Saturday, 19 December 2009


Since the MSMD DVD came out I've been asked a lot about my solo of Fast & Furious and in particular why I did it. At the time I was really pushing myself regardless of the fact I had a girlfriend at the time, I thought being with someone would've slowed me down but it acted as a catalyst to drive me harder. I knew there was no future for us but at the same time I knew the inevitable split was going to hurt. The best way I could handle this was to hide my pain under the dark but comfortable and familiar quilt of risk as I knew doing that would distract me from the hurt. I had to find something that would chase these particular demons away so first I got on an E3 solo I had previously backed off, I nearly fell due to crap friction and it was the first time I really felt that blackness take over when every other thing disappears and it was just me and 1 move to survive, I thought that would do the trick,it didn't............

What next?? I had thought about soloing F&F before but not in a properly serious way, this should do it I thought. I was strong at this particular time and with the control I had felt in the close call the previous week and another crumbling relationship I left one afternoon with my mate Al to Newtyle......... About a third up the route

I listened to my mind intently on the way up that day and decided to wear a trail rope to get back from the lower off, it wouldn't stop me in the event of a fall or hold breaking but protected me if my bottle crashed. I knew it would be hard as the route is M10/11 and on unpredictable rock. I arrived and had no real need to do my usual routine to get into the right head space as I had been in it for days. I jumped on the route...............
The picture above captured my expression as I suddenly realised where I was and what I was doing, the look on Al's face wasn't a reassuring one either. The route went without mishap and the only words during and for about 10 minutes after were from Al, "Well done you crazy bastard".

Crazy?? I don't think I am but I've had many comments recently from people thinking I am or that I'm even suicidal. In my opinion there's a world of difference between wanting to die and being lucky enough to have found something that means that much to me that I'm willing to take that chance. I am perhaps ,as Climb magazine described me, "troubled" but I channel those problems into my climbing and leave some of them behind when the route is done. I turned the negative of my relationship breakdown into the positive of success (survival) on a dangerous climb.

A few days after doing this I received a text from another climber saying that it wasn't really a solo as I had a trail rope which confirmed what I was already thinking. I knew I was going to have to back and commit myself 100% to soloing that route. It was a year later and in training for a particular route I found myself standing at the bottom of the route again. This time I had only the experiences and memories of the things that motivate this kind of climbing to get me into that frame of mind........

I once again headed off up the route, no harness, rope or helmet, pure commitment to the climb. At just beyond the halfway point I got a pain in my stomach and had to hang vertically and free to stretch it out but it went away and I got re-focused and finished the route. When I got back to the ground the lads who were filming etc looked more shell-shocked than I was.
The real solo

I'm glad I done it as it answered a few personal questions and lifted one particular weight from my shoulders which means in my head it was worth the risk. However a few days after I done it one of my friends went on it (no-one had been on it since) and a hold blew on him. I felt sick when I heard this as I thought about how easily that could've been me. I'm just glad he had a rope on and it happened after I had climbed it..............

Monday, 14 December 2009

Good Days & Decisions

On Friday I joined a team of Scots, Irish and Welsh for a jaunt over the Carn Mor Dearg. We knew as soon as we arrived at the car park it was going to be a great day, the kind that you live for. The views were clearer than I've ever seen. If I hadn't already made the move North then I think this day would've kicked me into gear to live here.
Heading up to the beginning of the ridge
Summit of the Ben-(Tam, Johann, Lorenzo, Shaun and Hannah)

It felt great to have a day out with no putting pressure on myself to climb hard but the constant 'voice' at the back of my head was nagging at me about having taken no risk for a while now. For a while I've been toying with the idea of attempting The Hurting XI/11 in the Cairngorms but as with most things in my life it was a 50/50 idea. I really got into physically and mentally preparing for it but knew there would be issues from the start. I had belayed Dave on it and saw footage and pics etc so I knew of one section with moves I would not manage. I thought about trying to have an abseil inspection but its not enough for me as I never know how a sequence will leave me (possibly stuck due to not switching etc). I thought about the possibility of headpointing and it seemed to be the only way I could achieve this grade but I was deeply conflicted about this un-ethical approach and the fact that I felt in a way I was using my hand as an excuse to basically cheat my way up a route. It has tormented me for two years but eventually I came up with a plan the other day that allows me to cut away this head f**ck and lets me maintain the purity of Scottish winter climbing.
The torment begins in my head above the Hurting

This is the hardest climbing decision I've Ever had to make but I think its the right one.I think..........