Walking Snowdonia: Drum

What a day! While in North Wales we decided we wanted to walk up some hills…So that’s what we did.

With cloud in the forecast we chose a route the took in a couple of lower peaks, with the option to bag a #welsh3000 if we wanted.

Here is a map of the route. A pink line forms a figure of eight.

We started at the car park and headed for #talyfan which sits at 610m at the summit. The climb is short, sweet and in places pretty steep! It was a little test before we committed ourselves to a longer and higher walk. We haven’t been out on the hills for a while and since then, despite having 2 jabs, John had a touch of long covid and Lauren also ‘caught’ Asthma, so definitely a bit of a test of our lungs.

A cloudy view overlooking another Welsh peak. The top is just in the clouds.

Most of the way up, John holds a backpack while walking and uses a walking pole to check the height of any steps or drops but when the ground gets steep he lets go and finds his own way up.

John stands on rocks following a gulley upwards.

Next was a sharp decent and another climb talking in #foellwyd (600m) unavoidably as we went. Here again, we had options, head straight up a steep path, go back to the car park or take a long farm track up to the top. We went with the steep path and it was a pretty long trudge up to #drumsummit with plenty of bogs around. We saw #carneddauponies as we went and stepped in a fair bit of their poo ??

Carnadau Ponies. One is walking on the crest of a hill while another munches grass.

We reached the summit which was a pretty good feeling after a tough climb. We decided afterwards to head back down even though the top of #foelfras was clear. We’d already had a good work out and we wanted to do a first for us, which was to get back down in the light. (We succeeded!) great day!

Lauren and John stand inside a windbreak made from rocks. Hills are visible in the distance. These shelters are a great place to sit out of the wind while you have a snack.

Volunteering at The Big Sky Hideaway

When we recently offered the opportunity to get out and do some covid-secure volunteering we jumped at the chance. Breaking up the lockdown routine and doing some good at the same time sounded just perfect, so that’s what we did.

We have been involved with SayYesMore for a few years now and while The Big Sky Hideaway isn’t a SayYesMore project it will be home to The YesBus and we know so many great things are going to happen there.

A view looking out into a field. A school bus is visible in the background and in the foreground a double decker bus with the words SayYesMore stickered on the back.
Seeing those three giant words immediately made this place feel like home.

We stayed on site for a couple of days and nights using a converted american school bus as our base. Eventually guests will be able to stay in the school bus for holidays.

We were really eager to get started and make a difference while we were at Big Sky so after dropping our stuff off and exploring the bus we got started. There are loads of little projects going on across the site and there was lots for us to do. There is a large pile of hardcore mixed with soil and one of the jobs is to separate the soil from the stones. The stones will be used to improve the track in and the soil will be used for growing veggies.

Lauren and John stood by the pile of soil with buckets surrounding them.
The pile of gravel/soil
John stands holding the lid of a giant blue barrel that he is stood next to. There is a pile of soil on the ground.
Trying to move those barrels full of soil was tough
John stands next to the yesbus and is sifting soil into a bucket.
John was a soil sifting ninja!
John has just tipped a bin full of soil on to a large pile.

We had plenty of time to chill out and enjoy the site while we were there. We were lucky enough to see a group of 3 fallow deer on one of our walks and just chilling in the bus was lovely. Dinner both nights was a variation of camp pasta. Tortellini, sausage, tinned cherry tomatoes and cheese. We often throw meals like this together when we go camping as none of the ingredients need to be kept in the fridge.

There were a lot of options when it came to things we could do. We spent a morning clearing some woodland so a glamping pod could be moved into it’s final-ish position. We then broke up all of the dead wood we picked up so it can be used for toasting marshmallows in the future.

There’s also a patch of earth with a lot of bricks and concrete in it. They will also be useful for track improvements so we dug a few out.

There is something very satisfying about smashing stuff
John stands next to a wall of placed bricks with a crowbar in hand.

One of the best things about being at The Big Sky Hideaway that was for just a few days, life felt normal. We were doing normal things surrounded by nature. The sun was out and it was lovely! We can’t wait to get back to this awesome place.

The vibe was easy going and relaxed. Most people would have a bit of a fit at the sight of a blind guy driving their pride and joy but Dave isn’t most people!

How you can help blind people on your daily exercise.

Lockdown has been a tough time for blind and visually impaired people. New layouts, extra signage and social distancing can be difficult when you can’t see. We can’t sort the pandemic, but there is something we can do to help blind or visually impaired people in our local area (including John).

We have been using our local exercise during lockdown to check that pedestrian crossings have been working properly and as they should. Together as a team we can check all elements both sides of a crossing (button, lights and the tactile spinner underneath). If it doesn’t work we report it using an app and website called FixMyStreet where you can pinpoint the problem, share a photo and a report is sent to the council.

The issues we have reported using the app have been fixed within days. We have been impressed! We would love it if you could give any crossing boxes a little check when you next pass one. It could really help somebody. A whole host of issues can be reported including broken/missing signage, fly tipping and problems with bus shelters so it’s a pretty useful app. Most of the buttons are screen reader accessible but pinpointing the location on a map can be difficult. TIP: If the app is closed and you open it when you are in the right location the location pin should automatically be in your current position.

Snow Day

A much needed Snow Day!

This lockdown seems harder than all of the others. We have less to do and at times we have found it tough (like many I am sure). While the colder weather has meant it has been easier to spend time inside this time around we’d still much prefer the canal towpaths we’re in slightly better condition so we could get back out on the tandem!

Today we have been blessed with lots and lots of snow! We hit the park with Guide Dog Daisy and had a blast: Building snowmen, throwing snowballs and all that kind of stuff. Great fun!

Lauren, John, Daisy and a snowman have are squeezed into the frame of a  selfie.
Daisy, Lauren and John are stood next to a 5ft Snowman with a face made from sticks and twigs

Commando Ridge

Take a look at our video from our trip to Cornwall, where John became the first blind person to climb commando ridge.

Graded a V-diff, it’s well within our capabilities but some routes are more blind friendly than others. Bosigran ridge is firmly on the less-than-friendly side with out-of-sight belays and lots of gaps and boulders to hop across.

John's hands reach over the edge of a rockface down to a deep zawn
“Not that way”
Lauren holds onto a large flake of rock wearing a red T-shirt and green backpack. Behind her you can see large pillars of rock and the green sea below.
Lauren following up as a second
John stands below the commando memorial plaque

The Bear Grylls Adventure – Reopening day visit

On the 4th July, as lockdown restrictions eased, we found ourselves at the Bear Grylls Adventure, close to Birmingham. Probably like many other people at the moment, we found ourselves torn between being totally excited to do more of the things we love and a bit nervous. What will the new normal look like at an adventure park?

Our minds were soon put at ease by the welcoming staff members who greeted us (and checked our temperatures) upon arrival.

First up, climbing! For us, climbing is something we do plenty of, but with limited opportunities to train over the past few months, we couldn’t wait to spend some time ‘flying up’ some routes. There are some pretty challenging climbs there, so it’s worth a visit no matter your ability. It’s the closest thing to climbing outside, inside. Compared to our last visit, we felt pretty good on the rock, probably thanks to losing a few pounds, a bit of home training and our recent practice outside on real rock. We had a great time! 

Lauren climbing some of the ‘limestone’ pockets.

The session wasn’t that much different to before. We went in and out in slightly different places and had zones to boulder and climb in, but we did just as much as before. There are less people on the sessions, plenty of hand sanitiser and they like you to wear a face covering if possible. 

Next up was iFly. Again, the experience was just the same as before lockdown. We got kitted up and waited our turn in a different (bigger) area to before. You actually get a slightly better view from the new position so it’s no bad thing. We know having a blind person on a session isn’t too easy, especially for the first time, but we worked together with the instructor and it worked as well as ever with taps and tactile signals as before. The high fly was a real buzz too!

John is looking at the camera while skydiving. He is wearing an orange and grey jumpsuit, goggles and a helmet. An instructor named Harry is holding his shoulder and leg to keep him steady (for the camera!)

Last but not least, the obstacle course. To do this you have to wear a face covering, which can get a little hot, but it seems like a fair compromise to keep everybody safe. We also saw the area and obstacles being wiped down on a good few occasions on our visit. The instructor did a great job of helping and guiding John. 

We’re really happy we had a great day. The only teething issue we found was with the hearing loop on the front desk (I think somebody had unplugged it) but once we raised attention to it the team began to work on getting it up and running again. There’s also the classic VI challenge of not being able to touch items in the shop, but this is a wider issue in general something that there’s not an easy answer to. 

The team at The Bear Grylls Adventure have done a remarkable job of keeping the quality of the experience the same despite the huge challenge of keeping things safe during the pandemic. We’d definitely recommend a visit!

John is stood infront of Daneil from ITV while a cameraman films.

Raising awareness of accessibility during the pandemic

Over recent weeks and months, we’ve slowly began to watch the world around us turn more ‘covid-secure’ and less accessible to those with a disability. Small oversights that have led to a big drop in some people’s independence and ability to get around.

At first we noticed that some disabled bays getting blocked off, an inconvenience for us (and the need for John to be extra careful with the car door!) but a major problem for wheelchair users or those who cannot walk far. In our minds, the solution would be to reserve a few more disabled bays where those originally there had been turned into queues, but it hasn’t happened on a wider scale and the queues look like they are due to stay for a while longer.

We’ve also noticed large parts of paths on high streets and retail parks get blocked off, forcing pedestrians into the carpark or roads close-by. Imagine doing that if you couldn’t see or hear.

This is why in recent times the outdoors has been easier for John to navigate. The below video was the first time John went out ‘alone’ with guide dog Daisy and it’s not something he is eager to do again.

Take a look at the report by Daniel Hewitt from ITV.

Back on rock!

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been climbing again (carefully). We want to be as safe as possible so sensible route and crag choices has been important. It’s so nice to get away from this new normality and forget about what has been going on for a short while. It’s not about pushing grades – it’s about spending time outdoors doing things we love.

Organising climbing kit in anticipation of a day’s climbing
Top roping at a local crag with Anita Agawaal (paraclimber)
Anita leading a climb and John belaying
John has a first aid certificate. It didn’t cover ‘suncream in the eye’ but he still knew what to do
John ‘seconding’ a route

A video from our day at Harborough rocks

Abseiling in at Symonds Yat

We’d love to know where everybody else has been climbing or having adventures now some of the restrictions have been lifted!

Lockdown: An opportunity

Lockdown: An opportunity

What a difference a month can make. This time a month a go we were planning adventures and talking of all the things we’d like to do this month and year; Climbing projects, cycle tours and lots of other little things. We’ve joined a massive club of people with cancelled plans and things we want to do that will just have to wait. But with all this comes a massive opportunity. One thing we never have quite enough of is time and now we have it in abundance.

We we’re supposed to be climbing when the announcement on lockdown began. Our van was loaded, we’d chosen a crag and we were really looking forward to spending some time on the rock for the first time this year, like lots of climbers we expect – the weather so far this year has been pretty rubbish for climbing so we we’re itching to get out on the rock. Obviously those plans had to change. We’ve been observing social distancing rules together, at John’s place in Birmingham. Being stuck indoors with your best mate is better than without (we hope – we’re still friends so far!)

What we have found so far is that we have been far from bored. In fact, we’ve had tonnes to do. We have so much time, and so many things we never quite have time to get around to doing to get done. Lauren has started to learn Yoga. John’s garage has never been so tidy and we’re motivated to exercise and train so we’re adventure ready when we’re the other side of this. The to-do list is shrinking down and it has felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pause, rest and catch up with everything.

If there was ever a time to take some time for yourself to do something you’ve wanted to do this might just be it. Learn to play an instrument, make videos, spend some time in the garden. Those of us who are working age might not ever have free time like this again until we are retired. Let’s make the most of it. Adventures can be planned now, but can certainly wait until later.