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Andy Kirkpatrick

Avoiding the Deck image

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...

Holding On image
Technique Safety

Holding On

A friend of mine recently got dropped at the wall, one of those falls were you go too far, the clip at your feet suddenly five clips above.  Luckily being dropped did not translate as hitting the deck, but in any fall the difference is no more than fractions of a second.  The reason for the extra height was ‘I didn’t think you would...

The Skinny image

The Skinny

The growth of lightweight kit has been incredible since I started climbing, and I’d not be surprised if a normal rack and rope was now fifty percent of what it was ‘back in the day’.  This translates to a much reduced weight on your body, from fingers that grip, to knees that carry.  Such gear is also more functional, better...

Pay Grade image

Pay Grade

The other day I was climbing with a friend I’d never climbed with before.  We’d climbed a couple of routes, moving up the grades and warming up - something that gets more and more important as your body gets older (I think as you get older you get more of a feel for when you’re going to do yourself some damage).  Anyway we came to a...

Over and Under Cam image
hardware Rack

Over and Under Cam

Two of the worst things a novice leader can do involves the placing of their cams, a device that’s God’s gift to a competent leader, but seemingly as scary as Voodoo to many beginners. Many make a lot of mistakes in placing and cleaning of cams, mistakes based on both their distrust of this adjustable mechanical nut, but also a lack of...

Egg Basket image
Technique Belays

Egg Basket

I often say that one of the most important character traits a climber needs for long safe life is paranoia.  Now blind paranoia, where all your see are traps and danger everywhere is no good, as the paranoia needed has to be focused, even switched on and off (especially on bold routes, where they are no options but the risky ones).  For...

Keeping it clean image

Keeping it clean

If you were to judge me by the state of the boot of my hire car (I’m living out of my car for a month) then you would judge me as being a chaotic mess - and I am.  Very often it’s only when I step off the ground that the chaos tightens up, that I get my shit together.  Big wall, alpine or multi pitch climbing is no place for chaos,...

Swallow the Fear image

Swallow the Fear

I get a lot of people asking me about fear, how to overcome it, how to not let it ruin your life (it ruins most things).  I’m never really sure what to say.  It’s probably like any emotion, the more you experience it, the more you recognise it - know it’s coming - know what it feels like. I know someone who used to be sick a lot,...

Stone Hitch image
Technique knots

Stone Hitch

If there is one thing I dead good at it’s descents, having rapped off more routes than almost anyone else I know, in fact you could say I’m an expert in going down. There are lots of tricks and tips for safe descents, many here on this site, but I thought I’d share one that although looking like a ‘trick’ technique (i.e. good for showing...

physical humility image

physical humility

For many people, getting injured early on in any intensely physical sport is pretty easy, especially in climbing.  The same applies to sports like running and cycling, but the usual arc is that you start off a novice, you get better, you get much better, then you get injured (finger, elbow, shoulder injuries).  You’re forced to back...

Rope Wrangler image
Technique knots

Rope Wrangler

Ropes are both a blessing and a curse - they keep your ass safe, keep you connected and allow you to get down in one piece (if you get to the top, or only half way).  They can also be a pain in the ass, getting tangled, caught, hung up, snagged and always in the worst moments possible. Good rope management is therefore important - no - not...

Locking Munter image
Technique knots

Locking Munter

There are only a few knots any novice climber really needs to know, these being the figure eight, overhand knot, clove hitch and bowline.  I would add one more to this, even though it’s not a knot that many people use unless it’s an emergency - the Munter or Italian hitch. All climbers should know how to tie a Munter hitch and how it...

Critical Thinking image

Critical Thinking

I started writing these cragmanship pieces due to climbing with a couple of mates who’d only been leading for a year, but were super keen to learn, classic rock sponges!  Climbing with them I began noticing all those little things you do when you’ve been climbing most of your life, as well as the things you don’t do anymore. One day I...

Black Dog Insurance image
Technique Safety

Black Dog Insurance

I often see climbers running it out on easy routes, virtually soloing a climb, only putting in one or two pieces.  When they get down I often ask them why thy did that, and often the answer is “it was easy”.  I often wonder if these climbers do this because they feel that if they’re climbing with a better climber, then that climber...

Sweet Spot image

Sweet Spot

One breakthrough climbers make when they begin climbing bolted routes (indoors and out) is to lose their natural fear of falling.  A fear of falling blocks the brains ability to focus 100% on the positive act of climbing, and instead get’s bogged down with the negative of falling, and so the greater the fear the greater the chances of...

Shallow Cams image

Shallow Cams

No, shallow cams are not cams that look at themselves in the mirror, but cams placed in cracks that will not accept the full width of the cam.  The narrowness and shallow depth of the crack mean that 25% of the cam will not fit, or even 50%, which to an untrained eye may result in either a cam being seen as being unplaceable, or placed in a...

Flow image


Have you ever done a route on which you struggled like a bastard, arms red lining, veins bulging, heart sounding as if Ginger Backer was doing a drum solo inside - one of those routes where you get to the top you swear you’ll never climb again?  But you do, and somehow, beyond you better judgement, you find yourself back below that very same...

Nut Tool Rules image
hardware Rack

Nut Tool Rules

If your harness was running some kind of hardware caste system you’d have flashy cams at the top, followed by nuts (micro’s coming before the less sophisticated chunky nuts), then the quick-draws, the foot soldiers of their betters.  At the very bottom of the list would be your humble nut tool, the last thing you put on your harness, the...

Rope Loop Belaying? image
Technique Safety

Rope Loop Belaying?

First things first.  I never belay from my rope loop, and as a consequence I’m always told off by new climbers who have been taught how to climb the ‘proper way’ by qualified instructors.  I’ve got no qualifications and I’m always told that I’m doing it wrong, and that I’d be screwed if I ever had to rescue anyone - to which...

Stepping Stones image

Stepping Stones

Have you ever crossed a river by a path of stepping stones?  Such bridges range from those man made, huge blocks - rounded by a trillion gallons of water, and those cast down by nature, a random path of boulders and stones - all a bridge across rivers big and small. Now on a man made line of stepping stones the crossing is easy, you step from...

K.I.S.S Belays image
Technique Belays

K.I.S.S Belays

One place were climbers often waste a huge amount of time is in creating a solid belay, which on a multi pitch climb slows everything down, and on single pitch routes results in less climbing. The reason for the slow building of a belay most usually comes down to a lack of confidence in yourself, experience, your gear, or both, but all must be...

Committed image
Technique Footwork


If I was asked to give a novice climber one piece of advice about technique, something that would boost their climbing by one simple mantra, it would be this: “A committed foot never slips”   I’m not sure who told me this, but so far, as long as the foot is orientated correctly to the hold (some footholds only work if the force is...

Nuts that stay put image

Nuts that stay put

I climb with a lot of novice climbers, and teach a lot of climbers how to lead and one of the most important skills in staying safe at the sharp end is getting your nuts to stay put. It’s very common when you first start climbing to have your nuts tinkle out below you as you move up.  We even find it funny, sort of like a rite of passage,...

The Rear Gear loop image

The Rear Gear loop

For many years I’ve had a bit of a thing about the rear gear loop on other people’s harness’s, well not so much the loop, but what people clip into it.  Although perhaps I’m being paranoid and a little over the top, if I had my way no harness would have a loop at the back or we’d just snip them off, leaving just free space for a...

How many Quick-draws? image

How many Quick-draws?

When you’re racking up for a route the number of quick-draws you take tends to confuse many, finding that they often have too many, or too few.  Quick-draws are vital for avoiding rope drag on long routes, and for reducing the risk of protection shifting or being pulled out - so getting the correct number, as well as the right selection, is...

Snap Gates image

Snap Gates

Also known as carabiners, krabs, snap-links, plain-gates or biners, these non locking carabiners are the glue that sticks everything together on a climb, with most climbers carrying forty or more clipped to their harness while leading.  Non locking carabiners are used in any application where weight, speed and handling are more important than...