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26 July 2019

The Russian Ice Hammock

What It Is And How To Build One

I posted a photo last week on Instagram, of Vanessa, sat inside a tent on the North-East face of the Droites. In the photo, the tent appears to be held in check on an impossible pitch, by nothing but a flimsy piece of green nylon. What’s holding the tent in place is a very obscure and specialist piece of kit called an ice hammock. Whenever I share this picture I always get questions, such as, “did you steal this idea from Nick Bullock?”,...

The Skinny Skinny

22 July 2019

Gear: The Skinny Skinny

Ever since the once specialised Beal Joker 9.1 mm hit the market well over a decade ago, the diameter of the default single rope has crept down and down, making what was once cutting edge - ropes for people who don’t buy their own ropes - now pedestrian, the kind of thing you’d buy your kids from Decathlon. Twenty years ago I’d say the...

Alan

20 July 2019

portraits: Alan

It always seemed like a struggle to come up with words to describe Alan Mullin - one of climbing’s greatest disruptors - mainly because he is dead, hanging himself in a jail cell in Scotland in 2007, and because many of the words I could use were never very kind, which is not odd really, as people who hang themselves in jail cells, more often...

The Practical Climbing Camera

18 July 2019

Gear: The Practical 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...

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...