Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Consequence of Choice

It's over 8 years now since I fell and broke my ankle, my choice to attempt that route has had a direct consequence on the rest of my life.

Minutes before the fall that changed everything

I have no regrets about attempting the route, I'd have more regrets if I hadn't tried it. Having and being lucky enough to survive the accident probably saved my life as I was pushing myself exceptionally hard up till it happened. 

However I have since pushed myself technically harder on bolder routes but in much more control and I calculate things differently too in that I actually calculate it instead of just going balls to the wall. 

Calculated and in control on first ascent of Cu Sith E7 6c

I've continued to winter climb since the accident and ice climbing on the Ben still holds among my best memories of climbing, I've never really known peace like that of walking off the Ben on a nice winter day after a good route. 

Walking off the Ben after climbing The Gift 

Unfortunately all things must (somewhat) come to an end. I've really struggled the past couple of winter seasons and it's time to be realistic about what I can and cannot do with my injury and it's knock on effect to other joints now having a massive daily impact on my life. Scottish winter climbing is basically over for me as I once knew it and it'll only be rare forays out for lines I've dreamt about for years.

Walking out last week, my ankle is buckling badly.

I've decided in an effort to prolong my climbing life to focus on new trad routes and hopefully continental ice trips which I'm really psyched about but hell I'll miss the days of regular winter outings to the Ben there really is nowhere quite like it......

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Short Straw

Last April I had a quick look at The Short Straw E4 6a on Scimitar Ridge in Glen Nevis. It was a very different style to what I usually go for being overhanging but the climbing is great and I was keen to give it a proper try.

Top roping in 2016-Pic- Vertical Fever

Steve had been keen to look at a new route further up at Bistro Buttress so we both worked our lines and headed up with Ken last Tuesday and Steve got the first ascent of Tupilaq E5 6a, an amazing line, you can check it out here . I didn't manage Short Straw that day due to an elbow injury but we went up on Friday with Euan from Finalcrux on Friday morning for another try. 

After a bit of talking to myself I eventually got on lead and really enjoyed the route. It felt quite hard for the grade but perhaps thats due to the style of climbing. 

On the route-Pic- Finalcrux Films

Euan, myself and Steve. Pic- Vertical Fever

Sunday, 26 March 2017

New Season-New Route-New Chapter

Yesterday Jane , Steve and myself headed out to Lochailort. Steve was ultra keen to get on Skyfall (a very bold E6 6b which I climbed 2 years ago after a drawn out mental battle) and I had my sights set on a new route. We both knew if it all went to plan it would be an outstanding way to kick start our season and to set us up for bigger plans later in the year. It was warm on the walk in but thankfully there was a nice breeze, we set up our respective top ropes and Steve tried his route first, on his second attempt I knew it was going to be a good day.

Chatting and chilling out. All pics by Jane Holmes

Steve quickly decided to just get on lead. He belayed me when I lead it and he said it was scary to watch, I soon found out what he meant but he climbed in his usual solid style and topped out with a big sigh of relief, effort for his first route of the season.

Steve on Skyfall

Next was round to my route and it was getting very warm which was giving me a slight bit of concern due to the smeary nature of the climbing, also it was my first climb since my surgery. However I was psyched after watching Steves lead and I was keen to get this route sent to get my head in gear so after a few top ropes I decided to just go for it. It felt amazing to lead again and especially on such a consequential bold route way above marginal gear.

 Nearing top of The 45

Standard celebration

Traditional sip of whisky

This was likely my last trip to the Lochailort crag as I've climbed everything here I want to now. It's gave me every emotion possible and it's quite sad that I'll probably never climb here again but I'll always have happy memories of the amazing times I've had at this amazing crag. It's not just the climbing thats great but the outlook and in particular the feeling of the history of the area that seems ever present.

Walking out, end of one chapter, start of a new one............:)

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Listen to Yourself

Back in October I was invited to do a TedX talk in Inverness, I've never been so nervous in my life not even standing at the bottom of scary routes. The theme of the night was challenge and I decided to talk about embracing challenge. My experience being that it's best not to see it as a negative thing but to somehow find a positive there.

Me yapping at Tedx Inverness

So having struggled since my last ankle operation I had to listen to my own advice and start to search for the positives in my predicament. First step is being realistic about what I can and cant do, running is a thing of the past, multiple mountain days are gone as is more than one winter day per week or so which is one of the more bitter pills I've had to swallow. Having to say goodbye to these things isn't easy as all of them were a huge part of who I was but I need to change with my abilities or I'll drive myself crazy so I have to look at them like anything else that hurts me or gets in my way and cut them loose. So the search for the positive side begins.

Over the previous years I've grown frustrated with mixed climbing regardless of how much I love it and found more of a love for pure ice so I can focus more on that which suits wearing a prosthetic better anyway. 

The other big positive is more time to focus on my main passion in climbing these days which is climbing new routes, I love the process of discovering,cleaning and climbing these things and theres no shortage of it out there.

End of a day projecting-Pic- Vertical Fever

So I think 2017 may involve some serious adaptation but I'm looking forward to the challenge of it and seeing if I can leave behind in some small way the frustration of injury and disability I've felt and focus more on what I can do than being pissed off about what I cant........All the best

Still keen for a wee bit of winter though :) -Pic- Dan Vernon

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

2016 Quickly

2016 hasn't been the best of years, the old ankle injury was getting incredibly painful and my epilepsy was giving me cause for concern. I had only one day out in winter with Steve to try Mega Route X but my mind and body just weren't ready. Bailing off the route and scrapping winter was a tough but correct choice as within weeks I'd had a bit of an epileptic absence and I lost my driving licence which is a ballache.   

On the failed attempt on Mega Route X -Pic- Vertical Fever

Thankfully I have some particularly good people around me and that makes things somewhat easier. I'd hoped to be driving again in 6 months but After an appointment last month I was told that wasn't to be and I left hospital feeling angry but minutes later I passed a kid with cerebral palsy and realised I was being a wanker, what do I have to complain about, it really put things in perspective.

I've managed 2 great days on Ben Nevis, both on Tower Ridge, I love that route. This video  also appeared on my timeline around the same time and I got to thinking about how much the Ben means to me and how much of an effect it has on me. It's seen me at my worst, physically and mentally broken but it's also helped me be at my best. On the rare days I get to climb a great route in great conditions I feel something that I cannot find anywhere else, infact even on the brutal days it provides me with more emotion and connection than most humans will ever manage. It has also helped bond the few important friendships I have in the shared risk, hardship and joy.

Chaela,Mark and Tam on the Great Tower

Dave and Me at Tower Gap -Pic-Lochaber Guides

At the weekend I had surgery to remove metalwork in my foot so hopefully that allows me to walk further than the bathroom without severe pain. Few weeks recovery shall see whats going to happen.

Some of the metalwork from my foot!!

I've already got plans for what I want to get done next so I need to focus on proper recovery and see what happens!!

Steve thinking about future possibilities in Glen Nevis!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Square One

I've been inactive in climbing for a few months now due to issues with my epilepsy. I haven't really given it much thought over the past 15 years and have found that was the best approach but now its very much making its presence felt and I have to take a serious look at my life. Having epilepsy is very different from the other disabilities I have which are physically obvious, this one is hidden, even to me and I have no idea what its up to. The others disabilities are restrictive but I've usually found ways round them but this carries such a social stigma it makes things more difficult to work round. Between my ankle getting worse and now the epilepsy and their repercussions I feel like I was doing well at Snakes & Ladders only to land on 99 and end up back at square one. 

Soloing easy routes at Largs-Pic- FinalCrux Films

I somewhat feel like I'm back where I was 15 years ago with my climbing and I have to prove myself again to myself and to others. I considered completely quitting climbing but it simply isn't an option so I thought long and hard about my options and decided to start my climbing process all over again, back through the grades, the pressure to see if I can find where my limits are now. I've already been told I shouldn't be doing certain things but it's all to easy for someone on the outside to say. Climbing is inherently a selfish and dangerous game and I know theres a line between pushing what we do and simply being a selfish prick, this is why I'm starting again and if/when the moment comes I find myself near that line I'll back off whether that be on Severe or E7.

With this in mind I headed to Largs with Euan and Derry on Wednesday to start work on a wee film project and to get on some easy routes, I soloed a bit and felt good so I'll see where this new start takes me...........

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Time Is Now

After breaking my prosthetic back in November I eventually had it back and I was keen to check out a couple of potential new routes so today Joe and I headed off early but within minutes I felt the searing pain begin to build in my ankle and after an hour I had to descend. I had a feeling last night that things were changing for my climbing and not in a good way. Recently a surgeon told me theres no more help for my ankle and I'm not helping by going out in the mountains. I thought when the day came that the pain got to this stage I could accept and at least slow down it but it seems I cant really face that 'reality'. 

It was stunning on descent, someone definitely taking the piss

I've decided that in winter I'm only going after the routes I've had on my list for years and as for rock I've decided that with opportunity to climb slipping away I'm going to focus on the routes that have always scared me and use the mindset of having no hope of recovery to help me lose some of that fear so hopefully I'll get some great routes done this next wee while..............