Tuesday, 9 September 2014

American dreaming... climbing inspiration and aspirations

I'm particularly inspired to climb big pointy rocks, ones that you have to climb to reach the summit. A bit Freudian perhaps, but I gain a lot of satisfaction from getting to a summit where being a rock climber is mandatory. They also tend to look pretty dam cool. On a trip to Utah, USA a few years back I managed to climb a few nice towers, including Castleton Tower, and Ancient Arts in the Fisher Towers which were totally awesom

One of my main aspirations is to climb a rather nice chunk of spiky Granite in the High Sierras of California called The Incredible Hulk. What makes this even more appealing is that it involves a proper hike into the back country for a pre-climb wilderness camp, complete with bears and other dangerous animals such as American Park Rangers with guns. One of the best routes to the summit is Positive Vibrations, a 13 pitch, 500 m route of perfect granite. The grade translates roughly to E3/E4 but for us Brits who arn't used to unrelenting crack climbing it would probably feel closer to E5. So i would definately need to be on top form or take a rope gun with me. This  is a climbing partner who is considerably better than yourself and happy to lead all the hard pitches).

The Incredible Hulk with the line of Positive Vibration shown

I would also like to climb more of the desert towers in Utah. The landscape here is almost unworldly. Red rock canyons and towers carve up and punctuate the desert, creating a life time of adventures. There are 3 towers that are one the ticklist - The North Six Shooter, Fine Jade on the Rectory and the Moses Tower. I think it might be time to get training (and saving!).

Moses tower in Canyonlands, Utah

Friday, 22 August 2014

Inspiration and aspiration

Over the past month I've been getting back into rock climbing. Now that doesn't mean that previously I've not been out on the rock, it means I'm starting to feel the psyche building again - I'm reading through guide books, searching out routes I've yet to do. I've been putting in some quick hits to the Cromlech boulders to get the fingers working, evening visits to the slate to remember how to move and use the feet, and even the odd wall session. It feels good. It feels like I'm becoming a proper climber again.  A lot of things have changed over the past few years. After finding out I was going to need a hip operation in 2012, I decided to become a student again and get stuck in to a PhD for a few years. So I have been running Snowdonia Mountaineering very much on a part time basis. Rock climbing was put on the back burner as I got into road biking during my hip rehab and my focus for trips switched to ski mountaineering. Over the past month I have started to remember why I love rock climbing so much. Its that addictive combination of technical movement, physical exertion and mental challenge mixed with the spice and excitement of danger.

Enjoying an after work climb in the slate quarries - Seams the same E1

A climber needs to have inspiration and aspirations, and the lack of both over the past couple of years is probably the main reason why I haven't done much rock climbing. I was chatting to some good friends a couple of months a go about rock climbs we would like to do, both in the UK and abroad. I started to realise that there were some routes that I really wanted to do and that a lot of them would require me to be a proper climber again - not just a part time one. So I thought I would start compiling  a list of routes I want to do over the next few years to provide me with the motivation to get out there and do it!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Guided rock climbing testimonial

Last weekend I guided Karl on some of Snowdonia's best multipitch routes - see my Facebook page for more photos. His wife sent me this feedback:

Thank you for the lovely photo's, it is really nice to see where you both went climbing. He did make it back in one piece but he said that he was aching last night :-)
We couldn't have asked for a better service from you, arranging the weekend was very straightforward and you couldn't have recommended a better weekend weather wise.
It was great to have prior knowledge of the routes you might attempt so Karl could look them up in his North Wales Classic Climbing book.
He was very impressed that you picked him up so that you could travel to the climb together he has never experienced that before.
He thought you were really friendly and a great instructor and he wouldn't hesitate to come out with you again in the future, the classic routes you chose were brilliant and perfect for his ability ( Pitch 2 on Scratch route, the corner crack very close to his limit ;-) )
Thank you so much for a great weekend and making my 40 year old husband happy.
He now wants to do it all over again ( It is such a shame we live in the flattest part of England ).

Karl on Scratch VS at Tremadog

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Alpine Ski Mountaineering

Over the past few years I've been getting into ski touring and ski mountaineering - essentially using skis to travel up, down and through the mountains. As Bill Briggs once said (first person to ski down the Grand Teton in the USA) "skis are appropriate in the mountains". Take the Aiguille d'Argentiere as an example. This peak in the Mt Blanc range above Chamonix is 3900m and is popular in both summer and winter/spring.
Skinning up Aiguille d'Argentiere

 In summer most people will head up the cable car in the afternoon to walk into to the hut or a bivi on the edge of the glacier. Spend the night being cold, as you didn't bring a sleeping bag to save weight, or be kept awake by snoring hut companions. Get up at some ridiculous hour in the morning and slog up to the summit for sunrise in order to minimise the risk of getting taken out by rockfall, encountering dangerous snow conditions or falling into a crevasse through a slushy snow bridge. Then turn around and deal with the slog back down the glacier in increasingly hot conditions, back to town before the afternoon thunderstorms take you out.
Aiguille d'Argentiere summit

Alternatively, you could go on skis in winter/spring. We got the third lift up, skied down onto the Argentiere glacier and started our ascent at 10 am. After an enjoyable morning of  skinning and climbing we reached the summit at 13.30. A quick descent down good snow to the bergshrund to put skis on, then a really enjoyable ski back down the glacier to the lift station by 3.30. Provided you can ski I think doing peaks like this is much better on skis, much more enjoyable and much safer - its amazing how quickly you descend on skis, making it much easier to get the hell out of there if the weather changes quickly.

Summit panorama