After joining Romsey Climbers, I got into Trad climbing shortly after that (mainly because of the club trips), but apart from a one day course down in Cornwall I only ever really knew the basics of Trad climbing, and the odd tips and tricks gained whilst climbing with other members of the club.
So what was the issue? I could climb at places like Fairy Cave, and I could set up a simple anchor and abseil back down. But after a few little hiccups I became acutely aware I was missing knowledge of what to do in certain situations, that whilst rare, did have a habit of cropping up when I least expected it.
To give you a couple of examples:
● I managed to get stuck on a beach, unable to climb out with the tide rolling in.
● I climbed an HXS (harder than an HVS) assuming it was a smudge harder than a HS. I will never climb one of those again.
● Climbed to the top of a route only to find a wide expanse of grass and nothing else, then wondered how to get an anchor set up.
To improve my trad life expectancy I have done a few climbing courses with Sam and his Team from Limitless Experiences. And here was my experience of the last one:-
Limitless Experiences is based in North Wales, so I called a few friends, booked a campsite and set off.
The day always starts at a cafe: last month there were 6 of us, some from the Romsey Climbers, and some were friends from work (which worked out at 2 per instructor). We started with round the table introductions, and talked about what we wanted to get from the day.
Sam and his Team can and will instruct you in anything climbing related, but for our group, this time we wanted to set belays on multi-pitch routes, and go through all the different anchor type, and finally if time permitted, cover what to do in an emergency. After all the H&S paperwork was signed off, we headed to Little Tryfan, a few miles up the road.
For the first climb of the day the instructor led and belayed us, and assessed whether we could do what we said we could. Then showed us the various anchors he was using, and why he had set them up in that way, and some rope management skills. After a quick abseil back down it was our turn to lead, whilst the instructor was on a static rope next to us talking us through the process, commenting on gear selection and placement. I was totally at ease with someone there talking me through it, even though I was leading on a flaky bit of damp rock. After my lead climb, my second came up, clipped in, swapped gear and off they went up the next pitch. We managed another climb on a different route to ram home all we had learnt.
After three climbs and due to the temperature rising as the sun came out, we were spent, but we still had time to go through a couple of safety exercises at ground level, the first being how to lock off a belay plate so you can let go of the rope and make an emergency call if ever the need arose. The second bit was how to escape the rope system entirely, just in case you had an injured leader and could not lower them down and needed to go off to get phone signal to call for help. After that we all headed off back to the cafe for an ice cream.
So in summary, having done the course I am a more confident climber, I know which anchor systems to use in which situation, and the pros and cons of each. I know I can escape the system if I need to, and as always, I also had a great day.
P.S. I have done several courses with Sam over the years, he has also taught me other things like how to pull up a second up a pitch, (but now I know how much hard work that is I won’t be bothering). He has also taught me how to belay an inexperienced person.
P.S.S. Sam is sometimes at Golden Gecko or on the odd RoCs trip, so it’s worth chatting to him about what he has to offer.
If you are interested, book direct with Sam @ Limitless Experiences. Sam is a valued RoCs member.