New Route on Dervish Slab: Strictly Come Pole Dancing

It is a rare event that i go out and push against the limits of my climbing ability. Today i had two hours of climbing with llion today and for some reason felt that i should try a project i mentioned on here a long while ago after i top roped the line.

The line is somewhat of an eliminate on the dervish slab. It was going to be bold and i was somewhat silenced by the serious nature of the route on the approach.

Setting off up last tango i arrange several good runner that would take an outward force, as llion would need to run backwards like one Mr Bolt to stop me hitting the ground if i was to fall off the top.

Stepping up into flashdance the line looks utterly blank, but i knew from my top rope of the line about att year ago there were holds up there somewhere. I arrange the good runners in the first crack on that route and down climb to the ground.

I shake out on the ground centre my breathing and start my mantra keep calm, keep calm. The initial jitters are over, and i step back onto the slab.

I am either going to make att coveted first ascent on this iconic slate slab or take att legendary fall. I focus on the later, as i reach the high wires, and as i mantel onto the crack i am now focused on going up.

As tenuous rock over follows tenuous rock over, the distance to the lonely runners increases and the chance of a ground swooping fall becomes more and more a distinct possibility.

Keep calm, i tell myself as i boldly cross that line and carry on up the slab to reach a crack just below the hand traverse of last tango in paris where i reach a jug and step right onto the ledge. Where the hard climbing is over.

I then head up the hand traverse to the overlap, where i make a bold step right over it to gain the right arete of the slab and follow it easily but boldly to the top.

The route was an amazing experience. It probably warrants E6 6b, although i would be happy to be corrected by anyone who wants to try the line. I could find my skyhooks, so it may feel less bold with one or two of them.

The name is a reflection of the dancing theme on the slab.

Strictly Come Pole Dancing E6 6b
Follow last tango in paris to where Flashdance move boldly left up up the slab. Follow this to the first crack and arrange good runners, mantel the crackn and make a tenuous sequence of moves striaght up to two flat edges. From here start trending up amd right to a crack below the right end of the last tango hand traverse, from a jug in the bottom of the crack step right onto att ledge on the arete. Follow the last tango crack to where it ends at the overlap and make a hard rock over rightwards to reach the arete follow this to the top.

Sorry no internet so had to do this on the blackberry!

Free Rope Rescue PDF Manual

I have put together a free PDF rope rescue manual for anyone who is interested it comes after I did a rope rescue for climbers course, and Ady who was on the course wanted a manual for revision. Most of the images I took on his camera, and I put together this manual that builds slowly on the skills of rope rescue, who knows maybe another book in the making?

Here is the link to the PDF, if you find any correction then please comment below, and I can update it. I do ask that if you use this then you don’t remove the links back to my coaching site.

I also run rope rescue skills for climbers, and can arrange dates to suit you – here.

Focus On: Lukasz Warzecha

Lukasz Warzecha hanging out on St John's Head - Hoy

I think I first ran into Lukasz when wandering about Scotland earlier this year. I am pretty sure we crossed paths on the Summit of the Ben, he had just been getting some shots in appalling conditions. I had seen a lot of his work as he did a lot of photographing a friend and colleague Andy Turner, some of those images were really striking, not to mention some of his more imaginative and creative work with flashes and strobes.

Lukasz is running a photography masterclass with Dave Macleod run out of the Bunkhouse in Plas Y Brenin. This will be a great opportunity for any budding outdoor photographer to play about with the concept of a photo shoot with one of the worlds greatest trad climbers. There are more details on Lukasz Website here.

One of Lukasz' Strobe images, this one at St Bee's Head

If you’d like to keep up to date with what Lukasz is up to then he has a great blog as well, which can be found at You can also following him on facebook as well here.

What or Who inspired you to get into photography?

Not sure really… I don’t think that there was one thing or person that inspired me to get into photography. It was more of a process… but at the beginning I don’t think I knew what I was getting myself into! 🙂

Have you done any formal studies in photography, if so how has it helped you?

I have done a Diploma in photography at the Thames Valley University. Although I truly believe that there’s no need for a formal education in photography, studying gave me an easy access to facilities and gear which I would have not had access to otherwise, especially at the beginning.

What’s best Digital or Film, and why ?

Film. I miss the magic… Although I mostly shoot digital now, simply more practical.

What has been your favourite photoshoot, and why has it stood out for you?

Last month, I shot portraits of Chris Sharma, Yuji Hirayama and Lynn Hill for Climb magazine. There wouldn’t be probably anything special about it… but I shot all of them the same day. Started at 10am with Chris at his hotel and by midday I was wrapping up a shoot with Lynn. Amazing! Portraits of Lynn will go inside the next Climb magazine.

You have an impressive collection of published images, which are you most proud of?

My poster shot for the upcoming ‘Longhope’ DVD. I’ve put a lot of effort to get this shot… and the graphic designer did a fantastic job by putting it beautifully together. I think the idea was quite bold and that the image is provocative and I hope people will see the funny side of it.

Lukasz work used on the poster for the forthcoming Hot Aches DVD - The Long Hope. Can't wait to see this film!

What style best describes your photography?

I’ve been told that my style of photography is very radical. I love shooting shallow DOF and strobes.

If there was anyone in the world dead or alive you could photograph who’d it be and why?

Hard question… I guess sir Edmund Hillary… I’m shooting a lot of portraits… this is my yet unfinished portfolio piece. I shot Rainhold Messner, Doug Scott, Woytek Kurtyka, Erdhard Loretan, Peter Habler… and Hillary will be always missing…

What do you look for in your images?

I’m not interested in capturing just pure action shots… I really want to show the setting and the environment.

Are you a chimper? (Looking at the display to check images whilst huddling down to block the screen from the sun)

Ohh, yes! This is one of the advantages of the digital era! Shooting with strobes on film required a light meter, now I can just check the back of my camera. Also, when shooting commercially is good to know that you have the shot.

Any top tips for the next generation of snappers or the keen amateur who is looking to improve there climbing photography?

Keep shooting… There’s no other way to improve in photography.

What’s your next project?

Can’t tell… Seriously. 🙂


How to Climb Harder: Course

I had a great weekend running a How tp Climb Harder course with two clients Ady and Anne. Despite the weather we did manage to get out and about. On saturdau we climbed on the RAC boulders doing some movement coaching, followed by a session at the Sidings doing some more movement work and looking at being precise and accurate with our feet.

It then started raining so we headed to the beacon, for some more stepper movement work, and some exercises in balance and bridging. We had high hopes for sunday, as it was supposed to be the better day, with rain early clearing later on in the day.

I awoke and the rain had cleared, but apparently not the rain that the weather man was talking about, and I got up the first pitch of Grim Wall, and I was just about to head off up the second pitch and noticed that we could no longer see the road, and the rock was now running with water.

A retreat to erics and it failed to clear, so it was back at the beacon, for more movement coaching, and some rope rescue skills. It was a shame but both Ady and Anne said they got a lot out of the time we had spent on the rock and the wall.

Phone Apps

I have had a dream for a while that a phone guidebook app would be an excellent idea. However I have lacked the knowledge to take the information on routes I have collected over the years, and programme a app. Fortunately for me a few months back I contacted someone who does, and over that time I have spent many an hour typing away and more recently creating a database of the routes I would want to include in an app.

I don’t want to say who it is I have been working with yet, but we are in the process of bringing out a test platform to see how it works, and as a bit of a teaser. I would very much describe the whole process as a massively intelligent software develop who appears to be able to make anything happen, and me the person who has been filling the content in from years of climbing in North Wales. Brains and Brawn, although he is no slouch when it comes to climbing either!

I have to admit that I don’t ‘yet’ own an iphone, but as soon as I get some more money in the bank I shall be buying one. I think it is a really exciting and interesting development, and one that will hopefully work and become more popular as the smart phone market increases. The plan is to eventually develop android and windows 7 apps.

So a bit of market research from my end. If you are an Iphone, Andriod or Windows 7 phone owner. What would you be willing to pay for a selected guide to North Wales that is on your phone. If you can leave a comment, saying what platform you are on, average grade climbed and what you think is reasonable that would be great.

If you want to see a snap shot of the infor that will be one the new platform then visit the online guide in the tool bar above. As the information will be similar to that. although I have added more routes since I developed that website.


Happy Days, Simon above the hard climbing on Heading the Shot - E5 6b

I spent the last couple of days up around the Never Never Land area, ticking a few easy and not so easy routes. Yesterday I was easy stuff, and I did a route that has to be the biggest waste of Stainless Steel since they started make trendy fridges out of the stuff.

We started up 362 a great route, and then did a route opposite the upper tier of Never Never Land, its so bad I don’t even want to know its name. Today was different as I went out with Simon and we had a quick run up a few classics. I started up Kubla Khan E4 6b, not a good way to warm up, but it blew away a few cobwebs, and I got close to total frustration trying to lasso the spike at the top. A cowboy I am not!

Then Simon nipped up Short Stories E4 6a, I forgot how awesome this route is. After that we went to Seamstress slab and I did Slug Club Special E4 6a with the spike clipped from seamstress, I dropped the ropes for simon and he did it more how intended with a runout to teh first spike.

After that Simon did Heading the Shot E5 6b, and I took some photos, and then a guy called Tom who’s on the BSc Sport Science with Outdoor Activities at Bangor, top-roped and then lead it. I then amusingly tried the Medium a F8a slab!

A great day out.

Simon Eyes up one of teh resting jugs on Heading the Shot
Tom press out a reach to a jug on Heading the Shot - E5 6b
Tom eyes up the jug at the end of the crux sequence passing the third bolt on Heading the Shot - E5 6b

Exit Through the Gift Shop

‘Modern art is crap’

Legend has it that Banksy once stenciled the steps of the tate modern with those words, in the style of ‘mind the step’. In the morning officials had it removed, only to have someone come along and say, wasn’t that a Banksy original? Love him or hate him, Banksy work is often thought provoking or just plain funny.

A friend had pencilled in, Exit through the gift shop, which was shown along with a host of other Banksy TV on channel 4 last night. Tuning in it was hard to know what to expect, at the start I thought it was genuine, by the end I wasn’t sure, as the documentary was almost a too perfect metaphor for modern art. In that Banksy and so many modern artist start off saying that no they are not selling out, they do art for arts sake.

Then there work starts selling for a truck load of cash and they start knocking out the goods. Somehow Banksy manages to edit a truck load of footage together to tell a story of almost creating a new monster of the modern art world Mr Brainwash or MBW. Who manages to make an art show with not one original thought, a collection of rip off of others work so blatant its funny.

Exit through the gift shop is a story about what happens when commerce and art collide, with the tell tale message of Banksy’s humour throughout.

Admin Day: Reading, Writing and Data Entry

Well I have had another admin day brought about the torrential rain that has been pouring down, near constantly. At one point I was bailing out the kitchen and the river out of Llyn Peris has broken its banks rather convincingly. So I have been working on the computer doing a whole host of really interesting and exciting things.

First off the Phone App is entering a new phase as I enter data into the master database, this if you like is the core part of the how the app is going to work, it will probably take me a few weeks to enter all the data. As I am cutting and pasting from my various websites. Hopefully the finished product will great, and despite the mundane nature of adding to databases the fact that I can see how the data is going to be used make it an exciting development.

After that I got some draft syllabi’s from the MLT on the new coaching awards. They look really great, and it seems they are making some real progress. I would like to be as involved as I was at the start, but I don’t think I can stretch myself that thin, as I have to try and earn money at some point, and more and more time seems to be trying to develop the marketing side of the business so people know who I am and where to come for some quality coaching.

This invariably involves writing for this blog, UKC or even magazines, and I got the PDF through of an article I have written for Climber Magazine. It is so exciting when you see all the words and photos combined to make a great piece. Which I not only enjoyed writing but will get paid for and hopefully even get some work out of. I will let you wait and see what I have written a ‘How to….’ on.

Buttons Everywhere! Marketing through Social Networks

Marketing has never been my strong point, however as a independent climbing instructor and coach, I often have to spend some time researching the latest fads and trends in terms of marketing my business, as the qualifications I have are great for the coaching and teaching side, but simply don’t cover the how to go about marketing yourself as a small business.

One of the trends at the moment seems to be the advent of both facebook, but in particular twitter as a social network for marketing. I have tended to shy away from Facebook marketing, as it is more a place where I keep the people I know, as friends rather than adding people who I work with. Twitter on the other hand is a place where I have both friends, acquaintances who I follow, as well as a growing tribe of followers.

To try and help push myself as a brand and the websites I run for coaching and instruction. I have added a few button through the network of sites, on the Lifeinthevertical domain. In particular the Tweet this button, the Google + button and the facebook like button, are all way that you can say to others in you social network, actually I quite like this and recommend that you have a read or a look at this site, post, photo and video.

So I invite you to like, google + or tweet any of the posts, pages or wiki pages that you find helpful, insightful, interesting or otherwise enjoyable.

BBC Two: Wildest Dream – 9pm 17th August

Several years ago now, I spent a fair bit of time climbing with a then young Leo Houlding. I have kept an eye on what he is doing over the years, and he has been a busy man. A few years ago he went on an expedition to Everest to make a film about Mallory. Whilst it has been on in cinemas, and even on IMAX theatres (I think), it is to make its British TV debut on the 17th August at 9pm on BBC two.

I have to thank Leo, as his trip inspired me to give a presentation during my MSc, during which I had to cover either the humans adaption to altitude or eurogenic aids (Performance enhancing drugs). From a person who likes to bite off more than he can chew, I contacted Leo to see what medication he took for the filming, knowing that many summiteers now take a cocktail of drugs to help them acclimatize.

What I ended up with was a great case study, and a way to introduce the drugs trials that have shown that the drugs used to help treat AMS, HAPE and HACE can be used to prevent them. The 15 minute presentation was called Has Everest Ever Had a Ture Ascent?

It was rather tongue in cheek, but essentially if the World Anti Doping Agency looked at ascents of Everest there are few if any true ascents if you include supplemental Oxygen and various forms of Medication.

Anyway I that presentation I had some great photos of Leo in both the early climbing gear and the more modern. All the shots were taken when he was film this programme. The Widlest Dream, is a look at whether or noit Mallory made it to the top of Everest, and follows on from a film where he found Mallory’s Body on the side of Everest. If you visit the website here there is a trailer.

I have to say that it looks like a great film, that is going to splice achive, re-enactments in traditional clothing and modern equipped climbers to try and get to the answer of whether Mallory could have climbed to the summit. All hinging on whether it is possible to free climbing the first and second steps of the summit ridge.

Just thought I would give you a heads up, as Kevin Thaw who was also on location with the team on Everest has just put a link up on Facebook.