These courses cover a range of skills from navigation and route finding to scrambling and multi-day treks. Scrambling is the natural progression from walking into ascending steeper and more rocky ground. It is often said to cover territory that requires the use of hands as well as feet, but does not normally involve the extensive use of ropes. Our advice here is of necessity brief, but we are always happy to discuss equipment in more detail either face-to-face or over the phone.
Warm outdoor wear - even in summer it can be distinctly cold on the summits.
Walkers and climber employ the layering principle to keeping warm and dry, adapting elements of it to the prevailing conditions. For more details of the layering system click here.
Baselayer garments are thin and quick drying. There are a multiplicity to choose from. Thicker ones often call themselves thermals, although since all clothing has thermal properties, this is really just a matter of degree.
The mid-layer is the one between the baselayer and the shell layer and provides the principle insulation and warmth of the system. Typical mid-layer clothing is fleece or microfleece pullover or jackets for the top half, fleece pants, tracksuit bottoms or trousers for the lower half of the body. Avoid cotton clothing such as T shirts or jeans as these will will get damp and clammy, and do not transport moisture effectively. The shell layer must be windproof and if necessary waterproof. Many garments do both, but an unproofed windproof is far more breathable than even the best waterproofs.
Softshell garments offer windproofness, excellent breathability, some insulation and varying degrees of waterproofness. A bit of an all-in-one garment. Other windproofs can be either lined, or incredibly small and lightweight.
Hat and gloves - again these may be needed at any time of year. Thin stretchy liner gloves are sufficient for summer breezes, but something more substantial, and preferably waterproof will be necessary in spring or autumn.
Day rucksack - this needs to have a capacity of at least 30 lites for summer, and 40 litres if it is going to be used all year round. Side pockets may be preferred for walking - they provide somewhere to stow stuff without having to open the main compartment, and make it easier to find hat and gloves quickly than having to delve amongst everything else. When scrambling a slimmer sack without projecting pockets is preferable - otherwise it will catch when climbing up narrow gullies or chimneys.
Rucksack liner - a bin liner will do, but does not last long. An old fertilizer bag is stronger, but needs washing out. Or you can invest in a purpose made rucksac liner, either a poly bag or a fully waterproof roll top nylon sack liner with tape sealed seams.
Small first aid kit - how small depends on how accident prone you are! Your instructor will be carrying a larger one for more serious injuries, but you need some plasters, antiseptic wipes and some tape. If you have weak ankles or are prone to blisters or rubbing take pre-emptive action, and tape up before you go out - the tape will stick much better and it will be much better if you can avoid actually getting your skin broken. If you are going to be doing any watersports - kayaking or gorge scrambling - then either get a waterproof First Aid Kit, or buy a drybag to put it in.
Water bottle. Nalgene are good examples at the quality end but there are lots of others to choose from. Many people prefer hydration systems that allow you to drink while on the move. Working hard going uphill, especially in hot weather you lose a lot of water as sweat - more indeed than you can replace easily. Hydration systems with isotonic powders let you replace lost fluid gradually, and at the maximum rate the body can absorb it, but if you plan to use these make sure that you buy a hydration system that is designed for you to do this - trying to get powders through the cap of a regular bottle is not easy!
Vacuum flask - make sure it is stainless steel, not one of the old glass liner ones.
1:25,000 OS Explorer 17 map – Snowdon + Conwy Valley A laminated map is best, or bring a large heavy duty transparent polythene bag, or invest in a purpose made mapcase. Cheap ones are OK, but stiffen and split after a couple of years, the best are the Ortleib, which include a removable waist drawcord to stop the map blowing up in very windy conditions.
Walking boots - We have an extensive range and a great team of experienced fitters in our shops to help you make one of the most important decisions of your outdoor life.
Gaiters - not essential, but useful for protecting trousers, and in wet weather stops water running down your jacket, down your overtousers and into the top of your boots. Remember to put gaiters on under overtrousers, otherwise that is exactly what will happen. Breathable gaiters are of course more comfortable to wear than straight-forward nylon ones.
Waterproof jacket - lots to choose from. With waterproofs, as with much else in life, you get what you pay for. Making garments waterproof in the easy bit. The difficult bit is making them breathable enough, and to a lesser extent making them both durable and lightweight. The choices are endless, ranging from under £50 to over £500. Apart from the quality of the proofing what else do you look for? Much depends on personal preferences, but a good hood is an important feature. If you intend to go winter climbing it must be large enough to take a helmet, although for summer use it then needs some form of volume reducer to avoid it flopping down over your eyes. Ideally it should give good all round protection, yet turn with your head rather than your head turning inside it. It should also have a stiffened and/or wired hood. A well designed hood proving full face protection is then too bulky to fit in the collar, so normally just rolls up at the back of the neck. Other features to look for are under-arm zips to provide additional ventilation - an admission that even the best jackets are not immune to the condensation problem. Some now use water resistant zips with tiny (or no) storm flaps which helps to keep down weight and bulk without compromising performance. Look at the pockets. Technical jackets often now dispense with lower pockets as the are often of little use if you have a rucksac hipbelt or climbing harness over them. Instead they have "Napoleon pockets" on the chest. If you stand with your hands in these water now drips off your elbows instead or running down your arms into the pockets. Some are mesh lined so they can be left open for ventilation others are waterproof and fully taped so that wet hat and gloves stuffed into them do not wet the wearer. Some jackets have pit zips for additional ventilation, although these have somewhat fallen out of favour now. Remember that it is best to keep on the cool side of comfortable, rather than the warm side. Sweating is simply the bodies reaction to to getting to warm and trying to regulate the core temperature.
Waterproof trousers - If you want to save money do so on the trousers rather than the jacket, as the trousers will get considerably less wear. Look for long leg zips, especially if you have larger feet, or consider full zip overtrousers, although getting these on and off by completely undoing the zips is not as easy as you would imagine!
Informal clothing for leisure wear
Notebook and pens
Compass - Silva are the market leaders in the UK. A good compass is not cheap, but is precision engineered, with jewelled bearings. For navigation or mountain leadership courses get a Silva Type 4 is the one to get. The large baseplate and roamer scales are very useful for preparing routecards.
EQUIPMENT FOR ROCK CLIMBING Much of the kit is the same as is required for other mountain activities
Warm outdoor wear as above
Hat, gloves or mitts as above
Day rucksack As this is going to have to accommodate your spare clothing and your personal climbing equipment - harness, helmet, boots and belaying kit (and later on your own rack too) - a 40-50 litre rucksac will be needed. A narrow profile sack without side pockets will be best as there is less to catch if you are climbing with it. As the sack may get hard use, getting abraded against rock and having metal hardware thrown in to it, don't be tempted to go for an ultralight design.
Small personal first aid kit
Water bottle Flask
Full set of waterproofs Personal toiletries and medication
Rockboots - we have a wide range, from board lasted boots designed for the beginner to the latest stickies.
Chalk bag - lots to chose from, in various sizes, and lots of colours. But at the end of the day it is still just a bag for chalk!
Harness - Choose a harness with adjustable legloops if you want it to serve for wall climbing, outdoor summer and winter climbing. That way you will get a good fit whatever clothing you are wearing. For simplicity, and a slight saving in cost go for fixed legloops. Most have plenty of gear loops - make sure there are at least 4 if you plan to lead. Womens harnesses have a different ratio of waist to legloop size and a different rise (the distance between the legloops and waistbelt), so are much more comfortable to use. If you're a woman that is.
Helmet - prices range from £45 upwards. Go for something that is comfortable and lightweight. The Petzl Elios and the Petzl Ecrin are popular choices. Traditional fibreglass, polycarbonate, nylon or ABS helmets should be used for alpine, winter and long multi-pitch climbs, but the expanded foam helmets (the ones like bike helmets) give better protection in swinging falls and maybe preferred for cragging.
Climbing rack - Where do you start? If you don't have a rack before you get to PYB, wait until you have seen what others use, and which sizes are most the most useful. Climbers all have their own favourites, but you will not go far wrong if you go for DMM or Wild Country kit. Don't forget a few tapes too. 120cm are probably the most useful as they can always be doubled up if you want a shorter length.
WINTER MOUNTAINEERING COURSES
Although Welsh winters cannot be guaranteed to produce any snow and ice these days, you still need to come prepared for such conditions.
Mountaineering boots - these should be stiff enough (at least B1 stiffness) to take a crampon for winter walking. Gaiters Climbing helmet (see above) Climbing harness (see above)
Crampons & anti-balling plates. Categorised by their rigidity. C1 are the most flexible and are aimed at limited, basic use such as glacier crossings or limited walking on not too steep snow slopes. They will fit on any stifferned (B1) boot. C2 is the general purpose articulated crampon, for B2 or B3 stiffness boots. They will cope with all winter walking and much winter climbing. C3 are rigid crampons and need to be supported by near rigid B3 boots to avoid over flexing them, which leads to work hardening and then breakage. Not recommended as a walking crampon, but good for precision climbing on steep ice or mixed pitches.
Ice Axe: A 60 - 65cm shaft with a gently curved pick is ideal for winter walking. As you move into steeper ground and narrow gullies so the axe becomes shorter, and the angle of the pick steeper. Traditionally picks have been forged. These tend to be a bit thicker than the stamped or laser cut picks, and therefore hold better when brakeing in softer snow, but penetrate less well in hard ice, and can cause more shattering.
Hat & balaclava For climbing a thin balaclava that can be worn under a your helmet is ideal, a thicker fleece or windproof fleece model is needed for winter walking. We are proud to say that we have the world's best selection of traditional Scottish wool balaclavas - essential for every mountaineer since the 1970's. Don't panic though as we also have a great selection of modern alternatives too!
Mitts & gloves - woollen Dachstein mitts are old fashioned but still excellent, they are not waterproof, but are windproof and keep hands remarkably warm even when they have got wet. Gloves tend to be less warm than mitts (larger surface area losing heat around the fingers) but mean you can do more without having to take them off - try careful navigation in Dachsteins! There are numerous versions, some with waterproof inter-liners, although this is perhaps less important than being warm and windproof. If you get a pair with long cuffs make sure that these are inside your jacket sleeves.
Snow goggles. Ski goggles, or (since you will not to moving that fast) glasses. If you choose glasses then they will need to be darker (or photochromatics), than would be needed in a British summer because there is much more reflection off snow. Look for category 4 lenses.
Whistle Get a plastic one, metal ones can freeze to your lips. Ouch.
Headtorch, batteries Unilke a summer day out there is a real likelihood that you will need to use these. If you use a traditional headlamp with a bulb then make sure you have a spare. Modern LED lights avoid this, and give very long run times.
Compass - Silva type 4 recommended
Survival Bag - Plastic type or Blizzard bag. The latter is made from two layers of reflective space blanket material and traps air between so providing far superior insulation but without the weight or bulk of carrying a sleeping bag.
Waterproof jacket (see above - pay particular attention to getting a good hood as it really can make a difference when the weather becomes extreme)
Waterproof overtrousers or salopettes Salopettes have the advantage of avoiding cold spots, or consider high waisted overtrousers and braces.
Thermals - Don't use cotton. Merino Wool feels luxurious, and absorbs a good deal of moisture before feeling damp. However, it is difficult to dry out if camping. Silk has largely been replaced by modern synthetics. Helly Hansen Lifa is traditional but there are many other, less aromatic, alternatives.
Insulating layers - Fleece is the usual answer. But down clothing has a much better warmth to weight ratio. However, is often too warm for activity use in the UK, and has a very poor performance if it gets wet. Synthetic alternatives make more sense in the UK as they still retain good insulating characteristics when they are damp, and are not damaged if they do get wet. For camps from Spring through to Autumn a down or synthetic vest is a useful bit of kit, that packs very small and can be pulled on once a chill is in the air.
Thick socks/ underwear
Blister kit/ small first aid kit
Pen - permanent a fine map marker from office suppliers are good. Although "permanent" they can be wiped off laminated maps very easily with methylated spirit. (Other concentrated forms of alcohol also work, but it seems a shame to waste it!)
Personal toiletries & medications
1:25 000 OS Map: Outdoor Leisure Map 17: Snowdon + Conwy Valley (We have these both laminated and in paper, but have to charge postage on them - e-mail or ring for details)
Water Bottle or hydration system - see above.