Sunday, 19 July 2015

My Top 10 bivis


We all love it, we all need it. A fundamental part of any holiday or trip away is based around where we'll be counting sheep, the rest just falls into place. At the end of the day, all we can think about is getting into a nice comfy bed and closing the day. Some of us can function on very little, which bodes well if you're a climber. For any normal person, a bed, four walls and a roof is the accepted minimum, or standard should I say, if you count going camping as an acceptable holiday, in this case, at least some form of electrical hook up and functioning toilets and showers. But for us 'dirt bag' climbers, who don't deem a bed as 'necessary' and want everything free (even the beer), we'll get our heads down literally anywhere. So here are my top 10 bivis. They aren't ranked from worst to best, more the story behind them and their location. After all, why pay for something which I already have at home?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Insatiable (7b+) Cheddar Gorge

Me and Chris were supposed to head to Bosigran this weekend, However due to the weather and change of plans, we ended up staying home, so headed to Cheddar for an afternoon instead, just to get our fix. We jumped on Raw Deal (7a) which I have previously tried before but failed to link the moves after the crux due to being too pumped! Yeah it's only a few metres high but my endurance is crap. Any way, I managed to get it and clipped the lower off! feeling pretty pleased, I wanted more. There were 2 couples climbing beside us, pretty good climbers as they were doing 8a's, so I got chatting to them and they had suggested Insatiable (7b+) to the left of Raw Deal. I did mention about my struggle up a 7a, but their words of confidence persuaded me to at least try it, at least I could say that I had.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

The Tranquil Avon Gorge

Our day didn't start to well. I picked up Chris and drove him to Weston so he could pick up his new bike and then ride to Avon. However, we got a few hundred on our way from Weston and his bike kept stalling. We turned around, took the bike back and was soon on our way. Little did we know that the Portway was closed due to a Triathlon. I don't know Bristol very well, so had no idea where else I could park. After driving round aimlessly, we finally ended up at the park at the top of the Gorge. Right, lets get climbing.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Daddyhole Main Cliff - Some lessons learned

Our initial plan was to head to North Wales this weekend to do a series of link ups in the Llanberis pass and Idwal valley. However, the weather up north wasn't in our favour. So saving this idea for another day, we stayed local and headed to Daddyhole in Torbay.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Review - RAB Exodus Softshell Jacket

When venturing into the mountains, we are constantly exposed to the elements. No matter how amazing human skin is, it still needs protection. Some people get by with the latest in expensive, high tech materials, others with a simple bin liner with holes cut into it for the head and arms (if you have even the smallest of brains, never do this!). Back in the day it was a simple waterproof jacket to keep the wind, rain and snow off. But within the last 10 years, Softshell has really taken off. At first people were skeptical: warmer than a hardshell but not as waterproof. Colder than a fleece but more windproof. So where does it stand? Today though, it's what a majority of people go to as their protective layer. But with so many variations and choice for us on the market, we need to narrow this selection down and be realistic about our intended use. For me, I wanted a mountain specific jacket with a hood large enough for a helmet, no membrane, harness accessible pockets and breathable but still keep out all but the worst that the weather can throw at me. So I settled on this jacket: the RAB Exodus.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Chere Couloir - Triangle du Tacul

The Chere Couloir (II,4) The very top climber in at the 3rd belay and the bottom 2 making their way up to the 2nd.
We met the famous Dane Burns of the Coldthistle gear blog the day before on the steps back up to Montenvers, had a beer and then went for dinner with him. I hadn't had the opportunity to climb during my time out here, mainly due to lack of partners, so he offered to climb with me. We chose the Chere couloir as neither of us had done it, plus it's a ski in, ski out route so a great multi-activity day,

Monday, 9 March 2015

Toule glacier and the Vallee Noire

View from the Torino hut from the Dent dy Geant on the left, to the Integral ridge on the right
Do you believe in fate? Or what about luck? Do things happen for a reason or do we determine our own path through life? I used to believe that 'It'll never happen to me' and that it always happens to other people, but this attitude in the mountains can prove fatal and is a stupid way of thinking. You're never truly in control in this environment. Ok, so you're confident in your abilities and that you're prepared for the conditions. You've checked the weather and the avalanche bulletin. You've picked your intended route or descent because of the current conditions as it's a safer option. But you're in the mountains now. You can't predict every avalanche, or a serac fall. How stable was that snow bridge you just skied over? Oh, you didn't realise you just skied over a crevasse? And what about those rocks above you, frozen in time to the mountain face, waiting for the 'true loves first kiss' of the rising sun to awaken them? In these circumstances, timing and 'luck' are the things keeping you from having a bad day. As we found, when skiing the Toule glacier.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Grand & Petit Envers VB variation: Keeping up tradition...

FINALLY! The wind has died down and the midi is open! But unfortunately for Dave, he's heading home. However, he did make it all the way to the ice tunnel on the midi before heading back down via the lift as he didn't think he'll be back in time to get his transfer. Any way, me and Kev carried on down the ridge with our plan of skiing the Grand Envers. The sun was shining, the snow was good and off we went.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Dear Chamonix...It's not me, it's you...

The winds still haven't died down and so we've been forced to seek skiing elsewhere. We headed to Courmayeur on Thursday but like with Cham, the top bin was closed because of the wind. But still, we had the sun. Not really knowing what else there was off piste wise, we started to spot interesting little lines from the chair lifts. We did a few laps down a steep slope under the Bertolini chair which consisted of chalky snow and moguls which was good practice for steep skiing and a lot of fun, then headed over to the Aretu chair where we spied the remains of a small avalanche so went to investigate.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Grand Montets

Top of Bochard nearing the end of the day
Since Dave and Kev have arrived, the weather has deteriorated. High winds have closed the top bin of the GM and the Midi and the avalanche warnings are consistent across the range at 4, so we're forced to seek our fix else where. The obvious choice being off the Bochard and Herse lift on the GM. So over the last couple of days, we've been skiing pretty much every bit of Off piste the GM has to offer.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Col du Lac Cornu - Col de la Gliere, Aiguille Rouge

I arrived in Chamonix on Wednesday after the most stress free traveling I have ever had; no cues, no waiting (apart from the compulsory 2 hour wait before boarding the flight) and no rushing! I had 3 days on my own before Kev and Dave got here so had to pick my objectives carefully. With all the recent news about avalanches, I was reluctant to do much off piste, but I checked the forecast, looked at slopes below 30 degrees and decided to head up into the Aiguille Rouge and do a short ski tour.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Clogwyn Du: Round DeUx

Last season was a very disappointing period for me in the winter climbing scene as the only time I used crampons was for the descent down the Midi ridge to do the Vallee Blanche, and the axe came out once for a traverse in boots across a slope. I spent hours flicking between weather forecasts and looking at conditions for North Wales and the Lakes but nothing seemed worth the 5 hour drive north. So with the new winter season well under way, my luck this year has paid off and with a rare free weekend, good conditions and a partner, I was heading North for some good old Welsh winter. The only trouble was the weather. MWIS has forecast 80mph winds with a windchill factor of -21C.

...This will be interesting....

Sunday, 11 January 2015

It won't make you climb harder...

Rocking the 'look' on the Grands Montets
May 1953: I'm walking in my brand new, thin, windproof jacket and trousers, made of cotton and Nylon. Underneath I have a combination of  light weight and heavy weight woollen jumpers and a hand knitted scarf made by my sister.

Fast forward to the late 1970s/early 80s and my choice of clothing today is my brand new polartec fleece, Rohan salopettes and 2nd generation Gore Tex.

And finally, we fast forward to today, 2015. I'm about to head outside, clothed in my new Hybrid base layer of Merino wool and synthetic material. On top of that, the latest synthetic mid layer that claims 'put it on, leave it on'. It's a little bit windy so I'll throw on my new Polartec Neoshell hardshell, or shall I put on my new softshell? I might have to open the pit zips if I get too warm. Actually, come to think about it, I think my mid layer might be too warm, so I'll put on the lighter gillet instead, down or synthetic? Or what about my fleece? Ahh but what if it gets a bit colder while I'm out? I'll throw my new, sub 300g down jacket with hydrophobic down, in a pack. Hmm, actually, the forecast says slight chance of rain, best play it safe and throw in my equivalent synthetic 'belay' jacket in too. While I'm at it, I'll chuck on my hardshell, full length zips and drop seat salopettes that I used on Denali...

...Right, where's the dog?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ben Nevis on the Grande Montets...and then some

And so, my 4th day of putting skins on skis was in a tired and hungover state and for the 3rd time in a week, at the base of Piere a Ric. Lets make this the LAST time I skin up this piste...


Ski Performance for Mountaineers - Verbier


I learnt to ski on a dry slope in the UK in Dec 2013 and soon after, in Jan 2014, headed off to Austria for my first holiday. 2 months later I was in Chamonix following friends off piste and 'getting by'. With the ambition of becoming a BMG and an impressive list of ski descents I want to do, I needed to get serious. Alison is a fantastic instructor with a wealth of knowledge and this course has given me the confidence to venture into more challenging terrain and hopefully onto some of those ski descents in the near future. I'll be back again for a top up!