Wednesday 30 November 2011

Spain vid, Kenton Cool and a little work

Back from sunny El Chorro see the short video) to a wet and strike bound Glasgow. I went to TCA Glasgow to burst the arms a bit and whilst there got a text from a pal to invite me to a Kenton Cool Lecture at Tisos. Because of the strike I then had to hike from Shields Road to north of the City Centre with 20kg plus of luggage in the rain... welcome home! The lecture was worth it though. A little catch up with work tomorrow (sorry those waiting booking forms... copies of NGBs.... etc.....its my only holiday of the year) then California on Friday!

Tuesday 29 November 2011

My last full day in El Chorro

My last day with Sal, Liz and Meeps and we went to Amtrax. My knee is a bit broken after running in the mornings so I was limping up the route today. We came back to the Olive Branch via the ice cream shop and there were a few comedy moments with people daring each other to go into a rather cold pool.... see Sally's face!

Monday 28 November 2011

Chorro more sun!!

The pictures say it all!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Hot rock, cold beer, Blade Runner- one of my favourite routes (must be because it follows what feels more like a trad route than a sport line).... what's not to like?!

Saturday 26 November 2011

Chorro day 1

Arrived at El Chorro at 2ish after an early start and managed 5 pitches before dark (weeeell almost before dark. The last 2 abs were a little gloomy ;-).
Hot and sunny here!!!

Friday 25 November 2011

Swinging around with the Stone Monkey

Mr. J Dawes... the 'stone monkey'
Moving differently... his next handhold is the big yellow sloper on the left of the shot!

I just spent the evening with Johnny Dawes at TCA Glasgow on a climbing movement workshop... and movement is the right word!
The Original Stone Monkey and a real climbing legend his approach to climbing initially seems radical... bizarre even... but it obviously works for him! Over the couple of hours though listening to him talking about 'what how and when', 'end shapes' the 'face' you have have on a climb, the 'voice of a move' and trying various problems he set, I could see a truly organic approach to the same themes many climbing coaches work with (only he is MUCH better at applying them than most of us). I recognised a great deal of what I would think of as 'use of centre of gravity to generate momentum'- and not just in 2 planes but rotational too. Lots of 'deadpointing' to get to places. A huge amount of focussed 'visualisation' and work on the importance of 'perfect practise'. All delivered in his own unique style. Open your mind and try a workshop and you might be surprised.
The climbers I was on the workshop with... and Johhny for that matter are all a head shorter than me so one problem saw me headbutt a hold that no-one else was near and another saw me scrape my forehead off the wall taking a half inch strip of skin off... who says you don't need helmets at bouldering walls :-)
I've also been reading his book ('Full of Myself') which gives an amazing insight into his climbing and the period of our history when he was at the top of his (and arguably anyone else's) game. It's not always easy reading (like his ideas on climbing- so natural to him that they are hard to communicate to clumsy earthbound mortals that they takes a little effort to follow) but well worth persevering with to learn a little about this climbing legend.
He's also a nice bloke and was freely sharing ideas with many folk at the wall, talking to parents about their kids climbing etc.
Off to El Chorro tomorrow... I'll leave you all with the early snow!

Snow on Ben Nevis, Meall an t Suidhe and the Mamores

Wild weather and low snow.

The storm continues... I was almost blown off my bike on the way home from the swimming pool this morning and there is a dusting of snow on Druim Fada above Corpach (700m).

Thursday 24 November 2011

Summit 64 article and my holidays.

Just seen Summit 64 from the BMC. I have a wee a piece on whiteout navigation in it.
Sorting and packing today. Tomorrow I'm off to Glasgow to attend a climbing workshop given by Johnny Dawes at TCA Glasgow. Then on Saturday i'm off to El Chorro (staying at the excellent Olive Branch) for a very quick 5 day climbing hit. Back to Glasgow for 24 hours and then its off to California to visit Santa Barbara (a family trip but climbing kit might find its way in ;-).
Winter will be here when I get back in Mid December its straight into snowy work with Staff Training at Glenmore Lodge, winter mountaineering (it is on the way) and then on Sunday the 18th of December I hope to be delivering an MCofS FUNdamentals of climbing workshop in Aberdeen at Transition Extreme. These workshops previously available south of the border are being rolled out here in Scotland after a great deal of work from the MCofS. The workshops have been designed to introduce the first stage of long term participant development and introducing the core elements of climbing movement to beginners on slabs and vertical surfaces. As well as this the MCofS courses differ a little from the BMC ones in that we have decided to introduce the concepts of how to coach (the coaching process) as well as just what to coach. Exciting times ahead as the FUNdamentals will be linked possibly as part of, or as accredited prior learning to the new MLT Coaching Awards due to appear next year.
For more info. keep an eye on the MCofS website and Transition Extreme's page too.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Training days.

I have been at Transition Extreme all day today. The first part of the day was spent working with staff on some training around problem solving, floorwalking and good routesetting practise. As well as this we covered a variety of practical rescues and looed at the current hot topic of tying in with a bowline and stopper knot and various variants. I wound up the day with a CWA Abseil module Reassessment for 2 successful candidates.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Damp rock and fresh snow.

A little preparation and a lovely morning inversion.
A slightly slimey Pinnacle Ridge
Descent from Styx Buttress
Today Alan and I went to Glen Nevis. He s recovering from an injury but plans to come out with me regularly so we decided on an easy day to get to know each other. We climbed 8 pitches of rather greasy rock from Diff to Severe in grade- it really feels like the west highland rock climbing season is over after a day of damp mica schist and numb finger tips. The sun was in the sky and there was a dusting of fresh snow above 1000m on Ben Nevis and the Aonachs.
Don't forget to watch The Adventure Show on BBC 2 Scotland (catch it on iplayer if you live down south) to see Dave, Cubby and Donald recreating the early ascent of the Stack of Handa.

Just seen a good post from Simon Richardson on the No.4 Gully marker debate here.

Monday 21 November 2011


Just had a great weekend at Kendal Mountain Festival. Saturday morning was a good mountain bike ride with a large team. Then I saw James Pearson's talk called "Progression" which was a nice window on how he has restructured his life and come to understand what he needed to do to make a breakthrough in his training (and whole life) which he has marked with his excellent repeat of Tim Emmet's "Muy Caliente" in Pembroke. I also got to hear more about the amazing trip some of the North Face climbers did to Chad to climb in a forest of remote sandstone towers see a video here:
Saturday was a late night socialising but we were up early to watch my pal Sal on Channel 4 who were doing a report on the Adidas Coast To Coast race (4 days on foot, in a boat and on a bike) which she came second in. Then another bike ride before breakfast (they broke me.... legs like jelly no fuel in the tank.... much pushing of bike!), breakfast a Wilf's, tea and cake followed by Nick Bullocks talk on his lunatic climbing life- refreshingly honest and open with no bullshit as ever. Then more cake (Sal's birthday was a good excuse... as if I ever needed one for cake) and another catch up with old friends and new (Kendal is great for that) before seeing the "Best of...."
The Race for the Nose was good, The Ditch was scarey (yes... I enjoyed a paddling film... next thing you'll see me in a boat), Ice Revolution I'd really wanted to see as that cave is just a nuts place to climb! Finally the winner of the people's choice award (and if you can't trust the judges you can trust the viewers!) - The Long Hope. Hot Aches production of Dave Mac's ridiculous free ascent of Ed Drummonds achingly long route on St John's head in Orkney. Part history, part travelogue (for both Dave and Ed on their own journeys) I've got a copy of the DVD too (more once I've rewatched it). Stand out moments are Dave starting the E10 crux pitch already boxed after a couple of hundred metres of chossy sandstone, all on either side of E5, with a rack that Andy Turner (his bemused partner) says looks more like what you'ld take on a V Diff. Battling his way up and reaching the sanctuary of a ledge he stands recovering and my friends and I all mentally screamed "Put some gear in!" Not one of us could have contemplated standing hundreds of metres up on the ledge unprotected.
More goodies on the DVD but whilst I'm not a huge climbing DVD viewer this is a great film. If you know a climber you have an easy tick on the Christmas present list!! Get it from Dave's website.

Friday 18 November 2011

End of my problems

For the final of our 4 days Crag problem solving days we took the UHI group to Huntly’s cave to see what they could do. The 4 teams were each set a variety of simple problems to solve. Whilst it is informative to look at rescuing your leader from a traverse haning in space after being struck by meteorite in practise these things are quite rare and unlikely scenarios. S othe focus today was on seeing what solutions the guys could figure out to simple, common problems like stuck runners, retreat from a route and partners having difficulty with a move.
I’m on the train to Glasgow with my bike in tow for a weekend of riding and socialising in Kendal at the Mountain Festival now. Hoorah for time off!!

Thursday 17 November 2011

Home to problems (only planned ones though!)

An early start from Glasgow this morning for a 3rd day of crag problem solving with UHI students. Today we were at Glen Nevis and moved on to escaping the system, moving to a casualty to stabilise them and evacuating them down the crag. After a cold but dry start the rain came in that icey way that it does in Scotland in November.... chilly on the fingers.

Wednesday 16 November 2011


A busy day at the Association of British Climbing Walls meeting hosted by Manchester Climbing Centre today. The ABC now has over 60 full members including 3 of the walls I am Technical Advisor to and represents huge collective knowledge on all matters to do with climbing walls. With this many members however part of today's discussions were on the future structure of the organisation and other topics covered were current news from NICAS, recent incidents at walls and routesetting procedures amongst others. Well worth the 8 hours in cars today!
Outside again tomorrow!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

A little cragging

This morning I was in Glen Nevis with Piers and a very old friend Richard (my first boss in the outdoors). We gave Piers his first taste of climbing outdoors with a few pitches of dry rock in rather chilly conditions... is our november indian summer departing?

Monday 14 November 2011

Tower Ridge, No. 4 Gully Marker and a can of worms.

So today I continued the pre-winter training with a bike ride to the dam and then up Tower Ridge. There have been reports on UKC of the No.4 Gully Marker being vandalised/removed so I headed over for a look.
The John Muir Trust who manage the upper part of Ben Nevis have been consulting various bodies about both this and other markers on Ben Nevis and as I approached No.4 Gully I had confirmation that someone had jumped the gun and removed the post.

Something missing?

I spotted it lying 30m down No.4 Gully with a couple of plastic bags of cement that I didn't bother to inspect as I slid down to it.
I decided to put it back. Now my reasons for this are less to do with whether it should be there or not than the attitude of those who tossed it into the Gully. In fact I really don't care whether its there or not. I'm not a huge fan of markers in the hills but this one has been here most of my climbing career so I have a sentimental fondness for it. That is not a good reason for keeping it. Arguments about it being the thin end of the wedge and leading to further artificial navigation aids are patently nonsense as its been there a long time and our hills are largely free of such markers. Those who say that only those who can find the gully with or without it being there, or that say that those planning to down climb a Grade I can surely navigate well enough are also sadly wrong. There are many, many people on Ben Nevis, walking and climbing, summer and winter whose navigation and other mountaineering skills lag far behind their technical climbing ability. I meet them every winter on the plateau and have often had to help parties confirm where they are... or even lead them off the hill. Blame it on sport climbing, climbing walls, drytooling and the loss of the apprenticeship to the hills if you will (some people need to find something to blame for everything) but it seems to be true now perhaps more than in the past. Still none of these are for me a sufficiently convincing argument to sway me one way or the other.
However...... the idea that a small number of individuals decided to take it upon themselves to unilaterally decide to vandalise the marker left me a tad annoyed. The issue is not one for a limited discussion. If it is believed that the marker is navigationally important (or even doing no harm) then what right do a couple of random climbers have to toss it into the gully themselves? The JMT are inviting opinions. People can have their say. At the end of the day the presence of a 6 foot pole with a No. 4 engraved on it doesn't appear to have eroded ourmountaineering culture in the last however long its been there and it might even have done some good in the past. I'm happy to join the debate on an individual level and let the JMT make the decision as the landowners and a body that are very aware of both the practical and more emotive issues involved in the management of such areas in Scotland.

Ah, there it is...

I dragged the thing back up the gully and excavated the cairn (the base was either mud and rubble or possibly rotten cement) and buried the lower part of the pole (it has 2 x shaped cross pieces- 1 at the base, one about a foot up) in the cairn again. It is not solid enough to abseil on without a large weight of snow around it- climbers must as usual make their own assessment of what to do about descending No.4.
There is nothing to stop someone else going and taking it down again. But if they feel that strongly about it why aren't they acting to become part of the decision making process? To act unilaterally as they have done seems a selfish way to behave and their belief that their opinions give them the right to make this decision on the behalf of the rest of us is just overweening arrogance.
Back home again... for the present.

There is a lively debate on UKC here and a link to the JMT consultation process through their News article.
Not a bad day all in all...

And finally... here is a nice wee piece about the kerfuffle in the Caledonian Mercury.

Sunday 13 November 2011

MCofS Student Safety Day 2

Day 2 of the MCofS Student Safety seminar and today I took a group to Duntelchaig to look at some common climbing problems and possible solutions. We looked at protecting a personal abseil, assisted and unassisted hoists, lower and abseiling past a knot.