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.

It is all my fault?

So I was quite surpassed when my post about art or vandalism took off across social media like wild fire. I have been accused of everything from a knee jerk reaction to just desperate to get more people to my website. Well I am guilty of both counts and I don’t think I have ever tried to say otherwise.

However along with those reasons is another. A love for the outdoor and especially the place I call home, Snowdonia. This is my, so take it or leave it, if I feel that someone is doing something that I feel is destroying an ethos of the outdoors, the take only pictures and leave only footprints message so many organisations encourage us to use the outdoor by, then I may well fly off the handle.

What I have found really interesting is that whilst most people supported the concept that it was vandalism or at least ill conceived art. Who actually took the time to go up there after the event and see what mess was left.

I did and I videoed then scrubbing the wall clean of lichen and that chalk based paint. There was a rather bizarre idea of health and safety when it came to working at heights as well. When I ask whether it was a ill conceive and poorly thought through idea, one of the production team came down the rope for a talk.

It was an interesting talk, during which he used words to the effect it looks bad now but because of the social media frenzy we have had to clean it off. Basically they blamed me for them having to clean up there mess.

A member of the production team trying to clean up the mess.
A member of the production team trying to clean up the mess.
So I guess a pressure washer wasn't the answer!
So I guess a pressure washer wasn’t the answer!

My concern that no one had actually thought through how they were going to get rid of the poem was highlighted by the mess they have made clearing it up. They started with a pressure washer, so when I went up there was a ‘negative’ cleaned imprint of the poem across the rock. I think the photos speak for themselves as to the damage they have done.

The representative I spoke to said he was going to visit the site every month to two weeks to see how the ‘damage’ is looking. I have asked him to send me the photos and I will try and get up there if the weather is nice during the winter. He also conceded that his three day show would have effects that stretch on for months in this valley, even if it is only a visual one.

I guess the victory for me was they are at least in voice standing up and taking responsibility for there actions. Although talk is cheap. Maybe they will think an idea through to its end in future.

the long periods of walking do dissipate the intensity and there is sometimes little to distinguish the show from a ramblers’ outing – Guardian

There production the Gathering, did not get a very positive review (Telegraph) ether. However the actual gathering, when the local farmers team up to clear each valley of its sheep, it an awesome site to behold. Forget one man and his dog, this is about what real working dogs can do. They can almost clear one side of the pass of sheep in 30 minutes and bring down to nant for sheering or later on in the year moving down to warmer less exposed pastures.

Having been bouldering when the mini-stampede of sheep make there way down the pass as the gathering rolls in. Their was little sense of artistry involved, more sense that the hard graft of agriculture made this possible, which if you have every laboured on a farm you will no why those farmers suppers are so big.

So in conclusion the show was ‘ambitious’, and the resultant mess is my fault and not that of the person(s) who scrawled it across the rock.

Climbing and Stuff

So I have been pretty busy enjoying the good weather so much so there is too little time for writing. I have been to a good few crags from the Pass to Gogarth and evening got a bit of bouldering and surfing in.

This week I am working on a sea cliff climbing course. With Lasse from finland. Really good fun and we have done some great routes so far. Looking forward to the last two days.


Art or Vandalism?

Give a man a grant and can vandalism be art?

That is a question I was faced with today when I was walking up Snowdon. The national Theatre of Wales, and doing a ‘production’ of something called the gathering in Cwm Llam where the Watkin Path heads up snowdon.

There are a few ‘arty’ installation up there, although some are bizarre. A few latex gloove filled with water and having from a tree and large red carpet laid out down the incline. That you can see from the road and a few blocks in a stream covered in red material and then daubed all over a natural rock face in paint, a poem.

My only guess is they got a grant to do this, and the arty types that hover round national theatre groups like flies round ….. thought it would be a great idea. I however think they will have blightly the landscape they have chosen to help celebrate their tale for a good many years. As whilst it will clean off, the texture of the rock will mean a good scrubbing. Taking far longer to clean than the vandal that scoured his government support idea of art onto a landscape that is still trying to recover after being quarried.

I’d really like to know whether the national theatre of wales would have me arrested if I paint a 100ft poem of my choosing across their building and called it art? My guess is because I didn’t get a grant for it then it couldn’t possibly be art.

I hope the land owners who I think are the national trust see it and make sure they remove it in an environmentally sensitive way.

I would rant about the dam up there but will be told it is a weir!

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