blog

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


Random Notes for the Antarctic traveller image Climbing  | Oct 12, 15

Random Notes for the Antarctic traveller

I joked the other day, on seeing a tweet from an all-woman team planning on crossing Antarctica (1700km, 75 days, 6 British Army women, that they’d need to make some changes in order to improve their chances of success.  Now before people jump down my throat and say I’m being sexist I need to point out that being a woman isn’t the problem, no, the problem is they’re all in the British Army.  This may sound like an unfair or illogical argument, after all, the British army is one of the great fighting forces in the...

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Don’t go back to sleep image Dark-Half  | Oct 07, 15

Don’t go back to sleep

A friend of mine, the incredible adventurer Jon Turk, once told me a story that has long stuck in my head.  He was kayaking somewhere in the Pacific ocean (Jon had kayaked from Japan to Alaska, and won Nat Geo adventurer of the year for his Ellesmere circumnavigation), between some islands, eating eggs as he paddled over the swell, as he had for weeks and weeks.  The eggs were scavenged from nests as they hopped islands, but on this day he found a rotten one, and so tossed it into the dark sea.  The second the egg...

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The Boatman of Kinsale image Dark-Half  | Oct 05, 15

The Boatman of Kinsale

I visited the tiny Irish village of Kinsale yesterday, a sunny autumnal day,  one which feels as if it could be the last hurrah before the darkening Atlantic folds in over the land and the winter rains begin.  We walked along the coast path, holding hands, past ruined forts and boat yards,  secret coves and memorial benches, past fisherman working in their boats, hooking in pots of crab for someone else’s dinner.  Down a little cut we snuck, to a private spot, and tried our hand at skinny dipping in the weak sun, hoping the...

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Ben Winston image Dark-Half  | Oct 02, 15

Ben Winston

I saw the picture of Ben on Facebook, bent down with two little kids (talking at their height, not his), face a little older than I remembered – but still open, warm –  framed by brown curly hair that betrayed the soft spring of the man. I wondered if they were his kids, but it was hard to tell; Ben was one of those people who could connect with others, from big to very small. I guess I should have known if he had kids, but Ben was one of those Facebook friends we all have, the ones who pop up...

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Tip of the Spear - Sportiva TC Pro image Gear  | Oct 01, 15

Tip of the Spear - Sportiva TC Pro

I tend to stay away from doing reviews these days, the reason being when you get a free kit or work with manufacturers I always feel people will think I’m biased. But then you use gear that really stands out, and so I thought over the winter I’d write a few gear focused pieces. I’ve been using Sportiva TC Pros for a number of years, buying them over in the US as until recently they weren’t available in the UK.  The TC Pros are probably best known as the boots that Tommy Coldwell and...

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Adventure capitalism image Dark-Half  | Sep 30, 15

Adventure capitalism

I was talking the other day at a big outdoor event, full of speakers talking about their adventures, adventures of all types and sizes, along with filmmakers, manufacturers, photographers, a whole raft of industry formed up around the outdoors.  After giving a short talk about soloing Sea of Dreams, and its history (including a brief image of the late Xavier Bongard with a blow-up doll on his first solo ascent of The Sea), I ended up talking to some guys about the business of making money from what you love.  I said how making a business of what...

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“Stay alive when it all goes to shit” image Q&A  | Sep 29, 15

“Stay alive when it all goes to shit”

I think what you describe is the classic dilemma for anyone who goes into the mountains for a ‘day trip’ - be they alpinists, skiers or crystal hunters - the mountains being a place that can easily confound your plans!As with alpinism, you’re making a judgement based on experience (if you have neither then employ a guide or take up Alpine knitting), on much insurance do I need to take out?  If you take up too much and it ends up creating the event (being so slow you get benighted) you’ll curse yourself, but if you...

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After her image Dark-Half  | Sep 25, 15

After her

“I’m swimming across” she says, with a half giggle (head turned back towards me), emerald eyes reflecting back Tenaya blue, shoulders wood brown from a month of Californian sun, turned back towards the narrow beach, back towards the tourists in their shallows, back towards me – shivering in ice-box cold Tenaya Lake – still only at my knees.“It’s freezing!” I shout sensibly – grown-up-like (kill joy), without a giggle – the distance too cold to bridge for a whisper.She pulls her comedy face, half frowning, half ‘mock’ pity, as a goose-bump wind slips down from Tenaya Peak.“You’ll freeze!...

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Making it up as you go along image Dark-Half  | Sep 24, 15

Making it up as you go along

Was on the stage last night for the first time in over a year, the old familiar stage of fear and doubt, where everything you are is there to see, one mistake ruining it all - not like a video that can be paused or edited or easily delated - but flesh and nerves.  You walk on to applause, the lights in your eyes, an air of anticipation that would be lessened if you were happy to just play it safe, just do a climbing lecture and not an ‘Andy Show’ - but what would be my motivation there?...

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