Thursday, 23 December 2010

International Press - have a look at these!

Looks like I have gained some international press cuttings - absolutley no idea what most of it means, my polish and spanish skills not exactly being top notch!
I'm sure it's all very complimentry! Ruth was quite pleased to get a mention too. So if anyone has amazing translation abilities do let me know.

Not quite got the photos captions right on this one, the shot which is a Mountain Equipment Advert is actually taken on Cracking Up. All good for M.E. anyway!

So have a Happy Christmas everyone and hope to be back with some news before new year.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Nomic and Ergo Griprest problem - Petzl information

Apparently there have been some problems with the new Nomic and Ergo griprests - not had any trouble with mine yet but I'll be keeping an eye on them. Petzl have got some information on their website explaining the difficulties and with a guarantee that they will replace the tools when they have got a redesigned version produced next year. Sounds pretty fair to me.
GRIPREST.Have a look at their pages for more information - HERE

Excess snow..

It can't be often that there is too much snow in North Wales, but it does seem to be the case right now. Perfect conditions for some amazing skiing, Catrin has been out in the last couple of days, here's a couple of her pics, you can see more on her blog

 Looks amazing! Whilst she was out putting in these turns I set off with Nick Bullock and Tim Neill to try and climb a route on Crib y dsygl. We trudged in through deep snow, and as we got closer to the crag it became apparent that it was really windy and all the soft powdery snow had been blown off the crag! Think we probably found the only spot in Snowdonia which had suffered these condition. Anyway, the short version is that we all swore a bit and then walked home again. Reaching home just in time for One Man and His Dog, I think Catrin had a significantly more memorable day than we did.

Temperatures are staying cold which just means the snow is not going to be turning into perfect bomber neve, but does mean that the ice routes are starting to form up again. Central Ice Fall and Cascade are looking like ice instead of the black crag of last week.

I am admitting to a lack of commitment to welsh winter and heading back to the Peak for christmas, with some hope that conditions in Scotland will turn just perfect around the new year for some more cranking.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Check out the new Lyon Equipment website.

Not much to report at the moment, I've actually been having to do boring things like work and go on a First Aid course. Luckily this has coincided with rubbish conditions for anything else.
Last night was the Plas y Brenin christmas party up in Capel Curig. We decided to take the van as a backup sleeping place and had to use it not due to excessive alcohol (well not on Ruth's part anyway) but due to excessive snow fall, completely bucketed down all night. After digging the van out, wheel spnning out of the car park and eventually making it out of Capel it has taken ALL DAY to get back to Brynrefail which should be a 20 minute drive - epic!
On the positive side, as we had to drive the extra long way round it meant I was able to call in and pick up my shiny new reading specs - the household have taken to humming Austin Powers music at me...... buggers!

Anyway, Lyon Equipment have finally launched their new webiste, there is a genius error on my profile section which suggests that I can deep water solo 8b+ - I expect it'll get changed soon.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Snow has melted but the dry tooling is in condition.

Yes, the temperatures have gone up and all the low lying snow and ice has gone over here in Wales. Looks like there is still some hanging in high up and peole have been climbing on the Black Ladders this weekend. Check out Baggy's Blog for more info.
Also sounds like some of the snow has gone in Scotland which could mean that the Northern Corries are climbable without having to dig your way to the routes.

I've spent the last couple of days sampling the delights of dry tooling in North Wales, yesterday was an afternoon on the slate with Nick Bullock, where we did a few laps on Ibex (M6 - we reckoned), then it went dark!
Today Nick, Rob Greenwood and I headed down to White Goods, you can find more info and a link to a topo at the white goods blog. We managed a few laps on Jaz (M8) to get warmed up, then moved onto Tumble in the Jungle (M9) and finished off with Rob Gibson's new route White Goods (M8+). - PUMPED!!

It has also been a chance to have a blast with the new Ergo tools which has been interesting - very different from my Nomics. Very aggressive and will take some getting used to, they definitely felt better on steep stuff, which is what they are designed for -  luckily I have some lines in Scotland in mind for them!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Here's a film from Lukasz......

Here's a film that Lukasz made yesterday about his and Andy's epic day out wading.
Enjoy it!!
Thanks Lukasz.

LWimages RAW - Day with Andy Turner... from Lukasz Warzecha - on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Wading, wading and a bit more snow to wade through.

Just spoke to the boys up north, not team happy today! They decided to go and check a route out, not telling you which one or where because I might get a proper telling off! Anyway, basically after wading through knee high (at least) powdery snow for 4 hours, they arrived at said unidentified route to find it not white, not in condition and with not enough energy to climb it even if it had been!!
They are now heading south - and having just heard a traffic report on the radio that's not going to be a whole heap of fun either!

Oh dear might need to have a lot of tea and sympathy ready for their arrival, especially if they end up having a night in the van.

Ah well, a good route done and some conditions in Wales to look forward too.
Meanwhile here's a picture of Andy and some of the team Petzl wads in kilts just to keep you all entertained.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Easy day.....

Andy and Lukasz met up with Donald King today, fresh from his ascent of Satyr in Stob coire nan lochain. Both feeling a little tired after yesterdays efforts and seeing that there was a chance that some of the Glencoe ice would be in condition, Andy, Donald and Lukasz decided to head for Blue Riband on the side of the Aonach Eagach.
Sadly only the first couple of pitches were in condition, but they had a fun climb before abseiling off. As great minds think alike they were joined at the bottom of the route by Al Halewood and friends. Check out Al's blog for some film and photos. Quality old school ice axe wielding from the Turner, who had given his shiny Nomics to Lukasz - don't want to be damaging those hands otherwise he won't be able to take such great pictures! Have a read of UKC's interview with Lukasz.

All being well there may be time for another adventure tomorrow before the boys head back south and then over to Wales. But on the positive side looks like everything is in amazing condition over there at the moment. Matt Stygall and Adam Hughes had a fab day doing Central Ice Fall and then nippng round to Ogwen and scooting up The Sting. See more on Adam's blog.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Cathedral X,11 2nd ascent in the bag!

Hello again folks, once more Andy is up in the frozen north and I've just had word that todays project has gone according to plan.

The second ascent of Dave Macleod's The Cathedral X,11 on the Cobbler has been completed!! Good skills that man!

Kev Shields deserves a massive thank you for belaying and braving the freezing temperatures, for the second time on the route. Andy had a go at it a couple of years ago and fell off just getting around the end of the roof, but today everything went super smoothly.
He says that he got up to the back of the cave and couldn't remember any of the holds from his last try (which I can believe knowing what his memory is like after 5 minutes let alone a couple of years!), so he headed out for a look, got the feel of it all and then climbed back into the back of the cave for a shake out before launching the successful attack.
When I spoke to him they were heading for the pub for a celebratory shandy!!

I'm hoping that I'll get sent down some photos as Lukasz Warzecha  and Suzy Devey were dangling around somewhere, I'll update asap.

Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, but I'll keep the blog updated as soon as I have more information.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Ecrins Ice Festival

Trailer Ice Climbing Ecrins 2011 qui au 14 16 janvier 2011

This could be my first trip of 2011. Had an invite so really hope to take it up. Was there a couple of years ago - it was great! Anyone who is keen to check out the climbing around the area should get down there.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Urban Ski-touring....

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about getting out cragging around the Peak and mentioned New Mills Torrs.
Last night I was shuffling around New Mills on my skis, who'd have thought that a ski approach to the Torrs would ever happen!!

Had thought about applying for the guide scheme once upon a time, but with skiing skills like this - maybe not!! Don't think I was bonding with the planks!!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

And the winner is......

Thanks to everyone who entered the competition to win a copy of The Pinnacle.  The answer was of course Smith's Route. Nearly everybody got that right, but the lucky winner who got pulled out of a wooly hat is:

Matt Buchanan from Dunblane.

Your copy will be winging it's way to you very soon, although the snow might slow it down a wee bit!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Check this out - The Pinnacle Trailer

West is Best.......unless you are a skier.

 Here's a few picture from my trip up to Scotland. I was hoping to climb in the Cairngorms most of the time, but it was really snowy so I headed west.
Great day up on the Ben but the next day it was black in Glencoe, still good conditions high on the Ben but I needed to head to Grantown to get my lift back south. Driving across, leaving behind the beautiful blue skies I hit a wall of snow.

Matt had headed down from Beinn Eighe, where he and Keith had walked in for a hour through deep powder and then decided to bail as they were still only about 1km from the car park.

We both arrived in Grantown and had to dig his van out, 17inches of snow overnight!!

Catrin and Di were skiing out of the front door, in preparation for their forthcoming season as part of the British Ski Mountaineering Team.

The drive south was grim, really snowy and the roads full of people driving badly! Not until we got south of Glasgow did we leave behind the proper snow. There is some down here in the Peak and it's cold, looking through my window here I can see that Kinder Downfall is starting to freeze, give it another week of this weather and it'll definitely be a goer!

Reports from North Wales are looking positive, routes are getting done in Cwm Idwal and on the Black Ladders, check out Baggy's Blog.

Last few hours to be in with a chacne to win that Pinnacle DVD, thanks for the response so far, see The People's Choice entry below.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Didn't Die of Ignorance.......Now updated with photos

The second installment from Andy's mini-break to Scotland........

Today he went climbing with baby faced Tony Stone (who claims to be much older than is possible to believe when you look at him, although his recent trip to Nepal may have added a couple of years.), and they decided to head up to their favourite place Ben Nevis. Now these two have some history of cranking up hard routes up there so I wasn't too surprised when I heard what they were planning to go and have a look at.
That's right Andy had decided to go and "open an account with Don't Die of Ignornce" on Comb Buttress. This Dave Macleod route has yet to have a second ascent and Andy is keen to rectify this. So anyway off they trotted at some ungodly hour of the morning, although probably quite late by some people's standards, and arrived to find the route in climbable conditions - this translates as being definitely winter, white and all that, Andy is a real stickler for all that stuff and has repeatedly walked away from routes that just aren't in nick. And I have heard some good rants on the not to get him started!

After a couple of go's the boys managed to get out to the arete - which is where there were loads of cool photos of Dave some even before he'd finished it!! But looking up the rest of the pitch there wasn't any of the necessary ice formed, which is exactly what happened to Dave when  he was trying to do it. That and they hadn't taken enough brave pills to bash on regardless!! So they retreated, but Andy was positive and declared that the account was well and truly open! He's going to head back up there at some point although probably not tomorrow.

Once again Matt Stygall and Keith Ball were out climbing and they actually managed to get to the top of thier route Tower Face of the Comb (VI, 6) - they gave it a rave review - apparently 3 *'s.

There were a number of teams out and about but not sure what they were on, although one team lost a rucksack which came hurtling out of Coire na Ciste - feel free to confess to your moment of early season errors here!

Hopefully I'm going to get e-mailed some photos down later when they make it back to civilisation, and I'll upload ASAP.

Andy on Don't Die of Ignorance
By the way - don't forget to get your entry in for the chance to win a copy of The Pinnacle - see The People's Choice post below.

Photo's as promised. Mixed climing and photos from below - never looks great does it?!

Tony Stone reaching the arete.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

And they're off.....the season begins.

That's right the first route of the winter is now under the belt. Andy headed north yesterday on his first pilgrimage of the year leaving me to write the blog in his absence, so here is the first installment:

Today Andy was climbing with Kenny Grant and they decided with the visibility being low to head into Coire an Lochain. Luckily there was a team ahead who had put a track in so progress wasn't too much hardwork. Andy and Kenny headed for Bulgy (VII, 7), which was rather buried but in pretty good condition otherwise. The bottom of the route saw Andy realise that he hadn't sorted his crampons, didn't know what to wear and all those other early season faffs - thanks to Kenny for being patient! The next error was noticed some way up the route where a large cam is necessary - of course they didn't have it - a bit of ingenuity and some stacked hexes later saw them at the top of the route and returning to the carpark by a slightly less than ideal route. Ah bless 'em, I'm sure Andy will be more switched on tomorrow!
Good start to the season and the first outing for the new Nomic 2's.

Also in action were Keith Ball and Matt Stygall on Fallout Corner (VI, 7) and another team of Miles Perkins and friend on Deep Throat (V, 6). Looked like Fallout Corner had already had an ascent so the boys didn't have to get involved in quite as much digging.

No photos yet but I'll load some up when possible.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The People's Choice!

My action packed party week was rounded off with the Kendal Mountain Festival and the World Premier of The Pinnacle  on the friday evening. This was my first viewing of the film and on a big screen too - absolutely brilliant. Diff (Paul Diffley at Hotaches) has done an amazing job of weaving together all the footage of Dave and I climbing with interviews from Jimmy Marshall, Robin Campbell and Ken Crocket to name a few. After the film was shown, Diff, Dave and I hopped up on the stage to answer questions, and I think it went really well, I managed to use complete sentences and make sense for a change!
Irritatingly Ruth was poised to take some photos - see below!

Diff then unleashed a bun fight when he offered DVD's of the film for sale, and we ended up spending ages signing them for people - my one moment of movie stardom!

The rest of the weekend Ruth and I saw a whole bunch of films about all kinds of things! From off-road uni-cycling to big wall suffer-fests. Then all that was left was the awards ceremony - a few tense moments for all filmmakers as the results were being announced. Probably the most prestigious award is the People's Choice Award. This is the film that the festival goers have most enjoyed watching and this was the award picked up by The Pinnacle. The beautiful trophies for all awards were sculpted by artist and climber Andy Parkin. Very happy to have been involved in this venture and think Diff deserves the recognition for doing such a great job and making a film that climbers and non-climbers alike will enjoy.

In hounour of winning this award I am going to give away a DVD copy of The Pinnacle. All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to answer the question below. Send you answer along with your name and address to :
The closing date is 30th November 2010.


Which route did Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith complete the winter first ascent of on 8th February 1960?

Correct answers will be put in a hat and the winner will be drawn out on 1st December.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Scotland hits Grenoble

Following the invitation from Erwan at Petzl I arrived in Grenoble a couple of days before the film festival. So as I had a bit of time to spare there was the chance to either go dry-tooling and try out the new Ergo's or a day sport climbing at Presles. As it was a beautiful day we opted for some bolt clipping. Erwan, Eric and I had a brilliant day out and Erwan clocked up some impressive airmiles.
A view on the main cliff of Presles.
The massive expanse of the Presles valley
This huge gorge is loved by climbers and BASE jumpers alike, Erwan took his rig along so I was hoping to see my first BASE jump, unfortunately it was a too windy. Monday was lashing with rain so I got to go and check out the Petzl Factory and Offices - what an inspiring place to work. As you walk into the building you are surrounded by amazing images, probably every Petzl poster ever printed. The offices are filled with little groups clustered round their Macbooks designing the next bit of super swanky new kit. (Sadly I didn't manage to steal any shiny kit whilst I was there!)

Late afternoon we went to collect the evening's whisky supplies from the local whisky expert, and were given detailed instructions of the best order to drink them in for maximum effect. Next stop was the station to collect some journalists, we then got a bit lost but arrived at the festival venue just in time to don out kilts and jimmy wigs and get serving the whisky.

After the film was shown we (Erwan le Lann, Tony Lamiche, Martial Dumas, Yann Mimet, Mathieu Meynadier and myself) were invited up on stage for a question and answer session. Completely terrifying, 3000 people and I don't speak french! Luckily the host decided that it would probably get lost in translation asking me anything and talked to the others instead!

At the end of the evening everyone who had appeared in the films that night was invited up for a team photo - which meant I got to share the stage with french ice climbing legend Francois Damilano, thankfully by that point we had all decided to get rid of our kilts! I have realised that I don't look good in a skirt and I was jealous of the other boys tanned legs - think I need to spend more time somewhere sunny!

At the aftershow party (rock and roll lifestyle!!) we finished off the whisky. Then when we all got thrown out of the venue headed back to Erwan's house until the early hours. Finding my way back through Grenoble to my hotel proved a challenge and I thought I was going to end up bivvying out in a side street.

A great few days, really good to catch up with the boys again. A massive thank you to Erwan and Petzl for the invite, hopefully see them all back in Scotland again soon.

Next day I dashed back to Manchester to go to Mountain Equipment's 50th anniversary celebration night and product launch. A great film about the history of Mountain Equipment's involvement in mountaineering over the last 50 years made by Brian Hall was shown, followed by a "fashion show" of some key garments over the years, and of course the new range for winter 2011. The star turn being Andy Parkin in his original all in one down suit from the '80's. Next up were Dave Macleod and Paul Diffley introducing The Architect, the short version of the Smith Marshall film. Fun evening and looking forward to some of the bright hardshell suits heading our way next year.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Just around the corner?

Looking out at the dusting of snow on Kinder and getting an update from James Thacker who was on cosy ML camp in Snowdonia (suffer!!), it seems that winter really is on it's way. So I thought I'd share a few photos from last winter's Welsh antics to get psyched. I really hope we get such amazing conditions this season, I've got some lines spied out and can't wait to get stuck into them. And no, I'm not telling you where they are!
Cwm Silyn

Central Ice Fall

Craig y Rhaeadr

Chequered Wall

Cracking Up - photo Ray Wood

Good Luck - and be careful out there, a smack in the mouth from your axe hurts!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sneaky post

Andy isn't looking so I thought I'd sneak in a picture of him signing a copy of Alpinist!! The perils of being a winter climbing hero!
Article wrttten by Ian Parnell about their ascent of Bruised Violet in 2009, really good article and fab pictures too.

Issue 31 if anyone is interested.

I'm going to be in trouble


Sunday, 7 November 2010

New Mountain Equipment Delivery

Woo hoo, winter appears as does shiny new kit from those lovely people at Mountain Equipment. In the box this year are lots of new products, two of them, pictured below, are jackets to keep me toasty warm in different conditions.

This is the NEW Citadel jacket designed to keep you warm in conditions from Patagonia to Alaska, but will be perfectly at home on those long winter belays in Britain when trying to push new lines. Similar to the Fitzroy, but with twice the insulation. I had a prototype to test last winter and used it whilst filming The Pinnacle, a great week with some cold conditions especially hanging around on belays waiting for cameras to get into position.

Next up is the NEW Arete Jacket (in Bombay Orange - good colour!), having seen this at the product launch last year I could hardly wait for them to go into production and I could get my mitts on one. When it arrived I loved the jacket but I wasn't sure what I was going to use if for (other than looking cool in the pub!), but as Mountain Equipment say it's perfect as an alternative to a mid layer fleece, actually it's even more adaptable being lighter and smaller to pack. So far it's been used out on the grit as a great layer to chuck on in between routes/problems. Or to be stolen by Ruth whilst she takes photos!
More on some of the other products as they get used.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Holland's Highest mountain

Check this out. The last Great Problem. What do you reckon will happen first, getting pumped or getting the fear?

This image cropped up on my Facebook account from a friend in Holland.

It needed to be checked out so found this article Jack Geldard of UKC wrote last year.

I think id be terrified climbing the slab side nevermind the overhang but what an awesome facility, just dont go in high winds I guess.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Grenoble Mountain Film Festival Invite

Film Festival season is coming to it's peak and I'm getting psyched for the premier of The Pinnacle (Smith Marshall Project) at Kendal Film Festival in a couple of weeks. Out of the blue came an invitation from Petzl's Erwan le Lann to go to the Grenoble Mountain Film Festival. They are having a Scottish themed evening and showing the film the Petzl team made a couple of winters ago in Scotland. The boys had originally contacted me to get some information and I ended up acting as their tour guide for the 10 day trip, the highlight being Ueli Steck repeating my route The Secret in about 20 minutes, I almost hung up my rack there and then!
The only prerequisite is that I turn up with a kilt, now searching for both a kilt and a set of Jimmy Wigs for the boys to wear whilst they hand out whisky. Anyone who can help me out with either of those things - please get in touch!!

Les 12èmes Rencontres du cinéma de montagne
Uploaded by maisondelamontagne. - Discover the latest sports and extreme videos.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Sunday dawned damp so as my brother lives about 3 minutes walk from The Depot, we went to check it out.
The British Bouldering Youth Team were there on a training session, looking super strong and putting us to shame!
Lukasz Warzecha made a short film about the team a couple of months ago whilst they were competing up at Ratho - so check it out and get to know them.
Good to see the team getting together and showing some team spirit, would be great to think that we could do something similar for the World Cup Ice Climbing Competitions - maybe sometime in the future, near future?

The BMC presents the British Junior Climbing Team from Lukasz Warzecha - on Vimeo.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Yorkshire Grit Hit - Swastika Rocks

Having purchased the Yorkshire Bouldering Guide I decided I could kill two birds with one stone, visit my brother and check out some bouldering. We headed for Swastika Rocks, bit esoteric! Not a huge number of problems but a good spread of grades for my brother and I to get stuck into for an afternoon of sport. The classics of the crag are the aretes - Barn Door and Christmas Day, and the excellent Walking the Dog.
Stu Turner on The Badger and Christmas Day Arete above.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Coming soon to a shop near you!

Here's the new range of Petzl tools, looking forward to my set of Ergo's arriving they look amazing!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Scottish Wings - Ines Papert Short Film

Check this out for some inspiration!

Lets hope it's this good this winter.

First Signs of Winter.......

Winter is coming - which means tha it's perfect grit weather. If the season carries on I might never have to go north of the border again. Having missed most previous grit seasons I have found myself back in the Peak this year with plenty of opportunity to go out and realise what I've been missing. At the moment the Grit List is longer than the Winter List!

The Grit List has been created by Ruth whilst she is lying around on the sofa recuperating from an operation on her back - not sure whether this is her wish list or she just wants me to get really scared. But at least it's given me something to focus on although I think I might lose a few of the entries.
The last few days has seen hits to New Mills Torrs (AKA rainproof Climbing), Froggatt and The Roaches, the latter two days under perfect blue sky, and with amazing friction. Ticking some classics, Great Slab, Ascent of Man, Wings of Unreason....... but also scoping out some projects such as Narcissus.

Thanks go to Ian Hey for photos, and a good effort to the Warehouse Project team who still made it out to Froggatt on the sunday.

Sunday, 7 March 2010


With all this fine settled cold weather we've been having for weeks now it seems it's the winter to be climbing lots of esoteric ice. Dave Macleod and Blair Ffyfe bagging a handful of new lines in Glen Coe over the new year period is testament to that.
In Scotland we're used to climbing lots of snow ice usually plastered to buttresses or gully beds, but this winter has seen lots of new seepage lines given the chance to form.
I've not been to Beinn Udlaigh for a few years now but it
seems to be the place to be at the moment, what with awesome classic ice routes in great condition and scary snow conditions in the mountains.

It was whilst out with Ruth bagging a few classic lines that we happened to walk under the lower tier, I was surprised to see how much ice was bulging out of the cliff. Now I probably wouldn't want to walk under this cliff in summer as the whole thing appears to be a giant Jenga puzzle but with all the ice around holding it all together it seemed fair game.

There was a push a few years ago to see some bolted lines on these lower cliffs to give some sport mixed lines for people to try and possibly train on. One such line was put up called Crossroads which saw a couple of ascents before the bolts were removed.
Walking under the cliff that day I spotted a line of icicles that could possibly be linked together to traverse under an ice curtain that had formed over an overhang. Pulling through that overhang looked like it could be the challenge I'd been looking for.
Enlisting Dave Macleod fresh from his ascent of Anubis on the Ben the day before, he agreed to be on belaying duty for the day.
Gearing up under the route, Lukasz Warzecha a friend of mine who was keen to get photos of the ascent ran round to rig his rope to get some close up shots. The route starts up a corner for 20ft using a mixture of ice, turf and frozen in blocks before traversing 3 or 4 large icicles for another 30ft to arrive under the roof. From this roof a large ice fringe made up of 3 more large icicles was draping. This was where I wanted to go. After arranging a couple of cams in a horizontal break you could step up high enough to knock the middle icicle out. This enabled a passage out onto the front face which proved to be pretty scary as a fracture line appeared in the icicle as I hit it.
Pulling onto the front of the icicle reminded me of some of the sport mixed lines I'd done the last few years in Europe.
This route is called BEHIND THE SUN (VII,7) and I would like to dedicate it to the memory of Chris Walker, a friend who unfortunately lost his life in an avalanche a few days later whilst guiding in Glen Coe.
Thanks to Dave Macleod for the photos.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Back in 2001 Neil Gresham caused a controversy by firstly top rope practicing then preplacing gear in a route prior to its first ascent which was to become the Tempest. This has and probably will always go against what Scottish winter climbing is all about. The route soon got another ascent in the same style. At the time I was just getting into winter climbing and remember all the hype and Cubbys' photos of Neil on the final ice smear.
The route has stood untouched ever since then except all the rotting gear that was left in it.
Several people have said over the years that it would be a big leap forward for someone to come along and give it a ground up ascent. Over the last few years this has been niggling around in my head. Last autumn whilst trying to come up with a plan for this winter, the Tempest came back onto the radar. I was hoping I could dispatch some other routes over in the northern cairngorms first for preparation before trying it, but with the way conditions have been over there the route all of a sudden found itself top of the list.
Knowing the route was fully laden with rotten gear it took 2 attempts by abseil to get most of it out; the first time having climbed Scabbard Chimney, the second by Spectre. With every piece of gear I tried to retrive the wire broke when I pulled on it. The last 2 bits of crucial gear before heading up the ice smear both broke but were so deeply welded into the crack that they were impossible to retrieve. This lead to a couple of problems: 1, the onsight was definitely gone and 2, how was I going to protect the last run out section?
The day came to head up there. The hardest thing about trying hard routes is finding someone patient enough to stand at the bottom for hours on end. I managed to convince my landlady Catrin Thomas to do the job.
Having to break trail into the coire that day was the first hurdle. Eventually arriving at the bottom of the route after much wading the enormity of the job lay ahead. With the route under a fresh coating of snow and the ice smear glistening above I set off. Things were slow as they always are. The route never being obvious, lots of dead ends. Wherever the route looked easier the holds were often slopy and unhelpful which made for lots of downclimbing. The route is not steep or very strenuous but has lots of deadends and tenuous holds. After several hours of climbing I arrived a place where I at last managed to get some good gear in. I then had the old problem of leaving this bomb shelter of gear. This was about 3/4 of the way up the route. Looking down at my harness to see only a couple of quickdraws left didnt fill me with confidence to continue. After a couple of forays upwards I bottled it and decided to retreat. Totally gutted I pulled the ropes vowing to return as quick as possible.
Finding another willing volunteer I headed up a few days later. The lower part of the route went smoothly to my previous high point, this time with gear in hand I managed to shuffle upwards into a niche just to the side of the ice smear. After half an hour of trying to weld various dubious pieces of crap gear into doubtful rock I stepped out onto the ice. Eyeing up the 2 broken wires sticking out of the ice I managed to weld 2 of my own in the same crack. After several uncommitting trips up the ice and then back climbing to the niche I eventually took a deep breath and blasted up the ice to what felt a very committing topout. The thought of a tool ripping in poor neve to be sent hurtling backwards onto poor gear in an icy crack wasnt very appealing. After a few nervous swings I was stood on the finishing slopes with only a sprint to the abseil point left.
A very cold Luke followed me up the route, beaming as he came over the ice to join me on the belay.
A great day out.
The hard thing now, what grade? Intially given an M grade(M9) for the style it was climbed in.
The climbing was at no point mega strenous but very tenous. Although a different style of climbing it felt just as committing as Cracking Up down in Wales. At any point high on that route if id fallen i would have gone a fairway. I agreed with Nick Bullock on his grade of IX,9 for that route, so trying to keep things relative I would guess hard IX,9 maybe X,9 at a push for the hard fought for gear and run out sections. As always things always change with subsequent ascents, as people get beta on the route and placements improve?

Monday, 18 January 2010


Now entrenched up in the West highlands for the winter months its time to reflect back on some awesome days out south of the border. Over the last few years I’ve always been up in Scotland when Wales has been in condition and had to satisfy myself with reading Baggys blog about people climbing the Devils Appendix and other mega classics. This year things worked out perfectly. I guess living and working in the area certainly helps. Taking the first opportunity Stu Macaleese and I headed up to Clogwyn Ddu to take a look at Cracking up. This is a route Nick Bullock climbed a few years back and is given E1 5b with 2 points of aid in the guide. Nick took 2 days and several falls before the successful attempt resulted after large fall near the top of the route. This left the onsight up for grabs! Having never set eyes on the route before and having only seen one picture of Nick low down on the route the walk up into Cwm Cneifion was a very nervous one. To add a little more pressure Ray Wood was also along to take some pictures of the occasion. The conditions on the crag might have been awesome but the weather was proving less so. Having Stu along as a qualified mountain guide with his ml skills soon saw us stood at the bottom of the crack. Trying to get a look at what lay ahead proved pretty difficult in the swirling mist offering only fleeting glimpses.
A quick scramble to the base of the route saw us both craning our heads back at the steepness of what lay ahead.
The route is a true mixed affair, the first 15ft climbs a small ice pillar stepping off this then sees you pulling through the first part of the crack using your axe shafts to yard off. Way off to the right a small grassy ledge can be seen. All ideas of some sanctuary here are soon dismissed when the wall above it proves too steep to fully stand in a rest position. All sorts of random gear is arranged here before launching upwards again. This is where the dream of an onsight ended in some air time. Totally misreading a hook ended it all.
Lowering to the ground saw a quick discussion about what to do next. With the arms feeling battered and wanting to do the route in the best style possible we decided to return the next day.
Waking up the following morning to better weather, hopes were high the only problem was would the guns would perform? The short walk back into the cwm a bristling white crag greeted us and perfect blue skies. Ray, back with us again was getting very excited with the prospect of getting some awesome photos, I was a little less so, knowing full well what lay ahead.
Arriving at the base of the crag the gearing up was done in silence. Having blown the first attempt, the pressure to get it 2nd go was growing unbearable. I was more scared of blowing the attempt than of the danger of falling off.
With the clear skies my high point was clearly visible, a single cam just below an obvious niche.
Setting off I climbed to the top off the ice pillar, clipped the runners then climbed back to the ground; that was the warm up. A quick change of gloves for a dry pair, engage the guns and climb quickly through the lower section to the semi rest. That was the plan I made in my head and surprisingly the lower section went to plan. Clipping the random runners on the ledge, a quick psyche up and launch up the next section of crack. I quickly reached my high spot and nervously pulled on the same hold, luckily this time it held and a quick succession of poor torques saw me pull into the niche.

Another poor rest and some good gear set me up for the final section of crack. Leaning out behind my head I pulled out onto the headwall frantically searching for any usable footholds. Slamming a cam blindly into the crack my axe found itself on a small flat hold, fully committed, a quick hand swap saw me pulling onto easier ground. For the first time I managed to look round, a quick shout down to Stu to see that he hadn’t frozen to death then a glance across to see ray snapping away to his hearts content. Almost in the bag, I don’t think I’ve ever climbed grade 5 ground so slowly, not wanting to blow it all now after so much effort. A quick belay to bring Stu up, and we were both starring up at the last short pitch and the beckoning sun drenched summit plateau. Stu quickly rattled this pitch off and we were shaking hands on a awesome climb and job well done. An amazing couple of days.