Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Gift

Yesterday saw what is hopefully the start of our winter climbing season so Steve and I headed up to the Ciste on Ben Nevis to have a look at a route, it wasn't in condition so we settled for The Gift, usually a III/IV ice route but was a bit harder in mixed conditions. 

Steve on the walk in
I won the flip of a frozen flapjack for first lead and got stuck in, the route provided a nice wee fight to start the season off with some blind hooking, small torques, lots of powder and some crappy gear, well worth doing though.Good to get some success after recent efforts, always feels harder won and therefore more rewarding in winter.

Me wading into first pitch

Looking for gear

Steve heading onto second pitch

Just about to top out

Steve heading toward the tourist track

Stunning views on way out

The weather looked wild out West

Friday, 14 November 2014

Busy November

As per November is a busy month for me between work, sponsor stuff, family obligations, training, partying and of course trying to climb. It started with our comp at the Ice Factor which went well and we raised around £600 for the Glencoe MRT. The following Friday was helping set at GCC for their comp then on the Saturday to Snow Factor with Rhona for her first shot at ice climbing. 

Monday morning was an early start with Joe and Conor to pick up Jeff Mercier who was visiting from France. First we headed to Lyon Outdoor HQ so I could do a short talk and we met Steve Johnstone there too. After this we had an epic trying to find the Works but got there eventually to find Greg, Masa and Will already there and everyone got stuck in. Watching these guys is a real eye opener to how strong the top boys are and it has really made me want to train harder.

Cave full of psyche

After a first day where I felt the effects of sleep deprivation and horrendous recent epilepsy side effects hitting me I knew I had to try harder the second day. After a good warm up I tried the route below but came frighteningly close to breaking my left arm and became very dejected, definitely the low point of the trip for me. 


Seconds before nearly breaking my arm

Severely scunnered and thinking of selling my DT kit

I kinda just walked off myself for a few minutes after this told myself to stop being weak and just get back into it. Shortly afterwards Jeff sent Powerdab (hardest route there)  first attempt which seemed to psyche everyone up, the guy is a machine. 

Jeff on Powerdab D13

Next day was our last visit to the cave and with everyone keen to finish routes and some good patter with Ian Parnell the mood in the cave was good. Joe sent First Blood in an impressive battle and its his hardest route to date.

Joe on First Blood

A mix of French, Polish, Scots, Irish and English accents made conversation interesting.

After numerous attempts at First Blood I was feeling strong and on my last attempt I got to within one move of the finish and dropped my axe, denied :) 

Me on First Blood

Jeff laughs as I try stretching and Joe takes the piss, humour soon killing my feeling of defeat. 

Thanks to Dorota Bankowska and Conor McCarthy for the photos.








Friday, 7 November 2014

Black Diamond Fusion 2



In keeping with the winter climbing and mountaineering we’ve got another ice axe which is a favourite among our staff. Black Diamond Fusion 2 comes in slightly heavier than our other favourite at 680g and notably, the new fusion 2 is four ounces lighter than it’s older sister ,it’s Black Diamond’s premier mixed climbing tool with a hydroformed aluminum shaft.
The grip on the Fusion is ergonomic: A raised rib between the index and middle finger improves your grip and helps you direct the swing more accurately. We like this tool, but deducted a star and gave it four instead of five because the grip doesn’t feel as responsive as the Petzl Nomic.
  •  Double handle design
  •    Adjustable grip size
  • Large clearance in shaft design
  •   Field replaceable picks
  •  Low profile, integrated hammer
  •  Full bottom spike
  •    Full size carabiner umbilical attachment
  • Stainless steel upper grip
  •  Molded integrated rubber on upper grip
  •  Single bolt pick

The Scottish Mixed Masters 2014



The Scottish Mixed Masters 2014

Autumn, when summer begins to wind down, the colours start to change and most importantly of all winter is only weeks away. This Halloween however with temperatures well into the double figures it seemed a very distant dream. For winter climbers patiently waiting for those early season routes all was not lost though. The competition season was here!

On Saturday November 1st climbers from across the country converged in Kinlochleven for The Scottish Mixed Masters. The event, held annually at The Ice Factor, is open to climbers of all abilities with a number of people holding tools for the first time. This year the event is in aid Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team.

The heats consisted of 15 problems spread throughout the ice wall, rock wall and bouldering room. As always the route setting team had been hard as work and boy did they deliver! With a real brilliant variety of routes it wasn’t long before the field began to spread out with a number of familiar names coming out on top.

As usual at these competitions the atmosphere was amazing, the building filled with shouts of encouragement. Competitors cheering each other on, not even a hint of rivalry. This is the beauty of Scottish Tooling competitions; fun is always the highest priority.

Time waits for nobody and as 3 o’clock rolled around those with routes to complete made a last ditch effort to attempt everything in time. Once all the scorecards were in and the scores tallied it was clear that it was going to be a good final.

The highlight of any competition is watching the finals. The crowd closes in around the route and you can feel the excitement start to build. First up were the men’s Veterans. After some strong performances (and a fantastic upside down face first fall into the wall by Gordon Lacey) it was Ian Durham coming out on top followed by Simon Yearsley in Second and Gordon Lacey in third.

Next up were the women and as usual they came out fighting. First up was Susan Jensen who was sporting by far the coolest safety glasses of the day. Out Second was Emma Powell who at just 13 years old was the competitions youngest entrant. Don’t let her age fool you though; she’s strong as an ox! Fiona Murray was out next giving a very strong performance falling just short of young Emma’s high point. Last out was Anna Wells and after a small slip near the start she managed to recover and cruise to the top taking first place.

The last final was the men’s and route setter Steve Johnstone had certainly provided a challenge. First out was Andy Inglis who managed to push through and take third place despite some glove issues early in the route. Will Woodhead and Tim Miller were out next but suffered some early upsets pinging off low down on the route. The last two competitors were Harry Holmes and Scott Grosdanoff. Both extremely strong competitors only being separated by time in the end with Scott making the lower section of the route look easy!

On Saturday night once everyone’s arms had recovered and maybe even a pint or two it was back downstairs for Simon Yearsley’s talk on “The Emotions of Scottish Winter Climbing”. If you have never seen one of Simon’s talks they are gripping, funny and are guaranteed to get you psyched for winter climbing.

We would like to thank all of our event sponsors. Without their help the event wouldn’t be half of what it was. They are: Rab, Sherpa Adventure Gear, Ice Breaker, DMM, Schmoolz, King Kong Climbing, Holdz , SMC and MCofS.

See you all next year!

-          The Ice Factor Team


Friday, 10 October 2014

My First Fall


My first outdoor lead fall was only a couple of years ago, [Mark Warner].

I was out at Poll Dubh crags in Glen Nevis climbing with my brother Graham and my colleague Max
who was working with the Ice Factor for the summer.

We had been climbing nice easy routes all day it was Grahams second ever experience of outdoor climbing and after leading him up several Severes and Vdiffs me and Max felt like trying something a little harder at the end of the day.

I suggested we head down to pinnacle ridge where there are 2 nice crack lines "Severe Crack at VS 4C" and "Clapham Junction at VS 5a" that i had climbed earlier in the summer and thought Max would like.

We both lead Severe crack nice and smoothly, it just eats big bomber nuts so gives you a real feeling of confidence!

We then turned our attention to Clapham Junction the crack line just to its left this is a little steeper, more polished and pumpy, i started out nice and easily placing good gear love the DMM offsets! and worked my way up to the rightwards  hand traverse at the top  that i had found easy earlier in the year. This time however I remember really struggling to place the top wire and then the pump really starting to build and then as i started to move right my left foot popped on the polished rock and a split second later i was downwards the rope came tight, my last fiddly bit of gear had held as i fell however i somehow managed to catch my foot and inverted knocking my head against the crag as i came tight on the rope. Slight cut and down to the Belford to have it stapled! I had forgotten my helmet at the start of the day! No harm done it could have been a lot worse!

My first fall was at a place called Dalkey Quarry in Dublin (I forget the name of the route now) about seven or eight years ago, [Conor McCarthy].

I was fairly new to lead climbing and taking it slow. It was towards the end of the day and I was feeling strong, clearly stronger than I actually was, and decided to try something a little harder. 


About half way up the climb the nerves were starting to build and my nemesis "disco leg" started to rear its ugly head. I'm not exactly sure what happened but the next thing I new I was off. Once I'd stopped falling and having made sure I was still in one piece I noticed that my rope was still slack. It had never come tight on my last piece of gear.

Confused, I looked down at my belayer who looked even more dumb founded than me. It turned out that as I fell a quickdraw which was on one of my gear loops had become lodged behind a flake and caught me! I couldn't believe it! I did manage to get back on the wall and finish the route with both my ego and my quickdraw a little bit scratched. 



Saturday, 4 October 2014

Nevis and New Route Video

I've been spending an increasing amount of time on the Ben this past fortnight, some good, some not. It started the other weekend with another clean up but this time we approached from the CMD direction with some local students, good to see some of them getting involved to help out. The stuff we collected on the summit would've gave most people the boak but it has to be done unfortunately.

Some of the delights we shifted from Ben Nevis

Today I was up with Dave to try get Castle Ridge done before the forecast winds kicked in. It was great to get back here as the last time I was here I was concussed after a fal and am short of the memory. Cracking morning.

Dave on Castle Ridge

Me with the ridge behind

Lunchtime selfie before crappy/interesting scree descent

After that it was time to go check another potential new rock route before the rains arrive. It looks to be technical, little to no gear and scary, ah well once more into the breach :)

Also here is some footage from the first ascent of Smackaroonies last week..... 

Friday, 19 September 2014

What a season :)

It's been another busy stint here in the Highlands between one thing or another. The main thing for myself was getting another new route climbed. While belaying Steve on his project at Wave I noticed the arete to the right, it didn't look amazingly inspiring or clean but I reckoned it was worth a punt. A quick look on top rope with a brush and it revealed itself as an amazing route with some great moves. As usual with the lines I seem drawn to the gear was bad, half placed wire and a couple of cams behind a loose flake all in the same area and almost guaranteed deckout from most of the crux moves. 

Dave, myself, Steve and Dot-Pic- Sean Bell

For some reason this route gave me the proper fear, maybe just a different style from my usual or something. I went to go on lead the other day first thing but knew I was rushing so backed off and waited another wee while. 

The dulcet tones of Slipknot getting me psyched-Pic-Sean Bell

As usual getting the mind where it needs to be for this stuff provided a battle but the a dark cloud blotted out the bright sunshine and I knew the time was now, get on and commit. The sun hit me just as I got the only gear in, too late to turn back, nothing but succeed or fall, simple. Make the first really hard move, in a bad position now, to fall would mean breaking bones, bile in my stomach rises rapidly, struggle to maintain composure.

 Committed mid crux-Pic-Sean Bell

Now I know it's serious I relax more as I know what failure or quitting means and the moves that really scared me flow by in a state of total focus. The feeling of nothingness I crave takes over, pity I have to take such risks to feel that peace but then again it's bloody great fun :) Cheers to Steve for the belay, Sean for pics and Dave and Dot for filming.

Very relieved at the top, miles away from gear-Pic-Sean Bell

Yesterday was Steves turn on the sharp end, we headed to Lochailort with the intention for Steve to get on the E3s but after only a few top ropes on my E6 6b The Rebellion he decided all the ingredients were there for a go at his first route of this grade and he cruised it, one of the most impressive bits of climbing I've seen in recent years and the second ascent in the same proper bold style as the first, well done Steve.

Steve high above the gear on The Rebellion-Pic Dorota Bankowska

Chatting and chilling out, relief and smiles all round after another success- Pic Dorota Bankowska