Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Finally, we just got our copies of the new film from the crazy Belgians in the shop: Venezuela Jungle Jam. Nico Favresse, Sean Villanueva and their climbing partners are the undisputed kings of making expedition climbing movies. They are also pretty much the kings of making badass climbing expeditions. It’s a killer combination.
Their previous films Asgard Jamming and Vertical Sailing have been very popular with you and for good reason. They are two of the most fun climbing films you’ll ever see and full of all the ingredients of great adventure - big characters, thrills and spills and unexpected funny moments. Venezuela Jungle Jam is the latest in the line! It’s already picking up a string of awards on the film festival circuit. In this film they are off to the amazing 500m sandstone Tepuy of Venezuela to deal with sweaty jungles, wild animals, loose rock, falls, overhanging big walls and, always, jamming on the portaledge.
The climbing looks challenging, in just about all the ways it could (apart from being cold). The scenery is gob smacking and as you’ll just about see in the teaser (it really is a tease) Sean’s superb sideways plummet off a ledge is another one of those ‘oh my god’ moments we almost come to expect from these guys. Brilliant stuff. The DVD is 58 mins plus extras, Subtitles in English, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Polish and German.
I’ve also just added the Distilled DVD now we have our DVD stock, so you can either download it, or get it for your winter partner for Christmas!
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
I’ve just added two new climbing films to the shop. First up is Distilled, Hot Aches Productions new film about Scottish winter climbing with Andy Cave. There are still only a handful of films out there about Scottish winter, and of these, one one or two really good ones. So it’s great to see another. Andy explores what is so special about this ‘distilled’ form of alpinism by going climbing on all types of routes from the classic mountaineering routes like Tower Ridge to proper hard mixed in proper wild conditions. Inspiring and timely stuff. You’ll find Distilled in the shop for HD download and the DVDs will be with us in a few days.
Next is The Last Great Climb DVD, Alastair Lee’s latest film with Leo Houlding. Leo increasingly these days is going on some pretty badass expeditions to far flung places. Ulvetanna in Antarctica is just about as far flung as you can get. It’s a jaw dropping mountain to look at and the line they managed to climb on it just looks sensational. As you might expect with Alastair, although it’s heavy on the cheese factor at times it is very well filmed and a great adventure. One to make you think twice about just going down the local wall and booking a ticket to the other side of the world instead.
Monday, 25 November 2013
I came back to my big traverse project, which unfortunately was quite wet. However, good progress can still be made even though I can’t try all of it. With fresh eyes, I spotted quite a few changes to my sequence that seem so obvious now, but didn’t before. It always makes me smile when that happens. Why don’t you see an obviously easier way to do a move before, but having had a wee bit of time away, it’s obvious? Who knows, but it’s nice anyway. I felt like I almost did the project just before I went in for surgery. So I'm gunning for a dry day where I can get a chance to see where I'm at on it now.
My ankle continues to have up and down progress. I can now do some rather shaky one-leg calf raises, which were completely impossible 1 week ago. I can also bat hang again. However, although I can hang upside down from holds by my toes, walking up mountains is still challenging.
I tried a longish walk over classic tussocky Scottish bog, in search of some new crags. I found a great deep water soloing venue 5 miles from my house! However, after 45 minutes, it hurt.
So at least another week of bouldering, training, physio, book editing etc. Maybe I’ll see some of you on Thursday night in London for my talk at the Royal Geographical Society.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
In my last two days in Margalef, I managed to keep up the progress with my surgery rehab. I had a quick try on another 8c and although I got it in two halves, I still wasn’t able to get much power through my left foot or move with any confidence. However, even the next day I could feel it getting better and actually got fairly close to doing the route. My body movements are still feeling pretty foreign. That might sound a bit silly, but it’s a difficult sensation to explain. Because I climb a lot and have climbed for years, my brain has such a strong expectation of how my body ought to move. So when it doesn’t function that way, it feels like it’s someone else climbing.
On my last day, after a couple of quick tries on the 8c, I got a bouldery 8a+ redpointed in half an hour or so, and a 7c+ onsight. On both of those, although I’m still far off fitness, I felt a bit more myself during the climbing. I can’t tell you what a satisfying feeling that is.
So now I’ve had a handful of climbing days to get me started, I’m heading back to Scotland and can try and build a base of fitness and confidence again. The next stage is to be able to walk up a hill again. After this trip I’ve consolidated walking for 10 minutes or so on uneven paths. So if my upward progress continues I’ll hopefully manage to walk a mile or so, and then I’ll shoot for walking up a Munro and climbing 8c again. My goal (if it’s not to cold now) will be to complete my 8c project at Ruthven as soon as I can. The rest before the crux has a left foot toe hook though, so I might have to try powering on through instead!
[Update] Since writing the post above I managed to miss the last tube train back from a gig in Glasgow and walked at least a mile through Govan in the wee small hours to find some transport home. It might not count since it was under the influence of a few analgesics. I'll take it as further progress anyway.
Sunday, 10 November 2013
Tomorrow is 4 weeks since my ankle surgery. I’ve had just as many ups and downs as I expected. At first, I was going great guns, ditching my crutches quite early on and starting to walk quite freely around the house. In the second week, I even had a 15 minute climbing session on easy problems at the Ice Factor.
Then the ankle became infected, I got antibiotics, they made me get really sick, then it got super swollen and exquisitely painful. All of this coincided with a family trip to Fontainbleau, the first day of which I spent lying as still as possible in bed with a fever. After that, I was of course desperate to climb. The next day I did one 7B+, and paid for it for the rest of the week, limping around generally feeling pretty rough. Back home and I managed to get through a couple of days coaching and lectures in Scotland before getting on another plane to Margalef which I’d arranged long before I’d even had the ankle problem.
When I woke up on the first morning, I wished I’d just cancelled the trip. I’d been hopeful I could begin climbing by now, but the ankle was still really swollen and angry. A 200 metre walk to the crag nearly had me in tears. More antibiotics, rest days and lying down with my foot in the air seems to have brought a breakthrough at last.
Yesterday, I made another tentative start. A 7a+, a 7b and a laughable attempt at an 8c. I know that my confidence won’t take too long to get back, but yesterday felt like I was 16 and weak again. I’ve lost a lot of confidence to be aggressive with my feet and get body tension. To be expected of course.
Today felt slightly better again, with 7b+ onsight and an 8a redpoint, and the crag was about 10 minutes walk from the car (the crux of the day!). Tomorrow I will rest and then we’ll see if I can make another little step in an upward direction.
I’ve just added a couple of new books in the shop. Both are must reads for anyone keen for inspiration and information on climbing, but both are very different. The last book is a long awaited guide to some of the finest lumps of rock in the UK.
First up is Julian Lines autobiography ‘Tears of the Dawn’. I imagine most of you will not need introduced to Jules, who has been the ‘dark horse’ of the bold trad and free soloing scene in the UK for the past 15 years or so. I’ve done a couple of his routes myself such as Firestone E7 6c in Hell’s Lum which is archetypal of his climbs - no gear, not really any holds either. Just a deep breath and a lot of trust in the frictional properties of thin granite smears. Many of the nailbiting adventures he’s had over the years involve free soloing, by himself on the quiet mountain crags of the highlands. But he’s also well known for his deep water soloing exploits, not to mention jumping off cliffs and paragliding. He’s hit the ground from a long way up too many times to mention, but is either a very lucky man or has bendy bones. It’s a great window into the mind of an solo adventurer, but very much the opposite of an Alex Honhold type of character.
Next is The Art of Ice Climbing, a lovely book which is part coffee table inspiration book, part technical manual. It’s a great production with interesting historical and new photography throughout. It has excellent advice sections on sharpening ice tools, screws, ropework and techniques for ice climbing. I think just about any ice climber would learn something new here. In the past there have been some great books on ice climbing that every climber should have on their shelf. I reckon this is the latest in that line.
You’ll find all of these, along with the rest of the best climbing books, films and gear out there in the shop.
Thursday, 24 October 2013
I’ve just added a new climbing DVD to the webshop. It’s the double DVD of two BBC programmes I shot last year. The first is a re-enactment of one of the first recorded climbs in the UK; a crossing by three men from the Western Isles onto the Great Stac of Handa in 1867. It was quite an experience to recreate their feat of daring and a window into a way of life now long gone. The inspiration to make a film about it came from an essay by Tom Patey in an old SMC journal, where he expressed his amazement at the strength and ingenuity of the Lewismen for rigging up a rope successfully and climbing across the huge gap to the stac. Patey himself had found the crossing desperate. To film it we had to get a 400m rope that was really thick (it weighed 45kgs) and cart it across Handa and then set it up spanning between the headlands on either side of the Stac. It was quite amazing the Lewismen thought to do it that way.
The second film couldn't be more different. The huge networks of limestone caves underneath the dales of Yorkshire and the Peak District obviously have some fantastic rock features, but they aren’t normally visited by rock climbers! Myself and Alan Cassidy went on a wee mission to see if there was good rock climbing to be had in the caves. What we found was pretty adventurous and definitely out of the ordinary. First off we climbed the a big circular chamber of Jingling Pot in Yorkshire. It went at about E3 although that obviously doesn’t do it much justice since it was running with water and totally dark. But that was just a warm up for the 4-pitch monster 7c+ we climbed in Peak Cavern - the biggest cave opening in the peak, and our route was the first free climb In the whole cave. It was quite a lucky and special experience. Both programmes are 1 hour long.
It’s in the shop here.
Our new 4 pitch 7c+ in Peak Cavern on the Extraordinary Climbs film
Tuesday, 22 October 2013
Things have gone well for me. Much better than I expected. 48 hours after surgery, I was on the campus board in TCA and doing easy problems foot-off. After my surgery last year, I couldn’t face this for nearly two weeks. By day 4 I was hobbling a little in the house and at day 7 walking quite normally, if still for very short distances.
Of course I’ve had a couple of ‘sore’ days. Yesterday I didn’t feel like doing anything too far from a sofa until it was time for my physio session in the evening. I’ve still not ventured out for anything more than a few minutes walk. But I’m well happy with the progress so far. Now I have my big fat bandage off, I can see that my foot is not so far from a shape that would accept a rockshoe.
The huge difference between this and my much slower progress in last year’s operation on the other ankle might be accounted for because the joint was much less ‘hot’ at the time of surgery. I.e. I was walking around on a partially functioning foot rather than on crutches on a swollen, angry ankle.
Roll on the progress!
Friday, 18 October 2013
On the way home from the Dolomites the other week, I stopped by at the Ruthven Boulder near Inverness for a session. Blair Fyffe had just added a long traverse at Font 7c (or route 8b - it’s 20 or 30 metres long!). Blair wrote a nice blog about it here. There was an obvious extended start to make it a bit more complete and I thought I’d have a look at that. I repeated the traverse from Blair’s start after a suss of the moves (I’d say it’s more like route 8a+) and then did it from the extended start which adds a great section across the roof on the left side of the boulder. This definitely knocks it up a grade to route 8b or Font 7c/+ish. It’s a classic endurance workout and dries very quickly, so I’m sure it will be keeping local climbers fit in the coming years. If you want the beta, check out the video above. Blair's trav starts from the big jug I bat-hang off.
Thankfully, it isn’t over there. Where the traverse goes up a level at the crux of ‘The Big Lebowski’, there is an obvious low variation dropping down a bit and continuing on tiny crimpers. After two or three sessions, just before I headed to Glasgow for surgery, I almost got it. So I have something to go back to as soon as I can climb again. The crux is quite a lot harder than the high traverse and it’s going to go at around route 8c I think. Can’t wait to return..
Labels: Scottish bouldering
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Alan Cassidy on the big Dumbarton project
I was lucky enough to be able to climb recently despite my pending ankle surgery yesterday. For my last day before the appointment with the knife collection, I decided to team up with Alan Cassidy to go on a very inspiring project.
The wall right of Rhapsody at Dumbarton was bolted in the early nineties by the ever optimistic Andy Gallagher. Various very strong people had tried it and noone had made much impression on it. That’s a shame since it’s one of the best lines at an amazing crag, with superb rock and moves. I had a brief play one cold day around 8 years ago. I felt it was just possible but might be upwards of 9a+ minimum. I was getting kind of ‘full’ of climbing at Dumbarton at the time and left it for a life in the highlands.
Just as well Alan took an interest and looked at it again, giving it a proper clean for the first time. A couple of tiny, but useful holds appeared from under the lichen, that maybe tip it in the direction of possible, although the grade might still start with 9…
I had a play and was most heartened to be able to do most of the individual moves. It’s clear that it goes and it’s pretty inspiring. I found it kind of ridiculous to be back there after several years, working on the line I’d left behind, thinking that some youth will come along and do it. That will probably still happen, but it’s surprising to me that it hasn't already. There are plenty of folk with the finger strength. All it would take is the attitude. Anyway, it left me with a nice feeling of inspiration with which to enter surgery rehab mode the next day.
I didn’t have to be in hospital until 2.30pm, so at the last minute I jumped out the door first thing and was at Lennoxtown for 8am to look at the other arete project Alex had told me about. I found it (at least I presume it’s the same line?) and it looked amazing! I settled into figuring out it’s exquisite moves for around 30 minutes and realised I was quite close to getting it. Unfortunately it was raining heavily and the sloping topout was running water. I linked it from the start to the topout three times but wasn’t able to pull over on the soggy slopers. Unfortunate, but I’ll still enjoy it when I next get the chance to get on it.
Lennox Castle arete project
After that it was back to reality and a sober drive to hospital to get cut up. The surgeon and staff did a great job and everything went well for me. I was quite terrified of what the surgeon would find in my ankle joint. But it ended up not being as bad as I feared. He pulled several large osteophytes (i.e. Loose chunks of bone) out of the joint and gave a couple of them to me afterwards. I’m not totally sure if they all broke off when I fell off Hold True the other week, or some time before that. Either way, I’m glad to see them out.
No wonder my ankle hurt
Right now, on day one of recovery, I’m totally psyched to get started on a return to fitness. It’s always refreshing to start with a clean slate and reassess all aspects of your game - What climbs do I want to do? What physical weaknesses should I take time to address? There’s plenty to be getting on with.