Skip to main content
Latest Post

16 February 2018

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 time, first as a strong local climber, then as one of the owners of Vertebrate graphics, his fanzine...

Smile

09 February 2018

Opinion: Smile

Every generation has something that can crack the childish reality a young mind - not all young minds - but only minds strong enough to be changed; ready to change. The age of modern mass media, starts with the translation of the Bible, from Latin into the native tongue, an event that sets the modern world of easily accessible knowledge into...

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...