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14 November 2017

“Bring More Beaks”

I got into a minor scuffle the other day on Facebook over the fact both I an Vanessa had placed some bird beaks on Mescalito last month, probably about ten in total. This was the around the same time that “Piton’s Pete” also was given a hard time on placing some beaks on Zodiac, and so I was given a bit of a slagging, that I should know better, set a better example etc. First off I guess a lot of people don’t know what a ‘bird beak’...

Walk on by

13 November 2017

Climbing: Walk on by

A great climber once told me the story of how the first time he came to Yosemite, full of youthful wall dreaming, he’d sought out wall climbers for knowledge there being no technique books or websites back then. One day he came across one of these granite Gods, this man an artisan of hooks and heads and rivets, his craft one of new routes and...

Unsent

10 November 2017

Climbing: Unsent

I stare at the Facebook comment box, open but empty, from me to you. Have we met or are we strangers — I don’t know? Does it matter? I imagine you in that hospital bed — time passing at the speed of healing - skin and bone —  how anything must be better than nothing, how anything is perhaps all you feel you now have —  one step...

Storms

23 September 2017

Climbing: Storms

Hi Everyone First off sorry for big gap in updates! I’ve been in the US for a month and a half and most of it has been far away from the internet. I got down yesterday from an eleven day ascent of El Cap via New Dawn and the Nose (we ‘failed up’ the Nose after realising we’d run out of food on Tribal Rite). The climb was a test of heavy...

perfect universe in order

31 August 2017

Climbing: perfect universe in order

As I crept through the dark forest that ringed the lake, my flip flop feet weary of sharp sticks and stones, I caught sight of something small and white laying amongst the pine cones. Although only captured in the corner of my eye I knew what it was, a dirty nappy, laying open, like some forest flower, paper white petals streaked dark brown with...

Life at retail

29 August 2017

Climbing: Life at retail

“I’m going to leave a nut” I said, crouched down, tugging at the rotten rap slings jammed beneath a couch sized boulder, “I don’t trust these slings”. “What! We’ve already lost two nuts already” said Vanessa, “I’m sure it’ll be grand, those Italians rapped off it earlier”. I looked again at the anchor, faded, chewed up by...

Cams - Field repairs

07 August 2017

Climbing: Cams - Field repairs

The following is an extract from my up and coming book Higher Education, the most exhaustive big wall climbing book yet written.  On hard, intensive walls, where cams are being placed and removed hundreds of times, as well as being twisted, bent and abused, trigger wires will break. Such problems when they appear on the ground are annoying,...

Take!

12 July 2017

Climbing: Take!

I once heard a scary story about miscommunication from a French guy I was teaching how to climb big walls.  He was climbing on some big sea cliff and was out of sight of his belayer when he found himself off route.  He could see a shiny bolt over to one side, and lower, and so shouted ‘take in’ as he down climbed to the point he...

Bill Gordon

05 July 2017

portraits: Bill Gordon

In the credits of your life, scrolling slow as you breath your last, who would appear there, writ in your misty mind? Star billing would be reserved for the stars, those you loved the most, those that loved you back, thick and thin and all that, that gave life its weight and value and meaning. Next would come the friends — and enemies — each...

10 Things

14 June 2017

Guest Blog: 10 Things

... I wished I knew (before heading up Half Dome RNWF) I had a facebook message this week from a guy called Blair about climbing Half Dome. I get a lot of emails like this, this blog some tinder for stupid/noble adventures like this!  What stuck out was a picture of Blair crying on the summit!  Ace!  So I asked Blair if he could...

knot to question why?

12 June 2017

Climbing: knot to question why?

I saw an old post from 2012 by Outside reappear a few weeks ago on Facebook titled “Bye bye bowline”, reigniting a pretty common debate on the knots safety: whether we should stop teaching it, and looking for replacements.  Looking at my site stats I see that my own article from 2011 titled “Ban the bowline” also gets a lot of...

An Education

07 June 2017

Opinion: An Education

I once met a man who you might call an industrialist.  Some might call him one of the ‘bosses’, maybe even a ‘fat cat’ or part of the ‘elite’ if you saw him driving by.  He had all the credentials to be hated, that petty hate of bitter envy that often comes as a form of pure rage at life’s unfairness. He was a big man, in a...

brother to all climbers

06 June 2017

Climbing: brother to all climbers

Email from me to Alex Honnold dated 14/06/2012 Hi Alex Many moons ago I was asked to pick up an award for you at the Kendal Mountain Film festival for your first film.  I can remember watching it before I got up and thinking that, unlike people like Ueli or Dean - who I guessed would die climbing - I really hoped you made it (Dean and Ueli...

Two into seven billion

22 May 2017

Opinion: Two into seven billion

He lays in the grass, beneath the route, me belaying, Vanessa above, telling me about his thoughts on future children his still fresh marriage might one day bring. Like all young, maybe dad’s, he’s not convinced, looking for ways out not in, all the reasons stacked up like bombs in the bombay of excuses, ready to drop on someone else’s...

Going to the bathroom

16 May 2017

Technique : Going to the bathroom

My big wall book is coming along well, and with 21 days to go it’s already on 154%, which is amazing.  A few people have asked if Higher Education will be just ‘another big wall book’, in that it’ll just cover the same ground as all the others.  Well the idea is to make this book as complete as possible (hence the...

Party Tricks

13 May 2017

Technique : Party Tricks

While writing Higher Education again and again I come up with problems that in the past had needed solving, then written out what I did to solve them.  One example was how to lower out a super heavy set of haul bags mid pitch with the rope running through the hauler.  With bags that weigh about the same as you, and you’re hauling with a...

Petzl Grigri +

12 May 2017

Gear: Petzl Grigri +

I’m not a sport climber, in fact I suffer from a lack of motivation when I find myself at single pitch sports crag, a mix of not being strong enough, and bolts not offering that scratch to my itch.  I do like multi pitch sports routes, or mixed routes with bolts and gear, but I tend to like more meaty fair.  I tell you this as I’m...

Imperfect Brother

10 May 2017

Opinion: Imperfect Brother

I drive up through the Lakes’ winding roads, sunny for a change, traffic shunting along in the usual dribs and drabs of moving. I turn right, up the hill and through the gates of the small house where tomorrow I’ll be married.  People stand around the entrance, some having travelled a long way, only a small wedding if you want to know...

New Big Wall climbing Book

07 May 2017

Climbing: New Big Wall climbing Book

So you want to climb a big wall? Do you want to climb a big wall, wake with a start in the dark clipped to a ledge the size of a dustbin lid? Do you have dreams of nailing pin scar cracks a kilometre up, or maybe hand jamming your way to victory? What are your dreams made of: El Cap, Moonlight Buttress, Trango Tower? Have you read other...