Thursday, November 17, 2016

David Craig: Thoughts on Climbing. Audio Interview

I was delighted to receive a link from a Christian Shaw to an interview he had conducted with one of my favourite climbing writers, David Craig. I've had the pleasure of meeting and climbing with David and had the honour of doing a couple of first ascents with him here in north Wales.For a Scottish climber best known for his English Lake District climbs, it was nice to be able to show him what our local crags had to offer. Particularly- as accompanied by Harold and Neville Drasdo- we sampled some of the local esoterica and showed him that even here in a relatively small area like north Wales, we still have some out of the way crags where only the odd sheep and crow disturb the peace.

By coincidence, I had only that morning put out a Featured Archive Post of David's- 'At the Corrie of the Black Raven', which was a poignant reflection on coming to terms with the end of a climbing life. Anyway...enough of the chatter. Enjoy the rich Aberdonian tones of a master wordsmith by clicking on the link below.

David Craig: Thoughts on Climbing: (Christian Shaw Soundcloud)


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Outdoor Action Camera: Canon Powershot G Series

Left-the later G11 Powershot, Right, an early G5 which was launched in 2003. The G5 became the template for the successful G series cameras from the 2006 G7 onwards.
What is the best camera for the outdoor activist? I don’t mean which camera takes the best pictures. Although ‘best’ is very subjective when it comes to photography. One person’s ’Wow...that’s totally stunning!!!’ is another ‘Meh...bit chocolate boxy for me!’. Similarly with film photography, especially photographs taken with cameras which fall into the Lomo category. Lomo LC-A’s themselves plus Holgas, Dianes etc. Some love the light leaks, vignetting and intense saturation.To others its just a bad photograph!

No...what I was considering is which camera -or range of cameras- tick the most boxes with regard to photo quality, versatility, compactness, useful features etc...all wrapped up in an aesthetically pleasing style? Most people will have their own opinions based on their own experiences but my own favourite is the Canon Powershot G series of super compacts. Remarkably, The G series began life way back in 2000 when the 3mp G1 was launched. Since that time they have been 12 G series camera and 7 GX series. The GX’s are a tad more refined with larger sensors and a larger price!

The Powershot G’s are to my eye, one of the most attractive super compacts on the market. Very retro, with film camera style dials and hot shoes and built like a proverbial tank! The camera body itself is old school metal with plastic reserved for the buttons and switches. When you pick it up you’ll notice the difference in weight between the camera and its rivals from Sony, Panasonic, Olympus and Nikon. It’s heavy man! That might not make it ideal as a climbing camera where a tiny compact like the Pentax Optio’s proves itself a perfect crag rat camera. For general outdoor stuff though, the G’s are small enough to put in a fleece pocket and with the additional refinements that come with a tried and tested super compact, it will take a better shot. Photographs taken on the G series have graced the front pages of outdoor magazine, guidebooks and websites the world over.

G11 left and G5 right with the popular flip out screen which was dropped in later models to the consternation of many G series aficionados.

My own first G series was the G9. Probably one of Canon’s best selling G series powershots. I loved it and used it a hell of a lot more than my big Nikon DSLR but unfortunately, I dropped it on a hard surface and smashed the rear screen. Even then, it still took photographs! I briefly had an older G7 which was going cheap on eBay. Despite a scratched lens and an alarming clunk when you retracted the lens of full zoom, it still took pretty good shots. I even sold it on on eBay at a profit. That’s the thing with these cameras. You can buy second hand and sell it on for a later model and providing you’ve looked after it, you can often get back what you paid for it. They really hold their value and are sought after.

Since then, two more G series powershots have been acquired to bulk out my heaving collection of film and digital cameras. My camera of choice for wandering the hills or shorelines of north Wales is the G11. Introduced in 2009, the G11 was the last camera in the series to offer a flip out screen which you can use as a traditional screen or reverse to protect. The G11 reversed the Powershot trend for more and more pixels and dropped down from the G10‘s 12mp to 10mp but compensated with a bigger sensor. Last week, I was waiting for a bus and popped in one of those Cash Converter shops where you can often find some nice cameras going cheap, although I always think of the poor soul who was reduced to selling his or her camera for peanuts in establishments like this!

In the display cabinet was an old G5. Introduced in 2003 and using one of those antique flash memory cards, this 5mb camera was in fact, in appearance, very much in the G series tradition. In fact you could say that the G5 became the template for all the Powershots which followed. This G5, despite being that bit bigger than my G11, was remarkably similar right down to the rear flip out screen. Early G Series cameras had a grey plastic body and the G6 which followed- apart from an ill judged design aberration- maintained the grey look. However, from the G7 onwards every Canon Powershot G series camera-including the X range- have been instantly identifiable by their chunky retro look and black body.

The Rivals taken on the 2003, 5mp Canon Powershot G5.

To be honest, I had bought the G5 to sell on as I could see on my phone that even this old Powershot was selling for three or four times what Cash Converters were selling it for. However, this weekend I gave it a run out before listing it and was delighted in the overall quality of the images. Here was an old school compact packing just 5mp on board and lacking the features which later Powershots would offer but like a lot of small mega pixel cameras from the early part of the century...Pentax Optios, Olympus Camedias and Nikon Coolpix's, the quality of the photographs quite often matches those of modern compact cameras.  Makes you think doesn't it?

Canon Powershot G Series Wikipeadia page

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lliwedd...Theatre of Nightmares

The classic 'Avalanche'.
I recently caught the late Jim Curran’s 1979 film based on Menlove Edward’s Essay ‘A Great Effort’ on You-Tube.(Linked below) This short, 17 minute film shows Jim following in Menlove’s footsteps and soloing an unnamed route on Lliwedd as the essay is narrated. It appears to be a cold winter’s day with some snow on the ledges and despite Jim being swaddled in the fibre pile garments, it must have been bitter, hence I think the rope he was tied on to was not being dragged behind-as the essay suggests was the case with Menlove-but played out to an attentive off camera partner.

The sombre nature of the film captures the saturnine aspect of Lliwedd perfectly. The vast 1000‘ north east facing cliff- popular a hundred years ago-has not surprisingly fallen into the realm of the seeker of solitude and climbing esoterica. That’s not to say that people don’t still climb in any numbers on Lliwedd, but compared to somewhere like the Tremadog cliffs, its a veritable backwater these days. Lliwedd was the first cliff in the UK to have a dedicated climbing guidebook. Archer Thomson’s 1909, Climbers Club published work. A few years after completion, he committed suicide by poison. The next climber to take up the Lliwedd baton was Menlove Edwards himself. His guidebook and linked essays are of course considered classics within the genre these days.

Menlove-like his Lliwedd predecessor,-also committed suicide by poison. Enter Harold Drasdo in the late 60‘s. His 1971 guide holds the CC record for being the slowest selling guidebook in the club’s history. Taking 30 years to sell out! You’re getting the picture I presume. If you want to escape the summer bank holiday crag queues head to Lliwedd!

Thankfully Harold wasn’t driven to suicide by the task and lived on happily into old age. Kelvin Neal’s 1998 guide was the last guidebook to Lliwedd- Just four in over 100 years! With the CC rationalizing its guidebook production in light of commercial competition and the trend for climbers to buy ‘Greatest Hits’ compendiums rather than dedicated guidebooks to specific cliffs, it’s quite possible that there will never be another Lliwedd guidebook published. Instead the great sulking cliff beloved of tweedy Edwardians,will only live on cyberspace as a digital guide.

I must admit, Lliwedd is not a venue I have ever warmed to-literally! It’s always been cold there and the terrain thereabouts just doesn’t lend itself to enjoyable climbing. Loose, vegetated, long run outs and holds which always seem to run against the grain so to speak. Mind you, I’ve probably only ever climbed there about three or four times and inevitably the so called classics. Horned Crag, Avalanche, Slanting Buttress and maybe something else? It was obviously a forgettable experience.

One of my most striking memories of Lliwedd was not actually related to climbing there but visiting the crag on a dank day when our plans had to be aborted. Standing under Menlove’s Central Buttress, we plotted a course up the tumbling defile as the first spots of rain began to speckle our kags. Within a few minutes the heavens had opened and a deluge of biblical proportions fell from the black sky. Above Central Buttress, the cliff funnels into a tight amphitheatre and this feature-acting as a trap- channelled the elemental deluge down and over the rim of the hanging cwm. Totally submerging the route under a foaming torrent of water. Central Route had become a waterfall which would have put Rhaeadr Ewynnol, (Swallow Falls) to shame.

Anyone climbing the route at the time would not only have drowned but would have been dashed to pieces by the force of the maelstrom. Needless to say, shaken and not a little stirred by what might have been, we fled down the hillside to the sanctuary of the PyG and blessed the deadly sin of sloth which had led to our late start. Yes...Lliwedd; as the saying goes..’been there, done that and bought the T shirt! I'm not sure I'll ever return but never say never I guess.

Jim Curran's 1979 'A Great Effort'.