Stu McAleese talks about the PyB Expedition Symposium

© PyB / Individual Photographers
Stu McAleese  © PyB / Individual Photographers
Stu McAleese
© PyB / Individual Photographers
Following on from our superb article from Andy Cave, Some Thoughts For Young Alpinists, I was intrigued to find out more about the Expedition Symposium weekend at Plas y Brenin.

Far from being an elite event aimed at hard-core big wallers, Plas y brenin have put together a weekend of workshops and lectures that cover may topics ranging from global trekking, expedition cooking, mountain photography, and of course, hard-core big walling too.

If you want to find out more about expedition climbing or even about specific areas of the world, this could be a very cost-effective (£100 all in!) and great fun way of doing it.

I cornered Stu McAleese, one of Plas y Brenin's top mountain guides. Stu is running the Expedition Symposium Weekend and after I got him to introduce himself, I asked him all about it.

Who is Stu McAleese?

I asked Stu to give me a brief run down of his climing and expedition experience:

"I have been climbing and mountaineering for over 15 years and currently work at Plas y Brenin as an Instructor. I started climbing in the Lakes when I was 17 and in 2008 I became a UIAGM Mountain Guide. I've climbed first ascents of big walls and Alpine routes in Alaska and Patagonia and to me expedition climbing and mountaineering brings it all together to produce some of the very best adventures and experiences you will ever have."

"In 2003 I was nominated for the Piolet d Or, for the ascent of the Supa Dupa Couloir, (ED4: WI6+, 3,700', McAleese-Sanders-Turner, 2003) on the Citadel in the Kichatna Mountains, Alaska."

"In 2005 I got the opportunity to attempt a new route on Changabang's West Wall, this was to be my greatest experience of expedition climbing, in the footsteps of legends Pete Boardman and Joe Tasker, but I love every form of climbing and mountaineering, Scottish Winter climbing is one of my personal favourites, I've done over 100 winter routes on the Ben Nevis."

A list of Stu's recent expeditions covers several continents:

  • “Off the Wall Madness” First Ascent Alaska 2002
  • “Supa Dupa Couloir” First Ascent 2003
  • Fitzroy East Face, Attempt 2003
  • “Perfect Storm” First Ascent 2004
  • Middle Triple Peak Attempt 2005
  • Changabang West Wall Attempt 2005
  • Peru 2007
  • "The Good, the bad and the ugly" First Ascent Patagonia 2007

Commenting on his top expedition route ever, Stu got straight to the point:

"It was the Supa Dupa Coulior Alaska, the perfect ice line! Straight to the summit 1200m!"

Stu is sponsored by Mountain Equipment and DMM.

Kenton Cool on the summit of Everest (again!)  © PyB / Individual Photographers
Kenton Cool on the summit of Everest (again!)
© PyB / Individual Photographers

Expedition Symposium Weekend At Plas y Brenin:

Jack: Who is headlining at the weekend?

The line up of staff working on the event are some of the very best in the game.

The two guest speakers for the evenings are Kenton Cool and James McHaffie and both will also be running workshops during the day.

But I don't want to get too hung up on big names, the symposium is about sharing knowledge and experience across the board. The huge range of instructors and other experts we've pulled together have an incredible range and depth of skill, knowledge and experience. What's more, we've hand picked them in the knowledge that they are the best people for the job. People who have been to wild places, had real adventures and truly want to help others achieve their dreams

Check the PyB website for further details on staff and workshops.

Jack: What are they doing?

Kenton Cool will be giving a lecture on the Saturday evening and delivering workshops related with Dealing with Altitude and How to go lightweight on the Sunday.

James McHaffie will also be giving a lecture on his recent achievements and taking part in the delivery of workshops like Big Wall climbing and Sport Climbing - trips around the world.

Jack: Why would someone want to go on this?

Quite simply anyone with an interest in Trekking and Mountaineering on a worldwide scale either independently or as a leader will have something to learn and value from this weekend. You will receive first class tuition from some of the best in the game, in the form of practical and theoretical workshops and lectures.

All of the staff working on the event are hand picked because they are the best at what they do, expedition experienced Plas y Brenin Instructors or UIAGM Mountain Guides.

Bringing together like-minded people to workshop skills and techniques, it is a unique opportunity to meet other folk and make contacts. The weekend will inspire future plans as well as increase your confidence with fresh knowledge and new skills. This could be on a whole new area of the world or developing your skills of operating in the mountains.

As a leader on a trek I can see this weekend being superb as all the workshops are so valuable and transferable in a leading role.

There is a range of workshops available so there is something for everyone!

From cooking in the mountains to expedition photography and film (delivered by professional photographer Ray Wood), through to big wall climbing and even emergency rope work for trekkers.

We are also intending to hold the 'Experts Corner'. This a Q&A session on the Saturday after tea and cakes and will be done in smaller groups. This will be another opportunity to ask questions on a specific area in the world or on a certain topic.

James McHaffie in Madagascar
© PyB / Individual Photographers
Jack: What else do you want to tell folk?

The more I get involved with this weekend the more I get excited about it. With some of the best Mountaineers and Climbers involved like Kenton Cool (UIAGM Guide), James McHaffie, Nick Colton and other top British Mountain Guides and Instructors delivering a full range of workshop. The staff and experts involved are all active expedition Climbers and Trekkers. Together they have been everywhere from Antartica to Alaska and Madagasgar to Greenland and places such as Patagonia and Yosemite, the list goes on. If there are mountains there and its a wild place these guys will have been there.

It's just too good to miss. And an absolute bargain too at £100 for 2 nights accommodation, three great meals a day and all the workshops and talks thrown in, its almost cheaper than staying at home.

The mix of people who attend these events is brilliant too. They are a great resource themselves. As a guest you'll find yourself chatting to other visitors about places they've been to. If there's somewhere you'd like to go on expedition to, you'll always find someone who's been there and because of the nature of the event, you'll find they are really eager to offer advice, information and encouragement for your trip.

The other message to get across is that this is in no way meant to be an elitist event. Yes there are some of the country's most experienced climber and mountaineers attending but you'll find them right alongside relative newcomers to the sport.

I guess all you need is passion, commitment and enthusiasm, and if you have that you will fit right in. Basically, if you love to explore the mountains in any form, at any level you will get an unbelievable amount from the symposium.

Jack: Finally, if you could have learnt one thing about exped climbing/trekking before you went, as in, if you had been in this exped weekend, what would you wish you had learnt?

Hard for me to say as I feel all of them are so valuable in an expedition context as well as really complimenting your personal skills as a UK Mountaineer and climber.

If you're asking probably workshops Dealing with Altitude, Cooking in the Mountains and Expedition Photography and Film would be my favourites.

It goes without saying that I am really looking forward to all the workshops and evening lectures.

  • You can find out more details about the Plas y Brenin Expedition Symposium at this UKC Premier Post

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