Great Wanney, Northumberland

Bank holiday monday saw us eager to get out climinbing again, and after drawing straws to see if we head south into the Cleveland hills or head north into Northumberland we set off north, hoping the weather would be nice.

We headed off for Great Wanney with our photocopied version of the guidebook. Found the place fine, although the guidebooks description of “turn left at the phonebox” when in fact there is a huge hotel at the crossroads, with a small phonebox hiding under its eaves was bizarre.

Sandstone is funny rock. And whoever graded this stuff deserves shooting, well I suppose the guidebook does warn you – “its Very Difficult and Severes that have caused Very Severe leaders problems” should have let us in on the game.

We had a good day though, even if it was a bit windy (ok, very windy – from up top you couldn’t hear jack). I Managed the first half of Foxes Hole before bailing out and doing the scramble to the right of the proper finish, and then ended up abseiling for the gear as Caroline couldn’t quite get over the lip. On the plus side I remembered all the details about abseiling and that was actually good fun. After lunch we decided to do some Moderates instead, doing Broken Blocks Staircase and then Lichen Chimney before calling it a day as the weather wasn’t looking the best.

All in all it was a good experience – will travel south next time to see how the grades compare down there!

Brown Slabs Again…

For our first trip climbing outdoors on our own we decided to go back to Brown Slabs at Shepherds Crag in the Lake District. We also decided to go back on August bank holiday weekend! Would this turn out to be a huge mistake, or would we survive!

We got to the Lakes by about 7.30pm, thinking we had made good time. First we tried the two Castlerigg campsites but they both reported full (although last time we were there one was saying it was full but wasn’t really – just not taking any more people because the ground was getting too chewed up). Then we headed a bit further down Derwentwater and tried to find the Ashness farm campsite – and then we found it – closed for the 2004 season! Onwards and upwards we went…

So finally, our fourth campsite of the evening was Rosthwaite campsite. We fully expected this to be packed as well but it turned out to be virtually empty. Strange! (but it didn’t last, by Saturday night it was packed). So we settled down for the night, hoping for nice weather for the saturday.

Saturday came and the weather looked ok so off we set bright and early. And yet again we managed to beat the rush. First to the car park and first to the crag by 9.30am.

9.31am and it started to rain…

Typical. Luckily we stuck it out, sat around under the trees and discussed belay stances and anchor technics for nearly an hour as the rain came and went. Then finally about 10:30 it finally cleared up and we decided to just go for it! And glad we did, because aside from a bit of wind and a few more spots of rain in the afternoon we had a lovely day. As for what routes we did I have no idea. We started in the middle and tried to do Brown Slabs Arete but chickened out and went right instead of left, ending up doing something more like Brown Slabs Face. Then we tried to do the normal Brown Slabs route as a single pitch, but ended up under the fissure, rather than on it (or the alternative out to the left) which made it a lot harder. Then finally we tried something up the left (Brown Slabs Direct I believe) which was brilliant although my stance was a little high and didn’t leave Caroline far to lead on the second pitch.

So our first day out on our own and we remembered everything – this climbing outdoors stuff really is fun!

The following day it rained – lots – so we came home.

Corby’s Crag, Northumberland

Sitting in after a trip to Rock Antics in the afternoon I decided to get out of the house and take in a trip to Northumberland. Having spotted Corby’s Crag in the bouldering guide recently it looked an ideal destination, with plenty of each graded bouldering to be had (B1/2 or 4c/5a).

I have to say it took a bit longer to get there than I had estimated, nearly an hour. But by about 6.30pm I had reached the tarmac carpark, coming in from the A697. The rocks are very close to the roadside, almost spitting distance (although the spit would have landed on someones head, so best not too).

Unfortunately it was still a little damp, even though we had had two fairly nice days of weather with little rain. And its very soft sandstone. And its about 3 metres high. And I can’t boulder for toffee. I did manage to top out on one route (not in the guidebook I don’t think – just to the left of problem 14 on the southern buttress) and problem 11 looked like it might have been doable in the dry.

But on the bright side I was outside and the scenary was lovely! Can’t think of many better ways to enjoy a Sunday evening.

Rock Antics at Newton Aycliffe

Well first trip down to Rock Antics on Sunday (website under ‘construction’ – Very bad as they haven’t even left a phone number or address up – I would recommend phone number, email contact, address and opening times as a minimum).

The place is simply packed to the gills with walls, and each panel is covered in holds and features (normal array of holds, and the features are I believe the Bendcrete style, with a wide variety of shapes. They also use small ‘tags’ behind the holds to signify routes, rather than hold colours – this gives much more flexibility on routes, especially where holds have two or more tags each – some panels had nearly 10 routes on one wall – with holds colour alone you are pushing it to squeeze 4 in (plus you need to remove all the holds each time you want to change the routes). For those going however some quick acronyms for reference, FFF means Features For Feet, AFF means Anything For Feet and FFH means Feet Follow Hands.

I was there on my own but a friendly staff member (I think he was called Paul) took pity on me (or decided to torture me) and threw me up a lot of routes. The grading seems to be a little harder than I am used to at Sunderland Wall, one particular route being graded 4c+ felt more like 5b to me!

The height of the walls are all about 10m, although this isn’t a problem, and certainly feels high enough to me. There are two bouldering wall, a feature one on the front and another wooden one around the back. There is also a lead wall around the back although I’ve yet to experiment with indoor leading (and I didn’t have a rope with me anyway).

Bad points currently are that the bouldering wall could do with some more routes described on it (considering its size this shouldn’t be hard) and the wooden one around the back appears very sparse. Also the air conditioning is currently broken – not their fault and they are relying on the leisure centre to fix it so nothing they can do about it either.

Definitely gonna go back.

Brown Slabs, Shepherd Crags, Borrowdale

Oh my, what a day!

As a birthday present I got bought a days climbing instruction. The instructor took us to Shepherd Crag in Borrowdale for what was possibly one of the best days of my life.

The instructor was good (Mountain Activity Company – Nick was excellent), the weather was bright and sunny (after some of the worse weather the week before) and the climbing was excellent.

After a bit of theory on setting up anchors and the like we just dived straight onto the rock. The climbing was very easy (Brown Slabs – Diff) but it gave us plenty of time to practise the placement of good protection and to talk to Nick on the way up (he was self belaying on a rope to the side). I lead the first route and then half way up set up a belay stance, then Caroline came up, and led the second pitch. (The pitches are only small on Brown Slabs). Suprisingly enough this took us most of the morning! Time flies when you’re having fun.

After a quick lunch we jumped back on and Caroline lead the first pitch of Brown Slabs Face, a VDiff – a little bit harder and an excellent climb. Her stance was facing a huge rock with two friends as anchors, unnerving apparently, as they really do look weird, nuts look much safer.

Finally, we did a practise ‘retreat’ abseil with prusik loops and everything. A lot easier having seen and done it than it is to read it in a book.

The day was an immense success, and we are now fully equipped (in a practical, but not equipment sense) to explore the great outdoors! Now we just need to spend a large amount of cash to buy all the equipment we need (and it is a lot!) – but luckily Caroline is going to buy half and me the other half… Oh, but wait, we’re married and have a joint bank account – damn!

Edit: Oh yeah, scariest moment was when a karibiner decided to escape from someone’s hand climbing next to us and descend the rock at great speed, missing my head by about 1m. Glad I had a helmet on and definately puts a helmet on the list of essential items.

Edit 2: Damn, nearly forgot – at the end we even managed to see Chris Bonington! Didn’t disturb the big guy but it’s great to know he can still get out to the crags and have a good climb (he was belaying at the time though).

Using Cam4You and Canon A70 as webcam

I’ve had a lot of people reach the site from google looking for information about using their canon A70 (or similar models) as a webcam. Having got the Cam4You utility to work I thought I’d give a quick run through of the how of getting it to work.

Step 1: Install Application and turn camera on

Sensible really, but install the cam4you utility and when thats done turn your camera on in the “preview” mode, while connected to your computer. You should then, when running the application see the following image:

Step 1 - First Screenshot of Cam4You utility

Choose “Pictures->Take picture remote” from the menu and continue.

Step 2: Configure Directories and Start Remote Connection

Next, choose the download directory, and any settings you want and then click the “Start Remote Process” button.

Step 2 - Setup and start remote connection screenshot

Step 3: Setup webcam settings

Next, go to the webcam tab and enter the filename you want the webcam file to have. This can then be uploaded on a regular basis using whatever program you want to your web-site.

Step 3 -Setup webcam settings screenshot

Step 4: Configure Timings

Finally, set the timings. You can set a start-time, which must be in the future else the application will not work (if you want it to start straight away then untick the “Use Start” checkbox.
Set the interval – every 10 minutes, or whatever you decide (every hour even).
Then set the end criteria, if any, either stop time, maximum number of pictures, both, or neither. If the stop time is in the past it will never stop :D

Step 4 - Configure timings screenshot

Then click the “Start taking pictures remote” button. If this button is grayed out then go back to the first tab (“Remote”) and click the “Start Remote Process” button again. If the camera fails to take any pictures (or the Time left to next shot counts UP) then check the start time is in the future, not in the past!

Again, you will probably need both a tripod of some description and a power supply, so be warned. Finally, there are lots of settings you can fiddle with, compression quality, size of image, zoom, exposure etc but I shall let you play with them. Enjoy.

Save bandwidth with PHP caching

I have a php script that generates my list of amazon books, but due to the fact that this generates a lovely delay each time the page loads I set this to be a javascript page, using a document.write to output the html.

This has another side benefit, that I can use browser caching to save on my bandwidth by only refreshing the web service and outputting the whole page if its a old copy.

I decided that I’d only refresh the amazon javascript every day, anytime you see the books listed after that it’ll be a cached copy on your local system.

To implement this you need to be using apache, doesn’t work in IE.

You’re looking for a header called “If-Modified-Since” which the browser will send to see if a new copy is available.

$allheaders = getallheaders();
$if_modified_since = preg_replace(‘/;.*$/’, ”, $allheaders[‘If-Modified-Since’]);
$if_modified_time = strtotime($if_modified_since);

The getallheaders() function is a apache only function. Then you parse this header to get the time and convert to a time integer.

$part = 24 * 60 * 60;
$t = floor(time()/$part)*$part;

if ($if_modified_time > $t) {
   header(“HTTP/1.0 304 Not Modified”);

This takes the current time, and flattens it to the nearest day. Then if the last modified since time if greater than this floored time send back the not modified header and exit.

Then, finally, if this is a ‘new’ file then send the last modified time as the current time.

$gmdate_mod = gmdate(‘D, d M Y H:i:s’, time()) . ‘ GMT’;
header(“Last-Modified: $gmdate_mod”);
header(“Content-Type: application/x-javascript”);

This output the Last-Modified header with the current timestamp. It also output the content-type as javascript, so it is handled properly.

Hope this helps.