Destination Castell Helen on Gogarth South Stack, it was about 06.40. Low tide was at 06.04, we would have enough time if we go a reasonable move on. By the time we had geared up, set up the abseil, ab’ed in and got sorted in the little belay niche it was about 08.00. I set off up the first pitch. Pel (VS 4c), but the combination of first thing in the morning and having not done any trad leading since 27.11.11 made the first pitch feel far harder. The line follows a rough right-hand upwards-diagonal which then hits a corner up to the belay ledge. Cool moves all the way along, fairly sustained and above the sea meant I loved every minute. With the belay set up, Dale practically waltzed along to the belay ledge. A quick break on the ledge to swap over and sort out the gear and Dale set off. The second pitch is very different, easier (and not so good climbing) but with little protection could make it spicy. Calm and collected Dale cruised it. Before I knew it we were at the top. Time for a cup of tea at the shop on South Stack.
The corner on the first pitch of Pel.
Dale half way along the first pitch.

Dale heading up pitch two

At the top. Time for a cuppa.

Dale wanting to get some mileage in and crack a couple of routes suggested we went to Holyhead Mountain. He got on Teaser (VS 4c), a tricky little corner route that requires a cool calm head as it is a bit of a pump-fest for the grade. After he nearly had a wobbler (a reasonable distance from the last bit of gear and rather pumped), he chucked in the required cam and finished the route. I then did Cursing (VS 4c) a reasonable route with a distinct crux and a good exposed finish, it proved to be harder than I remembered it to be. Dale to finish the day did Pleasant Surprise (HS 4c). On the way back down the A55 Dale fell asleep on the back of the bike, I was impressed. My driving must be pretty smooth. A brilliant day out.
Dale on Teaser.
Me, post-crux, on Cursing.

Dale on Pleasant Surprise.

After a bit of mad arranging with Pete we headed out on a sunny afternoon to Dinas Cromlech, the plan to tackle Cemetery Gates (E1 5b) and possibly do Cenotaph Corner (E1 5c). We bashed up the approach slope. The little scramble up to the base of the routes is always good fun, a bit tricky and exposed with big, heavy walking boots on. Seeing that Cenotaph was running with water from the-day-before’s rain, we scrapped that bit of the plan. Feeling good and wanting to get the on-sight I opted to lead. Cemetery Gates, what an amazing route. You set off up on some smallish holds with little gear, then step round the corner leftwards onto the main face, you look up this long crack line and go for it. All kinds of climbing is required; jamming, face climbing, crimps, you name it it’s there. Even better is the fact that there is shed-loads of gear. The last few moves were interesting, thinking Ron Fawcett-like ‘Come on arms, do your stuff!’. I’ve clearly been bouldering too much recently. Pumped I reached the optional belay ledge. Looking down I was practically out of quickdraws, so set up a belay and brought Pete up. He was more pumped than I was (one bit of gear had been a horrible fiddle), and asked me to finish the route. More than happy to do so, I pushed on to the top. There is a step round a corner (as you move back right) and looking down the ground just drops away, it is an amazing feeling. Pete came up and we ab’ed down.
Pete making progress to the belay ledge on Cemetery Gates.
Getting closer.
Next day I had agreed to take my friends Hannah and Brock up Tryfan’s North Ridge. However when we got there it looked wet and grim, not the best conditions for their first accent. Looking on the map I suggested that we headed up onto the Carneddau area. With incredibly mixed weather we had an ace day. Whilst standing on the south-east ridge of Carnedd Llewelyn I could see into the next cwm with Ffynnon Llyffant at it base. I reckon that I could see the gully that I had my accident on. Whilst on the top of Llewelyn, having lunch, we got snowed on. Then we traversed across to Carnedd Dafydd via the ridgeline of the Black Ladders. Then we descended into Ffynnon Lloer. Hannah had never tackled long scree slopes before and had a great time learning to control the sliding steps that the slopes bring. From the lake we wandered back to the road. It is a fairly short and easy circuit that I would recommend to anyone of a competent walking ability, furthermore it is do able in most weather conditions.

Looking towards Carnedd Llewelyn.
Hannah tackling a little scramble section.

Brock doing the same.

A new Prophet? Unlikely.

Hannah on the scree slope.

The next Tuesday I went with Gwen in the afternoon to the Little Orme to do Hydro (E1 5b). After a bit of a wander trying to find the correct path to the crag we eventually reached it. The wind was blowing hard, the forecast was for dry weather till sunset, it was time to get going on the route. I got to climb first. You go up a pillar-like-bulge on the left-hand side of the cave on reasonable but small gear. This section from no real warm up and the biting wind was very pumpy and required faith in my finger to hold on, as I could not feel the rock under them. Then with some good gear in you step out onto a traverse above the lip of the cave. There is little protection and the crux moves are protected by a couple of rusty pitons, so really it is a no fall zone. Good and hairy. I came down off the route and it was Gwen’s turn. In typical style she did it with no problems. A word of warning to anyone who wants to do the route: Get your second to strip the gear, it is very, very difficult and quite dangerous to attempt to get the gear whilst lowering off. We tried it, bad move and not one to do again. We drove back in the rain and the wind. It was that windy that 70mph was the max I could get out of the bike.
Going up the first section of Hydro.

Looking out to the Great Orme.

The day after Tristan and I had a walk planned. We set off from Ogwen Cottage and went up along the ridge on the south side of Ogwen Valley, to get Y Garn and the Glyders in. As it seems be regular at the moment, the weather was mixed and the wind strong. Moving up on to Y Garn the wind stopped us dead for several minutes at a time, it was easier to brace and wait it out than to try and move. The section between Glyder Fawr and Fach always amazes me, it is like walking on the moon or an alien planet. There is no grass it is a large section of rocky (roughly one ft. by one ft.) blocks. As we moved up onto the top of Glyder Fach it started to snow, fairly heavily. Having crampons in the bag and knowing exactly where we were there were no worries. After about twenty minutes it stopped as quickly as it had started. All that was left was a decent to Llyn Bochlwyd via the east side of Bristly Ridge.
On top of Y Garn.

Looking up at Y Garn from Llyn y Cwn.

Up the slope we go.

The "moon" landscape on the top of the Glyders.

Where did all this snow come from?

Looking at the south ridge of Tryfan.

The south ridge of Tryfan.

Recently I have been reading Full of Myself, by Johnny Dawes (thanks go to Pete who got it signed for me, a wonderful surprise) and Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, by Robert Pirsig. They have certain connections within the concepts and ideas developed through the discussions on philosophy, overtly in Zen… and within other subjects in Full…, I recommend reading both. I’ll do a full review once I’ve finished both.

In a couple of weeks I’m off home, the Transalp is going to have some work done. New front sections on the exhaust and an oil change will be the first tasks. Then a major clean to clear off all the dirt from winter and using farmers roads. For the second year I’ve used a trick that my friend Pete (different one) told me. Spray the whole bike in WD40. The bike will look more mucky because stuff sticks to the WD40 but when you wash the bike with warm soapy water and a sponge it will all come off straight away and will have protected the bike from all the road salt.

Anyone wanting to get on the gritstone over Easter?

Some videos:
Johnny Dawes interview on the Guardian Website
James Pearson in Northumberland
The Pou Brothers in the Alps
Motorbike adventure in Midwinter
The Secret Life of Bikers

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