Saturday, 17 December 2011

Impatient Patient

Having had enough of pissing around in Dalry waiting for the NHS to actually do my ankle op I decided I would need to get some hill time before my tenuous grip on sanity totally slipped. Dave had called saying he had some ideas for routes to look at, even if I didn't do any technical climbing I was psyched just to be out in the mountains. So on Friday morning we headed out for Dave to try a new mega hard project.

On the walk in...

Thankfully Dave and Blair had walked in here the day before and no trail breaking was necessary. We moved at a good steady speed, not too much pain in my ankle which was a relief. We arrived at the crag in stunning conditions, blue skies, not much wind, good ice and snow covered mountains as far as I could see, brilliant.

Dave focussed and ready to give his project another try.

Five hours later my ankle was in agony, the pain creeping into knees and hips from compensation, feet and hands frozen but I was still happier up there than I have been in weeks. Dave asked me if I wanted a try on the project but after watching him fight it and in my current state I declined.

On the walk out, tired but happy

Friday, 25 November 2011

Testing, Testing

On Wednesday morning I made an early start to head to Newtyle Quarry. I had new prosthetics to try out that had recently been fitted to my new Petzl Nomics and a new pair of Lowa Ice Comp boots to use. There was a good team at the cave, Greg , Mike, James, Fiona and Alan so there was plenty of psyche and some inspiring efforts from the guys on their respective projects. All went well on the kit front, thankfully!!

Testing my new toys on Fast & Furious, Photo-Alan Fox

I stayed at friends in Fort William that night as I'm now living full time back in Ayrshire for my ankle op soon. Was good to catch up with everyone. Next morning it was a quick training session with Connor and Will then a bit of house hunting for my eventual move back to the Fort but unfortunately the place I viewed had less appeal as a home than some of the dens we made as kids, in fact I'm sure I've built gang huts more structurally sound!

Bit of training in Big Al's basement...........

Thursday, 27 October 2011

REACH @ Ratho

On Saturday I was at Ratho to team up with Pauline and around 40 kids from the charity REACH which is for kids with Upper Limb Deficiencies. We only had an hour with each party of 20 and all the work was done by Ratho instructors, my job was basically to speak to the kids and try give them an idea of what climbing with a similar disability is like and try give some feedback. Some of them were very inspiring and determined. Yet some had very obviously had extremely sheltered lives and were convinced they weren't capable, one lad in particular stood out and after a fair bit of gentle encouragement by 3 of us he eventually tied in and gave it his best shot. It would've been great to have had more time to work with the group as it was an interesting challenge not just with the varying physical capabilities but also on how getting past the confidence issues some of the kids had.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Good Work

Had a bit of a busy stint there with various bits of cool work. First up was two days of setting routes at the Ice Factor. It was a lot of graft for the team of us and stressful for the staff as the ice wall had melted after a client burst a pipe that was part of the cooling system with his axe. We got it all set though and by the sounds of it it was a successful day as this years STS kicked off.

Trying to figure out a good finals route

On Saturday morning it was off to the Peak district to work for Mammut. The plan was to team up with photographer Dan Lane and for me to solo an E5 that I'm keen for but pissing rain put paid to that idea. Instead I hung around Outsides shop in Hathersage blethering to the staff, drinking tea and getting nervous. The room rapidly filled up though when they opened the doors and it was straight into the talk.

Talking about Ireland- Pic- Dan Lane

The talk went smoothly and afterwards there was plenty of questions, all in all a good night.

Professional to the end, drinking Mammuts 'Tusk Ale' in the street , classy!! Pic- Dan Lane

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Outside Talk

For those reading this around the Peak on Saturday 8th of Oct Ian Parnell and myself are doing free lectures in Outside Hathersage. Theres lots of give aways and raffle stuff to be won, be good to see some of you there!!

Friday, 16 September 2011

New Low

I've been told for a while now that my writing is pretty honest so in this post I'll continue that and try give you an idea of what I've experienced in the last two days. If you've been following this blog you will know I've been attempting to climb an E8 in the Mournes for around 18 months and had no luck. I've poured my life and soul into these 20m of rock and even for someone like me it's been a brutal emotional rollercoaster. In the past when I've been going at risky routes I've always been fairly certain I would not only survive them but survive them unbroken but on this I had no such confidence, with this project I had to accept that I wouldn't have as good a chance. I did accept it ,no question but it has made me live my life not knowing from one day to the next where I'll be or what state I'll be in and it has wore on me. I can deal with it, only just though, as I deserve whatever happens as it's my own choosing to live this life, what I cannot accept is that it's affecting others around me. It rained on us again the other day and my frustration began to boil over and someone else felt it, they shouldn't have and I hated myself for it, failure to climb was nothing on the disappointment in myself at losing control of emotion and venting at someone who didn't deserve it.

Seriously pissed off, I'm making one of the toughest decisions of my life here. Pic-Suzy Devey

We have been in the Mournes for the last few days, I got ten minutes on the route, on a shunt, in the rain. I tried to climb, I fell, I swore, I hung on the rope, I knew I was beat and it was time to do the one thing I'm good at, cut away. I stood for a while before deciding , then I went and packed up. On the way up I could hear the guys chatting and having a laugh, at that moment I realised how detached I was from not only them but how I felt distant from me. I took off for the walk out at a blistering pace to try use physical pain to distract me from the utter mental torment I was feeling. I stopped on top of a huge cliff realising that no matter how hard I push I'm not going to get this out my system, I felt more empty and alone at this point than I have at any other point in my life, with nothing to cushion the blow of utter failure or anyone to take comfort from I felt physically sick. I've sacrificed everything in my life for climbing to such an extent that the pathetically sad truth is that the only place I now find solace is in climbing, this is an outcome I tried very hard to avoid but seemed somehow inevitable!I've been in darker depths before though so I'm sure I'll beat it again, it'll just take time. We tried to do some filming afterward to get my raw feelings on camera but even for those present who know me it seemed too much yet it wasn't even a fraction of how I felt, and this post barely scratches the surface. To end on a positive though I've got a few great projects in mind before the op in November and a weekend of drinking with my mates to kick me out of wallowing in my swamp of self pity, I guess I just need to man up, treat the last 18 months like a broken relationship, remember the good parts and get rid of the rest! I've met some great people in the last few months and built a few important friendships so it's not all bad!!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

No Going Back?

" Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill!........You knew didn't you? I'm part of you?Close, close, close! I'm the reason why it's no go. Why things are what they are."

William Golding

Lord of the Flies

I came across this quote the other day and it sums up rather well my failed borderline schizophrenic attempts to quit high risk climbing. Hopefully this post will explain where my head is at before this climb and what lead me here. I'm also hoping that writing about it will be personally cathartic and clear some headspace!
The 'Beast' mentioned in the quote above I relate to the inner demon that drives my climbing and risk taking. I wish it was the inspirational motivation that people think it it is but it sure aint. It controls most of my major decisions and terrifies me with its power to do so. On one side I hate and fear it but on the other I love and respect it, it's tough to balance between them. Going too far in one direction means depression and darkness and the other in a frenzy of dangerous climbing like soloing F&F or gaining grades solo and quickly.

This face somewhat sums up my minds reaction to quitting, basically saying "F**k Off"

I had genuinely thought I was past all this but after the fall I knew I would have to prove to myself I still had bottle and the only way to do that would be to come back and improve on what I have done before. Since the fall I've had a chance at a couple of relationships which is what I thought I wanted but the drive to climb hard again beat any prospect of that and once again emotions were swept ruthlessly aside to make way for climbing. I don't understand why I couldn't just be happy with surviving the fall and all my solos and just settle down, no point dwelling on that stuff though.

Totally entranced with the moves on Tolerance - Pic- Suzy Devey

It's been over a year and a half since the fall and since I managed back on my feet almost every waking moment has been gearing toward what I hope will happen next week, success on E8. These 20 metres of rock have dominated everything for that time, nothing else has particularly mattered and it makes me see how selfish I've become so perhaps it's time to utter the words "I'm quitting after this one" once again only to realise that people are right and as one writer put it "climbing for Kev is an irreversible decision", perhaps there is no going back now? But then with my date for my operation confirmed for 30th of November I don't really have much choice in the matter of stopping for the majority of next year, time to stock up on box sets again!!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Pints Help Climbing-Fact

Last week I was in Ayrshire to catch up with mates and sadly trade in my beloved Astra, like waving goodbye to my youth. On the Sunday while having dinner watching 'The Wildest Dream' I was summoned to my local pub The Black Bull by Fiona, Kenny the Publicans wife. After a few pints we were discussing the financial aspect of my upcoming trip to Ireland, Fiona found it hard to believe that as a sponsored climber I don't really make any money whatsoever from the game.

The magical power of the pint prevails

Finding this crazy she immediately offered to put £500 from her own company , she asked if this would help as I tried not to splutter into my pint. I wasn't even going to go for a drink that night but I'm glad I did as Fionas kindness has taken a considerable amount of pressure off us for this trip, Cheers Fiona........................

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Head Games

Today I was back at my old stomping ground , Quadrocks, Largs, to see how my head space was for getting on route's that I cannot afford to make mistakes on. I teamed up with Al (climbing partner for impending trip to Mournes) Alan Fox (photographer) and my mates Tam and Alec. The banter was good and the conditions fine for a spot of mid grade soloing. With my promise to myself and a few close others to stop soloing broken I set off up The Arete, E3 for my first route of the day and climbed in a focus induced trance like state floating up the moves, this was exactly what I needed to feel.

On The Arete, E3, Quadrocks, Largs. Pic-Alan Fox

Next up was one of my own routes there, Fatal Kiss E4 6a. I haven't soloed this one in a few years but after top roping it to remember the moves I felt very comfortable relaxing on even the sketchy crux move. Bit more physical and mental prep to go yet though before the trip in just over a week!!
After the hard moves on Fatal Kiss, E4 6a, Quadrocks - Pic- Alan Fox

Monday, 29 August 2011

More hill time

On Thursday Glenda and I headed up Sgurr Mhaim expecting a miserable day with the forecast but instead were greeted with stunning views in almost every direction, one of those days you just don't want to come off the hill.

Glenda and I on the summit of Sgurr Mhaim

On the ridge to the descent path

Yesterday it was time to keep a promise and go on a Ben Nevis litter pick arranged by my friend Sarah who is a Conservation Officer for the John Muir Trust . We headed to the summit in less than pleasant conditions, if you want to test your faith in humanity just go for a walk up the tourist path on a busy day. We lifted a large amount of rubbish considering there had been a pick just the other week, roughly 7 of the bags were full of banana skins which are becoming a real issue on the Ben. Off to Ice Factor now for another training session!

Work party on the descent, that's some of the rubbish bags we collected

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hill Days

The other day I got word about my operation definitely being in November. Facing a move back to Ayrshire for a stint and having to be inactive for a while has re-awoken the demon and my normal drive to be in the mountains is in high gear. With this in mind and a decent forecast Suzy and I headed for the Buachaille on Wednesday. We decided on North Buttress, probably one of my favourite mountain days and apart from us getting mauled by the midge it was a brilliant day finished off nicely in the Clachaig!!

Suzy on the Buttress with Kingshouse and Rannoch Moor behind

Us on the summit after an epic trying to work timer and balance my camera

Yesterday it was up to the Cobbler with Hector to work on a new route and check some other stuff. My ankle and knees hurt but with an impending feeling of time running out I felt I couldn't waste good weather. So we battered up checked some lines for the future then headed up the ridge to the South then Central peak which is a good scramble. Another clear day in the mountains, superb. On the way home we had dinner at Ben Arthurs Bothy, I then stopped to see my Gran & Grandpa who served up Mince and Tatties, then to Dalry where my Mum served up Bacon rolls, 3 dinners in 3 hours is a record even for me!

Hector at the Narnain Boulders with Cobbler in background

I've been on Central Peak of the Cobbler dozens of times and this is the first time I've had someone take the 'classic' shot, great place to be.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Social Climbing

Last Saturday I teamed up with my mate Fran to do some Multi Pitch on Rannoch Wall for his MIA logbook.Also there was photographer Alan Fox. On the way up we passed a few parties on Curved Ridge and chatted to the Guides I knew. On arrival at the wall we got the guidebook out and had some lunch. After a blether with Gary Latter Fran decided on Grooved Arete, this was my second multi pitch route, climbed almost 10 years ago, I remembered the day clearly but not all of the route. There was quite a few folk at the base of the climb and as Fran set off I spoke with them, then Jenny and Karen arrived for Grooved Arete too, the day continued to be social all the way home, meeting various people we knew. I had planned on fulfilling an ambition to solo something on the wall but with there being so many people around I didn't feel comfortable doing that, Foxy had carried 100m of static up for nothing in the end!!

On Grooved Arete, Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe with Fran, Photo-Alan Fox

We were almost in Ireland this weekend but the weather beat us once again. Other than that I've just been training, managed a run the other day and absolutely loved every second of it the pain since has been bad but it was worth it.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tower Ridge

I'd promised Kaye a while back I'd take her up Tower Ridge on the Ben so with the forecast being good we headed up yesterday. The walk in was brutally warm for a pasty ginge like myself and I had to drink plenty. As we arrived on the ridge proper Kaye announced that she was running out of water and I had to begin considering retreat or dehydration, at that point she said she could only get water by tilting her pack to get water from her Camelbak, turns out it was upside down, cue plenty of abuse.

Kaye scrambling up with Observatory Gully below

Starting onto the Eastern Traverse

At the top of the ridge

The views all day yesterday were utterly stunning, I feel so privileged to stay in such a beautiful place and be capable of going out and appreciating it in the way I do...........

Monday, 25 July 2011

Regaining Fitness

After 3 weeks of constant illness and ankle pain I had severe cabin fever and a hefty feeling of generally being unfit so it was time to get out on the hills. Last Saturday Johann and I had another MIA training day in Glencoe, Lagangarbh Buttress is a great scramble even when done in pouring rain and clouds of midges.

Johann looking psyched for the route!!

During the week it was down to Arran to meet up with Craig and hit the amazing hills there. We steamed up Glen Sannox and onto the Saddle in rather minging conditions, even stopping for one minute guaranteed a feeding frenzy for the midges. From there it was up Cir Mhor, Caisteal then onto the Witches step which was a greasy mess. After that it was plain sailing apart from a bit of ankle pain on descent.

Near summit on Cir Mhor

Dropping briefly out of cloud, Craig looking over Firth of Clyde

On Saturday Ross, Danny and myself left Dalry at 6 in the morning and headed for Cruach Ardrain just outside Crainlarich. It was a bit of a boggy slog but well and truly worth it, from the summit we had clear views to Arran to the South and Glencoe and the Ben to the North, I don't think I've ever been out in clearer conditions.
Danny and Ross on the summit

Feeling a good bit better, another part of the jigsaw in place for Ireland!!

Ben Nevis Film

Back in April Johann, Dot and myself met up with Kate and Ezra from Bangor University to work on part of a film they were making about different facets of life on Ben Nevis. I think the finished article is really well made and will definitely make you want to get out there, judge for yourself here though :

Johann and myself talking about the route while Kate does sound check. Pic- Dorota Bankowska

Monday, 11 July 2011

Good from Bad

In the past month or so the pain in my ankle has taken a real step up. Causing me to lose even more sleep than usual which aint good for my epilepsy. I thought it was time to get put on the waiting list for the fusion operation so I duly called the hospital the other day and it looks like I'll be in around Christmas time for the op. In a way it's good to have these time pressures as I've been able to clearly set two major goals to train for and hopefully achieve before the op. One is obviously the E8 project and the other to eventually climb the Cathedral after so many years of trying. At the moment though I feel I'm starting from scratch after losing half a stone rapidly after the worst stomach upset I've ever had.
If I'm successful at climbing these I'm hoping to use the op as an opportunity to change the direction of my climbing from purely technical to more mountaineering as ,let's face it, I feel I have almost found the limits of what is possible with my disability, though I did say that at E3. Also if I can somewhat change direction to mountaineering I'm hoping it will help me maintain my decision to quit soloing. I've been playing that game for 10 years now and took my share of chances and had a few close calls so it's time to heed the warnings of my mentors and walk away while it's still my choice, if I can. Ironically in the months to come I'll need to be more dedicated than ever to my climbing if I'm to go for this operation feeling relaxed!!

Monday, 13 June 2011

No Rain??

With a decent forecast it was time to get out and make the most of it over the weekend.On Friday Michelle took me for my first paddle, 26k down a river near Beauly. It was good to try a different sport and see the area from a different perspective.

View from the kayak

In the gorge near the end of the day

After paddling it was a busy drive back to the Fort through holiday traffic and home to have a BBQ, cool way to end the day!

Johann, Suzy, Kieran, Sarah and myself before copious amounts of alcohol were consumed!!

Rested up for most of Saturday between hangover, the heat and left hand being sore from paddling then went up the Glen to check out a line. Sitting up there chilling out on my own is a great way to relax and get focused.

On Sunday it was up onto Tower Ridge with Craig. The only other people on the North Face were a party on Observatory Ridge and a worried soloist who caught us at Tower Gap and we roped across.

Quick piece break before heading to the Eastern Traverse

Craig scoping the Gap before the soloist appeared

After we got down the weather was still holding so it was up to Sheepfank Wall to get on the E3 I was psyched for. Suzy was keen to come up and get some pictures. I had tried this route before but couldn't get my left thumb to hold the crux in the heat. Last night was cooler and with a breeze to keep the midges at bay it was perfect.

Approaching the hard sequence - Pic - Suzy Devey

It was good to get back on a fairly bold route to make sure my mind hadn't been affected by falling last week. In a strange way I feel more comfortable since it happened. I do not know why this is. My left foot slipped at one point but I felt no worry and simply climbed on like it hadn't happened which is good for my head.

In the middle of the crux - Pic - Suzy devey

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Another Tumble

Having been up the Glen scouting for routes with Suzy the other day I'm still mega keen on finding projects to work at here so when Dave called yesterday to see if I fancied a blast to Polldubh to have a go at some stuff I thought it was a good idea. We headed up in the afternoon, Dave onsighted Black Friday then we went to Road Buttress to have a look around. After finding a relatively dry route I proceeded to try it while on 3 'bomber' cams. I rested with my feet at around 10ft (maximum) when suddenly the first 2 cams ripped, that familiar and horrendous noise of ripping gear, the feeling of plummeting, enough time to wonder if the next cam will hold, realising it hasn't, the stomach churning noise as I hit the ground in a lying down position, the pain of being winded, then turning and in what must have been a split second seeing Daves legs in the air (knew there was something wrong at that point) and the rope speeding away, grab the rope, Dave runs up to check I'm okay, we laugh a lot, me because I'm glad I'm not badly injured, Dave probably because he's glad he doesn't need to carry me out the Glen ,again.

Stunning sky on the descent from the Ben

I got home around 5 and decided I was fine to carry on with my plan of meeting Johann and heading up the Ben. We battered up to Castle Ridge at a fair old pace and did the supposedly more interesting start, not one I'd recommend, on the way down I started to feel a bit iffy but simply put it down to an adrenalin come down. Got up feeling really ill this morning and spent most of my day in A&E, the outcome being I have concussion, few days off then I had better get back to it as I cannot afford to be scared in the build up to Tolerance!!

Monday, 23 May 2011


Since the fall last year I knew I was going to have to come back to climbing and try better my E7 effort. I was almost happy to leave things at this level but I knew after the accident if I wanted to lay down the demon of fear I would have to push on further than before. I didn't realise at the time how much farther this would take me. Since I got back on my feet and back to the crags my whole life has been devoted to trying to find an E8 I could potentially climb. I have trained harder than ever and simplified my life even more by cutting more away, to the point I now think I have nothing more to be rid of, people, possessions etc! At times it is difficult keeping focused though and I have hated myself on more than one occasion for lack of discipline, a recent example being a near descent back to borderline alcoholism. Disgusted with my weakness I have poured everything into getting this E8 in the bag. What's really important to yourself becomes increasingly clearer in the build up to these moments in life, for me only having those and that which are truly important is the only way for me to safely (relatively) continue to live this way. Not as easy as it sounds unfortunately, it's a hard balancing act.

Focus as it should be if I was a Zen master

Focus as it more realistically is in my life!!

The physical side of this focus is easy, it's the mental side I find really taking it's toll, no sleep, no focus in any other aspect of my life, the usual but magnified. I've been on four specific trips to Ireland now to climb Tolerance and had to cancel many more at the last minute due to weather. I think it's because I feel for the first time I'm truly pushing myself hard and not just pushing my luck, though there's still a large element of that. In the past when I've done harder things there's a good percentage in my favour but now it's maybe beginning to tip away from 50/50. Risk etc are things I can deal with, what's really getting to me is building up to going at this route then stepping down again when the weather craps out. If it was safe I'd be happy to remain patient but when I'm having to talk myself into accepting the potential cost of my actions and get into the frame of mind to take big risks but then have no outlet for it and have to re-adjust to normality is doing my head in. i really need to dump this demon...............

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Scottish Summer

Headed down to the Buachaille again today for Johann to log more scrambling days for an upcoming assessment. We saw the forecast but thought we would go have a look anyway. We arrived in fairly okay weather so decided it was worth a try, probably through desperation to climb on rock again as it's pissed down relentlessly for 3 weeks now!

Trying to keep a sense of humour at the base of Broad Buttress while eating a soggy bagel!!

Sense of humour failing in strong wind, hail and sleet, at least it keeps the midges away!

Johann laughing at the ridiculousness of our summer weather. 5 minutes after this we had to crawl to the ridge as the wind was ferocious and kept knocking us over, good times!! It's to be worse tomorrow (130mph apparently) day at the Ice Factor I think?

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Filming, fun & progress

On Wednesday night after work I headed up the Glen again to do some film with Kate & Ezra, students in Documentary film making. I had agreed to do some climbing for a film they were doing about life around the Ben. So for scenery and a quality route we headed to Scimitar. I soloed the E4 there again which never fails to make me feel good!

Sorting gear before the crag- Pic- Dorota Bankowska

Soloing Fingertip Finale - Pic- Dorota Bankowska

When its been too warm for climbing we've been going up and jumping off Lower Falls which is a great way to freshen up after a day in the shop, or even during it, we jumped on our lunch hour last week.

Kieran in mid somersault at the Falls! Pic - Kaye Black

On Friday to avoid the Royal Wedding crap I met up with 3 mates in the Coe and we headed up North Buttress on the Buachaille. It's the first time I've stood on top of a Munro since the accident and I felt utterly alive during and after. Good to climb with friends I haven't seen for a while too!

Alec, Tam and Neil on the summit of the Buachaille!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Bad Life Choices

Heres a link to a short vid of our day on Saturday, including Johanns first ascent of Bad Life Choices! Edited up by Gee!!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sends in the Glen

It was back up the Glen yesterday with Gee and Johann who were both keen to send their projects. For Johann it was his new route at Upper Scimitar and for Gee it was Fingertip Finale, E4 solo!
The route at Upper Scimitar was pointed out to me over a year ago by Mark McGowan and was beyond what I'm capable of so Johann has been trying it since and it finally went yesterday!

Johann getting prepped for his solo

Johann on first ascent of 'Bad life choices' E7 6b

At the top, I think he was chuffed

Next up was Gee on Fingertip Finale. He had been looking at this line since doing his E5 the other week so he was psyched after watching Johann to get his route done!

Gee visualising the moves, simples!!

Just finishing the crux, not sure the mats would have done much for him at this point!

After the climbing we finished the day by jumping off Lower Falls into a surprisingly warm River Nevis and then to the Achintee for a pint in the beer garden, spot on...............