Friday, 30 July 2010

Tien Shan Journey

The big green truck in Karakol!

The little grey van!

The big green helicopter!

Our helicopter below Khan Tengri

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Khan Tengri

Khan Tengri
(image from

I'm currently heading off to Kyrgystan for a month to attempt Khan Tengri in the Tien Shan range. This is one of the world's most beautiful mountains rivaling the Matterhorn and Ama Dablam. If you include the snow on the summit it breaks the magic 7000m barrier and is one of the Russina Snow Leopard mountains. I'm leading this trip for Adventure Peaks and you can follow our progress on their News pages.

Bob Graham Round

In 2009 Dave completed the Bob Graham Round in 24:01:05. One year later he's back and determined to go under the 24 hours.....

Climbing towards Sergeant Man as the cloud thickens.

Leg 1 & 2 were dispatched ahead of schedule under a full moon and I joined Dave for leg 3 at 5am. As we traversed the Langdale Pikes we climbed in to thick cloud with a chilly wind. However crucially the rocks underfoot stayed dry and Dave was getting plenty of food down his neck as we continued to tick off the summits at a good pace. Dave was going well and despite me losing a bit of time with the navigation he was down and through Wasdale just 2 minutes behind his 23:32 schedule. The forecast was for light winds and showers in the afternoon. However within 15 minutes of leaving Wasdale a wall of rain came down the valley and they were soon battling against ' gale force winds with the rain coming down like stair rods.' Still with plenty of time in the bank but with an accident or hypothermia a real risk Dave & Carl made the tough call to abort at Black Sail Pass and descend to Honister Pass via the Climbers Traverse. A brave effort in some truely disgusting conditions and I'm sure we'll all be back out for attempt number five in the not so distant future. Amazing effort Dave.

Descending from Harrison Stickle.

Scrambling down from Broad Crag.

Stacking the odds in your favor on Broad Stand

Warming up back at Honister Pass.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Scafell's Central Buttress

Chris on the crux Great Flake of Central Buttress (E1 5b)

After a week of interesting weather it all came good for the final day out with Chris, who was getting some final practice in for his MIA assessment. With a perfect forecast we opted to make the steep pull up to the Scafell and have a look at the classic Central Buttress (E1 5b). After a very warm walk in the clouds rolled in as we started the first pitch. A few hours later as we topped out it all cleared again giving some stunning views but it did mean a rather chilly and atmospheric climb. Despite the cloud the rock was reasonably dry apart from the final corner. The moves and the situation are outstanding and it deserves it's reputation as one of the best climbs in the Lakes. Best of luck to Chris for his assessment at the beginning of September.

Chris heading away in to the gloom on pitch 5

Topping out an hour later in perfect sunshine!

Scafell Crag with the Great Flake obvious in the center of the left hand buttress.

Lakeland 100

Finishing my Bob Graham Round - only 72 miles

Good luck to all the competitors in the the Lakeland 100 which is taking place this weekend. This is a very scenic ultra marathon starting in Coniston and describes a clockwise circuit of the Lake District. You can follow everyone's progress here. I've deferred my entry till next year as running 100 miles is probably not the best preparation for an expedition to Khan Tengri the following day!

Chris Walker Cycle Challenge

The inaugural Chris Walker Cycle Challenge is being held this weekend in the Lake District to raise money for the Chris Walker Trust. Chris was a legendary figure in the mountaineering instructor community and a good friend. He very sadly lost his life in an avalanche in Glencoe in February of this year. His website gives an insight in to a real character who was 'living the dream.'

Taken from the Trusts website...

'The Chris Walker Memorial Trust Fund will basically comprise two main areas...

The first is an exploration/expedition fund designed to support climbers who are keen to establish new routes and/or repeat rarely attempted climbs because of their remoteness or level of difficulty. There is to be an annual award of £1000 to the expedition, considered after due application process, selected by a dedicated Board of Trustees from the climbing fraternity.

The second element is the establishment of a British Mountain Guide bursary re Avalanche Awareness Training. Variable payments of up to £1000 per annum will be made to keen, talented and active climbers and mountaineers who meet the exacting standards for the BMG Training scheme.

In addition there will be a Ski Performance Course grant available to those climbers who wish to take an existing level of ski performance to the next level. This part of the Fund has been set up and organised by Alison Culshaw and based in the Chamonix area.'

Good luck to all the riders who are turning out for a very worthy cause and in memory of a very unique individual who is sorely missed.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Short Roping & Scrambling

Chris taking a direct belay on Broad Buttress

Today was Chris's mountain day. On his MIA assessment he'll have to short rope two clients up and down grade 3 scrambling terrain. This is one of the most misunderstood techniques used by mountaineering instructors and guides but offers real security to folk on steeper terrain. Chris's better half Ellen joined us which gave him the opportunity to work with three people on the rope. We headed up to St Sunday Crag, opting for the quieter Broad Buttress to the right of the classic Pinnacle Ridge. This gave us a real mountaineering route with plenty of route finding difficulties. Despite plenty of low cloud the rock was dry and we made good progress through a combination of short roping and short pitching.

'Text book' short roping on the exit slopes

Chris & Ellen topping out on St Sunday Crag.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

MIA Navigation

Today's terrible forecast gave an ideal opportunity to look at the navigation aspect of the MIA assessment. Chris and I headed up on to the hills to the east of Pooley Bridge. These featureless hills were the location of the final KIMM (Karrimor International Marathon) in 2005, giving featureless moorland which is ideal for challenging navigation. As we sweated in the sunshine we could reflect on the limitations of weather forecasting! Despite perfect visibility we were able to look at efficient micro navigation, the importance of scale, relocation strategies and teaching navigation to others.

Chris enjoying the sunshine of Arthur's Pike

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

MIA Client Day

Chris jugging up his fixed line.

Today Chris had the opportunity to practice his coaching and client management in preparation for his MIA assessment. Steve & Hazel were keen to get out on the lead again despite the weather. However with perfect timing we arrived at the crag as it stopped raining and were back in Shepherds Cafe by the time it started again. Quayfoot Buttress (VD) in Borrowdale was very greasy but gave an interesting challenge for everyone before a multi pitch abseil back to our bags. A big thank you to Steve & Hazel for their help in making it a very successful day despite some pretty grotty conditions.

Chris & Hazel on pitch 3 of Quayfoot Buttress (VD)

Chris discussing the frictional properties of various lichens!

Chris & Steve on a multi pitch abseil descent of Quayfoot Buttress

Ama Dablam Expedition

Ama Dablam with the SW Ridge on the right
(Photo from Adventure Peaks)

In October this year I'm going to be leading an expedition to Ama Dablam for Adventure Peaks. This is one of the most stunning and iconic mountains in the world ranking alongside Khan Tengri and the Matterhorn. We plan to use fixed lines to ascend the South West ridge, the most popular route on the mountain but far from easy. This short film gives a good indication of the terrain and the exposed nature of the camps and climbing. There are still places available so if you are interested in climbing one of the worlds most beautiful mountains please get in touch with Adventure Peaks in Ambleside

Monday, 19 July 2010

Climbing Waterfalls

Rigging a counter balance abseil to rescue an unconscious casualty

On probably the wettest day of the year so far Chris and I headed out to do some work towards his MIA assessment. In response to the forecast we headed to the north east Lakes to Swindale and Gouther Crag but the break in the rain never materialized. With water pouring down the crag the original plan to bag some routes in was quickly shelved. Instead after a quick ascent of Truss Buttress (VD) we looked at a number of rescues and the fundamental skills required to carry them out quickly and efficiently. Between the squalls we looked at hoisting & lowering plus counter balance and assisted abseils.

The Monkeys Fist rope trick to get your rope down the crag in high winds

Another neat trick to prevent your rope cutting in under the boulder while abseiling

Another hour and we wouldn't be able to get home

Friday, 16 July 2010

Little Chamonix

Today I was working for Outward Bound Ullswater on their three week Classic Courses. They're one of the few young peoples centres that run multi pitch climbing sessions as a personal development tool. The drive down Patterdale this morning was pretty epic with torrential rain and plenty of debris in the road so we opted to head over to Shepherds Crag to gain as much shelter as possible. Once there conditions improved and by the afternoon we were bathed in sunshine. I made a couple of ascents of Little Chamonix (VD) with an international contingent - two Spaniards, one Dutch and an American. Other teams were on Brown Slabs, Donkeys Ears & Jackdaw Ridge. All in all a very successful day and a real challenge for the young people.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Angle Tarn Beck

The rain was still coming down so Niv and I decided a complete ascent of Angle Tarn Beck was in order. This was a very wet option but gives a great little scramble up on to the fells above Patterdale. Nothing too technical and at lower water levels it can provide plenty of entertainment for most ages. We followed the beck as far as the tarn before a fairly direct descent back to the van and some excellent bacon rolls from the Patterdale Post Office.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Kentmere Horseshoe

Kentmere & Ill Bell through the rain

With rain stopping play Niv and I went out on the fells for a run around the Kentmere Horseshoe. We had a couple of big squalls blow through which soaked us to the skin but apart from that conditions were fairly benign and we made good time. I also managed to tick off another four Wainwrights to add to my tally.

The climb up onto Ill Bell.

The final run down from Garburn Pass.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Gogarth - South Stack

Niv on the first pitch of Lighthouse Arete (VS 4c)

The forecast was predicting heavy rain by lunchtime so we made an early abseil in to Castell Helen and made quick ascents of Lighthouse Arete (VS 4c) and Rap (VS 4c), two classic lines that I've wanted to do for a while. Plenty of other teams had the same idea and had driven up to Holyhead to escape the rain in Snowdonia. We popped in to Llanberis in the evening hoping to get a quick session on the RAC Boulders between the showers but with the rain setting in we ended up enjoying the delights of Petes Eats.

Reaching the first stance on Lighthose Arete.

Niv on the 2nd pitch of Lighthouse Arete

An early morning abseil in to Castell Helen

Monday, 12 July 2010

Gogarth - Main Wall

Niv arriving at the 2nd stance on Gogarth (E1 5b)

After a long drive north from Pembroke Niv and I headed into Gogarth, arguably the UK's premier sea cliff. Although the Snowdonia mountains were wreathed in cloud we had light winds and sunshine. We had the Main Wall area to ourselves so quickly jumped on the 2 star Gauntlet (HVS 5a) to warm up before heading down to the crag classic Gogarth (E1 5b). This, the origional route on the cliff, weaves it's way in 5 pitches through some very impressive scenery with the crux reserved for a short steep section on the final pitch.

Gogarth Main Wall

Looking down the stunning 4th pitch of Gogarth (E1 5b)

Niv belayed on Gaunlet (HVS 5a)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Pembroke Stag

I've just returned from a quick visit to Pembroke for a stag do. Surfing on the Saturday and coasteering on the Sunday. A great weekend and I can now stand up on a surf board!