Thursday, April 30, 2009

British Journal of Photography

The prestigious British Journal of Photography has done a piece on climbing photographers called Vertical Take. I was quite chuffed to be featured alongside fellow Sheffield based snapper Keith Sharples ( http://keithsharplesphotography.co.uk/ ) the Americans Corey Rich ( http://coreyrich.com/ ) and Keith Ladzinski ( http://ladzinski.com/ ) There's an online version of the piece here http://www.bjp-online.com/public/showPage.html?page=854564
As a result of this piece it looks like the Telegraph "may" be featuring a shot or two of mine. Here's fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

John Evans a Denali Diamond

Just heard this evening that John Evans from North Wales died in a slip yesterday while descending from a days cragging with friends. I didn't know John that well having only met him a couple of times out in Alaska but the brief time I spent with him is well remembered. John dedicated a large part of his life helping others through mountain rescue, here in the UK for Ogwen Mountain Recsue (he was a team member for 36 years) and for a large part of the last decade assisting the Denali national park rescue out in Alaska.

One little story which I think says a lot about the man was when Kenton Cool and I after a 5 day battle making the second ascent of the Denali Diamond staggered down towards the 14,000ft camp. It was past midnight and we had little expectation other than having being able to collapse into our frozen crisp packet sleeping bags inside our broken miniature tent. Instead we were met on the edge of the camp by this big bear of a man with a beaming grin. Who shepherded us into the Rangers camp where we were plied with food and drink and then shown to a tent with great 5 season down sleeping bags waiting for us. John mentioned that he had been tracking us through his telescope. For me in the exhausted state I was in at the time it was like being welcomed through the pearly gates to my personal fluffy cloud. Looking back it seems typical from what Ive read of John's professionalism, his generosity and also his joy at sharing in our adventure.

My condolences go out to his family and friends. There is an obituary on the Ogwen Mountain Rescue website http://www.ogwen-rescue.org.uk/

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

That was the winter that was

I've written a piece summarizing the fun and challenges I had this winter for the Arcteryx website. You can read it here http://www.arcteryx.com/Article.aspx?article=A-Memorable-Winter-in-Scotland
Starting up the first pitch of Bruised Violet (pic Andy Turner)
I've been lucky enough to receive kit from Arcteryx for about 4 years now, and while it does have a reputation for being pricey you do get what you pay for. I think they make the best Gore Tex Jacket (The Beta AR), the best harness (The X350a), the best gloves (Gamma SV) and the best synthetic belay jacket (The Dually). But I could just be biased?

Friday, April 24, 2009

When 7c feels easier than E1

Had a couple of quick interesting forays on rock this week. The first to Froggatt to try the leaning wall of Strapiombante and Don Whillans extraordinary roof crack Strapiombo. I had a little struggle on the former but Whillan's bloody roof crack was a real bugger. Surprise, surprise you say? Well I'm not naive I've done my fair share of his routes and yes they're all pretty brutal but some in a reasonable way. Strapiombo is one of the unreasonable ones. I was close to giving up before on about my sixth attempt I finally clawed my way round.

The second outing was a couple of hours reacquainting myself with "Follow the Slick Red Road, a 7c sport route at Cheddar. That 11 years ago I managed in two sections. I'm probably conning myself that its feasible for me this year although I managed all the moves this time. Which sprung the question just what French grade would Don Whillan's be climbing if he were active now!
Spring leaves at Froggatt

Friday, April 17, 2009

Russian Roulette Vid

Here's a 3 minute look at the wonderful world of alpine climbing with Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock. The route is a link of Russian Roulette and the finish of the Gabarrou Silvy on the Aiguille Sans Nom, which while not particularly desperate gives a nice long commiting outing that might rate ED2. It's what you'd call a proper alpine route.

video

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Cor Blimey!

My, oh, my! I'd forgotten how much hard work alpine climbing was. Back in Mont Saxonney nursing my bruises, sores and aching body but with a full belly of mountain happiness.Andy and Nick scoping the line we took on the 1000m north face of the Aiguille Sans Nom. Starting up the first half of Russian Roulette and then finishing up the upper ice pitches of the Gabarrou-Silvy.Nick speeding to shelter on the initial ground beneath the Russian Roulette serac (top right)
Entering the upper goulotte system on day 2.
Nick pulling round the crux squeezy-groove and ice bulge. Quite spicy with a big sack on.
Bivied close to the summit on the second night, Only 13 hours of descent to go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Kendal Lecture and Dru video

I arrived yesterday in the Alps as ever full of anticipation but having to temper that by remembering that these mountains are usually a land of broken dreams. I guess I've been out 20 times and even though I've had a few successes, the aborted attempts, epic turn-arounds and just plain failures have outweighed summits reached by 5 to 1. Still I find as soon as you get close to these legendary peaks you can't help feel the heart beginning to race.

I'm here for the week but its looking like there might be a weather window on Monday and Tuesday. Not perfect conditions but a window of some kind. So the plan is to head up with Nick and Andy to try to find a way up the Aiguille Sans Nom, the superb 1000m mixed face just left of the Dru. To whet the appetite here's a clip from the DVD Cold Haul (a film I made with Karen Barber and Andy Kirkpatrick and on sale here http://www.snowandrock.com/SearchResult/Climbing/Accessories/Climbing+Movies/Cold+Haul+FRS0001.htm

Its of the last route I got properly involved with in that area, the Lafaille route on the Dru.

video

For those within travelling distance in the Lakes a date for the diary is June 3rd when I will be lecturing at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. There are more details here http://www.breweryarts.co.uk/event-detail.cfm?id=268&type=10

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Little miracles

I managed yesterday to finish off the photos for the Slate stomping ground and with the forecast having been set for showers it felt like a little miracle to get the shots. Of course it wasn't a miracle rather good luck. As was the fact we managed great light on first the Quarryman and then crucially the Rainbow Slab.
At the slab Mark ensured me plenty of "lob-shots" and gave the impression a lengthy siege was due. I was even a little worried that we might loose the light if Mark stalled and got the fear. It was a shock therefore to find myself running at full tilt swapping lenses as I rushed between viewpoints trying to keep up with Mark's stylish speed ascent. The real miracle of course is the Rainbow Slab itself, one of the most beautiful sweeps of rock in the UK.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In the hands of the masters

Yesterday I had another trip over to Wales to get some more Slate pics. Together with Matt Heason we managed to sneak in half a day on the Cromlech. One of the UK's finest crags, quality lines at every grade all soaked in reputation and history. Talking of which one of the routes we did was Grond, Whillans incredible hand crack from the Fifties. Laughably given E1 in the latest CC guide (its actually hard E2 and probably a grade tougher than the neighbouring Monster, given E2) this proved a bit of a lesson from history as despite my rack of shiny cams I had a right battle (including a quick slip out the crux jams). Bearing the scars of our encounter we headed down to the Slate to meet James McHaffie. James has also been following the masters although very much at the other end of the grading scale by taking on Johnny Dawes's unfinished project The Meltdown. This is total state of the art in terms of world slab climbing and back in the day Johnny came close to success before breaking off a hold. Whether James can have more luck we'll have to see but it was great to see him at work linking together many of the outrageous sequences.
James on the Meldown project.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Inspirations for Easter

The best time for summer rock climbing in the UK obviously isn't the summer. It rains too much. Instead its a toss up between September and April into early May. The later has the benefit of being midge free if you're heading to the adventure climbing nirvana of North Scotland. So as a little inspiration for forthcoming Spring rock action here's a few pics from Hoy.