'For Adventures of a lifetime'

Saturday, 21 January 2012

The Buzz at Sunderland Wall

Richy Reed showing how it should be done in BIG BOOTS!!!!

Yet again another great turn out for the dry tooling and Schmooling taster sessions.

On the Schmoolz side of things …….I think it’s time I stopped calling them tasters as the people coming down are becoming quite proficient at the required techniques. People seem to be moving away from the positive jug holds they ‘thought’ they needed to more what I call marginal holds. This allows for a more aesthetically feeling route (if that is possible), and puts more emphasis on the way the tools are tensioned and the direction of pull. Of course this all ends up being great training for the dry tooling.
Mike aka The Schmoolz Man, cooling down after his session at the wall

On the dry tooling side…..We seem to have created a problem ….queues!!!!! first week we had 2 routes, last week we had 3 and this week we set 4….even still there were queues at each one and this went on the whole night till 9 pm (much to Richy’s delight ;-)). This week’s routes seem to go down well with a hanging log you could ‘bash the S***’ out of, the tyre quad (4 hanging tyres for the lay people amongst us), overhanging simulated ice (ok foam :-)) and a flat wall that allowed those that hadn’t tried dry tooling before a gentle introduction.
Amy on her first try at dry tooling - good shapes Amy!

John looking strong, a potential winner in the Vets catagory
 It would be great to see more youngsters down (under 18’s)at the wall giving these activities a try….I know the timing (Friday night) is not necessarily the best time but I’m sure if you pressure Johnny he might be tempted to put on some day time slots :-).

The atmosphere has to be praised again this week….It makes it a pleasure to see so much ‘Buzz’ and Hype around the Wall and for everyone to be enjoying themselves. Seeing one of the guys (Colin) slowly making his way up and achieving a really tenuous Schmooling route was the highlight for me, even more so when I saw the huge smile on his face. The newbie’s that came along to last night’s session (Mike and the Teesside Mafia) got quite a shock and went away happy and smiling if not a little weary ;-).
Perhaps shorts are not the best idea on a route like this Jack?

Once again the staff at Sunderland Wall were on hand to encourage those that had not tried these activities before to ‘have a go’, help where they could and make everyone feel really welcome…They must take most of the praise for creating a great atmosphere generally around the wall.

If you are thinking about (I hope you are) entering the competition and attending the Greg Boswell lecture on the 11th February can you please start to complete on line registration so we can get a better idea of the numbers we are expecting on the on the link below to take you to the Northern Tooling Series website for registrations and general information.

See you all soon


Monday, 16 January 2012

Dry Tooling and Schmooling Tasters – Sunderland Wall

Friday nights at Sunderland Wall have never been so busy!!!! It has been great to see the interest the Schmoolz and the dry tooling taster sessions have created (we’re at loggerheads as to who is encouraging more people down to the Wall Johnny or myself ;-)). Friday last was no exception with around 30+ people eager to try out this diverse aspect of our sport and love. Richy had set a Telegraph pole route which aesthetically looked great and was even better once the climbing started…I tried this route first and used penetrative blows on the pole…..only to realise that each blow was millimetres away from hitting the rope I was relying on….So we changed it to hooks only for the guests….trying to place your axe precisely while swinging around on top of a pole is ‘interesting’ (climbers talk for ‘Bloody hell this is impossible’), but really great fun!

Two other specific dry tooling routes were set and it wasn’t long before the cues started to form….to ease the pressure on these routes we have about six sets of Schmoolz going around….and its great seeing these tools being used in unusual and quite unique ways. Even the old F***s seem to be able to get up the 16m wall on these :-).

As well as an increase in beginners last Friday we also saw an increase in competent climbers. As well as some of the North East’s strongest mountaineers we also had the Scottish Tooling Series Vets winner (Steve Lynch) and it was great to see the guys from Mountain Boot Company who are sponsoring the event/competition on the 11th February down to have a dabble….

For me the best part of these evenings is seeing people trying new things and not just enjoying themselves but being enthusiastic about it too. The craic and banter is great and there feels like a supportive attitude is starting to develop. Our aim for the Dry Tooling Event on the 11th February (have I mentioned that) is that we start to develop a more community atmosphere here in the North East….the way things were!....It seems to be working :-).
If you want to give this a try come along to the Sunderland Wall on Friday Evening and join in the fun. All equipment is supplied.

More details of the Event can be found at:

Northern Tooling SeriesNorthern Tooling Series

Hope to see you down there: Cliff Lowther

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Personal Reflections - Cambodia and Laos

The symbol of our trip :-)
“How was your trip?” This is a question I used during one of the final reviews I had with the Challengers (the youngsters I was taking care of). I asked them to assume they will be asked this on numerous occasions during the first few days home following the trip and for them to share/tell everyone within our group what they would say….The answers were different!
This, obviously, is a question I also get asked a lot on my return from these trips.

My answer??? “Emotional!”

I’m not sure why this trip seemed different (in the end) from the many others I’ve been on? I’ve tried to reflect and deduce why it has been such an emotional trip. I never allow myself to get too involved with either the Challengers or with the children we meet while on the project….but for some reason I did this time…with both! Perhaps it was the group itself, they were a little younger than my usual groups, the majority being 15 years old, 8 (9 including the young teacher) were female…and from Australia….. Perhaps my protective instincts were heightened by this? Perhaps being a father of boys made me feel I needed to protect the girls more…I just don’t know. Perhaps my emotions were heightened knowing about the horrendous atrocities the Cambodians (Khmer) suffered at the hands of Pol Pot during the 70’s and early 80’s (not that long ago really), and finding out even more from the very friendly locals we met, from the visit to the Killing Fields and from the books (‘First they shot my Father’ by Loung Ung) that we all (on the trip) seemed to read. Or is it the fact that following these nightmare years the country was to be plagued by HIV and Aids and still is even today?

Our visit and stay at the HIV orphanage, New Hope for Cambodian Children ( made me feel emotions I’ve never felt before and certainly impacted on the attitudes and behaviour of our group. My heart strings were pulled by one young girl in particular. She actually didn’t have HIV but one of her siblings did. Her mother and father both lost to AIDS! Seeing her play, communicate, interact and dance with our group made me happy but often I would find myself thinking about her, without the love of a parent, no one to tuck her into bed at night, no one to share the love most of us feel at Christmas from our families….many things I think we all take completely for granted! I plan to continue communications with this girl but only if she wants to. I feel my care, even my love would be but a token but I want her to know there are people out there who do care! What happens in the future is destined to happen!

Being the leader of the expedition I often find myself taking on a parental role with the groups I work with. However, it’s never the nice parental things, it tends to be more the discipline, the pep talks, the positive mental attitude and when they let me down the disapproval type things. Sometimes I doubt my methods and wonder if I’m actually being of any benefit whatsoever! Results and reassurance is what I need!

Outside the fabulous Okay1Villa...Still a long way to go!
 This time around I got what I was after. I saw and witnessed positive changes in people and a more appreciative attitude in respects of the life style we lead and the people we have in our lives. I know the Challengers hearts were touched as much as I was by the children in the orphanage…well judging by the amount of tears that were released on our final day there and the amount of talk about going back there during the subsequent weeks of our trip. I received two very special notes (never happened before) from a couple of the challengers and a few notes on my return home thanking me for my time with them and for allowing them to be exposed to the experiences they had during our 4 weeks on expedition. This touched my heart in a way I wasn’t quite ready for and reassured me about my methods and approach I have while away on these trips, I’m so thankful they made the effort, thank you (you know who you are):-).

I still have mine on!!! 
 I feel I made friends on this trip! Not just the usual….well we’ve shared experiences and so therefore we feel close, but the genuine friendship that lasts more than a few weeks / months following a trip. Socrates has a lovely quote about friendship which goes like this: “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant”. My promise to these people (and you know who you are too), is that I will always be here for you, either to listen, to help and guide or even to advise, but I will always continue to be firm and constant in our friendship my hope is that you do too. Only time will see, and if things take a natural course then that’s ok too.

I’m sure the group would agree that they were not the best team players in the world, but I hope they realised the impact they’ve had on me. Individually they are entertaining, caring, and even lovable people. I wish you all the very best for the future and I hope you use the experiences gained while on the trip to aid and mould your futures.

Thank you for reassuring this old F**T that what he is doing is still worthwhile and fulfilling.

Written by Cliff Lowther (Expedition Leader St. Mary Mackillop College, Cambodia and Laos 2011)

Thumbs up all round - Great trip guys :-)