Sunday, 27 May 2018

New Central Wales guide

Ahh..the fragrance of a freshly minted climbing guide. Chuffed as hell to receive a copy of the new Steep Stone Central Wales guide by Dave Williams & Doug Kerr, with a v small contribution from moi for the Ynys Lochtyn section. Available from Cordee.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Grivel G14 crampon Step In Heel Clip replacement?

I had a problem with my Grivel G14 right crampon, they are a few years old and show a few scars. The G14 is the real workhorse for steep snow and ice, and I love em to bits literally… the Black plastic threaded adjuster block that sits within the Yellow heel clip clamp is worn, at some point I’ve over tightened the heel tensioning screw and the steel heel clip rod has pulled through and passed the locating rebate on the threaded Black block, I managed to re locate it but I think it’s weakened it.

I’ve always checked the fit to the boot before setting off but having both a pair of B3’s & stiff B2’s ready in the boot of the car, depending on the conditions i tend to swap boots at the last minute. It’s easy to misjudge the amount of physical effort you need to lock the heel clips, especially if it’s freezing cold and your wearing thick gloves, or occasionally a bit of ice gets trapped between the boot heel and the crampon. Crampons are expensive but thankfully spare parts are available and those nice folks at Needle Sports were able to assist with a replacement heel assembly, check out
The only difference I have noticed is that the steel rod on the available replacement kit is bent rather than straight, this means that on the most accommodating volume setting they just about fit my B3 Nep Ex’s there is very little extra adjustment available. As I said this shouldn’t be a problem as I have few other boots with a greater heel height. The solution I would guess if need be, would be to straighten the steel heel bracket in a vice.

Overall advice would be check you’re not exerting too much effort to lock the heels, thoroughly clear away any compacted snow/ice between the heel and crampon, fitting should need just enough pressure to hold the heel in position, but not so loose that there is a chance that the clip jumps out of the heel slot under compression. 
Happy trails....

Blencathra, Sharp Edge and the Fireball

4am ish start up the M6, passing Stoke and heading in the same direction as us, a large fireball illuminates a star studded morning sky.
‘Fook.. that was a  big un’ we both mutter.
Last time we saw one that size was driving back from climbing at Llanymenech on a late summers evening. Heading East, it was that impressive we were expecting a Terminator 3 style warm glow on the horizon. Ooops there goes Dudley. We even re-tuned to a local radio just to check for reports of utter devastation. Nothing, not a jot, no one else had seen it and it hadn’t caused any damage, unless it had but nobody noticed.
The staggering absence of any comment of the phenomenon we witnessed should of surprised me but it didn’t, I’d been there before.

No real reason for this little story other than to get it off my chest... 
…..One winters evening some good few years ago on the way home from a rehearsal for the school play Oliver!, an elite band of tatty workhouse boys gathered on some old railway sidings to chuck snow at passing trains, with a bit of luck someone’s shot would find an open window and an expecting passenger would get plastered. Such fun…the consequences of such rude actions were in those day immaterial. Back to the main event..
Above the black outline of the local houses a very bright light rose in the southern sky.
Wow look, a helicopter no a plane no… a I dontknowhatitis but it’s getting bigger and closer, soddin hell surely chucking a snowball can’t rouse the militia, or an armed response. I can safely say watching this light getting closer wasn’t just putting the willy’s up me it was freaking us all out. The light suddenly rocketed erratically in every direction, repeatedly stopping dead still for a few seconds then starting again. No noise nothing just the light. A minute later it shot off and disappeared behind the silhouette of the church on the horizon some half mile away.
In unison we all exclaimed “What the f**king hell was that” a comet a meteor a SPACESHIP? yes we all agreed it was a spaceship so that was that.
Anyway…. The massive SPACESHIP had likely landed in the graveyard near where i lived, and by now an alien advance party with vicious probing weaponry were stalking unsuspecting Black Country folk in the swirling mist amongst the gravestones…
“Ahem”…I bravely said ”Chaps I’ve seen what happens in the movies, I don’t think I’m going to walk past the church tonight, I’m go the long way through the brightly lit village, If I’m not a school tomorrow alert the relevant secret agencies”
The next day had anybody else seen it, had they hell, not a sod, so it was just the 4 of us who knew about the MASSIVE SPACESHIP that crashed to earth last night, or maybe us and the chap hit by the snowball on train who in reaction ran to the train the window to hurl abuse. We will never know. Throughout the following week I critically observed the local inhabitants for signs of replicant behaviour, they indeed all looked very weird.

Back on the M6 there was far more traffic than I expected for 5am, where are they all soddin going at this time of the morning. Pedal to the metal we cruised into the crisp Pink morning sky of the northern lakes. Ahh man.. today is looking awesome.
The plan was to go for Sharp Edge, for some inexplicable reason, and I can’t think why I’ve never been up Blencathra, so joy, this will be one of the few remaining classic Grade l/ll Lakeland ridges I’ve left to knock off, and in top winter conditions. It’s been freezing cold for at least a week now, most of the gullies are still soft and only good for digging turf but the ridges look good. Driving in from Penrith a warm alpine glow illuminated the ruptured massifs of Skiddaw and Blencathra, and it looked like there was more snow left on the hill than I had expected, Magnificent!!

So now for the most difficult part of the day. Three hours in a warm car, the simple operation of opening the door, exposing our puny bodies the cold morning air how easily a ‘put off-able a task’, like ripping off an old plaster from a hairy leg, best get it over with quickly. Whoo hahh!!! Ssshhhfoook….there that wasn’t so bad.

Bags pre packed were off… fecking hell! …zip zip ssswoosh, it’s icy!! Three steps the splits and a Triple Salchow later I learn how to walk again. Taking a few more pics of the rosy fingered sunrise we headed up towards Scales Tarn. The welcome crisp crunch of boot on snow unusually loud in the still air fades slowly as we rise from the confines of Mousthwaite Comb onto the broad Col linking Souther and Scales Fell. To the north, the wonderful of white rump of Bannerdale Crags and White Horse Bent, the thin black line of the River Glenderamackin girdles and gargles towards the safe harbour of Mungrisedale. The profile of Sharp Edge is glowing as we contour the side of Scales Fell, as we gain height and temperature slowly rises, slender bridges of ice bracing Scales Beck crack and tinkle into the stream. Scales Tarn is Bible Black, The relatively flat triangle of ground created by the conjoining paths to the east of the tarn shows traces of a relatively recent overnight wilderness camp, thankfully nicely cleaned up. Time for quick brew and bite to eat. Not a sole in sight we grunt up towards Sharp Edge. We stop before the ridge proper to tool up.

I’ve got a problem with my Grivel G14 right crampon, they are a few years old and show a few scars. The Black plastic threaded adjuster block that sits within the Yellow heel clip is worn, at some point I over tightened the screw and the steel heel clip rod has pulled through passed the block, I managed to re locate it but I think it’s weakened it. I’ve always checked the fit to the boot before setting off but I must have swapped boots, it’s easy to misjudge the amount of lock you need on your heel clip, especially if it’s freezing cold and your wearing thick gloves, or occasionally a bit of ice gets trapped between the boot heel and the crampon. Crampons are expensive but thankfully spare parts are available check out

Ok it’s not the Eiger but the ground ahead still deserved respect. In practice for the an unpredictable UK snow season we wanted to take advantage of the conditions and practice some winter rope-work as close to the edge all the way. There had been a hard frost the night before and the ridge was sparkling in the bright early morning sun. We were going to be moving quite slowly so to save any bunching we wanted to be the first on the route, some meters below down at the Tarn a few others were arriving and gearing up. Taking your time to rope protect one another really makes you think that bit harder, leap frogging the lead and flipping the rope for protection, we were soon moving together pretty well.  Even managing couple of sling over a spike belays.
A few meters after the awkward step and we only have the final headwall leading up to Atkinson Pike ahead, the usual route is slightly to the right following a groove, which probably keeps to Grade 1. We opted for a slightly spicier left hand variant, pristine smooth and sparkly White it looked straight forward enough with a few reasonable protuberances of rock to place a sling if required. Looks are deceptive… I should have brought my two smaller technical axes...

A few paces to the left, and we’re on an angled rounded buttress that overlooks quite a steep drop down to Scales Tarn, Deej my climbing partner takes the first pitch, moving tentatively on points up to the first block, he stops and turns with a grin. ….’Ooooh nice' he’s says in his best 'Carry On' banter. The edge behind the block isn’t brilliant but it’s enough to take a thin sling. I follow up and head passed scanning for the next bit of protection. In the summer you would just skip up this but a layer of snow certainly sharpens your wits. Ice has filled the cracks and verglas coats the rock. Front pointing at this angle my knees are catching a cold. I slip the axe head round a likely rock and after a few tugs it holds firm, it’s a genuine hold and not a rock glued in with ice. A pull a grab and a step, pull a grab and a step I’m up and safe(ish) in a good bracing position. Another sling is possible slightly higher above me so I run an Italian hitch and bring up Deej. With a  big smile on his face
“Spicy aye it” says Deej as he cruises on past making for the next belay. One more pitch and I’m up top.

By now a few others on the edge have caught up with us, they have taken the sensible groove to the top, a bit of mountain chat ensues.

“Fair play guys, we were watching you on the buttress” says other climber 1
“Oh yeah cool” says I “did you get any pics of us”
“Nah.. sorry we had our hands full” Says other climber 2
“Sigh…nobody notices when you shine the most” mutters me
“Ehhh…”says Other climber 1
“Nothing” says I, I’m dehydrated and rambling, what a cracking day eh”

The sun flares and fades as we pack the ropes and hardware, we head to the top of Blencathra and take in the view. Well we had it pretty good on the ridge so can’t complain too much if the clag comes down. A quick brew and we head down. 
Another grand day out, we'll come again, bring on winter.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Patagonia, Torres del Paine - Flora & Fauna

A few pages i pulled together from a presentation i gave after a trip to Patagonia back in 2014. We circumnavigated the Torres del Paine, the route known as the 'O'. The shorter southern trek just visiting the honeypots is known as the 'W'. Info might be useful for anybody thinking of making the trek. Pictures by myself, with thanks to Dave Beer for the splendid wildlife close ups.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mountain Photo 2015 - Trail Magazine

Flippin chuffed to have a photo shortlisted for Trail Magazine UK Mountain Photo 2015, voting ends soon, so if you like it please give it  a vote   

Friday, 7 August 2015

Markha Valley trek, Ladakh - Wed 5th August

Back in Leh out from Markha Valley after 'Deliverance' style epic 30k, 14hr trek from Nyimaling Plain to Hemis. Markha Trail desimated following prolonged storms causing severe flooding and damage to road and trail infastructure. The road from Shang to Hemis is impassable, washed out in several places, bridges were still standing up to Wed 5th Aug as we came out, but the halfway bridge crossing to true left bank had a gaping hole on the right hand bastion so that may be gone by Thus 6th August. Our escape back to Leh was only possible due to superhuman efforts of our Nepali guides. Heading down from the Gongmaru La Pass 5287m we had to 'Canyon' most of the mid to lower section from Lartsa to Shang. Sections had to be rapelled over waterfalls, and the majority of river crossings had to be roped. On one section of missing road below Shang we had to run a 60m rope to protect the traverse over the torrent. I believe their is a group of trekkers still camped at Shang waiting to get out when the river levels lower, thou if storms continue they may have to wait their a while. No WiFi coms from Leh at present, maybe out for 4/5 days, so posting this from Agra India. Anyway, off to the Penguin Cafe for a pizza and a bottle of weak Kingfisher. Helen had to summon up supreme courage to make it back to Leh, what a trooper!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Glyderau Traverse - Sunday 8th Feb

I'm as guilty as most for not putting the dam camera away and just living the moment.
For a few days in the 2nd week of Feb this year, winter conditions came good in North Wales, that is came good from a photographers point of view, cloud inversions and clear skies. 

On Sunday 8th we managed to grab one of those days, when you just don’t want to descend. A digital witness, I hung around for hours just soaking up the day through the viewfinder. Having just taken one picture, 10 mins later a slight shift in position had the camera out again..

 Getting home, sifting through the hundreds of images only half a dozen stand out. The mountain conditions we had that day raised the bar, nature was doing it all for me, all I had to do was click away. I was after and the day demanded something better than a chocolate box shot. I wanted a pic to sum up the crunch of the crampon, the sharpness of cold air, the ring of an axe on stone. Some days you feel you get close with a photo but seriously nahh…nowhere near.