Friday, July 31, 2009

Objects of Desire

The Kitchen Sink is a great accessory for the environmentally conscious camper. Hidden snugly away in a handy carry pouch, it pops out and expands to give you a sink that will hold up to 5 litres of water. The steel rim keeps the sink upright once it's been filled, and the reinforced carry handles will make carrying the water back from the babbling brook 200 yards away less of a chore. It's completely waterproof and you won't have any problem using hot water and detergent - which is ideal, especially if you want to wash your dishes - which is quite possibly the point of the thing. Once you've done your dishes it folds up super-easily and slips back into its pouch. At last you can head into the wilds with everything AND the kitchen sink.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leadership Power - 1

Before we can fully comprehend leadership, it does well to appreciate and understand where the power to be a leader comes from. It is the application of this power that marks a leader’s way of working (Barnes, 2002). This blog posting is based on Heifetz’s (1998) discussion of the matter.

Power is often seen as the possession of authority based on a formalised role. Leaders generally fall into two types: emergent and designated (Ogilvie, 2005, Priest & Gass, 2005). The first of these simply means those leaders who have emerged from a peer group because of some exceptional circumstance or trait whilst the second are those leaders that have been prescribed for the role. Differentiating between the informal and prescribed leadership roles is important as designated leaders can sometimes conflict with emerging ones (Heifetz, 1998).

In either circumstance, leaders are regarded as people who have the right to direct the group (Ogilvie, 2005). Followers comply with them because their power is seen as legitimate. Groups will not follow someone they perceive as powerless or influential. Leaders may have formal authority, but they rely in large part on informal authority (Heifetz, 1998). This flows from their personal qualities and actions. Leaders may be trusted, respected for their expertise, or followed because of their ability to persuade.

Leaders have authority as part of an exchange. If they fail to deliver the goods, to meet people’s expectations, they run the risk of their authority being removed and given to another. Those who have formal authority over the leader may take this action. However, we also need to consider the other side. Followers, knowingly or unknowingly, accept the right of the person to lead and any given situation is contingent upon this. The leader also relies on the followers for feedback and contributions. Without these they will not have the information and resources to do their job. Leaders and followers are interdependent (Doyle & Smith, 2001; Heifetz, 1998).

Having formal authority is both a resource and a constraint. On the one hand it can bring access to systems and resources. Handled well it can help people feel safe. On the other hand, formal authority carries with it certain expectations and these can be quite unrealistic in times of crisis. Heifetz puts it in these terms ‘…raise hard questions and one risks getting cut down, even if the questions are important for moving forward on the problem’ (Heifetz, 1998: 180).

People who do not have formal positions of power can also enjoy informal authority (Ogilvie, 2005). Being outside the formal power structure, but within a group, can be an advantage. That leader might have more freedom of movement, the chance of focusing on what they see as the issue (rather than the organisation’s focus), and there is a stronger chance of being in touch with what people are feeling ‘at the frontline’. Whether there is formal or informal authority that comes from emergent or designated leadership roles, there are five documented sources of power (French & Raven, 1959; Raven & Rubin, 1976; Raven, 1992) referred to as the bases of power (Barnes, 2002).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Morning Wave

Photographer: Digga

You can't soul-arch your wave through life. Every so often you have to bow down and go for the tube

- Gary Sahagen -
surfer, engineer, curator of the Huntington Beach Surf Museum

Friday, July 24, 2009

Objects of Desire

With so many electrical devices plugged in all around your house it starts to become worryingly apparent exactly why this globe of ours is spluttering so. Not to mention the inconvenience of lugging around 6 chargers every time you decide to leave the house for longer than 24 hours to ensure that you don't completely lose contact with civilisation. You already cycle and walk most places, so why not take the next logical step and get yourself a wind powered battery charger. It straps onto your arm, bicycle, boat or dog, you can pretty much strap it to anything.

The wind turns the propeller, which in turn powers the turbine and creates enough energy to power up your rechargeable gizmos. All you need to do is plug the battery unit into your iPod, mobile phone or PDA and you'll soon have enough of a charge to see you through the next phone call or playlist. Perfect for the little green person inside all of us and it's incredibly satisfying to say that your mobile is wind powered!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Single Pitch Award Assessment

In contrast to the SPA Training I worked on with Dave Hooper when the weather was sweltering at times, this weekends SPA assessment with Bryn Williams almost required us to dig out flippers and snorkel. Even heading to Holyhead Mountain on Anglesey didn't see us escape the rain.

Nonetheless, the candidates had fair opportunity to complete a couple of climbs each. The first day of assessment is very much about personal climbing. Looking at sound belays and good runner placements on the lead. Being able to lock off then eventually lower a second who might be struggling with the climb. Then retreating from the climb by way of personal abseil.

The second day was spent at Lion Rocks where group climbing and management systems were examined. On this day, a candidate needs to show a good understanding of sound rope set-ups that enable 'bottom roping' and group abseiling to be conducted safely. A number of scenarios were set to see if the candidate has the experience to solve problems - climber off route; climber stuck; climber unresponsive as examples. Finally, the group made a visit to the Beacon climbing wall so candidates could demonstrate their knowledge of running sessions at such a venue and the associated issues.

I'm pleased to say that on this occasion all the candidates were successful and met the criteria admirably

Get in touch should you wish to do your Single Pitch Award

Further information can be obtained by visiting the Mountain Leader Training UK website

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Wave

Photographer: Mickey Smith

Laird Hamilton at Teahupoo - an absolute classic from young Cornish photographer, Mickey Smith. Mickey 'half fish, half artist' used to shoot for one of the UK's many surf mags, but recently freed himself up so that we could all enjoy his crazy talent

Friday, July 17, 2009

Objects of Desire

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Until you drop your keys overboard, then it all becomes a bit of a chore. Next time, attach the Waterbuoy and, within seconds of hitting the water, environmentally friendly gas will automatically inflate the reinforced rubber balloon to save your keys from being lost in the gloomy depths. You don't have to stop at keys either - clip the Waterbuoy to any item weighing up to 1kg and it will happily float on the water for 24 hours. If you're going to drop something in the river, chances are you'll do it in the dark (it's the law of the sod - or something like that) which is why the crafty inventors have included a blinking LED light in just the right place to make your floating gizmo visible from up to 250m away. This makes the Waterbuoy the world's first and only miniature floatation device that's visible at night.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Advanced Entry Skills


Photographer: Ian Vaile

Cathy Miller demonstrates the new, perhaps controversial, gymnastic way to get into your sea kayak with the spraydeck already in situ, as discussed by the New South Wales Sea Kayak Club's Training Group

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday Morning Wave

World champion big wave surfers, Garrett McNamara and Kealii Mamala rode into surfing history last week when they towed into a monster tsunami created by Child's Glacier in South-Central Alaska.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Climbing Games - Paul Smith

Reviewed for the Mountain Leader Training Association by Mal Creasey:

"...This is a real bumper fun book with over 120 different activities described and although there are some who will say many of the games and activities have been around for a few years, it is really nice to see all the ideas on the one volume. Especially at the price of under a tenner!

The icons on page 7 give a clear induction of what each activity will improve and as you progress through the book these become familiar and easily remembered. There are brief notes on the safety issues including spotting, wearing helmets indoors, supervising novice belayers before moving on to look at the fundamental skills such as balance, body awareness, handholds and footholds etc.

Many of the earlier activities described are those that we traditionalist would simple have called a ‘warm up’ however we are warned not to call it that now as certain groups may associated the term with schools days…..ah well, I will try but some habits are difficult to change after all these years! The book progresses from these ‘loosening up’ activities to take a specific look at Traversing, Balance and Footwork before the last two chapters look at un roped climbing activities more suited to the bouldering wall before finishing of with activities which will help the budding leader adapt to clipping quickdraws as they contemplate the transition from seconding or top roping to leading.

The book relies on colour photographs with just a short paragraph to outline each activity and this is to me this is perfectly adequate, perhaps this has something to do with the clear layout that we have come to expect from Pesda Press. All in all it is difficult to find anything to criticize about this little book, especially considering the cost and should be a must for everyone involved in working with novices, particularly in the indoor environment where it can often be difficult to keep younger kids enthused over longer period of time".

Climbing Games by Paul Smith can be ordered directly from Pesda Press by clicking on the picture below
Climbing Games

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Spotting Lemons

Its not about the fruit, rather a theory that uses the analogy of lemons in a slot machine to illustrate the process by which accidents can occur in the outdoors. However, unlike winning on the slot machine when all the lemons line up, in this analogy when you get 'all in a row', it reflects the opposite…. you lose big time! (Haddock, 1993).

In the outdoors, accidents are rarely caused by a single catastrophic event, a 'chain reaction' or 'domino effect'. Rather accidents are often the results of decisions and events combining together that add up to create sufficient potential to precipitate an accident. What this means is that while an individual situation may well have low consequences when it occurs by itself, the accumulative effect of several factors leads to an accident of high consequences. A lemon then is any factor that could lead to an accident given the presence of other contributory factors, that is more lemons (Crossland, Salisbury & Baillie, 2009).

Look upon it this way. Every time a group ventures outdoors, they are putting a token into the slot and pulling down the handle of an 'Outdoor Disaster Jackpot Machine'. Each time a casual factor such as not bringing sufficient warm clothing is overlooked, up pops a lemon in one of the windows of the machine. As more and more factors go 'unspotted', more lemons appear. The process continues until either the activity is finished or there are enough lemons to hit the disaster jackpot! (Raffan, 1984).

For example, a situation might be as follows:

The one guy who really knows the route, Kelvin, has a flu on the morning of departure and did not turn up but the group decided to carry on as Paul, sort of know the way – Up pops 1 lemon.

Many people did not have adequate warm clothing and waterproofs – Up pops another lemon, that makes 2.

Bad weather signs were ignored – Another lemon pops up, making it now 3 lemons in total.

The group left the main track to take a 'short-cut' of which Paul wasn’t really sure of, which looked like a path – Up pops another lemon, which makes it 4.

The group gets a whole row of lemons; they got lost and the rain is pouring and some of the group members get seriously ill due to the cold.......jackpot!

As we go about spotting lemons, it is worth considering that lemons can also be categorised and thus keep things in perspective:

a) unavoidable and bound to happen (bearing in mind the nature of the outdoors), e.g - trips and slips; a novice participant getting distracted.

b) avoidable and unnecessary, e.g inappropriate instruction or misuse of equipment.

c) rare and unusual, e.g equipment malfunction; sudden medical emergency.

Clearly, we need to be mindful to avoid these categories from combining, especially a) and b), otherwise an accident is highly likely

Remember, spotting lemons is a simple and easy way of enhancing safety in the outdoors. Keep the lemons from occurring too often during the activity and you will have made the experience for the participants a safer one.

Bear in mind this is not a new concept and material on this subject, including scenarios and their analysis can be found on the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council website

Monday, July 06, 2009

Monday Morning Wave

Sliding a wave removes our brains out of the ordinary and slips us into the extra ordinary of being there now. No more worries about mortgages or strife of being poor or rich. When you enter the domain of an ocean cylinder, that moment, those split seconds belong to the Zen part of just being. Period

- Bill Hamilton -

Friday, July 03, 2009

Single Pitch Award Training

Had the pleasure of working with Dave Hooper once more this week. This time on a Single Pitch Award training course. Despite the sweltering heat, broken at times with summer rain showers, the candidates received a full and complete course.

Saturday was spent at Clowgyn Cyrrau that sits above Betws y Coed. The day was used to explore personal climbing skills including belays, lowers, personal abseils and environmental impact factors. The evening session was held at Plas y Brenin's climbing wall and looked at the specifics of running activities as such a venue.

Sunday brought with it more warm weather and a change of venue. Due to the ever popular nature of Lion Rock, we worked on Spotted Crag for the day. Here we covered all the necessary areas for supervising a group at the rock face including management, group belay systems, abseils and problem solving. After which we retreated to the Caban in Brynrefail for cold ginger beer and the course review.

Get in touch should you wish to do your Single Pitch Award

Further information can be obtained by visiting the Mountain Leader Training UK website