Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let the games begin

Finally I can post about actual climbing rather than endless "virtual-psyche ups". So here's a few pics from the last few days in the Northern Corries. Still having to pinch myself that it's still October. Tuesday the 28th I think we were the only ones doing any climbing, perhaps folk had been put off by the road being closed. We opted for Andromeda IV,4 a fine route on number 2 buttress finishing in rather full on blizzard conditions. Definitely a goggles day although both Jon Winter and I had forgotten ours! Number 3 and 4 buttress (Tues 28th)Number 1 and 2 Buttress (Tues 28th). Andromeda goes directly up the centre of Number 2.Jon on the Crux of Andromeda.
Looking up the grooves of Big Daddy (VII,8 ha, ha!)
The following day, Wednesday 29th there were a couple of parties heading in the Sneachda but we were alone again in Coire an Lochain. I had my eye on the incredible grooves of Number 1 buttress shared by Big Daddy (VII,8) and Daddy Longlegs (VIII,9). Perhaps it was early season wobbles but I managed to first drop my axe and then take a lob battling with a frozen friend and icy crack on the final roof of pitch 1. A brief attempt on the deeply hoared top cracks of Daddy Longlegs ended after only a few feet as my arm locked bent with cramp so I opted for the offwidth finish of Big Daddy. Thankfully easier than it looked. Incredible route but this must be the hardest grade VII in Scotland (it used to be g8iven VIII). Whilst things have warmed up a touch there should be plenty more fun to be had over the weekend and I imagine many other higher areas are also in good nick.
Jon at the top of Pitch 1 of Big Daddy.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New gallery and Newtown lecture

My Himalaya photo essay has just gone up on Planetfear

Also worth mentioning is a show of mine this Saturday (1 nov) at Theatr Hafren in Newtown
More details here
This will be much more expanded than my recent Vertigo shows with twice as many expeditions, images, stories, films, dirty bivis, falls, breaks and laughter. Should be good hopefully see some of you there at 7.45.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Canon G10 first impressions

Just picked up a Canon G10, their new top end compact digital camera, so here are a few initial impressions after 30 minutes use this afternoon. It's on the large side for a compact (but for those of us used to 35mm film compacts it feels the right size for a quality compact camera). The controls on the whole are by large buttons and chunky dials - one of the main reasons I choose the G10 over rivals, as I'm hoping this should ease use with big gloves. The screen is BIG, bright and has great colours (more saturated than on my Vaio computer screen). Speed of use with Jpegs is pretty fast, with RAW not bad - certainly better than many other compacts. Here's a few pics, the first showing the colours This second is shot at ISO 100
....and here's a crop to show detail (no sharpening done in photoshop)
This fourth shot is at ISO 800 1/60th second (it was getting dark)
...again a detail showing obvious noise but not bad.
All these were shot on Large Jpeg, the G10 of course shoots RAW, which should have better results. I'll post up more images and thoughts once I've had a bit more chance to play.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Winter is coming part 4

Steady tigers! there's rumours of snow falling this weekend. If you're not beginning to get psyched for the winter you're either an indoor climber or on your way out of this world. Just in case you need nudging out of your summer stupor here's some pics. The madness of the friday night drive.
Dream conditions (2003 I think?) on Liathach, here's hoping this year....
Late season perfection Astral Highway on the Ben.
One of the best short grade IVs around The Seam in the Northern Corries.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Gallery

There's a new gallery 20 of my shots just gone up on Planetfear
Yosemite Leaves
Dave Pickford is doing a great job of resurrecting Planetfear after it looked like this fine website was dissappearing down the virtual tubes. It's now got daily updates with lots of interesting articles, photo galleries and reviews.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Winter is coming part 3

A third lot of gratuitous winter eye-candy Dawn start at Lochnagar with the incredible Tough Brown face (in not good nick lots of white but no ice) home of some of Scotland's finest winter routes.
Andy Kirkpatrick on Fall Out Corner VI,7 one of the most lusted after mixed VIs.

Pete Benson knee barring his way up the first pitch of the Link Direct VIII,7 Lochnagar.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Onsight Night

Last night was the premier of Onsight, Alastair Lee's new film. This was particularly exciting for me personally as it was the first night my wife and I were able get a baby sitter and get an evening out together. Also it was interesting to see what Alastair had done with the footage of our climbs on the Ben and in Iceland and check out the extraordinary levels of commitment required to onsight E7s and E8s.Ian in Kaldakinn, Iceland from the film Onsight.
Its impossible to be objective about projects that you've been involved with closely. But I think Onsight is pretty special on several levels. Visually its stunning (the film is the first climbing one Ive seen in High Definition and on a big screen its mindblowing). Alastair has really raised his game on the editing, the dictionary of climbing definitions is hilarious. But most impressive is the effort of bringing out the drama of onsighting - surely its a miracle to turn 2 hours spent faffing on the crux of a climb look exciting?
Anyway a very large thumbs up at least now we know what to get those climbers in our life for christmas now. is Alastair's site if you want to buy a copy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Winter is coming part 2

Last nights show was down in Worthing, a 4 1/2 hours drive from Sheffield. So that gave plenty of day dreaming time, which with me usually means wondering what we'll be getting up to this winter. So here's a few further pics to help wet the appetite.
Babylon VII,8 high on Number 4 Gully walls is proving to be a pretty popular mixed challenge on Ben Nevis. It's probably had a dozen or more repeats now and combines the superb Gargoyle crux cracks with a delicate bold wall, an exciting overlap and a great top chimney. Highly recommended. This is a little more obscure. 30 minutes from the car Applecross's Sgurr a Chaorachain has a couple of excellent icefalls including this one Blade Runner IV,5. After this first pitch theres a very entertaining squeeze cave to finish. Thought I'd put this in as it captures that weary "that's the nth time Ive been dumped on with a load of spindrift" look. One that most winter climbers know all too well. Luckily its usually replaced after the climb with big grins especially when you get views like the following shot from close gto the summit of the Ben.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Winter is coming part 1

It's about this time of year that climbers like myself develop a manic gleam in the eye, start fidgeting with ice axes and files, and dust off our SMC guides. Yes winter is on its way. In fact Ive heard that some have already got their first routes in. Unfortunately I won't be able to head up for at least another month or two but to help us all getting psyched here's a few pics. I'll make this a bit of a series this month to get us in the mood.
What a great climb Savage Slit V,6 in the Northern Corries is. It's popular to dismiss the area just because its popular with novices but it's one of my favourites with some of the best technical climbing about. This shot shows Jon Winter "having a meltdown" in heavily rimmed conditions.Andy Benson on Central Buttress VII,8 at Stob Coire Nan Lochan in Glen Coe. Again a fantastic collection of technical test-pieces across the grades. Really hoping to head back here a few times this season. We did this particular route with Garth's direct start called Starting Blocks which made a particularly sustained route defining the upper limits of grade VII.
What could be better? The end of another stellar day on the Ben. Fingers crossed we'll have lots like this, this winter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Onsight premier

Alastair Lee's latest film "Onsight" is showing for the first time at the Showroom cinema in Sheffield. Heres a link for more info:

It should be a good evening out. Ive seen a few clips from the stuff we filmed and climbed in Iceland. Alastair's fancy new high defination set up really makes the most of the beautiful dawn light.

A fine WI5 at Kaldakinn in Iceland. pic

Jon Winter and I were also captured by Alastair high on Ben Nevis through some truely terrible spindrift, Ive not seen it but heard the way Jon's bit is done in Onsight is hilarious. Anyway looking forward to it, hopefully see you there.

Ian on a WI5 pillar at Kaldakinn, Iceland. pic

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Perfectly imperfect

I got my sweaty paws on a copy of the new Southern Sandstone guide today. Its another in the line of superb new Climbers Club guidebooks. Now I'm not a regular fan of southern sandstone, although I love the idea of the UK's most used popular climbs being on these tiny rocks, sugarlump-like in size and fragility. What I was most excited about was the back quarter of the guide which detailed the various versions of the climbing game played out on the chalk cliffs of Southern England. Ive only been down 4 times but each time was "emotional!"

Pitch 3 of Great White Fright, Dover. photo Sandy Ogilvie

The first few times was to the 100m cliffs of Beachy Head. First Monster Crack, of which the guide has a great photo, which I don't hesitate to call one the great adventure routes of the world, and then to almost climb Sunday Sport, which is barely mentioned in the guide as it fell down shortly after our attempt. My most recent visit was to the white cliffs of Dover a couple of years ago with Chris Cubitt when we climbed Great White Fright. This gets two photos and a bit of a write up in the guide. There are actually a few mistakes in the guidebook information. Firstly the implication is that we made the second ascent, we didn't. Infact I think its had a fair few, one from Andy Perkins, one from Kenton Cool and one from Dave Wills that I know of. Secondly that by implication we upgraded it to an unprecendented (on chalk) grade of VIII. I can't remember offering a grade although I might have babbled something out in my excitement after the ascent. These grades are supposed to be ice grades - although with Roman numerals perhaps are Scottish winter grades? The Great White is certainly worth Scottish VIII but definately not WI8 (the proper way of writing ice grades). The final thing is that while we set out to make an free ascent (placing gear without clipping into our axes which is the norm) we failed 30ft from the top when I pumped out and rested. I then abseiled down the next day and pre-placed two warthogs before redpointing the top pitch clean. So our all free climb was flawed.

Chris topping out on pitch 3 of Great White Fright, Dover. photo Sandy Ogilvie

Which is why I'm writing. Partly to set the record straight but also to rejoice in the perfection found in imperfect climbs. Chris and my ascent of Great White despite its little faux pas was one of the best adventures we've ever had. And that often seems to be the case. You almost need to push things a little past the edge for those climbing experiences to become truely memorable. So here's to the wildest lead of your life even if it did need a rest point or sneaky pull on a piece of gear.

PS. If you want to see more of Great White Fright our ascent was captured by Sandy Ogilvie for the film Hard XS by Slackjaw films.