Gold D of E Assessment, North Wales, Day 1

The view from my tent

The stunning outline of Tryfan

I travelled home from Scotland on Saturday and then up to North Wales last night. Today is Day 1 of a Gold Duke Of Edinburgh's Award Expedition which I am assessing. There are five in the group and they are out for 4 days in The Snodownia National Park. Today they have walked from the coast over the Carneddau and into Gwern Gof Isaf at the bottom of Tryfan in the Ogwen valley. During the day Cath, Gordon and I have been able to get up onto Carnedd Llewelyn and then met the group on the bothy at Foel Grach for lunch. The weather has been good to us today but got cooler as the day went on.

"Summer" Scrambling in Corie an T'Sneachda

Summer in the foreground but definately winter behind

Rebecca and Kirsten

Fiaciall Ridge

Still Winter in Sneachda

Today I took Rebecca and Kirsten into Corie an T'Sneachda for some "Summer" Scrambling. As you can see this was going to be a carefully thought out route. We had no crampons or axes with us but managed to get up onto the Fiaciall Ridge via the Twin Ribs on a mixture of rock and a few small snow pockets. We then descended through some boulder fields again avoiding snow. During the day we had rain, hail and snow falling on us and the occasional period of sun.

Climbing at Huntly's Cave

Rebecca belaying on Block Chimney

Rebecca negotiating the tree on Right Hand Groove

Alex belaying on Left Rib

Alex on Cave Route

Today I took Rebecca and Alex climbing at Huntly's Cave on the East of the Cairngorms where I led them up Block Chimney VD, Right Hand Groove VD and Left Rib VD. We then looked at how to get down via a stacke abseil before climbing Cave Route HS 4b. Rebecca led the first pitch (well done) but then the ticking clock forced me to lead the rest with Alex and Rebecca following. This is a nice climb with an awkward narrow chinmey at the top which sucks you in and then you get stuck in it (note to self, remove guidebook from front pocket next time). During the day we had to contend with sun, rain and hail.

Rock Climbing at Kingussie

 Me on an overgrown VD called Freeway

Geoff on The Groove HS

 Me on The Edge

 Stunning Views

After leaving The Ardeche at 6am yesterday morning and travelling for 36 hours by minibus, ferry, car, plane, train and taxi I made it to Aviemore in The Scottish Highlands at 6pm last night.
Today I met up with Geoff who I did some winter climbing with a few months ago and we heaaded to Kingussie Crag to get on some warm rock. We climbed 10 routes during the day from Diff (which we soloed) up to a nice VS 4c. I ended up with 5 leads and Geoff 3. We soloed one and swung leads on the other. The crag was really busy with kids and a group of Ghurkas.

Punishing Rest Day


Big Will


Today was a scheduled Rest Day so I started with a 7am 8-9km run with one of the students from the campsite down to The Pont D'Arc. Shortly after this I grabbed my kayak and headed to the whitewater course on the other side of the river with 6 of the students to have a play.Straight after lunch it was into the river for a swim and then in the afternoon we hit the rock for some more climbing but it was in excess of 30 degrees and we soon gave up and returned to the site for another river swim and to pack for tomorrows long journey back home.

The last week has been good with some excellent students. Not looking forward to the long drive back North starting at 6am tomorrow.

Ardeche Mountain Biking

Today we were out Mountain Biking in 28+ degress which gave credibility to the saying "Only Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun". It was seriously hot and just breathing was an effort. We manged two rides of approx 90 mins each before the sun took its toll and we all gave up and concluded with a swim in the river.

Climbing in The Ardeche

 The Crag

Me setting up ropes

Blindfold Climbing

For the last two days I have been climbing with groups at Fontgarnide (Salavas) (Ardeche). The good point of this crag if that I have to climb all the routes first to set the ropes up as the belays are halfway up the crag. We climbed a number of routes over the two days at 4+ or 5. A number of students completed their first Sport Climbing lead with me alongside on a seperate rope.

2 Day Paddle Trip in The Ardeche Gorge

 The Pont d'Arc

Taking a Break

Stunning Scenary

The last two days have been spent on an overnight paddle trip in The Ardeche Gorge. We paddled approx 15 km each day and spent the night at the Bivouac Gournier, where we had a nice BBQ. The water levels were high and it was very fast flowing. There were 9 capsizes over the two days and 5 of these were by Tom and Ivor so well done to them for the sheer determination to keep going as the water was quite cold.

The Long Migration South

As you are reading this I am currently driving a minibus full of Bridgwater College students down to The Ardeche region of France for an Outdoor Pursuits residential based in Vallon Pont D'arc. With me are the 2nd Year FdSc Public Services and Outdoor Education students who are organising and running the trip for the 2nd Year BND Public Emergency Services students. We will be Paddling, Rock Climbing, Walking and Mountain Biking over the next 8 days. We hope to arrive sometime during Monday afternoon with activites due to start on Tuesday monring. I will continue to update the blog (daily if possible) during the trip.

Abseil in the rain, Chudleigh

This morning we woke to poor weather so on Day 3 of the residential we headed for Chudleigh and some wet abseiling before packing up and heading back to college where it was hang up the wet kit and pack the dry kit into the bus for the residential next week to The Ardeche region of France.

Harnesses and Wetsuits at The Dewerstone

Looking down on the group

In the River Plym

On Day 2 of the Dartmoor Residential we headed to The Dewerstone where the students set up top ropes themselves (with me checking) on a number of climbs on the beginner's slabs. The climbs were all about VD/S and were a good intoduction to Granite as this group has only been on Limestone up until now.
After lunch we continued with some more climbing before packing up the ropes, swapping harnesses for wetsuits and jumping into the River Plym for a 500m walk up the river fighting the current, going through natural tunnels and ducking under logs. The session ended with a climb up through a couple of waterfalls that challenged the group to work together as a team.
Once again we were very lucky with the weather and although a cloud or two passed through during the day we mainly had sun.

A nice little run around Dartmoor


A happy team at Buckfastleigh

Clouds brewing

A great night time sky

Today was the first day of a 3 day residential for the Bridgwater College Level 4 Public Services students. I dropped them in Buckfastleigh with all their kit and they had to make their way to Princetown and then set up on the campsite, a distance of about 20km. I got to run round the moor watching them, mainly from a distance but I did catch up with and speak to one group. I clocked up around 28km today keeping an eye on the 3 groups and at least 20km of that was running, just in places the tussocks were too difficult to run over and I had to pick my way more carefully. The weather was great this morning but there were some rain showers during the afternoon and early evening
I got to try out my new OMM clothing that arrived yesterday and I am pleased to report that it is great kit to run in and waterproof in the few showers that occured. I stayed dry and warm all day.

Another Sunny Climbing Day at Goblin Combe

Today I was working for Bridgwater College with the BFD Public Serives students. I had two groups during the day and was assisted by Jonny who is looking to take his SPA assessment soon. They learnt how to tie in, belay and climbed and number of routes. Once again we were lucky as the weather stayed dry if a little cloudy at times.

Stroll in the sun, The Quantocks

Today I was with the Level 1 Public Services students who were undertaking a sponsored walk on The Quantock Hills. The money raised will be going to Help the Heros. The weather was great and all 12 students seemed to enjoy it though there were a few blisters involved. We were even lucky enough to see a herd of deer in the distance.

Earning my Sunday Roast

A very friendly cow

One of many cows backends

Feeding the Calves

Today I agreed to milk a "few" cows in exchange for a roast dinner. I must have misheard as it turned out to be a few hundred cows. It has been a very long time since I last milked a cow (though I was worming cows in Africa last summer). I lost count of exactly how many teats I sprayed, wiped and stuck things on but I was pretty slick towards the end. The art was to do it all without wiping your arms all over the poo on the cows back end and then dodging when the cow decided to pee all over you.
The roast dinner was great but I was conscious of a small whiff whilst eating. I have now showered but I can't seem to shift the lingering waft of cow poo.