Tag Archives: trad climbing

#REVO Belay device – Wild Country Product Launch @wildcountryuk

Wild Country has revealed the REVO, a completely new design of belay device, and professional climbers Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson were on hand to demonstrate as I tested it!


James Pearson reveals the Revo!

I found the Revo intuitive to use. You open the device, feed the rope through it, then close it and attach it to your harness with a krab as normal. There are no changes to the standard belaying technique – the difference is on the inside. The device has an autolocking function, which means that, if for any reason the belayer lets go of the rope, the device will lock and prevent the climber from falling. Continue reading

Lake District Winter Walking – Winter Skills Course

When cold weather and snow mean that it’s not easy to run or climb I start to feel frustrated! Last year I attempted Striding Edge in the Lake District and the CMD arête up to Ben Nevis, but failed due to my lack of experience in winter conditions. This year I signed up for a winter skills course run by Mark Eddy of Mountain Journeys.

Continue reading

How to be adventurous – Inspiring books by Women in Adventure

If you are feeling the need to be more adventurous, books are a great way to feed your imagination. You don’t have to be planning to summit Everest, free climb El Cap, or BASE jump desert towers to be inspired by these women and their adventurous approach to life… Continue reading

The year is dead – long live the year… five favourites of 2014

2014 is over and I’m already anticipating everything 2015 will bring, but before I race too far ahead I’d like to take a moment to appreciate some of the best bits of this year. Here are my five favourite climbing experiences:

  1. Camino del Rey, El Chorro, Spain – 1 January 2014: This is a via-ferrata-type experience on a
    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    crumbling concrete and rusting iron walkway. It was built more than 100 years ago to allow hydroelectric plant workers access around the gorge, but fell into disrepair and became accessible only to climbers. Having never done via feratta before, and having a sheer drop to the valley floor between my feet from the first move, initially I was scared and backed off the Caminito. Left on my own at the start of the walkway though, I realised I didn’t want to miss out, and I made my way across polished limestone and rusted iron bars to catch up with my partner. It was a unique and atmospheric experience, never to be repeated as the authorities in Spain have since rebuilt and reopened the walkway as a safe and accessible tourist attraction.

A flavour of the Camino

A flavour of the Camino

  1. Via Media (VS 4c), Stanage Popular, Peak District – 1 March 2014: This was one of those days that remind me exactly why I climb. In spring sunlight with clear blue skies Stanage looked beautiful. Stanage Popular has an abundance of routes, but I always notice Via Media. It’s a 10m route that starts with a thin straight crack on a flat wall and it went on my wishlist as soon as I saw it, even when I thought the grade was way beyond me. It doesn’t happen often, but on this day almost all my climbing partners were out and at the same crag, creating a happy atmosphere. Clio belayed for me, I always feel particularly proud to climb routes with her as we don’t often see two girls leading routes together. All around me routes were being ticked, and I ticked mine, no drama, just an enjoyable climb at one of my favourite places with some of the best people.
Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

  1. Doorpost (HS 4b), Bosigran, Cornwall – 18 April 2014: When I first learned to climb I would
    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    happily second every route, but now that I’m learning to lead I feel the need to pull my own weight a little more. Alt-leading is such a rewarding climbing experience, combining the luxury of seconding pitches in fantastic positions with the challenge of leading. Doorpost is a classic three pitch route at one of the most popular sea cliffs in Cornwall, and Jonny was able to lead an E-grade first pitch to make the route more interesting for him. I led the second pitch, technically the crux but really very straight forward, and Jonny led the final pitch. We spent a long long time at the first belay ledge, due to a slightly over-confident third person in the party ahead of us realising that he actually couldn’t second HS in trainers. All the more time to look out at the sea, watch for seals, and enjoy the Cornish sun.

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

  1. Slam the Jam (6a), Horseshoe Quarry, Peak District – 15 May 2014: I wouldn’t recommend this route to anyone, the bottom half involves a broken up groove which in Horseshoe Quarry style feels like it could collapse if you stand on the wrong part of it. The bolt that would protect the crux felt a bit too high and resulted in shaky precarious clipping, much slack, and a nervous belayer (Clio). But the finish is no-excuses hand jamming for several moves through a roof and up a rightwards slanting perfect hands crack. This is when I realised that I really had learned to jam! I was so amazed I led it twice, just to check that I didn’t dream it.
  1. Nutcracker 5.8, Manure Pile Buttress, Yosemite Valley – 15 September 2014: Yosemite granite schools us and schools us again. This time the lesson was that one litre of water is not enough for two people on a 150m 5 pitch climb during a heat wave. We had just arrived from autumn in the UK and hadn’t anticipated just how much heat would radiate off the rock. This is one of the most popular routes in Yosemite, so we should have realised when it was deserted that conditions wouldn’t be great! The route follows a series of cracks, the first one being the hardest with a pumpy and slippery layback round a roof. After that the climbing is never too hard, but certainly interesting, including a very intimidating looking mantle up a slightly overhanging corner. Long multipitch is what climbing is all about for me, we don’t get to do it very often in the Peaks where the longest route is around 35m. I didn’t lead any pitches, so thanks to Jonny for this experience.
Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Now… Onwards to 2015 and all it’s adventures, planned and unplanned, bring it on… Happy New Year!

Failing to climb Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

I have mixed emotions when I look at this picture. It was posted on UKC and was voted into the top 10 two weeks in a row. The route is Bony Fingers and as you can see it’s a continuous finger crack on an otherwise blank granite face which is dotted with round black ‘knobs’. What you can’t see is that I was crying with fear and frustration as I struggled to second this route.

Attempting to second Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

Attempting to second Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

The day started full of promise in the Pleasant Valley Campground just outside Bishop, with a drive through towns with truly American names like Independence and Lone Pine. The road climbed steeply into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and in no time we rose from an elevation of 4,000 feet to over 8,000, Highway 395 less than a hairs’ breadth in the panoramic view of the valley we’d left behind. At Whitney Portal, granite towered above us on all sides, framing the jagged peaks of Mount Whitney.

Hiking, Mount Witney framed the the Portal of granite

Hiking, Mount Witney framed by the Portal of granite

The walk-in began on a beautifully soft trail of pine needles where in the higher altitude and thinner air an uncompromising clear blue sky contrasted against greywhite rock and occasional vivid green pines. Looking up we saw The Whale, the hump of rock split by our route, but we missed the approach and the walk in became a sweaty and frustrating ascent through a boulder field. We finally reached the route feeling dehydrated and testy.

The 90 meter finger crack is undeniably beautiful. And yet as I watched my partner lead the first pitch, beginning with a hard thin slab and then a run out traverse, I just felt a flat sense of dread. As much as I’d trained, I find finger cracks painful and difficult to climb.  I’m scared of traverses and this one definitely required as steady a head for the second as the lead. I began climbing already defeated. I struggled, I pulled on quickdraws. We left gear to protect me on the traverse. I was terrified, and couldn’t muster the spirit to climb English 5c move after 5c move. Something about the whole experience overwhelmed me, and just below the first belay my partner lowered me off with tears in my eyes.

I don’t know if I defeated myself, or if the route defeated me. I left Bony Fingers disillusioned and frustrated – unsure if I even love climbing any more. One of the things I do love about climbing is the places it has taken me to. Although I didn’t have a great time on what should have been a classic route, my lasting impression is the feeling of experiencing that place for the first time – the sheer expanse of granite, the sense of distance from the valley below, the summit of Mount Whitney another 6,000 feet above us, looking so near and yet so far. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Mount Whitney is not only the highest peak in mainland USA, it is also the start of the John Muir Trail. I still haven’t figured out how I feel about climbing, but when one door closes another one opens. I have a feeling that next time I go through that Portal the journey might end in more Happy Isles…



DSC_0150This weekend the clocks went back and evenings are going to be dark for months to come. As a reminder of the summer, here’s a photo I took back in June of Sam Fletcher climbing a route called Western Front at Almscliff, North Yorkshire.

I uploaded this to my UKC profile, and was surprised and pleased that it was voted second in the UKC top 10 photo of the week. You can view my photo gallery here http://www.ukclimbing.com/photos/author.html?id=161736.