Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia...fifty years on!

John Cleare and Tony Smythes’ 1966 Rock Climbers in action in Snowdonia has long achieved iconic status in the field of mountaineering literature. With original copies fetching an arm and a leg on eBay, the news that the book is to be re-printed as a 50th anniversary addition-complete with new original photos which did not appear in the original book-will be welcomed by those who yearn to own the book but whose wallets won’t stretch far enough to buy a rare second hand edition.

The pre-publication blurb put out by John Cleare himself reads........ 

by John Cleare and Tony Smythe
To be published early in January 2016 by Mountain Camera.
Similar to the original 1966 edition, if rather fatter, it contains over a hundred of John Cleare’s photographs in a new layout – the original thirty nine plus many others that ‘got away’ in 1966 – together with Tony Smythe’s original text and a few other interesting additions.
The new edition may be purchased on-line (using credit/debit card) after November 15th 2015
direct from the printers at
in hardback at £25 or paperback at £20
plus £3.50 post and packing.

Climbing writer Steve Dean wrote a compelling appreciation of the work in the Climber’s Club journal on the book's 40th anniversary, which was republished in two parts on Footless Crow. See the links below.

I must admit that I’m one of those who has never owned the original work so I’m looking forward to seeing this. More especially those unpublished photographs.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

RWE/Innogy's Conwy Falls Scheme:Dark Undercurrents!

Anyone travelling around the Snowdonia National Park recently, can’t have failed to notice the rash of so called renewable energy projects springing up. Two piped hydro schemes are in progress in the Llanberis Pass as we speak. Revealing ugly scars searing the mountainside as diggers carve out a course for the pipelines to follow to the pumping houses. Around the corner in Nant Gwynant, The National Trust already have an operational power plant installed. Utilising the cascading waters which flow down from Cwm Tregalen beneath Yr Wyddfa to reach the Afon Glasllyn.

Further north the £100m Glyn Rhonwy pumped hydro electric scheme above Llanberis has Gwynedd’s bovine local politicians falling over themselves to back this controversial development which will provide huge subsidised profits for the developer. Currently ‘Quarry Battery Company’, although these developers change the names and indeed the ownership of these companies as often as the weather changes in Snowdonia!

Of all the current projects in development and planning, none is more controversial than the quite frankly insane project to dam the beautiful Afon Conwy between The Fairy Glen and the Conwy Falls to provide a frankly pathetic amount of electricity. The developer not surprisingly is German Energy giant RWE using ‘RWE Innogy’ as its ironic ‘green’ handle. RWE were recently revealed as Europe’s biggest atmospheric polluter through its coal power plants, is currently trashing nearby Clocaenog Forest. Building a 33 turbine wind farm after the Welsh Government waved through the development despite the warnings from conservationists and environmentalists that the development would see the habitats of rare species at risk and increase the risk of flooding in one of the UK’s most ‘at risk’ areas. The Welsh Government of course essentially owns the forest through its quango, ‘Natural Resources Wales. The cosy new name for The Forestry Commission.

To get back to the Betws y Coed development. RWE want to construct a dam which will contain the free flow of the river to feed turbines sited beneath the dammed area.(Or should that be ‘The Damned area!) After all, ecologists are warning that the raised water levels will destroy rare plants and insect species whose habitat is effectively a Welsh Rain Forest. Previously untouched by development due to its inaccessibility.

To quote from The Snowdonia Society...

Conwy Falls and Fairy Glen is one of the top ten sites in Wales for the rare lower plants – mosses and liverworts – which only live in such ravines.  Together these sites form the most important areas of ‘Celtic Rainforest’ south of the Scottish Highlands.  Every single one of the ‘Top Ten’ sites either has a hydro-electric scheme already installed or has an application for a hydro-electric scheme in the planning system.
The Snowdonia Society has submitted a detailed objection to the Conwy Falls scheme, highlighting lack of employment opportunities for local people, construction-phase impacts on local businesses and damage to irreplaceable natural features of the river corridor.
Meanwhile, our Freedom of Information request  to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) revealed that conservation specialists have grave concerns over the Conwy Falls proposal which were not reflected in the official NRW response. We are pressing the National Park Authority and NRW to review their approaches.

Despite the opposition of environmentalists, local people, anglers, canoeists and groups like the aforementioned Snowdonia Society, sadly, going on current developments which have been waved through, I’m expecting this crazy scheme will get the nod as well. It appears that a developer only has to whisper the magic word ‘renewable’, and Abracadabra the planning application will receive the stamp of approval from our frankly inept and ignorant local politicians who are putty in the hands of these slick fat cat developers!

As Bob Dylan once sang...'Money doesn't talk it swears!'

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Still crazy after all these years!

'Get off my land!: Photo Daily Post
If anything acts as a red rag to a bull for a mountain activist, its the insensitivity of landowners and farmers to the access rights of the general public. As someone who was turfed off Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) a couple of years ago because I was crossing land on the lower slopes above Beddgelert which, I was informed, was ‘private land’...whatever happened to the countryside rights of way act?...then being corralled by farmers onto eroded trade routes up the mountain rather being allowed to roam free, is highly irritating to say the least!

The story in the Daily Post this weekend, detailing how one farmer, Dafydd Morris who own 1200 acres of mountain, wants walkers to book in advance to walk up Yr Wyddfa and keep dogs off altogether demonstrates the incredible gall of someone who is paid by the taxpayer in ill conceived generous subsidies to overstock the uplands with sheep who then graze the mountain to the bone-thereby creating a bare ecological desert, devoid of trees, shrubs and wild flowers-would be laughable if it wasn’t so much an insult to our intelligence.

On the social media, others have pointed out that Mr Morris and his family are only too happy to exploit the walking community through their Halfway House Cafe and bunkhouse while leaving the watercourses and fences on the land gathering black silage bags and general agricultural rubbish which he/they can’t be bothered to dispose of sensibly. The term including ‘pot, kettle and black’ spring to mind!

Another observation made by Mr Morris and his ilk's critics,is the idea that the farming community are guardians of the countryside which is patently risible in the circumstances. The term used by farmers ‘the land is our factory floor’ could not be more appropriate given the way it is treated and left in places to resemble a council tip! Ecologically, the land would benefit enormously by being taken out of production for sheep farming and left to re-wild naturally. The Wild Ennerdale project in The Lake District is one such enlightened scheme where the valley which was previously heavily planed with conifers, is being allowed to return to its natural state. Only the black Galloway cattle who keep the bracken down and allow saplings to push on through to maturity, are given a free rein in the valley. Sheep are thankfully kept at bay.

Only those with a superficial BBC Countryfile view of the rural areas would see the land as it is and as it has been manufactured by traditional farming as ‘natural’. The irony being that farmers are allowed to operate outside of the normal economic principles which define a free market economy and its dynamic regulatory principles of supply and demand. Overstocking the uplands to rake in the subsidies for a product which is then maintained at an artificially high price-have you seen the price of lamb!!-just highlights how crazy the UK and EU agricultural policies are.

Hopefully, in the future the Welsh government will gain more powers in line with Scotland to reform land ownership and allow charities, communities and environmental groups to buy out dinosaurs like Dafydd Morris and allow the uplands and rough bounds to be managed sustainably or return to nature in a managed but natural way as in Ennerdale. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Welsh Mountain Goats targeted by 'Snipers'

Being a lover of the great outdoors and genuine mountain activities, it hardly needs saying that like most activists I hold the hunting, shooting fraternity in the deepest contempt. Anyone who gets pleasure killing or maiming an innocent creature for fun just has to have suffered some deep, malignant psychological trauma in their past. More likely as a victim of childhood abuse and as such, the abuse of animals-and children- is more often than not a way these poor people deal with their historical trauma. That being said, it’s still impossible to feel any sympathy for these low lifes. Whether it is a bull elephant or a pheasant, using a gun, crossbow, snare or trap is still an incredibly cowardly and contemptible act. 

The latest wheeze from this chav fraternity is the shooting of our wild mountain goats in Snowdonia. Some AH called Ian Hartford from an organisation laughingly called ‘Team Wild’!  Team Wild indeed, If you call yourself a man let’s see you tackle a Cloggy rock climb in the rain and paddle down the Fairy Glen in spate! But I digress; what this contemptible outfit is offering, is the opportunity to kill a mountain goat minding its own business in the hills. Of course mountain goats are a part of the furniture in our mountains and a sighting never fails to lift the spirits. They are so used to people that you can inevitably get pretty close to them and therein lies the rub. Shooting a fairly tame mountain goat is just about as pathetically pointless as the people who would shoot them.

There is no skill involved; no days and nights spent tracking and stealing up on the unsuspecting animal. Just wander up onto Tryfan with a rifle and shoot the poor creature innocently munching away on vegetation. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

The argument will go up that this is controlled culling to reduce the population. I’m sure some of the organisations that are charged with protecting our mountains like the SNPA and the appalling reactionary National Trust will both be happy to collude with the hunters. The irony being of course, that there is no attempts being made to reduce the real ecological villains of the peace—sheep!

These ovine desert makers are left to graze our mountains to the bone and we are told by the Farmers, SNPA and NT that it’s sheep farming that has made the landscape we know and love today. Well then, it’s certainly shaped the Snowdonia mountain environment but not in a natural way. The ecology has been basically raped by sheep. Without them, the natural environment would regenerate and we would see a return of native trees and shrubs colonising the foothills and valleys.

US climber Tommy Caldwell famously kicked a Kazakhstan hostage taker off a cliff. Perhaps we could do something similar if we see a rifle wielding moron poised over the north Gully!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The eighties Lomo revival continues....

You wait thirty years for a Lomo LC-A and four come along at once!

A few weeks ago I blogged about my reacquaintance- after nearly thirty years - with the iconic 80’s Soviet 35mm compact film camera, The Lomo LC-A. I’d just bought a ‘spares or repair’ Lomo on eBay from Germany and was hoping that I had fixed the ‘sticky shutter’ which affects a lot of old Lomos.

I was unaware at the time that the main problem is poor battery connections. The battery terminals become dirty and corroded, hence the connection is poor and insufficient to ‘fire’ the shutter blades. Since then I’ve bought another FOUR Lomo LC-A’s; all spares and repairs and all but one with shutter problems. All have been fixed by simply cleaning the terminals, placing a small tablet of silver foil in the battery compartment which improves the connection and ensures the three small watch type batteries are a tight snug fit.

So far I’ve taken a couple of rolls of 200asa colour print film with the first two cameras and had them developed in Boots. Nothing fancy or professional in the development department! The first batch back had that typical Lomo look which first fired the excitement of those Austrian art students who rediscovered the camera and loved in low tech, lo-fi results.

Most prints had a strange but attractive blue tint and that typical ‘tunnel effect’ vignetting. Lacking the definition of a print taken by a decent SLR or Super Compact, the lomo images exist in another photographic dimension, and to compare a photograph taken on a Lomo with a shot taken on a high quality film SLR is like comparing a painting by Matisse with a Jack Vettriano.

I’m looking forward to picking up the images taken by the third camera tomorrow and receiving Lomo number five later this week in the expectancy that I can fix the shutter in the same simple way. Strangely enough, three of the cameras have been bought from photographic internet dealers and I’m surprised that they are not aware of this easy fix?
Obviously I don’t need five LC-A’s so I intend to keep a couple and re-sell the rest as good condition working cameras.

Mind you, I can see this becoming something of a ritual. Buying, fixing and reselling Lomos. I  don’t think I could retire early on the proceeds but it should fund further purchases of analogue cameras like the Canon, Olympus, Beirette and Lomo Auto Sampler 35mm cameras I have bought in the last week!