Saturday, 6 December 2014


Yesterday saw what is hopefully the start of our winter climbing season so Steve and I headed up to the Ciste on Ben Nevis to have a look at a route, it wasn't in condition so we settled for The Gift, usually a III/IV ice route but was a bit harder in mixed conditions. 

Steve on the walk in
I won the flip of a frozen flapjack for first lead and got stuck in, the route provided a nice wee fight to start the season off with some blind hooking, small torques, lots of powder and some crappy gear, well worth doing though.Good to get some success after recent efforts, always feels harder won and therefore more rewarding in winter.

Me wading into first pitch

Looking for gear

Steve heading onto second pitch

Just about to top out

Steve heading toward the tourist track

Stunning views on way out

The weather looked wild out West

Tuesday, 2 December 2014


Recently failure has been a central theme to my own efforts on the crags but I dont see this in the negative light that I once did. These days I try learn from it or bank the feelings of defeat and turn them back on themselves and use it for fuel the next time I'm out or even for training. The memory of coming home disappointed fresh in my memory always helps me get my lead head together or dig deeper into my pain reserves when training. 

Since the Works trip I've been trying to get a very bold E6 at Lochailort in the bag as it's unfinished business but on the one good conditions day I attempted the lead but my head wasn't 100% there and with a fall holding a high possibility of a career ending injury I wasn't willing to take a pointless risk, perhaps it would've been different on a first ascent. The second day we went out the holds were wet, gutted.

Frustrated at not committing- Pic- Conor McCarthy

 Wet holds + psyched mindset = anger-Pic-Conor McCarthy

Dave, myself and Steve freezing at the crag, a good team always helps- Pic- Conor McCarthy

To try tame the frustration I've been feeling I climbed 100 routes on the ice wall at work (about 1100m of vertical and overhanging ice) in 3hr 45min non stop yesterday. It was tiring but not anywhere near enough to feed that appetite that only seems to find nourishment with me on routes that scare me shitless, thankfully it looks like winter may eventually be arriving and that means theres plenty opportunity for a banquet of fear.........

Friday, 14 November 2014

Usual November

As per November is a busy month for me between work, sponsor stuff, family obligations, training, partying and of course trying to climb. It started with our comp at the Ice Factor which went well and we raised around £600 for the Glencoe MRT. The following Friday was helping set at GCC for their comp then on the Saturday to Snow Factor with Rhona for her first shot at ice climbing. 

Monday morning was an early start with Joe and Conor to pick up Jeff Mercier who was visiting from France. First we headed to Lyon Outdoor HQ so I could do a short talk and we met Steve Johnstone there too. After this we had an epic trying to find the Works but got there eventually to find Greg, Masa and Will already there and everyone got stuck in. Watching these guys is a real eye opener to how strong the top boys are and it has really made me want to train harder.

Cave full of psyche

After a first day where I felt the effects of sleep deprivation and horrendous recent epilepsy side effects hitting me I knew I had to try harder the second day. After a good warm up I tried the route below but came frighteningly close to breaking my left arm and became very dejected, definitely the low point of the trip for me. 

Seconds before nearly breaking my arm

Severely scunnered and thinking of selling my DT kit

I kinda just walked off myself for a few minutes after this told myself to stop being weak and just get back into it. Shortly afterwards Jeff sent Powerdab (hardest route there)  first attempt which seemed to psyche everyone up, the guy is a machine. 

Jeff on Powerdab D13

Next day was our last visit to the cave and with everyone keen to finish routes and some good patter with Ian Parnell the mood in the cave was good. Joe sent First Blood in an impressive battle and its his hardest route to date.

Joe on First Blood

A mix of French, Polish, Scots, Irish and English accents made conversation interesting.

After numerous attempts at First Blood I was feeling strong and on my last attempt I got to within one move of the finish and dropped my axe, denied :) 

Me on First Blood

Jeff laughs as I try stretching and Joe takes the piss, humour soon killing my feeling of defeat.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Extreme Gardening and TV

It's been another busy stint again with working on arranging the DT Comp, training and more cleaning at Wave. Steve and I were both busy there last weekend cleaning new routes and also cleaning heather, muck and sludge from Teenoso (VS) and from Ziggy (HS), rarely climbed but now looks like a really nice route, may take a bit of rain/wind to finish the clean. The base of the crag was also becoming boggy as the last rocks put in place by whoever and whenever were sinking so we dragged some more over and have placed them there.

Steve cleaning heather away to make a safer top out

Also this week EpicTV posted a short interview I did with them last week and the response has been fantastic, none more so than this piss take picture from Steves fiancee Jane :) The vid is here....

This cracked me up!! Pic from Inside The Lens

Monday, 13 October 2014

Stupid Hand

Last Thursday Joe and myself headed to Newtyle to get on Fast And Furious once again with the intention of Joe getting his first ascent of it and for me to improve my style on it. Fergus came along to film and Simon Yearsley  and Susan Jensen also rocked up to work on a new line.

Joe and me in matching Rab breeks chatting about the route- Pic Fergus Faulds

I got on the route and climbed it easily in my original style using multiple Fig 4 moves but I really wanted to cut down on using them so treated this as a warm up. Joe was up next and went for it but got stopped only a few moves short of topping out. I tried to sort out climbing it in better style but without being able to switch or high axe there were more than a few stopper moves and I lowered off frustrated. Joe also had a frustrating battle getting to the same point close to the lower off multiple times.
Getting the rage with disability-Pic Fergus Faulds

After that we were both fired up to train, I've been beasting myself and eating salads since :) Wee montage of the day from Fergus here... 

Sometimes my disability really gets to me, especially when its something that really means something. That can range from days like this when the physical aspect of it hurts then there is the mental aspect like when I see people look at my hand then make eye contact and I feel like I should be in circus freak show. There is also the frustrating question that I cant help asking myself what I'd be capable of with two hands, it'd certainly be a lot easier to carry multiple pints!!!

Also to help with motivation we have our annual comp coming up so get your entries in folks, all in aid of Glencoe MRT this year.....

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Nevis Days and Video

I've been spending an increasing amount of time on the Ben this past fortnight, some good, some not. It started the other weekend with another clean up but this time we approached from the CMD direction with some local students, good to see some of them getting involved to help out. The stuff we collected on the summit would've gave most people the boak but it has to be done unfortunately.

Some of the delights we shifted from Ben Nevis

Today I was up with Dave to try get Castle Ridge done before the forecast winds kicked in. It was great to get back here as the last time I was here I was concussed after a fal and am short of the memory. Cracking morning.

Dave on Castle Ridge

Me with the ridge behind

Lunchtime selfie before crappy/interesting scree descent

After that it was time to go check another potential new rock route before the rains arrive. It looks to be technical, little to no gear and scary, ah well once more into the breach :)

Also here is some footage from the first ascent of Smackaroonies last week..... 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Back To Basics

After years of slagging my mates who left climbing for MTB I've started to drift to the dark side too, though I've no intention of anything distracting me from climbing. MTB has fear, speed, fun and bars to get bevy at lunchtime so whats not to like. With my hand, one brake and crap eyesight I knew it'd be challenging but if I wanted easy I'd do normal boring crap. 

On Thursday morning I teamed up with Scott Kirkhope who had kindly offered to show me the basics and we did go right back to braking, cornering etc, even down to stuff I'd never have thought of like seat height.

Proper punter-Pic-Dorota Bankowska

The downhill champs aint gonna lose their crown anytime soon

Next day was down to Glentress with Rhona, Fergus and Gareth, great trails and some amazingly unprintable banter, great day.

Myself, Rhona and Gareth- Pic-Fergus Faulds

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Back to the pain cave!

Yesterday saw a change in weather and thoughts turned to winter. So Dot, Dave and myself headed down to Al Halewoods basement for some training/suffering. All pics from Dorota Bankowska.

Myself and Dave in the pain cave

Dave focusing
All the training helps toward an upcoming trip and this seasons DT comps. Our comp at the Ice Factor this year is in aid of Glencoe MRT so a very worthy cause so if you or anyone you know would be keen then get yourself along on 1st November for a laugh.

I look like a Swan Vesta with my red face an white body

Dot looking too fresh after a burn on the wall

Using the "B*****d stick" on Dave

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Season That Keeps on Giving

It's been another busy stint here in the Highlands between one thing or another. The main thing for myself was getting another new route climbed. While belaying Steve on his project at Wave I noticed the arete to the right, it didn't look amazingly inspiring or clean but I reckoned it was worth a punt. A quick look on top rope with a brush and it revealed itself as an amazing route with some great moves. As usual with the lines I seem drawn to the gear was bad, half placed wire and a couple of cams behind a loose flake all in the same area and almost guaranteed deckout from most of the crux moves. 

Dave, myself, Steve and Dot-Pic- Sean Bell

For some reason this route gave me the proper fear, maybe just a different style from my usual or something. I went to go on lead the other day first thing but knew I was rushing so backed off and waited another wee while. 

The dulcet tones of Slipknot getting me psyched-Pic-Sean Bell

As usual getting the mind where it needs to be for this stuff provided a battle but the a dark cloud blotted out the bright sunshine and I knew the time was now, get on and commit. The sun hit me just as I got the only gear in, too late to turn back, nothing but succeed or fall, simple. Make the first really hard move, in a bad position now, to fall would mean breaking bones, bile in my stomach rises rapidly, struggle to maintain composure.

 Committed mid crux-Pic-Sean Bell

Now I know it's serious I relax more as I know what failure or quitting means and the moves that really scared me flow by in a state of total focus. The feeling of nothingness I crave takes over, pity I have to take such risks to feel that peace but then again it's bloody great fun :) Cheers to Steve for the belay, Sean for pics and Dave and Dot for filming.

Very relieved at the top, miles away from gear-Pic-Sean Bell

Yesterday was Steves turn on the sharp end, we headed to Lochailort with the intention for Steve to get on the E3s but after only a few top ropes on my E6 6b The Rebellion he decided all the ingredients were there for a go at his first route of this grade and he cruised it, one of the most impressive bits of climbing I've seen in recent years and the second ascent in the same proper bold style as the first, well done Steve.

Steve high above the gear on The Rebellion-Pic Dorota Bankowska

Chatting and chilling out, relief and smiles all round after another success- Pic Dorota Bankowska

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Full Circle

I left the Fort early on Sunday to meet Rhona in Arrochar in the hope the weather would be good to get on the Cobblers South Ridge. It turned out to be a fine day and we had a chilled ascent and good banter.

Rhona on the ridge with the South Peak behind

The main reason for heading South was to head to Arran to explore options to start the 'Full Circle' project which is supported by my sponsors Rab . As my climbing career may end at any time with this injury I want to climb a hard new route on the island as it's where I started to go after becoming epileptic and probably where climbing really started becoming my way of life. It'll be good to climb something at my limit here as I was a total punter just chancing my luck on my own over there in the early days doing scrambling or easy solos hence the 'Full Circle' name of the project.

Steve came down on Tuesday night and we discussed plans over a few ales and then headed over for first ferry on Wednesday. The clag really dropped as we made our way up Glen Sannox and as we stopped to scope out one or two crags we got absolutely mauled by the worst midges I've experienced in years. 
Steve getting midgied in Glen Sannox, Cir Mhor ahead

Respite was only found on the Saddle between Sannox and Rosa and that allowed us to get the binoculars out to check various lines. We then headed round under the other side of Cir Mhor to check it out. So all in all we've found plenty to go at, just need the weather, midgies and injury to play the game.

On The Saddle escaping the midgies

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Ignorance is pain

The last few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster in my mind. After being told my ankle was pretty much totally wasted I wasn't sure whether I'd stay in the Highlands or even to continue trying to climb but after a stint in the Shire I knew I couldn't move back there either even if there are a couple of good things there. I dont really feel at home anywhere these days but I feel slightly less lost the closer I am to the hills. On returning to the Fort I spent a week going over things in my head and whether I should leave but then the surgeon called and told me 100% I wasn't receiving anymore help/surgery and it just flipped a switch.

Being told this was liberating in that I no longer hold onto false hope that I'll get better so I decided to ignore the quitting advice, ignore thoughts of moving away from climbing and the Highlands. First thing is to get some hill fitness back and I started last week with a wee jaunt up Stob Ban, necking Nurofen all the way, I nearly turned round at one point but persevered. Today I went up Sgurr a Mhaim  and along Devils Ridge. It was great being up there alone too, I'd forgotten the simple pleasure of having a mountain to yourself.

This counted as work, looking over to Stob Ban

Summit of Sgurr a Mhaim, Ben Nevis behind me

The pain has been quite intense but I took a third of the painkillers today that I did last week. I've worked out a new stride pattern which helps too. The most fascinating bit for me (as always) is the mental side though. After years of soloing I've learned to use my brain to control or even totally cut away certain emotions so I've been experimenting with trying to switch off pain receptors at certain levels and the results are pretty amazing, the mind is an outstanding thing if we can tune into it.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Burn It

Today I spoke with another surgeon hoping for another opinion, hoping for a cure to my constantly increasing pain. Neither were given, I was told again that it was time for me to quit. It was a surreal experience to be almost pleading someone to chop my foot off but to no avail. I left the hospital and even as I saw my future begin to go up in flames I felt nothing. I know from what he said of the state of my foot I don't have long left before the bone collapses and I also have serious arthritic problems so I have to change my thinking. I have to once again apply the knife to any hopeless dreams and then burn any bridges back to them.

I guess it's easy for people outside of the type of climbing I pursue to say "just quit" but I've totally committed myself to this way of life and after over a decade I know I never will or possibly could live a normal life. Occasional weekends and maybe one week in Norway etc per year wouldn't cut it for me. Its not just the climbing though its the whole lifestyle, it allows me to test myself outwith the bullshit rules and regulations of almost anything else and unlike everything else the mountains don't judge me on my my disabilities up there I'm free of everything including myself. No way that can be given up.......Ever

To quit would be against everything I've been taught and against instinct. Quitting would break me easier than keeping on going until I no longer can, the thought of sitting on my arse remembering what once was when I could still do something truly disgusts me. To keep moving forward may well be the harder thing to do given I know what'll eventually happen to me but in choosing the harder way I know the journey will ultimately be more rewarding and more defining of what my true character may be and in knowing that I'll know whether I'm weak or strong without doubt and without having to fade away wondering what I could've done.....

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Fun and not fun......

Since climbing Cu Sith I've spent all my time searching for new routes and new crags but unfortunately nothing has yet motivated me like Cu Sith did. I found a few things but one was way beyond justifiable risk and it would definitely have been beneficial to have two hands. All the running around is thirsty work so a few nights out were called for to rehydrate.

In the pub with parents and good mates

Juvenile but hilarious antics at the crag with Joe-Pic-Inside The Lens

Last Friday I headed out with Joe, Mark and Steve to get some routes in and hopefully a bit of footage for an upcoming project. We headed to Scimitar as Joe was keen to bag his first E4. First up Mark went on lead then had a nerve racking whipper, all of us relieved he was pretty unscathed. 

Mark leading with Steve belaying and Joe looking on.

 Joe was up next, he had worked the line and looked strong when he set off soloing up the unprotected route. He got through the crux then it went wrong very quickly. 

Joe starting up Fingertip Finale as Mark spots him

As i shouted up to Joe to encourage him and try calm him I saw him look at the ground and before I could say anything he was airborne. I waited to hear the snapping of bone but instead  Mark stood his ground and took a massive amount of the force out of Joes 10m fall by being a very effective bouldering mat. The noise they made though still left me expecting injury but both were fine. very very lucky, Joe wisely deciding soloing is not for him.
Joe 2 seconds before 10m freefall.

Its never easy witnessing these things and the noises of any of the accidents I've been present at are what sticks clearest in my mind. Though after speaking to the lads both are keen to be back out. None of us questioned the risks but instead we went for a beer and assessed what had went wrong then took the piss. I guess its the nature of climbing with people who are pushing themselves (regardless of what grade thats on) that sometimes accidents happen but I wouldn't change what I do for anything in the world. This kind of thing simply makes me appreciate my friends and the lifestyle we have even more as we know it can be taken from us so easily.