Rocking stag weekend

The Plan

Rock climbing certainly had to be part of it.  My best man, Jim, and I agreed that pretty early on.  My stag do would have to involve adventure and I’m a keen climber, plus I had met all of my friends who would be on the trip through rock climbing.  However, there were some issues with this idea.

Climbing on Glaciated Slab in Borrowdale.

My brother isn’t a climber and had been less than enthusiastic when I had taken him to a climbing wall in the past.  My friends also tend to be wall and sport climbers, with little experience of the trad climbing that is more common in the UK.  The solution, I thought, was to find somewhere with some easier, single pitch climbs on which I could set up a top rope.

I also thought this would be a great opportunity to try out something I’d been interested in doing for a while – the via ferrata at Honister Slate Mine in the Lake District.  I’ve done lots of via ferrata in Italy and I was curious to try out England’s first via ferrata.  Climbing on ladders and stemples (i.e. big staples punched into the rock) while attached to a safety cable also seemed more accessible than full rock climbing, while still being a mountain experience and adventurous.

The plan was to do the via ferrata on the Saturday and rock climb on the Sunday.  To get round the fact that my friends don’t own tents, we would stay in a yurt.  This was something else I’d been interested to try now that there are a few companies providing them as a more glamorous alternative to camping.

In a big estate car, we would drive up to Seatoller (in Borrowdale and just below the Honister Pass) on the Friday night and then be ready to go the next morning.

This was the plan, but plans don’t always go as you expect. Read more

Rock the morning after

It’s common for rock climbers to drink alcohol after climbing.  It’s also common for rock climbers to go climbing the morning after drinking alcohol.  If done in moderation and sensibly, this can be fine.  But it can also be unsafe and affect climbing performance both in the short and long-term.

It’s my stag party soon and a big part of the plan is to go rock climbing.  As alcohol is typically central to a stag do, I’ve been wondering recently how sensible it is to combine rock climbing and alcohol.

It’s not just on my stag trip that the two activities of drinking and climbing might come in to close proximity.  Alcohol comes into a climber’s life all the time and it’s often part of the climbing lifestyle.  A pub is a good option for food, drink and relaxation on the Saturday night of a weekend away rock climbing.  The alternative of relaxing in the campsite, hostel or hotel usually comes with a few beers, some wine or the odd whiskey.  Then there is the trip to the local pub that can follow an evening session at the climbing wall.  The next day, climbers can be out climbing again.  I’ve been around climbing and alcohol in all these situations and my forthcoming stag has got me thinking about what affect this has lifestyle has on climbers and whether it makes it harder to keep yourself and your climbing partner safe as well as to climb at your best. Read more

Turning Around the Men in Pyjamas

There are times when there is no doubt that you should tell someone that they’re not properly equipped for a day in the mountains and should turn back.  One example of this happened earlier this month when a stag party attempted to climb Snowdon dressed in pyjamas and trainers, in a storm and by the scrambling route of Crib Goch. Unsurprisingly, this stag party got into trouble and had to be talked down by phone by mountain rescue.

A back-clipped quickdraw; a potentially dangerous mistake that is a little too easy to make and to not notice.  Would you point this mistake out to someone you didn’t know?

According to the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team, this stag party was just one recent incident of groups heading up Snowdon without suitable clothing and equipment.  Although trying to climb a mountain in nightwear is an extreme example, my experience is that it’s not uncommon to come across people hiking, scrambling, rock climbing or doing via ferrata who look like they don’t have the right clothes, equipment or skills.  These people can be putting themselves at risk and can take up the valuable time of mountain rescue if they get into trouble.  What I wonder is whether there is a moral obligation on all of us to tell these people to turn around or change what they are doing. Read more