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05 March 2017

gift of a memory

Memories can be gift that keeps on giving

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 was working with a young asian guy that morning, both of us charity firemen, send off to work in...

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...


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...


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...