blog

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


Windows and bricks image Dark-Half  | Jun 13, 10

Windows and bricks

Over the past few months, while writing Cold Wars - as well as writing pieces for Patagonia and Alpinist - I feel I’ve learnt a great deal about lazy writing.  What I mean by this is that very often you take the path of least resistance with your words, generally using clichés as they are a good short hand to describe what you mean, and not just your standard clichés, but clichéd sentences and paragraphs; the same old thing you find everywhere. It’s not surprising, as this is the type of stuff that...

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ROPE SOLOING 101 PART 3 image Technique   | Jun 10, 10

ROPE SOLOING 101 PART 3

WARNING:  This blog is not meant as instructional text, and is simply a description of how I rope solo.  Rope soloing is highly dangerous and demands a great deal of experience and good judgment and in many ways is more dangerous than free soloing, due to an increased reliance on ‘systems’.  Anyone wishing to rope solo should already have an extensive knowledge of all the systems and equipment needed, as well as a sound knowledge of themselves, their limits, and the reality of making a mistake. Bottom line: Don’t rope solo.A rope solo - step...

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ROPE SOLOING 101 Part 1 image Technique   | May 19, 10

ROPE SOLOING 101 Part 1

WARNING: This blog is not meant as instructional text, and is simply a description of how I rope solo. Rope soloing is highly dangerous and demands a great deal of experience and good judgment and in many ways is more dangerous than free soloing, due to an increased reliance on ‘systems’. Anyone wishing to rope solo should already have extensive knowledge of all the systems and equipment needed, as well as a sound knowledge of themselves, their limits, and the reality of making a mistake. 

Bottom line: Don’t rope solo.What is rope soloing? Free soloing is the truest...

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The old switcheroo image Technique   | May 05, 10

The old switcheroo

One of the comments from my blog about climbing as a three asked the following question: I seem to climb multi-pitch trad as three quite a bit.  The one lead/two follow at the same time method works pretty well.  My question is, is there an efficient way to switch leads in this case?  Is untying and retying the best way?One of the fasted, and smoothest ways to run a 3 person team; so as to make swap over fast, and keep your ropes tidy, is - when both seconds arrive - for the new leader to take both the...

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Climbing in a three image Technique   | Apr 22, 10

Climbing in a three

Historically the Western default number in a climbing team is generally two, a number that allows swift and belayed movement, with group gear (stoves, food, tent) being dived, as well as the number of pitches led.  As with all climbing dogma, it’s worth looking at why this is, and if it’s a sound way of doing things, after all in places like Russia, teams on hard big routes tend to number 4.Most climbers begin on outcrops (or in climbing walls), where the optimum number is always two, allowing the most climbing to be done with the least...

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Jetboil mods image Gear  | Apr 01, 10

Jetboil mods

Although a few stoves have come along and looked as if they were going to topple it from the top spot spot (MSR & Edelrid), as yet no one has yet been able to topple the Jetboil from it’s spot as the number one wall stove for climbers.When I say ‘wall stove’, I do so in order to differentiate it from a ‘mountain stove’, as a mountain stove is different beast, designed to work as the backbone of any trip, cooking everything from boil only food (heating water), to Michelin star quality feasts (frying, boiling and even working...

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Bothy or Bivy bag image Gear  | Mar 27, 10

Bothy or Bivy bag

Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you about something you’ve probably answered a thousand times already but Im looking to get a lightweight bivy for alpine climbs in Colorado. I’ve looked through most if not all your reviews on bothys and bivys but I’m still just so confused.My main question is how well would a bothy work for two climbers for planned and un-planned bivys as opposed to the bivy bags below? I am concerned that the bothy bag would not allow two climbers to lie down comfortably. I’m still not completely sold on...

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Winter advice image Technique   | Feb 26, 10

Winter advice

Hi JamesIt always seems odd to be giving safety advice, when most people probably assume I’m a very unsafe climber (someone once said that they would never climb with me after seeing me climbing in the film Suffering Andy, although maybe that was more today with me driving and eating pizza at the same time?).Anyway, I guess in such situations you have to imagine a negative outcome for a climb that begins with failure, steps up to benightment, rescue, injury and finally death; all of which are possible, in fact, if you’re very unlucky you may...

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Petzl AZTAREX image Gear  | Feb 23, 10

Petzl AZTAREX

I must admit that I’ve never been a real fan of the Petzl AZTAR, finding them a bit old fashioned, which means you can’t use them leashless, a major drawback for any tool.  Instead, I was a big-time Quark user, finding that although they look top end, they worked well on all types of climbing (plus they were leashless).  But then, over the last few years, I’ve started using my Nomics more and more, even though they have the major drawback of having no adze (missed for jamming in cracks, and digging ledges) or hammer....

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