Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Borrowdale guidebook:The future is now?

The new Fell and Rock Club’s Borrowdale guidebook has created a bit of a brouhaha in the climbing world on account of it following the commercial ‘greatest hits’ guidebook formula and producing a work that is big in size, big in price (£26.50)! but small in content. In fact compared to the 2000 guide, the latest ‘rucksack size’ jumbo edition has lost over 500 routes! And not just routes but entire crags have been banished from print and sentenced to remain in fading print or hidden in historical Internet files for all eternity. Unless by some miracle, future climbers suddenly rediscover the adventure bug, turns their backs on the indoor wall, the bouldering circuit and the sports routes and go up country once again.

In the Lakes as here in North Wales, trad climbing as we know it, has been dying a slow death for decades. Hundreds of crags, more especially in remoter areas like Mid Wales or the Carneddau, have disappeared under vegetation. Even on relatively popular crags which sport once classic routes,  the majority of these routes have to be regularly gardened back to life by a handful of enthusiasts who nevertheless, appear to be fighting a losing battle.The irony is, there are probably more climbers active today than in its perceived golden age which in itself is subject to debate but could be seen as the post war decades until the new century.

For myself as someone who after completing many of the north and mid Wales classics, gravitated towards the unexplored back of beyond crags which offered rich new routing potential, it is hard to understand why any climber would forgo these quiet pleasures. The delight which comes from peeling back the green mantle which encases pale rock. Revealing a sinuous line which disappears into the blue sky.When a new route finally ‘goes’, there’s no feeling like it. I was telling the Lakeland climber Paul Ross-who appears underwhelmed by the new guidebook as it happens- about the routes I’d done in the Arenigs. In common with most routes done there, almost certainly never repeated. Paul said of his hundreds, if not thousands of new routes both here in in the US, that he wasn’t at all bothered if they were never repeated because the pleasure was in the adventure. In pushing the envelope as far as he could and if it all clicked into place, brilliant!

Whatever the climbers’ motivation, the fact remains that our traditional climbs and crags are disappearing fast. When popular crags like Tremadog require BMC organised crag cleaning days then what hope is there for Arenig’s Ddaer Fawr or Buttermere’s Sheepbone Buttress? As for guidebooks; the demand these days is towards providing details of those still popular crags with a limited selection of what are considered the crags best routes. These are inevitably a handful of two and three star routes with unstarred and single starred routes left out.  What we are left with are guides like the current Borrowdale Bumper fun book. Except it isn’t really that 'Bumper’- apart from the format and eye watering price tag!

In truth, trad climbing as we know it, seems to have gone beyond the point of no return. An activity which once was seen as the very heart and soul of rock climbing, increasingly the lonely preserve of the dwindling band of greybeards. Lugging their old Karrimor sacks over arthritic shoulders and following faint paths into high cwms. Where only ravens and the odd stray sheep remain. Climbing’s desert island castaways.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Outdoor activists urged to boycott the Royal Oak in Betws y Coed

The crescendo of anger directed towards the Royal Oak Hotel in Betws y Coed, North Wales,reached fever pitch in the last few`days after the widely publicized brutal killing by kitchen staff, of a small, young stray kitten. Bludgeoned to death with a rolling pin. The hotel’s Stables bar is a popular haunt for outdoor activists. Mountain bikers doing the Marin Trail in the surrounding Gwydr Forest, Climbers either climbing on the Cyrau cliffs above the village or passing through en route to the main Snowdonia cliffs and walkers who hike the forest trails.
The anger directed at the hotel has be amplified by the actions of the management who at first tried to cover up the crime. Putting out a` statement describing the cat as ‘vermin’ and claiming in had been humanely euthanized, before finally admitting that their staff had been culpable in an horrific act of animal cruelty and sacking the main perpetrators after the growing chorus of anger.

Bizarrely, there is as yet, no sign of either the hotel or the perpetrators`being prosecuted by either the RSPCA or North Wales Police, despite the fact that bludgeoning a 16 week old cat to death after putting it in a`bag, falls very much within the laws which define animal cruelty.

As someone who regularly used the Stables bar on a weekly basis, I will certainly never set foot in the place again and it appears that there are many in the outdoor world who feel the same. For anyone who has the merest scintilla of compassion and intelligence then it defies comprehension how another human being could commit so vile an act against a terrified small creature.

Like many in the outdoor world,I hope those walkers,climbers and mountain bikers reading this, will share my own revulsion and keep well clear of The Royal Oak/Stables establishment and instead,patronize one of the many excellent pubs in the area where battering defenceless animals is off the menu!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Canada Goose Parkas and the howl of the Coyote

It’s the must have winter apparel of the Hollywood glitterati- from Morgan Freeman to Daniel Craig- and the well heeled thirty somethings living in England’s metropolitan Ya Ya land. You need an Arctic winter coat when your out and about in Henley on Thames! It is the 'Canada Goose' down parka which will usually set you back around £800+ for a standard parka made in the company’s Toronto factory. It was featured last night on the UK’s BBC ‘Fake Britain’ programme where a company spokesman bemoaned the import of cheap  Chinese copies which patently do not bear scrutiny when it comes to the undoubted quality of the genuine item.

However, whatever the qualities of this expensive winter coat, there is a dark and bloody element with sadly taints the product, the company, and those who choose to wear one. Unlike the highly popular North Face Macmurdo Parka which uses faux fur and humanly sourced goose down, the Canada Goose range use real Coyote fur. Trapped in gruesome, steel jawed sprung traps which cause immeasurable suffering to the animal before they are dispatched by gun before being stripped of their coat and dumped in a hellish mound of dead animals.

In recent years as the Canada Goose parka has become ever more popular, it has fueled a huge counterfeit trade which not surprisingly- given the price of a real CG parka- sells poorly made fakes through eBay at prices which betray their dubious origins. Made in the land of fake crap- China- many of these shoddy copies use dog fur brutally removed from live animals by boiling them alive in vats to enable the fur to be peeled off easily. It’s a brutal and grim trade that is being driven by fashion and snobbery. Both the original Canada Goose parkas with their coyote fur trimmed hoods and the counterfeit copies using equally barbarically sourced animal fur, have seen the market for their products grow considerably in recent years. Despite this grim production element which shows such a blatant disregard for animal welfare,receiving wide publicity in recent years.

As the popularity for Canada Goose Parkas increases, so does the demand for Chinese fakes. However, unlike the goose down used in parkas like the North Face which uses down and feathers as a by product from birds dispatched for food production, not surprisingly, the Chinese are not that fussy about ripping feathers and down from live birds.

Despite the fact that the wearing of fur coats has become widely regarded as ethically unsound and a fashion no-no for those who consider themselves as animal lovers, remarkably this element of the fur trade is thriving, thanks to the Canada Goose Company and the production of a garment considered to be outdoor apparel.

Those considering buying one of these parkas need to ask themselves. ‘Is any garment- no matter how functional, trendy and qualitative in design and production- worth an animals' suffering?’ Of course it isn’t! Save yourself several hundred pounds and buy alternative parka made by an ethical company like Patagonia or North Face. You know it makes sense!


Protection of fur bearing animals


The Dodo