Monday, 6 December 2010

New website is now up, take a look!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Peak District Ski Season

3rd December : Mam Tor Ski

So the wind had scoured the slopes a bit. And there was a lot more snow in Sheffield but we went out to Mam Tor in the Peak for the second day of Peak Skiing. Fun fun fun!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Perfect days on the Grit

We have had some unique and beautiful days here on the grit this week. Some wet ones too! Here is Sam on the Deliverance Traverse. So close...

Going to the Lakes this weekend to work, Kendal Film Festival is on which should be fun. Out to Chamonix on Monday for a few days!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Berghaus Adventure Challenge Shortlist : Mount Hayes Expedition

Wow, a good day in the office (via the Climbing Works), my workout was cut short by my eagerness to get back to the computer to promote the fact that we have been shortlisted for the Berghaus Adventure Challenge 2011.

Please could you take a second to vote for us, all you need to do is hit the button - no need to fill any forms in!

The link is here:

This is what we are planning on doing:

The British Mount Hayes Expedition 2011

The proposed adventure, due in May 2011 is to complete a full traverse of the large and remote Mount Hayes (4216m) in eastern Alaska. For this mountaineering adventure, the party of 3 aim to travel by air taxi to the nearest glacial approach then travel by ski to establish a base camp. The group will seek the best conditions to establish the best route to achieve the objective. A full traverse of this rarely climbed mountain would be the first of its kind. it is likely that the party will come across significant but achievable mountaineering and skiing challenges.

Thanks for voting.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Gritstone Freedom

We have had some really mixed weather recently. Autumn is definitely turning to winter here in the Peak.

Gavin, Rick and I have got a bit of spare time this week so watch this space for some Esoteric and worked Grit routes that we just cant wait to get stuck into next week!

We went out in the drizzle today and top-roped Pebble Mill (E5 6B) until it got too wet. Really great fun looking at pushing the grade a bit. More of this please!

Pebble Mill, Slippery when wet... Easier if you are tall!

Friday, 24 September 2010

Yosemite Cowboys : The Arrogance of Youth without Stubborness of Age.

24th September : Yosemite Cowboys : The Arrogance of Youth without Stubborness of Age.

A couple of days after returning from 'the valley' and a bit of reflection time is needed. What a great holiday. Byron and I set out for 3 weeks after a 6-8 months of learning, thinking and dreaming of climbing some big walls in Yosemite.

Over the 3 weeks we had a bit of a roller-coaster. During the first week there was a heat wave in the valley at around 95-100 degrees. Sticky weather to be training for aid climbing in. Our confidence far outweighed our ability and as Stinger (Top Gun) would say:

"Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash. You've been busted, you lost your qualifications as section leader three times, put in hack twice by me, with a history of high speed passes over five air control towers, and one admiral's daughter! "

I guess this slowed us down heaps. We were taking twice as long to aid through long A1 pitches as we had hoped. A bit disheartened with our 'road to the nose' we decided to go for trip on Snake Dyke (aka Snake Hike) which involves a 15 mile round trip hike with 600ft of 5.7-5.4 climbing. Great fun and as we got higher, the breeze cooled us off.

A few more days out cragging and cranking up some of the 5* jamming routes in the valley and a trip on Washington Column was due. Washington Column is a 600m Big Wall and is deemed one of the easier Big Walls in Yosemite valley.

On our first trip we took Tina (the pig/haul bag) out for a spin. Hauling was not so bad, getting caught up every now and then. This is a little bit like car -camping of the climbing world. Without too much difficulty we made it to Dinner Ledge where we met a couple of other Brit's struggling with strong winds getting over Kor roof. We decided to chill at the ledge for the night as they played on higher up. That afternoon, as I was eagerly awaiting 'Stagg Chilli Opening Time', I was alerted by the familiar noise of fluttering rocks.

Looking up, about half a dozen rocks came flying down nearly missing both Byron and I (I had dived for Byrons helmet at this stage, sorry Byron). That was a close one, we deemed these trade routes quite safe from rockfall, there were no parites above us. Leave us alone mountain!

That afternoon, we kept one eye looking up, bad vibes, we abbed on down.

A day after, we met a couple of yanks that we had chatted to as we set off on the column, one of them was called Chuck, a great name! They greeted us with "I thought you guys were dead maaaaan", as they reported the rockfall to look a fair amount bigger from their angle as they rested high on the Prow. These fellas were the real deal, 'Piratical' bearded, portaledged, bandana'd and lots of 'psyche homey'. They smashed back cans of bud at the crag and were generally legendary!

Coming down from Washington Column, Half Dome N Face in the background.

Jugging up to Tina

Back at base camp we got stuck into 'King Cobra' 75c beers and jumped back and forth over the fire pondering out next move. We wanted to jump on the nose, but something was holding us back (common sense). Several parties hard already been on, failing fairly low. Due to being too slow.

We were getting quicker but needed to learn more. We got back on Washington Column.

This time, we moved fast through the first few pitches and arrived at the large ledge again. Only Kor roof was in our way. We aimed to fix to pitch 5 that night then we could 'jug' the ropes and climb to the 9th pitch the following day.

That afternoon, I spent an exciting hour and a half or so swinging around 300-400m from the valley floor aiding bolt to bolt to the lip of the roof. Over the roof you go for it to a blind pocket. Using a bit of muscle memory I slotted the no.0 DMM friend and up you go, another size 0 metolius mastercam and you are off. A rising traverse continues for another 10-12m to an intermediate belay. It is important to protect your second here, as it is just a little too easy to slot no.1 friends in all the way along the aid crack and then back clean.

I stopped at the intermediate stance. Fairly wired, fairly excited, I had just experienced the most absorbing time of my life. An hour or so later and Byron's legs are seen swinging round and around under the roof! Wow, he must be having a hell of a time, its pretty exposed right there! I finally saw his head stick over the lip.....ahh the familiar face. I have seen that one before. The last time I came across this particular Mr.Buck expression was when Byron had inverted once in North Wales. This was not a good face.

The awesome, Kor Roof.

Chilling on the ledge

I had been hanging around for a little while, we were both fairly wired by this awesome experience. We decided to give the 5th pitch a miss until the next day. We abseiled over the roof back to the bivvy ledge.

That night, it didn't take much for us to hang up the aid gear, the fifi was cut from the harness and it was game over. We love free climbing, aid climbing feels slow and involves hating life. At least that was our attitude at the time. I think now we have learned so much about aiding and the mind-set you need to be in. I think we will go back, in-fact we have started to plan the trip already. Spring/Autumn 2012. Now we know what we need to know, we can train better.

All in all, an awesome trip! Back at camp 4, we chilled for a bit went cragging and then got the bus to Vegas. Lets go on holiday!

Aid Routes:

La Escuela (El Capitan base) Pitch 1 A1
Pacific Ocean Wall (El Capitan base) Pitch 1 A1
Washington Column to Dinner Ledge (take 1)
Washington Column to top of Kor Roof (take 2)

Free Routes:

All sorts on Swan Slab, near Camp 4
Snake Dyke
Bishops Terrace, Church Bowl Buttress
Church Bowl Lie Back
After 7, Manure Pile Buttress

I am going to write a little article on 'the Camp 4 Craic' as it takes a wee while to work out the best way to do/wangle everything there. It did only take us a couple of nights of 'King Cobra' beers before we plucked up the courage to start chasing bears in the woods!

Freddie the bear even came out in the day time.
Waiting for the rangers to 'pop a cap in his ass'

During our time in the Valley 'Steve' climbed El Capitan. An amazing feat:

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Granite and Clotted Cream

23rd-27th October : Cornwall Learn to Lead Course

Wow. What an amazing week Dave and I have just had. I was running a learn to lead climb week in Cornwall. Could not have had a better 5 days of work really. One day rained off (went indoors) and on the other days we visited Sennen, Bosigran, Lands End and Chair Ladder. Dave and I had only one cheeky evening cragging session and during the day we ticked the Classic Rock Cornwall section.

Great week with clients Dan and Antoni.

Dan on Demo Route, Sennen.

Antoni seconding Dan on Cracked Corner, Sennen.

Doorpost, Bosigran

Pen Olver, Lands End

Our final day at Chair Ladder enjoying the classic Terriers Tooth and Pendulum Chimney

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Gogarth, the Pass and Climbing Life

Climbing Summer

I have not posted up here for a long time. And going by the number of hits I am receiving, I assume a few of you are looking for route beta etc and searching through Google. At least all that hard work was worthwhile. Anyway, I have not given up!

Just been in the UK recently. I have had some great days out cruising with mates and working around Swanage, North Wales, Lake District, Peak Grit and the Isle of Skye. This week we have been on Gogarth, North Wales. An amazing place home to some truly absorbing adventurous climbing. Dave Chapman and I found a dry day on Dinas Mot on Monday and we did Superdirect. I have been waiting to do it for ages. It really is an amazing route!

Dave in a great position on Imitator.
(thin moves pulling onto the slab, then it eases!)

Dave at the belay on Lighthouse Arete.
(I got a soaking at the first belay!)

Yosemite Plans

We set off in a couple of weeks. Pretty psyched for it now. Byron and I have been occasionally training and climbing and talking about training (drinking tea). We have been constantly ordering kit which has made it seem like we are not spending a lot of money!

I think we have our system fairly nailed. It is just a case of doing it lots. I have spoke to a few people who have done the Nose this week and they have been really good to have a chat to.

I was planning on climbing about 30 E1's this summer in preparation for our trip. I have not quite achieved this but the list is now around 25 multipitch E1-E2's. Maybe this autumn will bring some trips to Cornwall and Pembroke.

I am going to Cornwall with work next week and am really looking forward to it. I have just bought the new copy of 'West Country Climbs' , another beautiful book from Rockfax. This covers all that you would expect plus Swanage and a nice little section on Lundy. I am working for Highpoint Mountain Guides on a learn to lead week, so driving aside - should be fun.


Alaska plans are fairly slow, if anyone has any inspiration or knowledge or great photos about possible new ascents/descents in the St.Elias range, be in touch. Next stop the Alpine Club library in London.

In the words of Mr.Kirkus, Lets go climbing!


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Millstone Aid Continues

Another day out on the Grit today... "It'll never catch on!'

This time we have got our system fairly nailed. We focused on testing gear. This involves jumping up on down on the gear to see if it pops out. To be honest.... it is hilarious fun!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Swanage Climbing

Loose top-outs on Cormorant Ledge

Abseiling into Guillemot

Wow, It is wild down here!

First time for me on Swanage, serious rock type / soap and head game issues!

Still, a great 2 days spent in Swanage climbing with Rick.

The Wall (HS, 4B.. believe it or not!) Steep, steep, steep

Cormorant Ledge

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Big Walling in the Peak

26th June: Big Wall Training

After a morning of frigging around at Yarncliffe and aiding a couple of cracks. We sat back, had a think, picked up some gear and got the wisdom from Scott. We then went to Millstone (first bay) with our newly bought cord to set up our jumar systems and play with the fifi!

Playing 'Pull the Pig'

Welcome any advice here! So the jumar setup for cleaning aid pitches. Two jumars, right and left handed. One piece of 5metre 7mm cord. Right hand longer than left, one foot on lower left jumar Right jumar at arms length. Central hub connected with a larks foot to belay loop.

Byron opts to go for the higher left hand. Pretty quick and efficient. Must remember to tie rope off every 5-10m - I am sure I will be remembering to do that! Bought these locksafe carabiners for this. Counter intuitive to open so that's a relief.

Any ideas???

Originally we played with 1 fifi hook to get higher on a piece of gear and enable a more stable position when high on gear. However, played with this technique today.... Need to experiment more.

2 etriers, 2 daisy chains, 3 fifi hooks. larksfooted to harness. Ends joined with a carabiner and a fifi hook on each end. A fif hook also attached close to belay loop.

When high on the first runner... reach as high as possible and:

1) clip gear with a quickdraw and clip in rope
2) hook fifi/etrier/daisy on gear
3) test and weight gear by moving bodyweight onto etrier
4) hook harness fifi onto daisy chain for stability as move up etrier.
5) get as high on etrier as possible and place a high piece of gear
6) clip gear with a quickdraw and clip in rope
7) pull daisy chain up therefore pulling first fifi off the first piece of gear
8) Repeat. Found this pretty easy to place gear 1.5-2m away from your previous piece making progress efficient.

Out comes the pro traxion. Simple, attach pig to traxion. attach self to power point with sling (dynamic rope from lead line will be better here if you leave enough slack). Jumar attached to belay loop. Jump off wall ... repeat.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Roaches Climbing

Just out for a nice day today at the Roaches with Carl. Did a few top routes including the classic Valkyrie.

Carl chilling out at the belay

The last step on Valkyrie

The Neb finish on 'Technical Slab'

Thursday, 24 June 2010

A Nexus Plexus holiday with A Dream of White Horses

Abseil into A Dream of White Horses

Paulo in the Concrete Chimney

The stunning final pitch, don't look down....

After our little disaster and a broken finger for me last week, we have been out quite a bit. A few bits and pieces of work and lots of play.

Sunday : Froggatt, to be expected, sweaty and warm grit! Not pleasant, still we were after slabby routes to prevent the finger strain so Byron and I did Trapeze Direct, 3 pebble slab, 4 pebble slab and 2 sided triangle.

Four pebble slab is a funny one, graded E3 5C, but I think if you are happy on slabs and can trust your feet it feels OK. The gear is reasonable too. On the other hand, it could go terribly wrong as you would hit the floor if you fell. Felt more like E2 5B.

Monday: Gogarth, had the drive over with Paulo and climbed A Dream of White Horses. Stunning situation, nice climbing. Beautiful day out.

Tuesday: Went to the shady Plexu buttress on Dinas Mot and climbed Plexus and Nexus. NExus has an amazing first pitch, great climbing and a wild 3rd pitch! Yuk, them sweaty pockets!

Wednesday: Went to work at Burbage, climbing all day! Nice day for it.

Now it is time to concentrate on some clean aid climbing with Byron. We have got out Etriers through and are going to go have a play in Thor's Cave this weekend! Cant wait!

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Just another day climbing...

The Fang Slab (Upside Down!)

I had another day climbing today. Just like any day climbing, we went out and enjoyed the company, fresh air, scenery, aesthetic movements and as usual achieved nothing. I am not being cynical about climbing in any way - you start at the bottom, find a difficult way to get somewhere you can walk up/down and then come down. A big circle of nothingness, ending up exactly where you started. The joy of the sport!

Today however was very special, we did all of the normal things - talked shite, pulled on some hand holds, placed gear, watched Byron take a big whipper.... except this time. We decided that hey, lets not finish the route. Lets leave all of the gear in and then try and abseil this massive overhang to get the gear out. Lets stop for a minute! What were we thinking, of course we couldn't ab the route...we would be dangling in space. We attempted anyway. What a surprise, it didn't work.

So what am I ranting on about! I think it is something to do with form. 2 days ago I was pulling through awesome moves on Vector at Tremadog, Byron and I were having an amazing time on Central Buttress at Scafell - Just yesterday I was struggling but still pulling moves out of the bag on Gogarth Main Cliff... Where did it all go wrong?

So for this very route in the peak, I think next time I will need to:

a) try harder
b) concentrate
c) not underestimate E1

Until next time route!

I haven't posted since I went to the Lakes last week but after having a great Saturday, I went over to North Wales to go climbing with a chap called Stu. Anyway, had a great couple of days and did:


The Fang (HVS)
Nice top slab

Stu coming up the final arete on the Plum

The Plum (E1)
Heaps of amazing moves

Vector (E2)
Stunning, amazing, pitch 3 wow!


'Gogarth' Main Cliff (E1)

A very classic Gogarth experience

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Scafell Crag : Central Buttress and Leverage

Leverage (E1 5B)

Since leaving Chamonix, have got settled here in Sheffield now. Excited about the summer and loads of trips planned including Lundy, Sea Stacks, Scotland Cragging and possibly Cuillins. I am now blogging work related days out on the Pure Outdoor Blog ( and play related things on this blog.

Nice couple of routes on Scafell main crag yesterday.

Good to get back into the swing of things on trad leading.

A 'hard rock' route and a fantastic crag with so much mountain atmosphere Central Buttress is 6 pitches and graded E1. Though the difficulties are really getting over the 'Great Flake'.

Hard Rock Description....

Located high in the centre of the Lake District Scafell Crag has a prominent position in English climbing historically as well as geographically. From the ascent of Central Buttress in 1914 to modern routes by Dave Birkett, the crag has always been at the forefront of climbing in terms of both commitment as well as technical difficulty.

Central Buttress, initially climbed with the use of combined tactics stood for two decades as the most serious expedition in the Lakes. Affected by rockfall in 1994 the original line of Central Buttress is now E3.

After, we headed around to the East side and climbed 'Leverage' E1.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Dome de Chapeau

Me on the slabs before taking a bit of downtime! 6B thin slab, not sure about the name.

23rd May

Ok, so today was the last day. Went cragging at Le Chapeau today. Awesome slabs in a great setting.

Some 'interesting' routes too!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

End of season - What happened?

22nd May

So I think it is safe to say that is time to move on, we had a great 18 months or so in Chamonix and got loads done. We aren't going to stick around this summer - moving back to the UK to get a bit of work and get strong on the climbing front with my mate Byron ready for Yosemite in September.

I guess it is time to think back a bit to what we have achieved this winter... It was very different than last year in a way that I worked more, the snow was not quite so epic and the climbing was not easy. Still, with the experience of my first year it meant that when we did get chance to go in the mountains we made it worthwhile. We learned a lot about conditions and how each month changes your objectives.

The highlights!

December :

Arrived in mid December, to find a decent amount of snow. It was time to get the ski legs back so spent some good days cruising around resort and especially on some tasty laps on the Plan d'Aiguille

Carl eating snow, good times at the Grand Montets.
January :

Needed to nip up to Scotland to run a couple of winter skills courses. What a season they had up there! I hear people are still ski touring high in the Cairngorms - good effort! Upon my return I was ready to get stuck into my season. Had some great runs down the Envers du Plan and the Toule glacier. Climbing conditions never seemed to be up to scratch in the mountains, and we always prefer alpine climbing rather than valley ice. So we took up steep skiing. Our first outing was the 'Dru Couloir' by accident. We were still keen to set off where we left last year and despite the temperatures high up, went ski touring. It was nice but really hard work, best to be left for late Feb > March. Our enthusiasm here took us to Mont Velan a beautiful peak I skiid past last year and the Breche Pusieux.

Plum on the Mont Velan tour
February :

I had wanted to do the Cosmiques Couloir all last season but never felt up to it, hadn't been skiing that long afterall. Anyway, february started with Plum and I skiing it in great snow. It was fantastic and really addictive. I think we found ourselves a new hobby for the winter. We were still on the look out for some winter routes to do, things were in condition but we were holding out for improvements come March. We had a load of great skiing in March, especially the Combe du Pouce with Glenn and Plum. Decided to get stuck into a bit of valley ice and climbed the direct version of the EMHM icefall from which I got a return of the chilly fingers. Good times.


Skiing the Combe du Pouce
March :

The snow was fantastic, great days out in Courmayeur skiing the steep trees and untracked powder. Loads of mates out this month, good to spend some time with you all! Had another steep ski on the Capucin Couloir with Andy, quality day out. Our eagerness for alpinism was still strong. We had a piss poor attempt on the Bettembourg Thivierge but a cold night and schoolboy errors got in the way. We decided to lower the grade a bit and stand on a mountain, it had been so long - we traversed the Aiguille du Chardonnet. A beautiful peak. Rick came out on his splitboard, more touring to come!

Heading for the Bettembourg Thivierge
April :

A busy month. Loads of wee trips as work had quietened down. Loads of powder still to be had on routes like the Col du Passon. unfortunately for Rick, he nipped away on a stunning week where Plum and I had the Cunningham Couloir and the Barbey Couloir (from the Aiguille d' Argentiere). More skiing with the Col de la Buche and the Col de Belvedere where Plum took a wee ride down an icy slope. The 3 cols again and some Vallee Blanche rock cragging was great fun and made for mixed adventure days out! A couple of highlights towards the end of the month was the Lafaille Goulette and we ski'd to the top of Mont Blanc! One of last years goals.

I think this month was the best! With the highlight, skiing the Barbey face from the Aiguille d'Argentiere.

Lafaille Goulette

Entering the Barbey Couloir

The 'Bosses' ridge.
May :

Back to the UK again for another taste of home. Had a weekend on Stanage before returning back to Cham. Rain had set in for the spring, but once it had cleared we had a few jollies includign the Aiguilette d'Argentiere and general cragging. Had a fantastic trip down the valley to the Pierre A Voix which hosts some fantastic sport. Recently, with some good weather Plum and I enjoyed the Burnier Vogler Couloir on the NW face of the Aiguille d'Midi. Just yesterday we attempted once again to do something a bit daft and walk into the Argentiere refuge for some more Alpinism. Unfortunately leaving ski's at home was not the best idea as there is stil la heap of warm soft snow up there!

Burnier Voger Goulette

So thanks everyone who I have been in touch with this winter for great tips & trips, route knowledge, days out and beers. Thanks to Plum for holding ropes, been a great Alpinist and top quality mountain Comrade, roll on Alaska. Thanks to Pelforth and the Vallee Blanche Bar for good apres, headaches and aborted routes. Thanks to Jennifer for good Shepherds Pie and calming my frustration when it was raining for 16 days. Thanks to all mates' in Chamonix for all good times!

It's time to move on somewhere else for more adventure. I will be back very soon as the tick list has only got longer.