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.

08/04/2012

Big moves, little adjustments.


There are often times, in climbing; motor biking and life, where the only option to make progress is to commit to a big move. Retreat is often not possible. The contemplation of the move is normally more terrifying than the actual action. Although the time scale for making the decision can vary massively, from split seconds on the motor bike to days (months even) to choose if that job/house/uni degree is the right one, the difficulty posed by the choice can be just as difficult. The reason for this is that once committed that is it, “Do or Fly” as the climbing statement goes. Almost in opposition to this idea is that little adjustments can make all the difference to whether the task at hand is successful or not. They are as vital as the big moves but require a slightly alternative mind-set. A closed-hand-crimp on a slate route, rather than an open-hand-crimp (a tiny adjustment), allows that move to go ahead and you to stick it. Life requires these adjustments all the time to ensure, as the Stella Artois advert goes, ‘a smooth outcome’. Combining the two ideas is important, if you have all the little adjustments in place the big moves are easy and even more so if you are prepared to make the little adjustments whilst committed to that big move. Yet for all the fear and anxiety, once all the factors come together the rewards can be great.

Recently I’ve been managing the big moves and little adjustments in many aspects of life. Perhaps of most significant is that when I finish university at Bangor (about a year and a few months from now) I’m moving to New Zealand on, for the foreseeable future, a permanent basis. My Dad, sisters and dogs are already out there, my Mum is moving as soon as the house has sold. It is a big move, economically and emotionally committing, and bailing out would be very difficult. It is an exciting prospect yet all the time it is requiring adjustments to plans and prospects. I’m having to try to fit in trips and visits to places before I leave: Scotland, the Old Man of Hoy, Ben Nevis, the Pennine Way and Scarfell Pike to name a few. It means having to sell many things with emotional attachments because they cannot be taken to New Zealand. These changes are important to making the transition process easier. Although modern technology makes communication far easier and quicker I am really not looking forward to saying good bye (or probably a better way of putting it: au revoir) to my friends. 

In terms of climbing I’ve not been able to get out on the real stuff as much as I was hoping over the last few weeks. The end of uni before Easter was busy with essays and preparation for coming home. However I had a great, chilled-out day at Holyhead Mountain with Tristan, James and Thea. I did some teaching of gear placements, rigging and other techniques and then watched as James and Thea did some good starter leads. I did D’elephant for the first time, a surprisingly good VDiff. James later in the day led his first Severe, Tempest (S 4a) with Thea seconding him. I did Andover (VS 5a), a fairly pumpy route with good gear all the way, and Breaking the Barrier (E1 5b), this was the second time I had lead it (the first time was a real struggle, small gear and cold fingers had scared me something silly) and I cruised it, a real relief. Breaking the Barrier fits this idea that small adjustments can make or break the route. A slight change on the way that a certain hold is held is really important in a few places. 
Thea on D'elephant (Right), James on a VDiff next to it (Left).

Thea learning to Ab with a prusik.
Tristan learning to Ab with a prusik.

Thea seconding Tempest (S 4a).

Me on Andover (VS 5a).

Me on Breaking the Barrier (E1 5b).


On the Saturday (24.03.12) before coming home for Easter I took my Grandparents up Snowdon, at seventy-two my Granddad had never been up which was a real surprise to say that he does and has done a lot of walking. We went up from Llanberis, across Telegraph Pole Valley, up the Ranger’s Path and came down the railway path. Lovely weather ensured the day, although longer than I expected, went smoothly.
Having a breather.

On the way up the Ranger's Path.

My Granddad on top of Snowdon at 72 years young.
Last Sunday (01.04.12) I went with my mum to Stanage Edge to have a play on the grit. Warming up on some VS/S’s was good fun. My mum, who has done very little outdoor climbing and had a bad cold, managed to second up most of the routes. Well done, impressive job. We stopped for a bite to eat and I saw Rugosity Crack (HVS 5b), an excellent crack line leading up to some stereotypical grit slopers. The route’s two very different aspects makes it very interesting. The crack line has two jugs, one about half way and one at the top with some careful foot-work the moves between can be done fairly easily, again big moves, little adjustments. We went further along the Edge to the Flying Buttress. Looking up the centre of the buttress an imposing but obvious route appears, Flying Buttress Direct (HVS 5b, according to the guide book; Rockfax: Eastern Grit). Racked and psyched up I went for it. The slab offers no protection but is easy climbing. Cluster several bits of gear at the base of the roof, extend your quickdraws and go. Big, powerful moves here, and little adjustments from foot jams to heel hooks ensure your feet stay on. Stay calm! Push through the small amount of flash pump, ignore the fact that whilst fiddling with the gear that a fall would result in slamming into the slab below you, chuck gear in the crack and pull through. Now crack on and the worse is suddenly over. Before I realised it I was at the top. One of the best routes I’ve ever done. After getting my gear back with a novel abseil, I went and did a series of solos; of real worth were: Flying Buttress (HVD) and The Real Twenty-Foot Crack (VS 4c).  
Getting ready for the roof.

On the easy bit.

Topping out.


So are you ready for your big moves and little adjustments? 

Some videos:
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