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

Petzl Micro Traxion image Gear  | Jun 25, 14

Petzl Micro Traxion

I’m currently writing the hauling section of my nerdy tech book Me, Myself and I (big wall solo manual),  and so have been thinking a lot about hauling pulleys, systems etc.  One thing that I’ve realised is that I’ve damaged (bent, twisted, knacked the bearings) most of the heavy-duty pulleys I’ve used on walls (Rock Exotica Wall Hauler, Petzl Mini and Pro Traxion).  In all cases I think this was due to a mixture of overloading the pulleys and using them in a manner they were not designed or tested for (hauling in...

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Mountain Quilt image Q&A  | Jun 24, 14

Mountain Quilt

I’ve been using blankets for a number of years both for climbing and kayaking, finding them much easier to use than a mummy sleeping bag.  I guess this all started while using sleeping bags on walls in winter conditions, as getting inside with all your clothes on, water and pee bottle, gas canister, Inner boots, camera etc - while still tied in, can be a nightmare - plus there’s zero chance of zipping up the bag.  In order to get over this, I just started to pull the sleeping bag over me like a blanket, leaving...

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Cobwebs image Dark-Half  | Jun 03, 14


Maybe it’s just a sign of getting old, but each time I come back to Yosemite I get the feeling that I should make this one my last. The place haunts me when I’m away, and it haunts me when I’m here - I guess it just haunts me.I’m here for three weeks, sort of a holiday after months of pretty intensive work or more intensive ‘life changing stuff’, with no fixed plans apart from climbing the Nose with some mates next week.  I’ve done no climbing and no training, not even a...

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Alpine Scrounging image Q&A  | May 18, 14

Alpine Scrounging

Hi JonGetting on a Conville course is a great idea when starting out, as for getting hold of gear when you’re starting out can seem tough, but with a little boldness it’s not so hard!  The real cost of gear has fallen a lot of the years, and so the amount of gear climbers buy has increased, as well as the gear they no longer need.  Add innovation to this, with people replacing, updating and upgrading their boots, crampons, axes etc - well most climbers end up with a great deal of old and redundant...

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The Monkey’s Call image Dark-Half  | Apr 30, 14

The Monkey’s Call

When Steve Bate soloed El Cap last june, each morning, and each evening, I would stand at El Cap bridge and do a single monkey call.  At the golden hour, this simple deep chesty ‘urgh’ would carry all the way to the wall, to Steve, then bounced back again, ricocheting around the walls above the meadow - a primeval echo.  Each time I did my call there would invariably be a tourist nearby (or a touron as they are generally known by cheeky climbers), my animal yell making them jump and, for a second no doubt, making them...

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The Choice image Dark-Half  | Apr 17, 14

The Choice

The intellect of man is forced to chooseperfection of the life, or of the work,And if it take the second must refuseA heavenly mansion, raging in the dark.When all that story’s finished, what’s the news?In luck or out the toil has left its mark:That old perplexity an empty purse,Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse. —William Butler Yeats 

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The Lesson image Dark-Half  | Apr 08, 14

The Lesson

Although I try not to - recently I have been ranting (I do apologise) - to others, at the world and at myself. When we reached the top of Moonlight Buttress a few weeks ago, someone asked Alex Jones what climbing a big wall was like.  “A big wall asks everything of you, takes all your energy, until you have nothing left to give… and then it asks for more, and you find it from somewhere… and then more still”.  As she said this, the other climbers: Paul Tat, Brian Hall, Aid Burgess and Rory Gregory all...

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The Real World image Dark-Half  | Mar 29, 14

The Real World

A freind once told me of a boat trip to Greenland, the boats crewed by a mix of climbers and sailers.  The trip was tough, with big seas and storms, and as soon as the boat docked all the climbers scrambled up and onto dry land.  The sailers where different, they were in no rush to leave.  He told me that he realised, just as they did, that on the water these men where kings, in control of their lives.  On land they were just men, each in their own way failures, failed marriages, failed finances,...

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Ulvetanna: In the Jaws of the Wolf image Climbing  | Mar 02, 14

Ulvetanna: In the Jaws of the Wolf

I was in the climbing doldrums. A trip to the towers of Paine had been canceled in the autumn, and there was no sign of enough work to fund any future adventures, when one evening an email popped up on my phone: Andy. I think I have a big project for you. Queen Maud Land. Departure 15 Dec, need you, all costs on me, tv-series, 2 months. Multisport adventure with climb and base and first ascents.Are you in?The mail was from the legendary Norwegian all-rounder Aleks Gamme (pro sky diver, Antarctic solo skier, Everest climber, etc.), who I’d climbed...

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Winter Peg Question image Q&A  | Dec 05, 13

Winter Peg Question

HiA few years ago my mate Robert Steiner (German climbing hard man) told me that Russian Alpine/Winter climber had all but given up carrying any peg but their own beak style pegs, and that this style of peg did it all.  At the time I was pretty sceptical, but since then I’ve slimmed down my peg rack for walls, alpine routes and winter climbing, until now it only contains beaks (A mix of size 1,2 and 3 Moses Tomahawks).  I saw the picture below by Kristoffer on Supertopo this week, about a one day solo of the...

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