Sunday, December 27, 2009


Here's a pic from Rich Cross of me on the crux pitch of Travesty. Rich has written up a wee report on his blog here

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Clogwyn Du 23rd Dec

Just got back from a fine trip to Clogwyn Du in North Wales with Rich, Jon and Eric. Heres a few pics:Welsh alpenglow
After an hour or two trying something new we ran away for the "slabby!!!!" one of Nick Bullock's two routes - Travesty (VIII,8). Meanwhile Andy Turner had just completed the second ascent of the steep Bullock route - Cracking Up, a 1 in 3 overhanging IX,9. I eventually on my third attempt made it across the crux of Travesty, words to describe that pitch include committing, scary, pumpy, marginal, outrageous.
This is Rich polishing off the rest of Travesty to lead us to the top in daylight, just. The crux was still ahead, only just managing to get home across a snow locked Peak District.
Jon and Erik also had a fine day with Jon making a smooth lead of El Mancho (VI,7).

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ben and Southern Highlands Report 19-20 Dec 09

Got back at 2am this morning after a superb weekend in Scotland. Despite an intimidating forecast of blizzards and very high winds Malcolm Bass and I managed to get a couple of fine routes done. First was Sidewinder (VII,8) on the Ben which we luckily had got up early for after only 1 1/2 hours sleep. So the first two pitches (we climbed the summer start - highly recommended and more in keeping with the rest of the route) were climbed in calm weather. During the final corner the snow and winds got up and the spindrift started which was expected but still a little trying. It didn't take the gloss off an excellent well protected climb though.

On Sunday we were joined by Simon Yearsley, Malcolm's long time climbing partner, who has recently started a camper van hire business This was a novel bonus as we got a full nights sleep in warmth and comfort, tea and bacon for breakfast and the dubious pleasure of a bottle of Slovenian Death Juice. We opted to avoid the forecasted 60 mile an hour winds and lightning! with a visit to Beinn Dorain in the Southern Highlands. We climbed Messiah (VII,7), a great line and a truly mixed climb, lots of ice, frozen turf and snowed up rock. Highlights included the committing crux traverse on the first pitch, half our belay ripping out and one of my front points collapsing at the start of the third pitch.
Creag an Socach with the line of Messiah marked
Simon (with rather fine gaitors) linking turf blobs up the first pitch.
Myself on the final pitch
Simon and Malcolm appreciating the luxury of a post match brew in the van. The Slovenian Death Juice in the foreground isn't standard issue on all rental vehicles.
The weekend should have finished about 11pm Sunday night back home but snows, and lack of grit just north of Glasgow saw us lose 3 hours in traffic meltdown.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Migrant Direct

A couple of pics from last weeks ascent of Migrant Direct with Rich Cross.
Rich posts about his and Al Powell's adventures on their company site here

Saturday, December 12, 2009

From one extreme to the other

Feeling great after my few days up North I logged on to catch up with news on the web and my heart sunk. Guy Lacelle, the Canadian ice climbing guru, had died in an avalanche at the Bozeman ice climbing Festival.

I bumped into Guy over the years on the festival circuit and had the privilege to share a rope with him for a couple of days ice climbing in the Canmore region. His skills as an ice climber were truly the stuff of legend. Aged 54 he'd racked up an incredible list of first ascents and repeats of seemingly every top ice route. Extraordinarily many of those climbs were done alone, unroped solo. Name a world class ice route and it's quite likely that he had soloed it Hydenfossen, La Pomme D'Or and The French Maid all tough grade 6s for example.

Guy would often work through the summer as tree-planter so that he could climb for 60-80 days each winter. I climbed with him at the beginning of one of his mammoth seasons and it was notable what a calm and cautious approach he took, wanting to build up a base of moderate routes well within his ability, to fine tune his "feel" for the ice. Guy reminded me of both a master craftsman with his deep love and understanding of the medium, and of a high-dan martial artist in his humble respect and dedicated preparation. By mid season this dedication would yield phenomenal results such as his solo enchainement of Terminator, Sea of Vapours and The Replicant in 5 hours.

But Guy will be remembered by those who knew him not just for his climbing but his exceptional qualities as a human being. Softly spoken he would draw you in with his warmth of spirit. During our short time climbing I appreciated his generosity and support as I was feeling my way (i.e. climbing badly) on moderate routes, down playing his own efforts to raise my confidence. Guy made many friends where ever he went on his extensive travels around the world in search of the perfect line. He will be deeply missed by the whole ice climbing community.

Friday, December 11, 2009

N Corries trip report 9-10th December

First trip up of the season and it didn't disappoint. Rich Cross and I arrived just before 5am after driving through the night. After a couple of hours kip we walked in to Coire an Lochain and were pleased to see how white everything looked.The view from the loch into Lochain on day two (Thursday 10th) with everything still as white.

With pretty much everything wintery enough it was more a question of which were too buried. We opted for Nocando Crack but after leading the first pitches it became obvious that the route would be a nightmare for gear as it was covered in several inches of ice. Instead we carried on up the overhanging corner of Migrant direct which proved to be superb.The line of Migrant direct (note Rich's cleaning efforts in the corner)

The following day we headed back up a little worried about the MWIS forecast which had the freezing level at 1250m. The reality was closer to the Met Office's projected 700m and if anything the cliffs were even whiter. We headed up Ventricle which turned out to be super sustained, luckily once again Rich was firing on all cylinders and did the bulk of the hard bits. I got the last pitch in the dark which had many "moments" including an off route lob when a block pulled and a particularly terrifying last move.
Rich feeling the steepness on Ventricle.
We got back to Sheffield at 4am, happy satisfied and very tired.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Warning

Abusing axes on Sundance, Beinn Eighe (Photo Guy Robertson

A friend of mine had a dramatic reminder that winter climbing gear has its limitations this last week. On the lead his axe suddenly fractured into two pieces halfway down the shaft. The force and momentum causing the handle end of the shaft to stab him in the face. Obviously in many ways he was unlucky, but perhaps he had a bit of good fortune that the jagged shaft didn't hit him in the eye or neck. As it was the outcome was fairly brutal, breaking his jaw with some pretty major flesh wounds.

Now my friends axe was pretty old (I think at least 10 seasons) but such catastrophic failure is still fairly shocking. But perhaps it's not as unusual or as unlikely as we might think. Last season I ripped the handle off two axes in separate incidents. I think it's worth remembering that most axes are designed in Salt Lake City, USA or Milan, Italy with delicate tapping up perfect ice in mind. If the designers really knew what we did to their creations in Scotland I think they'd be horrified. So am I suggesting we stop torquing? or tape two axes together? Well obviously not but perhaps we ought to pay a little more attention to the state of our equipment. While spotting stress fractures can be very difficult, taking a conservative approach to retiring equipment early is almost certainly a prudent idea. After all my friend will end up with a slightly metallic wonky jaw but it could have been a lot worse.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Final 2009 Show - Abergavenny

Peregrine Falcon on El Capitan, Yosemite
I'm working away on some new stuff for my final show of 2009. As well as talking about my climb with Major Phil Packer and his spinal injury up El Capitan, I'll have a detailed look at the dramas and motivations behind my new route last season on Beinn Eighe. That took 3 attempts and there were quite a few "incidents" along the way. I'm also putting together some new film clips and photo sequences. Looking forward to it and now I'm finally seeing off my illness of the last few weeks hoping to "give it all I've got".

More details here

Friday, November 27, 2009

Winter finally shaping up??

It sounds like winter is close, if not quite there yet in Scotland. I'm still fully booked up with work and family things for a couple of weeks. So it's going to be a bit of a late start for me. Early season (i.e. anything before the new year) always seems to be a lottery, Ive been lucky and had a few isolated memorable days. Thought I'd post this pic as a reminder, to myself if anything, that magic can happen overnight and you can almost out of the blue get conditions and partners to click into place and come away with a start to propel you through the season.This pic was taken by Guy Robertson on the top pitch of The Secret I think just after New Years Day?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sheffield Show

Tomorrow night at the Sheffield Foundry (The University not the wall) Andy Kirkpatrick and I are doing a one off double header. Andy is very good at making people laugh. This pic shows us with Rich Cross sitting out a storm beneath the Gabarrou Silvy. There's also quite a good view up my blood spattered nose although Ive forgotten the story behind that.

Anyway should be a good night. More info here

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A little push

The work front has been exceptionally busy of late. With several imminent lectures; Kendal, London, Sheffield and Abergavenny, plus big writing pieces for Climb, Alpinist and the Taxman! my vague training efforts have got even more lax. I've found myself on a few nights looking up from the computer, realising the evening has sailed by and sacking off any grand plans of getting fitter.

But I got a good kick up the posterior yesterday. Andy Kirkpatrick mentioned that some of the Inverness boys had noticed my pull up post and had been training hard. Andy reckoned that Pete MacPherson was doing 270 in half an hour. Which would match Guy but in half the time. Now numbers aren't Andy's strength it could easily be 27 or 2700 but exactly how many isn't that important. What was important was to know that there were others training hard with the hope of big things this winter. I'd also seen in some of Dave MacLeod's recent blog posts that he'd been having to get his training in at around midnight after 12 hours of writing his book.

So last night I had no excuse and was down in my cellar at 10pm. It was incredibly hard work to be honest and I struggled to get through, sometimes yawning, sometimes feeling faint. But with the extra motivation I managed 100 ice axe pullups. For me it's not a competition thing really but more a desire to be part of this wave of enthusiasm. If we actually get any conditions this could be a pretty impressive season. Last year I think about 5 people climbed grade IX (Dave was too busy attempting grade XIIs!), but this season there are at least 20 folk with the potential to get up that grade.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Keeping the dream alive

This month is a real nose to the grindstone one for me in terms of work. At times it's hard to see the light ahead, but it actually doesn't need much. Today I escaped the computer for an evening run along the top of Stanage. I've been battling with a piece for Alpinist Magazine. It's a publication you don't get that many opportunities with, so when they come around you really want to raise your game and create something a little special. So not only have I been feeling this pressure but trying to capture some deep but elusive personal thoughts on our strange game we play in the mountains. This was particularly brought home with the death of Tomaz Humar. So it was a great relief to get out the house. Within minutes my spirits were lifted soaking up the magical light and enjoying my body blowing away the cobwebs. Even just this short hour or so moving over the landscape was enough to reconnect. Another 3 or 4 weeks and then I can get to grips with whatever Scotland's got to offer. I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winter training part 2

Check these out, they're called Figfours. Designed by Pete Dollman, they're in prototype stage at the moment but Alpkit are doing a series of demos at UK climbing walls see here I've been lucky enough to have a couple of sessions with them at The Edge in Sheffield and I think they are going to transform my winter training. They manage to hit the parts (particularly your hands and forearms) that standard climbing misses. It's also surprising what relatively marginal holds you can use them on. Ive sticking with top roping with them as you need lanyards for public safety reasons and any falls are likely to leave you dangling by these tools and risk damaging the rubber band. Nevertheless Ive made it up all of the steepest walls at the Edge, so it might be time to get a weight belt out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Winter Training and UKC Gallery

A few posts back a friend of mine, lets call him the Aberdonian Adonis, posted about a winter training session he'd tried influenced by the winter training beast Stevie Haston. Adonis had managed 267 ice axe pull ups in an hour chasing a rumoured 2000 by Stevie. Inspired I tried a little session last night which I think is perfect for those like myself at the moment with very little spare time and adaptable for many levels of fitness.

Rather than an hour I went for 30mins (I didn't want to write off my season before its even started yet). Every minute, "on the hour", do a set amount of pull ups (between 2 and 6). This first session I did 3. Now doing 3 ice axe pull ups seems pathetic on its own right but by the end of the 30 minutes I'd done 90 pull ups, and if you can build up to doing 6 pull ups on the minute that's going to be 180 in 30 mins - a respectable tally for even grade IX monsters. If you find yourself doing more than 6 then you'd probably want to add a weight belt/vest. I think this session works well in that it replicates what you might expect in Scotland where you'll often get a tough physical section for maybe 10ft, followed by a decent rest. Having to do each set on the minute gets surprisingly tough with the last 10 minutes seemingly like a battle against a racing clock.

Also added yesterday is a gallery of winter shots on UKC

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

I was hoping to call this post something like the "Power and the Glory" but that obviously wouldn't work, or "Beauty and the Beast" which would be half true. Even though this pic of me finishing my half marathon is a pretty poor vanity post, in that I look like a fat fun runner having a particularly torrid time on the loo, I do look as though I'm actually running. This is a first as every other "running" pic of me makes me look like I'm either power walking or letting out a sly one. Apologies for the obsession with bodily functions here but I've spent most of this week fairly unwell no doubt as a result of over-doing it a bit.On a vaguely related note it's always amazed me that Haile Gebrselassie always seems to be able to keep up a continuous smile even after over 2 hours of sub 3 minute km's. Interestingly so does Triathlon uber-athelete Chrissie Wellington. It may have something to do with them reputably being amongst the most like-able grounded athletes in all sport. If so what does my gurning say about me?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

London Lecture

Here's the poster for my lecture for the charity Porters' Progress at the RGS in LondonIt's on at 7pm on 24th November and you can get details and tickets at or by phoning 02085459030

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Leave nothing in the tank

"Leave nothing in the tank" was a phrase or something similar used by Bradley Wiggins about his efforts each big day in this years Tour de France. It really captured my imagination. I guess its like the Spanish climbing phrase "A Meurte" which sort of translates as "to the death" and means to give absolute maximum effort.

A week or so ago I was musing on how you gauge success, and for me on all the achievements I'm most proud of it's where "I've emptied the tank". It's that feeling that you just couldn't have done anymore.

Well I had one of those days today when I ran my first half marathon over at Worksop. It was a beautiful sunny day, but quite a challenging course, with some tricky hills (hills as in a road race not a fell race or mountaineering stylee). The Good run guide claimed it was equivalent to running a 13.7 mile race on the flat (so maybe 3 or 4 minutes slower than a super flat course at my pace). Luckily you run down the biggest hill in the last mile and I think this is what pushed me right to my limit. It was a bizarre feeling falling/running as fast as I could but desperate for it to be over. I almost completely blew a gasket and the involuntary noises I made provided plenty of entertainment for onlookers. The result 1.29.44 (chip time) and 112 out of 1509 runners. Well Chuffed!

Friday, October 23, 2009

More winter inspiration

What do we want? ... we want cold
...we want wilderness
...we want gnarl...we want satisfaction
When do we want it? ....Now!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Special Sheffield Gig

I'm doing a few lectures in November and December, the first of which is something a little different. A double Header with Andy Kirkpatrick. Andy and I know each other far too well having shared many adventures, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes. Andy is getting more "unstable" in his latter years so I've no idea what exactly he has in store - I doubt he has much idea either, but you can bank on it being side splittingly funny. I'll probably dish the dirt first on our epic attempt to repeat the Lafaille route on the Dru, and then talk a bit about our climb on El Cap with paraplegic Phil Packer which helped him raise a Million quid for Help for Heroes.
The title of the show is Freezing Nuts, its on Thursday 26 Nov at The Foundry (not the climbing wall) at Sheffield University Union. Doors open 7:30pm and tickets are £9 (£6 NUS) and can be got from the Union Box Office 0114 222 8777 as well as the Sheffield City Hall, the Sheffield Arena and most Sheffield Theatres.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Winter Inspiration

Here's a few pics for anyone who needs a little lift now nights are drawing in. Get those tools sharpened winter is coming. The hard work... struggling into the Cairngorms on an 80 mile an hour day.
The business... getting stuck into the West Buttress of Beinn Eighe
The dreams... looking up the West Central Gully of Beinn Eighe, Fowlers legendary route and probably the hardest "Gully" in Scotland. The Reward... dawn colours close to the summit of the Ben after an early start.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some interesting running bits on the web

Here's a few running web links Ive been surfing through and found interesting recently
The busy forums of runnersworld make UKC look like small pub chat although much of it is really only relevant to specific races. One archived thread that I thought was fascinating involved Mike Gratton (London winner 2.09 in 1983) who gives detailed feedback over a 6 month period for those trying to up their mileage to 100+ miles. Imagine having someone like Ben Moon giving daily detailed feedback on UKC for 6 months? His proposed training schedule is above and the forum posts are here
with some of the most pertinent questions summarized here
This is a great list of training resources sourced by Tony Wilson at Glenhuntly, an Australian Athletics Club. Lots of middle and some longer distance stuff by stars such as Coe, Ovett, Snell, Michael Johnson, DeCastella.
This is a fascinating site - basically a blog by 2 Sports Scientists one a South African and one an American. Most of their posts analyse research and races and then translate their detailed opinions into plain English that we all can understand. Some great stuff on pacing particularly in the marathon, plus a very interesting look at doping, the forefoot v heel striking debate, Oscar Pistorius' prosthetics, as well as cycling such as the Tour de France.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Defining Success

I was made to think a little about how we define success recently. Usually you'd think the process is pretty simple; set your goal, make sure its measurable, perform and see if you make the grade or not? Of course life isn't that simple. That was brought home when I was searching through the internet trying to find out what was happening on the Ironman World Champs in Kona over the weekend. I was particularly interested to see how Philip Graves, a 20 year old from York and the youngest male competitor was doing. He'd got a lot of publicity in the build up to race as he's a genuine talent on the bike and some were tipping him as an outside contender.

It turned out that he'd had a fantastic swim (4th out the water) and started the bike like a demon, taking the race lead. But around mile 50 the wheels began to come off metaphorically speaking of course. His eventual bike split was a long way behind the leaders and his finishing time for the whole race well over 9 hours, much slower than many had predicted. From afar it all looked a bit of a disaster and some web pages hinted that he'd been taught a lesson etc....

It was interesting to hear a little post race interview on imtalk with him that put a very different slant on Graves performance. He seemed genuinely up beat, as he said he got to feel what it was like to lead the world champs, he also picked up a prize by Timex for the fastest initial bike split and as he said perhaps in 4 or 5 years time he might be able to get the bike record. Graves of course could have paced better and perhaps come in 30th instead of 50-0dd and been anonymous during the race, instead he got out in front of the world's best and learned an awful lot for future Konas.

On a personal level I've got my first half marathon coming up in just over a week and I've no idea what time I'm going to manage and what should equate to success. I went to the track today on a rainy Sheffield day and again didn't know what to expect. I'd just returned from a weeks holiday in Cyprus staying at a fine hotel with amazing buffets of food every night. I'd managed quite a bit of running and swimming in the sea but my legs felt as heavy as my belly. It was a nice lift therefore to find that I'd made good running progress; repeating a session I did a month ago of 1600m reps and managing each "mile" at an average of 12 seconds faster than last time. Secretly this is what I'd wanted to do, but didn't really want to admit it to myself in case I was setting too high goals. Ive an equally ambitious time in mind for the half marathon and hoping I'm hoping I can surprise myself again. We'll see in just over a week.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hope Moors and Tors

Did my second fell race today the Hope Moors and Tors (8.5 miles). Staggering to the top of Mam Tor at about halfway I was surprised to see Mick Ryan taking pics. Seeing Mick it was easy to smile he's such a cheeky chappie; climbing's equivalent to Peers Morgan with his highly effective "agent provocateur" approach to climbing journalism and of course one of the supremos behind UKC. Although it looks like I'm power walking I was actually trying to run, although having just summitted Mam Tor my legs weren't really playing ball.Photo Mick Ryan
At this point it I was probably in about 30th place. Luckily for me all the good runners were doing the long course - 20 miles! - and so they all turned off leaving me in 3rd place. Yipee!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"If I had a hat I'd eat it"

Had a track session again today so I'm all inspired by running again so....

Is this the greatest track distance run of all time?

Current world marathon world record holder Haile Gebreselassie back in 1998 when he was setting the track alight. Here breaking the 5k record after his pace makers muffed it at half way leaving him 6 laps to go alone and needing to run 3.58 for the final mile! The title of the post is from the commentator who on almost every lap suggest that it's not possible to break the record from the position he's in. Hard to think of a climbing comparison but it would probably be onsighting an E10.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Secrets of Winter Success

Some one asked me recently what I did as training for winter climbing. Well I can reveal my top secret high tech underground facility. In fact I did my first set of ice axe pull ups for this season last night. It's easy to forget with the run of great weather we're having that first winter snows are probably only 4 or 5 weeks away. The other training tool I've been using is a pair of Mizuno Wave Harrier Fell running shoes but as they are an embarrassing bright yellow we'll skip a photo of them.

Training for winter is relatively simple, you need plenty of puff for the walk in (hence the running), bags of stamina as your average lead of a hard pitch will take 2 or more hours, controlled strength such as lock offs (hence the axe pullups), a wide range of "traditional" techniques (luckily I'm a born thrutcher) and know how to use yer loaf (both in terms of problem solving and keeping going when things are less than perfect). Perhaps I'll do a proper post on mental training at another time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stanage Struggle

I had a vision of my first fell race of endless bog squelching through mist and rain, with back breaking hills being galloped up gazelle like by impossibly fit old men. Well the latter was definitely true but luckily bogs were almost entirely absent and weather wise it was one of the best mornings of the Autumn so far. The course was a long drag up out of Hathersage through the Plantation and up onto the Edge at which point I was pretty sure I was doing some permanent damage to my spine. Then a mile an a half along the tops past High Neb before a hell for leather descent back to the village. Unfortunately I hadn't counted on the series of mini hills leading up to the church to finish which almost brought me to my knees. The personal point that really summed up how special this race felt was on those finishing inclines when I was doing all I could just to keep going, several of the marshalls started cheering me on. That often happens at most races but they personalised it by shouting out my number, a small thing but it seemed to make a massive difference.

Of course with all races you like to compare where you finished and this one had a high proportion of climbers. I was 62nd out of 286 just behind Al Williams - guidebook design guru, and about 2 1/2 minutes behind Ron Fawcett, who I'd put as a good proper runner, although rumours are that he was recovering from an injury. I was pretty chuffed to beat Neil McAdie by nearly 7 minutes as he'd goaded me into doing the race, but very humbled to be thrashed by a similar amount by Alpine guide Jon Morgan who finished in 3rd place!!

The Struggle's website has results, pics and more info

Thursday, September 17, 2009

News from around the world

One of the reasons I keep up a blog is that I've loved being inspired by the adventures of others. Sometimes friends, sometimes famous folk I've seen on tele and sometimes people I've never heard of. That's the wonder of the 'net I guess; access to psyche around the world. So here's a few things that got me going today.

Relatively close to home, Jack Geldard ground up repeated Stevie Haston's new monster of a route at Doris. There's been lots of forum discussions about this route, which I briefly got involved with. These reached a hilarious peak when Stevie declared that both Adam Long and Ben Bransby didn't have enough ground up experience to offer a valid viewpoint! Much more interesting though is that Jack has blogged about his training, to achieve onsighting an E8's worth of Choss and muses on what is required for loose climbing.

Will Gadd is a very astute Canadian who excels at excelling. Doesn't really matter what it is mountains, icefalls, rock faces, thermals or raging rivers Will is top draw material. One of his recent posts on his blog caught my eye, where he contrasts the positive fun approach of a new generation of young adventurers with the doom and gloom negative psyche of his generation. The same generation that shaped my own early days of alpinism.

Spotted this superb effort by Max Turgeon, a softly spoken Quebecois lad now based in Cham who I had the pleasure of climbing with in Scotland last season.

And finally a little more running I'm afraid. Seems Al Powell has been up to his usual tricks with some monster endurance races. It's been truly humbling to spend the odd day out in the mountains with the likes of Al, to realise just how unfit I am in comparison, and one of the main motivators for my recent running efforts.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Memories of the Golden Age

Yesterdays track session had me recalling that amazing golden era of British Middle Distance running in the late 70s into the 80s. As a 12 year old I think the closest I ever had to a genuine hero was Steve Ovett. I loved his devastating kick off the final bend and of course his style. This video shows him breaking the mile record wearing his trade mark Red Russian athletic vest. Ovett wasn't that big on record breaking he was more of a pure man to man racer but as the commentary by the outstanding David Coleman says "there is no one left to race." What stands out is his incredibly beautiful running action (contrast it with the state of the other elite runners trailing behind him), truly poetry in motion and you'll also notice all the meets athletes cheering Ovett on around the inside of the track.

Obviously you can't really talk about Ovett without mentioned Sebastian Coe. Here's his phenomenal 800 world record of 1.41.73 from 1981. It took 16 years for his time to be bettered! Again brilliant commentary by David Coleman "And now he's really got to hurt himself"

Apologies climbing readers for my recent running obsession I will actually get out on the crag soon!

The magic of the track

I'm typing this with leaden legs having had a quick lunch time session at the Don Valley Stadium athletics track here in Sheffield. Supposedly it's normal for the legs to feel more battered than normal if you aren't used to track running, and since its been 25 years since I was last on a track....!

As a nipper I used to run for Swindon athletics club and we'd train on the local cinder track at the Oasis Leisure Centre. I'm sure I've got rose tinted specs on but I used to love that feeling as a 14 year old accelerating into the final bend on our 300m reps. I can just picture now the clouds of moisture from our breath being picked out by the floodlights on a winter's evening. However today I could definitely feel the difference between a 40 year old has been and a lithe teenager. But there was still something of that magic as I walked out onto the track.

One of my most memorable days with the Swindon Club - for mixed reasons, was when our Coach managed to get 4 of us onto a junior race being held as part of a senior meeting at the legendary Crystal Palace in London. I couldn't believe my luck, as while I had no chance of a win (the fastest of our 4, a lad called Andrew Stanley was 2nd or 3rd ranked in the country for his age and I was usually half a lap behind in a mile race) but just the chance to run on the same hallowed tartan as my hero of the day Steve Ovett was a dream come true.

Unfortunately when we arrived we found out that the event had been shifted to another track and so we'd missed the whole meet. Obviously gutted we moped about until our coach managed to get us a chance to at least have a run. So the four of us did a kind of time trial, I think I came last but it's still something I treasure.

Today it was odd to come out to an almost deserted track. There was one sprinter just finishing his session off and then I had the whole stadium to myself. Considering it's the UK's biggest athletics stadium it felt a little bizarre, but I believe it's fairly typical that these facilities get under utilised. If you're into running I'd recommend searching out your own local track, there's a neat site for doing just that
You'll almost certainly end up with lead legs like me but hopefully come away with that little bit of magic.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Mountains by the sea

Had a fine day out yesterday with Jon and Alex on the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula. The North Coast near Trefor is like a mini-mountain range falling into the sea. We climbed the classic 7 pitch HVS Fantan B. Which I'd highly recommend to those with an adventurous streak. Having said that it's quite involved for an HVS; long, run out in places and with one or two spots where you have to make a move where falling shouldn't be fatal but would be unpleasant. However the rock on the whole is pretty good so it doesn't warrant MXS. Here's some pics
How everyone imagines the Lleyn - a coastline of fear!The reality? a seaside holiday venueJohn at the top of the "perched block" pitch the third on the routeJohn having reached the belay of pitch 4, great steep guano encrusted jugs.The wonders of an Indian summer Jon on the final technical pitch with sweeping panoramic views.The surprising finale along the crest of the quarry seals the alpine feel of the whole route.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Now thats what I call a photo finish

Came across this rather fine selection of pics taken at the finish line of the Boise Half Ironman race this summer. With 1 mile left of the run Craig Alexander, the current Hawaii Ironman Champ, was lying in 2nd place nearly a minute behind the leader Chris Lieto. A spectator shouted out the 57sec time split and something (which is unreported) to re-ignite the competitive flame of Alexander. The result was an amazing sprint finish decided a few steps before the line. It would be interesting to find out what words of encouragement that spectator shouted, and then patent them!

Here's the link

Sunday, September 6, 2009

To run or not to run?

That was the big question this weekend. I'd entered the Great Yorkshire Run a big field 10k race in Sheffield but 2 weeks ago strained my hamstring and since then had only managed a couple of light jogs. Even though it probably wouldn't have been what the doctor ordered curiosity of what racing with 7500 runners would be like eventually persuaded me. So this morning I set out with 3 goals

- finish without breaking myself
- finish in the top 1000
- try and prove my first run (when I did 42.02) wasn't a fluke and get within a minute of that time

The previous race had been with a field of 450 odd so I wasn't sure what to expect with such a massive amount of other runners. We had been asked to give our estimated time so that we could start with similar paced runners. The start was a speedy downhill section which unfortunately also had to be climbed at the finish. My guess was that everyone would get over- excited on this start and that I should be ready to let most pass me initially and burn themselves out. The reality was surprisingly different, Boxed in I couldn't believe how slow most had started. It felt like I was in the wrong start group, although I suspect many runners had just dreamt up a fantasy finish time. As a result I had to weave in and out like a slalom skier for the first couple of kilometres quickly falling behind my hoped for pace. Luckily the middle section of the run went much better with the finish my usual gasping painful misery compounded by the brutal hill finish. However going back to my pre-race goals

- I did manage to finish, and although very stiff and sore I don't think the hamstring i further damaged.
- I did manage to finish in the top 1000. In fact almost unbelievably I finished in 160th place! and 20th in my age group (younger old men!)
- I also made it within a minute of my first 10k race time, but this time 46 seconds faster 41.16.

Definately well chuffed - half marathon next!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The greatest athlete in the world

I don't know if you recall that famous quote from the late American climber Alex Lowe, who when asked who he thought "the greatest climber in the world was" he replied "The one having the most fun". It was probably a throw-away quip to a too often posed boring question a bit like Mallory's legendary "because it's there". But it does seem to have summed up a lot of the attitude Alex Lowe took to the mountains.

Anyway I was reminded of that attitude when I read about the top female "Ironman" triathlete of the moment Chrissie Wellington. Recently she broke the female world record for an Ironman by over 13 minutes. That's an incredible margin equivalent to the sort of thing Usain Bolt has been doing at the World athletics championships, but that's not why I think she's a contender for the world's greatest athlete. The reason why is that as far as I can gather at the end of every Ironman race, which she wins - i.e. everyone she's ever entered, she stays on at the finishing line congratulating every single other competitor who finishes right to the last, often around midnight. Read more about Ms Wellington at her rather entertaining blog

Monday, August 31, 2009

Return to Rock

Yeah! finally got back on rock after a week layoff due to a tendon injury. To ease myself back in I opted for some cuddly offwidths - something that shouldn't strain the fingers. Initially we went for an explore along Rivelin Quarry which I'd not visited before. As far as Peak esoterica goes it looks pretty good with plenty of overgrown green rock but also some superb strong lines. The offwidth Rhododendron Crack looked the pick for me considering I don't climb hard enough to try That's my lot a striking completely smooth E8 arete. We didn't try it today as the rock was wet which could have been a blessing as the first 25ft looked unprotectable.

After a brutal bramble thrash we found drier rock on the main edge. The wide cracks of Presidents Crack and Kremlin Krack provided fine entertainment, the latter being superb. We finished off the day with Groove Route which was supposed to be hard for HVS and 5b but proved to be neither with well protected technical mincing. All in all it was fantastic to be grabbing rock again, here's hoping I can stave off anymore growing pains and keep the body intact.
Jon's ankles after some "wide work"

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bank Holiday Mecca

Next week we've got a family holiday camping in Pembroke, in fact there's quite a gathering of friends coming along, including a bit of an A list of climbing partners including the McClure and Bransby families. Unfortunately this was all planned before I buggered up my tendon. I'd like to try my finger out on some VSs but won't be bothering Steve and Ben on the rope. Never the less I can't help getting excited about heading down to one of my favourite coastlines. There seems to be quite a buzz going around about Pembroke again which might be something to do with the new rockfax guide So help build the psyche here's a few Pembroke pics.The One Eyed Man tucked away in Blind Man's Bay near Mother Carey's Kitchen is typical of Pembroke. A stunning 3 star route that very few have heard of, there's just so much quality climbing on this coast. Here Charlie Woodburn finds that it's pretty tough at the old grade of E4, I think its been upgraded in the latest guide.Trevor Massiah was one of my two best partners in Pembroke back when I was a regular visitor. Here he's goofing around on pitch 2 of the amazing 4 pitch adventure we put up "The Land that Time forgot" traversing Mount Sion West. One of the new routes I'm most proud of.John Arran was my other major partner. Way more talented from me and a new route seeking missile. I think John liked climbing with me because I was always up for an adventure most of which seemed to be traverses which led to some quite fretful following efforts by myself. Here John is on the crux of The Great Elmyra a fine E5 6c at Stennis.
Another hidden gem Grand Junction HVS at Frontier Zawn with Gabe Masini climbing.Tea time at Ma Weston's an essential part of the Pembroke experience.This shows Barry Bazza Durston moments before a big whipper on Chupacabre an E8 in Huntsmans Leap. A pic that reminds me of exciting and eventful days with the Bristol crew.Relaxing at the campsite. With wall to wall bank holiday sunshine there's no need to rush to the crag (here's hoping).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beautiful beautiful grit

How amazing is Stanage? I went for a run this evening along its top and back in beautiful clear evening light and it reminded me what an extraordinary landscape it is.
Having spent last week running around the trails of Squamish in the shadow of the Chief I was feeling jealous of what the Canadians had to play with, but this evening I was equally in awe of the scale and beauty of the motherlode of gritstone edges.

A little personal lesson in not taking for granted what you have on your own doorstep