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

Ella on El Cap image Climbing  | Sep 29, 12

Ella on El Cap

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, which is a shame as there’s been a lot to write about!  (Don’t have time to write about Karen’s sliver medal in the Paralympics).In Yosemite at the moment with my 13 year old daughter Ella, just about to set off to climb El Cap via Tangerine Trip. We’re making a TV program for CBBC (kids arm of the BBC) for a series called ‘My Life’, where kids go through a rite of passage, or overcome some difficult situation. I guess climbing El Cap at 13 is...

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Big Project image  | Aug 12, 12

Big Project

Hi DylanSat in Starbucks and meant to be writing something else, but I’m writing this instead (just had a big coffee - so it may be rambling!!)They say that in sport, training is 80 psychical and 20 mental, but when you perform, it’s the other way round, and it’s the mind, not the body that lets you down.  In climbing, this probably doesn’t quite hold up (I think the mind and body are a bit too slippery to conform to percentages), but I guess it’s probably true of the climb you describe. Let’...

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Sore arms image Q&A  | Jul 31, 12

Sore arms

Hi, Vic (had to double-check your email address to check that name wasn’t a wind-up!).The hook you need to modify is the grappling hook, in-fact I’d go so far as saying the Cliffhanger hook is pretty much redundant these days (it is light, so it still has its place).  I usually carry two pointed Grappling hooks (don’t make them sharp, just narrow at the tip), one cut down shortened grappling hook (good for flat edges), a Flat Moses Logan hook and 2 pointed Leepers.  I also always have a spare of each hook in my...

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Crab 6 image  | Jul 04, 12

Crab 6

Hi JohnThe Crab 6 and crampons of its ilk are really designed for flat icy terrain and are probably most often employed for glacier travel, or for industrial use (people working on flat icy ground).  AS soon as your boots start to bend (imagine walking up a 20-degree slope) you begin to lose contact between the crampons and the ice/snow.  If you’ve got the most flexible ankles in the world, then you may manage, but for most having points on the forefoot is vital for traction.  So unless the mountain you plan to climb has...

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Getting off your shunt image Technique   | Jun 19, 12

Getting off your shunt

HiWhen shunting make sure you always have a belay device, along with a prusik loop (or an ascender if you have one).  The prusik either needs to be 2.5 metres long (a 2.5m loop of 5mm or 6mm perlon joined with a double fisherman’s knot), or a short prusik (1.5m) extended with a sling (60mm or 120mm).  The beauty of a Shunt over an ascender for self lining (the correct term for this type of soloing) is that - unlike a toothed ascender (Croll etc) - it allows you to climb both up and down a rope,...

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The Darkness image Dark-Half  | Jun 18, 12

The Darkness

Just at the final stages of publishing Karen’s second book ‘Boundless’, which carries on from ‘If You Fall’ and should be out in the next few weeks (kindle first, then in book shops).  Boundless covers a little more than a year of adventures, beginning with her crossing of Greenland by sit-ski in 2006,  followed by a circumnavigation of Corsica in a sea kayak (in winter), and finishing with her climbing Zodiac on El Cap.  Anyone who’s seen my talks on Greenland and climbing El Cap with Karen will know it’s quite a story, and much...

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SPEED - CONTROL - SLOW - FAST image Dark-Half  | Jun 12, 12


Just read about the tragic death of another base jumper, the death made all the sadder as he was on holiday with his seven months pregnant girlfriend at the time in Greece.  For some reason the news often picks up on base deaths - of which there are many, but don’t seem to give motorbike, car or cyclist deaths in the same attention.  Base jumping is probably the sport for the new century, media-friendly, high excitement and easy to fit within the confines of a cinema advert or news clip.  It’s so ‘Dude!!!’ who could...

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The sea always wins image Dark-Half  | Jun 08, 12

The sea always wins

I bought a tiny kayak on ebay the other week (Pyranha Inazone 230), the reason being that my trips away have been curtailed a bit by kids, work and Paralympics (AKA life - well apart from the last one).  I only live 15 minutes from Stanage but don’t find rock climbing gives me quite the fix I need, and so I thought I needed a boat (and a tiny one, as I have the storage capacity of a man in solitary).  You see the ocean is only 2 hours away and there is no itch that can not be scratched...

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The Flame image Dark-Half  | Jun 02, 12

The Flame

At the age of forty you begin to feel a bit old.  Not physically or mentally (my body and brain seem in better condition now than when I was twenty) but simply aware of the age you are - something you weren’t before - well maybe when you hit 30 - but then you soon forget and keep on being young. Suddenly, everything is framed through a new understanding of age and time. One day it’s not a problem - the next it is.Now I get why old people don’t like telling people their...

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Thinking fast image Gear  | May 29, 12

Thinking fast

Hi James Sounds like you’ve got the right amount of kit, but with all alpine climbing (and the Dolomites is alpine climbing) the most important thing to have is an understanding of your own speed and competence on the terrain.  It’s this that will negate any need for ‘oh shit’ gear. Once you know how fast you are, and have a handle on the type of terrain your on (this allows you to get a sense of how routes will unfold), you should be able to treat it more like cragging.  Until then you need to...

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