Latest Post

18 July 2019

The Perfect Climbing Camera

Part 1

At a rough guess, I’ve owned over thirty cameras in my life, ranging from the plastic Argos budget models to the rubber-coated magnesium dream cameras, the kind you dreamed of one day owning as you flicked through the Argos catalogue aged fourteen. Unfortunately, I was not a careful owner, and most of these cameras either got smashed, got dropped and lost, or just died from the shock of general climbing abuse, sweat, dust, ice, thaw, heat,...

Garmin inReach Mini

10 July 2019

Review: Garmin inReach Mini

I once went to a party with Joe Simpson after a speaking gig, long before the documentary ‘Touching the Void’ had come out. He began telling me loads of funny stories about people’s reaction to his book. I’d seen people visibly angry at Simon Yates in Q&A sessions, about ‘cutting the rope’ so I knew the whole issue was loaded with...

‘Big E (go)’

28 May 2019

Climbing: ‘Big E (go)’

The other day a friend emailed me some questions aimed to help people wanting to head off on their own adventures, covering the often overlooked financial side of things as well how you find the gumption to go on one in the first place.  One question that stood out covered that old chestnut Everest and asked what advice I would give to...

Polar Bear

19 December 2018

Opinion: Polar Bear

When you see a polar bear walking backwards and forwards in a zoo, nodding, it’s obvious it’s mentally ill, depressed, in a hole it can never get out of, its brain turned to mush. And yet it’s safe from all and any harm, from all hunters and the whims of the wilderness, it gets food three times a day, somewhere to sleep every night, the best...

PHD K Bag

29 November 2018

Review: PHD K Bag

In the last two years I’ve slept under that stars more often than I’ve slept under a solid roof, in places that ranged from the Namib desert to the Alpine winter North Faces, from the summit of Mount Kenya to the walls of El Capitan (53 nights in less than two years!), plus hundreds of nights in dosses legal and less-legal, five and zero star...

The Idea not the Gear

20 November 2018

Q&A: The Idea not the Gear

Hi Jalen The term ‘softshell’ has been so abused over the years that it’s just about meaningless, with a Walmart denim Wrangler jacket being as ‘softshell’ as a North Face ‘softshell’, in that when things are good they’re great, but when things are anything but good, they’re terrible. First off have you read my essay The Art of...

What cams to buy?

17 November 2018

Q&A: What cams to buy?

Hi Kyle There is such a huge choice when it comes to cams it can be pretty bewildering these days! A good start when sorting through what to buy is to consider the following points: 1. Strength: How good are you cams at holding you in a fall? Well, they’re all good, and all standard cams pass minimum CE testing for rock protection, and in an...

Self Lining

18 October 2018

Technique : Self Lining

Maybe it’s a sign of our busy times that the subject of self-lining or solo top roping crops up a lot, strange work shifts, no midweek partners, or partners at all, leading to people wishing to get out and do something. Just going out soloing is an option for some, but not ideal if you’re wanting to push, or work things. And so self-lining...

Analogue

18 September 2018

Opinion: Analogue

There are many people in the world who others want to send down to the lowest circle of hell, dictators, warlords, the odd world leader or two. But out here, on the outer rim of Europe, in the city of Galway, my father and mother in law take a very Irish view on these things. Here in Galway, a city made famous by Ed Sheeran (the patron saint of...

MSR Advanced Pro 2

17 September 2018

Review: MSR Advanced Pro 2

I’ve been a big fan of single wall tents since I scored a BD Bibler I tent in the mid 90’s, finding I could put up with its short comings - space and condensation - in return for a tiny footprint, ease of use and weight (1.95 kg). Before that, I’d just done what most UK climbers did when climbing mountains and made use of huts, snowholes and...

Racist Hair

16 September 2018

Opinion: Racist Hair

I’d see the kids most days, hanging around the tap, filling their big plastic bottles then slowly walking home, bare feet asbestos to the Namibian desert. Always smiling, moving, jumping, elbowing, like kids once did here, before the screens. But I wanted to avoid them. It’s not that I’m an asshole, but I am, it’s just that - being white -...

The Invisible Wall

15 September 2018

Opinion: The Invisible Wall

Once heard a story the North Koreans building an invisible wall, 5m high, 10m thick, that ran for 240km across the DMZ, designed to protect its people from the South. It was said that North Koreans would look out at this invisible wall & believe it was there because their Supreme Commander said so. Doubt leads to hard labour. I find people who...

Reprehensible

13 September 2018

Opinion: Reprehensible

I remember when I climbed Moonlight Buttress with Alex Jones back in 2014, I had several messages from people in the US who thought it was the other Alex Jones. At the time I didn’t know there was another Alex Jones, but once I checked him out on Youtube I was glad I’d climbed with the Welsh one, not the crazy shouty one. Back then if...

Clove Hitch Issue

24 June 2018

Q&A: Clove Hitch Issue

Hi Tony Sorry for late reply! I’m not a big fan of clove hitches in any situation where they can take very high forces as they have little capacity to absorb any shock at all, plus they can bind in such a way that it does cause some melting on the sheath (this is cosmetic I think). A bigger problem is that the way the knot works you can end up...

Don’t Drive at Night

22 June 2018

Opinion: Don’t Drive at Night

Parked up at services in the Free State, a taxi van pulls up beside us, and the driver gets out, letting his passengers stretch their legs. A gun sticks out from the waistband of his trousers, the concealed carry holster clipped into his belt, although it was there for all to see as he stood talking on his phone. The wall-nut grip looked well used...

Life’s Bearing

18 May 2018

Opinion: Life’s Bearing

In a lot of countries, people talk about ‘God botherers’, people who come around unannounced and talk at you, very often not about God, but about themselves, not about Him, but Them. In Ireland, where even fully fledged Dawkinsian atheists believe in ‘something’, there is little need for such religious interrupters - it’s just a visit...

Pounds and Pence and Pages

16 February 2018

Book: Pounds and Pence and Pages

My new book Unknown Pleasures comes out this week, published by multi-awarding winning Sheffield publisher Vertebrate. When this news appeared on UKC, I noticed this comment: “AK is a great climbing writer, and I would like to read this. However, £24 for 256 pages is £1 for every 10/11 pages. Ouch.” I’ve known Jon Barton at VP for a long...

Smile

09 February 2018

Opinion: Smile

Every generation has something that can crack the reality of a young mind - not all young minds - but young minds strong enough to be able to take the damage and be changed. The age of media, starting I guess with the English translation of the bible (over the Latin one), is where it begins, a rich lineage of books and films coming decade after...

Extreme DIY  Balaclava

25 January 2018

Gear: Extreme DIY Balaclava

I was asked the other day about the one piece of gear that I used that’s most heavily modified, the conversation one on perfect gear. I thought about it for a minute, thought about all the kit I make on my sewing machine, bivy bags, sleeping bags, bags for stoves, strange pockets sewn into underwear to take phones and iPods (so they don’t...

Not bloody snowshoes

18 January 2018

Gear: Not bloody snowshoes

“Are your skis like snowshoes?” asked my mate Barney, as we rode the chairlift up from Les Houches, nodding at my short fat skis, 60cm shorter than his 190s. “No - they’re real skis, they’re great”, I replied, feeling a bit defensive of my little unconventional terrors. Barney looked a little harder, then shaking his...

Goggles Question

28 December 2017

Q&A: Goggles Question

Hi Goggles are a tricky but if you stick to a few simple rules they can work pretty well, but they take work. Here’s a list of random thoughts. Buy good quality goggles that fit your face and fit under a helmet. You don’t need to spend a fortune (there are many fashion goggles), and I use Julbo Bang Next with a Zebra lens, which costs around...

Flesh Turns Black

17 December 2017

Opinion: Flesh Turns Black

I've not been able to write much creativity while finishing Higher Education, and so have been using Instagram as a substitute - the 2000 letter limit a good way not to get sidetracked. Most things I write about are the first thing that comes to my head as I wake up, and last week the first thing I saw was a picture of Ben Fogle (see below), and so...

Belay Jackets Revisited

09 December 2017

Gear: Belay Jackets Revisited

The two questions I get asked most regularly via this blog involve either cordelettes or belay jackets - the cord ones about ‘how thick’, ‘how long’ and ‘how best to use’, which is funny when really a cordelette is just - well - a length of string. The belay jacket questions tend to come thick and fast as the nights draw in, as people...

Finding Partners

25 November 2017

Q&A: Finding Partners

Hi John People often ask me why I used to solo so much, Alex Huber (no mean soloist himself), even going so far to suggest it was some form of self-sabotage (two solo attempts on the Harlin must mean I don’t want to climb the Harlin!).  In reality, the reason for all these solo trips (Troll Wall, Alps, Yosemite) was that I either just...

“Bring More Beaks”

14 November 2017

Climbing: “Bring More Beaks”

I got into a minor scuffle the other day on Facebook over the fact both I an Vanessa had placed some bird beaks on Mescalito last month, probably about ten in total. This was the around the same time that “Piton’s Pete” also was given a hard time on placing some beaks on Zodiac, and so I was given a bit of a slagging, that I should know...

Walk on by

13 November 2017

Climbing: Walk on by

A great climber once told me the story of how the first time he came to Yosemite, full of youthful wall dreaming, he’d sought out wall climbers for knowledge there being no technique books or websites back then. One day he came across one of these granite Gods, this man an artisan of hooks and heads and rivets, his craft one of new routes and...

Unsent

10 November 2017

Climbing: Unsent

I stare at the Facebook comment box, open but empty, from me to you. Have we met or are we strangers — I don’t know? Does it matter? I imagine you in that hospital bed — time passing at the speed of healing - skin and bone —  how anything must be better than nothing, how anything is perhaps all you feel you now have —  one step...

Storms

23 September 2017

Climbing: Storms

Hi Everyone First off sorry for big gap in updates! I’ve been in the US for a month and a half and most of it has been far away from the internet. I got down yesterday from an eleven day ascent of El Cap via New Dawn and the Nose (we ‘failed up’ the Nose after realising we’d run out of food on Tribal Rite). The climb was a test of heavy...

perfect universe in order

31 August 2017

Climbing: perfect universe in order

As I crept through the dark forest that ringed the lake, my flip flop feet weary of sharp sticks and stones, I caught sight of something small and white laying amongst the pine cones. Although only captured in the corner of my eye I knew what it was, a dirty nappy, laying open, like some forest flower, paper white petals streaked dark brown with...

Life at retail

29 August 2017

Climbing: Life at retail

“I’m going to leave a nut” I said, crouched down, tugging at the rotten rap slings jammed beneath a couch sized boulder, “I don’t trust these slings”. “What! We’ve already lost two nuts already” said Vanessa, “I’m sure it’ll be grand, those Italians rapped off it earlier”. I looked again at the anchor, faded, chewed up by...

Cams - Field repairs

07 August 2017

Climbing: Cams - Field repairs

The following is an extract from my up and coming book Higher Education, the most exhaustive big wall climbing book yet written.  On hard, intensive walls, where cams are being placed and removed hundreds of times, as well as being twisted, bent and abused, trigger wires will break. Such problems when they appear on the ground are annoying,...

Take!

12 July 2017

Climbing: Take!

I once heard a scary story about miscommunication from a French guy I was teaching how to climb big walls.  He was climbing on some big sea cliff and was out of sight of his belayer when he found himself off route.  He could see a shiny bolt over to one side, and lower, and so shouted ‘take in’ as he down climbed to the point he...

Bill Gordon

05 July 2017

portraits: Bill Gordon

In the credits of your life, scrolling slow as you breath your last, who would appear there, writ in your misty mind? Star billing would be reserved for the stars, those you loved the most, those that loved you back, thick and thin and all that, that gave life its weight and value and meaning. Next would come the friends — and enemies — each...

10 Things

14 June 2017

Guest Blog: 10 Things

... I wished I knew (before heading up Half Dome RNWF) I had a facebook message this week from a guy called Blair about climbing Half Dome. I get a lot of emails like this, this blog some tinder for stupid/noble adventures like this!  What stuck out was a picture of Blair crying on the summit!  Ace!  So I asked Blair if he could...

knot to question why?

12 June 2017

Climbing: knot to question why?

I saw an old post from 2012 by Outside reappear a few weeks ago on Facebook titled “Bye bye bowline”, reigniting a pretty common debate on the knots safety: whether we should stop teaching it, and looking for replacements.  Looking at my site stats I see that my own article from 2011 titled “Ban the bowline” also gets a lot of...

An Education

07 June 2017

Opinion: An Education

I once met a man who you might call an industrialist.  Some might call him one of the ‘bosses’, maybe even a ‘fat cat’ or part of the ‘elite’ if you saw him driving by.  He had all the credentials to be hated, that petty hate of bitter envy that often comes as a form of pure rage at life’s unfairness. He was a big man, in a...

brother to all climbers

06 June 2017

Climbing: brother to all climbers

Email from me to Alex Honnold dated 14/06/2012 Hi Alex Many moons ago I was asked to pick up an award for you at the Kendal Mountain Film festival for your first film.  I can remember watching it before I got up and thinking that, unlike people like Ueli or Dean - who I guessed would die climbing - I really hoped you made it (Dean and Ueli...

Two into seven billion

22 May 2017

Opinion: Two into seven billion

He lays in the grass, beneath the route, me belaying, Vanessa above, telling me about his thoughts on future children his still fresh marriage might one day bring. Like all young, maybe dad’s, he’s not convinced, looking for ways out not in, all the reasons stacked up like bombs in the bombay of excuses, ready to drop on someone else’s...

Going to the bathroom

16 May 2017

Technique : Going to the bathroom

My big wall book is coming along well, and with 21 days to go it’s already on 154%, which is amazing.  A few people have asked if Higher Education will be just ‘another big wall book’, in that it’ll just cover the same ground as all the others.  Well the idea is to make this book as complete as possible (hence the...

Party Tricks

13 May 2017

Technique : Party Tricks

While writing Higher Education again and again I come up with problems that in the past had needed solving, then written out what I did to solve them.  One example was how to lower out a super heavy set of haul bags mid pitch with the rope running through the hauler.  With bags that weigh about the same as you, and you’re hauling with a...

Petzl Grigri +

12 May 2017

Gear: Petzl Grigri +

I’m not a sport climber, in fact I suffer from a lack of motivation when I find myself at single pitch sports crag, a mix of not being strong enough, and bolts not offering that scratch to my itch.  I do like multi pitch sports routes, or mixed routes with bolts and gear, but I tend to like more meaty fair.  I tell you this as I’m...

Imperfect Brother

10 May 2017

Opinion: Imperfect Brother

I drive up through the Lakes’ winding roads, sunny for a change, traffic shunting along in the usual dribs and drabs of moving. I turn right, up the hill and through the gates of the small house where tomorrow I’ll be married.  People stand around the entrance, some having travelled a long way, only a small wedding if you want to know...

New Big Wall climbing Book

07 May 2017

Climbing: New Big Wall climbing Book

So you want to climb a big wall? Do you want to climb a big wall, wake with a start in the dark clipped to a ledge the size of a dustbin lid? Do you have dreams of nailing pin scar cracks a kilometre up, or maybe hand jamming your way to victory? What are your dreams made of: El Cap, Moonlight Buttress, Trango Tower? Have you read other...

Extra nuts

05 May 2017

Q&A: Extra nuts

Hi Jack First off consider how much more experienced you are partners are now, all those routes climbed and epics lived through, how experience and age gives you a steady and clear foresight to climbings dangers. Next think how much more physically able you are, your knowledge of your body, hands and feet, what they can do, plus the rise of...

Staying dry when wet

08 April 2017

Q&A: Staying dry when wet

Hi Tomer The original softshell idea was modelled on what the Inuits wore for centuries, being a sort of synthetic animal skin, the pile being the fur that holds the warmth both wet and dry, and the outer shell or membrane being the skin that blocks the wind and snow.  By having this single layer, no base, mid and shell, they could dump heat...

Hot Stuff

04 April 2017

Gear: Hot Stuff

I know I’ve told this story before, even though I’m not sure if it’s true, but The North Face once asked Mick Fowler to design them the ultimate mountaineering pack, Mick a man perhaps more qualified than anyone to nail such a brief.  The pack Mick showed the design team, the one he wanted, was one of the first Karrimor designs, made...

The Water Margin

30 March 2017

Q&A: The Water Margin

Hi When it comes to climbing big walls one of the killers is water.  Take too much and the weight can crush your climb, take too little and thirst will crush you!  The issue of how much to take actually becomes less precise when doing major climbs, as the loads involved mean you’re going slow and heavy anyway (once you do space...

A Woodland Scene

24 March 2017

Opinion: A Woodland Scene

In 2006 I skied across Greenland, a vast white nothingness, the only thing to see, the occasional plane crossing above, just the pick of a pin upon the blue negative of the blank below.  Each day was the same, as well as each hour, and minute, and second we spent beyond our two tiny red tents: pushing skis on and on and on.  To begin with...

Alpine Rice Cakes

22 March 2017

Q&A: Alpine Rice Cakes

A normal calorie intake for a man is 2500kcal and for a woman it’s 2000kcal, but that’s a normal person going about a sedate and low activity life.  Add in cold and you can increase that by 50%, and again for heavy exercise over hours and days (a marathon may be over in 4 hours, but a big climb could take a week or more from dawn till...

Dogs eaten by the Dead

21 March 2017

Opinion: Dogs eaten by the Dead

In 1958 Mao began his great leap forward.  He began by prohibiting farm ownership, bringing all food production under state control, as well as all other means of production.  Farms became communes, with the most fervent ideologues and revolutionaries put in charge of producing enough grain to fulfil quotas.  The system demanded...

The Haunted Cliff

14 March 2017

Opinion: The Haunted Cliff

I once had a friend who told the story of a haunted cliff.  He and his wife were kayaking to Greenland from Ellesmere Island, along the coast until they could make the sea crossing between the land and the ice.  Dodging polar bears and stalking walruses that could suck out your intestines, they hopped along the coast.  One evening...

Andy Fanshawe

11 March 2017

Climbing: Andy Fanshawe

Dear Andy We haven’t met. I was one of Andy Fanshawe’s regular climbing partners. It is sadly 25 years since he died next Tuesday 14th March. I was just doing some research on the net to put some articles together so I could put together some stuff for the anniversary and I found your article about run-outs. I agree with everything...

Eyelet Question

10 March 2017

Q&A: Eyelet Question

Eyelets are always an issue on all boots, especially hooks or anything with moving parts, as climbing is very destructive (one reason why it’s vital to always wear gaiters with such boots).  One reason for simplicity in all climbing gear is necessary for this reason, but the Spantik has one of the more ’sophisticated’ lacing systems. The...

Vanessa on the Swing

08 March 2017

: Vanessa on the Swing

I found some movie files on my computer the other night, taken on our winter climb of the Nose last year.  In there was the footage of Vanessa doing the King Swing, perhaps the most famous pitch on any big wall anywhere.  On this pitch the leader is usually lowered down the wall (from the Boot flake) on a single rope (no haul line) and...

ejection seat handle

06 March 2017

Opinion: ejection seat handle

The moment I could hold a crayon in my hand I began to make marks.  I sat in my high chair, scribbling away, my art both a mess and a start. I loved to draw and so I drew a lot, every spare moment when I wasn’t playing or being schooled, spent laid on my stomach in front of the TV drawing.  While many kids would be fantasying about...

gift of a memory

05 March 2017

Opinion: gift of a memory

Of all Bowie’s album tracks the one I love the best, the one that stands out, is Speed of Life from his album Low.  Each time I hear it - and I’ve heard it many, many times - it comes like a gift. I first heard it was sometime in 1994, finding it on a cassette while working in a charity shop in London’s Notting Hill.  I...

Missing Out

01 March 2017

Q&A: Missing Out

Hi Will Yosemite big walls - and by Yosemite I mean El Cap, which is THE big wall to climb - can be roughly broken down into three types: - Pure free climbing (West Face, Free rider, El Nino etc) - Aid Climbs (Shield, Zodiac, Tangerine Trip etc) - ‘Alpine’ walls (Nose, Lurking Fear, Salathé) Now free climbing big walls, on paper, looks...

Portaledge Tie-ins

01 March 2017

Q&A: Portaledge Tie-ins

Hi Daniel A lot of people stress about this leading up to their first big wall, having the idea they need a tight belay point at all times (“What if I fall out of bed?”), but once on the wall people tend to be so knackered, and so happy for a flat spot to flake out, as long as they’re tied somewhere then they tend to feel...

UK Nose Training

17 February 2017

Q&A: UK Nose Training

Hi Ross I’ve climbed a lot of walls with people who were either novice big wall climbers or simply novice climbers so I really understand where you’re at.  When I climbed the Nose last March with three novices (one had only ever climbed a single multi pitch route before), i saw that really people need very little experience as long as the...

Avoiding the Canvas

16 February 2017

Q&A: Avoiding the Canvas

Hi Scott I’ve often had the same problem in the past.  I’d go hard at training for an upcoming trip (usually due to leaving it late to get fit), but be blazing after two or three weeks, running along thinking of dashing up ice like Ueli Steck, imagining what I’d do with my new fitness - and then - my wheels would fall off.  It...

Scrambling self belay

15 February 2017

Q&A: Scrambling self belay

Hi Pete The second you go from walking, which I would generalise as being medium to low angled ground (which can zip zag up to medium to steep terrain), to actually climbing (that’s moving using both hands and feet), the whole game changes.  On paths your major hazards are slips and trips (wet grass, laces, tired legs) especially if the...

words like morphine

04 February 2017

Opinion: words like morphine

Last week I deleted all my Facebook accounts.  Before I did, I wondered about downloading the archive of messages and comments, of which there were many hundreds if not thousands, giving me a digital bunch of letters, from friends and enemies and lovers.  But then why would I, what would that be?  It’s not like my grandchildren...

Dog

01 February 2017

Opinion: Dog

Stimulus. The ball is thrown. A dog that barks is afraid. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? “How do you train a dog” I ask as we walk, this farm girl no doubt a pro.  “I have a shock collar” she says, just like that.  She explains how it works, little shocks only, to correct it’s beastly nature, to run and bark, to attack...

Jedynka

01 February 2017

Gear: Jedynka

I seem to have a lot of pegs, A LOT of pegs, big pegs, small pegs, smaller pegs, and pegs so small I might not even have any anymore.  I’ve got pegs for big walls, alpine routes, winter routes: angles, lost arrows, blades, beaks and RURPS.  These pegs come from the US, Russia, Poland and Europe. The funny thing is, out of all the pegs...

Winter Huts

31 January 2017

Q&A: Winter Huts

Hi Matt Most alpine huts have a winter room, designed to save anyone who finds themselves caught out.  These can vary from just a room with some blankets and some bunk beds, to one that has a stove and pans, to winter quarters that are simply unguardianed in the winter, left open for winter climbers and ski tourers.  Although freely...

A crying girl

30 January 2017

Writing: A crying girl

Tears roll down her face as I write, about things of no real importance, her one table away, this girl crying.  She sits opposite her boyfriend, white cups held tight in their hands, held tight for an hour as the seaside drizzle renders the window beside them misty.  They hold onto their cups for some hard comfort, comfort for hands that...

Bivvy Bag/Mat question

29 January 2017

Q&A: Bivvy Bag/Mat question

Hi Ant Hope this answer’s not too long and rambling! When breathable bivvy bags first appeared in the 1980’s (before that there had been nylon, silk and cotton bags), they were made from Goretex, bottom and top, and although just a bag, were pretty revolutionary for the time, especially for scrappy nights out were before having a wet or...

Don’t take selfies.

26 January 2017

Opinion: Don’t take selfies.

Yesterday someone told me about how they’d had to attend a meeting in order to write up a new mission statement. “Don’t you have one?” I asked, to which she replied, “We’ve got two already, but people thought we needed a new one”. For me the idea of mission statements is for self-licking icecreams, like setting targets you know...

The Old Lie

25 January 2017

Opinion: The Old Lie

People keep asking me how our Psychovertical film is coming along, well the Yosemite stuff is in the can, and I hear the team did a great job.  Next month, while I’m over on the UK to do a talk (7th Feb) in Bristol to raise money for the Youth Adventure Trust we’ll do the UK filming, working in Hull, mid Wales and the Peaks. Talking over...

Rope Cutting Death

24 January 2017

Q&A: Rope Cutting Death

Hi Daniel Every climber knows about John Harlin’s rope breaking as he jumared up it on the Eiger direct, the image of him falling and falling stuck in your head as you jug!  I guess it’s for this reason that the worst climbers to climb with tend to be those trained in rope access, where you never trust a single rope, always being one on...

Ultimate MTN Phone

23 January 2017

Gear: Ultimate MTN Phone

I once ended up sitting next to an ex Royal Marine at corporate gig, a big guy who’d fought in the Falklands war.  I’m not sure what unit he’d been in, but he seemed to have spent most of it hiding in a hole in the ground under a ceiling of chicken wire and turf with three other soldiers, so I guess he was some kind special this or...

Roger Godfrin

20 January 2017

Opinion: Roger Godfrin

I hate to be distracted when I write, when I’ve got the idea for a story, this one about a boy who didn’t do as he was told.  And today, sitting writing this I was so interrupted. It began as it most usually does, with that question: ‘what are you writing?’  I tell the old man it’s a story about the war, a story I thought I...

Pied d’elephant

16 January 2017

Q&A: Pied d’elephant

Hi Tom A PD (Pied d’elephant) is one of those pieces of gear that sounds amazing, half a sleeping bag matched up with a down jacket replace a sleeping bag, half the weight of a standard bag, designed for alpinists and racers.  A few manufacturers do make them (Alpkit do a low cost one), usually out of down (I used to have a Berghaus one,...

Sportiva TX4

13 January 2017

Review: Sportiva TX4

When I was child my mum had a lot of issues with my footwear, not due to me having strange feet (although I do), but due to the rate at which I wore out my shoes (and everything else I wore).  For this reason I grew up wearing red wellies for much of my early child hood, well until I moved to the city aged six, where such attire would either...

Training Diary

12 January 2017

Training: Training Diary

Well it’s been a while since I’ve done any real training, I guess it would be back June before Yosemite, the time spent in between: away on trips, climbing at home, but like most people, just working. I’ve come to realise - well I’ve known for a long time - that I’ve got a bad habit of ‘one hundred percentism’, where I go 100% at one...

Angelo

11 January 2017

: Angelo

Someone said the other day that they had no idea I took so many pictures, how my Flickr account seemed to hold a lot of untold tales.  To be honest my Flickr page was like the Myspace account I never had, in that it was dusty to me, almost forgotten, a photo graveyard, the only new bodies those somehow shared there by my phone.  His...

Winter Novice Kit

10 January 2017

Q&A: Winter Novice Kit

Hi This is a very common question and one that gets asked by most climbers.  The issue of what to get when you’re starting out as a winter/alpine climber is very different from that of what to get when starting rock climbing, as a set of nuts is a set of nuts: it’ll do you fine on a VS or a E10.  But for winter or alpine climbers...

“This is what you get”

09 January 2017

Opinion: “This is what you get”

I have read your essay “From one writer to another” now a dozen times, maybe more. It enrages, infuriates and inspires me more than anything I have read in awhile. I want to yell at you, scream at you, curse you out for so accurately describing how I write, without even knowing who I am. I can’t, because in reality, I don’t hate you, I...

Learned helplessness

17 November 2016

Opinion: Learned helplessness

The CIA are masters of interrogation, techniques they exported far and wide, used by their friends and their new enemies.  Torture can take many forms; water, sleep, a commercial meat slicer, the rape of your child in front of you.  It comes in many flavours, the most brutal of which is no doubt nothing to do with the information...

Rope Drag

16 November 2016

Technique : Rope Drag

Rope drag is one of the critical components of safe, efficient and effective roped climbing, following close behind lead protection and belaying.  In the past, runners (gear placed on lead) were kept to a minimum, with only half a dozen pieces being placed.  Added to this pitches tended to be short, a forty five metre rope the standard,...

Dear Ella & Ewen

14 November 2016

Opinion: Dear Ella & Ewen

Dear Ella and Ewen I read a letter today by Aaron Sorkin, from him to his daughter, it made me cry, christ it was funny, what a kind of father writes stuff like that to thier own child? I’d send you a link but I know you only watch Youtube, but you’d have pissed yourself (maybe when I see you on Thursday I’ll read it out in my winy...

When I was Seventeen

12 November 2016

Writing: When I was Seventeen

To be brave on a mountain is most often seen as a noble thing, that person someone to look up too, to aspire to be like, bravery after all the key to life, fear the lock to almost everything of any value.  Yet on a mountain you risk very little, only your life, or a broken bone or ten, but what does it matter?  When you hang around such...

White Space

11 November 2016

Writing: White Space

Someone asked me the other day what I meant by ‘white space’ in my story On Tunnel Mountain.  White space of course is a term used in book and magazine layout to describe areas of bare white paper, often denoting a light touch, a little confidence that less is more, gives the marks you do make more weight.  In writing and story...

Cordelette Question

10 November 2016

GearQ&A: Cordelette Question

Hi I’m guessing you’re talking about dyneema cord and not 240cm slings? Well I think even if your dyneema cord gets worn, bent and tied a great many times, it’s still going to be strong enough (5.5mm: 13.7 Kn) compared to perlon cord (7mm 12.4 Kn).  The main issue with dyneema is probably the cost, while its real advantage is that...

She Walks Away

09 November 2016

Opinion: She Walks Away

“She’s got a nice body” said Vanessa, nudging her head towards the waitress as she moved around the Banff centre tables, adding she’d seen her that morning in the swimming pool.  I instinctively felt offended, my back straightening up righteously, lemon lips in angry pout, at such base objectification - sexist - misogynistic.  But...

On Tunnel Mountain

08 November 2016

Opinion: On Tunnel Mountain

The Banff book festival. Tony introduces me and with some small applause as I stand and walk over to the wooden podium, a nice piece of solid Canadian wood, my shoe laces undone. The audience, tidy, sat in neat rows, look like a good bunch, a clever bunch, not too much trouble - I hope.  “I’d like to begin with a poem’ I say, which...

Long Runs The Fox

01 November 2016

portraits: Long Runs The Fox

I first met Ricky Bell in the dust of Camp 4.  I forget the year.  Ricky is one of those people you meet in life, one minute unknown, the next - never to be forgotten. I’ve met a lot of legends, some that knew it and weren’t, groaned under their untruth, others who were - the best - who didn’t even know it. It’s a testament to...

Coming Home

30 October 2016

Q&A: Coming Home

Hi Will Sorry for the late reply (I think this is coming a year after I got your email, so if you’ve topped yourself with post climbing frustration - my apologies). I’m sat writing this on a plane that has no TV’s (an Air Canada flight that’s so old we have wooden seats and the entertainment is a guy playing a piano), so this could end up...

Fucking words

28 October 2016

Writing: Fucking words

Hi Andy. I’ve been reading your blog for years.  Big fan and supporter of your published work as well - just received your printed copy of 1001 climbing tips actually. But I gotta say today I read your most recent post “From One Writer to Another” and it really left me with WTF?  Why so bitter and dismissive? Makes me...

From one writer to another

27 October 2016

Writing: From one writer to another

The problem is you think you have a voice, but you don’t.  You think you have your own thoughts and ideas, but you don’t.  You think you’re a radical, that the world is against you and your politics, but really you’re a conformist. You think the world needs to catch you up, that it’s stupid, immoral,...

Chongo by the power

26 October 2016

portraits: Chongo by the power

“I wake each morning filled with hate” said Chongo as I stood to leave the table, a wincing self indictment the punch line to the ‘stupidity’ and ‘obedience’ of his fellow Americans, sat on tables all around us in the Yosemite lodge cafaeria, shovelling down their pancakes before hitting the trail.  I laughed, like it was a joke,...

Difficult People

20 September 2016

Q&A: Difficult People

Sitting on a plane, alone, heading for yet another solo trip to Yosemite, it’s funny to answer this question as one the main reasons for solo climbing is this very question! Stalin used to say, “No people - no problem”, and this is most definitely true on a mountain trip or expedition.  People are generally always the weak link, and...

The Night Swim

16 September 2016

Opinion: The Night Swim

We shuffled down the steep trail in the gloom, sore toes blindly knocking into stumps and stones, six hundred metres sore.  Up the Chief we’d gone, slab and crack and things in between.  We stubbornly leave off our torches, that’s what we’re like, her and me, as bad as each other, no doubt leading each other astray, but who wants to...

First time in the Alps

08 July 2016

Q&A: First time in the Alps

Hi Thanks for the questions.  I’ll try and answer each one in turn as best as I can. Should you hire a guide? Well I went to the alps twice and came back with almost nothing done on both trips (both winter trips) in terms of routes climbed, but if I’d been able to afford a guide I’d have climbed a lot of routes and avoided a lot of...

Andy Perkins responds

26 June 2016

Technique : Andy Perkins responds

I had a great response to my crevasse rescue blog (Doing a Bieber) today from IFMGA Chamonix guide Andy Perkins.  I guess re-reading what I wrote it may well look like an attack on traditional instruction, when in fact my point was that too many climbers only do the basics and leave it there (it was also focused on climbers, not skiers). ...

Pot Advice

22 June 2016

Q&A: Pot Advice

Hi The small pan I use these days (I think that article is about 16 years old!) is the Alpkit MytiMug 400, which makes a very good mug (at a good price) but can also be used as a pan (it has a lid).  I nest one of these inside a GSI Fairshare mug with its handle cut off (it has a hole drilled in the top with some 2mm cord to clip it off when...

Upside Down Cock Suck

20 June 2016

: Upside Down Cock Suck

On the analytics panel on this site I can see a lot of information, from the locations of visitors,  referrals from other sites, how long people stayed, and a whole load of stuff I don’t quite understand (or can be arsed to know what it means).  I get junk mail everyday saying how I can improve my site traffic but really I’m not that...

Doing a Bieber

18 June 2016

Technique : Doing a Bieber

I saw a piece today on UKC about crevasse rescue, going through the basics, and only the night before someone emailed me a question of the topic (can you use a Petzl Microtraxion on a loaded rope).  And so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject of crevasses. First off I’d say that almost everything I’ve ever read on crevasse...

Cool

16 June 2016

Opinion: Cool

I gave a talk a few months ago to a school in East Yorkshire.  It was a small country school, not used to climbers coming to speak to them, the kids excited that my face had been on TV once or twice.  They were doing a project on Antartica and had build an amazing full sized igloo out of plastic bottles, and sat and listened as I told...

Race

14 June 2016

Book: Race

Reading about the author Annie Proulx this morning has got me into a a good writing mood, but no blogs today I’m affraid, just more hard graft on the Bear Pit (I’m sat in Bray’s Campo de Fiori cafe typing this).  But I thought I would give something today, a chapter (still a draft) from the book.  Feedback welcome! The...

Ken Wilson

13 June 2016

portraits: Ken Wilson

I seem to write quite a few obituaries on this site, or blogs spurred on by the death of people I once knew.  One thing I think important when writing such pieces is to respect the truth of a life, to not get all misty eyed and emotional, to tell their story as you knew it, the good and the bad.  What’s the point of writing it any other...

 innocent as a hotdog

12 June 2016

Opinion: innocent as a hotdog

Facebook riles me, and I guess we’re all the same: jerked by political and social stuff, things that make me feel angry, things that make me feel sad, things that make me feel despair.  Maybe that’s why most of are addicted to it, social media like some weird David Cronenberg contraption that feeds our need to feel something, like we need...

Avoiding the Deck

09 June 2016

: Avoiding the Deck

Taking a ground fall is perhaps one of the worst experiences a climber can have, worse also for the belayer and anyone unfortunate to be standing close by.  Most falls are short, and over before you know it, the rope coming tight, the fall held by the instinctive yank on the belay plate.  Most falls on trad climbs are rare for most, maybe...

Mera Peak Footwear Question

31 May 2016

Q&A: Mera Peak Footwear Question

Hi First off although some people may scoff at using very warm boots on Mera (the Spantik and G1 would be classed as high altitude boots, or for very cold climbing), pointing out the mountains been climbed in single layer leather winter boots, it’s not as daft as it seems.  People have been using very lightweight leather boots on all...

What cams?

26 May 2016

Q&A: What cams?

I probably take a slightly different approach to cams than most UK climbers, probably due to spending meany years climbing the the US, and also due to having done a lot of aid climbing. Someone once told me that what Mick Fowler was good at was finding protection and that always stuck with me, and so I kind of make that a priority. For me a good...

Prusic Loop as pro?

25 May 2016

ClimbingGearTechnique : Prusic Loop as pro?

I was asked last night down at the wall about the strength of a prusik loops, a topic that seems to crop up from time to time.  The climber had used his prusik as an extender after running out of quickdraws. First off when it come to cord of any diameter it’s worth having a basic formula for working out its strength.  If it’s perlon...

Alpine Ultra

24 May 2016

Gear: Alpine Ultra

I must be a nightmare for kit designers, men and woman I’ve been bumping heads with for decades now.  Most often than not a designer wants to flex their muscles, add some new fangled idea, a wheel that’s more round, or is square so it doesn’t roll down hills, some game changing idea that the world will flock to buy.  Being a...

Drinks & Tips

23 May 2016

Writing: Drinks & Tips

“What do I write about?” is a question I get asked quite a lot, by people in search of the writing in them.  My answer is usually: “nothing at all”, adding, “but that takes years of practice”. “Read that draft of The Bear Pit” said John, as we stood, a pile of books for me to sign on the table between...

Is 225 grams worth it?

19 May 2016

Q&A: Is 225 grams worth it?

Hi First off I’d only ever view the water-resistant shell of a bag as only being ‘food’ or ‘spilt tea’ proof, and not storm proof.  These shells are not taped and are really there to stop the down from sucking in water like a Pertex shell does (once it’s DWR wears off).  These shells work well in damp tents, bothies and snow...

Sinead O’Connor

18 May 2016

portraits: Sinead O’Connor

We drive through the midnight canyons, back to the Valley, red wine in our bellies, songs in our ears.  Music starts and stops, killed dead at half a track, killed dead at the first bar, voted down and voted off.  It was the usual iPod jukebox of “Listen to this” and “what’s this shit?”.  From the back Cian asks for bands...

until it hurts no more

15 May 2016

Opinion: until it hurts no more

I once joked, standing by the kettle, that I could write a book about relationships.  It was one of those things I say, threaded to a thought, that comes with all the thinking, weight and suddenness as an unexpected sneeze.  The girl I was speaking to burst out laughing at this, at hearing me say something so obviously stupid, so...

Rap and Trail Lines

13 May 2016

Gear: Rap and Trail Lines

Rap cords or trail lines have been around a very long time,  as a second skinny rope to a thicker single rope and used primarily for abseiling (and sometimes light hauling).  These ropes have ranged from 3mm to 8mm and in the past were most usually just full length accessory cord, so static and not suitable for falls.  These lines...

Q&A: The Do it all Boot?

10 May 2016

Q&A: Q&A: The Do it all Boot?

Hi Liam This is probably one of the more common questions I get, namely how can I get the cheapest boots to do the job, and can I use them in Scotland as well?  Unfortunately boots are one of the few bits of kit where you just cannot scrimp.  For clothing you could get an outfit from Decathlon or Trespass, use a caravan camping...

Lifting Shit

06 May 2016

: Lifting Shit

I know that Dave Macleod tends not to see the point in weight training or gym style training (if anyone’s not read Dave’s book Nine Out of Ten Climbers, then you should!), but I’d probably disagree, thinking that for many ‘less good’ climbers than Dave (that’s all UK climbers), some gym work could be good.  Beyond rock climbing gym...

The Hurt of Doing

05 May 2016

Q&A: The Hurt of Doing

Hi Have you ever noticed when you run a marathon how you feel when you reach the finishing line, or when you get to the car after a long day on the hill, how that you feel you could not go another step?  I think the ability to ‘go again’ or to push on, or head back up is often what makes the difference in a lot of life’s...

The Madness in us all

04 May 2016

Opinion: The Madness in us all

In 1799 a French soldier named Pierre-François Bouchard was sent to supervise the rebuilding of a ancient Mamluk fortification needed to defend the lower reaches of the Nile from the British.  The Mamluk’s were a warrior caste that rose from Slavic slaves captured in the Balkans (Albanian as well as Greeks) by the Muslims in the 9th...

Advice for proto Alpinists

02 May 2016

Q&A: Advice for proto Alpinists

Hi First off the most important thing to do is too tap into experience, be that a guide or someone who knows the score.  This means both watching everything they do, plus them teaching you what’s important or may be missed, why they do X and not Y.  Some people love to teach, while others just want to climb, and this applies to guides...

No Disappointment At All.

30 April 2016

Opinion: No Disappointment At All.

Disappointment is a strange thing, to be let down, to miss the shot, for your boat never to come in, or if it did, to sink before it reaches the dock of the bay.  Growing up I learnt perhaps my greatest lessons in life from my mum: the ability to deal with and shrug off such disappointment and mishap.  Her stock saying was “It’s the...

One of Us Must Know

26 April 2016

Opinion: One of Us Must Know

Sometimes words rattle – no – not words, something else: a mixture of things: thoughts, ideas, memories, things that fire, that tumble, that rumble, on and on and on.  Such things – whatever they are – come loose inside a head sometimes, rattle like a stone in a shoe.  When they do it’s best not to let them rub you raw, but just...

Slowed to a stop

22 April 2016

Opinion: Slowed to a stop

I’m heading home on Sunday, pretty much on the go for the last six weeks - six weeks that feels like twelve.  Going away is always good, but sometimes going home is better, this being one of the first trips where I’ve ever really felt homesick.  Yes I know that’s disingenuous to a lifestyle that lets me get away more than...

Marginal Gains

20 April 2016

Climbing: Marginal Gains

Someone asked me the other day about how to speed up their climbing, looking for one or two major tips that would see them half their climbing time (vital for long routes).  My answer was that the main way to go faster is to just climb faster (be more confident, place less gear, know where you’re going), something that comes with time and...

The next time we meet

14 April 2016

Opinion: The next time we meet

I had an email a few weeks ago from one of my oldest friends: Chantelle, one of the wildest people I think I’ve ever met, a supernova of a human being. She emailed me a link to a story she’d had published on Route 57, her first bit of creative writing to appear on the interweb.  Getting an email from Chantelle is rare and it took...

When to shit your pants

13 April 2016

Climbing: When to shit your pants

Thanks for your email Matt.  If you’d asked me this twenty years ago, when I first really got into hard climbing, a time when 9mm carabiners often broke in a hard fall, ice axe picks and crampon points often snapped, when ropes fell apart or became a disaster in a single day, well I’d have still said the same: “It’s all...

Draws

11 April 2016

Climbing: Draws

Forums can be great places to discover little jems and jewels from experiences you had, sometimes things that help you on your way next time round, others that just make you laugh. I found this one after I climbed here).  Some background to this is that Cian had cleaned the last pitch of the Nose, and being new to big wall climbing, plus...

Talent for the price of salt

10 April 2016

Opinion: Talent for the price of salt

This site gets over 40,000 visits a month, has 500 blog posts and countless articles amassed over twenty years of banging out content,  pieces now read hundreds of thousands of times since they were published, pieces shared and tweeted and linked too far more often than pieces on mainstream channels.  But this site is not here to make...

A Grain of Happness

08 April 2016

Opinion: A Grain of Happness

Have you ever been to Stonehenge? (I can never say that word without the word sounding all Nigal Tufnel in my head).  It’s a place everyone should visit, a great place to find your place, to get an idea of your position in time and space, those rocks five millennia old, the ground and its deeper meaner older still.  Stories and legend...

No Better Knot

03 April 2016

Climbing: No Better Knot

Vanessa woke me, the pre dawn summit light creeping in around my hat, head stuck under the edge of our home made two person sleeping bag, the material damp from our shared breathing and sock smelly after ten days on the wall.  The wall was below us now.  “Let’s walk to the summit and see the sun come up” she whispered in my ear, a...

Beam Me Up

07 March 2016

Climbing: Beam Me Up

People often ask me ‘what’s the most important piece of gear you need’, which is always a difficult question.  The old answer for winter climbing would be the ice axe, as with it you can climb or descend safety, plus use it to make a snow hole or shelter (or fight a Nazi spy with on top of a cable car).  For big mountains a stove is...

Running Away Together

28 February 2016

Opinion: Running Away Together

I feel like a tramp.  Worse still I look like a tramp, by which I mean I smell like a tramp.  The laces of my shoes are undone (haven’t done them up for a week), and have slipped half their holes, making my shoes like shuffle slippers, their tongues popping around around the cuffs of my trousers like the tongues of two excited dogs...

Active Layers Question

27 February 2016

Climbing: Active Layers Question

Hi Calum Your ‘active’ layer for alpine climbing is there for two reason, the primarily one to keep you ‘comfortable’ (I’ll address comfort below) and to keep the sun off you. plus look cool and photos! Alpine climbing is a sport of movement, with the aim to keep static time down to a minimum (if you’re doing hard alpine rock you’ll...

Getting Clean

16 February 2016

Climbing: Getting Clean

Someone emailed me today from Norway, were the three part TV program has just aired about my Antartica trip in 2014. There question was a simple one, but also one that few people actually ask, basically “How do you stay healthy when you don’t have a bath for 2 months!”. Well first off I have to admit that in that 2 month period (about 52...

Morning before valentines

13 February 2016

Opinion: Morning before valentines

We lay in bed still hot And I tell you that there is no such thing as love as I stare up at the ceiling. You close your eyes. No love, not like in cards or poems or a sacred word people dare not say, Like the time I told you ‘I think I’m falling in love’ and you dare not reply. No, not love, just DNA, our only job To pass it on, No more...

Rabbit Stories

11 February 2016

Opinion: Rabbit Stories

How real do you think you are? How much of you is a story, how much is true? Have you ever heard the story about the rabbit and the scorpion? In this story a rabbit comes across a scorpion beside a wide river and keeping its distance in fear of a sting, the scorpion asks the rabbit if it can help it get to the other side.  ‘No’ says the...

A mile further down the road

29 January 2016

Opinion: A mile further down the road

As usual when someone dies somewhere cold or steep my phone and inbox fills up with messages, pinging in from radio, TV and the papers, wanting an opinion on the tragedy of someone else’s adventure.  I tend not to respond to most of these anymore, as I eventually asked the question for who’s benefit would I reply?  Would it be mine:...

What’s writing about?

24 January 2016

Opinion: What’s writing about?

For me writing is more music than maths, more magic than grammar, it’s as free as I can make it in order to make it free.  I re-read what I write and it makes me sick, like reading out my last blog in the car to someone driving.  It makes me sick as it makes no sense to me now, not like I thought it did.  I read what comes out and...

VBL Socks

20 January 2016

Climbing: VBL Socks

Vapour barrier liner socks or VBL Socks (or just VB) are often seen as being some strange and obscure technique use solely for use by those at the very extreme end of adventure, primarily people working or climbing in the Arctic or Antarctic. In fact VB socks offer a lot to anyone operating in sub zero temperatures for extended periods of time,...

Fragments

13 January 2016

Opinion: Fragments

Was asked to write a long list of ideas of thoughts and ideas for Rock & Ice’s ‘What I Learned’ column a few months back, the result of which is in the latest issue.  When asked to write this kind of thing I just bang out a long train of thought, which can be a positive and negative, and reading back what I wrote I’m sure the guys...

Hats

10 January 2016

Gear: Hats

I was over at the Montane office this week doing a day of design work, talking to the design team (1 guy, 2 woman) about current gear and future designs.  I always enjoy these meetings, even if they’re not always as easy as you’d imagine, due to me being a little blunt at times, and also a little uncompromising.  For me I follow that...

Normality of tragedy

09 January 2016

Climbing: Normality of tragedy

I clicked onto the Alpinist website on Tuesday night, one of those ‘screensaver’ sites you visit when your mind goes blank and you need something to do, clicking on Tumblr, BBC news or UKclimbing - sort of something to do before you have something to do.  The Alpinist site is a good site, with a lot of good content, but being a small...

Chicken Pie

07 January 2016

Opinion: Chicken Pie

The other day someone tweeted me the following question: “from 2014 to 2015 you turned it round. My 2015 has been your 2014. Any tips old sage? My 2016 needs to be your 2015!” My reply - off the top of my head was: Try & be brave. Take the short term hell for some long term heaven (most people live lives the other way round : ( I wrote...

once-in-a-lifetime

06 January 2016

Climbing: once-in-a-lifetime

Wow that’s quite a question!  Thanks for the bullet points. Here’s a list of thoughts: Having the appropriate skill set People often get hung up on not having enough experience but most often than not we’re not talking brain surgery or flying a paraglider over the alps, and most skills just spring to life when you need them (like that...

infinite possibilities

18 December 2015

portraits: infinite possibilities

I don’t remember the first time I met Steve Bate. It’s often the case with people who become central in your life.  He probably entered as a person someone else knew, in a story they told, about their life, in which he played a part, just a name.  My first real memory of him was as a Kiwi who built a wooden shed for someone I used to...

Psychology Q&A

16 December 2015

Opinion: Psychology Q&A

Every month or so I get someone doing a degree or PHD on some aspect of psychology or sports science looking for an interview, or share some insights into what I do. I always try and respond, after all I love talking about myself - I’m my deepest fascination.  I thought instead of just firing it back into the ether, where my name will be...

On Denali

08 December 2015

Climbing: On Denali

Hi Drew First off one big thing I always stress on such trips is to focus on your survivability (lots of blog posts about that), as you’re pretty much on your own if things go south, with no rescue in storms etc.  This means being totally solid in terms of mountain camping, mountain travel and basically being able to look after yourself and...

Broken Hearted

03 December 2015

Opinion: Broken Hearted

I’ve had this blog sat in my head for two weeks now, rattling around as I rattled around Scotland, from Stornaway to Aberdeen, Inverness to Glasgow, Skye to Dunkeld, Edinburgh to Aberdeen.  Now I love Scotland, love the place, love the people, and once called it home for several years, living up in the Highlands.  What’s more I’m...

Behind the Curtain

02 December 2015

Opinion: Behind the Curtain

Mornin’ Andy What a fabulous show you put on last night in Birnam.  We brought a couple of friends along who had not heard you talk before, and they too had a fab night.  Thank you Andy! I had mentioned in my previous email that I am just breaking into the public speaking scene, and I wondered if I could please ask you a few...

Staying on the Train

12 November 2015

Opinion: Staying on the Train

I bought some shoes yesterday, black leather boots, sort of like Dr Martins, a bit too expensive for shoes, but hand made in England, solid, like maybe they’ll last a big chunk of a lifetime, so bugger the expense.  They’ve got leather soles that once I’d recognise as having some worth, in that in a fight they’d make good weapons, good...

Boarding Card

05 November 2015

900 second blog: Boarding Card

I travel to tell my story and to make honest money doing what I love - fuel for stories to come, that search for new stories yet to unfold. I drove most of the night not for money but just so later today - and not tomorrow, or next week - when it would be so more convenient - I can wrap my arms around the woman I love, a woman who loves what I...

Poem to a Broken Rib

02 November 2015

Opinion: Poem to a Broken Rib

A bruise no more, Where Once I felt your love press Hard, Felt its rise, Felt its flutter, Felt it die. Memory now that beating, Across the border Where only I could be felt Pressed, My heart, Morse through skin and sweat and bone Each thump a testament to what we hoped undying. That once, when kisses and tingles where enough, No need then...

‘Other’ Messages

30 October 2015

Opinion: ‘Other’ Messages

I saw a post on the BBC news site today that Facebook were going to axe their ‘other’ messages folder, which was news to me, as I didn’t know I even had one (I have a personal page and a page page).  Anyway I worked out where it was, clicked on it and bingo, there were a few hundred unread and unanswered messages going back...

Poem To Black Hair

29 October 2015

Opinion: Poem To Black Hair

What I love As we walk On my shoulder your head gently rests,  Pressing close As if to lean As if to whisper As if by accident - and only for a moment You stay Hair thick against my neck  Bramble tangle and moor wild Wool warm and mint tingle Untamed Untameable Like you. (Drawing by Sandra Kay Strait from lifeimitatesdoodles)

Sea of Dreams Q&A

29 October 2015

Opinion: Sea of Dreams Q&A

I just came across this interview I did for Montane after I got back from soloing the Sea of Dreams. I’d forgotten I’d done it, but there’s some interesting things in it so reposting it here: Spending fourteen days on a big wall must put major demands on your body, how do you prepare for such a climb? To be honest before I set...

Dyslexic Goodbye

24 October 2015

Opinion: Dyslexic Goodbye

I’m sat in a Esso garage, one of those places you only ever want to pop in and out of quickly, a place of Ginsters pasties, low quality white trash food and staff who no doubt wonder where it all went wrong.  I’ve been sat here for over an hour wondering the same thing (as I often do), not because I can’t pay for my petrol (I’m one of...

The truth of your love

21 October 2015

Opinion: The truth of your love

I saw something about ‘ghosting’ today, the modern phenomenon where a couple split up by one side just ending all communications, and just ‘ghosting out’, something incredibly cruel for the one left alive, wondering what they did wrong, their emotions going from confusion, to sorrow, then anger and bitterness.  The term seems to have...

Kicked to Death

20 October 2015

Opinion: Kicked to Death

I’ve been dabbling of late with the strange game of poetry; reading the greats (as well as listening to them on Youtube), looking at how they do what they do, doing what I seem to be good at: dissecting something complex in the hope I may see some pattern in it. It’s how I do most things, not being one to ask for advice or education, but...

Poem to a son

14 October 2015

Opinion: Poem to a son

Who are you My son Half-way-man. Riddle. Who goes there Knock-on-wood I do Fourteen times As into that head hard I try to see, Through soft greasy hair that over once Measuring jug Eyes battened down against the suds Water elbow hot I poured. Robbed from a long emptied bath, in a long emptied house in a life I could not sustain. Who are you My...

Random Notes for the Antarctic traveler

12 October 2015

Climbing: Random Notes for the Antarctic traveler

I joked the other day, on seeing a tweet from an all-woman team planning on crossing Antarctica (1700km, 75 days, 6 British Army girls @exicemaiden), that they’d need to make some changes in order improve their chances of success.  Now before people jump down my throat and say I’m being sexist I need to point out that being a woman isn’t...

Game Changer - Offset Superlight Rocks

08 October 2015

Gear: Game Changer - Offset Superlight Rocks

A nut is a nut is a nut, be it Wild Country Rock, DMM Wallnut or BD Stopper - just a block of alloy threaded onto a wire, sized from A to B.  Of course there are variations on the theme, more specialised flavours: steel and brass micros, alloy offsets, plus old school designs with a new twist like Frost Sentinel nuts.  But basically nuts...

The Boatman of Kinsale

05 October 2015

Opinion: The Boatman of Kinsale

I visited the tiny Irish village of Kinsale yesterday, a sunny autumnal day,  one which feels as if it could be the last hurrah before the darkening Atlantic folds in over the land and the winter rains begin.  We walked along the coast path, holding hands, past ruined forts and boat yards,  secret coves and memorial benches, past...

Ben Winston

02 October 2015

portraits: Ben Winston

I saw the picture of Ben on Facebook, bent down with two little kids (talking at their height, not his), face a little older than I remembered – but still open, warm –  framed by brown curly hair that betrayed the soft spring of the man. I wondered if they were his kids, but it was hard to tell; Ben was one of those people who could...

Tip of the Spear - Sportiva TC Pro

01 October 2015

Review: Tip of the Spear - Sportiva TC Pro

I tend to stay away from doing reviews these days, the reason being when you get free kit or work with manufactures I aways feel people will think I’m biased. But then you use gear that really stands out, and so I thought over the winter I’d write a few gear focused pieces.  I’ve been using Sportiva TC Pros for a number of years,...

Adventure capitalism

30 September 2015

Opinion: Adventure capitalism

I was talking the other day at big outdoor event, full of speakers talking about their adventures, adventures of all types and sizes, along with film makers, manufacturers, photographers, a whole raft of industry formed up around the outdoors.  After giving a short talk about soloing Sea of Dreams, and its history (including a brief image of...

” stay alive when it all goes to shit”

29 September 2015

Q&A: ” stay alive when it all goes to shit”

I think what you describe is the classic dilemma for anyone who goes into the mountains for a ‘day trip’ - be they alpinists, skiers or crystal hunters - the mountains being a place that can easily confound your plans! As with alpinism you’re making a judgement based on experience (if you have neither then employ a guide or take up Alpine...

After her

25 September 2015

Opinion: After her

“I’m swimming across” she says, with a half giggle (head turned back towards me), emerald eyes reflecting back Tenaya blue, shoulders wood brown from a month of Californian sun, turned back towards the narrow beach, back towards the tourists in their shallows, back towards me – shivering in ice-box cold Tenaya Lake – still only at my...

Making it up as you go along

24 September 2015

Opinion: Making it up as you go along

Was on the stage last night for the first time in over a year, the old familiar stage of fear and doubt, where everything you are is there to see, one mistake ruining it all - not like a video that can be paused or edited or easily delated - but flesh and nerves.  You walk on to applause, the lights in your eyes, an air of anticipation that...

Trying to be funny

21 September 2015

Opinion: Trying to be funny

I think the hardest thing you can do as a writer is to try and make someone laugh.  Crying isn’t too hard, and anger is even easier, but to get a chuckle out of someone, or even a little smile inside is super tough.  I seem to have make a living out of being a ‘funny guy’ on stage, with some funny stuff on this blog and in my books,...

Nothing at All

18 September 2015

Opinion: Nothing at All

Yesterday I was standing in the queue at FinnBees, the coffee shop where I’ve started working, down by the shingle beach in Bray, a small town outside of Dublin where I’ve moved.  People in the ‘city’ make fun of this small seaside town, call it Brairut, but I like it - it’s very East coast, reminding me of the Yorkshire seaside...

Cake

10 September 2015

Opinion: Cake

It’s Ewen’s birthday today.  Fourteen already - his birthday easy to remember - the day before 9/11.  Chocolate croissants and orange juice (with bits in) for breakfast - in bed of course, he’s a teenager, that’s where he bloody lives these days, like a greasy haired Xbox playing Howard Hughes.  He’s at that age when I...

Point of Understanding.

03 September 2015

: Point of Understanding.

Been a while since I wrote a blogpost on here, mainly due to working on a piece of writing about recent US trip on off for about a month, only things keep getting in the way of finishing it,  and today is no different (I’m meant to be drawing pics for up coming print edition of 1000+ Climbing tips book by Vertibrate - but just had a quick...

Words Find Their Own Way

20 July 2015

popular: Words Find Their Own Way

Slept on the living room floor of my ex wife Mandy’s last night, laid out on settee cushions, smelly big wall sleeping bag as a duvet - getting down with the cats.  The last time I slept on someone’s floor they had a big old shaggy dog. It wasn’t a good sleep and the next morning when looked in the mirror I was shocked to see my hair...

“But I tried goddammit”

16 July 2015

portraits: “But I tried goddammit”

I’m sitting on the balcony of the hotel Fungo Reale in Valloriate,  a tiny village set within the lush wooded foothills of the Italian alps, sun shining on the vegetable patch below - beyond the lettuces - the donkey ‘nanok’ - competing loudly with the goats to upset the glorious peace. Today for the first time in a while I feel a little...

Mantrap

10 July 2015

Opinion: Mantrap

The last week has been a pretty tough one, the first real tough one for a while, the kind of week you hold your breath, dive into it, and hope you can make it to the end without breathing in its reality.  Of course you can’t - that’s the problem with reality - it’s real and has to be seen and touched and smelt and accepted.  But...

The Edge of Myself

01 July 2015

Climbing: The Edge of Myself

My last day, my first ‘easy day’, ended long and hard and painful as I scraped and scrambled, tired and tangled, Silent Partner locking and rope running out, onto the rim of El Cap.  I had been alone on the wall for fourteen days, four of them on half water rations and the scraps of my food bags.  I staggered, stood, staggered again -...

Trophy to Dust

08 June 2015

Opinion: Trophy to Dust

Some of you will remember a few years back I climbed El Cap with my mate Steve Bate, a Kiwi who is registered blind.  We climbed Zodiac with one bivy 2 pitches from the to (video here), and then Lurking Fear a week later (video here).  After that Steve went back and soloed Zodiac - almost by feel alone - getting to the top in a storm...

Breakfast on my shoe

29 May 2015

Opinion: Breakfast on my shoe

The plane buckles in the sky and drops through dead space to splash down on cloud with a big dipper lurch.  I’m going to die. There is vomit on my left shoe. I’m racing above the alps - twenty thousand feet or so - I don’t know - the pilot’s not told us, but we’re high, Mont Blanc an iceberg in the cloud below.  Beneath me now...

Twinned with your darkest thoughts

20 May 2015

Opinion: Twinned with your darkest thoughts

The other night me and Ella jumped into the car and drove East; away from the burden of school;  away from the long train of stressful GCSE exams passing slowly through her life; East - to the City of Hull.  I love having time alone with my kids, time to just talk about stuff, stuff they need to know like “Dad have you ever taken...

The Artist

19 May 2015

Opinion: The Artist

Death comes by tweet.  Death comes by forum; by Facebook post, by comment.  Death comes by email or page refresh, breaking news or old school text, few to learn of it by ‘Did you hear…’ or “Did you know…”  But for some, death does not come unannounced and that just makes it all the more tragic. For some, the untimely...

Running with it

12 May 2015

Book: Running with it

This week I finally sent off the PDF files to the printers for Me, Myself & I, having faffed around for six months with them (my deadline was September 2014!), in no small part to the help of my mate Andy Cherry , who took time out of his finals to finish the files.  The long wait for people to see a hard copy (all should have had an...

Close to heaven

11 May 2015

Opinion: Close to heaven

When I wrote my book 1000 Climbing Tips I joked I’d stick in a bit about love, after all love and relationships have a greater bearing on all climbers than knots - but I didn’t. I joked later that I could do a book about relationships and love instead, a top tips book, but my partner at the time just laughed at me - not a good sign (but...

Painkiller X and Painkiller Y

08 May 2015

Opinion: Painkiller X and Painkiller Y

It’s one of those days where we all waste too much time getting down about politics, writing on Facebook and twitter, ranting and raving, crying - good and bad - feeling happy, sad, indifferent, wishing we’d not voted, or wishing we had, wishing we could - or pretending we did.  Today is a day of reflection about the future, how...

Exped Asshole

07 May 2015

Q&A: Exped Asshole

When I do business talks, the one line that always gets people nodding in the room is when I say “If you like the people you work with it’s fun, when there’s an asshole it’s work”.  Unfortunately having to deal with difficult people often comes as the downside of big trips, the bigger the trip, the bigger the number, the greater the...

The Code of Me

05 May 2015

Opinion: The Code of Me

I love writing code; HTML, CSS, jQuery, PHP; adding tags and classes, conditionals and Id’s; watching blank screens pop into life; raw sterile code refreshing, again and again, slowly, slowly, bit by bit, into something beautiful and creative.  Every day I sit and tweak lines of code, for this site and others, to get words to appear where...

Feeding the addiction - Podcast

03 May 2015

Opinion: Feeding the addiction - Podcast

Did this long podcast a few weeks ago with Ben Schenck at mtnmeister.com in the US, which I’m told is interesting and funny and worth a listen too (you can download an itunes version here if you fancy listening to it on the car or train).  Can’t remember much about what I said , but includes the usual I guess (climbing) as well as...

it’ll be good for you!

15 April 2015

Q&A: it’ll be good for you!

Hi I guess I feel that I have to give my kids the basic tools they need to survive in what ever life they choose to live (both psychical skills, as well as emotional ones), and then let them live it.  As a parent it’s hard to see them fall and not rush to them, but let them stand up by themselves (I know that sound like I’m Bruce...

Strange eventful history

14 April 2015

Q&A: Strange eventful history

Hi I get quite a lot of emails from people about talking, and have coached a lot of people over the years, so here’s a ten pieces of advice on speaking that might be worth thinking about. 1.Never forget that there is always a lot of good will focused on you by the audience, who actively want to enjoy what you have to say (a corporate audience...

Close to the Bone

27 March 2015

Q&A: Close to the Bone

Hi Peter I think for summer alpine climbing, where you’re dealing both with heat and cold, where staying cool is crucial to staying comfortable, a layering system works best.  The Montane Extreme smock is my number one go to piece for anything cold and gnarly, where I want the maximum robustness in my clothing, as it copes better than...

Phantoms versus Spantiks

23 March 2015

Q&A: Phantoms versus Spantiks

Hi Guy I know that people can get away with single layer boots in very cold temperatures when moving quickly (I’ve used single leather boots in Antartica and Greenland down to -25c when using Nordic skis), but the problem comes when you’re forced to stop moving.  Say for instance your feet are not being damaged by the cold yet (as I doubt...

The Boat

20 March 2015

Opinionpopular: The Boat

I’m haunted by the memory of a boat - half built and begun long ago, timbers now rotting; hidden behind a ruin, beside a rain soaked and faraway shore.  This thing, a skeleton of wood growing slowly soft, seemed to mean more to me than the sum of its parts.  It spoke to me about the very nature of what pains me. “Do you want to see...

D.F.Y.U

11 March 2015

Training: D.F.Y.U

Thanks for the question (I have had quite a few like this recently).  I’m sat in a cafe with two Christians arguing about the bible, so my answer may get a bit garbled! I must say first that I know very little about training, and the type of training I do is pretty spotty and sporadic, and probably is a long way away from any traditional...

Swamp Thing

08 March 2015

Opinion: Swamp Thing

The other morning, washing up my breakfast dishes, the sun warming the kitchen for the first time in months, my mobile rang, something of rarity these days. It was my friend Dion, who now runs Speakers from the Edge, wanting to talk about going on tour later in the year, ideas and strategies, how to get bums on seats, what trips I’d be talking...

Christmas Tree

05 March 2015

Opinion: Christmas Tree

It’s March and my christmas tree is still up, still standing in the corner of the living room, bedecked in glass baubles that glint and shine even under a hundred days of dust.  I’ve been away a lot this year, that could be my excuse - yah - I’ve been busy, traveling, moving - no time, no time.  But that’s not the reason....

Steps

27 February 2015

: Steps

You know that feeling were you’re kind of half asleep because you need a piss - well more half awake, as being half asleep would be OK, so no - lets say half awake.  You lay there in the dark knowing you should get up and have a slash, like it’s the only way, the only way the niggling little torment will leave you, a stone in the shoe of...

Blood & Bone

29 January 2015

Opinion: Blood & Bone

Hi I guess a few days ago - on twitter - I talked about how impossible it is to sign out of social media, that in a way I’m trapped by it, as it’s both a huge positive in my life (without it I guess I’d sell less books or tickets), but also maybe a big negative as well (through it I betray myself).  I have often asked myself the...

Shia LaBeouf’s Butt

28 January 2015

Opinionpopular: Shia LaBeouf’s Butt

I’ve never liked Transformers, always finding it way to bombastic, too loud, to many cuts - in fact there are only cuts - it’s sort of dumb, but not in a clever way like Pacific Rim… no it’s just dumb - like American Sniper dumb (the American Psycho of our time).  I also never liked Shia LaBeouf either but I’m not sure why.  I...

The Weight of a Soul

22 January 2015

Opinionpopular: The Weight of a Soul

I got an email last night which I want to share.  It made me almost cry, both for what it said, and because it meant more to me than the writer could ever have known. If you’ve ever spent more than a day looking at my tweets, or reading between the lines on my blog, then you’ll guess things have been tough for a while.  I admit most...

Dick in a Toaster

21 January 2015

Opinionpopular: Dick in a Toaster

First off I have no idea what kind of projects you’re thinking off, or who you are.  If you’re talking about getting a kayak and paddling to Australia from Germany, or doing all the alpine peaks over 4000 metres in a year, well that sounds normal to me, while if you want to make a skin suit out of dead people…. well maybe you’ve come...

Nav Paranoia

20 January 2015

Technique popular: Nav Paranoia

We are in the season of the lost, the season where all climbers dust of their compass’s, unfold mouldy maps, and try and remember how to get from A to B, secretly praying the weather stay clear, so they can get back from B to A at the end of it! Good navigation in tough environments is about many things, but for me the one thing that is often...

To be a pro

19 January 2015

Opinionpopular: To be a pro

I can remember once sitting in a pub in Hull with my old mate ‘Wayne the fireman’, talking about people I’d met recently, passing on stories they’d passed on to me, people who’s lives were the type of lives that other people wrote books about (and some of them had done).  Half way through a story about Jon Turk kayaking to Alaska...

The urge to live

08 January 2015

Opinion: The urge to live

Hi First off sorry to take so long to reply to your email, because if you’re brave enough to write something so honest then that deserves a honest reply (well at least a reply).  Also if you can understand yourself, question, find answers, even find questions, then you’ve got the makings of a good climber (and a good person… well an...

The Mountain

26 December 2014

Opinionpopular: The Mountain

Strange, but woke up this morning with this poem in my head, which although I have no doubt is crap (I know bugger all about poetry) I’ll share with you here (sure it’s total 6 form rubbish, but I’ll post it anyway). The Mountain The Mountain does not love you. Nor does it care nor does it hate or wish you harm or wish you...

Solo Bungee cord question

25 December 2014

Q&A: Solo Bungee cord question

Hi Bungee prusik loops are just the same as the ones you make from thin cord.  The difference is that in a fall they will stretch and maybe snap, were as a thin cord loop (say 2mm or 3mm) snapping can actually generate enough force to cut the rope itself (I’ve had my fingers cut deeply by 2mm cord that’s broken under load).  Having...

The Lighthouse

24 December 2014

Guest Blog: The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse The lighthouse stood tall and proud, yet weary, and looked out across the ocean… never had he looked more beautiful than on this day of days. The sun was bright in the sky warming every ripple of his movements. For years she had stood here watching his ebb and flow just beyond her reach. For years she admired the way he...

Humiliation

23 December 2014

Opinion: Humiliation

I was walking home after buying an ice-cream, having stood in line with all the other kids of the estate, 50p’s clutched in their grimy hands, or maybe £1, a tiny sibling standing close by, that smell of exhaust fumes mixed with sugar and spice making the queue buzz with anticipation.   There are two things that stand out for me from my 70’s...

Heroes

20 December 2014

Climbing: Heroes

Survivability

13 December 2014

Climbing: Survivability

This year has been a cold year, starting with fifty days living at minus thirty in Queen Maud Land, and then slowly growing the dream of soloing Denali in Winter, perhaps the coldest climb there is.  And so the cold has been my constant companion, as I strategise gear for Denali (a mix of Montane, PHD, homemade gear and specialist items like a...

Porridge and Bananas

03 December 2014

Opinion: Porridge and Bananas

I’ve spent the last few days hanging out in Hull, staying at my mums, walking the streets, walking down ghosts, chased by ghosts.  In a week I’m off to the Alps with Calum Muskett and so I walk the streets waiting to go - knowing that with Calum there’ll be no room for ghosts.  Walking down an old familiar road, past the flat I...

The mountains are calling and I can’t go…

02 December 2014

Guest Blog: The mountains are calling and I can’t go…

I had quite a response a while back to my blog The Extraodinary Nobody, and so I thought it only fair to give Menna Pritchard some space on my blog so you can see that really, she’s got a voice worth listening too. Car journeys provide great opportunities for conversations. And travelling all over the UK on a stay-cation this summer holiday...

Petzl Lim’Ice

29 November 2014

Review: Petzl Lim’Ice

When it comes to ice climbing, hard alpine and even mixed climbing, staying sharp is crucial - both in the head, and your gear.  Sharp picks are of course the most obvious thing to keep sharp, as a sharp pick needs less force to ‘stick’, meaning you’ll use less energy and cause less dinner-plating.  If you look at climbers like Will...

On Being a Dad

26 November 2014

Q&A: On Being a Dad

Hi James Well first off I really consider myself pretty much a failure as a traditional dad.  For some people at least we seem destined to visit the same mistakes as our parents did on us, which is both heart breaking because we know too well the damage it can cause, but also allows us the unwelcome privilege of having some insight into the...

Choking on a Bourbon

19 November 2014

Guest Blog: Choking on a Bourbon

Hair

16 November 2014

Opinion: Hair

I had my hair cut yesterday, something akin to visiting the dentist for me, probably due to a slight phobia about my ears being sliced off by shiny scissors - as well as a double crown and odd shaped head, which seemed to cause trouble when I was a kid.  My kids often make fun of my hair, in the merciless way kids do, pointing out how I’m...

Belay Jacket Question

15 November 2014

Q&A: Belay Jacket Question

The relative importance of weight, bulk, robustness, warmth and cost of a belay jacket probably comes down to when these features seem the most important.  In the shop or when buying online, cost will be a big factor as warmth and weight will be abstract ideas to you as you start typing in your paypal password or parting with the cash. ...

Risky Play

13 November 2014

Opinionpopular: Risky Play

Here’s a transcript of the speech I gave on Radio 4 Four Thought’ last night (you can listen to it here).  People are free to use it anyway they wish. In 2012 I hung from El Capitan—perhaps the most iconic rock face in the world - skyscraper high, Yosemite valley’s mightiest wall. For five days and nights we’d inched...

Deadline

08 November 2014

Book: Deadline

I always loved that quote from Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”  It’s a feeling any writer worth his salt will understand, and perhaps the stuff of nightmares for any editor. I’ve always tried to be on time, and want to think of myself as reliable, after all reliability and...

Speed, Quality, Price

04 November 2014

Gear: Speed, Quality, Price

I started working with Montane earlier this year, a company I’ve long respected for its willingness to push the boundaries of non commercial/niche kit, and who’d been giving me gear for quite some time (I still think there is no better system for big gnarly winter routes than

Diatribe

29 October 2014

Opinion: Diatribe

I don’t know Nick Bullock, but I’ve met him a few times, had a few emails, a few run-inns.  I always thought that Nick doesn’t like me much (but then I think that of most great climbers, probably due to them never seeing me at my best).  I know he thinks I often ‘take the piss’, and I suspect I live in a box marked fat aid...

A Distant Shore

27 October 2014

popular: A Distant Shore

I’m just on my way home (again), my arse numb from too many hours sat in my seat, the number of flights I’ve taken this year meaning I’ve seen almost every film I’d want to watch five times over (X-men Day’s of Future Past is my guilty pleasure, due to me having a bit of a man crush on Michael Fassbender), and so most...

Letter from a (non) Coffee Wanker

18 October 2014

Guest Blog: Letter from a (non) Coffee Wanker

Hi andy Interesting posts as always - and as usual its you as the narrator thats interesting more so than the subject (be careful of that, maybe invent an alter ego to keep it fun). So, you seem hung on the end of a windblown rope; connected but distant. thats cool. i have the solution. coffee. I know you drink the stuff (you are more definite...

Gordon Stainforth

15 October 2014

portraits: Gordon Stainforth

The other day I saw a really generous comment to a blog I wrote from someone I’d always respected, but also someone I felt I’d wronged in the past - Gordon Stainforth.  I’ve know Gordon probably longer than he remembers, being a customer at Outside when I worked there as a lowly shop assistant, being one of those customers...

The Extraordinary Nobody

10 October 2014

portraits: The Extraordinary Nobody

I met Menna Pritchard in Cardigan, an unexpected tweet asking the question of whether she was brave enough to ask me out for a drink.  I’d always wanted a groupie, and often joked that the only groupies I got were middle aged men, but also knew if I ever came across one I’d run a mile (she wasn’t a groupie, or even a...

Gunks

30 September 2014

Opinion: Gunks

Just spend two days in the gunks, a really remarkable climbing destination, a sort of Stanage Edge crag with a lot of nice slabs interspersed with juggy roofs, and a place I’d been hearing about forever (every route seems to have a ‘reach around the roof for a bucket’ move on it).  If short multipitch trad climbing on steep juggy ground...

Empire State

27 September 2014

Opinion: Empire State

In New York this morning, staying a stones throw away from the Empire State Building and tonight I’m talking in Glens Falls, part of a mini tour of the US I’m doing with Montane.  Last night felt like the first time I’d slept in a real bed for a while, the skimpy half length grubby yellow Karrimat I’ve been using for the last two trips...

Hertz

24 September 2014

Climbing: Hertz

I’m staggering down in the dark and the dust, like really staggering, lowering myself over boulders I’d usually jump, feet feeling like bloody pulp, knees throbbing, each and every muscle playing it’s own little tune of pain.  My good head torch was dead, leaving me the back up, which had quickly faded to the effectiveness of a watch...

Jumping the Bar

22 September 2014

Climbingpopular: Jumping the Bar

Sat in a dinner in El Portel trying to get on the web as stuffing my face (my second lunch of the day), the aim to write this blog and get get some carbs in for tomorrow.  My dreams of soloing Zodiac keep being derailed, and instead of starting that tomorrow I’ve agreed to climb El Cap in a day (via Lurking Fear) with 12 year old looking...

Man on the Moon

19 September 2014

Climbing: Man on the Moon

I’m sitting at what seems like my regular spot in the Yosemite Lodge cafeteria; next to the only working plugs, besides the windows, feeling hung over from my long journey to the Valley.  The sun is shining, as it always is here, but I’m happy to sit indoors as I battle jet lag and a bought of man flu that seems at the tipping point of...

Extended Captions

17 September 2014

Opinion: Extended Captions

I’ve just done a piece for UKC on my thoughts on climbing photography called “Bum Shots & Shaky Vids” that people may find interesting.  I wrote exstended captions for the images used, but they didn’t make it to the page, so posting them here, as they give a bit more context to what I was writing about. Nick...

Moving together as a four

09 September 2014

Q&A: Moving together as a four

Hi Alex The hardcore answer would be that really on ground where you cannot fall, and where there will be no crevasses, the risk of one person falling and pulling off everyone else, means just soloing together would be better.  Often on ground where you know you won’t fall into a slot, just soloing alone and not having ropes pulling,...

Getting fat - getting (reliantly) skinny

07 September 2014

Opinion: Getting fat - getting (reliantly) skinny

The other day I was searching for an old image of me on KMFF’s Facebook page (I was looking for this one as I’m doing some talks for Doug Scott this winter), but the image that popped up was hardly recognisable - I just looked so skinny! I often come across old pictures like this which always surprise me, as my self image since my early teens,...

In the bag - clothes or not

30 August 2014

ClimbingQ&A: In the bag - clothes or not

I’ve had quite a lot of experience in the field of having a bag that wasn’t warm enough, while having plenty of clothes on, and so have spent many a sleepless night ruminating on this topic! The first thing to say to novice extreme campers is that it’s vital that your base layers (well all your layers really) are as dry as possible, as you...

The thing that scares me

22 August 2014

Opinion: The thing that scares me

I played that song ‘Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen)’ by Baz Lurhmann to Ella and Ewen the other day, one of the best songs you could ever play a young person - well - as long as they’re old enough to listen (Ewen just sighed and said “this is rubbish, it’s just someone talking”).  If you’ve never heard it, then it’s...

The Cosmonauts Prayer

14 August 2014

900 second blog: The Cosmonauts Prayer

I recently spent a week with a family who were deeply religious.  I know I may come across as a bit of a rabid atheist (because I am) but really I don’t care what people believe as long as a) they don’t expect me to join in, and b) their faith does not encroach on the lives of others (especially children - including their own). ...

And the sun shone

04 August 2014

Opinion: And the sun shone

You have to be very careful searching using google images these days, with horrific images popping up unexpectedly when searching for the mundane and burning into your consciousness before you have time to hit the back button.  I can remember doing a search for a climbing term once and coming across a small thumbnail of a man who’d been run...

4000 metre layers

17 July 2014

Gear: 4000 metre layers

Hi Andy Is that all you’ll be wearing : ) I’m not totally sure about the Rab Strata, but know about the Vapour rise lite, but I’ll give you my thoughts. I think it’s always hard to give a specific kit list for alpine climbs, as conditions can change from day to day, or even hour to hour.  I’ve been on El Cap,...

Petzl Micro Traxion

25 June 2014

Review: Petzl Micro Traxion

I’m currently writing the hauling section of my nerdy tech book Me, Myself and I (big wall solo manual),  and so have been thinking a lot about hauling pulleys, systems etc.  One thing that I’ve realised is that I’ve damaged (bent, twisted, knacked the bearings) most the heavy duty pulleys I’ve used on walls (Rock Exotica Wall...

Mountain Quilt

24 June 2014

Q&A: Mountain Quilt

I’ve been using blankets for a number of years both for climbing and kayaking, finding them much easier to use than a mummy sleeping bag.  I guess this all started while using sleeping bags on walls in winter conditions, as getting inside with all your clothes on, water and pee bottle, gas canister, Inner boots, camera etc - while still tied...

Cobwebs

03 June 2014

Opinion: Cobwebs

Maybe it’s just a sign of getting old, but each time I come back to Yosemite I get the feeling that I should make this one my last. The place haunts me when I’m away, and it haunts me when I’m here - I guess it just haunts me. I’m here for three weeks, sort of a holiday after months of pretty intensive work or more intensive ‘life...

Alpine Scrounging

18 May 2014

Q&A: Alpine Scrounging

Hi Jon Getting on a Conville course is a great idea when starting out, as for getting hold of gear when you’re starting out can seem tough, but with a little boldness it’s not so hard!  The real cost of gear has fallen a lot of the years, and so the amount of gear climbers buy has increased, as well as the gear they no longer need. ...

The Monkey’s Call

30 April 2014

Opinion: The Monkey’s Call

When Steve Bate soloed El Cap last june, each morning, and each evening, I would stand at El Cap bridge and do a single monkey call.  At the golden hour, this simple deep chesty ‘urgh’ would carry all the way to the wall, to Steve, then bounced back again, ricocheting around the walls above the meadow - a primeval echo.  Each time I...

The Choice

17 April 2014

Opinion: The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to choose perfection of the life, or of the work, And if it take the second must refuse A heavenly mansion, raging in the dark. When all that story's finished, what's the news? In luck or out the toil has left its mark: That old perplexity an empty purse, Or the day's vanity, the night's remorse. --William...

The Lesson

08 April 2014

Opinion: The Lesson

Although I try not to - recently I have been ranting (I do apologise) - to others, at the world and at myself.  When we reached the top of Moonlight Buttress a few weeks ago, someone asked Alex Jones what climbing a big wall was like.  “A big wall asks everything of you, takes all your energy, until you have nothing left to give…...

The Real World

29 March 2014

Opinion: The Real World

A freind once told me of a boat trip to Greenland, the boats crewed by a mix of climbers and sailers.  The trip was tough, with big seas and storms, and as soon as the boat docked all the climbers scrambled up and onto dry land.  The sailers where different, they were in no rush to leave.  He told me that he realised, just as they...

Ulvetanna: In the Jaws of the Wolf

02 March 2014

Climbing: Ulvetanna: In the Jaws of the Wolf

I was in the climbing doldrums. A trip to the towers of Paine had been canceled in the autumn, and there was no sign of enough work to fund any future adventures, when one evening an email popped up on my phone: Andy. I think I have a big project for you. Queen Maud Land. Departure 15 Dec, need you, all costs on me, tv-series, 2 months....

Winter Peg Question

05 December 2013

Q&A: Winter Peg Question

Hi A few years ago my mate Robert Steiner (German climbing hard man) told me that Russian Alpine/Winter climber had all but given up carrying any peg but their own beak style pegs, and that this style of peg did it all.  At the time I was pretty sceptical, but since then I’ve slimmed down my peg rack for walls, alpine routes and winter...

Ueli - Gift from the Gods

15 October 2013

Opinion: Ueli - Gift from the Gods

My daughter Ella, in fact both my kids, never watch TV - in fact I can say without doubt that TV is - or will soon be - dead.  These days young people only watch Youtube, and not just hamsters on pianos, but youtube channels such as the Shaytards and Charles Trippy (who has the record for the longest uninterrupted vlog on Youtube), and gaming...

The Gifting Room

27 September 2013

Opinion: The Gifting Room

The Gifting Room A few years ago Karen was named fearless woman of the year by Cosmopolitan magazine, and was invited down to London to banqueting house for a big event where various awards would be given out, and exceptional people celebrated (she’d also get to go to 10 Downing street).  I’m never keen on getting dressed up, but...

Publishing Empire

24 September 2013

Book: Publishing Empire

A few people have asked me about the ebook I’ve been bringing out of late, and also about pricing, so I thought I’d do a quick blog about it (this may be of interest by other people who want to make some money from publishing). 1.Andy’s book model Last year I had a melt down as author, throwing my teddy out of the pram, saying...

Staying dry on a motorbike?

24 September 2013

Q&A: Staying dry on a motorbike?

Hi If membraned shells arn’t working for you, have you looked at Paramo kit.  Technically it’s not meant to be waterproof, but people find it more waterproof and breathable than any thing else (outside of a laboratory).  For really terrible weather, if I wanted to guarantee to stay warm and comfortable, I’d probably...

EDK Question

23 September 2013

Technique : EDK Question

Thanks for the question.  A figure of eight should never be used in a situation where the knot itself will be cross loaded, the reason being that the knot can invert and roll (some people say it capsizes), rolling over and over until it sucks up all the tail and comes undone.  On a badly tied figure of eight it has failed at 50kg! ...

Spatterdashes and Jerkins

19 September 2013

Gear: Spatterdashes and Jerkins

I recently watched Ben Wheatley’s film A Field In England.  If you’d seen his previous films, Sightseers and the awesome Kill List, you’ll know it’s far from the usual Hollywood fare (arty, creepy, violent, black and white, with that drug dealer bloke out Spaced playing an Alchemist). Anyway this isn’t a film...

Big Wall Shoes

13 September 2013

Q&A: Big Wall Shoes

Hi For harder longer walls you really need walking style boots, as your feet will get hammered otherwise (unless you’ve damaged the nerves in your feet to such an existent that you don’t feel anything!).  The classic boot would be the Sportva Trango.  Be warned that any boot will get seriously worn out on a wall (instep and...

Ten tips for a mountain emergency

09 August 2013

Technique : Ten tips for a mountain emergency

In January 2012 walking off a winter climb on the north face of Ben Nevis I slipped and fell 100m down a rocky wintery slope. I broke my pelvis in three places, dislocated my right knee and had a compound fracture of my left heel bone into the boot. I am very lucky to be alive and wouldn’t be without Lochaber Mountain Rescue.

The doctors did...

Abseil Tat

09 July 2013

Technique : Abseil Tat

Hi Domen I think that 5mm cord is fine for abseils, even when heavily loaded as its strength is 5.5 kN when unknotted, and a little less when tied with an overhand knot (same as Euro Death Knot), but if you want to feel super safe, then 6mm may be best (see this vid of a retreat of the Eiger using 6mm threads due to loading).  I prefer cord...

Alone with Stalin

17 June 2013

Opinion: Alone with Stalin

The last few weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, and for once, climbing has little to do with it (warning this is one of those self obsessed blog posts that’s all about me, but which I somehow find therapeutic in writing). Being here with Steve - who wants to solo Zodiac, even though he only has 10% normal eye site - is very odd,...

Corner Sofa

01 June 2013

Opinion: Corner Sofa

Sat in Toronto airport with my mate Steve Bates, heading off - yet again - to Yosemite and more adventures.  We’re going for nearly four weeks and have lots of plans, but mainly trying not so hard routes but as fast as we can, the aim to do 4 El Cap walls while we’re here.  Steve’s also got his sites on soloing Zodiac,...

Staying Alive on the Wall

30 April 2013

Q&A: Staying Alive on the Wall

Hi Jane As you well know, on a wall you’re probably just about as exsposed as a human being can be, and in a storm you’re just as much in the shit as someone who’s fallen overboard, and the ship has sailed away.  Strangely when it’s cold, and below freezing, things get much easier, for example 14 days on the Troll at...

S.B.S (sweaty back syndrome)

23 April 2013

Q&A: S.B.S (sweaty back syndrome)

Hi Steve You can buy vapuor barrier shirts from companies like 40 Below or RBH Designs that will stop sweat moving through your layers (the RBH vest is all VP), but these are designed more for extreme conditions then most people would need.  First off people who tell me that ‘they sweat like a pig’ tend to also be poor at...

Antidote to Grimness

14 April 2013

Gear: Antidote to Grimness

The art of doing things that look grim in photos is to do them in such as way as to reduce the grimness to a level that they’re actually secretly quite comfortable (although you’d never want anyone to know that).  This may seem like a con, as knowing your mountain heroes were in fact as gnarly as a man sat by the fire in their...

Connecting your daisy chain to your harness

25 March 2013

Q&A: Connecting your daisy chain to your harness

Hi Steve In Big Walls by John Middendorf there is a diagram on a harness showing how to attach a daisy chain, with the daisy larks footed through the waist and leg loops.  For this reason I think a lot of people attach there daises this way, believing it’s ‘the way’.  The problem is that when you attach them this way...

WINTER ASCENT OF SUSER GJENNON HARRYLAND, TROLL WALL, NORWAY

31 January 2013

: WINTER ASCENT OF SUSER GJENNON HARRYLAND, TROLL WALL, NORWAY

Route: Suser gjennom Harryland (VI A3 5.10b, 18 pitches, Halvor Hagen-Kyrre Ostbo, 1996) 4th Ascent and 1st technical winter Ascent (15th Jan - 29th)  (Norwegians Sigurd Backe, Rolf Bae, Sigurd Felde and Trym A. Saland made the first quasi-winter and third overall ascent, but failed to finish with the technical winter date of 21th March)...

Ran Away

21 December 2012

Opinion: Ran Away

I don’t know if you spotted Ran Fiennes latest Antarctic adventure, namely to travel to the South Pole in winter, a place that is very cold (the closer to deparcher the colder it got in the media - hitting minus 90 last time I looked) and very windy (ditto - with 200mph bandied around).  Ran’s six million pound expedition plans to...

A Piece of Wood

30 November 2012

Opinion: A Piece of Wood

There is a block of wood at the end of my bed; four inches square, an inch thick, wrapped in car inner tube, drilled and threaded with a loop of faded four-millimeter cord.  This piece of wood keeps my bed up, a long steel screw drilled through its centre, into the bed’s cheap white laminated MDF end board, and through into the central beam...

One cam to rule them all

21 November 2012

Gear: One cam to rule them all

For some reason, I feel as if the Totem Cam has been around for a quite a while, popping up now and again at trade shows and in conversations, a funky cam with an odd and overly complex clip in loop.  “It’s great in flares” and “you can load just one cam,” people said, but to me, I put it into the...

Goodbye to all that

15 November 2012

Opinion: Goodbye to all that

Went for my first job interview for nearly two decades yesterday, working for Lyon equipment doing training.  Not sure if I got the job, but on the way home (via TGO awards - where some actor called Bear Grylles won personality of the year) someone tweeted asking what the job was, and I replied ‘Lyon Equipment (Petzl, Sportiva, Beal) -...

Dump

11 November 2012

Technique : Dump

Hi For some reason books and magazines never seem to cover going to the toilet, and it’s only when you have to go for the first time when you’re wearing a harness that you realize why gear’s designed the way it is (or what a bummer it is when it isn’t).  Things like removable leg loops, easily releasable rear risers,...

Finding a partner?

09 November 2012

Q&A: Finding a partner?

Hi Alex Sounds like a tough one, and I guess I had the same problems when I started out (living in Hull also compounded this), and like you, I did a lot of solo trips (Peaks, Lakes and N.Wales), getting there by hitching or by train, and just walking.  Doing things by myself probably effected the climbing I did as an adult (perhaps...

Making Me

07 November 2012

Opinion: Making Me

Been struggling a bit this year with who I am and what I’m doing, and worse still what I’ve done in my life.  I guess you’d call it an identity crisis. The reasons are many, after all no epic, crisis or disaster is caused by a single factor – well that what they say on the program ‘Air crash investor’ program...

Alpinism issue 2?

05 November 2012

Book: Alpinism issue 2?

When I was 19 I found a copy of a magazine called Alpinism in a second hand book shop in Matlock.  It was put together by Chic Scott, who’s probably known best for being the closest thing to Dougal Haston’s best friend, as well as working on the Eiger Sanction and being a Candian climbing legend. Issue number one of Alpinism is...

What to Use for Simul climbing back ups?

04 November 2012

Technique : What to Use for Simul climbing back ups?

Hi A tibloc works differently than any other mini ascender as it doesn’t work via a moving toothed cam, and rather works more like a cleat.  Although super effective, camming ascenders, by there very nature of biting onto a rope, will damage the rope if overloaded, even bite right through it (easy to do on a half rope if you really...

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

24 October 2012

Opinion: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

I’ve had this email in my ‘to keep’ folder in mail for a while.  The reason I’ve kept it is that I get a lot of emails like this, and there are many people (men and woman) who struggle with what this the type of problem it contains.  I’ve decided to post it here (names and details changed) as it may be of...

Lessons

07 October 2012

Climbing: Lessons

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m wide awake, coming round with a start in a hot motel in Mariposa, my first thought is “She did it!” Ella, my 13-year-old daughter, is sleeping in the bed next to me like only a teenager could sleep, so deep only an earthquake could break it, and she deserves it; last night she was sleeping on El Cap, having climbed...

Ella on El Cap

29 September 2012

Climbingpopular: Ella on El Cap

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, which is a shame as there’s been a lot to write about!  (Don’t have time to write about Karen’s sliver medal in the Paralympics). In Yosemite at the moment with my 13 year old daughter Ella, just about to set off to climb El Cap via Tangerine Trip. We’re making a TV...

Big Project

12 August 2012

: Big Project

Hi Dylan Sat in Starbucks and meant to be writing something else, but I’m writing this instead (just had a big coffee - so it may be rambling!!) They say that in sport, training is 80 psychical and 20 mental, but when you perform, it’s the other way round, and it’s the mind not the body that lets you down.  In climbing this...

Sore arms

31 July 2012

Q&A: Sore arms

Hi Vic (had to double check your email address to check that name wasn’t a wind up!). The hook you need to modify is the grappling hook, in-fact I’d go so far as saying the Cliffhanger hook is pretty much redundant these days (it is light, so it still has its place).  I usually carry two pointed Grappling hooks (don’t make...

Crab 6

04 July 2012

: Crab 6

Hi John The Crab 6 and crampons of its ilk are really designed for flat icy terrain, and are probably most often employed for glacier travel, or for industrial use (people working on flat icy ground).  AS soon as your boots start to bend (imagine walking up a 20 degree slope) you begin to loose contact between the crampons and the...

Getting off your shunt

19 June 2012

Technique : Getting off your shunt

Hi When shunting make sure you always have a belay device, along with a prusic loop (or an ascender if you have one).  The prusic either needs to be 2.5 metres long (a 2.5m loop of 5mm or 6mm perlon joined with a double fishermans knot), or a short prusic (1.5m) extended with a sling (60mm or 120mm).  The beauty of a Shunt over an...

The Darkness

18 June 2012

Opinion: The Darkness

Just at the final stages of publishing Karen’s second book ‘Boundless’, which carries on from ‘If You Fall’ and should be out in the next few weeks (kindle first, then in book shops).  Boundless covers a little more than a year of adventures, beginning with her crossing of Greenland by sit ski in 2006, ...

SPEED - CONTROL - SLOW - FAST

12 June 2012

Opinion: SPEED - CONTROL - SLOW - FAST

Just read about the tragic death of another base jumper, the death made all the sadder as he was on holiday with his seven months pregnant girlfriend at the time in Greece.  For some reason the news often picks up on base deaths - of which there are many, but don’t seem to give motorbike, car or cyclist deaths in the same...

The sea always wins

08 June 2012

Opinion: The sea always wins

I bought a tiny kayak on ebay the other week (Pyranha Inazone 230), the reason being that my trips away have been curtailed a bit by kids, work and Paralympics (AKA life - well apart from the last one).  I only live 15 minutes from Stanage but don’t find rock climbing gives me quite the fix I need, and so I thought I needed a boat (and a...

The Flame

02 June 2012

Opinion: The Flame

At the age of forty you begin to feel a bit old.  Not physically or mentally (my body and brain seem in better condition now than when I was twenty) but simply aware of the age you are - something you weren’t before - well maybe when you hit 30 - but then you soon forget and keep on being young.  Suddenly, everything is framed...

Thinking fast

29 May 2012

Gear: Thinking fast

Hi James Sounds like you’ve got the right amount of kit, but with all alpine climbing (and the Dolomites is alpine climbing) the most important thing to have is an understanding of your own speed and competence on the terrain.  It’s this that will negate any need for ‘oh shit’ gear. Once you know how fast you are, and...

Everest - Sucking on the barrel

25 May 2012

Opinion: Everest - Sucking on the barrel

For some reason I keep getting journalists - print, radio, and TV - ringing me up and wanting my opinion on Everest - a mountain I’ve never climbed on a continent I’ve never visited.  I’d like to believe this is due to my position as a world class sounding board for the opinions of climbers, but really I put it down to a...

Monster Bags on a Plane

17 May 2012

Q&A: Monster Bags on a Plane

Hi Dan I’ve traveled all over with my old huge A5 haulbag (and huge Metolius and BD haulbag) and never had a problem, as it seems to just be seen as a very large holdall, and isn’t seen as ‘sports equipment’.  Usually when you fly to the US you get two pieces and I tend to travel with the huge bag (put ledge in there)...

Mountain Pullovers

16 May 2012

Gear: Mountain Pullovers

Hi J I’ve never been a great fan of any hardshell, and it tends to be the very last item of clothing I put on, and will tend to go with a pertex/microfibre top most of the time (either worn over a fleece, or built into the fleece/pile).  But there are times when you need one, when you’re soft shell layer just won’t cope with...

The Stones on the inside

14 May 2012

Opinion: The Stones on the inside

Not many people seem to have seen Michael Mann’s early film ‘The Keep’, one of those movies from your childhood that you enjoyed but no one else has even heard off, or can even buy even if they wanted to watch it (as far as I can tell you can only get it on VHS tape from Amazon!).  It was made in 1983, before Mann became...

Learning the ropes - well aiders actually

11 May 2012

Q&A: Learning the ropes - well aiders actually

Hi James First off although doing a bit of guiding is good for my bank balance (I almost took a full time job last week!), it’s probably worth giving you some tips first that may negate the need for coaching. Below - and in no order - are some thoughts on going from a rock to an aid climber. Pro is pro, and placing trad gear is the same...

Wooly Pully

18 February 2012

Gear: Wooly Pully

Hi Ted Sorry for delay in replying.  Yes I think maybe a wooly pully may have some competition with some new kit (well kit that’s been around for 30 years or so!).  Saying that I think that there’s a lot to be said for a lot of army surplus kit that has come out in the last few years, as it’s tough and has often had a zillion...

Connecting with your Silent Partner

30 January 2012

Technique : Connecting with your Silent Partner

Hey Andy, justa quickie - hope you got time to reply. What’s your preferred method of attaching your Silent partner? I attach mine using the two lockers through both leg loops and waist loop like in the SP manual but find everything a bit tight and restricted - have you found a better method? I was thinking one steel krab as opposed to two...

Second Time Unlucky

29 January 2012

Climbing: Second Time Unlucky

As you can probably guess my Eiger dream of climbing the Harlin with Paul Ramsden didn’t go to plan, mainly due to too much snow where you didn’t want it, and not enough where you did.  I imagined the face would be plastered but it was very dry, with very little on the crucial sections between the 1st and 2nd band - well that was...

Death of a much loved Patagonian via ferrata

26 January 2012

Opinion: Death of a much loved Patagonian via ferrata

Just found out that one of the world’s hardest via ferrata’s has been desecrated by the Americans on Cerro Torre.  This route, put up by one of Italy’s most hard working climbers and DIY enthusiasts, was cutting edge at the time, employing the most expensive climbing/quarrying equipment known to man, the aim to produce a safe...

Below the eiger

23 January 2012

: Below the eiger

Told this morning that we’d not make it to the eiger due to a metre of snow. These words came from the ticket salesman - so what does he know!  Anyway he was right that there was a metre of snow, but not that we wouldn’t make it. And so after a fair slog in thigh deep powder and breakable crux, we’re bivied below the Harlin....

Interlaken around

22 January 2012

Climbing: Interlaken around

Sat in the hostel in Interlaken, having driven over from the UK yesterday.  The weather is incredibly mild, and it was raining when we arrived at 11pm last night.  The forecast is overcast tomorrow, snowing the day after, then steadily getting better the next four days (colder and clear).  The plan is to get the 6.40 train up and...

Exotic Gear

16 January 2012

Gear: Exotic Gear

Hi Andy, I was wondering if I could get your advice about getting hold of cam hooks. I have been doing a bit of research and it doesn’t seem anyone in the uk has them anymore (Joe Brown’s have sold out and are not re-newing their stock). I emailed Moses to see if they knew of anyone who stocked them in the UK and they said you had been...

A Little Prayer

27 November 2011

Opinion: A Little Prayer

Had a tough few weeks on the road, pushing my body a bit too hard at times, with late nights and early mornings, and a few thousand miles traveled on bus, plane and car.  Having done a talk almost every night for a week, including some 5am starts, my body had started to crumble, with a sore throat and general ‘ME’ style fatigue...

Ban the Bowline!

24 November 2011

Climbing: Ban the Bowline!

There’s been a lot written recently about how we may see the banning of the bowline from UK climbing walls (many walls already have a bowline ban internationally). This has been prompted by the death of a climber due to the apparent failure of his bowline, a failure that to me doesn’t sound that uncommon (user error). I’ve never...

My gayest fan

22 November 2011

Opinion: My gayest fan

Had someone buy a book the other day who asked for me to write “To my gayest fan” in the front, which may seem a bit odd, but is really pretty normal compared to some of the odd requests I get (“Too Hatstand”).  I love signing people’s books (makes me feel very much like a real writer), although I prefer people...

One Star Reviews

15 November 2011

Opinion: One Star Reviews

A few weeks ago a friend of mine failed to ski to the South Pole.  His aim was to set a new record, but he didn’t even make it beyond the Canadian coast due to poor weather.  It was a costly failure when you consider that a trip up north can set you back by ninety grand; not to mention a year’s training and preparation; his...

Whose Story is it anyway?

02 November 2011

Book: Whose Story is it anyway?

I was being interviewed the other day by Nail Grimes when he asked me a question, the type of question you laugh off, but which sticks into like a arrow and stays there.  First he told me he’d asked many of my old climbing partners, most of who are now Alpine guides, if they’d read my first book Psychovertical, to which...

Binman fitness

20 October 2011

Training: Binman fitness

hi andy just would like your advice on the best way to get fit for winter climbing this year ,I did loads of running last year up to seven miles twice a week for about seven weeks before the winter took hold.but still struggled up ben nevis moonlight gully as well as others.Being out of work means saving my cash until winter comes so I’m...

Pounding Steel

18 October 2011

Technique : Pounding Steel

Hi Andy.    I hope you dont mind me picking your brain, just say if you do. But I’m wondering where I could practice the art of piton craft within the uk.  Ive got a bunch of copper heads I’m keen on trying.  I’ve been speaking to others and all I get told is to go to some worthless crag somewhere, but no one...

Between the cracks

14 October 2011

Book: Between the cracks

It was the official launch of Cold Wars last night (I know it’s been in the shops for two weeks), which meant I had to do what I hate most: standing up and reading in public. I’ve always hated having to stand up and read in front of other people, especially something I’ve written myself, as may read well in the head, often makes...