The BBC’s Bitch

Photo Stolen from Robin Hamman

I spent today at the BBC in Manchester, sadly I sign a confidentially agreement, and pretty much my life and soul along with it. I am officially the BBC’s Bitch if they want me. So other than that I can’t tell you a lot!

BMC National Council

Well I had a busy Saturday, most of it was spent very reluctantly indoor, sat round a very large table representing BMC Cymru/Wales on the National Council, which is the forum through which the members of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) get their voice heard through candidates they elected to represent and vote for them on policy issues. It all sounds very grand but it really only amount to what is essentially a large group of climbers generally talking over the same boring issues over and over again.

I might write a brief blog entry about the type of thing we talk about, but really it is generally boring stuff. Although there are a few issues that are more important to both me and the BMC Cymru/Wales. One is trying to get a full time BMC officer based in Wales, the other is a new framework of Coaching Awards, as well as possible long term goals for climbing to become an Olympic Sport.

Anyway, after over seven hours of chat, I really can’t face thinking about it anymore.

Redpointing, Onsighting and pre-performance routines

As I mentioned in a previous blog, on the key mental skills of elite performers, one of those skills is developing a pre-performance routine. Now most people will already have developed a routine that works for them, however here we are going to look at ways to enhance that routine, and make it work in your favour as much as possible. Often when we climb well it is because we have answered many of the questions of self-doubt.

To achieve a routine that works for you, then actually paying conscious thought to what you are doing and why, in those moment before setting off on a challenging lead. For me it starts before you even get your harness on, you need your mind to be positive, and thinking that you have prepared physically and mentally for the route ahead, be that training or practising being in scary position. In essence you need to have bolstered your confidence in you ability to climb the route, before you even stand at the bottom of it. For ideas see this article.

However there is more to a pre-performance routine, in climbing that might well comprise of racking up, with what you believe to be the right gear, warming up on the right route(s), looking at the route you are going to attempt in detail and imagine how you might climbing (including what if your first sequence doesn’t work, where the rests, gear and crux are). A really useful way to make sure you have thought through the process of climbing a route is to draw a simplified diagram and mark in as much detail as possible in terms of rests, handhold, gear etc…

Once you have finished imagining yourself climbing the route successfully, then start to focus on the job at hand, Look at you rack, it is all where it should be, your harness is done up and the rope tied securely where it should be, your belay has you on belay and is ready to go, your boots are clean your hands are chalks up and you are mentally ready to commit to the route.

As you step of the ground and make the first few moves any worries you had are left on the ground, up here you are in control.

A simple way to think about it is to
1. Prepare (for the route)
2. Vanquish (Self-Doubt)
3. Imagine (success)
4. Focus (on the positives)
5. Succeed

Hollyoaks Later: Rigging Naill’s Death



I don’t know how many of you watch Hollyoaks Later on E4, but Niall of the cast is heading for a fall. Well one of the joys of my work is occasionally you get ask to get involved with some really fun projects, and working with Lime Street pictures the production company behind the hit TV show hollyoaks, was one of those times.

My first day on the set I was expecting to see a host of Hollyoaks Later honey’s wearing very little. Unfortunately I was disappointed as not only were the ladies in short supply, but my hero of Hollyoaks Tony owner of Gnosh II wasn’t on the mini break to ‘Scotland’. I spent around a week spread out over a month in and around the set, involved behind the scenes either making sure a cameraman didn’t fall off a cliff, or helping to rig the set at the top of a cliff.

The week long special that Hollyoaks Later has been running which despite being sold as being set in Scotland was actually film just outside Rhydd Ddu, pretty much all within 400m of the station up the path leading to Snowdon the highest mountain in Wales. So whilst many of the cast and crew travelled from Chester, all I had to do is nip a valley over.

The cast and crew were great to hang around, and really down to earth. They were all as excited as I was to see the final stunt that we had all been so busy rigging. Even the actor who was actually going to take the fall was looking forward to it. I had a chat to him about it, and after he saw me rigging some scaffolding 20ft out over a 80ft drop.

I asked him how he was going to prepare for an 80ft fall, for there were not stuntmen to step in for him, in stead they were going to chuck the actor off the cliff on a piece of string, well a long piece of Kevlar/dyneema rope. Breaking him at the last possible moment. His answer was he was going to go when the director shouts ‘Action!’, or he hoped he was! I felt sorry for the cameraman that was going to have to following him off the top of the cliff top platform.

Spider Woman Steph Davis in the Sunday Times

Well in case any of you missed her at Kendal, the Sunday Times ran this article on the ‘Spider Woman‘. There was a very nice photo of her in the finest patagonia underwear available at V12 and other quality outdoor retailers. I’ll have to try and find a copy to post up;-)

I was lucky enough to meet Steph a couple times in Yosemite many years ago, and again when she came over to talk at the Plas Y Brenin Big Wall Symposium. I was asked along with a group of other climbers to take her out climbing, so after the event we took one of the centre minibuses and all went to Wen Zawn, where I think Steph romped up the classic route T-Rex with some uber wad, whilst myself and Ian Parnell checked out a dark and weird Crispin Waddy classic Dislocation Dance in the cryptic rift.

Since then she has become totally hardcore, with her free soloing and base jumping. She also appears in the excellent new climbing DVD The Sharp End.


If you want to improve your climbing then one thing you really need to consider in your training programme is overload. In that simply going to the climbing wall and doing the same session week in week out, simply isn’t going to lead to the sorts of improvement many of us are looking for. What you need to do is add a progressive overloading factor to you training regime.

There are several key ways to apply that overload
1. Frequency of training session – How often you go to the wall
2. Duration of training session – How long you climb for
3. Intensity of training session – How many routes you climb in a given time
4. Difficulty of training session – How hard the routes you are climbing are
5. Quantity of training – How many routes you climb in a session

It is arguable that different type of training will benefit from different type of of overload being applied. So for aerobic training frequency, duration, intensity and quantity of climbing sessions would be best, as with aerobic training we aren’t neccessarily trying to get pumped, which increasing the difficulty of the climbs might actually achieve.

Whereas, strength training would suit increases in the difficulty of the boulder problems that you are trying, whereas an increase in frequency or intensity, might not allow enough rest between training bouts for a suitable amount of recovery. Finally anaerobic training sits somewhere between the two, where we want to improve the difficult of the routes we are pulling laps on, as well as the quantity of the laps we are managing. Similarly reducing the length of rest between laps would up the intensity.

So think about how and where you can apply overload to your climbing and training

A Beautiful Mess

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, for many people the slate tips that flank Llanberis are nothing more than a sign that man has raped the earth of its treasures. In the case of the slate quarries, this has often been a wholly inefficient process, with 9 tonnes of waste for every 1 tonne of usable roofing slate.

Great Holes and even greater screes a permanent reminder to when the area was first exploited for its natural resources. Within the mailstrom of ruins is a hidden beauty that if you dive in and hang out long enough you might be lucky enough to find.

A beautiful mess is a study of this hidden beauty through the medium of digital photography.


For anyone that actually reads this blog, you might notice that one of the posts is now missing. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which for me was the amicable conversation I have just had with what could only be described as one of the targets of my rants, Dave Simmonite. Dave was rightly pissed off when I phoned him, but thankfully he wasn’t as angry as I was expecting, in fact he wasn’t angry at all. Which probably goes to show something about him as a person?

We had a calm and totally civilised conversation over about an hour, covering several topics about climbing and the media. Some of which revolved around the accusations I had thrown at him and James Pearson, that after hearing him out made me realise that my knee jerk reaction was both OTT, unfounded and out of order. In removing the post I hope I have removed any lasting offence I had made towards Dave and James.

However, in the spirit of impartiality that I was ranting about, and by way of an apology, I felt some of the things Dave was saying not only totally vindicate him, but also say something of our industry. In that given anyone brave enough to give an opinion is often shot down on the notion of hearsay, by people on the internet who hide behind anonymous usernames.

When the like of Dave MacLeod isn’t grading a route, because to grade something like Echo Wall that is another possible E12, would have lead to similar criticism, makes you question what climbing has come too! By putting his neck on the line James has come under attack from armchair critics like myself, simply because he dared to suggest that his route represents the ultimate in terms of traditional lead climbs.

This is perhaps backed up by Dave Simmonite who fully admits to probably getting carried away with media frenzy after the ascent of Walk of Life, as he truly believe he had witnessed one of the best climbers in the UK pull off the lead of his life. Given Dave’s experience of photographing hard and dangerous climbs then this statement can’t be taken lightly. Having belayed people on hard on-sight/ground up ascents, as well as headpoints, I have to support Dave in that the buzz, excitement and intensity that witnessing with you own eyes such climbing displays is powerful stuff.

When it came to the amount of exposure that the route got in CLIMB, Dave himself was surprised, but if the editor likes the copy he is more than willing to take the money. Dave is quick to pick up that I had only concentrated on James’ rather than other examples of over exposure, like the coverage of Rhapsody, when first Dave Macleod ascent produced a media frenzy, followed by Sonnie Trotters, then of course Steve McClure and James Pearson visit to Dumbarton, I had to admit to being sick of the Glasgow/Dumbarton skyline after that!

Obviously these all had great images associated with, them and that’s what the editors are after. However Echo Wall, where Dave opted for an ‘in house’ approach with his wife taking the shots and video, meant that there was probably less for the media to work with, and then arguably less exposure.

As a climbing photographer Dave has to make a living, and given the amount of money that magazines offer for content, then Dave has no problem with being over exposed. It is after all one of the only ways that magazines can offer something different from the internet, because often all a website wants is a quick news item, one photo, and within a week it is off the news page and in the archives. Interestingly many people like the extended coverage, however people like myself don’t, given that I don’t buy magazines, then maybe CLIMB understand their market.

Our conversation drifted off topic around here and we discussed magazine covers, and the loss of the classic Mountain/Crags shot. Something that Dave wishes could be revitalised, however he talks of the ‘commercial reality’ of the situation, in that the seller’s, insistence on tight in shots, and strap-lines. Whilst Summit magazine still up holds the clean cover image, as the in-house member’s magazine for the BMC it is not under the same commercial pressure or business model as Climber or Climb.

We then broach the thorny subject of commercial placement in photography, and interestingly whilst it simply has to happen, else people like James Pearson, Dave Macloed, Leo Houlding and other sponsored climbers just simply wouldn’t be able to get the meager deals that they do. This isn’t a new phenomenon, as I point out that the likes of Gresham and Emmett where taking the logo exposure to wild new heights in the late 1990’s mainly because their sponsors offered ‘photo incentive deals’ whereby they’d only pay up if the logo was clear and readable!

What it led to was some tacky images where the emphasis wasn’t on the climber or the climb but the oversized logo’s. Now sponsored climbers can only dress in the clothes they are supplied with. So it was interesting to here from Dave that The North Face is only supplying standard clothing from now on. Now TNF like many companies have such strong and identifiable logos that even a small logo will forge the association of athlete/product they are looking for.

Generally Dave has taken it from all sides recently, and underneath it there is a nice guy who is trying to make an honest living, and armchair critics like myself, have just been increasing his stress. To the extent that he is now cutting back on some of the work he did, and instead concentrating on his first love photography. He talks of some ‘vanity publishing’ project he is planning with a B&W book of grit climbing, it won’t be out for a while but sounds very enticing, something for Christmas 2009/10 maybe?

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in a similar position to Dave and James, when bolting the Slate Quarry’s and excessive criticism from armchair critics totally destroyed my love of climbing, and made me effectively stop re-equipping routes, to the extent that I haven’t raise a drill in anger for well over a year.

As such I feel bad about my blog, not having an editor to keep me in check, having limited experience as well as an ability to act before thinking means that I can offend and insult people without realising the damage, but I would argue that there are many internet critics that are just as guilty as me, but they will hide behind there username. Dave has given me some good advice, so hopefully I won’t upset so many people in the future, when I get a bee in my bonnet!

Ultra Run for an Ultra Good Cause

I received an email today from Shane Ohly, about his latest project. Shane has been associated with many crazy capers, several years ago now he complete 500 extreme routes on grit in a day. Which was an amazing effort, one that won’t be repeated that often that’s for sure. For a reasonable amount of time now Shane has been competing in adventure races and long or Ultra distant running challenges. No more so challenge than the infamous Ramsay Round.

Named after the first person to successfully complete the run in 24 hours Charlie Ramsay. The route is 63 miles long and has 30000 feet of ascent and descent, and covers some of the most rugged, remote and challenging terrain Scotland has to offer. Now imagine trying to complete this challenge non-stop in winter conditions, and that’s what Shane is putting himself up against in order to raise some money for cancer research.

His choice of charity lies close to his heart, having recently had his mother taken from him through breast cancer.Having several close friends that have been affected in similar ways by this awful desease, and supporting the charity through the ‘Pink Parties’ at the Gallt Y Glyn, along with many other friends. If you’d like to help support Shane in reaching his goal then you can visit his just giving page here. If you would like to know more about shane challenge than there is an online article about the last time he attempted the challenge.

Photo: Shane on Manimal F6b+, just after it was re-eqipped, vivian quarry

CAUTION Big Cat Spotted in Carneaddau

Early this week a hillwalker spotted a ‘big cat’ on the flanks of Foel Grach, providing this compelling image of the beast of the Carneaddau’s foot print. Mr Attinborough has sent a team in hope to capture the first footage of the Snowdon Leopard, for his next series Planet Turf.

The photo is from Mike Peacocks collection, a keen mountaineer and UKC user.