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
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
Christmas is the season for giving. It is also the season for lots of really good competitions for outdoor clothing and equipment. Just as the shops put out their Christmas wears come December, so a range of shops, magazines and forums put on generous competitions for the sorts of goodies that outdoor enthusiasts would love to have in their Christmas stockings. It’s a fairly blatant attempt to boast sales during a peak buying period, but I don’t care, as I like entering competitions so much. Here is my run-down of the competitions I will be entering religiously over the next couple of weeks. Read more
There are some items of outdoor gear that you don’t often see reviewed in the outdoor magazines and websites. Jackets, tents, rucksacks, baselayers, softshells, fleeces and boots all get regularly tested and reviewed in detail, but outdoor underwear doesn’t get reviewed much and, if it does, the reviews tend to be a bit cursory. Maybe it’s because it’s a little hard to review briefs, boxer shorts and so on without descriptions getting too graphic or crude and using photos that give the review an adult rating. That’s a bit of a shame because good underwear can make days in the mountains more comfortable. So, to redress the balance and point out the virtues of good mountain undies, this is my review of the Rab’s MeCo 120 Boxer. Just to be clear before we start, there are no photos of me testing this underwear (there’s no telling where they may end up if I post them online), but there might be some graphic details. Read more
Walking and climbing in the mountains gives me an opportunity to see some amazing and beautiful rock formations. I sometimes regret that I don’t know enough about geology to always fully appreciate what I see, but what little I do know makes what I see and climb a little more amazing. It’s great that I don’t have to be somewhere with soaring peaks to experience amazing rock forms. My trip last weekend to the Yorkshire Dales was full of stunning rock in the area around Ingleborough, from limestone pavements, to scars, potholes and Norber Erratics. Read more
My son, Leo, got to the top of his first peak today. Snuggly wrapped on his mummy’s back, he got to the top of Craig Wen in Snowdonia. Summiting a 608m peak is pretty impressive when you are eight months old, can’t walk yet and have to battle cold winds and rain. I’m proud of how well he did. It feels good to be introducing him to the mountains and I’m really looking forward to going with him to the tops of many more peaks.
After probably the wettest winter on record in the UK I thought I might have another walk sealed in my waterproofs as gusts of wind made me zig-zag like a drunkard as I walked over the hills. Instead, the sun shone on my visit to Exmoor and I wore a T-shirt most of the time. I walked along stunning coastline and through beautiful woods of ghostly trees yet to come into bud.
The following photos give a flavour of this great weekend. They are of my walk last Saturday along the South West Coastal path between Countisbury and Heddon’s Mouth and back again via a slightly different, often higher, route.
One size does not always fit all. My larger than average head means that I have quite a bit of trouble finding any hats that fit. This can be a problem as a woolly hat is essential for keeping my head warm on cold, windy mountains (particularly as I increasingly have less hair to do this job). I don’t think that I’m the only person in this situation as people keep coming to an earlier post of mine via Google searches for climbing helmets for people with bigger or extra large heads. So, for those of us blessed with a generous cranium and a love of the mountains, here are my reviews of some of the woolly hats for hiking and climbing that I’ve found fit my head. Read more
Lurking under my bed, buried in a drawer, shut in a box or in the dark in my wardrobe. These are the places where my unused outdoor gear lives. These are the bits of hiking and climbing gear, clothing and equipment that have been superseded when I upgraded to new, better kit, no longer work as well as they should, never really fitted me that well or were retired because they too old to be safe any more. Now they take up space in my small London flat and provide a home for dust bunnies. I’ve decided that they need to go. I’ve also decided when they do go I want them to be put to good use rather than rotting or rusting away in a landfill.
A few of my unused bits of gear are still perfectly functional and someone could use them if I can get them to a new owner by selling or donating them. However, there are some things that couldn’t have this second life with someone else. For example, climbing ropes, slings and harnesses all degrade over time and past a certain age they have to be permanently retired because there is a risk that they will break in a fall. However, this doesn’t mean I couldn’t reuse my old climbing rope by turning it into a rug (see SummitPost for some instructions on how to do this yourself). The plastics and metal in my old gear could also be recycled and made into something else. Read more
Approach Creux du Van from behind and it’ll surprise you. Walk over Le Soliat from the south and it looks like the rest of the Jura – a pretty landscape of rounded mountains covered in woods and meadows with the odd bit of limestone sticking out of them. But as you walk towards the northern side of the mountain, a crescent moon of rock appears, dropping roughly 150 metres deep and stretching around 1,400 metres wide in-front of you.
The Creux du Van is a limestone cirque formed by erosion and landslides caused by the water from a long-gone glacier. It sits in the mountains a short drive from Neuchatel in Switzerland. It’s probably because it isn’t in the Alps, that Creux du Van is not particularly well known. Which is a shame because it is as dramatic as its bigger cousins further east and is in wonderful walking country. On the other hand, this lack of wider recognition makes it a quieter place to visit than a lot of the tourist areas of the Alps. Read more
Rab’s new and award-winning NeoStretch Gaiters have great breathability and lots of clever touches, but a few simple design issues stop them from being perfect.
I’ve got mixed feelings about gaiters. They’re brilliant for keeping snow and water out of your boots, but they can make for lower legs that are hot and damp with the sweat the gaiters haven’t allowed to escape. This is a particular problem on those days in the mountains when it’s warm, but gaiters are still needed. Even if rain isn’t forecast and the sun shines warmly, gaiters can be essential because of the risk of putting your foot into a bog or slipping when crossing a stream. In Alpine conditions you can be toasted while on a sun-baked glacier and have to wear gaiters to cope with the snow on the peaks you’re going to climb. Rab hold out the promise that their NeoStretch Gaiters will make life more comfortable in such situations by combining one of the new breed of highly breathable fabrics and Rab’s usual, excellent design work. To see if this was true, I tried these gaiters out on walks in a snowy Lake District as well as warm weather and continuous, sometimes torrential, rain in Snowdonia. Read more
I like to think that I’m a rational person and that I make reasoned decisions on the basis of a considered weighing up of all the information. This is important, as sound decision-making is vital for the safety of me and other people in the mountain sports that I do. The truth is that I am as vulnerable as everyone else to my decision-making being distorted by biases that lead to less than rational thinking.
Confirmation bias is the tendency people have to accept information if it supports what they believe and to reject information if it contradicts these beliefs. This is because people give more weight to information that supports their existing beliefs and are more likely to look for such information. Conversely, confirmation bias means that people tend to give less weight to information that challenges their existing beliefs and are less likely to look for it. If they do find such disconfirming information, people are inclined to explain it away or attempt to discredit it. Read more