An eclectic mix of writing, covering climbing equipment, technique, life & death (and all the stuff inbetween).
Do you remember your first time?
Advice on your first expedition
Someone asked me a few weeks ago if I had any advice for someone going on their first expedition, which in his case was to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Although it feels like I’ve not been away for a hundred years at the moment, I still have a few thoughts - big and small - that are worth considering.Is it an expedition? I always joke that an expedition is just a holiday you don’t pay for because, in reality, most trips are just that: a holiday no different than heading off to the Canary Islands. Although a...read more⟶
Minimalist adventure rations
When considering food for long term nutrition, on an expedition, for example, it’s vital that you switch from a short term view of what to eat, to a long term view, i.e. what will keep you healthy, fit, alive and well (in both body and mind). One of the best bits of advice I was given was to think “sweet and sour”, as well as “If you don’t want it to eat it here, you won’t want to it there”.When making food lists before a big trip, be very careful about thinking you will eat...read more⟶
Oh Shit Award #5
A unique bit of frostbite
Last year I did a set of illustrations for Charles Sherwood’s book, Seven Climbs: Finding the finest climb on each continent. I’d climbed El Cap twice with Charles (Nose and Zodiac), as well as Moonlight Buttress and Space Shot in Zion, so it was a fun project, sketching up the classic mountains of the world, domains of ice and snow, while sat in Omani coffee shops, the outside temperature 50 degrees C.Charles is from the Mick Fowler school of British understatement, and so Seven climbs is not a book of dark soul searching and near-death epics, but rather...read more⟶
Is there beauty in the practical but ugly?
If you begin to sew your own kit, one thing you’ll soon discover - unless you’re a professional pattern maker - is due to your basic skills, space and machinery, you’ll be forced to make very simple products. This translates into very functional kit that is created in the simplest, most practical way you can (a skill in itself), so no fancy cut, no fancy tech construction (welded or bonded seams), just boxy and function.Another factor is time, and you’ll find, if you want to recreate a factory-like product, make by skilled workers on $3.50 an...read more⟶
The Roman legionnaire was trained to fight using the gladius rudis, a heavy wooden sword, which once mastered, would be replaced by the lighter, and more deadly steel gladius. By training with a much heavier weapon, the fighter would be able to develop for more strength, control and skill - to have more in the tank - once they switch from the training to the killing. In rock climbing the same could be applied to using a single heavyweight rope, such as an 11mm or 10.5mm rope. Such a rope, when compared to a double 8 mm rope system, is a...read more⟶
Anything at All
This image is of Espen Fadnes chilling out during our 14 days on Ulvetanna, Queen Maud land, during the 1st ascent of the West Ridge. We climbed the route capsule-style, fixing up to a big snowfield, where we pitched two tents, pulled up our ropes, and fixed up to the summit. I like this picture as it says something about the reality of doing something really hard, a new route on a peak like Ulvetanna as hard as it gets: hard work, yes, a little suffering, a little danger, but mostly fun, compared to that idea of what that would be,...read more⟶
The current global prison population is around 10.74 million (ignoring the 7.8 billion under house arrest), which is around the same size as Greece or the Czech Republic, or bigger than Wales and Scotland combined. And so, it’s commercially viable to make a phone you can stick up your bum (stick it in a condom, or five, before you do), as well as one that has a plastic body in order to avoid scanners.There are around 130 million skiers in the world, so the same population as Mexico, which is why you have such a large and innovative skiing industry, along...read more⟶
My mate Aldo Kane, being an ex-Royal Marine, and a so a good soldier, always says that: “admin is not a place in China”, which although it makes me laugh, I’m not sure why? Nevertheless, when it comes to trips and expeditions, or even just climbing, admin is no laughing matter.First of all, it’s always good to carry a pencil and some paper in your pack, even on technical climbs. This is best folded away in your mini repair kit, a repair kit designed to repair both a climber’s kit and a climber’s body. Although...read more⟶
Expedition Mat Cover
This is a simple little sewing project for people to work on, as well as a nice introduction to self-made specialist kit. What’s good about this design/concept is that you can easily expand on it, make it heavyweight or super lightweight, add more functionality or less. It can also be made out of any kind of material, cheap or expensive, and on any kind of sewing machine, or could even be hand sewn.Design Concept The basic concept is a lightweight insulated mat cover for your fragile inflatable mattress, the kind of thing you’d take both on...read more⟶
While searching through my photos, looking for abseiling images, it struck me that four Winter trips to Patagonia was where I’d really learnt how to get down of mountains in one piece (often when I had no pieces left once I was down). This image is of Ian Parnell on the way back down from the first winter ascent of the Parkin route on the East Face of Mermoz, showing the rappel anchor (10mm Troll rappel tape), and the back-up anchor (2 cams) that the last person down would clean.We both used abseil lanyards (daisy chains) and Prusik loops,...read more⟶