My Climbing 2015 in Pictures

Open Handed

Alice coaching me on how to climb using the open hand technique.
Alice coaching me on how to climb using the open hand technique.

Injuries have forced me to examine how I climb and to start thinking about how to change my climbing technique so that I reduce the chance of injury. It was a knee injury that originally got me thinking, but recently problems with my hands have jolted me into really looking at the grips I use. I’ve realised that I rely too much on crimping and that I need to use an open-hand grip more if I want to be minimise hand injuries. However, I’ve been struggling to get this grip right and it was only a coaching session a few weeks ago that helped me understand that using an open-hand grip is about much more than what you do with your hands. Read more

A Cut Above – Arc’teryx Straibo Hoody Review

The Straibo Hoody from Arc’teryx has the style to work well as a casual hoody and the technical features to perform brilliantly as a hoody for bouldering.

Bouldering at Fontainebleau in the Straibo Hoody
Bouldering at Fontainebleau in the Straibo Hoody

When I bought the Straibo Hoody early in 2015, Arc’teryx was selling it as part of their Whiteline collection for skiing and snowboarding. Their sales pitch was that the Straibo Hoody combined “contemporary looks with performance fabrics and design” to provide a jacket that “travels from a day on the mountain to a relaxed evening in town.” In other words, Arc’teryx had crossed an urban-style hoody with a technical, mid-layer fleece to produce something that was practical without looking geeky. Since then Arc’teryx seem to have stepped back a bit from promoting the practical, mountain applications of the Straibo Hoody and are now selling it as part of their 24 lifestyle (i.e. urban) range of clothing. All of this makes me think that Arc’teryx’s marketing department hasn’t realised what the Straibo Hoody really is. It might be good snowboarding wear and it certainly looks pretty good as casual wear around town, but what the Straibo Hoody really excels at is being a bouldering hoody. Read more

A Good Turn? Review of Mammut’s Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 via ferrata set

The Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 is Mammut’s top-end via ferrata set. It’s robust, handles well and has some brilliant features, but a swivel joint that doesn’t swivel enough and a couple of simple design issues mean that it isn’t perfect.

Me climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand using the Mammut Tec Step Bionic Turn 2.
Me climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand using the Mammut Tec Step Bionic Turn 2.

Two things persuaded me to buy the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2. The first were the strong safety claims made about it by Mammut. The second was the swivel joint designed to eliminate that annoying problem of your lanyards getting twisted during a climb.

Safety

Mammut states that that the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 “incorporates the most recent findings from safety research” and that:

  • the lanyards are of “an extremely strong and robust construction”;
  • that the shock absorber that has been optimised to “brake falls even more gently and thus better protect the body”;
  • that the maximum impact force of a fall has been reduced; and
  • that it will still safely hold a fall “in the case of a 180 degree misuse” i.e. a fall when only one carabiner is attached to the cable.

Read more

Climbing a Wet Badger

Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.
Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.

Badger Rock is a famous boulder that I’d been eager to climb for years. Its reputation is built on providing great climbing, across a range of grades, in a picturesque, quiet Lake District valley. If that wasn’t enough to make it popular, Badger Rock is also only about ten minutes walk from a car park. I’ve been waiting for a chance to climbing on Badger Rock since I first saw it three years ago when walking the classic Kentmere Horseshoe. Last weekend looked like it might finally be my chance to climb on the Badger, but all of my hopes of climbing rested on it staying dry. Read more

Small and Perfectly Formed – the Klettersteig Knorren

Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Knorren
Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Knorren

The Knorren is a broken mass of yellow, cream, grey and ochre rock that rises out of the side of its parent mountain, the Penken. One side is made up of steep stone faces, pinnacles and buttresses above a field of boulders and bushes. The other side, facing the valley below, is covered in trees and vegetation. A via ferrata (klettersteig in German) ascends the rock faces of the Knorren by alternating between sometimes strenuous vertical climbing and easier traverses. After reaching the summit, this via ferrata traverses and then descends the spiny crest of the Knorren before negotiating a buttress that stands just apart from the main peak. This via ferrata is easily my favourite of the three I climbed in Austria. It is in a wonderful location with amazing rock and climbing that is fun and occasionally surprising. Read more

A Climb in the Woods on the Klettersteig Huterlaner

Me climbing the Klettersteig Huterlaner.
Me climbing the Klettersteig Huterlaner.

I did my first Austrian via ferrata last week, introducing my brother-in-law Nick and his son Ben to climbing with cables. The Klettersteig Huterlaner was a fun and varied climb with some good views down the Zillertal and of the town of Mayrhofen. As it starts only two minutes walk uphill from the base of the valley and is in the woods, it had a different feel to the mountainous via ferrate I’ve done elsewhere. Read more

crossFIXE for Climbers

crossFIxe Hands Creme and Hands Tube
crossFIXE Hands Creme and Hands Tube

The crossFIXE range of products is meant to sooth, moisturise and provide maintenance for your skin before and after training. It’s made using all natural, food-grade ingredients by the same people who make the ClimbOn range of skincare products for rock climbers. I was curious to see if the crossFIXE range was as good as ClimbOn and whether it does anything different or better that would encourage me to use it instead of ClimbOn. Read more

A Trad Day

I finally got a chance last weekend to do my first trad leading since my injury and surgery. After getting frustratingly rained off Stanage a few weeks ago, it was great climb in sunshine on Tryfan Bach. A day of climbing on Tryfan Bach’s beautiful slab, its with well-protected, low-grade climbs, was just what I needed to get reacquainted with leading trad and to clear my head.

In his Stride

Valerie climbing JT (V0- 4b) at Robin Hood's Stride.
Valerie climbing JT (V0- 4b) at Robin Hood’s Stride.

I didn’t know how Leo was going to feel about his first camping trip last weekend. He’s not yet two years old and being taken away from his home and routine to spend a long weekend camped in a field at night and bouldering in the day might have been a bit too much for him. My main concern was that he would be nervous of the tent. I wondered how Valerie and I could coax Leo into what might seem to him to be a giant orange monster. Read more

Fontainetoddler

Leo climbing a boulder at Rocher des Potets, Fontainebleau.
Leo climbing a boulder at Rocher des Potets, Fontainebleau.

As first-time parents, Valerie and I have had to work out as we go along how to continue to rock climb while also being Mum and Dad to Leo. Last year we had a fun and successful trip to the legendary bouldering venue of Fontainebleau with a teething baby. This year we went back with an energetic (and teething) toddler. Here’s what we learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Read more

Some top via ferrata

The view down as I traversed across the Lauterbrunnen cliffs.
The view down as I traversed across the Lauterbrunnen cliffs.

The Red Bull website has an article by Alison Mann with a list of some of the top via ferrata around the world.  It was flattering to be interviewed by Alison for the article.  Since Alison and I talked, I’ve been curious to see which via ferrata people suggested as some of the best and the article highlights some amazing routes.  Reading about these via ferrata and seeing stunning photos of them really makes we want to get out there to climb.

The article is at:

http://www.redbull.com/en/adventure/stories/1331725297772/8-high-wire-via-ferratas-to-give-you-vertigo

Hopeful Climbing

Hoping the rain will stop while belaying at Stanage.
Hoping the rain will stop while belaying at Stanage.

You need a lot of hope if you want to rock climb in the UK. Hope that it won’t rain on your weekend climbing trip. Hope that the rain will stop by the afternoon so that you can go climbing. Hope that the rock will dry out quickly from the last lot of rain because you’ve been sitting in the café far too long. Hope that the rain will hold off until you have finished your climb. Hope that the water slowly trickling down your sleeves as you climb is just a quick shower. Even hope that the patch of lighter cloud you can see in the distance is the “possibly clearing later” that the weather forecast mentioned. You need that hope, particularly if you are a London-based climber like me and every trip to a climbing venue is an investment of time and effort. It’s that hope that gets you in your car to drive to the Peak District or North Wales and it’s what gets you out of your tent when rain is pattering on it first thing in the morning. Read more

Learning to Climb Smarter

Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.
Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.

My main priority in my return to rock climbing is to build up my strength and develop my climbing technique in a way that reduces the chance of injuring myself again.  To do this I need to reassess how I climb.   My hope is that if I do this now, I can stop slipping back into any bad habits as well as stop new bad habits developing.  I decided that the best way to do this was to get an expert to assess my climbing and coach me on what to do to improve it.  So, I booked a climbing injury prevention session with Alice Turner, a qualified mountain instructor (MIA) and physiotherapist.  What I learned has really got me thinking about how I can climb in a smarter way by changing some of the fundamentals of how I move. Read more