Sunday, 21 June 2015

5.10 Verdon Review

If you are still mourning the loss of the famous 'Whites' then I think we have found the solution for you. Enter the Verdon.
Ever since I first picked a pair of these up to test a few weeks back I have been incredibly impressed by their all round performance. It took one route to 'bed' them in but to be honest they really do have that 'out-of-the-box comfort' feel. 

There were a lot of upset people in the UK when the White Anazasi were discontinued last year. People all over were resorting to stock piling as many pairs as they could, while others accepted the situation and started the transition to the new style Pinks.

Here is what the guys at Five Ten have to say about their latest creation:

This asymmetric climbing shoe is designed for superior edging with out-of-the-box comfort. We accomplish this by constructing the shoe in a new way. A molded thermoplastic midsole fills in the dead space of the natural curves of the foot for a more precise fit. They lined the leather upper with Clarino, a premium synthetic material that doesn't pill and then we perforated the tongue to enhance breathability.

Key Features:

  • Stealth C4 rubber
  • Stiff mid-sole
  • Thermoplastic and molded EVA midsole
  • Lace closure
 Good for precision edging, steep pocketed faces.

Talking to a few of the dedicated limestone fanatics throughout the UK, many felt that the new pink lacked that extra bit of stiffness that enables you to really stand on up on those super small, micro edges.
So after being informed that the Verdon had been built with firm stiffness throughout the mid-sole, in mind, I was super keen to put them to the test. And at what better place but the home of tiny edges. Raven Tor.

The Verdon excels on microscopic, credit card thin edges.
What particularly intrigued me even more was the ever so slight down turn nature of the shoe. This coupled with the so called 'thermoplastic midsole' could have a lot of potential, particularly for the project I was working on and I could not wait to give them a run out.

“C4 rubber allows climbers to stick to barely-there edges, lock into smears on microscopic nubbins and cruise up technical terrain with unparallelled confidence in their footwork.”

They certainly lived up to their billing. My project suddenly felt remarkably easier and made Mecca feel the easiest it ever has. I was quite amazed at just how much of a difference they made and straight out the box too. Usually with brand new shoes you'll find your feet popping off every verse end as the rubber molds around your feet and becomes supple, but not so with these.
The solid fit, stiffness and sensitivity allow you to really push and use a serious amount of power in your feet to propel you upwards. While their superior edging capabilities, that really do excel on microscopic holds, mean that more of your body weight is taken off your arms and transferred onto your feet, meaning you grip less, thus you are less pumped.

I have yet to try them on other rock types, for example the grit, but for routes that require precise, accurate and technical footwork then these are now my go to shoe. The perfect tool for the job, they manage to make even smallest of footholds feel like virtual ledges plus they come in a rather snazzy shade of 'peakcock' (for the fashion conscious amongst us) 

The snug and tight fit of the heel is another big positive about the shoe.  Dead space is totally eliminated so you can really lock them into those heel hooks, know that they are going to stay put and not slip out due to excess bagginess.

Obviously a number of factors allowed me to climb Kabaah in the end, but the Verdon played a massive part and they without a doubt made a significant difference to how the route felt. I was psyched to hear that Pete Whittaker also wore them for his ascent of the route too a few days prior.
I'll be making sure they are packed in my bag for my upcoming trip to Rodellar next week and will report back on how they perform out there...

I really think these new kicks are something a bit special and firmly believe they are lining up to be a big hit, so keep your eyes out for them hitting the shelves this coming autumn. Hopefully just in time for the drop in temps and providing you with the perfect tool for sending your projects.
They certainly helped me send mine! 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Perseverance, Insanity, Success

I have the whole routine dialled now. It works like a well oiled machine. Wake up, breakfast, brew, chill for a couple hours, drive, another brew, warm up, walk, clips in, rest, warm up, redpoint, fall. This pattern has become all to familiar, almost to the point where I could do it all with my eyes shut.

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." 
Albert Einstein

It's funny, strange and some might argue totally insane, the lengths and stresses that we are prepared to go through to achieve success. What is even more bizarre is that everyone goes through the same thing when it comes to projecting. You have to really really want it, bend your mind to persevere and that is only really the tip of the iceberg.

This season I have approached Kabaah with a much more relaxed and chilled attitude. Last year the pressure really began to get to me and the whole process started to become a little tedious at times. This year however I’ve come out of the winter stronger, which probably helped, but also I did my best to just keep that pressure at bay as much as possible and try not to stress too much. Basically just enjoy the climbing, and enjoy feeling strong on the rock.
I found treating each session as just another training session super beneficial, even if I failed to reach my highpoint I knew my body was getting a decent workout and constantly getting fitter.

Rocking up early at the crag Saturday morning I was a bit apprehensive about the conditions. The wind was blowing a gale again and I began to wish we'd left it till later in the day. My warm up went well and the usual routine kicked in. After sorting the clips on the head wall I lowered down and almost immediately decided that it would probably be wise to wait until after lunch, when the sun came round and the air temperature rose slightly. My weather reading skills had gotten fairly decent by this point and I knew what signs to look out for.

However sitting in the cave, sheltering from the wind, my fingers were feeling good and my confidence started to grow that maybe it might be okay for a burn and almost without a second thought I was up throwing windmills and tying in under the route once more. The bottom went smooth as normal and was once again I shaking out at the rest before the crux. There was a good stiff breeze blowing across the wall and from there on everything just seemed to click.
With warm blood flowing through my fingers I grabbed the holds perfectly, place my feet perfectly, stuck the flick move and easily made my way into the top flake, shaking out between the moves. Suddenly my mind went crazy "You're gonna do this" and I realised this was my chance. I dug deep, real deep and boned down on the final two crimps with as much strength as I could muster. For a split second I had visions of dropping the move to the jug, but somehow managed to find that final bit of power and deep determination to make the final hard lunge and it was done.



It was certainly a battle, probably the biggest mental and psychological battle of my life. I have never felt my emotions run like they did as I clipped the chains. Almost to the point I felt on the verge of tears! Which may sound silly but it meant a lot to me, not because of achieving a new grade, although I’m pretty pleased with that too, but because the whole struggle was finally over.  It has taken a lot out of me, to the point that I have really felt like there was something missing in my life over the last few months. It is kind of hard to put into words to be honest but to finally be over that finish line is a special feeling.
All those commutes to the crag, all those failed attempts, all that training over the winter, all those cold and wet morning drives to the wall to run laps on my circuits, and every press up and pull up had got me to this point, and it had ALL been totally worth it.

While it might all sound a bit cliché and philosophical, this route and process has definitely taught me a lot about myself and I feel I’ve grown as a climber. Maybe not in how hard I can push my body, but more how hard I can push my mind. It came close to breaking my mental limits for sure but I know now more than ever before how to deal with situations, such as bad conditions and those days when you just don’t feel up to it. And I’ve learnt more about having patience, controlling the emotions and how much pressure my head is capable of holding.

Waking up this morning though, knowing I never have to go through that particular routine again is an immense feeling. Until the next big project that is! But this chapter and almost drone like state of mind that I have been immersed in has now closed and I can sit here full of complete, utter relief with a big fat smile on my face.
It has probably done the rounds by now but if you still haven't seen the latest video from Jon Clark that features some of my attempts at Kaabah last autumn, along with some strong action from other Peak lime locals, then check it out below. Even if you've watched it already, it's worth another viewing!

Plenty of people have helped me over the last few months on this fun but often frustrating journey.  But special thanks has to go out to Pete Clark and JC for all the moral support and time spent holding my ropes. Quite often Pete would come along to the crag just to offer some encouragement and his words were always a source of psyche when things were not going so well. I think it is extremely important to surround yourself with supportive, like minded and positive people in climbing. Pete is someone that certainly fits that bill!
And of course a real big thank you again to my Dad for all of his belaying efforts and the countless hours spent hanging around while I rested between attempts. Without their help I'm sure it wouldn't have been possible, or at the very least 100% harder!

Since last Saturday I have had a whole tonne of messages from friends and folk all around the world which is rather mind blowing. The power of the Internet these days is quite staggering. It really means a heck of a lot and I just wanted to mention how much I appreciate it all.

Time to celebrate! Pizza night at The Walkers!

My focus is now completely on my trip to Rodellar at the end of the month. It is going to be crazy hot but to be honest I am really looking forward to soaking up some blue skies and warm Spanish sunshine and checking out another new place. The rock formations look on another scale, with fantastic arches of all shapes n sizes and routes running up them left, right and centre.
I'll be heading out with the strong youth Buster Martin who is on the comeback trail after a while out of the climbing scene. This kid climbed 8c at 16! He is a very motivated, strong individual and I am hugely looking forward to teaming up and climbing with the lad.

Buster on his way to becoming the youngest Brit to climb 8c.
Bat Route, Malham 

This week has been huge in the climbing world to the point of it being hard to keep track of who's done what. The biggest news in the UK right now though is Ben Moon's ascent of Rainshadow at Malham. Incredible news that just made my weekend even more memorable. 
Climbing 9a, 25 years after doing the first ascent of Hubble, which is now recognised as the worlds first 9a, and almost at the age of 49, is in a whole league of its own. 
The words 'inspiring' and 'legend' are so often overused these days and their true meaning can be lost. However I think this achievement just about qualifies right...? 

In no other sport would something like this be possible. I saw a comment on UKC which put it into context quite nicely, about how what Ben has achieved is the equivalent of Usain Bolt running a record time in the 100m in 2034 or someone like John McEnroe winning Wimbledon this year. It just emphasises something that we all know but even more so, particularly to non-climbers, that climbing really is such a unique sport. Exciting times!

I think Ben summed everything up perfectly on his blog with the following message:

"Life is very precious, live healthy, train hard, climb harder."

Friday, 29 May 2015

A word from Montreal

 I hope you folk have been enjoying these guest blogs of late. I was seriously pleased with just how many people were keen to share their stories and thoughts and I really appreicate everyone that has contributed so far.
This week we have a few words all the way from Montreal, Quebec. I met Corinne during my first visit to Ceuse back in 2011 and we instantly hit it off. She is a lot of fun and one of those people always psyched on climbing and life in general, and not such a shabby climber either!


Ethan asked me to write about a meaningful climbing experience; well climbing itself has been a great experience in my life this far. So here is my love letter to and about climbing, one of the loves of my life.
First of all, I am not what people call «a climber», despite my deep affection for climbing; I do not live out of my car, I am based in a city — in great northern French-Canadia, a.k.a. Montreal—, and my life does not revolve around climbing. Rather, climbing has taught me a new and simpler meaning of the word “happiness”.
When I started climbing a few people told me, half-jokingly, that I should beware of turning into nothing but a “grade-seeker”, that my life would «become unidirectional», that I would «lose my balance» or become «addicted», and I am assuming they meant that in a bad way. The fact is that climbing has helped me remain balanced.

I started studying medicine in 2009 and at that time I had no clue what climbing was. Ceuse and Everest meant the same to me. I enjoyed a simple life in the city with friends and family, I liked to go running in the park, go to the movies, visit museums and art galleries—hispter! Working and studying was the most important part of my life, though I somehow knew that it couldn’t be that way forever: school could easily get me stressed out and it became a major concern. I did not know what to aim for, and let’s be real, very few people would dare tell you what to expect in life other than to work the usual 9 to 5, make money, and take vacations once in a while. Which is totally fine with me really, I mean I am going to live like this for a while and decide what to change if I get bored, but I digress… Since I’m an anxious and performance-driven individual, med school made sense for me then. Ironic, as that was the part of myself I wanted to change.

In September 2009, I had a bike accident which fractured the left half of my face and left me with the after-effects of a concussion. I had an cosmetic surgery about a week after the accident so I never really had to deal with my «new disfigured face», but I could not go running anymore—any jump or step would hurt, and dealing with pain became a daily challenge. It became bearable over time, of course, but the concentration I used to have, that which is needed to stuy and focus on textbooks, took much longer to come back than anticipated. This did not help my school-related anxiety (!). I had to find a way to look at things differently.

Climbing came into my life in that setting. I was looking for a low impact physical activity, and swimming in a pool just would not cut it—and still hasn’t. A friend took me to the local climbing gym during spring 2010, and I found myself in Squamish for a week or two that same year. My first encounters with the lovely people of the worldwide climbing community happened at that time: individuals from all over the world travelling to share and practice their passion—how cool! During school time, going to the gym after classes or between crazy evening/day shifts was sometimes what helped me wake up in the morning, despite a deep lack of sleep or motivation. Let’s say that it quickly became a part of my routine. From then on, I was «cursed»: every vacation I had was spent climbing and discovering new areas in the world.

My point here is that climbing did not take me out of «real life», climbing is what made this «regular-everyday-normal» life enjoyable on a daily basis. Instead of the big ups and downs which come with being dedicated to a career, I became more grounded and started feeling joy from smaller but much more important things: I enjoyed every sip of beer we had with friends after a good climbing session, I enjoyed the simple life out camping in a new country, hearing stories of people, travellers from all over the world and, most of all, I enjoyed feeling my body moving in space and utterly screaming to me «hey! You’ve never done that move before! How fun!

I did not know what the real difference was between happiness and satisfaction before then, as silly as it sounds. When I achieve hard work-related goals, I definitely feel proud and satisfied, I feel like the energy I devote to my work is finally paying off. I feel like there is some sort of purpose, which gives meaning to what I do, which is cool… I might feel like a better person, but despite those achievements I realized that I was not happier. I might sleep better at night, but I’m not happier. Climbing helped me understand that. I can allow myself to «not give a fuck» about what I do when I climb. I can allow my brain to take a break, to wander around the lovely settings which climbing takes us to, or concentrate on my body moving, or to just stop thinking about «stuff». To actually stop thinking so much for once and just enjoy, without expectations, the free movement in space that is climbing. It also taught me patience, and it helped me to deal with the performance-related anxiety I mentioned previously.

It was these maturing thoughts which led me on the road for about a year in 2012-2013. I took some time off school and lived the good simple life. I left with a friend for a few months to the west coast of the US and Canada—in her Aztek, you know, that car that turns into a tent?— then traveled alone in southern US and finally Spain. As you can imagine, I had a blast. I still missed school and books and teachers—geek! However, the numerous discoveries I made about myself, about others, about how people interact, for instance, and the fact that I was so simply and deeply happy, were of course more than enough to keep me on the road all that time, and could have kept me on that path far longer.

So real life is where I live, and my non-climbing life is doing very well, and I feel proud and lucky; there are things I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to achieve whithout this much dedication. I do believe though that I am constantly missing the simple and pure happiness I feel while on a climbing trip—that is a bit of my «melancholy french side», my apologies; though this is also what makes me appreciate small everyday details, like the smell of a good coffee, a nice walk in the city under the sun, a tasty meal with friends, an unexpected conversation, etc.
This is what climbing has brought to my life, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Italian Job

Guest blog number three and this time we have the uber strong Italian climber Marco Zanone. I meant Marco for the first time out in Ceuse last summer and we quickly became good friends. 
 I would have never have made it up two of best sends if it was not for his inch perfect beta! So cheers for that one buddy!
Since that trip, Marco has been in a serious rich vein of form ticking hard sport routes and world class boulder problems. Below is a brief account of a couple of his best days out from the winter.
Hope to hook up with you again soon man!


What I’m going to talk about are the two days that have left a huge mark on my life forever.  
On these two different days happened something that I had never experienced before, something that sometimes is not that easy to explain with words.
It was Saturday, January 31st when I was keeping in touch with my friends Gabri and Luca about what we’ll have done the day after. They were in Cresciano with some crazy friends that were in Ticino for a couple of days, the conditions were awesome so we planned to head back to Cresciano to join the crew again because we were sure that despite all, it would have been a good day.

I was keeping in my mind what I would like to try but when I was there I just followed the flow and the crew. I could have never known, but it turned out to be an awesome day, and by far the best of my life!

The crew that had gathered was insane. It composed of Gabri, Bazoo, Sbisi, Giulio Bertola, Davide Gaeta, Michelle and a whole bunch of other guys.

The first boulder I tried was “La pelle direct 8A+”, Bazoo explained to me the beta he used the day before and I eventually found myself at the top after around 30min of trying.
Since I was there I figured on trying the left variant [8A] also, that is way more different to climb on and it definitely gave me more troubles than the original one.

After a little break I had a try from the start, the feet stayed, the fingers locked and I luckily ticked another one!

The day was still early so the crew split up. I moved with Bazoo and Davide to Jungle Book and Sbisi wanted to get “La Pelle left” since he was soo close.

Jungle book was under the sun’s heat, that was quite strong even in February, but the motivation was extremely high so we checked it out anyway.  
Bazoo showed me the beta once again for the original sit start but it was so hard to have a good friction on the last slopy part of the problem when you come from the sit.  
One attempt my both hands slipped off altogether and I dropped down onto the pad like a sand bag. Ahaha! My skin started to get worse and the finger tips were red but it eventually and rather thanksfully went down for Luca and me.

Le Pilier, 8a | Chironico

For me the day could be called finished because 3 8A's in a day sounded pretty dope and I was definitely satisfied but the motivation of the whole crew dragged me in the right way so I was also able to finish off “La Nave va 7C+”, an awesome technical slopy edge, with crazy rock quality, I finally finished off with “Gecko 7C+”.

I guess I will remember this day for all of my life, because except the high quality and quantity of hard boulders I sent, that of course makes this day way more unique, I had so much fun and the energy we were all able to give one another was unbelievable.

Conquistador, 8a+

The other perfect day that features this perfect winter season is about the highest point of my climbing lifethus far.

What I’m going to write about next is the result of all the hard work and hard training. The result of a lot of failures, falls and days spent under one single boulder or rather entire sessions spent trying to figure out just one single move.

Boogalagga is the result of all of this.

This line has always been the main project for me, from the beginning of the bouldering season in Ticino, in fact the first time on it was in December when I spent a couple of days in Chironico with my brother and Niky Ceria.

I did it starting from the second move to the top, that is not that hard at all, but if you fail to make everything perfectly you can definitely fall.

The boulder itself consists of one single move if you use the beta straight to the pocket (depends on the size) because the first move is damned hard, but it is not all about strength, it requires perfect body positioning and exact coordination as well. 

Everything for me had to be close to perfection for sending this beast, I mean, I had to be in a good shape, my skin had to be dry and regenerated and also the climbing conditions had to good.

I came closer and closer and every time I figured out a new foot beta for the first move because also a foot 2cm more on the right could make differences on doing the move or not.


The day that Andrea and Luca took down the problem I was super close and I quickly realized that I had also one chance to get it.

So three days later I came back. I felt strong in the head and ready to climb this one. In fact after a couples of tries I stuck the first move to the 2 finger pocket and I climbed all the way up.

It was something so incredible to be stood on the top of this boulder. A boulder that I had dreamed about for years and years.

Boogalagga can be called “THE LINE” because it is a tall and proud bloc that follows this awesome overhanging prow. The holds are insane and the movement is unique and after all is is an 8B boulder problem that for me marks the end of a cycle but at the same time signals a new beginning.

The Italian Job. 

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Injuries, Cheese and Contentment

Here we have the second article in a series of guest blogs. Injuries are common in sports, maybe more so in climbing. They sadly come with the territory of pushing our bodies to their physical limits.  
Below Ellie Pygall gives us a little insight into her recent injury crisis and lays out a few helpful tips, that those unlucky enough to acquire an injury, can do to pass on the downtime and hopefully turn something negative into something more positive. 

 Injuries, Cheese and Contentment
By Ellie Pygall

Since my first foray into the strange world of online writing... where I attempted to grapple with some of the issues of gender involvement in sport, it would appear that a misogynistic deity has struck me down with injury. First, my finger - resulting in being advised by the hand therapists to take three months off climbing. Now, I'm writing this sat in the A&E waiting room with a potential loose body in my elbow which crippled my arm last night and resulted in my long-suffering other half having to help pull my trousers up after I'd been to the loo. Oh...and we're supposed to be on holiday. the risk of being more cheesy than the brie that would be curdling on our dashboard if we had made it to Font, I feel that a piece on injuries - and gaining that difficult sense of perspective when you have experienced an injury - is rather topical. One of my personal barriers to overcome in this situation is a serious case of hypocrisy. I work as a physiotherapist, which essentially involves counselling people on injury or functional decline for 40hrs a week. I think that I know all the right things to say and do, but when the situation is reversed it feels very difficult to swallow my own carefully crafted nuggets of compassion. However, I believe that this is a common ailment...the old adage “it's easier to say than to do” springs to mind.

Any form of loss, including injury, generally results in us experiencing a chain of emotional states. This is the Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. This sounds all too familiar. How do we push through these stages though, and break into the realms of acceptance, contentment this pushing too far?...happiness?

Essentially, the situation is shit. This is a fact. No-one chooses to be injured. It's painful, functionally debilitating and can come with a host of other psychosocial issues: influence on jobs, relationships, social life, mood etc. etc. etc. But the show must go on, as I can't see a high BMI lady (or lad) singing anywhere. Over the last three months, my search for happiness and contentment has led me to (in no particular order):

Red wine
My road bike
Yoga (and my first ever headstand!!!)
My walking boots
Studying Buddhism
More time with friends and family
Learning about permaculture
My kitchen (not merely for eating the peanut butter out the jar with a big spoon during low points) – tons of new recipes and ideas on nutrition.

I'm trying to think if there's anything I've discovered during this process that I can share with you here are my top tips that I'm trying to stick to! (Health warning: if you have a cheese allergy then please handle with care. Also cannot guarantee free from nuts, chocolate or general wiffle-waffles).

1) Happiness comes from the inside
Even with all the wealth, belongings and power-to-weight ratio in the world, it is still possible to be a miserable git! Regardless of our situation, true happiness starts from within.

2) Take enjoyment from other people's achievements
It sometimes feels like the last thing you want to do when you can't join in, but going out to the crag or talking to friends and loved ones about their sporting achievements can make you feel genuinely great once you have the right head-space and have been able to shake off the green shackles of envy and resentment.

3) As one door closes, another opens
An injury can give you the chance to do all those other things you've been meaning to, but can't quite fit in when you spend every night of the week after work training. A friend actually said to me “sometimes I wish I had a non-serious finger injury or something so that I had a valid reason to take a rest from training”!! There is so much time in your week when you don't climb, and if you don't know how else to fill it...then taking a break from climbing to discover the answer is probably healthy for you too.

4) Time with friends and family
Enough said. Dose up on extra time now, because when your injury has resolved you'll want to be back training 24/7.

5) You have the power to change
You might think of yourself as bad at dealing with injuries - often impatient and frustrated. But that doesn't have to be you. Turn things on their head:

Be patient and positive:
Use the experience to learn more about your body. The injury will have happened for a reason. If it's an overuse injury, then consider how you will change your training and climbing. If it was an accident, is there anything that you could learn from it?
Instead of frustration, think motivation!
Channel your energy into whatever you are doing. If it is rehab, set yourself small, achievable goals. If it is another activity – fantastic, enjoy the refreshing change!
You can actually come out of this a better climber
Take the time to analyse how you climb. We all have bad habits or areas that we could work on. Why not use this time to do just that? As you are returning to climbing, you won't be climbing your hardest, so try to use this drop in grade to focus on technique. It won't be wasted time!

Finally, remember...

Looking forwards through injury seems long, but looking back at recovery seems short.
Try not to think of the end goal. Create smaller, achievable targets. Don't compare yourself to your pre-injury state. Enjoy every day.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A little Yorkshire love

Last week I paid a long overdue trip back to Yorkshire. Malham was calling, we'd heard it was dry, I needed another break from the Peak and the weather was looking perfect for a couple days of camping.
I love Yorkshire and always look forward to going. It is a shame that for us it is slightly too far for a day trip which is why we don't visit as often as I'd like. However it is finally starting to dawn on me that it is somewhere I desperately need to put more effort into. There are just so many routes, fresh rock and fresh new moves to go at that the idea of missing out is simply too hard to ignore.

The forecast looked to be a scorcher but we journeyed up regardless, full of psyche and energy. My Dad was just as keen to make the trip as was JC so we packed the car and bombed it northwards!

We ended up having two of the most glorious days of weather. Wall to wall sunshine with the most perfect base camp you could want right at the entrance to Gordale. This campsite is probably one of my most favourite places to stay. Super chilled, friendly and surrounded on all sides by beautiful, rolling Yorkshire hills.

I came away happy to have busted out an ascent of one of the catwalks rights of passage, Overnight Sensation (8a+). I was agonisingly close to dispatching this on on my second go, all but for an extremely unfortunate and totally unexpected foot slip right at the top! Gutted I lowered off and called it a night, vowing to make an early start the following morning and hopefully beat the sun!
Fortunately it went down with ease, all before 9am and just in time as the suns rays were quickly on our tails. It was then back to the village for a pot of tea and to bask in the heat. Bliss.

It was inevitably too hot to climb at Malham during the day but thankfully we had the sanctuary of Gordale to retreat to where I had a quick go up Supercool. A stunning piece of rock, a real beauty of a line for sure. It is obvious why this forms part of the Triple Crown and I hope to return soon to finish the job on it!


Just briefly before signing off, below you will find a link to my very first published article which went live on UKC a few days ago. It covers a topic that climbers are all too familiar with. The Redpoint.

The Art of Red-pointing:

Take a look if you haven't already and I trust that there will be something for everyone to think on. I've been incredibly pleased with the response my ramblings have been met with so far and I hope to do more writing like this in the future!

Cheers again for all your support folks!

Friday, 10 April 2015

The 'Art' of Climbing

I had an idea a couple of weeks ago to start running a series of 'guest style blogs'. I figured it would make for a nice change and provide a cool insight into other peoples climbing lives.
First up we have Karl Smith who shares with us a little about his passion for the world of painting. I've known Karl for a couple of years now, having route set on numerous occasions at his wall over in Shropshire. He was very quick off the mark in volunteering to join me, and give us the tour out in Margalef last month, which I was super grateful for. 
Stashed away amongst his climbing gear was a small hoard of paints, pencils and paper and I was psyched to be able to watch him at work. It was mightly impressive seeing how quickly he could bring a few simple, quick sketches to life! 
Drawing has always fascinated me from a very early age. I find it incredible what people can do with a just a pencil and blank piece of paper. I just wish I could do it myself!  

Below you will find a showcase of just a small selection of some of Karls work over the years. He sure has been to some pretty stunning and fascinating places. Enjoy!


How did you get into painting, and why this style? 

Like many people I was successfully put off art by a bad teacher, but did a little in my early twenties before work got in the way. My dad was a watercolour painter, and a member of the Lake Artists. I watched him doing a lot of paintings, but that is pretty much the only form of instruction I’ve had. When he died seven years ago I inherited his studio contents, and thought that I would have another go at painting. I had masses of good quality paper, good brushes that were older than me, and tubes of paint in varying degrees of usability.
It was fairly inevitable that watercolour would be what I would try my hand at, given the materials I now had, plus the complete lack of knowledge of other types of painting such as oil or acrylic.

My early stuff was terrible, but there was just enough- small sections or particular effects- in the paintings to keep me trying, and I have really just stumbled along from there, with the help of books and youtube videos. I keep wanting to try oils, but don’t really have the space to deal with what is quite a messy form of painting. At least with watercolour I can carry it in a sack quite easily wherever I am going.

I try to paint a range of subjects, but find I tend to get drawn to landscapes, particularly mountainous ones - not surprising given that is where I choose to spend most of my spare time.

 If you had one place where you could go to paint...?

An easy one to answer! The Alps without a doubt, it has everything. I’ve been to lots of mountain ranges around the world, but the alpine landscape has fantastic architecture and farmed land as well as the peaks and glaciers. I remember how disappointed I was the first time I went to the Canadian Rockies and saw the emptiness and lack of human impact.
Fortunately, getting to the Alps is hardly the impossible dream, it just seems that my climbing trips over the last few years have been elsewhere by and large.

Is any of your work online? 

I’m not good at online self-promotion, so mostly not. I did a blog of my trip to South Georgia and Patagonia a couple of years ago, which has paintings and sketches of the trip, including some of the Petzl Roc Trip venue at Piedra Parada:

 New Year’s day, yr Glyderau
This was during the last really heavy snowfall winter we had (3 winters ago?) and a brilliant start to the year.

Summer evening, Snowdon.
I’d been working over in North Wales doing some guiding, and it was one of those fantastic warm evenings when the light was magical. I’d often thought of doing a painting from near the top of the road that goes up to Dinorwic from down by the lake, so headed off up there and did a quick sketch. I later did this large painting from the sketch.

Roches Moutonees, Cwm Idwal (pastel)
I love the shape of the glaciated outcrops around Ogwen- I hope to paint lots more of these in the future. This one is on the top of the slight ridge when you go from the shingle shore at Lyn Idwal down to Ogwen Cottage via the narrow quarry (whose name escapes me)

50 degrees South
Not a climbing-related one, but the emptiness of the southern Atlantic left a lasting impression. We were followed by various kinds of Albatross for the entire journey south to South Georgia.

Hajar Mountains, Ras al Khaimah

I’ve done quite a few short contracts working in Ras al Khaimah over the last few years, and am quite attracted to the landscape. At first sight it is completely barren, but after a while you start to appreciate the occasional tree or date palm oasis and it certainly grows on you.

North Gaulton Castle
It looks a bit more substantial from this view than from further north. I took a few days off and stayed up in Orkney after guiding a couple up the Old Man of Hoy- he proposed on the summit. Fortunately she said yes or the descent would have been uncomfortable.

No prizes for guessing this one! I tend to gravitate to this section of cliff when drawing rather than climbing.

Stanage popular end
Easter this time, we were staying down at Litton and bumped into Zippy at the crag- neither of us were climbing but just happy to enjoy the snow.
Wadi Rum
This is actually a view from high up on Inshallah Factor, where it does the long traverse left to the exit chimneys. I wanted to capture the haziness of the distant towers rather than focus on detail too much. I climbed this with Andy Long so was able to relax and enjoy the scenery knowing I was in safe hands!
Unnamed Peak, King Haakon Bay, South Georgia
Unnamed, and probably unclimbed as well. The number of spectacular peaks is quite incredible- literally the whole length of the island. It’s a pity it’s so difficult to get to.
The former refuge, Siurana
This was where we stayed when we first climbed here many years ago- the perfect location with bouldering traverse in the dining room. Painted on a rest day during a trip with Simon Lee and Robin Barker-I was recovering from broken ribs at the time after slipping whilst out painting and falling onto the plywood sketchboard I was carrying.
Britain’s most impressive piece of unclimbed rock. Overhanging, solid rock, several hundred feet high and in an amazing position. It’s crying out for someone like Steve McClure to visit!

Lastly, no prizes for this one either! Quite early in the season, and the path round to the back of the towers was closed by avalanche.