Monday, August 31, 2009

Return to Rock

Yeah! finally got back on rock after a week layoff due to a tendon injury. To ease myself back in I opted for some cuddly offwidths - something that shouldn't strain the fingers. Initially we went for an explore along Rivelin Quarry which I'd not visited before. As far as Peak esoterica goes it looks pretty good with plenty of overgrown green rock but also some superb strong lines. The offwidth Rhododendron Crack looked the pick for me considering I don't climb hard enough to try That's my lot a striking completely smooth E8 arete. We didn't try it today as the rock was wet which could have been a blessing as the first 25ft looked unprotectable.

After a brutal bramble thrash we found drier rock on the main edge. The wide cracks of Presidents Crack and Kremlin Krack provided fine entertainment, the latter being superb. We finished off the day with Groove Route which was supposed to be hard for HVS and 5b but proved to be neither with well protected technical mincing. All in all it was fantastic to be grabbing rock again, here's hoping I can stave off anymore growing pains and keep the body intact.
Jon's ankles after some "wide work"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bank Holiday Mecca

Next week we've got a family holiday camping in Pembroke, in fact there's quite a gathering of friends coming along, including a bit of an A list of climbing partners including the McClure and Bransby families. Unfortunately this was all planned before I buggered up my tendon. I'd like to try my finger out on some VSs but won't be bothering Steve and Ben on the rope. Never the less I can't help getting excited about heading down to one of my favourite coastlines. There seems to be quite a buzz going around about Pembroke again which might be something to do with the new rockfax guide So help build the psyche here's a few Pembroke pics.The One Eyed Man tucked away in Blind Man's Bay near Mother Carey's Kitchen is typical of Pembroke. A stunning 3 star route that very few have heard of, there's just so much quality climbing on this coast. Here Charlie Woodburn finds that it's pretty tough at the old grade of E4, I think its been upgraded in the latest guide.Trevor Massiah was one of my two best partners in Pembroke back when I was a regular visitor. Here he's goofing around on pitch 2 of the amazing 4 pitch adventure we put up "The Land that Time forgot" traversing Mount Sion West. One of the new routes I'm most proud of.John Arran was my other major partner. Way more talented from me and a new route seeking missile. I think John liked climbing with me because I was always up for an adventure most of which seemed to be traverses which led to some quite fretful following efforts by myself. Here John is on the crux of The Great Elmyra a fine E5 6c at Stennis.
Another hidden gem Grand Junction HVS at Frontier Zawn with Gabe Masini climbing.Tea time at Ma Weston's an essential part of the Pembroke experience.This shows Barry Bazza Durston moments before a big whipper on Chupacabre an E8 in Huntsmans Leap. A pic that reminds me of exciting and eventful days with the Bristol crew.Relaxing at the campsite. With wall to wall bank holiday sunshine there's no need to rush to the crag (here's hoping).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beautiful beautiful grit

How amazing is Stanage? I went for a run this evening along its top and back in beautiful clear evening light and it reminded me what an extraordinary landscape it is.
Having spent last week running around the trails of Squamish in the shadow of the Chief I was feeling jealous of what the Canadians had to play with, but this evening I was equally in awe of the scale and beauty of the motherlode of gritstone edges.

A little personal lesson in not taking for granted what you have on your own doorstep

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cor Blimey

Back in the UK now after a fun Squamish Festival. Had a nice surprise at the end when John Irvine persuaded me to enter the trail race even though it was scheduled just before I'd leave to drive to Vancouver to catch my flight. I fancied a nice work-out before the hours sat on the plane. About 5kms long with lots of ups and down and about 40 of us having a go. Considering I got lost at one point I was fairly gobsmacked when I asked where I'd come at the finish, to be told first place! OK I know its just a fun run but you've got to take even the little victories when they pop up, so Ive arranged an open-top bus for this weekend for the celebratory procession down Eccie Road.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Squamish Rock Festival

No this isn't a gathering of mullet fronted bands headlined by Rush, but a rather fine low key gathering of climbers in Canada. Arcteryx invited me over to do a lecture, take part in the film makers seminar and help judge the "Steep Shot" photo shoot out. The latter was great fun with 5 photographers Andrew Burr , Keith Ladzinski , Corey Richards , Susanica Tam , Sonnie Trotter competing for decent big money prizes. Each put together about 5 minutes of slides set to music and the audience being Canadian needed little encouragement to shout out appreciation of their favourite images. The level of all five was incredibly high with Keith Ladzinski, last year's winner and perhaps the most technically accomplished photographer working in climbing to day just being pipped by Andrew Burr. Burr's show was a great example of how to put together a complete show, building up a story, throwing in a few surprises and ratcheting up the emotion to a fitting end.

The thing that really got me about this event was how it brought images alive. As a snapper you often work alone or with just one or two climbers, then an editor and once published although your image is probably seen by many thousands you get almost no feedback. Here with the event held in a brew-pub the atmosphere was, shall we say, well oiled and so feedback was instant and very rowdy. It was a real example of the power of photographs. I'd love to see something like this in the UK but it would only work if the British could lose their polite inhibitions.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Elloughton 10km Race

Had an interesting day today - my first running race since I was 15, and that was a long long time ago. Infact I was amused to see that I now qualify as a Vet being 40 and all! My highlights of the Jim Dingwall Elloughton 10k are as follows:

3am I'm queuing for the event registration when I'm asked what my estimated finishing time is, when I mention perhaps 45 minutes, there is a little laugh from the organiser who enquiries whether I know it is full marathon distance. I then struggle for hours incapable of fixing my number to my vest, eventually having to have cling film wrapped around me until I can hardly breath. It's only then that I notice that the course is heading up a snowy mountain that looks very much like Everest. Luckily at this point I wake up...!

500m into the race and I can't believe how heavy my legs feel, it feels like I'm wearing boots of lead. But at the first km marker I'm surprised to see 4.05 mins on my watch - much faster than expected.

2-5km I've spotted a likely pacing candidate, a petite woman with a neat efficient running action is 10m ahead. My plan is to stick close to Miss Neat Petite while still trying to hold back on my effort

6-7.8km Mr Tall fancy pants racing shoes and his mate Mr Short but mini - lap top on his wrist steam past me and I up my pace to try to go with them. I'm beginning to huff and puff a fair bit by now.

8km I get a rush of blood to the head and put in a big kick. Miss Neat Petite, and Misters fancy shoes and lap top all seem to go backwards. I have flashbacks to school sports days in the early 80s kicking on the bend of 800m races.

9km Unfortunately this isn't an 800m run and within minutes its obvious Ive blown it. I sound and look like a derailing train. Some of the spectators look aghast - I'm obviously the token crazy runner, some however cheer me on - which is much appreciated.

10km During the final km one voice in me wants to give up another wants to start sprinting. I'm incapable of either so I stagger over the line to find I've knocked my watch off earlier with my spastications. Fancy Shoes and Lap Top sailed past me but I somehow managed to keep ahead of Neat Petite. It turns out I managed a time of 42.02 and 58th finisher out of 443 - I'm pretty chuffed with that for my first race, particularly after only a couple of months of running.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I've finally completed my transformation from rufty tufty mountaineer to "yummy mummy" look-a-like. Tested out running with the stroller round Dovestones Reservoir. Suzanna seemed to enjoy it - particularly the ice cream halfway round.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sheffield Rat Race

I had a last minute commission on Sunday from the organisers of the Rat Race, an urban adventure race being held in Sheffield. Based on Day Two around the industrial museum Magna it made for some dramatic pics. Here's a few pics from the final day. For more info on the series click here

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chased by numbers

Es and I finally managed to get out for a run. And rather than the lactic ordeal trailing in Es's wake that I feared, we had a pleasant jog and natter around Burbage valley. On a side note that in itself was a big sign of progress for me as 2 months ago I wouldn't have been able to string a sentence together while running more than 10 minutes. More interestingly we got talking about numbers.

One of the reasons I got into climbing and stopped running as a teenager, was that a good day in athletics seemed always to be measured in numbers not actual experience. Usually that number was 1, with first being the only position worth talking about. The only other measure of quality of experience was your PB or whether you could set a new personal best time. Whether you'd enjoyed the wind on your face or that surge of euphoria as you rushed downhill was irrelevant. When I discovered climbing for myself, suddenly where you were and who you were with became major ingredients of a good day out. I knew I'd found a way of life more rewarding for me.

Of course quantifying experience with numbers is all pervasive through climbing as well; E this, ABO that, Font who knows what? But despite this there are plenty of opportunities for a wider appreciation of the activity from the kinaesthetics of individual moves through the flow of a good redpoint to the ambiance of the great cliffs. On some of my best days climbing I've actually achieved very little ascent or scored very low in terms of numbers, such as times Ive walked into the Triple Buttress on Beinn Eighe in winter with conditions not on for harder stuff. But without climbing as the an objective I wouldn't have found myself in these places.

This summer with a brief dalliance with sports climbing Ive found myself getting sucked back into number chasing. Saved from that by blowing my tendon I'm now having to check myself from heading down the same road with running. It seems road running perhaps more than anything is the home of the stopwatch and the PB. With my first 10k race on Sunday there's no denying that I have specific times that I'd like to achieve but I'm trying to keep reminding myself that there were a lot more reasons that I started running than a string of 4 numbers.

Alongside the weight loss (Ive lost 3/4 stone in 2 months - more numbers!) and less obsessing on my damaged finger, the key thing for me has been discovering again that feeling of flow when you get into your run. A feeling of lightness, rhythm and euphoria. Es described the best bits of his extreme runs similarly but with the added fulfilment of the sheer audacity of bouncing along the tops of something as dramatic as the Skye Ridge. When I'm clinging onto my race pace this Sunday, hopefully I'll be able to appreciate a few of those moments and ignore the numbers for a while.