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12 June 2017

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 traffic so this is obviously a hot topic amongst climbers, both real and armchair, up there with...

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...