Monday, March 29, 2010

Ship of Fools

After a month or more of reading about everyone else having fun up in Scotland I finally managed to get up there myself. A great day out with young hotshot Greg Boswell, and nice to end the season on a high note rather than watch the season fade away.

We knew we'd need to head high for conditions, and it doesn't get higher than Indicator Wall. I had my eye on Ship of Fools a route established by Iain Small and Simon Richardson in 2007. Greg starting up Pitch 1
I'd been intrigued by this route ever since I read Simon's exciting account of their first ascent in the new Ben Nevis history book "...his monopoints only half penetrate the ice before they hit rock; his tools barely reach their first notch. There are no gear placements in sight. Iain commits to a meticulous dance. Every placement, each step, has to be perfectly executed the first time;a second kick, or another swing, and the delicate skein of ice will shatter....The ice sheet vibrates as he makes his second placement, but it holds his weight as he manoeuvres himself over the roof and levers his right crampon onto a finger-width, sloping notch. Four moves later and he reaches the foot of a narrow ice ribbon. It is solid, ten centimetres thick... I breathe a sigh of relief. I've just witnessed one of the finest leads in Scottish ice history."
With a write up like that I couldn't wait to find out what Ship of Fools had in store.
Me on pitch 2, contrast with the shot below of Iain on the first ascentIt turned out that the route was in different condition than on the first ascent. Whilst whiter the crucial ice patches were often not weight bearing and so I climbed a little to the right of Iain's line. Not as elegant but still highly exciting. The quality of the white stuff made sure that all 3 of the top pitches needed our full attention. All in all a superb route and great to pull over the top and belay on the summit trig point of the Ben. Finally on ice that didn't fall off as soon as it was touched.
Greg Boswell, a name to watch in future seasons (Greg blogs about his adventures here

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Final Highland Fling

This time of year I often feel the onset up schizophrenia. There are so many options it can make the head spin. I was rock climbing on lat week, fell running the weekend just gone and now it looks like I'll be back on the Ben winter climbing this weekend. This will be my last chance of anything wintery this season and i haven't been able to get up for the last month so even though it feels odd beginning to get excited about the cold stuff again. Here's a few pics from Hans Hornberger from my last trip up on Beinn Eighe. Blood sweat and frozen tears pics Hans Hornberger

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Skyline Survival

With blue sky visibility and no snow this should have been a pleasant introduction to the legendary fell race the Edale Skyline. Veterans will know that there's really no such thing, but my oh my....! What a total nightmare I had today.
At 2 miles I was probably in about 50-60th place and consciously trying to slow down
At about 6 miles I was letting numerous speedy descenders (not my strongest suit) zoom past assuming I would catch them up on the ascents as I have done in shorter races.
At the 12 mile Mam Nick I was pleased with my 2 hour time and beginning to imagine a top 100 placing perhaps around 3.45hrs.
At 12.2 miles having stopped for a big drinks and gel refuel, I began to realise everything wasn't tip top; it felt like someone had left the cap off my fuel tank, and with almost 9 miles to go I suddenly felt dangerously close to the red.
At 15 miles I was well into survival mode, any ideas of a decent time had been dropped and just completing the thing would be a victory.
At 17 miles my right leg refused to work locking up in agonising cramps. At one point I wondered how long I would have to lie there before I was eventually airlifted to the human skip in the sky.
At 19 miles my whole upper body began to go numb with the only feeling one of pins and needles.
At 20 miles the cramps which had been appearing intermittently completely took over both legs.
At 20 1/2 miles I still thought I might not finish and was particularly worried about passing out in front of everyone on the final field.

Well I did finish in 4 hours 13 minutes and 146th place. I was pretty embarrassed by my performance - Ive had difficult times in the mountains before but I've never had the wheels come off so severely before. My guess is that there were two issues, firstly I think I got very dehydrated - despite drinking 3/4 litre it was surprisingly wind free and hot and I overdressed. The main one though was that I was under-prepared, the longest run I'd done was 1hr 50mins and that was on nice trails, what I needed was 3 or 4 3hr bog-missions. All in all it's been a very big learning process and with my second half marathon only 5 weeks away Ive got to knuckle down if I don't want to get punished.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Changing Focus

This last week has seen a very noticeable arrival of warmer weather. This is not to say winter is completely over but after having had the snow blinkers on it is something of a shock personally. One of my very slim remaining winter opportunities melted away today and it may turn out that my season will have ended mid February. That's frustrating in the best winter season seen for years but there's no point whinging, it is what it is. The positive way to look at it is that I've woken up my rock climbing from hibernation a little earlier than usual. Always a fairly painful process for me. A cold windy Millstone was a real struggle but yesterday a cosy quiet Chee Tor reminded me of just how enjoyable using your hands rather than sharp pointy things on the rock really can be.

The other activity that rears large this time of year is running. Two races are looming large for me in the next month or two. The first and most daunting is this Sunday and the Edale Skyline, a 21 mile national classic fell run - my goals being to not be disqualified and finish. Then at the end of April the Sheffield Half Marathon, perhaps more my cup of tea, goals - surprise surprise a pb but by how much? Now that would be telling.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The power of the image

This Saturday just gone we held the first Arc'teryx Adventure Shot photo comp. Even though I'm biased as I organised it, it was beeping awesome. As a photographer you spend a lot of time and effort getting the best images you can, but have almost zero feedback other than the odd thumbs up or purchase from a photo editor. With the growing number of film festivals and the growing amount of talent getting involved with film it can be tempting to see still photography as an art on the wane. These were two of my biggest driving forces behind the Adventure Shot(a concept nicked from the Squamish Steep Shot event). Thanks to the efforts of the 5 competing photographers Alexander Buisse, Alex Ekins, Adam Long, Richard Seipp and Robbie Shone, MC Grimer, Arc'teryx for the impressive prizes and most importantly a very rowdy audience it felt like an evening when the still image tryely came alive. For me very inspiring. Below is Alex's winning presentation (note you can watch it HD on Vimeo). See you next year?

Why do we climb? from Alexandre Buisse on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ines's Story

Ines Papert has written a nice piece about her trip to Scotland. You can read it here

And here's one of Han's pics of me from the trip on pitch 2 of Blood Sweat and Tears
photo Hans Hornberger

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Building Up Motivation Again

I'd kind of written off the remainder of the season as I had a pretty packed diary of work and family but I got a good kick up the derriere recently. Rich Simpson, of Action Direct, sub 4 minute mile and 100 one arm pullups on each arm fame, got in contact to see if I fancied a spot of dry tool training at the Foundry. It was great to be dragged out after a couple of weeks of inactivity. A few possibilities have also surfaced in the diary for a return to Scotland with some big plans afoot. So with a reason to get fit again, and inspired by Rich I'm trying to make more of an effort. Running yesterday, the start of circuits with the Alp Kit Fig Fours at the works today and hopefully a run round part of the Edale Skyline tomorrow. Piecing together a training loop on the Works circuit board with the Fig Fours.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

13th March Arcteryx Adventure Shot Open

Next Saturday as part of the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival the Arc'teryx Adventure Shot competition will be running for the first time. It's an event I've been trying to get off the ground ever since being involved as a judge in the annual steep shot comp which is held as part of the Squamish Mountain Festival. That was held in a brew pub and the combination of beer, North American's natural exuberance and some brilliant images made it a very rowdy and exciting evening.

For our version we're holding it in the cafe bar at The Showroom in Sheffield complete with several barrels of a unique SHAFF beer. The whole do will be hosted by Grimer, who in his own unique way will ensure no-one takes proceedings too seriously. We've got a pub style quiz to kick things off (again with decent prizes) and then the adventure photo shoot out itself.
Five photographers will present a sequence of their images live with the audience and a panel of judges choosing the winner.

I'm hoping with the great prizes 500 quid cash and a full set of Arc'teryx Goretex for the winner that this will become a regular prestigious event. In recent years a lot of our communities creative effort has gone into film with great results. I'd like to think the Adventure Shot event will be a chance to showcase what great talents we have working away with still images and that at it's best photography can capture the essence of adventure in a way other mediums can't

So the five finalists we have are
Adam Long well known for his climbing images but also with a geat feel for landscape and nature work.

Richard Seipp is a Hayfield based photographer specialising in powerful gritty mountain biking, cyclo cross and fell running shots.

Robbie Shone who amongst many subjects is one of the countries top caving photographers.

Alex Buisse one of the winners of the UKC open competition. Alex's extraordinary images have a distinctive style all his own.

Alex Ekins the other winner of the UKC event, Sheffield based Alex has a great eye backed up by spot on timing as a result his work is full of life.

Tickets for the event are only £3 and are limited so worth booking in advance.