Thursday 31 May 2012

Clif Bar's cycling metaphor for business and more Everest debate

This video from the excellent TEDx series shows the founder of Clif Bar talking about how his cycling route choice became a metaphor for his life and business. A good reason to buy Clif... and they taste good too!

Some good informed comment on the Everest overcrowding question from the author of the photo which went viral and sparked the debate: and from one of the sherpas:

Wednesday 30 May 2012

More Bullroar pics, Shattered, 'Kids afraid' and Swift racers

Well today has seen the latest in the round of family come to visit and meet our new arrival. Heike sent some pics through that Brian took of us on the route from the CIC Hut:
Heike leading the second crux
Me about to cross Centurion

Also have you seen 'Shattered'. This is Steve House's "incredibly powerful tone poem to the deepest insecurities that follow us up steep and cold places"
Will Gadd tweeted this link which I'm sure strikes a chord with any of us who work/have worked in the outdoors with children.
Finally good luck to Team Mountain Hardwear and all the other participants in this weekend's Adidas Terrex Swift race. 

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Meall Cumhann ML Assessment

Today I was working for Mike at Abacus Mountaineering on the steep ground day of a Summer Mountain Leader Assessment. We parked up at the end of Glen Nevis and started down in Steall Gorge before passing through the meadow and up to complete the traverse of Meall Cumhann. The objective today was to assess the candidates approach to managing people on steep ground within the ML remit. We also had a riot of wild flowers, moss campion, yellow saxifrage, endless flowering butterwort and milkwort, common orchids and globeflowers. Good luck with the rest of your assessment guys.
 In the gorge
 emergency ropework
 choosing the line
 common spotted orchid
 butterwort flower
Finally take a look at this for a horror show. It was cloudy and cooler today but still quite muggy so there were a few midges around... but this is awful: smidge forecast.

Monday 28 May 2012

Bar b cued on Bullroar

Yesterday Heike and I headed to Ben Nevis for the multi-star classic HVS Bullroar. We timed our arrival well with the seeps on the first pitch (some warm-up!) minimal compared to later in the day. Heike got most of the hard pitches but the ups and downs meant that I was often descending through pitch cruxes to ensure I didn't lose out on the exposure. We crossed paths with climbers on Torro and several parties were on Centurion. The higher pitches on  the route were poorly described in both Gary Latter's Guide and the SMC Guide but we persevered to identify the last 3 pitches rather than abseiling off. It was hot throughout the day (Heike put a fleece on in response to a breeze and was regretting that after a pitch). A great route that doesn't pull its punches- plenty of value on just about every one of its 10 pitches.
We headed down Ledge Route and a snowy No. 5 Gully (some slack sling dog leading going on between a couple on the way up??) to the CIC Hut where I Heike's lad was working his first route on the Ben (with some watchful spotting from dad).

Oh, and I got it wrong yesterday I wasn't entirely alone on Tower Ridge:

Saturday 26 May 2012

Blistering on the Ben and after the thoughts after an adventure...

Well with plenty of relatives around I left the newborn Kaye in the care of Sandy and her Mum and stretched my legs on Tower Ridge today. The Torlundy car park was full but I had a late start and saw few people- maybe they were all spectating at Ten Under The Ben. In fact I was the only one on Tower Ridge.
I spotted a couple of climbers near the start of Route II/Bullroar but it was only when I zoomed in on the picture of Carn Dearg that I took that I spotted the belayer on the first pitch of Centurion, the pair on the first belay of Torro and the climber in the sun on King Kong. Lots of rock climbing classics getting attention today.
The snow that seemed it would never depart has retreated quickly from Ben Nevis and this spell of good weather looks like it will provide more good weather than the spell from April to November last year in one fell swoop!
I only touched snow passing through the cave after the Eastern Traverse today. Before this I was thoroughly revolted by the turd left in the midst of the route toilet paper and all. There has been lots (good and bad) written about 'real mountaineers' in the wake of the shenanigans on Everest but if that was the actions of a 'real mountaineer' rather than a 'Guided wannabe' it just goes to show that anyone can be an arsehole (or, indeed, not know what to do with what come out of theirs).
I was lost in a world of my own today... thoughts of fatherhood... plans for future trips (Afghanistan or Tierra Del Fuego... anyone know anyone with a yacht in Punta Arenas, my mate's business went bust). So much so that apparently I strolled straight past Dan without even acknowledging his hello- sorry Dan.
 Spot the climbers
 Gullys still hanging in there
 Yes, I'm in shorts... don't see that often
 Product of an arsehole
 Ridge to myself
A lot less snow on Ben Nevis behind the boat washed up by the storms late last year

Got home and saw a great tweet by Roger Payne. He links to this piece of writing by Morgan Hite on the difficulty we feel on readjusting after an intense adventurous experience like an expedition. I'm so lucky that Jane understands that I'm a bit lost when I come home because she's been through it herself (Svalbard with BSES, Central America alone living with local villagers with no common language, Svalbard, Mongolia, South Africa and Namibia with me). A while ago academics were using the term 'post residential' syndrome. Call it what you may I think Tennyson had a good handle on it in a passage I used in several essays I wrote at University and Hite has also latched on to:

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me and alone; on shore and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vexed the dim sea: I am become a name;

—Tennyson, Ulysses

Thursday 24 May 2012

Buy this...

...if you want honesty, originality and a healthy dose of reality when it comes to hard climbing.
Don't buy it if you like your climbing (and everyone else's) safe, you are afraid of swear words or you believe what you read in the Daily Mail.


New Halewood on the block....
Sandy meets Kaye
Jane recovering
Hmmm, a daughter?
 Building finger strength already
 Family Halewood
 Big brother, little sister
Mum and daughter

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Sunshine, snot and slopers. Queues on Everest.

Ok I have a serious case of man flu. My head is ready to explode and my wife... who is due to give birth at any moment is trying to look after me!!
By this afternoon the sunshine was calling again and Jane's dad Robin and I paid a quick visit to a warm and sweaty Glen Nevis (thank god there was a little breeze to stave off the midge).
We climbed with bags to save going back down after each route and nipped up Pinnacle Ridge and then Resurrection (Robin did well leading and seconding with a rucksack and wearing shoes 2 sizes too large with thick socks). I then took the opportunity to visit (ok I tricked Robin into walking up to) the one of the  less popular crags in the Glen; Blacks Buttress. The rock looks great but the crag was still weeping and with time pressing we headed back down towards a phone signal to see if Jane was in labour (not yet) pausing for me to lead SW Diagonal. I've been planning to try this obvious line for ages but never seemed to have dry weather, a partner and to be in The Alp when not working. Its just as polished as it looks, there are just enough positive holds amongst the slopers and the footholds are real thin. A great route to try on a hot sweaty evening (not). Much chalk accompanied dripping nose and hacking cough on the ascent. 
Well done to the lass who was with (presumably) her boyfriend on her first climb today. The whoop of excitement resounded around the Alp as she topped out. Whether the bloke lasts or not hope she has plenty more climbs that give her cause to make a noise like that in the future.
 Robin on Pinnacle Ridge
 And topping out on pitch 2
 Sweaty on Resurrection 
Polished, tiny, slopey holds on SW Diagonal

Finally take a look at Ang Kaji Sherpa's pic (he's part of the team who fixed the ropes and made the first ascent of the season) of the chaotic massed ascent of Everest the other day. Respect to those determined enough to make the summit, RIP to those who didn't come down... but you can keep it. I'd rather go climbing (and if I had that kind of money I could do 5 really interesting trips).

Monday 21 May 2012

Making hay... no matter what...

I've got a cold... Jane had it and says I brought it from Glasgow... I reckon its from collections of local small children!
But today the sun shone and such days need seizing. So after a shopping spree of goodies from Beal, Clack Damond, Ortlieb, Black Diamond and La Sportiva and some work with the new Mountain Training Candidate Management System (live at beginning of June with luck) I left Jane and Sandy cooling in the paddling pool and cycled from Corpach to Polldubh.
George watson's College were doing battle with the polish on the side of Pinnacle Ridge and a friendly bunch were ascending the Ridge itself. Everyone was happy to let me nip up the Staircase Start though. I stopped to work the bottom half of Hodad (gotta get on it on a rope) before topping out on the normal route. From there I went to Repton's Right Hand and then up to the best Severe in the Glen, Secretaries Direct. 2 of my SPA Trainees from yesterday had mentioned the route, making me want to go and climb it again,  and sure enough they were just walking off as I arrived. Good on them for getting out and making the most of the dry rock.
Its my kind of climbing, a gentle slabby corner of a first pitch with an awkward move off of the ground. The second pitch is a much steeper slab with many small but positive quartz edges sitting proud of the smooth schist making you wish you had trimmed your finger nails as you drop your tips vertically behind the sharp white lips. After that its slabs and ledges and you never more than 1 move from a great jug but the climbing is much easier if you understand how to shift your weight over your feet. Always a pleasure...
Cycled home on the forestry roads on the south side of Glen Nevis and stepped inside for my head to feel like it was stuffed so full of cotton wool it would explode... worth it though.
Video of me ponceing about on first pitch...

Spanish Via Feratta

Here is a little video of the via feratta on the Ponoch i have guided a couple of times (pic above and right) on trips to Spain. It shows the filming of a segment for The Adventure Show that will be screened in the future and comes from this blog.
Lots of great climbing, scrambling and canyoning also to be done out there.

Sunday 20 May 2012

SPA Day 2, CMD Arete and suffering in Montana

Sally about to get 'stuck' on the abseil
And rescuing a cragfast Nikki
The second day of our SPA training today and Max and I spent some time with the 7 trainees first thing at The Ice Factor. Then it was off to Polldubh which was busy with climbers of all ages and abilities.
Meanwhile Jane's mum and dad braved the sun and soft snow to tackle the CMD Arete on Ben Nevis today. The photos make it look pretty wintery today but its finally warming up and today's very soft snow should melt fast this week. There was also a rescue today of an unfortunate climber who fell on the Rogue Pitch of Point 5 Gully. Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team have put some photos up of the rescue online:

 Its interesting that there is more than a foot more snow at the summit than 17 days ago!

Take a look at this piece of writing and video from Alpinist magazine- great stuff- and very Scottish looking!!                                      

Saturday 19 May 2012

SPA Training day 1

Today Max and I were working with a group of 7 on an SPA training. We spent a long day at Kingussie Crag initially looking at their personal climbing before a brief look at some rigging at the end of the day.
 Chilly Sally 
 Hands free for John
 The taming of the shrew
 Nikki on the sharp end
Rescue Me!
I also saw 4 shrews or a shrew 4 times- it was very active!

Friday 18 May 2012

Top clips of top climbers

...and top blokes too:

Thursday 17 May 2012

Soggy but satisfied

After yesterday on Buachaille Etive Mor the guys looked at the weather forecast and opted for a low lying day in Glen Nevis. Having seen some mountaineering ropework skills in context yesterday we did some work on ground of various angles and difficulty to let them apply a wide range of simple ropework techniques. By the end of a drizzly day and after an ascent of the Gutter they were coping well with moving up short steps of difficulty and protecting each other appropriately with strong but simple belays and anchors.
 Wet OB Students on Scimitar ridge
 Bringing them up
Soggy but satisfied
After today i have 2 wet ropes, 4 wet harnesses, 4 wet helmets and 2 wet mountaineering racks hanging in my drying room!

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Mountaineering ropework

I was out today with a team from 'oop north' (or down south depending on your perspective on Burnley) who want to take their scrambling to the next step by giving themselves some ropework skills for steps of steeper ground. We went to Curved Ridge and I talked them through a variety of techniques in context as we went up the Ridge in sunshine with the odd flake of snow and then came down it just before the drizzle got serious. Nice day out, bit parky though... please put in appearance this year summer!