Friday, August 26, 2011

The Road to the nose

Myself and Matt Barratt formally of Skye Guides are off to Yosemite for some big wall action this September, we have spent the last year begging borrowing and steeling anything remotely big wall related. We have also been doing a fair bit of fitness training, that and staring at pictures, guide books and YouTube so as you can imagine we are feeling pretty prepped...... I spoke to a hardened big walling friend of mine the other day for some advice on the trip:

He said you’ll be fine just make sure you get lots of mileage in with your partner before hand, so you climb as a tight unit where one knows instinctively what the other is thinking and doing even when you’re out of sight of each other...

I said the last time I rock climbed with Matt was over a year ago we did a route together on Gower?? And the next time will be in Yosemite....

Looking a bit awkward he said Well that’s ok just sort you systems out get ninja good at setting up the poterledge, while hanging in you harness do till you get your times down, do it in the wind do it in the dark.... do it lots.

I said the poterledge is on Skye.... Im living in South Wales

He raised his eyebrows and said well that’s just a small part, its hauling that important; sort your hauling out practice from a ledge, hanging from your harness, practice packing the bag so you know where everything is with your eyes closed

I said the haul bags are waiting for us in Yosemite we had them delivered there

He straightened up, scratched his beard a bit. His eyes glazed  over as if searching through all his big walling experience for another shiny pearl, he looked me strait in the eye and said you better be climbing like a spider monkey son or you’re going to be an article on UKC!

I said... Nothing

Despite this we have got some sponsorship for kit from to which we are eternally grateful, and I for one am feel rather optimistic. So please keep an eye on this blog as i hope to update it with stories and video for the big stone.

Please note: the “big wall” character in this story is entirely fictitious, his likeness was note based on a real life person, if you know someone like this good effort! However my part was based entirely on me and everything I said though probably poorly spelled was entirely true.

I hope you enjoy the blog, and that it maybe helps you in the future

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ron Fawcett: Rock Athlete

Come on Arms do your stuff!!! In his book Rock Athlete Ron Fawcett recollects that this “throw away” comment he made while being filmed climbing lord of the flies, was just simply something to break the silence. Yet he notes it took on a near mythical form, with climbers regurgitating it to each other and at him as a sort of cult style catch phrase… Well I was one of those climbers! Even though the bulk of Ron’s career was played out in the 70’s and 80’s when I started climbing (90’s), I was fed a healthy diet of Ron Fawcett stories and every crag we went to that had a route by the big man on was pointed out to me.

This is a biography of the man who for me, made climbing what it is today. The cover shot sums up what he was to me perfectly, his finely tune athletic frame (a result of the thousands of push ups he did a day, and the hundreds of miles of rock he would cover each week), pierced by “a stare so focused it could cut steel!” .

Having not known the man this book linked up all the magazine articles, stories and pictures I have absorbed about him over the years. His biography walks you through his life and achievements, in a warts and all narrative, his self-conscious and shy personality show through as the common thread of the book is how he would consume large quantities of highly graded routes to satisfy his appetite for rock and not fame.

A fantastic read about a living legend, make it part of your library today.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Book Review: Pembroke Range East Gary Gibson

This is the long awaited comprehensive update by the Climbers Club of possibly the busiest, most diverse and beautiful climbing venue in Wales (or the world). It did not disappoint! “1000 routes between Vdiff to E10”.
It is one of two from the new serise, that have been released and there is another four books set to come in the next year (that is a life times supply of climbing).

This book has fantastic photos and crag descriptions making navigation off the area simple, leaving you more time to climb. The knowledge and experience of its author certainly shines through in its text with very accurate route locations and descriptions (a must if your abseiling blind towards a boiling sea, the last thing you want is to find that the VS you have come to do is actually E5).

All this in an A5 book that fits in your pocket (just like a guide book should) this book is a must no matter where you live in the UK, Pembroke has it all from the Tim Emmett types, to those making their way throught the grades.

so head to pemb's and maybe ill see you there. if your keen but nervouse check out my intro to sea cliff climbing courses Click here

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Tony's Top Tip's - Racking Nuts

Sort your nuts out!

Heading off in the vertical world is always a gamble of efficiency do you go light and fast and run the risk of not having the crucial bit of kit to see you through the crux, or do you take the kitchen sink and struggle to get of the floor? With the majority of decent length trad pitches, I find it useful to have two sets of nuts (DMM wallnuts are my weapon of choice).

Split the nuts in to four sets, two sets of large and two sets of small. And rack one large and one small set on each side of your harness, this will enable you to do a number of things. If you were to drop a set of crucial sized nuts in to oblivion or can’t get at the set you need then all is not lost simply reach for the set on the other side.

Plus if you clip the nuts in towards yourself and if you need to replace a nut on the rack then all you need to do is rotate the crab on your harness, this will put the crab in the best position to re-clip the nut. All this can be done one handed!
there you go just a few thoughts, hope they are helpful. feed back is always welcome

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A day out in Scotland

What’s that noise? That noise is people getting ready, can’t be we are getting up at 05:00 no one will be up before us…. What’s the time? 07:50 SHIT!!!

SI, on your feet! We slept in mate; I was laying on the alarm! You get your shit together ill get the feed on then we’ll swap leaving the van in 20 mins

Right o…. what’s the weather like

Pissing down

Grim…at least there wont be any cues

Kit sorted, feed had, walking in the rain through the woods, steep dark path, sack is too heavy, I’m not hill fit, another party coming up the path… in the rain? At this time in the morning?.. Their keen. Their fast, we’re slow.. And late. Perhaps we should have a rest day we did drive for 14 hours yesterday.

Get a grip, people have cycled further and climbed harder. You’ll curse it.

What’s up mate?

Iv lost a glove, I’m going back down the path to find it

This is daft, we’re not together. Late, rushed, kit missing… We don’t even know what route we are going to do! Leave you sac here bro..

No sign of the other two now, Christ we are slow. Looks like he has it, good work what’s the time? 08:46
Its raining pretty hard this must be affecting the snow pack, leaving the woods now, Jesus its windy, we should go back.

If everyone who thought that went back the world would be full of short walks.

Ankle is sore, tendonitis is playing up a lot, we should head back.

What route do you recon would be a go in this mate?

The one back to the van. Well our dreams of point five are out. We’ll have to stick to the ridges…. We are quite late and the weather is getting worse so maybe just head up and look at conditions and do something short like ledge route?

What’s that like?

Its fine, its short.. But good

This is stupid, not fit, late, massive tendonitis, it’s my partners first Scottish winter day out and here we are walking in to the Ben when everyone else is walking out!

Well we’re up now keep walking, at very worst you can head up and see conditions for yourself.

Lights are on at the CIC hut…

Hello… excuse me, have you had a weather forecast for today? Do you know if this “BLIZZARD” is going to get worse?

yea the wind will get stronger this afternoon, its not really snowing now this is mostly blown stuff coming off the top.

Thanks… I think we’re heading down anyway

Probably a good choice.

Can’t see a thing viz is already grim. Lets wonder up behind the hut and have a look at the snow.

Its bullet hard, good times.. There is the odd pocket of soft blown stuff but nothing to cry about, aaar but what time is it its probably really late, 11.00am not great but not bad either.

Which way is ledge route?

Over there you can’t see it though. We’ll head this way and see what’s happening towards point five area.

Don’t be silly there is a lot of snow accumulating above that route you know this, its one thing to bring him up here today but don’t chase medals not on a day like today.

Im just looking…We are not committed… Jesus that’s deep!

Accumulate snow.. God this viz is bad is that tower ridge or north east buttress….

Its tower you tit! Switch on!

I thought you said point five is a bad idea today?

It is, we are not going up there, there is to much loose stuff about, we’re going to look at tower ridge.

Tower ridge which one is that?

The really long one, which needs an early start and no faffing.

Ok sounds like us to a T.? is it hard?


Have you done it before?


Where does it go?

Follow those steps

It’s too late to start this route, my tendonitis is killing me! The forecast for the summit is 50mph plus this afternoon it’s dark by 16:30.....We’ll just have a look

Can I lead this first bit?

If you want have you done any mixed stuff before?

No just some ice in Canada with the marines.

Stick a runner in then

At least if he fall’s the decision is made for us, ill just drag him back to the CIC hut job done.

A bit tricky that.

Yea you did well, lets put the rope away for now.

He took to long lets turn back. Its late lets turn back, your tendonitis is hurting let’s turn back.

The going is easy for now lets have a look.

That’s a big shadow, must be little tower I think we go up the left..

You think? Not a good day for guessing check the book

It’s the left I’m sure just follow the easy ground.

We’ll get the rope out here..

Ok where does it go?

… Up left ish on the easy ground.

Are you sure about this, once you go above this your committed, you should be going down, tendonitis, late, weather?

This snow is perfect, the climbing is simple your moving fast.

That was awesome! Good effort not quite used to mixed climbing, probably best you keep leading everything
Great tower and the eastern traverse now. You better be up to this it’s your idea, it’s your fault you’re here.

Did you here that?


There was a large rumble to our left when you were leading that last bit?

Must be avalanche.

Good job we are not on point five. Can’t find much gear on this traverse. I have to find something for Si, its your idea to be here so sort it out, we should of turned back.

That’ll do.

That was scary mate where now?

Up this chimney and I’ll find a belay.

This snow is perfect! The climbing is awesome!

Cool head now you still have tower gap to do yet, do I send him first to keep the rope above him or shall I do it so a can coach him through to save time?

How was that?

Hard… good effort, can’t get use to using tools on rock… where does it go now?

We get back on the ridge now and then on to tower gap.

What’s that like?

It’s like a gap… I’m not sure we’ll have a look and see.

Christ it’s windy as hell gusting like mad. Better chuck a sling on this before I go and look.

Ill head down first and talk  you through mate.

This looks desperate!

It looks tricky, tricky but fine. There must be a sneaky hold for your foot?

There it is… he’ll be fine there is tat he can swing on.

There is sod all for the belay.. Get excavating son!

That’s it mate there is a good hold for your left foot, stick your axe through the tat… Tidy


Good effort!

Where does it go now?

Up this ramp and up.

That had better be the crux because we can’t turn around now. Listen to that wind! Goggles out. The summit is going to be epic!

Get your goggles on Si it’s a bit windy up there.

Get your map out, check the bearing. Head torch on for later, quick snack, drink. Right over the top. I cant see a thing not even my legs. Shit this was a bad idea!!!



Don’t cock this up not to far left or you’ll be down five finger gully, not to far right or you’ll be down number two gully. This wind is throwing me everywhere. Nice! The cairn, a foot and a half away this viz is mega bad.

Viz improving, wind easing job done. Piece of piss!   Back to the van for tea and medals.

Mate that was awesome!

Yea I can’t believe we didn’t see any one on the summit?!