Monday, November 28, 2011


             I've just done the last of a few talks/lectures i had planned for this month. I've found it extremely rewarding and fun to talk about what i do to people who's understandings of who i am and what climbing is vary from extensive to zero.
          Its been really fascinating to see how the talk is absorbed by both the climber and the none-climber in an almost equal measure, and although extremely cheesy to say it, it has been very pleasing to have someone come up to you at the end and say they were "inspired".
     Although i'm now in danger of sounding like the kind of person who normally i would be intensely annoyed by, i have to say that.......this brief insight in to spreading my fascination and enthusiasm in climbing has shown me that one of the missing parts in the jigsaw, that for me has to be looking a little more complete to be convinced that climbing is an entirely meaningful and worthwhile thing to be involved with in an all-consuming way, has just began to fall in to place. It is possible for other people to "get" the very specialist area of climbing that is Alpinism, and even if not interested in partaking in it, people find it uplifting to hear about.
         The last talk i did, i was asked to talk for 20 minutes as an after-dinner thing for a Manchester based mountaineering club. One thing that became apparent was that talking for short times is much harder than talking for longer, as when you are talking you have no sense of time, and when talking for twenty minutes, you have to time it so that you feel like you've only been going for about 30 seconds!!
Some things i've been talking about:

St.Bees, my original playground and a very special place.

Precarious living on some of the Alp's hardest lines.

How to climb the Eiger North Face in a day.

The story behind this photo.

Patagonian faces.

And what it feels like to be completely wasted with no back-up plan.
Talking is something i'm hoping to do a lot more of in the future, so please spread the word. Whether it be for a club function, a general gathering of people, a school etc. please get in touch. Email: .

On Saturday i took a day off from the farm i work at when i'm in the UK, and went along to the Alpine Club China symposium in Shap. Much was learnt about this fascinating area and many ideas were wizzing around my mind on the drive home. Talks from Bruce Normand on Edgar and Chris Bonington on Kongur were my favourites. But definitely the most fascinating part for me was sitting with Bruce and his laptop for a couple of hours afterwards, looking at hundreds of unique photos he possesses from his travels in the Chinese mountains. This guy knows a lot.....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cumbrian winter ethics.

There's a lot of exciting energy bounding around the UK at the moment, regarding what could be a very significant Scottish winter season. Its an exciting time, with this particular climbing sub-discipline going though much progression and change.
      Where are we going to be at come April 2012? is it going to be normal to walk in to the Ben in fruitoots? Will you be laughed at when you own up to "only" climbing grade VII? Will there be guerrilla warfare in Cumbria, with anti-toolers guarding Gable with de-icer?
        Its exciting to watch this particular "discipline" evolve. Although great fun, its also important to remember that Scottish mixed style climbing, especially in the harder grades is ultimately an extremely contrived game (not that climbing isn't already....), and just a bit of fun.
       Its interesting to step back from the people endlessly debating the conflicting issues surrounding it (which sure as fate, will never be happily resolved), and take a look through some humour tinted glasses, as this movie does perfectly.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A little beta for the Colton Mac.

I was just looking through some photos when i saw a shot i'd forgotten i'd taken. Its from our second bivi on No Siesta.
Enlarge to see the people, 800 m below on the Colton Mac's initial icefield.

Its hard to see in this early morning light, but the quickest  way of climbing the icefield is the neve-motorway to  their left, otherwise a purgatorial black ice traverse is going to greet your not-fully-warmed-up calves rather cruely. A few hours later i heard some shouting, followed by the PGHM plucking these boys off.
     All three of the ascents i watched from NS have all made this mistake. No matter how easy and mundane climbing a big low angle icefield is, its always scary and intimidating being in the centre of the vastness, and much more friendly feeling to scuttle up the boundary.

     So basically, after crossing the schrund make a left straight away and get on the neve-express. Its there even when the icefield's far blacker than in the photo. Of course its only going to cost you a little bit of time, but messing up early in the day is the biggest psyche killer in the world.
       I'm sure the route will get done plenty more before the year's up, even if the Foehn is ripping through as we speak...