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

Trackstars with attitude image Gear  | Jan 22, 10

Trackstars with attitude

It took a long time for the rest of the world to cotton on - or maybe that should be ‘not cotton on’ - to stretch woven trousers, and for many years Mammut cornered the market in super-tough mountain pants made from shoeller fabrics; a market that at the time no one outside of the continent was really that interested in.  What was not in their favour was a euro colour pallet and a high price tag, which seemed astronomical when in the UK most climbers were wearing the bargain basement Ron Hill Trackstars (for those who don’t...

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Aiding across roofs image Technique   | Jan 20, 10

Aiding across roofs

Hi Andy just wondering whether you would consider writing a short piece for your website about the technique for aid climbing on a roof or big overhang. We managed to completely fail up at Thor’s Cave yesterday (although admittedly the hangovers, ice, mud and fog may have had something to do with it). It doesn’t seem to be a technique mentioned much on the web. Our main difficulty was extending far enough to reach the next piece and then transferring from one piece to the other. Any advice on this would be greatChrisAiding on a roof...

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The School: No4 Buttress, Coire An Lochain image Climbing  | Jan 15, 10

The School: No4 Buttress, Coire An Lochain

Lochain is a honey pot for aspiring Scottish mixed climbers, and although detractors will point out that it’s nothing but a roadside crag, and tame in comparison to many other full value venues, as a testing ground or lab for mixed climbing there is probably nowhere better.  In my mind, if Coire an Sneachda is the Stanage of UK winter climbing, then Lochain is its Curber; offering steeper and tougher climbs.It’s here on this relatively small buttress’ that the best climbers of the day learnt their trade and exported to bigger routes and bigger mountains; both...

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Hagan Nanook appraoch skis image Gear  | Jan 11, 10

Hagan Nanook appraoch skis

I can remember about ten years ago, when Salamon Snowblades first appeared on the market, telling the UK rep Pete Rostron how great they would be for climbers if only they had a simple heal lift binding.  Every time I saw him I’d tell him the same thing, and every time he laughed, thinking I was joking.  I wasn’t. I’d seen people using tiny skis in the Alps in winter, and had seen how Paul Ramsden had used a tiny pair of woman’s calving skis to great effect in Patagonia, as well as...

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Designing stupid image Gear  | Jan 10, 10

Designing stupid

Many moons ago I was working in a climbing shop.  One day a certain - rather rotund - hardware manufacturer’s sales rep came in with an idea he wanted to run past us.  He explained how the company had been looking into designing a new alpine/winter harness, which was proving taxing, as everyone seemed to buy the BD Bod or DMM Alpine.  But this rep had thought up an idea that he believed to be a winner - one that would have climbers all over the world saying “how did I get through life without...

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Giving up the drink image Dark-Half  | Jan 07, 10

Giving up the drink

What do you think is the best hydrating system for winter  climbing? Carrying some water in a camelback, or relying only on the snow and the melting of it on a stove? And how much water do you have to carry, if you need to carry and also you want to go light? Thank you.I’m one of those lucky people who can go all day without drinking or eating anything - probably because a: I live off my belly timber (aka: fat), and b: because I tend to move pretty slowly (I may be slow, but I can...

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Broken Axes image Gear  | Jan 05, 10

Broken Axes

A friend of mine recently had a very nasty accident when his Petzl Quark snapped.  He was in the process of doing a can opener move, resulting in him spiking himself in the face, breaking his jaw and generally coming off very badly indeed (he’s Scottish and a hardcore winter climber, so his biggest concern was having to stop climbing when there were ‘conditions’, not facial disfigurement).  When I heard the news I was a bit aghast, and contacted Petzl, after all, axes shouldn’t break like that.  But then I thought about it.  His axes were...

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Gut instinct - 5 ideas on how to avoid an avalanche image Technique   | Jan 02, 10

Gut instinct - 5 ideas on how to avoid an avalanche

Over the last few years, I’ve got more and more into sea kayaking, both because my partner refuses to walk, and because it’s the nearest thing to having a full-on expedition in your back garden (1 hour in a sea kayak is equivalent to 1 day on an expedition).One thing you learn very quickly is that the sea always wins.  No matter how strong you think you are; go out in a big gnarly sea and you’re going to come a cropper.  Like climbing, you can run headfirst into trouble and just hope that experience, bravado,...

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Never had it so good - Ice screws image Gear  | Dec 30, 09

Never had it so good - Ice screws

Its a good question, and although a high-quality screw looks very much like a high-quality screw from ten years ago there’s been a subtle change in the design of the top-end models that have had a big effect on performance (I can hear all those climbers with full racks of old screws groaning at the thought that there may be better screws out there).This improvement - often only subtle -  has come about due to the leapfrogging upgrades by Grivel, BD, DMM and Petzl, with each trying to outdo the competition, showing the importance of not having...

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Fact 14 image Dark-Half  | Dec 27, 09

Fact 14

An 11-year-old’s guide to avalanches: demonstrated via a Factory Records sleeveOver Xmas, my daughter Ella asked me what caused an avalanche, probably because she was worrying that there may be one on her street (it is quite a steep Sheffield street, but all the cars, wheelie bins and dog turds mean it’s pretty safe from avalanches really).  It’s a good question for an 11 year to ask, but the science behind what causes an avalanche is pretty dry and hard to fathom; well I found it hard to understand when I started climbing (I read many...

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