Hypothermia In The Hills

If you’ve spent any time walking in the Irish hills and mountains, you will be well aware of what mild hypothermia feels like, even if you didn’t fully recognise it at the time.

Hypothermia doesn’t just happen in the depths of winter, in the upland, it can catch us out at any time of year, especially with the rapid changes of weather we are used to.

Prevention is obviously better than cure, so when we are allowed on the hills again we should come prepared.

Catching Hypothermia in the Hills

No matter what the weather is like when we leave the car park, we should always be prepared to expect harsher conditions and carry the right amount and kind of equipment with us.

At the bottom of the page, I’ve listed an appropriate gear list for hiking in Ireland.

But we can all be caught off guard on the hills, so how can we recognise hypothermia as its happening and manage it efficiently, before it becomes more serious.

Below I’ve listed simple and concise explanations to help us in spotting its onset and managing the outcomes.

What is Hypothermia?

To simplify it, Hypothermia is when our body is losing heat faster than it can create heat.

What Causes Hypothermia:

Exposure to cold weather (wind, rain etc) or any condition that decreases heat production or increases heat loss (overexertion, lack of fuel) or a combination of these things.

Signs and symptoms:

Shivering, confusion, putting on clothes or even paradoxically removal of clothing.

Look out for “The umbles”: Mumbles, bumbles, grumbles and stumbles.

What are the stages of hypothermia?

Mild Hypothermia:

We can arrive at a stage of mild hypothermia quite fast and it can be as simple as having reduced circulation, shivering and feeling in a grumpy mood, which may easily go unnoticed by others in our group.

We are still able to move under our own steam, but we need to take positive action to prevent our condition from getting worse.

Medium Hypothermia:

This will be much more noticeable as shivering stops and confusion increases. We will have a lack of coordination, slower breathing, weaker pulse, increased confusion and possibly feeling sleepy.

We will be laboured in our movement and possibly not moving without assistance and we will need to take urgent action.

Severe Hypothermia:

We will probably not be able to move of our own volition or even with assistance.

A weak pulse and difficulty in breathing will be noticeable and we will possibly lose consciousness as our self-defence mechanisms begin to shut our bodies down to protect the brain.

We will be in need of urgent medical attention.

How do I treat Hypothermia?

It’s not as simple as throwing on another layer and that’s it, but there is a simple formula to remember how to treat lesser degrees of Hypothermia

                Fuel + movement = Heat

While this might seem simple, its extremely effective, especially at the early stages, but one without the other is useless. If you give someone fuel but don’t get them moving, then they will continue to get cold.

If you get someone moving, but haven’t given them fuel, they will burn more energy and lose more heat, possibly pushing them into a more advanced stage.

Once in a more developed stage, getting a person moving enough to stay warm might not be easy and I would be seriously considering calling emergency services if this was the case.

If the person can’t move because of an injury or incapacitation, then we should definitely be calling emergency services and making the person as warm as we can while we wait.

Click on this link to read a separate blog about emergency equipment we should be carrying on the hills with us as leisure users.

Treatment for mild hypothermia:

Warm sweetened drinks, food, shelter, warm clothing, physical activity.

Treatment for moderate hypothermia:

Heat blankets, fuel, less strenuous or gentle activity and movement.

Treatment for Severe Hypothermia:

The treatment will have to be administered by trained professionals. A gradual raising of the core temperature, warm IV fluids, peritoneal lavage (a warm fluid-based washing of the abdominal area)

While the above is a concise explanation of Hypothermia I would strongly suggest all active hill users learn as much as possible about the topic.

Early identification of the signs and appropriate treatment is so effective, just please don’t do the “it’ll be grand” approach and solider on.

Id also suggest gaining an outdoor specific first aid qualification too, it might just save a life some time.

I hope the above is useful and please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the points made.


Gear Checklist for Hillwalking In Ireland:

waterproof jacket and trousers. No matter what the forecast is, waterproofs should always be carried. Mountains can create their own weather systems, different from that of the local lowland area. They can also be excellent as a windbreaker layer, even if it’s not raining. The two jackets I use are a North Face Summit Series Goretex jacket and a Columbia Outdry jacket and I really like both. I tend to spend a lot of money on my waterproof jackets and go slightly cheaper on my trousers.

hats, gloves, buff. and spares in a dry bag. I have both expensive items and cheap Penneys items. All will work, just some will work better than others, but the cost doesn’t have to be a barrier.

Baselayer – again you can spend a lot of money or go cheap with generic items, once they are made from material good for wicking sweat then they are good enough. Polyester/merino/bamboo are good, cotton is bad.

hiking boots. On the Irish mountains, we don’t get the perfect quality trails and tracks that you find in other countries so appropriate hiking specific boots with ankle support are essential and runners are just a bad idea. Don’t buy them online either as the fit is everything and a good outdoor shop will be able to help you choose the best fit for you. I personally like La Sportiva boots, they work well for narrower feet, so aren’t for everyone.

warm breathable layers – again you don’t have to buy specific hiking clothing, obviously, purpose-designed clothing will perform better, but any clothing designed to be used for an activity or the outdoors is appropriate, for women gym leggings are a great option instead of trousers. Like baselayers make sure they aren’t cotton or denim. Cotton and Denim don’t dry fast and you can lose a lot of body heat as your system works hard to warm up the cold fabric. This is an issue on a wet day as well as a hot day when sweat covered clothing can sap at our energy levels stealthily.

Spare layers – a warm mid-layer, either fleece layer or a softshell, stored in a dry bag is essential for if the weather changes or if we get cold while stopped.

Hiking socks. Specifically designed hiking socks are expensive, but they last a long time and will help prevent getting blisters and that’s worth any money. I like Bridgedale socks.

food/water/snacks Enough for a long day on the hills, but also consider bringing some “what if” emergency snacks too, in case you are out longer than you intended.

Backpack. A well-designed backpack allows you to carry all the weight on your hips and is designed and cushioned appropriately. It’s sore and frustrating if you carry the load on your shoulders all day and when we are sore and frustrated we make bad decisions in the outdoors. Bad decisions can lead to incidents. I only ever use an Osprey Talon 33 Litre bag for day to day hiking and highly recommend it. It makes sense to buy a bag from a company that only design and make bags as all their research and development goes into that product.

– Trekking Poles. – I always carry a pair when I’m in the outdoors, I don’t always use them, but I always have them with me. At first, they can feel awkward to get used to, but once you are used to them they are excellent for moving efficiently and extending the lifespan of your knees. I use them a lot in descent to assist with a recurring knee injury. They can also be great to give to a nervous companion on steep descents, as a crutch for someone with a light sprain or to use as a splint for an injured arm or leg. I use Black Diamond Trail Poles. All of the above might take some time and cost to put together, so now is as good time as any to start preparing, so that we are ready in advance of needing them. The gear might also seem heavy and restrictive, but the extra weight will soon be forgotten about and will ultimately only make us fitter on the hills.

I hope the above is of some help and I’m happy to answer any questions, so please feel free to get in touch if you do.

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The 5 “Best” HVS’s In Ireland

Writing something like a “best of” list is such a subjective thing, but also such a great thing to get a discussion going.

From writing the previous VS list I know I have a new list of climbs to add to my ever-increasing wishlist.

To my shame, I have climbed very little in Donegal. I daydream of trips to Cruit, Gola and Owey. Climbs like The Donkeys Pelvis looks like it could make this list with ease, but I haven’t climbed it yet, so I can’t comment.

I’ve been to The Mournes plenty, but mostly for work and lower graded climbs so I’ve not even started ticking the climbs I want to do there personally.

But pretty much from the day I bought The Mournes guidebook Parallel Lines and Sweetie Mice jumped out at me and I cant wait to get on them too.

The 5 Best HVS climbs in Ireland

So below is a list of the 5 best HVS climbs in Ireland that I’ve climbed, so far. They may not be your best, but they might inspire you to get out and try a new route.

They make my list not solely because of their aesthetic qualities, amazing location or popularity, but because of who I climbed them with and at what stage in my climbing I did them.

I look forward to hearing suggestions for other routes I should add to my list.

Pangur Bán, HVS 5a, 36m, Farrangandoo

No surprise that the best HVS in the country should be at the best crag in the country. But putting aside my blatant love and bias for Fair Head for a moment, this is still a really amazing climb, best saved for late in the evening when the setting sun is on your back.

The moves just feel fantastic and the gear is good. I’ve had the pleasure of climbing it once on lead and once on second and I can’t recall a HVS that I’ve enjoyed as much.

Sarcophagus HVS 5a, 5a, 5a, 84m, Glendalough

I don’t think I’ve ever had an un-enjoyable day climbing at Glendalough, but the first time I did Sarcophagus was one of the best ones.

Really good sustained climbing, on solid rock with plenty of gear. The feeling of being high above the Glendalough valley floor amplifies the experience.

Its variation finish traversing into Left Wall is one of the top routes in the country too, but as its E1, that’s slightly off-topic.

Best HVS climb in Glendalough

Cuchulainn HVS 5a, 30m, Gap Of Dunloe

One of Cons fine routes and one of my first climbs at HVS. I remember being so absorbed in the moment and loved every bit of it, once Id topped out.

I seconded Ferdia immediately afterwards and it probably got the cooler moves going through the roof, but for some reason, Cuchulainn lives long in my memory as being an outstanding climb at the grade.

Hells Kitchen, HVS, 5a, 5a, 66m, Fair Head

Back to Fair Head and what an epic line. The first time I lead it, I kind of hated it. A really hot day, wearing too many layers and fluffing the top moves, I got cooked in the kitchen.

The next time I tried it was a much more enjoyable one and I’d happily do it again in the morning if there weren’t so many amazing routes at FH that I haven’t tried yet.

Hells Kitchen HVS
Hells Kitchen’s famous belay Ledge

Thrust, HVS 5A, Dalkey

Originally recorded as a 2 pitch route, it’s now commonly climbed in a single pitch. Whichever way you do it, its a classic and for me the best HVS at the crag.

Good gear and a strong variation of climbing style from start to finish, its just so much fun to climb. Tucked away, it can be a great option on a busier day at Dalkey.

Below is a link to a good video of Thrust being climbed, thanks to Conor for letting me use it.

Honourable Mentions for best HVS climbs in Ireland

Out of my reach, Gap Of Dunloe (a brilliant route and not reachy at all, as per Con the naming of it had nothing to do with climbing rocks).

Great Balls Of Fire, Ailladie (A stunning location and a bit of everything thrown into one).

Pis Fluich, Ailladie – pure marmite, some days I love it, some days I hate it.

Black Widow, Ailladie – 3 boulder problems on top of each other, each level harder than the last, just like a computer game, what’s not to love?

Graham Crackers, Dalkey – The E1 5B of Cell Block H makes for a better climb and finish and for me pushes it out of the running slightly.

Meltdown, Gap Of Dunloe – I haven’t climbed it yet, but its always highly recommended.

Chocks away, Ailladie – another marmite route for people, but one I really loved climbing. Full value for the absorbing crux corner. Trust your feet and your cams!


Prusik Knots & Autoblocks.

The term Prusik knot or Autoblock is often used to generalise a number of different friction hitches that we use regularly in climbing.

Below are three friction hitches that I use a lot, their pros and cons and when or where I might use them.

The Prusik Knot (aka Original Prusik, Classic Prusik)

Developed by Austrian mountaineer Dr Karl Prusik, this hitch works by threading a cord around a rope and back through itself, usually 2 or 3 times, to provide a locking friction hitch that is difficult to release under load.

It’s useful as its quick and easy to tie and can be used in both pull directions. It uses the least amount of cord to make, which can be handy if you want to connect the Prusik to your harness without having to extend it with a sling.

Its less effective on wet or icy ropes and you should never use a sling for a Prusik Knot.

Perhaps its best use is for a scenario like escaping the system, where you don’t want the hitch to release under load, but don’t intend to slide it or move it along the rope much.



This hitch works by wrapping the cord around a rope multiple times and passing the bight from one end of the cord through the bight of the other end of the cord.

It locks really well, in fact, it can be practically impossible to slide when weighted if used properly. It can be released easily and a sling can be used as well as a cord (see below).

However, it only works in one pull direction and its too catchy to use as a back up for abseiling.

Because it grips so hard, it works really well when used in an unassisted haul set up, for escaping the system or when ascending or descending a fixed rope.

French Prusik (aka The Autoblock)

This knot is tied by wrapping the cord around the rope and clipping the bight at both ends of the cord together with a carabiner.

Its advantage and disadvantage is the same thing, it can be easily released, even under pressure.

As this is often used as a “fast-moving” hitch a sling isn’t advisable here either as it could slip/slide more easily and melt.

This makes it perfect for using as a back up when abseiling when lowering someone on an Italian hitch or as a clutch when using a haul system. It would not be an ideal friction hitch to use as a primary safety when ascending a rope, however.


Why do I need to know this? (couldn’t I just use a mechanical device?)

While there are purpose made devices out there like the Tibloc, there are a whole host of reasons as to why knowing how to make/use a friction hitch is a good idea. Below are just a few:

  • Cord is cheaper and weighs less than metal
  • you can wrap a friction hitch around two ropes
  • you can use a sling for some setups (please see below)
  • It can be untied and used for tat to abseil off
  • it causes less wear to your ropes
  • it can be used easily in descent
  • it could be used to make a runner with two crabs if you run out of quick-draws

How do I tie a cord for a friction hitch?

  • Use rated cord somewhere between 60 – 80 % of the diameter of the rope. 6mm cord covers most scenarios. If the cord is too thick, it won’t grip the rope, but too thin and it could melt or deform quicker.
  • Approx 1.2/1.3 metres of cord is needed.
  • Tie both ends of the cord together using a double fisherman’s knot and make sure there are no twists in the strands before tie-ing.
  • Make sure there are sufficiently long tails, so the cord doesn’t pull through the knot when weighted.

Can I use a sling for a Prusik?

It is absolutely best practice to use a rated cord for friction hitches, but a sling can work too, if used right, let’s look at when or why.

A Dyneema sling (least resistant to heat) or a Nylon sling (slightly more resistant to heat) are poor choices for Original Prusiks or French Prusiks, but if you were stuck, could be used as a Klemheist, especially in a scenario where they are butting up against a larger rope knot and are prevented from slipping, like when built behind the master point.

Aramid slings have a high melting point and I have successfully used them as a back up French Prusik when abseiling, without any damage or melting. This makes them suitable for all types of friction hitch.

Advanced uses of friction hitches

In this article I’ve spoken bout some advanced techniques liked hauling, escaping the system or ascending fixed lines and about knots which may be unfamiliar to some climbers.

If you don’t understand these techniques and terms used above then consider doing a training course and up-skilling your climbing knowledge.

Id strongly recommends using an AMI qualified instructor to show you too, as they will have been trained and assessed on what to teach and how to teach it.

I hope the above info is useful. If you would like to discuss any aspect further, please get in touch and Id be happy to chat.

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Rock Climbing: Placing Trad Gear

Whether it’s building an anchor or placing it while on lead, how can you tell if your trad gear is safe or not?

Luckily there are 5 golden rules for deciding if your gear is bomber without having to take a nervy fall to find out!

Placing Trad Gear in the Direction Of Pull

If the piece of gear you placed is only good when pulled up and you are going to fall down, then it’s not very likely to hold. Now, this might seem simplistic but it gets a little more complicated when you add in horizontal cracks on traversing routes.

If you place a piece in a horizontal crack that pulls right, but you are about traverse left, then a fall or even the rope could easily dislodge your piece.

placing trad gear in cracks


And remember, when placing a cam in a vertical crack, make sure the stem is angled at a 45-degree angle to the cliff (towards the ground) and not at a 90-degree angle to the cliff, otherwise under load, it could move or pop quite easily.

Quality Of Rock

If the quality of the rock you are placing trad gear in isn’t good, then it may not matter how well you place your gear.

We should investigate thoroughly the quality of the rock, both in the crack itself and the overall quality of the rock in the local area of the crack.


Using offsets in cracks

Quality of rock on sidewalls of the crack is very good!

If the rock has hairline cracks around it could it be friable and have potential to move or crumble under a heavy load? Remember a piece of rock only has to move a millimetre in order for your gear to pop.


Cam in crack

Flakes: I have seen gear placed behind suspect/loose flakes as a psychological piece to get through a movie. While this might be helpful to you on lead, if you fall it’s not just you in danger but your belayer too. Risking a bigger fall might actually be the safer thing here.

Surface Area Contact

This one should be simple but so often I see climbers not fully understand it. The aim is to get maximum surface area contact between the side of the nut/hex/cam-lobes and the side of the crack its placed in.

We can achieve this best by looking for a constriction on a crack, placing trad gear in where the crack is wider and sliding it towards where its constricted or narrowing.

Constriction alone isn’t good enough though, as maximum surface area contact between the piece and the rock ensures better hold and less movement of the piece by the rope.

Bomber nut placement

Size Matters

Yes, bigger is better, but not at the expense of surface area contact.

If you have the option of placing a number 3 nut with 100% perfect surface area contact or a number 11 nut with 70% surface, then size doesn’t matter and go with the size 3 nut. It’s more than strong enough to hold and should be trusted.

If you have the option of a size 3 nut or a size 11 nut and they both have similar surface area contact in a good quality crack, then yes, choose the bigger piece.

Deeper is better

The deeper we can place the piece inside the crack the better, however, again only if it doesn’t compromise the surface area contact.

Often we don’t have multiple depth choices with a nut as they rely more on an element of constriction. Cams however can work better in uniform/parallel crack.

So if you have the option of placing a cam 1 inch inside a uniform crack or 3 inches inside a uniform crack then obviously the latter is the better option. Just make sure you don’t put the cam so deep your second cant release trigger.

Scoring Systems for placing trad gear

I have seen people use scoring systems for deciding whether a piece of gear is good or not. I don’t use these systems for a few reasons, but mainly its because it can be totally redundant if not fully understood.

A piece of gear scoring badly on point number one (direction of pull) but brilliantly on all the other points is still likely to pull out under fall.

I hope the above post is useful. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this post.

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Mountain Leader: What is a QMD? (Quality Mountain Day)

Logging Quality Mountain Days (QMD’s) after your ML training is one of the core requirements of your consolidation.

It is important that this list of QMD’s is diverse, provides plenty of challenging moments for you and shows your dedication to becoming a well-rounded ML.

Logging quality mountain days

What constitutes a Quality Mountain Day?

A QMD should entail the following:

– The candidate is involved in the planning and instigation
– The walk would last at least 5 hours and take place in an unfamiliar area
– The majority of time should be spent above 500m, distance should be over 16km with over 600m of height gain during the day and cover a variety of terrain
– The use of a variety of hillwalking techniques
– Adverse weather conditions may be encountered

– Experience must be in terrain and weather comparable to that found in the Irish and UK hills

Criteria for a Quality Mountain Day


The walk should be both physically and mentally challenging for you. A tired brain and legs are always a good sign that you pushed it on a day out.

If you arent tired by the walks finish, then perhaps you should have tagged on that extra peak along the way.


Exploring new terrain and getting out of our comfort zones and the hills that we walk regularly is a great way to consolidate. We won’t be relying solely on memory to navigate and it will stimulate the all-important decision making parts of the brain.

Remember, we aren’t aiming to be a “Kerry ML” or a “Mournes ML”, we are aiming to be an ML, able to work anywhere in the UK and Ireland.


Both the weather conditions and the underfoot conditions should provide a challenge for us. We need to be practised in all types of both so that we can be assessed and work on all types of both.

Murphy’s Law will dictate your assessment will happen on a weekend of atrocious weather, I know mine was. You have to build up that toughness and resilience along the way, so don’t only be a fair-weather trainee.


When going to walk in a new area, figuring out where you are going to start/finish your walk, where you will park and if there are any access issues is a skill in itself.

These logistical skills will be invaluable for when you are working as an ML and have the expectations and requirements of real clients.

Quality Mountain Day Examples

The context of any QMD is important. Weather conditions, time of year/daylight and underfoot conditions play a huge part in the context of any of these examples.

Maybe that’s where the description in your DLOG can provide additional info to just distance, height and time travelled. It’s worth noting this before giving examples.

Wicklow QMD

A: Starting at Glendalough, you climb Derrybawn, Mullacor and Lugduff and continue along to Turlough hill. At this point you have 4 likely options:

B: descend the spur to the Miners Path, and take the trail back to the car park. This would be the weakest option and although you would have hit the time and distance for a QMD, I personally feel it wouldn’t count as the latter part of the day doesn’t provide any navigational challenge.

C: Descend via Camaderry, providing additional time spent on the hills and possible navigational challenges if the visibility is poor. A solid enough QMD.

D: Take the St Kevins way back to the car park. While this is more rugged and broken than the miner’s trail, it provides little challenge navigationally and I wouldn’t consider it a good QMD.

E: By dropping down to the Wicklow Gap and ascending Tonglegee and The Brockaghs, you have chosen a committed day out on the hills, will utilise lots of skills and will have logged an excellent QMD.


Quality Mountain Day QMD Glendalough

Kerry QMD

Most leisure walkers who climb Tomies and Purple Mountain either stop on Purple or at the Glaslough and retrace their steps to the car or drop down to the Head Of The Gap and walk home via the trail road.

While it may look like a small area on a map, both of the above would be full days out the distance and time-wise, encompassing steep terrain, major peaks and navigational challenges less obvious than it first seems.

However for the purposes of logging a QMD, retracing your steps (in this particular instance) would be a little contrived, unimaginative and personally I think a softer QMD.

Walking via the Gap Of Dunloe trail road (B) is one of the most scenic and beautiful walks in the country, but it’s not ML terrain, even after a tough climb of Purple. Not a QMD.

However, if you headed up Drishana (C) from the Head of the Gap, then down the Ballagh Pass to Strickeen, it would be a solid QMD, covering lesser travelled areas of the Gap.

Quality Mountain Day QMD Kerry


Perhaps a lesser-visited part of the Connemara Mountains, climbing the Devil’s Mother and around Maumtrasna would make for an excellent QMD.

Steep ground, awkward underfoot conditions, potential difficult navigation across the plateau in bad weather and not a trail in sight. A great day out.


Quality Mountain Day QMD Connemara

The Mournes

Perhaps not the usual way to climb Donard, but by utilising the Mournes Shuttle Service or carpooling, a really great day out could be had by starting at Carrick Little.

From memory, it felt like a big day on the legs and a way in which you can encompass one of the provincial highpoints while still attaining the distance required for a QMD.

Quality Mountain Day QMD The Mournes


There will be plenty of times when you don’t quite hit all of the above criteria but still have a quality day in the hills and are a little unsure whether to include them as QMD’s or not.

I’m firmly of the opinion that if some of your walks hit most of the above criteria but possibly come up short in others, I still think it can be logged as a successful QMD.

Justification of why will depend on your description of the weather, terrain and events of the day.

In addition to the above info, I would add the following advice:

  • try to log walks on all 4 provinces of Ireland. If you aren’t familiar with the rest of the country then doing the 4 peaks is a good place to start. Just not by the obvious trail. Do the provincial high point one day and a lesser travelled nearby peak the next.
  • try to get to all the mountainous areas of Ireland at least once.
  • try tick off major peaks on your walks.
  • try to get to either Scotland, Wales or England at least once to hike, before your assessment.
  • get creative with your route planning and look at link up routes.
  • try log some classic “crossings” of the Irish hills. These take commitment, planning, navigation and logistical skills. There are many to choose from, for example :      
  • – The Iveragh Crossing (3-4 days)        
  • – The Sliabh Mish (2 days)        
  • – The Mournes Wall (1 long day or 2 days with camping) 
  •        – The Beara Penninsula (2-3 days)
  • – The Twelve Bens (1 long day or 2 days with camping


Should I log non-QMD’s?

In short, yes. Log Everything! Include everything you do on your DLOG. Even times when you gave up after two hours of persistent bad weather and retreated to your car with your tail between your legs. It might not be a Quality Mountain Day but it shows the assessor a few things, like:

  • you were willing to go out on the bad weather days, not just the good.
  • you know the frustration of what it’s like to fail, pick yourself up and come back for more.
  • That you are committed to the process of becoming an ML and that you didn’t just do the bare minimum required.

Can I just log the bare minimum before the assessment?

Technically yes. The requirements for Quality Mountain Days are set in stone. Unofficially and in my opinion, it’s a poor reflection on you as a candidate not to have above and beyond the requirements.

An assessor wants to see in you a passion for the mountains, the bare minimum isn’t a good impression.

When you start working as an ML, will you do the bare minimum for your clients or go above and beyond? If your answer to that is the former then perhaps the ML isn’t for you.

If you are interested in becoming a Mountain Leader please click here for further details.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this post or other skills or awards.

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RCI: Problem-Solving

This post will hopefully give clarity to trainee Rock Climbing Instructors around what kind of problems they will be asked to solve or discuss on assessment. If you haven’t read the problem avoidance post, its definitely worth reading too.

In this post I don’t discuss how to actually complete any of the problems that might arise, for a few reasons:

  • It would become a lengthy post.
  • you should have covered these on your training.
  • I don’t want to encourage the inexperienced to try out these methods.
  • Figuring the solutions out for yourself or with peers will lead to much better retention.
  • But please get in touch if you can’t remember how to manage one of these scenarios and have completed your RCI training.

What Problem-Solving Situations Are Covered?

We are going to look at common, less common and complex problems which could occur indoor or outdoor climbing at a single pitch crag.

If time and ability of the trainee allowed, the trainer might have chosen to discuss complex problems. However, there should have been a clear line to identify when a problem is considered too complex and outside of RCI remit.

Common problems

Examples of common problems are as follows:

  • Climber stuck on a ledge.
  • Climber moving off route.
  • Climber refusing to be lowered.
  • Climber inverting when being lowered.
  • Client belaying badly/incorrectly, under supervision.
  • Client hair/scarf/clothes caught in a belay/abseil device.
  • Knot on the slack rope below the belay device.
  • Harness on incorrectly/twisted.

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Less Common Problems

Examples of less common but still realistic problems are as follows:

  • second climbing past a runner
  • The second cant unlock the crab they used to belay you
  • The second cant remove a piece of gear
  • client belaying off a wrongly threaded gri-gri
  • client belaying of a gear loop
  • collapsing/fainting belayer
  • climber physically stuck in a crack
  • compromised/untied knot on a climber

It should be within the scope of all RCI’s to know how to prevent and solve all of the above problems and/or slight variations of them.

Complex Problems

I am including these as examples of what a trainee should not be asked to execute on an assessment or while working as a qualified RCI.

  • Y Hang, snatch or pick up a rescue
  • any scenario that involves you soloing
  • any scenario that involves you ascending/descending a rope using a prusik
  • any scenario that involves you rigging a haul system
  • counterbalance abseil

Common Problem-Solving Questions

Will I be asked to perform a “Y-hang” or “pick up” rescue?

No. While this was taught as part of the syllabus when I passed my assessment, it is no longer within the remit of the RCI.

To quote the MTA guidance notes directly “prusiking, counterbalance abseils and “snatch” rescues are beyond the scope of the Rock Climbing Instructor Scheme.

I hope the above gives a decent checklist of problems for you to practice solving, but feel free to get in touch about any scenario you would like further explained

And remember:

  • always practice problem-solving in a safe and backed up way or under the tutelage of an experienced mentor if you are unsure what you are doing.
  • problem avoidance is always better than problem-solving,

Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of this video or other skills.

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Reconnect to Climbing in The Burren

It can be easy sometimes to not see the wood for the trees. To spend so much time in nature that you develop a small blindspot to its natural wonder and beauty.

This would never happen if I was at a new crag or cliff but sometimes in the local spots you visit 3 or 4 times a week, it can be easy to forget to stop, look around and really take it in like you did the first time you saw it. Sometimes you simply need to decide that you want to reconnect to climbing.

Being on The Burren for instance is an integral part of both my working and personal climbing life. And the drive to The Burren can sometimes feel a little like a short “commute” rather than a scenic drive.

Landscape in Clare

Work has been busy lately and as a consequence, the main road from Ennistymon to the coast road has been travelled quite a bit. Friday past I had my day’s work done and with the stretch in the evenings and the recent good weather, I realised I had time to fit in a decent bouldering session in Doolin.

Getting moving

So I hopped in the van and pulled out of the driveway, but something happened that made me stop and think. Instead of turning right towards the main road, I decided to turn left and take the back roads over the hill and into Doolin, rolling a theory around in my mind and wondering how it might transpire.

On the drive out there I theorized that taking a slightly more awkward drive, one with lots of narrow roads where I’d have to pull over for other traffic often and where it would be impossible to rush, that I would hopefully arrive at the bouldering area more relaxed, uplifted by the insane views of west Clare from the top of the hill and hopefully open to better problem-solving.

Reconnect to Climbing

I had a plan in mind for when I got to Lackglass. I wasn’t going to try anything too hard but instead revisit problems I’ve done lots of times before, but with the intention of climbing them this time with perfect movement and fluidity. A solo mission, with a focus, in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The first part of the plan worked, I stopped a few times on the drive to soak it all in. With it being clear and sunny I could see as from the cliffs of Moher to the Bens in Galway and everything in between, perfect swell peeling right off Crab Island and the Aran Islands across the sea in front of me.

Already the plan was feeling like a success. I was enjoying this immense natural vista as if seeing it for the first time again. Albeit from inside a car. Part two of the plan involved more of a physical reconnect.

Reconnect to Climbing
guided bouldering

It’s funny, I had spent the week around rocks and cliffs, from the volcanic ash of the Killary crags to the limestone of The Burren, but I’d been working and not playing on it. There’s a huge difference between telling someone else how to move on rock and getting on it yourself.

My plan had also removed any pressure that we sometimes put ourselves under. I wasn’t there to try really hard on a project, I was there to try really hard at getting better. Both involve repetitive failure, but the latter is a different type of failure. A more welcome one maybe.

So I warmed up and got on some traverses on Kostyas wall. Remarking to myself that these were the first outdoor problems I ever got on, close to a decade previous to now. And here I was now using them as practice for improvement rather than obsessed with just getting to the top out.

Some time went by, maybe an hour. Big waves crash behind me on the flat reefs and the heat of the sun cooled a little as the day got older. Wondering what to get my teeth into I remembered a link-up traverse problem that my friend Cian made up about 5 years ago.

Averse to the traverse

I’d always disliked the route a bit because he could do it most attempts and I would always gas out at the crux, body tension waning as feet and hands were spread wide on holds that were small and sharp. I was sure id done it then, but actually couldn’t be sure, in the way that I sometimes might not be too bothered remembering whether you had success or joy on a link-up eliminate (slightly contrived) traverse. Maybe I was just sore that he could top it and I couldn’t.

But 5 years is a long time in climbing, I was physically not as strong as then when all I did for summer was Boulder, but I was definitely climbing much smarter now. Surely with guile, I could remove the difficulty. Surely?

I love techy traverse boulder problems and I love figuring out the beta that suits me. I love bouldering. I love Doolin and the West of Clare. I love movement on rock and intense concentration. I love it when a plan comes together.

Topping out on Cians amazing, completely not contrived at all, link up traverse problem last Friday evening, using my new “smarter climber” beta was one of the best feelings I’ve had on rock lately. A total reconnect to why I love climbing and being in nature and to the addictiveness of accessing a flow state. A reminder of what I value most.

Inspiration, Effort and Time

I really like this blog. I find it cathartic and useful for relaxing.

Possibly because I now associate opening a laptop with running a business, apart from the odd occasion that I write a blog post, which is just for fun.

They’re fun to write and fun to share and it always amazed me that people actually take the time to read them.

On the few occasions that people have said to me that they read my blog, it has genuinely made me smile and feel satisfied. One face to face interaction and discussion of a blog post equal to a hundred online likes perhaps?

When I started this blog I was adamant that I would regularly post to it. That a failure to post was a failure of the website and by extension a failure of the business. My business. Me.

I don’t still feel this way, but when I started the website and this business I was both naive and time rich. The enthusiasm remains constant or if anything is amplified each day that I continue to do what I love.

Hopefully, I’ve lost the naivety.

Inspiration vs effort

Some times I tell myself that it’s a good sign that I haven’t updated the blog since last year but that’s an easy out. It’s true that my small business is a good deal busier than when I started, but to be honest it just a simple case of not planning or setting aside the time for it.

Its like hangboarding. I know I want to get better at climbing, I know it can help me greatly at getting better at climbing, I’m super psyched to get better at climbing, but I can’t find the time to consistently do a small session twice a week that will assist my improvement at climbing? I am always inspired, I just lack the effort sometimes.

But the will to exert that effort can be as easily found as it can be lost. I’m currently sitting in the map room, upstairs in Petes Eats, with a mug of strong coffee inside me and surrounded by mountains and crags synonymous with climbing. Inspiration level 100 for so many reasons.

So I found it not hard at all to type up a quick blog post and now I’m going to get outside into what is fast becoming a bright and sunny day and enjoy the stunning scenery and climbing of North West Wales.

I’m telling myself its not going to be that long ’til I post again … or get on the hangboard. Let’s see what happens.


sea cliff climbing






What is mountaineering?

It would take more than a short blog post to properly cover such a big topic as What is mountaineering? but lets give it a go anyway.

To me the essence of mountaineering is that it provides the adventurous with truly rewarding experiences, sometimes only enjoyed to its fullest when safely off the mountain.

But what exactly is mountaineering? Could it be simplified as saying its a cross between hill walking and rock climbing? In theory yes, but to simplify the skills involved in mountaineering is to possibly not understand it.

Howling Ridge, Carrauntoohill

The dictionary again gives a simplistic explanation: “The sport or activity of climbing mountains.

For me this doesn’t go far enough to explain the complexity of what true mountaineering is all about. To me, its about having a multitude of rock and rope skills, fitness and experience and putting all of this together to make quick but safe decisions, in an extreme environment.

Technical skills take time to learn, but with mountaineering, knowing when to use the right skills for the right terrain is as important as knowing the skills themselves.

If you are interested in learning more about mountaineering and its skills, but are unsure of where to start, or if you have a particular mountaineering objective like climbing The Cuillin Ridge or Howling Ridge, then get in contact with me by clicking here.

“The mountaineer is the person who drives their body where, one day, they’re eyes have looked.”

6 Times, so far

Why Climb Kilimanjaro Six Times?

On Monday 17th September 2018, at approximately 8.40 am, I summitted Mt Kilimanjaro for the 6th time.

I can’t really describe how amazing it feels to summit. There is no greater prize in life than the reward for hard work. Its a tough ascent, starting at midnight and climbing in the dark for 6 hours. But meeting that challenge head-on and pushing yourself through it is the key to any success.

For me, the feeling of reaching Uhuru never diminishes, it might feel different each time, but the sense of achievement and the profound nature of standing higher than any point for as far as the eye can see, at the highest point on the African continent, is truly awesome.

Climb Kilimanjaro with Earth's Edge

Personal and Professional Satisfaction

Apart from my own personal satisfaction at summitting, the professional satisfaction of seeing clients get to the top is a profound one too.  To be able to walk beside clients in those last few steps as they approach the summit sign is one of the most rewarding experiences I can ask for in my job.

Typically, some have it easier than others, but maybe those that have to push a little harder enjoy the summit all the more. At 5895 metres above sea level its certainly not a walk in the park.

Climbing Kili

I could write for hours about my experiences in Tanzania to date, but all the writing in the world won’t do justice to what it’s like to summit.

Glacier on KilimanjaroIn January 2019 I’ll be leaving for my 7th expedition, guiding for Earths Edge. It’s fast becoming a healthy addiction and a great way to kick-start another year working at this amazing job.

How will you kick-start your year?

Climb Kilimanjaro with Earth’s Edge

I work as a guide for Earths Edge, an Irish owned and ITAA bonded adventure travel agent.  If you are interested in climbing Kilimanjaro or interested in high altitude trekking in another far-flung corner of the Earth, get in touch with then by clicking on this link.

They have an excellent customer service team, based in their office in Dublin, who are happy to chat with you about any of the treks they offer.

Porters on Kilimanjaro

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