Thursday, July 28, 2011

Something that will make you want to go to the Ruth Gorge.

A little clip of flying through the entrance to the Ruth Gorge a couple years ago. From about 1 minute onwards you can see the faces of Mt's Church, Grosvener, Johnson, Wake, Bradley and Dickey. These faces have had a lot of their plum lines picked in the last 10 years, but there are still some to go at. All around the 1000 metre mark, this part of Alaska is very much more on scale with the European Alps, rather than the huge lines on Denali, but still good fun!

Entering the Ruth Gorge from William Sim on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Photos and Movies

I think photos are super important. I have a very extensive photo gallery of everything i've ever climbed, from sport climbing to expeditions. By looking at my windows photo gallery i see that i have 3275 photos from 2011 alone, and theres another 5 months left! I'm also very lucky that my main alpine partner is an extremely good photographer, and therefore am guaranteed some gobsmacking photos nearly every time we go climbing.
       I regularly find myself flicking through my photos and getting lost in the moment that the photo captures. I'll sometimes spend literally hours staring at my own photos remembering and pondering the moment they were taken.
         "Tangibility" is an extremely crucial word when it comes to any sort of pleasure, and i think that in alpinism it is especially relevant, as its often not possible to enjoy the moment as it happens. Sometimes you may feel very scared and stressed, which isn't something that is naturally enjoyed at the time, but of course is fun to look back at. However, for me tangibility has more relevance when it comes to times of extreme beauty, which are frequent when alpine climbing, expecially in the greater ranges. I sometimes find (perhaps ashamedly) that natural beauty in its unique and rawest form can go slightly over my head. Of course i'm not saying that i don't appreciate it at the time, but its a bit like my brain exceeds its awe quota for that moment, and it therefore stuns me too much, and i can't take it in, forcing some of it to glide over my head. This is a real shame as these moments are rare, and when you find yourself seeing something that so few people, or sometimes noone has seen in the same way before, you want to receive an amount of pleasure in proportion to that. But maybe that's prusumptuous to expect.
       Anyways, i guess what i'm saying is that photos can help you salvage a little of the awe you missed out on at the time, as well as confirming that yes, you were actually there.

Soaking it up.

Head to the ground, too fucked to soak anything up.

A sleeping bag-less brew stop/bivi three quarters of the way up the buttress of the Moonflower. Not a particularly good photo but one of my favourites. 

A couple of years ago i got a Panasonic LX3, and since getting this camera i've been taking lots of movie footage. I also find myself watching clips over and over again reminding me of the moment. Although movie clips aren't quite so good for staring at and thinking, i find that because they're dynamic and often have a dialogue, i really enjoy showing them to my parents and other friends, as although you can say the same for photos, footage has a realness and interaction factor.
       Here's a fun 360 i did from the summit of Cerro Standhardt last year.

Untitled from William Sim on Vimeo.

I've decided i'm going to upload some clips on to Vimeo from trips, and also just from big routes in the Alps. So have a little look through to see whats up already.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Gates of Delirium

One of the great things about trad climbing in the UK, is how much reputation routes carry. "Gates of Delirium" has always been one of those routes for me. Firstly, its the name, how a name like that can be given to a pretty unatractive 3 pitch route through a chossy overhang, which anywhere else in the world wouldn't be given a second glance, just goes to show how much we have to make the most of our rock here in England. But i love it. That grandioso name makes it something fearful and brilliant, so does the completely over-the-top literature us Brits have to describe these (in the grand scheme of things) underwhelming routes we love so much. Any route which has an essay in Extreme Rock, and an old school photo of a wide eyed ascensionist gripped stupid on second is a route worthy of the utmost respect. Up there with Action Directe, the Infinite Spur and Latok's N. Face.
       Then theres the brilliant grading. E4/5 6a/b. Hmmm so what does that mean?? i put a load of effort in for only an E4 tick?? its super sequency? a long reach? a crucial piece of kit? Ahh maybe i'll just climb something else.....
       Previously this is what i've done, but yesterday, with very weary arms and thin skin from a hard session at the boulders the night before, Chris and myself thought what the hell, lets get it done. We bumped in to Malcolm and Pete in the car-park then made the short walk and loose scramble up to the base of the cave. There was a lively scene in the cave, Al Wilson and Mark Greenbank were strung on to Relayer, the E4 to the left, and Mr Birkett and wife Mary were doing battle with Blitzkreig to the right.  "Its not been like this up here for 20 years!" Al enthused.
          The main event "Gates" erupted from the back of the cave, vacant and waiting to be climbed. Excited, and eager to get going i jumped on to the first pitch. E1 climbing led to the "Hole" where i arranged the thread runners, before making the long horizontal traverse left, wild climbing blind and un-chalked had me pumped in no-time, i clipped the peg before realising it was useless, i fumbled in a small cam above my head, then fumbled the rope off the peg. Now really wishing i'd warmed up, i made the last 6a'ish move to bigger holds at the end of the traverse. "Fucking ****" signalled my departure from the rock, as did a jolt and "ping!" from the ripping cam.

Following the first pitch through the roofs. From "Extreme Rock"

  A sunbstantial but safe winger, and 10 minutes of de-pumping exercises later, i was back making the moves again. This time not wasting energy on gear, but feeling the piercing gaze of Mr Birkett from his perch above and right on Blitzcreig. This time i reached the end of the traverse with ease and that "what the hell was i playing at the first time?!" thought. A smile exchanged with the eagle on Blitzcreig, led to the last balancy moves to my hanging belay. Chris dispatched the super technical Groove of the second pitch in good style, crimping it in to submission with his V10 strength.
The thin second pitch.

 Feeling tired from the combination of our mere three pitches of climbing and a severe bouldering hangover, we nipped up the classic E3 Empire then called it a day.
         What a route, i hope my overly-descriptive account will contribute to the route's stature, and initimidation of any would-be ascencionists. Otherwise, we should bolt the lot....
Raven Crag, Thirlmere. The only crag in Cumbria to have been base jumped.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

British Rock.

I've been in England since getting back from AK 3 weeks ago. Obviously super eager to get some strength back after life at 4500 metres and a winter of legs and lungs training, i've been getting out as much as i can between bits and bobs of work.
    I find it really interesting how rock-strength works. I feel like my rock level has pretty much plateaued since i left school and discovered the alps. However, i still manage to exceed my previous summer's level without being any stronger every year. Why this is i really don't know. But i guess ultimately it shows just how big an affect cognotive and generally psychological workings have on rock climbing. That is until you're operating in the higher levels of sport climbing, when every gram, and micro-newton of strength each muscle fibre in your forearm has makes a huge difference.
      The best example i can think of this, is when last year, after returning from Alaska and not rock climbing for possibly as long as 5 or 6 months, i cruised an E5 which for years i'd been putting off as the route had scared me silly. I remember standing at the top fresh, but confused as to what had just happened.
       However, in contrast to last years experience, a week after returning from AK this year i got on the classic 7a+ of St.Bees, which at times i've been able to lap. I slumped on to the rope not even through the crux, with forearms feeling like they'd been injected with led . So i guess i'll just have to accept that going on two expeditions a year, and training for single-push alpinism is just not conducive to climbing 9a (or even 7a+....).

So here's some climbing over the last couple of weeks:

Nia pulling at the boulder paradise that is St Bees.
I had  a couple of dampish days on Raven Langdale with Chris, and Kern Knotts with Pete. We climbed "R n S Special" and "Mussel Crack" at Raven. And a bunch of E1's in the wet at Kern Knotts.
       I then went to Scotland with three friends for one of the best tradding weekends ever; 5 four star routes, all around 7 pitches or more, and all brilliant.

Looking down the wet Crux of "Shibboleth" E25c.

Myself seconding pitch three.

Great exposure on pitch 6.

Two friends on pitch 7 after we'd topped out. We then went and climbed a combo of "Bludger's Revelations" and "Bloody Crack".

It was really interesting for me to climb on the Buchaille for the first time. Like with many people, this mountain and Glen Coe, had a huge amount to do with me starting climbing. Driving through on the way north for family holidays as a kid, i'd have my face pressed against the car window, and willing my parents to drive as slowly as they could so i could watch the huge walls towering above. I remember once when i must have been about six or seven getting really upset and stamping around in tears in one of the laybys, as i wanted to go up the Buchaille. My mum and dad put their "foot" down, as it was lashing with rain and gusts were shaking the car. I just really really wanted to stand on the top.

Glen Etive, a really nice place.

"The Long Reach" E2 5b, without a doubt the best slab climb i've ever done in the UK by a million trillion miles. Reminds me a bit of "Motorhead" in Switzerland. We then Climbed "The Pause" which was also brilliant.

There's lots of interesting stuff to be found at the base of Zero gully in Summer.

Starting up the 10 pitch "Minus One Direct", the Walker Spur of the Ben!

Tim seconding half way up.