Tuesday 10 July 2018

Training and Exploring

With more ankle surgery on the horizon in August I've been trying to get fitter in the hope I recover quicker so last week I headed up North Buttress with my mate Steve.

Love this route

Steve admiring the view

Obligatory summit selfie

Next up was a solo jaunt up Garbh Bhienn which was bloody roasting. Good to be out myself on the hill though.  
On the summit of Garbh Bhienn with Ben Nevis behind.

After that it was a day out with Scotty where we headed up Mam Na Gualainn and along to Beinn na Caillich before dropping back into Kinloch for a pint or 2. 

Scotty above Loch Leven

After that it was a day out exploring with Steve on the hunt for new routes once again. I love going looking for new stuff especially when you find something worth cleaning and climbing.

Steve looking happy about the ab while I laugh :)

Thursday 24 May 2018

New Routing Season Starts

Spring is without doubt my favourite time of the year. Its time to go searching for new trad routes and I've had success already this season.

Last year I visited Blade Buttress in Glen Nevis with Steve to check out an existing line and spotted potential for a new route instead but it required some deforestation first.

Abbing in to begin cleaning. Steall falls behind.

Extreme gardening.

Fast forward one year and another visit with Steve and Iain. After all the recent sun I was happy to see the route in rare dry condition so I got to work and finished cleaning it and eventually getting to see the moves. After a quick play on the crux I got on lead, after easy climbing I reached the crux and had a bit of a brain fart but figured it out and climbed through to the finish. Its an awesome wee line at around E1 5c, I called it Bit o a Boorach. 

On the first ascent of  Bit o a Boorach. Pic- Steve Holmes

One week later and we visited Onich for some serious cleaning. Unearthed 2 lines. One of which is a project with pretty much no gear and very technical, strenuous climbing. The other however gave very nice climbing but again only marginal gear. I called this one 'View to a Kill' as Onich has a view over to the Murder Cairn area where the Red Fox was shot in 1752. I think its around E1 5b.

Tooled up for cleaning. Pic- Type Two Media 

On View to a Kill. Pic- Sillars Photography

Another angle. Pic- Type Two Media

The Dream Team. Conor, John, myself and Michael Pic- Type Two Media

Its been a great start to the season and heres hoping it continues.

Sunday 11 March 2018


The last wee while saw some rare ice forming up so I managed to get a couple of cool wee routes in. First up was taking my better half out for her first outdoor ice climb. We only had limited time and thankfully the waterfall 5 minutes from our village had frozen and we had a great jaunt up there.

I LOVE water ice :)

Kat cruising it

Happy days

Next up was a trip to Kentallen with my workmate Penny to get on a route Andy Spink had climbed the day before, 2 pitches of awesome ice looking out to the sea and mountains. 

First pitch

Heading up to the second pitch

Finally I had a less successful day on The Ben with Dave . We walked in from the lower car park as access to the upper car park is restricted at the moment. The routes looked promising but weren't so after Dave led a route and I experienced some fearsome hotaches we headed down. Good to be back on the Ben again with Dave though. 
Dave about to swim away up the route

Lovin the hotaches

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