May 26, 2016

Big Wall Climbing Course at Plas Y Brenin in North Wales

A medium term goal I have for myself is to climb El Capitan in Yosemite and in particular via one of the main routes called the Nose. With that in mind I took the first step towards this objective by attending the Big Wall Course at Plas Y Brenin in North Wales over a weekend at the beginning of May (the course is run twice a year at the moment). The course overview states:

If you’re planning a Big Walling trip for the first time, or wanting to fine tune what you’ve already learnt on your first epic, this weekend is worth its weight in gold. The weekend course is crammed full of practical instruction and advice on aid climbing, bivouacking, hanging stances and hauling. Exactly what you need to help you get the most from your trip.

I’ve learnt numerous forms of climbing such as bouldering, top rope, sport, trad and ice but one form of climbing that is required on a big wall climb is that of aiding. This involves the use of etriers (ladders) to lead a route and then jumaring up a rope when seconding.

The Course covered: -

  • Basic aid climbing techniques
  • Stance management, and fixing ropes
  • Jumaring - a variety of systems
  • Hauling systems
  • Pendulums and tension traverses
  • Pegging and de-pegging
  • Marginal gear - mashies, rurps, sky hooks, beaks
  • Bivouacing skills with and without porta ledges
  • A review of Big Wall areas

Here’s a couple of pics from the course, you can take a look at all the pictures here

Tim Neill aid climbing using etriers

Picture 1: Tim Neill shows us how to lead an aid climb using Etriers (Dave Kenyon belaying)

Aid Climbing using Etriers

Picture 2: Indoor aid climbing practise on Etriers

Richard Byrom jumaring up a tower using ascenders

Picture 3: Jumaring up a tower using ascenders

Aid climbing at the RAC Crag near Capel Curig

Picture 4: Aid climbing outdoors on trad gear at the RAC Crag near Capel Curig

Below is a short clip of Tim Neil showing us how to aid climb using etriers. I’ve also created a playlist for all of the video clips I created here on YouTube

I have to say that this course was superb, we had three really good and experienced instructors, namely Tim Neill, Dave Kenyon and Sam Farnsworth . Furthermore the facilities at Plas Y Brenin were great and overall it was a really enjoyable experience.

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May 25, 2016

PADI Night Dive Specialty - Leybourne Lakes

Last week I undertook the first of my dives to obtain the PADI Night Dive Specialty. In doing this specialty I’m trying to broaden my diving skills and also get more familiar with the equipment utilised.

According to PADI, Scuba diving at night teaches you to focus on what you can see in your light’s beam, on controlling your buoyancy by feel, on staying with your buddy and on paying attention to details you may overlook during the day. During three night dives, you’ll practice:

  • Light handling and communication techniques.
  • Entering, exiting and navigating in the dark.
  • Identifying how plants and animals differ or change behaviour at night.

The dive site utilised was Leybourne Lakes run by the Watersports Centre situated within the Leybourne Lakes Country Park. Their site states there are two diving areas in the 30 acres of water. The smaller area has 2 hard surface entry/exit points, 4 underwater platforms, 3 boat wrecks, gnome garden, life size statues, varieties of marine life pike, carp, tench, perch, eels, mitten crabs and terrapins. The depth is 9.5m. The map below shows the key features that would be of interest to divers (© Sellwood, published with permission).

Leybourne Lakes Scuba Dive Map

Being the first of the qualifying dives for the night specialty we did some basic skills primarily centred around the usage of our torches. I found the dive to be really enjoyable and it was the first time I had used my new Hammond HDS Pro-Elite Dry Suite which I’m pleased to say kept me quite dry and warm. I also got to use a new Oceanic Deluxe weight belt I had recently purchased and found this to be very comfortable and effective.

Below is a screen shot of the dive profile taken on my Suunto D4i Dive Computer, it was a 31 minute dive which reached a maximum depth of 7m and was at a reasonable temperature of 13C.

PADI Night Dive at Leybourne Lakes in Kent

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May 25, 2016

Hammond Diving Dry Suit - HDS Pro Elite

I obtained my PADI Dry Suit Diver Specialty quite soon after I qualified as an Open Water diver as I do a lot of diving in the UK and this type of suit is much more suitable for diving in colder waters. Dry suits feature seals and heavier insulating materials to keep the wearer dry in cold water conditions whereas wet suits let water in and are used in warmer water temperatures.

Until recently I’ve been used a rented dry suit which wasn’t always ideal since quite often the suit would leak and became more of a wet suit. Certainly some of this was down to my technique but quite often I felt the suit just didn’t fit me well. With this in mind and considering that I was planning to continue diving in the long term I decided to invest in a custom made dry suit. Having done a bit of research I eventually decided to get a suit from a company called Hammond, a locally run family business here in Kent. I liked the idea of supporting a British business and being local meant that the servicing and support for any problems would be easier.

Richard Byrom in his HDS Pro Elite Dry SuitThe suit I decided to get was the HDS Pro Elite, pictured here. Hammonds web site states this is for the more experienced technical diver with a robust Cordura to Cordura fabric for a longer life and is fitted with a wealth of extras as standard. The extras/custom specifications I went for were: -

  • Neoprene socks and rock boots – I was told this would be better than fitted boots when it came to maintaining my buoyancy
  • Self Donning – to allow me to be more independent
  • Comfort zip

In addition to the dry suit I also bought a 4th Element Undersuit. Another nice extra supplied by Hammond was a suit bag. Hammond Dry Suit Sports Bag

I’m looking forward to using this suit in the future. I have a pool dive scheduled to test it out before I jump into a lake or the sea.

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