Wednesday 28 December 2011

The time has come to sharpen

At the end of last winter my picks and crampons were pretty blunt after lots of scratching around in Scotland, Norway etc. so it’s time to get them in tip top shape ready for the first big routes of the winter.
Most of the routes I end up climbing are mixed routes and so I need nice sharp points on my picks to get the accuracy needed for those tenuous hooks. A decent big file and some elbow grease are needed to get them just perfect, and making sure you keep the teeth all individually sharpened. For ice pitches a narrowed super sharp pick is the perfect tool for the job, and the teeth aren’t so useful, in fact they tend to make it harder to get the pick out when you’ve really whacked it in.

Poor old pick - looking a bit blunt!
Blunt pick
 When using a file - use even flat stroke and in strokes away from the body in one direction - this is how it is designed to be used and will give the best results.The finish you are looking for is smooth and mirror-like. If you use the file in different directions this is impossible.

First start by sharpening the tip of the pick. You are aiming for an angle of the tip as shown in the picture below. If the angle is too steep the pick will prise off the hold when you are using it. Imagine the tip of the pick and handle are both touching the file/wall. 

Next step is to file the edges of the tip - see picture below. Try and aim to get an angle of about 45 degrees.

Then file the underside of the pick - first the tip as below. Make sure you end up with an angle on the point - ie do not file it to be flat or you won't be able to use the tip of the pick on small holds.

Next file the sides of the teeth - again at around 45 degrees - super useful when using you picks on ice as it gives you a narrow profile pick. See below.

Repeat this process along the top of the pick - as shown below.

The finished profile!! Not perfect but way cheaper than a new set of picks!

Picks can be sharpened a few times but will eventually get too short - and then it's time to get a new set. Hope you find this useful - a few people have been asking me lately what I do with my picks so this is my best attempt at showing you what I do - without hiring a film crew!!

Happy New Year

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas...

Just a quick message to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
All the very best for 2012.

Thanks for reading the blog and I'll keep you updated as to the seasons goings on as much as possible.

Thanks also to Mountain Equipment for keeping me and Santa warm, Lyon Equipment for keeping me safe with kit from Petzl, La Sportiva, Beal and Julbo.

And also an extra thank you to Ruth for keeping me sane and organised!

Have a good one everybody (except the nasty b*****d who smashed the van window - you can have a s***t one!)

Friday 23 December 2011

Some inspiration on a miserable wet day!

Looking forward to my trip out to Canada in February - it has to be better than the current ming-fest that is the UK.
Fingers crossed for some cold weather soon.

Monday 19 December 2011

Whilst the cat's away.......

Andy has headed off down the wall for some more training - you would think 3 days out on the hill climbing in Wales would be enough??? So whilst I have chance here it is the bit of film you've all been waiting for.......... exclusive footage of the studio photoshoot that took place last thursday. Lukasz and Andy - what a pair!!! I think Andy is doing an impression of Stevie Haston.

Oh and speaking of photoshoots.......good time to get a plug in for Lukasz's photography workshop at the end of January - Andy is the star model this was just for practice! Check out this link for more info and to book your place.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Another day...another winter route or two.

Today I headed out with the infamous Mark 'Baggy' Richards, newly appointed pro partner with Mountain Equipment and established guru of Welsh Winter Climbing. Check out his blog for news all winter and probably some more about today!
Baggy decided that it would be a good bet to head up to the north face of a mountain somewhere in Wales. We climbed a couple of new routes, which were combinations of some existing (unstarred) rock routes. The first route had a first pitch up groove with 'hero hooks' all the way with bomber gear until the tricky exit about V, 6. The second pitch was a proper squirm chimney - Baggy's pitch - most entertaining watching his feet disappearing - not so entertaining getting the rucksack through it - ungradeable!!

The second route followed a groove to start at about IV to a big bay. The main pitch went up a crack in a steep slab - more hero hooks, but a bit steeper than the previous route probably around V, 7. The route finished up a enjoyable corner at about grade III.

Grades are a guess - and I'm under strict instructions from Baggy not to reveal exact locations as he's got his eyes on some more lines!!

Elsewhere, Matt and Adam Hughes headed over to Clogwyn Du, and made an ascent of Traversty - after a couple of falls from Adam on the first pitch, Matt took over and finished the pitch - good effort Stygall!
Calum was out with Ray Wood and after a false start one one route they did Pillar Chimney.
Pete Harrison was back on the project but still no send.

Adam finishing the second pitch

Saturday 17 December 2011

At last a winter route!!!

Ruth not looking impressed!
Ok, I know I've been a bit slow getting my season started but finally it's begun.I headed over to Wales on Thursday eve with a hopeful weather forecast. Conditions are only vaguely climbable high up but Wales in soooo much closer than Scotland!
Yesterday I had a pretty rubbish day out with Ruth. We headed up to Craig Dafydd on beta from Matt Stygall who'd been in there in thursday and managed to climb a route. He'd said that the turf was frozen in places and not so frozen in others and after another cold night we had hoped that it would be better. Unfortunately this wasn't the case and as the routes depend on turf after a couple of false starts we retreated. Quite a long old walk up there, felt especially so, as you couldn't see very far and in felt like forever until we finally bumped into the crag. You arrive at the crag at the bottom of a route called Goliath an excellent looking ice pitch or two - not quite fat enough to climb but all there. If it stays cold could be a goer in a few days.

Today I headed out with young Calum Muskett. He had tried Traversty on Clogwyn Du last year and not managed to do the crux so was keen to get back on it. This time was a different matter, looking cool, calm and collected he made a stylish ascent, in less than perfect conditions - check out the ropes in the picture - the wind was howling!!

Setting off on Pitch 2
We had thought about the direct finish but with the weather conditions as they were we decided to stick to the original. Top route. Pete Harrison and Rob Pitt were also at the crag trying a new route, but no send, so that's all I'm saying, no pictures and no info!!! Think Pete is heading back there tomorrow to see if he can get i done, so more news from him soon.

 In other news Matt headed back up to Craig Dafydd today with Adam Hughes and they pulled a new route out of the bag.
Pitch 1. 4.Starting at the base of Helmand Province you climb up some turfy grooves onto a ledge, step right to a leftwards slanting turfy crack - climb that and continue to the base of the obvious crack. (40m)
Pitch 2. 7. Climbs the obvious crack to a ledge (possible belay) and then continue up a shallow chimney over the overhang to a ledge and block belays. (25m)
Pitch 3. 5. Climb the left on the 2 obvious grooves until a tricky step can be made across into the right groove (a bit bold), follow this groove until a step can be made around the arete  onto a ledge and then climb the short steep groove to an awkward finish - belay well back. (30m)

Top section of pitch 2
They called the route Siberian Kitten - with a nod to Greg Boswell. Pete Macpherson and Guy Roberston's route Siberian Tiger.

Matt on the crack of Pitch 2

Adam heading into the second groove of Pitch 3.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Tools but still no ice

Well it looks like winter is finally kicking off up in Scotland with some impressive early season ascents from young Greg Boswell. I am currently hanging out down in the Peak and trying to get as fit as possible for the pilgrimage north sometime soon. I was going to sneak off to Spain for a weeks sport climbing in the sunshine for the last flourish of summer but looks like that's not going to happen now so maybe it'll be a chance to get up north?
Tim on Tumble in the Jungle
I headed over to Wales for a couple of days this week hoping some conditions would come in, and had a brilliant session at White Goods with Tim Emmett on the way - that boy knows how to be prepared at the crag - espresso pot + stove, iphone + awesome mini-speaker, spare belay jacket that Mac got to use as a blanket and the best pair of retro fruit/comp boots I've ever seen!!

Even Ruth got hold of some tools on Jaz
On Power Pact - in the gathering gloom!

Always entertaining to hang out with Tim and his endless enthusiasm. Got a great workout with a few laps of Jaz and Tumble followed a burn on Power Pact down at the other sector - not climbed at this cave until now - steep!! And a bit loose in places, I was pretty keen to get the 3rd bolt of Power Pact clipped before committing tools to the big flakes!.

Welsh winter conditions were not in force, the predicted low temperatures didn't appear - just some gales and a whole lot of rain! Did go for a wander around yesterday and think I might have spied some new lines to have a go at, so hopefully it'll start to build some conditions over the next few days/weeks and I'll get chance to go and get them ticked.
Meanwhile - more training indoors until the next trip out.

Monday 5 December 2011

Cheeky post

Just thought I'd sneak this picture in whilst Andy isn't looking!
Today he was on the turbo trainer coz it was "too cold to do anything outside"!!

 This was followed by a trip to the Foundry for a bouldering comp, which was also freezing but pretty good fun, and then a very exciting drive home over Winnats Pass - good job the car has winter tyres on or we'd never have made it back over!!

Looks like winter has arrived - Andy is currently checking out weather forecasts.......will there still be snow and conditions by the weekend??

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Training plans

I've just spent half the day slapping a vast number of holds onto the bouldering wall at Manchester Climbing Centre - massive thanks to them for letting me. The first thing they are going to be used for is some dry-tooling sessions with the boys from Manchester Grammar School. But then I'm hoping to get some hours in on my own tools climbing around in circles and remembering what exactly I'm supposed to do with them. So far I've been lucky enough that winter has not arrived but I think I ought to start putting some tool time in, instead of just training and climbing.

After a weekend spent at Plas y Brenin's Big Winter Climb running some workshops about training - I'm starting to feel the psyche return.
Heading over to White Good tomorrow with Ian Parnell - that's going to be a shock to the system!!

Monday 21 November 2011

Lycra Delivery....

Oooooo missus! Yes a box of lycra arrived through my front door this morning.
Massive thank you to the lovely people at Gore Bike Wear who sent me through some kit. Hoping to get out and try some of it out this afternoon. All seems to fit really well - sizing charts do work!!

The Contest Jacket and Contest Thermo Jersey are perfect and the great bright red colour should mean I don't get runover anytime soon especially when teamed with the Yellow Path AS vest!

After a weekend of socialising at the Kendal Mountain Festival it'll be good to get some exercise I reckon. Top weekend and amazing to finally see The Long Hope, absolutely gobsmacking film and obviously went down really well with the audience as it won the People's Choice Award.  Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote and really happy you enjoyed it. Well done Paul Diffley and Hotaches team for putting it together.

A mention too for my Mountain Equipment Pub Quiz team (Neil, Ewan, Nick, James and the mascot Jimmy Crankie!)who stormed to the win on Friday night - sorry I wasn't much use answering the questions! Good fun evening had by all I reckon and the boys all went home with a brand new ME Firefox jacket made of the latest Gore Active Shell fabric.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Chris Walker Memorial Trust....

Thanks to Dan for these pics from sunday's outing to Bridestones, I told you Ruth was spotting - although I'm not sure whether it would have been better to have camera and spotting duties the other way around.... once the camera was set up of course and just needed a button pressing!
Looks a much bigger boulder when Ruth's climbing it too!!

Onto other more important things...... a couple of years ago a good friend Chris Walker was killed in an avalanche on the Buchaille Etive Mor. His family and friends set up the Chris Walker Memorial Trust. Chris was great - top banter, top bloke and super psyched mountaineer especially in the greater ranges. Here's the official bit from the Trust:

In order to assist other climbers who share the same passion for the mountains as Chris, the Chris Walker Memorial Trust has been set up.
The CWMT will award an annual £1000 grant to help fund expeditions to the Greater Ranges. We welcome applications from aspiring Greater Ranges climbers who need help to fund expeditions with the objective of establishing new routes, repeating rarely attempted lines, or visiting unexplored areas. The closing date for applications will be 1st December each year, after which the trustees will meet and make their decision.

The CWMT will also be liaising with the national association of British Mountain Guides in order to provide a grant to subsidize the cost of the avalanche training part of the Guides' scheme for 2011/12.
In conjunction with the CWMT, the British Alpine Ski School (BASS) are annually offering a free place on their 'Ski Performance Course for Mountaineers'. The closing date for applications is 11th September each year. This years place being awarded to Jon Gupta.

If you might be interested in applying or finding out more then please go to the

Go somewhere cool and remember Chris.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Bridestones Beauties.

Today was a perfect autumn day - clear blue skies, chilly morning, and a trip to a crag I haven't really climbed at before. Okay I have been once about a million years ago when I was a complete bumbly and couldn't do hardly any of the problems, and it was damp, howling wind kind of a day. In contrast today there wasn't a breathe of wind and I regretted the thermal trousers after about an hour. Probably not ideal grit conditions, and on a couple of problems that was a bit of an issue but on the whole it was so good not to be freezing I didn't really care!
I had seen pictures of Horror Arete in guidebooks and was pretty psyched to get that done, first go I had a bit of a commitment fear but fired it off second go with the addition of an extra pad - call me a wimp but I don't bounce like the youth! No pictures of me coz Ruth was busy spotting/ telling me to get on with it and not be such a wimp, but here's a couple of her making a sterling effort via the short-arse method! I'm starting to get concerns that she'll be burning me off if she carries on getting better again at this rate...... perhaps I need to make her train hard enough to break again???

And she's off!

Yesterday I was up in Kendal at the wall relaunch helping out with Lyon Equipment and I managed to get onto a workshop with Leah Crane - really useful stuff and definitely made me think about some of my climbing strengths and weaknesses....... more weaknesses!

Friday 4 November 2011

Winter Photography Workshop - with Me!

I mentioned a few months ago that Lukasz was running a photography workshop in North Wales with Dave Macleod as the model - well the weekend was a great success and everything went pretty smoothly (well done Ruth for keeping the timings together!). So the plan is to run a winter edition up in Scotland with yours truly as the model. Not sure I'm quite the consummate professional that Dave is, but luckily winter is a bit different so thankfully I probably won't get asked to run laps on a boulder problem as the sun goes down!
This course is a little different form the last as in includes an extra day of winter skills at the start to make sure everyone is switched on and ready to tackle thinking about cameras (f-stops and all that - isn't that right Lukasz and Dan?) instead of thinking about tripping over crampons!
Check out Lukasz's blog for all the details, 2 places have gone already so if you are interested get on it - and remember christmas is just around the corner........
Details here.

Monday 31 October 2011

Sunday at the Roaches

A bit of a murky morning turned into a stunning afternoon at the Roaches with Jim, Dan and Lukasz. We went to an area I haven't bouldered at before underneath the Clouds. The best problems of the day were one  under the 4th Cloud - which involved getting onto a hanging slab and then trying to get to the top of it! The other was at the 2nd cloud a highball called Finger of Fate.
Nice photo from Dan.

Saturday 29 October 2011

RIP Jimmy Saville

I remember writing in to Jim'll Fix it as a small boy - wanting to be a space cadet - he never wrote back! Some might say that my dream came true.
Jimmy lived in Glencoe - and I had the good fortune to meet him in the Clachaig Inn with Louis Theroux whilst they were filming that programme a few years ago, all good banter. Seemed like someone who could have a good laugh and I thought about this film made around Fort William. Check out the scenery and get psyched to get up there.
RIP Jimmy! 1926-2011 - pretty impressive for a bit fat havanna smoker!

Thursday 27 October 2011

More sunshine, more gritstone sending.....

Yesterday I headed out with Ruth and both my personal photographers!! Lukasz and Dan, who amazingly both put their shoes on and did some climbing.
We scooted off to Cratcliffe for some high quality bouldering and we were joined by Elinor, Wilson and baby Bella who made her feelings on the place well felt for the first half of the day and only seemed happy once she was about to be leaving for Bakewell Tart/Pudding.

We went all over Cratcliffe and Robin Hood Stride seeking out the classics, I've only been once before and was thunderstormed off, so it was brilliant to have a good tour round. Did loads of great problems, attempted a whole load more and am psyched to go back soon.
Lukasz had been set a challenge by Paul Diffley not to look at the pictures he was taking whilst out for the day, like going back to the days of slides and having to wait for development. So he hasn't sorted his photos out yet, but Dan has sent me a few through so here they are.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Monday's photos!

Crag classic - Conan the Librarian

You were of course right, the mystery crag was Over Owler Tor, where we polished off a load of boulder problems and the classic route of the crag Aeroflot. We also went and had some entertainment at Mother Cap and Mother's Pet Crag. Was pretty damned windy over at Mother Cap and poor old Mac dog took a bit of a savaging from a passing nasty boxer type thing - vicious bugger!
Photos thanks to Ruth.
Might get some more photos from Dan which I'll add in later.

Bit less chalk on this one - David

Here are some of Dan's photos - check out more at
Thank you.
Aeroflot at Over Owler Tor

Oyster Cap

Oyster Cap