Monday, December 10, 2012

Desperados...The Welsh winter climber as an internet nerd

Moel Lyfnant summit in the Arenigs

It's that time of year again in North Wales. A time when the winter climber, spends more time on the internet than in the mountains. Scanning every available weather forecast. From the Met Office to some pine cone observing fruit cake who forecasts to their delight, the arrival of sub arctic conditions by the end of the week. The climbing forums too are a popular gathering point for those for whom the expectation of perfect conditions are a seasonal triumph of hope over experience.

Last year in North Wales was pretty grim if you were a white warrior. Not so bad if you had to get to work and get your kids to school though! As is more often than not the case, it was generally mild and wet. The December of 2011,by contrast was exceptional. Temperatures hardly getting above freezing during the entire month and often dropping to minus 15 C. By January however, it was over and the rest of the winter wound down to spring in it's usual dank and mild way.

This year the tabloid rags,The Express and Mail are predicting 'the worst winter for 100 years' based on non existent weather companies. See George Monbiot's piece a while back. I was just looking in on the annual Snowdonia Conditions thread on UKC, and it came as no surprise to see the boys with their toys throwing their rattles out of the pram at the suggestion by one sensible winter enthusiast who put forward an ecological perspective.

"Got to say that I'm saddened at the amount of people getting out on Clogwyn Du just because its rimed. I know some of the harder routes are glorified dry tool routes anyway but Ive just read Andy Mountains blog where someone got out yesterday on Torquing Shit admitting complete unconsolidation in the snow and turf, with no ice. Climbing 2 pitches in one of the most ecologically delicate and sensitive parts of the cliff. Don't you guys read the white guide? Your effect on the flora and fauna up there is devastating, and publishing your climbs just encourages others to "have a go anyway, despite poor conditions".
Not only that its trashing routes for when the conditions do get right- potentially only a few days wait away.

Take a look at the guide,even better- go up there in summer to see the absolute mess your picks and crampons have made of Manx Wall etc.'

Wise words but words which appear to have fallen on deaf ears judging by some of the outraged replies summed up by one poster.... " blah blah blah. Rant rant rant. Just get out there and climb FFS!! '  Why not. Who cares if incredibly rare Alpine plants are trashed, so long as Harry Hotspur and his chums from the Uni MC can wield their big shiny tools.

Why does winter climbing attract more dickheads than any other branch of mountaineering?


  1. Or, to re-frame your question slightly: why does winter climbing seem to attract more self-righteous dickheads who feel inclined to use ukc to comment on conditions even without having touched the routes concerned... than other branches of climbing?

    I offer a couple of reasons, specific to winter climbing and especially pronounced in North Wales:
    1. The limited time-frame to climb, combined with widespread and almost instant access to information about what other people are climbing produces a 'fear of missing out' jealousy amongst internet commentators like your friend.
    2. Ignorance of the routes involved is rife amongst N.Wales winter climbers: unfrozen turf in a gully, which is full knee-deep snow, doesn't equate to the same conditions on a steeper mixed route. Your commentator was in a gully.
    3. The mix of climbers in North Wales - where a number of winter climbers stuck in the 70's still thinking it's all about gulleys, ridges and ice-falls, co-exist alongside a smaller group of mixed climbers who actually go out and climb the harder routes above grade V, have plenty of respect for the rare flora thanks, and don't need lecturing on conditions via the most dire excuse of a climbing forum on the web (ukc).

    The ukc commentator's 'glorified dry-tooling' comment says it all, and completely nullifies any creditability his other points might have.

    Your example of a 'sensible winter enthusiast' is my example of someone throwing uninformed mud at more experienced and responsible winter climbers.

  2. I dont like to comment on these things as they just tend to fan the flames but I feel the need to point out that the Chap who claims to have soloed Tourquing Shit may well have been talking poop as the chaps who were on it said there was no sign of traffic ahead of them and climbed it in good if a little tricky condition. They then abbed as the thaw began to hit... as they are decent winter climbers and above that people.