Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Conquering the (16m) Dawn Wall of Bristol

On a sunny day in the middle of February, there isn’t that much to do in Bristol that’s better than getting out in the gorge and enjoying a good old climb. Some people take this kind of opportunity to lead friends up easy routes around Sea Walls, other people use the conditions as a perfect opportunity to push the grade. Typically the latter type of climber is a ballsy legend, whom the world just can’t handle. Such a pair of climbers are present in UBES, and take physical form in Tom Eldridge and Thom Jenkinson (henceforth known as Tom). When the thermometer hit 10 degrees C, and there’s not a cloud in the sky, these heroes put down what they’re doing and head to the Ramp, where E2’s abound.

A view from the ramp:

Such a day it was on the 17th of February 2015. The time, 2pm, the route, Banshee: a solid and pumpy crack climb coupled with a delicate and blank mantleshelf. After a brief tussle for dominance, it was decided that Tom would get the first attempt at leading and minutes later we were at the base of the route, geared up and psyched for the route.

Some time and one lead fall later...

Needless to say, the route was a bit harder than anticipated but being the legendary characters that we are, we persevered. Tom had the next attempt, climbing effortlessly up to the top piece of gear. Thereafter, the route stiffens – traversing across strenuous positions to some of the worst Avon pegs known to mankind. Only a blank, sloping and run out mantleshelf remained between climber and the safe haven of the abseil point. However, these obstacles provided little challenge to team Tom, and having each conquered the aforementioned on lead our boys headed off safely, moving together up Sleepwalk and topping out to a beautiful sunset. 

As an added bonus, it didn't take us 14 days!

UBES Wear!!!

Its that time of year you've all been waiting for...

...The competition for this years UBES Wear design is OPEN!!!

All you have to do is submit your design to here. 

The winner will be decided by a facebook vote, and will receive a FREE Hoody!

Your design can be done in any format you like, whether that is a scribble on an envelope or a beautifully finished computer graphic. We can then help you get it into the correct format to print. Remember the design has to work with only one colour.

Here are some examples from previous years to get you inspired!

The deadline for you to submit your designs is the 20th of March, so get drawing!!!

Any questions then just let me know!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Snowdonia 2

This weekend, forty of us set off for a wintry weekend in Snowdonia. In case anyone was wondering what we got up to, I thought I’d write a brief trip report! 
Going crazy on the Carneddau
On the Saturday, ten of us optimistically set off up the Miners’ track in search of a winter climb on the Trinity face of Snowdon. Despite the thaw the day before, we found Central Trinity in slightly slushy, but climbable condition.

One party soloed, and two parties roped up for the snow gully, which cuts straight up from Glaslyn to the top of Snowdon. It had a chockstone and a teeny bit of almost ice to give interest, and it was great to get the axes out. We were slightly bemused when we topped out to see crowds of people crawling up to the summit in trainers, and then sliding back down again.

An intrepid group of UBESters on the wintry Glyders
Other walks took on the Carneddau and the Glyders, finding plenty of wintry excitement and a fair bit of scrambling too. Tim lead one of his classic slogs, taking in twenty kilometers of epic Welsh hills, and returning late enough that people were talking about getting in touch with Mountain Rescue (It's okay; they were either joking, or had had a considerable amount to drink). 
We all returned ready for a nourishing dinner, however we were not aware that disaster was about to strike. A hole was discovered in the rice pan. The starchy water gushing onto the stove somehow managed to ignite, creating a small fire and a lot of excitement. After consuming copious quantities of delicious slop, cooked at last, the Saturday evening contained its usual dose of organised fun, a bonfire and a disco! 

One of the climbing officers gearing up for a very serious climb
On the second day, which was warmer, wetter and windier, several groups set off to take on some of the smaller peaks. A group of twenty took on Moel Siabod, some of us attempting to run it, to greater and lesser degrees of success. Other walks included a miniature 'three peaks', involving the all important driving aspect of the more grandiose UK wide challenge.

There were many lakes bagged this weekend, one of the more ‘heroic’ ones on the Sunday walk up Cnicht, was described by the bagger himself. “It was too shallow so I had to wade out into thigh deep mud, and the weather was like a moist apocalypse, but less exciting.” Sounds like great fun!I had a great weekend; I really hope everyone else did too.

A massive thank you to everyone who helped organise it, and I look forward to seeing everyone soon!
A postgrad officer looking like a pro!
Topping out on the summit of Snowdon

Monday, 26 January 2015

Central Trinity (I/II)

Saturday 24th January 2015. A bunch of intrepid UBES'ters set of up Snowdon in search of a winter adventure. The conditions had been brilliant all week but were just starting to turn. This meant that we all ended up on one route, central trinity, a 3 star grade (I/II) gully!

10 of us were on the route in total, with experience ranging from winter climbing newbies all the way through to seasoned alpine mountaineers. We decided to split up, with some more expereienced members soloing the route to avoid the crowds, whilst the less experienced roped up for some security.

Everyone got the route done with ease and had a thoroughly enjoyable day, with George and Clay going back for more and getting two routes done in one day!

Check out the video below!

Scottish Highlands!

After a great trip to the West Highlands over New years, our very own Lucy Rand wrote this wonderful article in the Epigram for us!

Check it out here!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Head Torches are BACK!

After the success last year, we have just got in another order of Alpkit Gammas!

You've probably seen a lot of the committee and other people using them and we can sell them to you for the discounted price of £14!!!

It is essential that everyone has a headtorch for safe walking on the hills, as the days are still quite short!

If you want to buy one then get in contact with Duncan by ubes-kit@bristol.ac.uk

Here are a couple of links that give you some of the information:


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Castle Ridge (III), a winter adventure.

Castle Ridge, a classic winter route on the UK's highest mountain!

Check out the short video below! 

Ben and myself set out early on Sunday the 28th December 2014 to tick my first winter climb of the season, and Ben's first ever!

After an early morning 5am alpine start, we walked in from the North face car park up to the CIC hut to start our route.

The line of the route can be seen as the ridge on the far right of the picture below.

We were met with beautiful views as the sun finally rose over the mountain side and lit up the snow covered slopes.

We got to the start of the route, geared up and got excited.

Once on the route we started moving together up the easier angled slopes, only stopping to pitch the 2 difficult sections, including the "awkward chimney."

The whole route seemed to last a lot longer than the 200m stated in the guide book, with us topping out Carn Mor Deag just as the sun was going down, after a full day of alpine style winter climbing!



Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ledgendary: Night on the Bare Cliff Face - Tom Eldridge

As clouds set in over Bristol on Thursday, four intrepid young UBESters completed an Avon Gorge rite of passage as old as the rock its self. For those of you reading this who don’t know the cliffs around Bristol very well, one of the most visited sections of the edges running alongside the river Avon on its way towards the mouth of the Severn Estuary is, suitably, named ‘Main Area’. The wall here is divided into climbs on the lower section ‘Morning Slab’ and climbs on the upper ‘Evening Wall’, so named because a day climbing can take in a route on each of these on the way to the top, with a stop off at ‘Lunchtime Ledge’ halfway through.

Well, at least that’s the order the guidebook recommends you do it. Lunchtime Ledge is a huge section, large enough for climbers to untie from their ropes completely and walk around without fear of falling, and so since its discovery it’s been very common to invert the usual procedure and spend the evening climbing Morning Slab, kipping overnight on the ledge and then climbing out in the morning. We weren’t the first to do it, and we certainly won’t be the last, but we may temporarily hold the record for being the most naked. The weather on Thursday was glorious. Jenks and I had been anticipating this since the start of the week, and Duncan and Emily perked up at the idea in the Highbury on Wednesday night, so at 8pm we met at the top of Whiteladies Road to grab a few beers and were shortly on our way. The clouds hugged the city like a cosy blanket, keeping in most of the heat of the still day, and never once threatened us with rain. Wrapped up and ready to go, we arrived at the bottom of the gorge at about 9 o’clock.

We divided ourselves into teams. Thom and Duncs took the slightly trickier HS Sinister whilst Em and I sauntered up The Arete (VD). In contrast to spending a day in Avon, the night time was still and quiet. Thom and I, sat on our respective belay positions, were able to chat easily at a distance that would usually render everything inaudible, and I turned my headtorch off and sat and belayed quietly until I managed to surprise Emily with this shot:

We clambered to the top, and after a little faff with ropes and a short wait, were joined by Thom and Duncan. Soon after we heard a call from a light source at the top of Evening Wall and saw the President himself abseiling down to join us. It was so lovely to have everyone together that we quickly made use of the gorge’s proximity to the city and promptly started ignoring each other in favour of our respective mobile devices (I should point out that this was a joke and the below was posed).

Once the beer had dried up we found ourselves sleeping spaces, and, with levels of preparedness ranging from Duncan's full bivi bag to Laurence's pile of ropes and bags, settled down to sleep. A makeshift net stopped us all from sliding forwards and off the terrace, and we all woke up well rested and ready to go:
(Fit For A King: Laurence chuckles off the ‘most comfortable night’s sleep he’s ever had’)

(Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed: Team Kit and Safety brush themselves off and prepare for the morning climbs to lectures)
Waking with the sunrise, Thom and I assessed the situation and decided to boldly solo it to our 9am lectures. Simultaneously on the climb to the left of us, Duncan bagged his first outdoor lead, and Laurence and Emily followed him safely up it a little while later. Here’s a photo of him sat belaying at the top:

I can honestly recommend the experience – we had a great time, became closer as chums, and really capitalised on the weather whilst simultaneously not taking any time out of our busy university timetables. A perfect combination of type 1 and type 2 fun, and an excellent way to spend 12 hrs.
Finally, thank you for reading patiently: here is the nudity you’ve all been waiting for:

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Post Morocco: A Trip to North Wales

Having just returned from the stunning High Atlas of Morocco, I had a window of a week before term started for real. And with the weather looking pretty decent, what better way to spend it than to attempt the Paddy Buckley Round in Snowdonia, I thought! This seemed like a good idea at the time as I felt physically fitter from being above 3000 for a substantial period, however the reality proved rather different.

Summit of Moel Eilio 
The Paddy Buckley round is a 24 hour fell running challenge (I didn’t attempt to run it!) similar to that of Scotland’s Charlie Ramsey round and the more famous Bob Graham Round in the Lake District. The stats are similar too, with 65 miles and 8600m of ascent to complete, it’s considered tougher than the Bob Graham time-wise by about an hour. The challenge encompasses the three main Northern Snowdonia mini mountain ranges – the rolling yet high Carneddau, the mighty Glyders and the famous Snowdon Massif as well as some of the lesser explored Molwyn region and part of the gorgeous Nantle Ridge. More information and the full route can be found here: http://www.gofar.eclipse.co.uk/paddybuckleyround.html

Mist clearing as I reach the track
The plan was to start in Llanberis on Saturday 20th Sept and walk the circular route clockwise, finishing back on Wednesday afternoon (~4 days) I’d carry a backpack and camp. After a 5am start from Bristol the train somehow managed to become 20 minutes late on its travels up east Wales and along the lovely north coast (with the exception of Colwyn Bay that is) resulting in me missing my bus connection at Bangor by 2 minutes – next bus wasn’t for another 2 hours. Oh well, what better excuse to pop to the local spoons for a pint and a much needed pulled pork sandwich!

The Snowdon Horseshoe to the east

The first part of the route involves climbing Snowdon via Moel Eilio and descending to the South via Yr Aran, and the unpathed steep terrain beyond. By the time I got underway from Llanberis it was already 2.45 pm and my chances of reaching Rhyd Ddu by nightfall seemed to be slimming by the minute. The ascent of Moel Eilio was a shock to the system, with thick cloud and numerous sheep being totally different to the barren and scorching Moroccan landscape where mules reign supreme and the views can extend for literally hundreds of miles. Due to my walking boots coming to the end of their working life in Morocco we decided to ceremonially burn them using up surpass fuel in the large Atlas valley town of Imlil. Even though I had walked in my dad’s boots (which I were borrowing) many times before, I must have tried every combination of socks and blisters plasters in the first 2 miles of the hike making the start even more frustrating. After a sporadic slog top of Moel Eilio I finally found a rhythm and made swift progress along to the dip where the round meets the well-trodden Snowdon Ranger Path.

Nearly there!
The going was tough, I knew I had to persevere at a good pace up Snowdon if I was to have any chance of making Beddgelert forest by dusk, and the thought of descending the Yr Aran ridge in the dark was quite an unpleasant one, especially remembering the route finding problem’s I’d had on UBES Snowdonia 1 2013 whilst ascending it from the south. I was passed by some late starters returning towards YHA Snowdon Ranger as well as some extraordinarily fast mountain bikers, All but a few made comments on my sanity as I told them I’d be camping at 600m in a Snowdon col (I’d now resigned to this fact), I couldn’t help but agree with them!

High pressure system arrives
After a well-earned rest for some malt loaf 200 or so metres below the summit (this is a guess as it was still very cloudy!), and no longer being able to distinguish sweat from water vapour, I made the final push for the top. The weather continued to be poor but the absence of any wind filled me with optimism (a tell-tale sign that high pressure isn’t far away). And sure enough, after some rare glimpses of the Western Cwm to the south, the skies partially cleared at the top of Garnedd Ugain (1065), Snowdon’s sister peak, revealing spectacularly crisp views of Crib Goch and the Snowdon Horseshoe to the east and a beautiful yet hazy sunset to the west. The cloud covering the summit cleared minutes before I arrived and so after climbing Snowdon now 6 times, not once has the top been in cloud! Perhaps I’ve just jinxed it… On Ben Nevis it’s the exact opposite.

Backtracking after Garnedd Ugain

It was getting late now, and everything was beginning to ache, (not a good sign this early on). Descending Snowdon via the Southern ridge along seemed much harder than the previous times I’d walked it; the scrambly bits were much demanding due to a large backpack and tiredness was most certainly setting in. By the time I’d reached the col between Snowdon and Yr Aran I was knackered and it was almost pitch dark.  I’d like to say that I put the tent up in record time due to all that practice in Morocco but I wasn’t even close! After a boil in the bag pasta and some contingency planning for the next day, I was fast asleep by 10pm.

Not quite a summit selfie
Unzipping my tent next morning, I was greeted with the best weather I’d ever seen in Wales. Views of the Nantle ridge were impossibly crisp and as I reached the top of Yr Aran after a short, cereal bar fuelled climb, the whole of the Mowlyns came into view with the obvious mountain of Cnicht protruding into the deep blue sky. The next two days of my route were visible before me, and to say it was slightly daunting would be the understatement of the century. The sun was surprisingly hot for 9am, however I wasted no time in beginning what I thought would be a simple gradual descent towards the sprawling Beddgelert Forest. In fact, the terrain was annoyingly speed then gradual then steep, etc…  After over an hour and a half, I made it to the road and took great pleasure in purifying some fresh Welsh stream water, as I’d been out of the stuff since the Yr Aran summit.

View from the tent in the morning!
The walk through the forest should have been a simple one if I’d taken the new path, which must have been built in the last year as it wasn’t on the map or there last time I visited the area. Instead, I made a meal of it by getting slightly lost in some wet undergrowth. Nevertheless, I made it to the lower slopes of one of the numerous Y Garn’s, Snowdonia has to offer, and started the long climb which seemed far more than 400m in ascent.

Mowlyn mist
With the midday sun beating down on my back and the gradient seemingly ever increasing, I realised that I may have bitten off quite a lot more than, at the time, I could chew. On the one hand I felt that I could cope with the ascents much more easily than normal due to increased cardio-vascular fitness (from Morocco’s high altitude), yet on the other I felt physically drained, which was probably a result of not getting the normal quality of sleep for 2 and a half weeks – something which takes more than a few days to recover from.

My route for the day
Nevertheless, I continued upwards to the ridge, where the views towards Caernarfon and Anglesey were absolutely stunning, something that I had become strangely used to after the Atlas. After a quick stop for a much needed tuna wrap on the third peak, I descended the easy yet steep grassy ridge towards the Moel Hebog massif. In doing so I passed two fell runner who were ‘reccy-ing’ (how do you write that!?) the Paddy in the opposite direction. There encouraging comments and information about Mowlyn timings at first filled me with optimism, but alas this was terribly short lived.

Moel hebog
In my delirious, sweaty state, I almost forgot that the round included the pathetic ‘peak’ of Y Gyrn. After a slight detour and some serious off piste steep walking, I got to the top and gazed up in despair at the un-pathed boulder field that was to be my route up Moel Lefen. Perhaps on another day I’d have chosen a more accessible route but as it was, the subsequent scrambling broke me. After arriving at a fence 100m or so up, still not a path was in sight. Felling absolutely spent, and having toyed with the idea for a few hours, a combination of post Morocco fever, an increasing lack of determination, and the fact that I was very behind pace wise, meant that I decided to call it a day here. I simply couldn’t be bothered with all this walking and had a long, enjoyable rest. After descending a well-known forestry route to Rhyd Ddu, I set up camp in a lakeside campsite and had a pleasant yet seemingly sub-zero night.

The start of the Nantle ridge
Over the next few days I decided to explore north Wales and relax, for a change. Caernarfon Castle along with the walled town was pretty stunning, something that couldn’t be said for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. After walking over the Menai Bridge, spending some time in Llandudno and buying a heavily reduced coat in Trespass, I walked to Colwyn Bay via the Little Orme in very pleasant conditions and hopped my very cheap, advanced train back to Bristol.

Caernarfon from Nantle
The challenge is certainly do-able, camping. But next time a much more stringent plan with predicted timings and distances is without doubt required, and five full walking days. Also a serious level of fitness is required so some training would come in handy. Before next time I’d try and explore the Mowlyns a bit as the nav there is apparently quite tough, in comparison. All in all it was a great trip with superb weather, and I couldn’t recommend North Wales in the summer more highly (just don’t forget it’s not the lake bagging season and camp high to avoid the midges!). 

Here are some more pictures:

Looking north towards Moel Eilio and the Glyders

Caernarfon Castle 

The Menai Bridge

The Menai Straits

The famous station house

Llandudno and the Great Orme

Little Orme Quarry

A very small charch