blog

An eclectic mix of writing, covering climbing equipment, technique, life & death (and all the stuff inbetween).


Cool image Dark-Half  | Jun 16, 16

Cool

I gave a talk a few months ago to a school in East Yorkshire.  It was a small country school, not used to climbers coming to speak to them, the kids excited that my face had been on TV once or twice.  They were doing a project on Antarctica and had built an amazing full-sized igloo out of plastic bottles, and sat and listened as I told them about my adventures.  They were a great school, the kids even noticing my trick line about not seeing any polar bears down south.  On leaving one of the...

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‘Helter-skelter image Dark-Half  | Jun 15, 16

‘Helter-skelter

One cold desert night in 1969 Charles Manson gathered his ‘family’ around a large fire on their ranch commune in Death Valley and shared a revelation.  He had been listening to the Beatles White album non-stop for weeks and informed them that the album was the final sign that a race war was about to break out, the truth coded into every song by these ‘four horsemen of the apocalypse, the message he himself had been preaching for years.  Manson, a violent psychopathic criminal, who had been in and out of prison all his life, told his followers they...

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Race image Literature   | Jun 14, 16

Race

Reading about the author Annie Proulx this morning has got me into a good writing mood, but no blogs today I’m afraid, just more hard graft on the Bear Pit (I’m sat in Bray’s Campo de Fiori cafe typing this).  But I thought I would give something today, a chapter (still a draft) from the book.  Feedback welcome!The same routine: up in the dark, his dad waking him with a hard knock, then down to sweet tea and a small bowl of porridge by the fire in the kitchen.  The radio on, they...

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Ken Wilson image Dark-Half  | Jun 13, 16

Ken Wilson

I seem to write quite a few obituaries on this site, or blogs spurred on by the death of people I once knew.  One thing I think important when writing such pieces is to respect the truth of someone’s life, to not get all misty-eyed and emotional, to tell their story as you knew it, the good and the bad.  What’s the point of writing it any other way, a life more nuanced than the verse inside a card of condolence.  It’s how I’d want it written about me, and I think in...

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 Innocent as a hotdog image Dark-Half  | Jun 12, 16

Innocent as a hotdog

Facebook riles me, and I guess we’re all the same: jerked by political and social stuff, things that make me feel angry, things that make me feel sad, things that make me feel despair.  Maybe that’s why most of are addicted to it, social media like some weird David Cronenberg contraption that feeds our need to feel something, like we need to jack up on it a hundred times a day (boredom is in short supply in the 21st century, the dull pain of it the total lack of stimulus and hence feeling).It’s not surprising...

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Avoiding the Deck image  | Jun 09, 16

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 one small fall for every 50 routes climbed, one big fall (5 to 10 metres) in every 100, the reason being trad routes tend not to be so fall off able as sport climbs (less steep, more ledgy, and...

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Mera Peak Footwear Question image Q&A  | May 31, 16

Mera Peak Footwear Question

HiFirst off although some people may scoff at using very warm boots on Mera (the Spantik and G1 would be classed as high altitude boots, or for very cold climbing), pointing out the mountains been climbed in single layer leather winter boots, it’s not as daft as it seems.  People have been using very lightweight leather boots on all sorts of climbs, even on 8000-metre peaks, but then people have also summited Everest in almost nothing but their underwear.  What you can get away with one day, using speed and experience, you may not get away...

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Putting out the Bins image Dark-Half  | May 30, 16

Putting out the Bins

The bin men come on Wednesday.  We have two bins: yellow and red: recycled and un-recycled.  This being Ireland I expect they go in the same hole in the ground - but it’s the thought isn’t it - and so are taken alternately, a week apart, so as not to arise suspicion by those hassled by all that sorting and washing of tins and plastic. I’ve never been good at bin days, well not in the past, my bins never forming up in a wiggly parade with my neighbour’s, me away too much...

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What cams? image Q&A  | May 26, 16

What cams?

I probably take a slightly different approach to cams than most UK climbers, probably due to spending many years climbing the US, and also due to having done a lot of aid climbing. Someone once told me that what Mick Fowler was good at was finding protection and that always stuck with me, and so I kind of make that a priority. For me, a good climber is not one who runs it out, but who can sew up a route without getting bogged down in rope drag.Most UK climbers have a full set of cams from little finger...

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Prusic Loop as pro? image Climbing Gear Technique   | May 25, 16

Prusic Loop as pro?

I was asked last night down at the wall about the strength of prusik loops, a topic that seems to crop up from time to time.  The climber had used his prusik as an extender after running out of quickdraws.First off when it comes to cord of any diameter it’s worth having a basic formula for working out its strength.  If it’s perlon (normal accessory cord), the best method is to work out its load capacity (or safe working load), as it’s always a static cord (no stretch), and tends to be used as...

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