The Sierra Blair-Coyle Debate

It seems wherever I look I either here about the Dawn Wall or Sierra Blair-Coyle. Both have had the cannons of the great climbing literati and media aimed at them for selling out and going all mainstream. The Dawn Waller for sharing their exploit with 140 character of less and images posted quite literally from the coal face and then getting some mainstream media to enter into the throng. Whilst Sierra’s crime was being too pretty and not actually a very good climber (Although she has place in the top 20 in IFSC comps over 3 consecutive years!)

To me these two groups offer two ends of a sponsorship spectrum one the extremely talented and cutting edge climbers on the dawn wall and as some have argued Sierra the Model. Whatever end you are at the only reason someone is sponsored is that they are essentially there to promote the sales of the companies products.

If you can show a company that you can help them market and sell their equipment through the media coverage you get from either ability, looks or the social media clout you possess then good for you. The times they are a changing. Twitter, instagram and Facebook are changing the way companies market themselves. Why pay money for an advert when you can launch some news, photos or video that go viral. By complaining one way or another the critics are fuelling the fire of the viral marketeers.

So yes the face-ter-gram generation is all about followers, how you get them comes down to more factors than ability and yes looks do count. The fact that sierra markets herself very overtly as a good looking climber I think makes people uncomfortable. Just remember rather than her, hate the game and not the player!

If you think climbers are stupid enough to fall for the dashing good looks of one climber over another. Then I would think again, the majority I seem to know are amongst the most picky shoppers in the world. Many have brand loyalty that go back years. They will research ever purchase to death as nothing is cheap these days so better to buy once.

Check out this video by Epic TV, if you want to see how borderline sexist some of the media are in reporting on Sierra.

#RTWin40Climbs Episodes 2,3 & 4

So I ws rushed whern I edited these films and forgot to add links from my youtube account to my blog. My intention is to make more videos rather than written pòsts as I travel around the world. So if you want the videos as soon as I upload them to youtube either, subscribe to my channel there, like me on facebook or follow me on twitter (verticallife)

#RTWin40Climbs – Episode 1 – Leaving Llanberis

So I decided to make a short video reflecting on my home of Llanberis and all that I am about to leave behind. The friends and climbs that have been part of my life for so long. It already feels weird having not been there for over a month.

If you’d like to get each episode as and when it comes out then try like Snowdonia Mountain Guides on Facebook or subscribing to my channel on youtube.

Another Supporter for #RTWin40Climbs

So over the last few weeks I have been hanging out down south with my mum waiting to leave on what can only be described as trip of lifetime. I have been busy putting the final things together for the south american leg of my plan to go Round the World in 40 Climbs. Where I hope to chart the ascent of man.

Five Ten UK had already signed up by giving me some approach and rock climbing shoes. Whilst I was in Bournemouth I have been training at the Project Climbing Centre and trying to get outside climbing. Through a tweet, I came across Sam from Hangar 18, and after meeting up for a climb he asked about my plans.

I of course bored him with my story of telling the story of the history of climbing, interspersed with teaching climbing in really cool places. He seemed to think the idea worthy of supporting and offered me a new lightweight down jacket and a hoodie.

He dropped them off this morning and I have to say that the down jacket is awesome. Hangar 18 – Off Road Running’s kit is all about lightweight design and the jacket packets down really small. It is also truly reversible so can be either black or red . So it is idea for travelling round the world. The hoodie is another great piece of clothing and will hopefully really stand out in the videos as the logo is fairly bold.

Another great thing happened this week, I spoke to Climber Magazine, who were keen for me to write a few more Evolution of Climbing Articles before moving onto another historically focused column that ties in with my travels.


Alternative Christmas Presents for Climbers and Instructors

So if you know a climbing instructor or avid climber then buying them a present can be a difficult if you don’t understand the sport. They will appear to have everything they need to climb. So you need to go under their radar and come up with something novel and not necessarily expensive to help.

First off it they are working towards a MIA or into multi-pitched climbing. Maybe they have a climbing assessment in North Wales, are working or planning a climbing trip there. Then why not either print off or simply send them a link to the Craig List – A list of great route for Climbing Instructors in North Wales. If you want to really help them out and can spend a few quid then maybe consider buying them a copy of North Wales Climbs. A guidebook that cover virtually all of the routes on the list, and a must have for any climber heading to North Wales.

If that is too pricey then maybe consider getting them a book about the Nature of Snowdonia. As it is not really well known but as part of the syllabus for instructor qualifications there are elements of access and conservations. This book by Mike Raine is the veritable bible of nature in not only North Wales but most upland areas in the UK. Don’t underestimate the environmental leanings of a normal climber either, we all enjoy the outdoors for a variety of reasons, getting scared on a rock face is just one of them.

Another area interest is the history of climbing. Whilst it is a broad topic one book. Hanging By A Thread has managed to capture the near complete history of rock climbing and mountaineering in one volume. A sort of idiots guides to the history and technology of climbing. If you want some free help then I recommend visiting and search mountaineering. There are many different historic mountain climbing texts from before 1900 there. One in particular you can look for is Scrambles in the Alps by Edward Whymper, available as a PDF or kindle format, it tells the story of the first ascent of the Matterhorn, a first edition is worth £700+, you can send a digital copy for free! Wanderings Amongst the High Alps is another.

If you ever wonder how to go about teaching or coaching climbing then maybe consider Effective Coaching (kindle, iPad, print) and How to Climb Harder. Another great way for a present to keep on giving throughout the year is to subscribe the climber to a climbing magazine like Climber.

Another outside the box idea is booking your friend into a B&B or bunkhouse somewhere in the UK so they can get climbing for themselves for a change. Ideal areas for multi pitched climbing are Llanberis in North Wales, Ambleside in the Lake District, Land’s End in Cornwall,  or Glencoe in Scotland. If they are into single pitch or sport climbing then maybe  North Wales, Hathersage in the Peak District, Swanage for Portland and Swanage or St David’s Pembroke.

The other alternative for a climber is a map to a new area or a guidebook. Although guidebooks are quite expensive a map can cost as little as £10. Any of the places I have mentioned will suffice but maybe think of some of the more remote places. Like Torridon,  Skye or Knoydart in Scotland, these places are among the more adventurous destinations in the UK.

The final ideas are small but random gifts any climber would like. So why not buy 3m of 5mm prussic cord and cut it in half so they can make two prussic. Will cost less than a fiver and be of great use to them. Or something as simple as a block of chalk we be well received. A little more expensive but a real lifesaver for the climbers phone is a waterproof pouch. If you climbing friend has stinky feet then maybe go for the boot banana shoe deodoriser. Maybe just getting them another carabiner, something along the lines of the sentinel screw gate from DMM is a sure fire way to put a smile on there face.

Failing all of that, if you want to make a big statement, then find out which climbing wall they use the most. The short days, bad weather and long nights mean they will be going to the climbing wall a lot during the winter. Most wall allow you to buy a 10 entry ticket of a coffee and a climb voucher.


All I Want For Christmas…

Over the last few weeks I have been busy preparing for my year away travelling. As a result I have been spend quite a bit of money on equipment and have been trying to spend it ethically. By that I have tried to spend my money in Bricks and Mortar shops. Both V12 and Joe Browns have taken some cash off me. I urge you as you prepare to buy yourself or other climbers christmas gifts to think that spending an extra £1 in a shop is worth it in the long run.

As an author I think it is even more important to support those who take the time to right in the niche market of rock climbing and mountaineering. As such I am going to recommend a few books from fellow authors who believe you me won’t be retiring on their royalties anytime soon.

I have tried to give linked to these book in real shops or the authors websites. As just like small businesses climbing authors need your support.

Bouldering: Movement, Tactics and Problems by Peter Beal

A book that will help you develop you bouldering, by an active climber and blogger Peter Beal. You can read more about his musing at Mountains and Rivers. The book is more US centric, but climbing is climbing.


Bouldering Essentials by David Flanagan

Another book specifically aimed at bouldering. It is good for virtually anyone from beginner to expert. So whether you are a complete rock monkey smashing out V9 or an indoor climber looking for advice to boulder outside for the first time there is pretty much something in here for everyone. Check out his website.


How to Climb Harder by Mark Reeves

My book that does exactly what it says on the tin, in that it helps you tackle your climbing performance from a multitude of different angle be it tactical, technical, physiological and psychological. It is available from pesda press.


Outdoor First Aid by Kath Wills

Whatever activity you do outside, then knowing some first aid is vital. As extreme sports are extreme for a reason. The consequences can be serious and what you do in the first minutes after an accident really can be lifesaving. It is available from pseda press.


North Wales Climbs by Rockfax

This is the guidebook to North Wales that I helped author. It has been extremely well received. I think it is awesome, I suggest you check it out in you local outdoor shop or direct from the rockfax website. They produce loads of great guidebooks to a whole host of areas both in the UK and abroad.


Hanging By A Thread by Mark Reeves

My book on the overview of history, science, technology and culture of rock climbing and mountaineering. A kind of one stop shop for climbing history. My mission this year is going to be turning it into a web series on Youtube. It is only available in print and ebook from amazon


Nature of Snowdonia by Mike Raine

This book covers the whole gambit of nature in the Snowdonia National Park. However much of what is covered is also true in any upland area in the UK. This is a great book to help open your eyes as what you can find whilst out walking or climbing. Available from pesda press.

5.10 on board with Round The World 40 Climbs

So I have mentioned this before and you will be sick of it within a few weeks/months. But my 40th birthday project to go “round the world in 40 climbs” is near to starting. I fly out to South America for the first leg on Boxing day.

As part of the trip I have also been trying to get support from a few sponsors by the way of a fairly elaborate and detailed proposal. I will explain what the proposal says for this first leg in a bit. But I am really pleased to announce that Five Ten UK have support the trip by providing rock  and approach shoes.


What is really great about this is ever since 1995 I have had a brand of rock shoes I have used. I was first introduced to them when climbing on the Slate with a very young and talented Leo Houlding. The shoe was the Anasazi Pink, since then I have pretty much always had a pair of the current Anasazi usually the Whites for performance climbing and a comfy pair of velcro for work purposes.

There support means I have a great selection of shoes that would make Imelda Marcos jealous. I have a pair of Stonelands, which i reviewed for UKC and they are the bomb when it comes to a comfy pair of shoes you can wear all day with minimal drop in performance.

I also have a pair of the new Anasazi Pinks, a kind of returning to my earliest days with 5.10 brand, these are a great all round shoe, and are great at both edging and smearing. They also make a more multi pitch performance shoe. For me in North Wales they were the work horse behind me climbing many E5’s and a few E6’s on sight on the Slate. The joke used to be that a new pair took a grade off the route!

Finally I also have a pair of Dragon’s, these are the highly aggressive shoes that will be great on single pitch routes and highly technical bouldering. As such I think I have all bases covered when it comes to rock climbing shoes.

Whats more important for me is that I can honestly say that Five Ten shoes so good I have been buying them with my own money for nearly twenty years. So for me it is a dream come true to have the support of such a fantastic brand. I just hope I can return the investment they have made in me.

The first leg is teaching rocking climbing in South America as well as some travelling. The plan so far is to make short videos on the following:

  • Climbing Around Coyhaique
  • Climbing in Esquel (Same destination as the Petzl Rock Trip 2010)
  • Climbing in Bariloche (Including the amazing Frey)
  • Possibly climbing in Cochamo (The Yosemite of South America)
  • Attempt at Vulcan Llulliallaco (Telling the gruesome story of one of the first mountains ever climbed)
  • A visit to Potosi (The story of Altitude Sickness)
  • A visit to Machu Pichu (Sun worship and mountains)
  • Attempt at Mount Chimborazo (Various stories from the first ascent to weighing the earth)

Some of these videos won’t make that much sense in isolation, however as the series progresses you’ll see that effectively I am trying to tell the history of rock climbing and mountaineering by following in the footsteps of the greatest climbers and mountaineers. Loosely based on exploring the climbs that I included in my book Hanging By A Thread: The Science, Technology, History and Culture of Rock Climbing and Mountaineering.

If you’d like to support the project or would like to find out more before you commit, then get in contact and I’ll send you the full proposal. In the mean time thanks some much to Five Ten for sharing the vision I have for this project.

Planning and Supporting

So for the last few days I have mainly been pinned down to my computer doing research for my trip around this great world. In essence I am trying to do as much of the ground work as possible so I can throw a few extra words at various articles based on contact with the places I am going and as a template for the videos I want to make as I go round the world.

Really quite exciting to get to the stage where you are essentially looking at when and where you are going to be where and doing what give or take a day or two!

I was also out yesterday watching the Snowdon Marathon, it was the first time I have been around the event since running it a few year ago. It wasn’t that I avoided it, just that I was working most of those weekends. This year a few of my friends entered, which for anyone would be tough, as the Snowdon Marathon is meant to be the hardest in the UK.

Yet these people I know who entered it for the first time were mothers to at least two children, held down a job and probably do most of the housework. In between juggling those major life commitments they still found time to get out running, and not just a few miles here and there, a full marathon training program. Where the last training runs are 22 miles or about 4 hours or more.

As well as these superhuman mums, three of which I know who have destroyed my Personal Best for the course, there were several male friends who have all beat my PB and set their own in the process. I am in awe and humbled by of you all.

As I watched I felt pangs of jealously and was almost as tearful as some of them as I remembered what it meant to me to achieve the ambition of a lifetime. As a marathon isn’t a fun run you enter on a whim, it turns into a relationship with yourself and your body. You bring to it a whole backstory and in running it you hold a mirror up to yourself and see the good, bad and ugly. What starts of as a ‘race’ or ‘challenge’ rapidly becomes much more of a ‘life experience’.

What my friends reminded me was that through the pain, training and dedication there is a journey that whilst only 26.2 miles in reality, is a much longer one for the soul.

Whilst I think I am going to be out of the country for next years event, I think I will try and find marathon I will be back for. All part of my celebration of life as reach 40. The training will be hard especially when I am away, but I figure that those long runs will be a great way to explore foreign lands and figure as part of a longer journey I am planning next year.

Picos De Europa: The Futures Bright

So last week I felt a little like a rock star, although I put that down to travelling in the far from luxurious Easyjet where you walk to the plane and get to come down the steps like the Beatles in their prime. As well as that I was also asked to deliver a climbing coaching course in the Picos Du Europa.

The course went well and both the clients and the company that employed me felt they got a great deal out of it. It was of course such a privilege to be invited over by The Mountain Guide School, who are running rock climbing courses in the Picos based alongside the local guides at guiatrek. Which if you haven’t been there climbing I suggest you reconsider it as a destination, although if you don’t believe me then wait till next year when I will be based there for nearly three months.

For those that maybe haven’t been following and even those that have, my plans for a round the world trip have come together really well. I leave for South America to work for 42 days in Chile and Argentina for The Mountain Training School, I have already met a few of my students and assistants.

I am hoping that during that course we can explore the local crags of Coyhaique again, as well as travel up to Bariloche, Esquel and fingers crossed Cochamo. The last place we never visited on the first trip there despite this being one of the places I have dreamt of going for year, I have heard that subsequent courses have made it there and even put up a new route.

Cochamo was first climbed on by Cripin Waddy and a few other British climbers. I hear they are trying to develop the place more and more, with easier shorter routes as well as the major wall.

As soon as I finish I fly back to Santiago and start a journey north through south america with a aim to climb Mont Llullaillaco, visit Potosi and Machu Pinchu. If there is time then a quick surf and an attempt at Chimborazo.

I then fly back to the UK, where I have ten days off before I head back out to Picos Du Europa for a 21 day intro to rock climbing course again for the Mountain Training School. I then have a month and a half off when I am hoping to do a little tour of Europe and classic mountaineering and climbing routes before heading back to the Picos again for a 42 day climbing course finishing in July.

After that I do plan to return to the UK for some ‘time off’ and some more climbing. With the idea of heading to the USA to climb some more of their classic routes in sept/oct/november. In particular I want to climb the Devil’s Tower the route made famous in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I then hope to finish the year off with some trekking in Nepal. The plan is to celebrate my 40th year in style, in what I hope to turn into a youtube series called “Round the World in 40 Climbs”. If you have read my book “Hanging By A Thread” then I plan to try and climb as many of the route in that book as possible, which should keep me busy for a year.

The great thing is with the work I have lined up, the royalties from my various book projects and the hope that I can sell a few articles from the stories of my travels as I go that I have essentially funded it so no matter what it is going ahead.

I have been busy putting a more definitive proposal together to try and get a little more support from equipment manufacturers, as I think a Vlog in the form of a youtube series of this trip could be totally different, if you have seen my recent videos on the History of North Wales Climbs then imagine that on a global scale and that is what I am aiming for.