Tuesday, 19 December 2017


Winter 2016/17 is fucking awful. However, in between the rain and devastating thaws, Staples and I manage to bag a few routes in early March. Best of the lot are probably Curved Ridge of the Buachaille in bluebird conditions, and a traverse of An Teallach a few days later. The viz is pretty pish for An Teallach unfortunately, but still a fantastic, atmospheric day. We also sneak a couple of harder routes in Coire Sneachda and Stob Coire nan Lochain.       

Pat and I head up to the Ben afterwards in the vain hope of snatching something. We climb Ledge Route in the rain (past a guy pitching the whole bloody thing to teach his girlfriend how to winter lead, the poor bastard), then give up on winter and go rock climbing in the Lakes instead. Photo is me grovelling up the steep bit of Kransic Crack Direct. We also have a fun jolly up the easy mountain classic Gillercombe Buttress.

Langdale Enchainment with Pat and Megan - godawful polished solo up Lower Scout, the classic VDiff on Upper Scout, Slip Knot then Slab Route on White Ghyll, then finally the mega classic Golden Slipper on Pavey Ark. Superb early season trad day. 

First pitch of Pluto, Raven Crag. Steep corner crack, grovelling frog traverse, delicate techy rib; any pitch could be the crux. I find them all equally hard. Megan particularly enjoys the traverse pitch, literally screaming and weeping for joy the whole way.....;)

Photobombing at Avon Gorge, one of only two days climbing down south all year. I somehow manage to slap my way up an E1 called Limbo, pretty hard by my standards for April, just in time for an ear operation and subsequent loss of all fitness immediately afterwards.....

Pembroke Easter Jolly. It is fucking freezing so no one climbs particularly hard, but between us we tick a shitload of easy classics, drink a lot, and consume unhealthy ammounts of spam. Still in recovery from the ear op, I climb like a sack of mouldy turds. Great jolly with a proper climbing squad.

After getting some form back, and shockingly managing to onsight Cenotaph Corner, fuck knows how, I go back to Pembroke a couple more times. Highlight is definitely Heart of Darkness/New Morning, which is everything a sea cliff classic should be - committing, terrifying, strenuous, greasy, traversey, steep, terrifying, seagully and terrifying.        

Staples leading his first E1, Manzoku, another super sustained Pembroke classic. Top effort from the boyo.

After that I move up to the Lakes for a job. It rains a lot. I spend most of my spare time cycling up hellishly steep mountain passes rather than climbing. However in July Staples comes up for what is to be Jock Rock Jolly II.....half of which we spend in the Lakes doing some trad classics. Best day is up on Gimmer, doing North West Arete, Whit's End Direct and Kipling Groove. After that we drive straight up north, a few days of perfect weather forecasted.....

Sword of Gideon in the awesome Bealach na Ba. First multipitch on Torridonian Sandstone. Staples manages to fall off the first pitch, which is graded a whopping 4a, the fucking tit.

The Bealach na Ba. I'd be back to cycle up this monster later in the year.

Back to the incomparable Diabaig. Best rock in the world. First up is the Black Streak. Warm up for the big one.....       


The Diabaig Pillar. Best single pitch trad route in the world. 40m of crimpy brilliance up perfect golden rock. Not a bad first E2.

The Pillar in all its glory.

After getting the shit kicked out of us on Kilt Rock, we spend the final day of the trip doing a big link up of routes on Sron na Ciche; Chioch West, Arrow Route and Integrity.....       

After that we traverse the Cuillin Ridge over Sgurr Alasdair and Sgurr mich Chionich to finish on the Inn Pinn. Spectacular mountain day.

Abseiling off the UKs hardest mountain peak.

After that I spend the rest of the summer cycling. Here I am bollocksed out of my mind after finishing the Fred Whitton route - 100 miles and nearly 4000m of climbing. Going over Hardknott Pass right at the end nearly fucking kills me.

It is all training to cycle the North Coast 500 route of Scotland with Dad. Best trip of the year. 7 days of hills, wind, rain, the odd bit of sun, and the most beautiful scenery in the country. And of course the obligatory tourist pose at John O Groats. We travel pretty light, stay in hostels, and average about 85 miles a day. We also meet a guy in a cafe who turns out to be the first person to do Land's End to John O Groats.....on a fucking unicycle! Absolute nutter. 

I do the odd bit of rock climbing in the autumn, but my winter psyche is taking over. Taking advantage of the first cold snap in november, I climb a bunch of fun easy routes, mostly solo. Photos taken on the classic low grade route of Lochnagar, Central Buttress. Massive effort from Graham with the camera actually making me look sort of cool.... 

Dorsal Arete - the most fun grade II I've ever done!        

I don't want to spend the entire winter season in Scotland, so instead I head off to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco to bag a few peaks. Annoyingly there is no snow, meaning I spend the whole time scrabbling my way up scree slopes and choss. I do manage to climb 4 4000m peaks before getting bored and fucking off, including Jbel Toubkal.

Typical view from the High Atlas - shite rock, dust and desert!

Psyched to get back into winter, I attempt a lean Bowfell Buttress with my boss John. After 2 pretty hard pitches I find myself torquing up the crux crack - my first V 6 mixed lead. The crack is fine, but I go and ruin it all by taking a massive lob when a sketch hook rips on the thin slabby traverse above. Despite being all bashed up I manage to finish the pitch second try. Annoyingly the final pitch isn't properly frozen, so we reluctantly rap off from a big flake. Gutted not to finish the route but a mad little adventure anyway, and it's always good to push into a new grade.

Back in Scotland I climb the Stob Coire nan Lochain classic Scabbard Chimney with a super talented guy called Jamie. It is filled with useless powder. Needless to say I find it fucking desperate. Jamie floats up it of course, levitating up invisible hooks and edges, while I hack and flail and swear for every bitter inch of progress....

Final route of the year.....and what a route! The sustained cold spell in december has brought the icefalls of Beinn Udlaidh into condition. With Katie I climb the mega classic Quartzvein Scoop in pretty decent nick. Easily the most pure fun Scottish winter route I've ever done! The next day we walk into the Ben hoping for more ice. The Curtain is tantalisingly close to being formed but just too thin on the initial slab, so we have to leave it there. And then an innevitable december thaw rolls in. But it's been a great start to the 17/18 winter season, so here's hoping it continues that way, with some fat ice in the new year!

Finally a massive thank you to all my climbing partners this year; Staples, Pat, Megan, Javi, Grace, Cam, Anna, Gerwyn, Rich, Jimbo, Jack, John K, Graham, Dave B, Jamie and Katie. Thanks also to Bob for pushing me to go faster up the passes, and Dad for the NC500. Cheers for the awesome photos and more importantly the adventures.