Busy weekend at Vertigo..

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On Saturday morning I was working in Dalkey Quarry. I was to meet some students from the Colaiste Dhulaigh outdoor education course. These students had been out with Willie many times before and wanted to progress a bit further and eventually get leading. Unfortunately a lot of the routes were very damp and greasy to start leading on so I decided to spend the day setting up top ropes to drive home the importance of solid anchor selection with the scenario that the leader has lead the route and now needs to bring up the second. This also gave the students an opportunity to climb a few routes with the safety of a top rope. Dalkey Quarry has many gorse bushes that are commonly used for building a belay. Conor had set up a few top ropes here in the past using these gorse bushes so we decided to look for a climb that took a little more imagination on top when building the belay. Grave S* was an ideal choice. For the belay, we used an eight foot sling around a large block and a solid size 9 nut. I then went through the importance of equalising both anchors and ways to change direction and tension using clove hitches. For the rest of the day the students took it in turn setting up top ropes and became very familiar with the set ups. Other routes climbed included the classic D Route S***, Eliminate A Dash VS** and Eleven’s a crowd VS**. Everything went well and it was great to have Niall, a trainee SPA ut observing in the run up to his assessment.

Later that night, Willie and I were to meet some lads from Scouting Ireland to do a night navigation refresher course in Co. Wicklow. We met them in Roundwood and then drove to Trooperstown Hill which is an ideal location for teaching and refreshing navigation techniques. Willie took three students while I took two. This way, all the students would have plenty of opportunities to lead a leg. I have to admit, when we got out of the car I was a little bit worried at first with the amount of fog that was hanging around as visibility was down to about two meters. This meant getting stuck into all the skills required to navigate confidently straight off the bat.

Throughout the walk we focused on the five D’s

  • Direction – Compass bearing from A to B
  • Distance – How much ground between A and B
  • Duration – How long it should take going from A to B
  • Description – What land should be doing while walking from A to B
  • Destination – What the land should be doing when we arrive at B

By using the five d’s, you can use each one to back up the other and help confirm your location. Other navigation techniques used were aiming off, back bearings and using attack points. Both students were competent navigators but still learned a lot and now know which skills they need to brush up on should they decide to go and do the Mountain Leader Award.

Trooperstown Hill is ideal for practising navigation

On Sunday morning I met Rob to run a rope work refresher course with the same five lads from Scouting Ireland. We met in the Glendassan Valley car park at ten and got stuck into it as there is a lot to cover when it comes to the rope work aspect of the Mountain Leader syllabus. First off we looked at knots that are commonly used. The idea is to keep it as simple as possible. While there are a selection of knots you can use you can in fact do everything required with a simple overhand knot. From making a waist loop and threading an anchor (re-threaded overhand). The overhand knot is also very easily adjusted.

Throughout the day we looked at anchor selection, body belaying in ascent and descent and spent a couple of hours confidence roping. All the lads seemed very happy at the end of the day and were very keen to get out and practice these new skills.

Rob discussing anchor selection with clients

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