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

Abseil Tat image Technique   | Jul 09, 13

Abseil Tat

Hi DomenI think that 5mm cord is fine for abseils, even when heavily loaded as its strength is 5.5 kN when unknotted, and a little less when tied with an overhand knot (same as Euro Death Knot), but if you want to feel super safe, then 6mm may be best (see this vid of a retreat of the Eiger using 6mm threads due to loading).  I prefer cord over skinny tape, as flat tape becomes very weak under even the slightest of abrasion, and is much less cut-resistant than cord (it also rips when loaded, which in my experience...

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Alone with Stalin image Dark-Half  | Jun 17, 13

Alone with Stalin

The last few weeks have been some of the hardest of my life, and for once, climbing has little to do with it (warning this is one of those self-obsessed blog posts that’s all about me, but which I somehow find therapeutic in writing).Being here with Steve - who wants to solo Zodiac, even though he only has 10% normal eyesight - is very odd, as I find I’m forced to be a chaperone, coach, driver, buddy, bastard - pushing and pulling - all rolled into one.  Usually, when I come to Yosemite it’s to do...

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Commitment image Dark-Half  | Jun 09, 13


Been quite an up and down week here in the valley.  We arrived as just as they lifted a dead British climber from El Cap, and people are quite down due to another fatality on el Cap the week before (I’ve never seen El Cap so quite). We spent a few days fixing ropes on Tribal Rite, trying to dodge the sun, but I hadn’t heard from Karen for a few days and so texted her ‘Are you alive? XA’ only to get a message back:‘Don’t panic but I’m in Carlile hospital… got hit...

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Corner Sofa image Dark-Half  | Jun 01, 13

Corner Sofa

Sat in Toronto airport with my mate Steve Bates, heading off - yet again - to Yosemite and more adventures.  We’re going for nearly four weeks and have lots of plans, but mainly trying not so hard routes but as fast as we can, the aim to do 4 El Cap walls while we’re here.  Steve’s also got his sites on soloing Zodiac, and I might solo it at the same time for some moral support (which would mean I’d have climbed the route 6 times - which may seem a lot, but I’ve climbed...

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Staying Alive on the Wall image Q&A  | Apr 30, 13

Staying Alive on the Wall

Hi JaneAs you well know, on a wall you’re probably just about as exposed as a human being can be, and in a storm, you’re just as much in the shit as someone who’s fallen overboard, and the ship has sailed away.  Strangely when it’s cold, and below freezing, things get much easier, for example, 14 days on the Troll at -20 was way easier than 10 days on the troll at +5.  Clothing can deal with wind and sun, but water is the killer.  Someone floating even in a warm sea will die of...

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S.B.S (sweaty back syndrome) image Q&A  | Apr 23, 13

S.B.S (sweaty back syndrome)

Hi SteveYou can buy vapuor barrier shirts from companies like 40 Below or RBH Designs that will stop sweat moving through your layers (the RBH vest is all VP), but these are designed more for extreme conditions then most people would need. First off people who tell me that ‘they sweat like a pig’ tend to also be poor at understanding how to use their insulation properly, and have poor skills in dressing (I’m not saying you’re in this category). The problem often stems from too many layers and the wrong type of clothing.  I’ve...

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Antidote to Grimness image Gear  | Apr 14, 13

Antidote to Grimness

The art of doing things that look grim in photos is to do them in such as way as to reduce the grimness to a level that they’re actually secretly quite comfortable (although you’d never want anyone to know that).  This may seem like a con, as knowing your mountain heroes were in fact as gnarly as a man sat by the fire in their slippers, but when you’re in any kind of life threatening environment (cold, wet, windy) then anything less will see you in serious trouble (a normal body temperature of 34.4–37.8 °C only needs to...

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Connecting your daisy chain to your harness image Q&A  | Mar 25, 13

Connecting your daisy chain to your harness

Hi SteveIn Big Walls by John Middendorf there is a diagram on a harness showing how to attach a daisy chain, with the daisy larks footed through the waist and leg loops.  For this reason I think a lot of people attach there daises this way, believing it’s ‘the way’.  The problem is that when you attach them this way your waist and legs are generally always under tension, which feels like you’re hanging in your harness all the time, even when you’re belaying or sleeping - basically it’s a crap system. ...

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Route: Suser gjennom Harryland (VI A3 5.10b, 18 pitches, Halvor Hagen-Kyrre Ostbo, 1996)4th Ascent and 1st technical winter Ascent (15th Jan - 29th)  (Norwegians Sigurd Backe, Rolf Bae, Sigurd Felde and Trym A. Saland made the first quasi-winter and third overall ascent, but failed to finish with the technical winter date of 21th March) Climbers: Andy Kirkpatrick (UK), Tormod Granheim (No) and Aleksander Gamme (No).Days spent climbing and descending the wall: 14Conditions: Super calm but cold (down to minus 20), with some wind and snow on last 2 days of climb.Route description: Technical and steep, mostly safe, but with most...

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Ran Away image Dark-Half  | Dec 21, 12

Ran Away

I don’t know if you spotted Ran Fiennes latest Antarctic adventure: to travel to the South Pole in winter, a place that gets colder in the media the closer to departure, and very windy (ditto - with 200mph bandied around).Ran’s six million pound expedition plans to cross the continent in its coldest season, tagging the pole on the way, and should be totally self-sufficient; travelling down by boat, which will pick them on the other side.All this might sound nuts, but really it’s nothing but an extreme caravanning holiday, the team being housed in several...

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