Friday, 30 April 2021

Leki Micro Vario carbon poles - Destroyed

Micro-Vario Carbon z-poles

These poles have been going for quite a while. I've run with poles for various things for a number of years, all of them have been Leki- and these were the latest incarnation which were initially used for the Montane Spine Challenger in 2016. When I got them, they were somewhere around £120 for the pair- they are currently retailing at an eyewatering £165 a pair direct from Leki (though I'm sure you can get them for less if you shop around). 

Spot the broken bit

They are the z-pole variety, quick to set up, quick to stow, easy to change length, comfortable grip and generally pretty robust. In the Spine I ended up snapping a tip on the way into Malham which was a bit annoying. It was a function of being really quite tired, the tip going between 2 paving slabs and me not really being awake/aware enough to let go of the pole before the torsion snapped the tip. 

Annoying, but solved over the next few months with a replacement tip and a fair amount of swearing and jiggery-pokery. it certainly wasn't easy to get the original tip off, (much harder than getting the new tip on, to be honest), but it fixed, and carried on from then until now. 

Spine Challenger. I needed those poles by this point.

The Poles have been marvellous since then- notably used on the Ramsay Round a couple of years ago, they were also going to be used on the TDS, but that never came to fruition. 

As I say, although I have them, they are not used all the time. They get pulled out from time to time for bigger, longer stuff, and times when I'm walking with a fairly large and unwieldy pack. Though they are carbon, they have held up to a lot of abuse, but their downfall came on the Merionnydd round when I came a cropper in spectacular style at about 2am a bit North of Barmouth. To be fair, if it hadn't snapped my thumb would have maybe disolocated- and I'd rather have a broken pole than a disclocated thumb. 

A bad photo- but you can see I had them here.

You can see the pole now "bends" in a place where it really isn't meant to(!). I've been in touch with Leki and their uk distributors Ardblair sports to see if there were any options to get it repaired, or to get a section so that I can repair it myself, but unfortunately although Leki make a whole host of spare bits and pieces for a vast array of their poles. the z-poles are not catered for. 

Here is what they said: 

"Unfortunately it isn't possible for us to repair this as there are no sections available to buy for any of the folding poles as you can with the collapsible models.  Occasionally we are able to help using spares from other poles that have been returned but I know we don't have any of the section you need and we cannot get these from Leki as this is an older model."

Not quite bending in the right place...
To be fair, it obviously is not a manufacturing fault, so I'm not about to stand up and shout that they need to be replaced- that just isn't the way forward. So now I have a spare left hand pole which is quite lonely and would love to have a right hand Micro vario to go with it if anyone has one clogging up their gear store.

Shame really- but I'm keeping hold of it.


Have they been good? Yes, absolutely. They have worked well. No problem with the mechanism, no issue with the handles- in fact they are so comfortable I'm wondering if I can take them off these poles and put them on the next pair that I buy. Apart from the fact I broke them I cannot fault these in any way. 

If you can afford them, yes, by all means- a total and unequivocal recommendation. 

As for a replacement, would I get these again? Well, I'll be writing something about that very soon- it will definitely be carbon, it will definitely be a z-pole, and I'll definitely be spending my money on it. I'm not sponsored- so the stuff I buy is stuff I hope will do well. If it doesn't you'll know.

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Merionnydd Round, 16-17/4/21

Introduction- What the heck is a Merionnydd round?

The idea of the Merionnydd Round has been I my head for a long long time. I grew up holidaying in the Rhinoggau with my family- granted it mostly involved walking, bilberrying and enjoying the wilderness, not trashing through bog- but I've always felt it was more "welsh" than the northern areas of Snowdonia. When I did my first long run- the 15 trigs, there on the gofar website was the Merionnydd round.  (That link should give you a good idea of what it is about). It went across Cadair, the Rhinoggau, and a load of others that I had never heard of, let alone been up. It was devised and run by fellrunning legend Yiannis Tridimas who originally ran it in 1998. I think there have been 5 completions, 4 of them in under 24 hours. And those 4 had extensive reccying trips and a fair amount of support. The 5th completion was a Fellrunning champion legend (Colin Donnelly- he of the 4:19 Welsh 3000's) and he just rocked up and did it onsight). At 72 miles and 24,000ft of climbing, this is one of those rounds where the numbers don't actually tell the whole tale. On paths and over good terrain this is fairly small fry... over this terrain, think again.

Up until now, it has always been a bit of a pipedream. Every year I think that next year I might train hard enough to be ready.
Every year May comes around, the heather and Bracken is high and there is no way to even think that a successful round is possible!

Since chatting about it with Chris a couple of years ago, it was decided that we should just give it a go. Ground the toughest south of knoydart? Ok
Bring it on. - It will be mighty tough, but hey.
We had a single recce day last year before the country got locked down until after May. Not particularly useful when the best time to try the round is late April.
So we vowed to have a go this year, which would mean staying relatively fit through the summer, doing a load of online recces and research, and then really upping the ante in terms of hard underfoot mileage and ascent in the early months of 2021.
In order to do this we worked out where was about equidistant from us that had steep, and gnarly hills. We'd run to the middle of nowhere, meet up at a trig and then do hill reps before heading home.

The worst of these ended with me bonking massively and someone offering me a lift home from barely 400m from my door. (he knows where I live!) I must have looked awful.
In order to test our fitness we looked to a local test piece which Chris had never done before. The Kinder Dozen, which I wrote about here.
The day was a success, so much so that I immediately planned another day out which had less ascent, but much, much worse terrain underfoot- we never actually got around to doing it, but when I do, I'll let you know). Needless to say, we were pretty much the fittest we've ever been for this kind of round.


The problem with doing something like the Merionnydd round is that only 5 people have done it before. I think only 7 people have actually tried the whole thing, so there isn't a huge amount of info on the internet. Yiannis (who made up the round) is of course the font of all knowledge about the area, but we thought it would be unnecessarily rude to keep bothering him with questions and wondering etc. especially as he actually ran the round 20 years ago. There is a massive thread about the round and reccies etc. on the FRA forum running to 45 pages- it finishes abruptly in 2015. The last successful round, I believe, being in 2015. I trawled through the pages knowing that the information was at best 5 years out of date. 

Along with that we searched through online heatmaps trying to find ways that people had been in the past and copied them onto OS maps, cross-referencing them with satellite imagery. Basically, the "online reccie" took a lot of time and resources. We literally couldn't get to the place to reccie, so we might as well get a better idea of what was going on out there. As I said, no-one had done the round in 5-6 years, so this was a bit of a step into the unknown. 


We were watching the weather with an eagle eye. As soon as lockdown ended a clear couple of days over a weekend were what we needed. Not too cold, not too hot, as little wind and precipitation as possible. The long range forecast said that 17-19th April looked good, and so we planned for this weekend. As the end of the Easter Holidays, Chris would have had a couple of weeks to chill out from school, for me it didn't matter too much (apart from the somewhat annoying and concerning "cadburys creme egg" incident- links to my other blog).

It was decided that in order to give us the best possibility of success, the hardest bits to navigate should be done in the daylight. From our research it seemed that Leg 1 over Cadair Idris would be fairly straight forward, if a bit rocky. Leg 2 over the Rhinoggau would be mostly straightforward up until the Rhinoggau themselves (with a tricky little bit just outside Barmouth), so we should aim for sunrise on the Rhinoggau. Then the really tricksy navigation through the crazed northern Rhinogs could be done in the light, and then onto the bits neither of us had ever set foot on. Daylight for the short leg 3 across to Arenig Fawr, daylight for the worryingly long and probably very boggy leg down past Dduallt and sunset on the relatively easy final leg across the Arans. 

As for timings, we had to have some kind of idea when we might get to the road crossings, but we really didn't have the faintest idea how long sections would take. Effectively our schedule was a "lick your finger and guess the wind direction" kind of thing. We might end up ahead or behind schedule, but in reality, the schedule was so random it wouldn't mean much.

Preparations were made, small laminated maps were printed, the exact gpx of the route was fiddled with, perfected and uploaded to devices, food was made, etc etc, you get the picture. We were ready. Chris's Dad and Brothers in law volunteered/were roped in to provide the minimal road support that we needed, all was set.  

The round

Chris and I headed down on the 17th April, lockdown restrictions in Wales had only recently been eased (we really didn't fancy doing a stealth round while still under lockdown- that just didn't sit right). Parked up at the bottom of Cadair Idris waiting for 10pm. Sitting there with our own thoughts, just waiting was pretty crap... trying to sleep and get a little bit of rest, we were both glad with 10pm came around and we could just get moving. 

A crescent moon hung above Cadair, the small amount of cloud that was there when we got out of the car soon drifted away and we were rewarded with a night of clear starriness. Absolutely glorious. Not a breath of wind, but it was a cold April night, so layers were necessary. 

selfies in the dark are quite hard

Up Cadair Idris via a minor top and we were soon working to the point of sweating. It was important not to work too hard and blow up early. What a delight to be out and about at this time. Really there isn't a lot to say about Cadair, apart from the fact it was great. A decent few lines, some slightly off the track tops to grab - a few places where we went a little off line in the dark and ended up on some fairly horrible scree bits, but in general, the time passed, the terrain flowed and we had a thoroughly lovely time. 

Chris atop Cadair Idris

A minor stony irritation away from the path

Coming off down the ridge, way ahead of us were some bright lights (the night made it difficult to judge distances), ah- must be trawlers off in the bay maybe? We gave it no second thought. Down and through and off into the forest on the western flank of Cadair and a bit of a maze of trees- felled and unfelled. This is where the GPX that had been so carefully crafted came into play. Using the map and the GPS we shifted down through the forestry lines nicely- and came across 4 4x4's with MASSIVE lights coming down one of the forest rides (and indeed one of the footpaths). We didn't stop to say hi as they were still about 200 metres uphill from us, and we were making far faster progress than them. 

Down through the trees and along some footpaths, the moon was turning red as it set in the North East, and pretty soon we were crossing a road and going over to the carpark where Richard was waiting for us. It was 1:15am- right on the early side of when we said we might be there, perfect. 

Coffee, food, a replenishment of running food, more water- we'd pretty much run out over leg 1. Despite there being a fair bit of bog, there was no running water to speak of- hopefully there would be more chance to fill up with water across leg 2 as it was a whole lot longer. 

Not long after that, we up sticks and left Richard in the carpark along with a load of campervans. 

The path lead us directly to the train platform.... um ??? ok, run along that and down and onto Barmouth bridge. Despite being through Barmouth innumerable times before on our way to family holidays in Llanbedr, I had never been across this bridge! Thank goodness it is there or there would be an 18 mile detour. It was odd to do a mountainous round and run first through sand, and then over water. Certainly a new experience. 

Now for one of the more complex bits of nav. There is no real route on an OS map up to Cell-Fechan. There are quite a few lines on Garmin Heatmaps, but nothing that is very useful- or indeed leads directly to the summit. The whole thing is lined in gorse and there are a few quarries with big drops, so getting it right isn't necessarily a case of not annoyingly going wrong, but not falling down a stupid big quarry. We followed our noses and the gps trace- it seems to be a fairly popular spot for walking from town, so the lines were good and eventually we got to the top. No dramas. But now we need to get off... which could be fun. 

There was a little navigational fun as we weren't totally sure which was the section we had to go off right and then left, but eventually we found it. It was really useful to have done so much online reccying as I had a clear view in my head of what was on the ground and where we needed to be, but in the dark with a load of broken stone and some severe drops around us, it was good to have a line to follow to be sure of. 

Down and then along, and now to follow a line on a heatmap. The Footpath did not go where we needed it to go, but it was very obvious from the heatmap that there was a VERY popular walk which lead up through access land onto the ridge towards Diffwys. The start of it was a little hard to find, but we soon found a faint trod that seemed to be the right one, and followed it up. A wall appeared with a decent way across it. However, I ended up losing my balance and coming off it, but was absolutely fine. The same could not be said for my pole which had snapped just below the handle. BALLS!

Apart from the fact they're fairly expensive, I'd have to do the rest of the round with a single pole. Nothing like a challenge, I suppose. Luckily I had the presence of mind to attach a pole carrying hack onto my race vest just 20 minutes before Chris had turned up at my house- I folded the broken pole, attached it to my vest and off we went up the hill. 

The stars were out (yes, it was indeed a glorious night) and we made our way across the ground to the trig at 461. Now it was simply a case of following the ridge all the way along to the Rhinoggau. It was a little disappointing to do this section in the night as it would be fantastic in the daytime. We jogged along at a decent pace, chatting away, enjoying moving well (despite the lack of pole) tagging tops and having a fantastic time. First my headtorch decided it had had enough and just went out with no warning. Light, light light light nothing. Ok- a short unscheduled battery change. And a couple of hours later Chris did much the same. Across Diffwys and now I'm onto some vaguely familiar ground (though I was last here in 2013... ) over to Y Llethyr, which I actually *know* and then onto Rhinog Fach. We made a slight mistake on the way off Y Llethyr, going too far to the left and missing the path, which was an annoyance as we traversed across broken ground to regain the track. The ascent of Rhinog Fach from that point on was fairly straightforward, and then we totally and utterly screwed up the ascent of Rhinog Fawr.

Chris with Rhinog Fach in the background


No idea quite how we managed it, it should have been fairly straightforward, but we missed the/a/any kind of trod and ended up scrambling up through heather and gritstone (which was actually fairly fun). Sunrise occurred which gave us some distraction from screwing up the line. Then there was a trod and we traversed far too far around- at which point I pointed out to Chris that although this was better underfoot we were going *along* not *up* which was fairly not the point. So we changed tack again and headed up through some more fairly broke ground, but I was more happy just heading straight up. 

Sunrise climbing Rhinog Fawr


We hit the top of Rhinog Fawr about an hour after leaving Rhinog Fach (it should take about 50 mins) which was somewhat annoying, but not too bad, and now we looked to the North across the various smaller, but more navigationally challenging bits and pieces onward to Trawsfyndd Power station- where we said we would be at 9:30. Again a nominal target, but still one we wanted to hit. From research we knew that others had passed through Barmouth at 1:30 to 2am and had got to the Power station for about 10, so that was a decent schedule to hold to. Looking at the distance, and having reccied it last year (the only part of the ground either of us had actually been on in the last half decade) it looked pretty impossible. 

Top of Rhinog Fawr

Off down Rhinog Fawr and eventually across the Roman steps, and now it was into real Heatmap territory. The first part of this section was simply stuff we'd looked at on a map. There was 1.5km of trace that I'd found somewhere and just dotted it onto a map, then satellite map, and then checked it on Google Earth. It looked ok, and I could picture the twists and turns of this complex navigational challenge, now we just had to do it and get across to Craig Wion where we had started our previous recce. 

From Rhinog Fawr... this is the direction we're going in

Chris passing Llyn Du

It was pretty fun weaving across the gritstone pavements, up and down across broken ground through heather and rock. Crazy rock formations were all around us and the scenery was spectacular and ever changing. Pools of water were around... but there was no-where to fill up water bottles. We'd both pretty much run out by now and were very much on dregs. Not great considering there was at least another 2 hours to run on this leg, but drinking from random pools, puddles and bogs was not a priority today! 

I *think* this was atop Moel Ysgyfarnogod

The line across to Craig Wion was good. We got there in good time, spirits were high and we were starting to think about future legs. Leg 4 was going to be the crux leg with a long bog trot and some fairly challenging terrain through old forestry. However, right now it seemed like it was going to be fine. We were moving well, eating up rough miles, eating fine and despite the lack of water, everything seemed to be good. 

Clip was next and then the bits that we "knew" across the last 5 knobbles and down to the Power station. The ground underfoot was hard, but nothing we couldn't cope with. A combination of walking and running got us efficiently across this area and much sooner than we hoped, we were ploughing off down the side of Craig y Gwynt on a totally non-reccied line to the footpath. (The main result of the recce was that we knew there was a line off Moel y Gyrafolen and Craig y Gwynt that we REALLY didn't want to take... so it was a step into the unknown to take new lines off them- and they were a success. 

These photos of the general area are not necessarily in order, but give you an idea of the terrain

Down and around the reservoir and the long jog into the carpark at the Powerstation where Chris's Dad and his Brothers in law were waiting- 9:35am. Pretty much ontime for the stop. The leg had taken us a little longer than we expected, but there had been a couple of navigational mishaps across the way. No worries. We were looking forward to getting the short Leg 3 out of the way and then onto the meat of Leg 4. 

The sun was out, it was a glorious day so we got rid of extraneous stuff like waterproof top and bottoms, warm gloves etc. Retained windproofs and emergency bags, filled up with food and water (having been very dehydrated at the end of the Rhinoggau, it seemed like a good idea to take as much water on this leg, and drink it all, in preparation for the longer Leg 4 where we would end up being dehydrated again). Chomped a load of food, I got rid of the broken pole and soon enough we were on our way, saying our thanks for the excellent efforts of our crew. 

Leg 3, on paper, is short. The tops aren't all that big and we had given 3 hours to get across to the road crossing between Arenig Fawr and Fach. The start of the leg goes through some woodland and a bit of farm land (where, incidentally there was a farmer with a shotgun and a radio transceiver which seemed a bit...hmmm.... not right). Then up on paths and trods onto the somewhat lesser, but still fairly inaccessible tops of Foel Fawr and Craig Wen. Beyond Craig Wen there is bog. There are no paths, no lines on the heat maps. Nothing. Just moorland and bog. This is not too much of an issue as we are used to travelling across Bleaklow- we made fairly good time across this terrain, spying out sheep trods and lines of weakness across the bleakness to get down to the road just before the forestry section. Now to follow the forestry boundary up and round to get to Carnedd Iago, and then follow the boundary line over to Arenig Fawr. 

It had taken us a little under 2 hours to get to here, and Arenig Fawr seemed a long way away. 3 hours seemed a bit tight, so in our heads we revised it a little further back- we might take an extra 30 mins or so, but all good. Still within something approaching a 24 hour schedule. 

The "track" up the side of the forestry area.

The terrain up the side of the forestry area was pretty awful. All turks heads and heather, but with a thin trod going through it that we followed. No running of any kind here, just hard walking and keeping on going. It's a good long while until you get to the end of the forest and turn right in order to do much the same thing to get to Carnedd Iago. we'd been going for 14 and a bit hours now and as we crawled our way forward I noticed some vans up by the summit and someone by the cairn. There must be some kind of Forestry track that goes up there, nice. That would actually be he first people we'd see on the hill since we started. 

Along and through a bog (well, more of a bog than the rest of it), and up to the summit. It slowly became apparent that the vans which I had seen were in fact boulders and the person at the summit was a rock. Great. Hallucinations. Up to the summit of Iago and wow- that took longer than we expected. Ok- now there was a fence line across a wide expanse of not-a-lot until the climb to Arenig Fach. According to Yiannis there is "no good line up Areing Fach". Which is saying a lot. Fine, no worries, let's just get on our way, time is a-wasting. 

Straight down the fence line into knee deep heather, turks heads, bog and nothing resembling a trod of any kind. On either side of the fence. 

The "track" up the boundary line.

We battled downhill through this nightmare of terrain. Downhill. There was no running, there was no jogging, there was barely even walking. Every step was hard. Arenig Fach didn't seem to be getting any closer, and Carnedd Iago didn't seem to be getting any further away. I'd looked on heatmaps extensively and the only lines anywhere along here were on the fenceline between the Boundary stones. It was Awful. 

Time for a "dyou know- this isn't worth it" photo.

Shins were scratched and bleeding, the sun was hot, time leeched away. We travelled on in silence. In our heads we were thinking... "if this is the "short" leg of 3 hours and it is this hard, how bad is the "long" leg going to be?". Timings aren't going to work out. The terrain stayed the same, energy and motivation were sucked from us in equal measure. Thoughts of continuing onto Leg 4 just to see what time we might make it to the last road crossing were replaced with "let's just finish this leg and call it a day". 

At the lowest point between Carnedd Iago and Arenig Fawr there is a Bog with a capital B. The fence which has been 4ft tall all the way along suddenly becomes a fence of less than a foot- the rest of it has been swallowed by the Bog. We used the top of the fence to traverse across it and onto the other side, and back to heather bashing. There was a solitary sheep. 

You know how you normally see sheep trotting around hard terrain, making a mockery of humans and their attempts to move well? Not here. The sheep looked *mightily* pissed off that it was anywhere near here. It would take a couple of jumps to get through some heather and then rest for about 2 minutes before doing so again. This was ground that Sheep hate. And now we were going uphill. 

Discussions followed that no- this was not fun anymore. No, timings were not going to work. Yes, we were totally happy to just call it a day at the road crossing. We were not worried about calling it, everything about this section simply said- NO. 

So we decided to bail. 


Unfortunately, bailing meant completing this section of the round, which meant a further few kilometres of trackless, featureless shin destroying heather. Uphill. Awful isn't even the word for it. We were going slower than crawling pace. Eventually we reached the flanks of Arenig Fawr and it was a PLEASURE to have to climb it. There was some variation of terrain and we crested it, touched the cairn and had a sit down in the sun. It was peaceful, calm and we reflected on where we had come from. 

The "run" off Arenig Fawr was not fun either. Hard terrain that, maybe in other conditions, might have been seen as a decent challenge was simply annoying now. There was a trod (the first we'd seen in *hours*) which went in the wrong direction, and so we bashed off and down to the road crossing. The section which might have taken 3 hours took around 5. Considering the distance of the next Leg- and the fact we'd given it about 6 hours in our heads- made it take on a whole different level. 

No way. We stopped, packed our stuff in Chris's Dad's car and got a lift back to the layby where we started. 


Are we disappointed?  Dyou know? No, not at all. We had a fantastic day out on the first couple of Legs. I would heartily recommend them to anyone who wants some adventure in mid Wales. Unfortunately it is a linear route, which makes it difficult to do, but it is well worth the effort. Leg 3 is simply awful. I suspect if we had had a chance to recce it beforehand we would simply have said "no, this isn't worth the effort. It simply spoils the round". Prior to it there was some excellent running and some decent navigational challenges. I know that this section has to be here in order for it to become a circular route, but in my mind, it simply isn't worth it, especially if you enjoy running. There was no running to be had here, and not because of gradient.

I can imagine that with constant reccying and with other people looking at the lines, a trod might form, you might get a better line across the bog, but in all reality, we simply didn't have the time to do this. There was no line. There was no trod. Going onsight through this wilderness was slow, hard, dispiriting and (in my humble opinion) simply not worth the effort. 

Southern Snowdonia is still a place I will be coming back to for running. I'd love to run that final leg across the Arans, the Berwyns look fabulous as well. I see there is something called Leventon's line which takes in Leg 5 and Leg 1 of this round (and some more besides) and finishes in Barmouth which looks fun. There are plenty of fantastic long days out to be had in the hills, but anything that involves the section from Carnedd Iago to Arenig Fawr, I simply cannot recommend. 

Yiannis, and the other hardy souls that have completed this round, I take my hat off to you. The weather was perfect this weekend, I'm as fit as I have ever been, but the ground conditions for an onsight attempt were simply too rough to be contemplated. I'm happy to have had a go, but equally happy not to do it again. 

If we started every challenge knowing that we were going to complete it, it wouldn't be a challenge, would it? Failure is always an option, and sometimes it is the right option in order for us to learn more about ourselves. 

Saturday, 10 April 2021

The worrying annoyance of phone signal in the UK hills

You're on a hillside, something happens and you need to call Mountain Rescue. You're out of signal for your phone company, but not to worry, a carrier has signal here as you have the "emergency calls only" tab running across the top of your screen.
Call 999, get through to the police, give them some info, sit-down. Wait.

Now, that is all well and good. 

But what if they want to get back to you? 

What if someone from Mountain Rescue wants to clarify some information? 

It can get pretty damn cold just sitting around and waiting....

What if the information was written.down correctly, but has been passed on incorrectly in a Chinese whisper like chain? (it wouldn't be the first time a 5 figure grid reference got passed to an MRT team)

Well, you're not in signal for your carrier, so no one is going to be able to get hold of you.
Yet... You could call 999 again, and it would go through.... That's crazy, right?

If you were abroad and the phone needs to change carriers in order for you to have signal, it does that automatically. If you are in signal for any carrier, you can make and receive calls and texts without a problem. 

In the UK... Hah, you'd be so lucky. And this is one of those things that we live with here because that's just "the way things are". I find it astonishing both as someone who has called Mountain rescue, and as someone who responds to the callouts as well.

For the moment, that is just the way things are. I think it's insane that someone can call Mountain Rescue but we can't call them back just because they are out of signal with their provider EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE SOME KIND OF SIGNAL. 

It's the kind of thing that could save a life, save someone pain, or save someone from ongoing long term issues because we haven't been able to get to them as expediently as possible. 

Mountain rescue tried calling... they're going to be a while...

So if you are in that situation, it's worth a second call about 50 mins after your first one just to make sure the information flow is still there.
If need be you can then be transferred on to Mountain Rescue as you're already on the phone... (even though they couldn't call you). As I say. Mental. 

Is there anyway we can change this in the UK? Will the big phone companies listen to reason? Will they even hear about the issue in terms of a life saving possibility?

I doubt it.  

And if you want a more technical viewpoint of all this, head over here---> Haydns blog- where a friend has deconstructed it a bit more.