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

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Laughs and Leaps

Since climbing Cu Sith I've spent all my time searching for new routes and new crags but unfortunately nothing has yet motivated me like Cu Sith did. I found a few things but one was way beyond justifiable risk and it would definitely have been beneficial to have two hands. All the running around is thirsty work so a few nights out were called for to rehydrate.

In the pub with parents and good mates

Juvenile but hilarious antics at the crag with Joe-Pic-Inside The Lens

Last Friday I headed out with Joe, Mark and Steve to get some routes in and hopefully a bit of footage for an upcoming project. We headed to Scimitar as Joe was keen to bag his first E4. First up Mark went on lead then had a nerve racking whipper, all of us relieved he was pretty unscathed. 

Mark leading with Steve belaying and Joe looking on.

 Joe was up next, he had worked the line and looked strong when he set off soloing up the unprotected route. He got through the crux then it went wrong very quickly. 

Joe starting up Fingertip Finale as Mark spots him

As i shouted up to Joe to encourage him and try calm him I saw him look at the ground and before I could say anything he was airborne. I waited to hear the snapping of bone but instead  Mark stood his ground and took a massive amount of the force out of Joes 10m fall by being a very effective bouldering mat. The noise they made though still left me expecting injury but both were fine. very very lucky, Joe wisely deciding soloing is not for him.
Joe 2 seconds before 10m freefall.

Its never easy witnessing these things and the noises of any of the accidents I've been present at are what sticks clearest in my mind. Though after speaking to the lads both are keen to be back out. None of us questioned the risks but instead we went for a beer and assessed what had went wrong then took the piss. I guess its the nature of climbing with people who are pushing themselves (regardless of what grade thats on) that sometimes accidents happen but I wouldn't change what I do for anything in the world. This kind of thing simply makes me appreciate my friends and the lifestyle we have even more as we know it can be taken from us so easily.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Belay, Climb, Belay.....

It's been a busy couple of days here making the most of the weather. On Friday I went out to Lochailort with Steve as he was keen to get back on Frustration E5 6a, he sent it smoothly and was chuffed to climb his second E5 in a fortnight. I was hoping to repeat Skyfall but a few niggling injuries, heat, midges and ticks didn't make for great conditions.

On Saturday I teamed up with Steve Kennedy, Colin Moody and Cynthia. The lads have a somewhat secret crag on Skye and there was a bold unclimbed line they wanted done so I was genuinely lucky enough to be recruited by these ex Dalry inhabitants to go lead it. The line required no cleaning and it was brilliant climbing, not brilliantly protected but I was happy enough on it, grade decided at around E3 5b, not sure on name yet.


Run out on new route- Pic-Colin Moody

Above a skyhook-Pic-Steve Kennedy

Today myself, Steve, Andy and Amanda headed back up the Glen for a bit of new route checking and for Amanda to second her first outdoor route in around a year. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Still Winter.......

Today was another chance for Dave to practice his MIA training and for Andy to get on Tower Ridge for the first time. Pretty chilly on the walk in so we didn't waste any time, while gearing up before the Douglas Gap we were hit by the first snow shower. Climbing up onto the ridge proper the snow kept coming as did the memories of a bone chilling, patience testing 14 hour epic here last winter so when the cloud cleared and we saw rime building up higher on the route we had to make a decision. None of us brought crampons so decision made we bailed off into Observatory Gully via the easy path. 

Dave & Andy in the Douglas Chimney

Dave looking for the escape

Axes out, Dave & Andy in Observatory

Dave & I trying to 'fish' for crag swag with a line made of 2 240cm slings and an ice axe, this became strangely obsessive, if we hadn't hooked it we'd still be up there!!!

Being in this place never gets old, very lucky to stay here- Pic Dave Anderson

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

First ascent...

Today was one of those rare days where everything needed to be successful comes together, mindset, conditions and the right partners. It's been nearly 5 years since I last fought my way into E7 territory and since I had my accident only a few months after I've been fighting since then to get back to my high point. At 5.30am I picked up Steve and Dot and we headed up once more to Wave Buttress, me with a lead attempt at my project in mind, Steve looking to lead 'On the Beach' and Dot there to take pics/film before she shot off to star in a diving film. 

I ran through the route twice on top rope and while lowering off my foot slipped and I jarred my ankle badly but switched off from it and tried to remain positive, 10 minutes with my iPod and I was readyto go. I moved up to the 6c tech crux and bottled it on first attempt, I sorted my head and fully committed to the tenuous moves, getting through I moved higher and smeared to the skyhook placement and chapped it on. Sticking with the "speed is saftey" philosophy I tried to keep up the momentum, more sketchy and now bold moves followed to the good cams, keeping moving I disappeared into that special place you find when you're pushing yourself in a dangerous place, everything is dreamlike. As I approached the last few moves I became aware of Dot standing above me and the total difference in our two worlds at that moment, she was only a few feet away but totally safe where I was on sketchy ground with a slip meaning a likely broken foot at least. Still I reached the thank god hold and it was done, 5 years on and I may get a nights sleep.

First ascent of Cu Sith-E7 6c-Pic-Dorota Bankowska

Next up it was Steves turn on the sharp end. His plan for this season was to climb an E5 and he managed to realise that dream today. He had a slip on top rope but came down and got straight on lead so good on him.

Steve leading 'On The Beach' E5-Pic-Dorota Bankowska

Steve relieved to have bagged his route before we hit the beer!Pic-Dorota Bankowska

Massive thanks to Steve and Dot for today but credit goes to the others who have helped make this route a reality for me, James,Rich,Joe and Dave!