Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Welsh winter

After browsing through the UK climb website and noticing all the winter routes coming into form in the North wales area Myself and Phil decided to head up there for a couple of days to try and get a few routes ticked. We left for wales on Monday evening, Phil Kindly drove down from Portsmouth and picked me up which meant I could have a nice sleep on the way up, The route up North was pretty straight forward and the weather was looking pretty promising.
We were booked in to stay at Pete's eats bunkhouse, I had never stayed there before but Phil highly recommended it which I can now second that and recommend it to anyone that wants cheap,clean and a good service.
We had a few routes in mind which were the "The Screen(4) and the Devils Appendix(5/6) but we decided to play it as we went and see how conditions were on the mountain before we committed to anything.
We arrived at the car park around 0800, the weather wasn't looking to good, there was allot of drifting snow and the winds were very strong. there were a few other teams getting ready to head up. It took a little while for us lightweights to get out of the nice warm car and into the cold.
We eventually got ready and made our way up to the devils kitchen area, the walk in was probably the easiest walk in I've ever done, it was only made tricky by the thin layers of snow lying on the rocks making them extremely slippery. The weather wasn't the best but we decided to push on.We had a look at our intended routes and they both looked very thin and out of condition, we noticed that south gully looked pretty good so we decided to head up to that area, there was another team in front of us. We arrived at he bottom of the route where the other team were gearing up. it looked pretty thin but climbable, I wasn't to happy about following another team up the route and being in the firing line of all the loose stuff they would drop down. we moved around the corner and decided to head towards "Chicane Gully"(4)

At the bottom of the route things were looking promising, the ice was very thin but looked climbable,After gearing up Phil decided he wanted to attempt to lead pitch one, he set off, he wasn't to happy with the noise the ice was making when he tapped his axe against it, we noticed a mixed line going up the side of the water ice so he attempted this, he still wasn't happy with conditions so backed off, he had also forgotten his big gloves and was feeling the pressure on his hands from the cold, I decided to try and lead the mixed line.The climbing was pretty technical and very thin.loose and scary, But I managed to make my way up the pitch placing some good gear, the weather was now coming in strong with strong gusts of spindrift hitting us head on.

I carried on climbing for a short while and the weather was getting worse, knowing that Phil didn't have any thicker gloves and the weather was going to get worse we decided to abandon our attempt, I place a good number three nut and abseiled down from the route. We coiled the ropes and headed down to the path to take off the gear and make our way back off the hill. I was a little gutted that we didn't finish the climb but i think we made the right decision as the weather was now getting very bad, to my amazement though there were still a few teams just heading up to try some of the routes ( this was about 1400 and in whiteout).

We were pretty keen to come back in the morning and try a different line or attempt the same route again. this idea was thrown out of the window when we woke the next morning to discover around 2 foot of fresh powder had fallen and the weather was near on whiteout. we decided to pack up and come home.

Now i have to taste for welsh winter i find myself wanting to be back there right now as i write but unfortanatly family come first.

until next time....

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Matterhorn in a weekend hit

I had planned a day at Winspit with a couple of friends for a fun days climbing, I didn’t expect to have another alpine trip planned this year by the end of the day.
We were climbing on quarryman’s wall, at the time I think Phil had just cruised up “Ancient trail of the freemarblers” which I thought was pretty impressive has it’s a sustained 7a and he made easy work of it, I was chatting to kieron while belaying him, All of a sudden Kieron mentioned that him and Phil were planning a weekend hit on the Hornli ridge on the Matterhorn, Straight away I was like “ WOW I want to come” I didn’t really think has to what I was actually letting myself in for. The Matterhorn is a hard mountain to climb at the best of times but to try it in a weekend trip…with no acclimatising…is just ludicrous.
I knew that Phil and his dad had attempted to route earlier in the year when I was climbing in chamonix, we bumped into each other at the local crag “ Les Galliards” he had told me how they had to turn back due to severe weather. He had come to Chamonix to meet up with another guy to attempt the frendo spur, but that’s another story. Although Its good one.
Anyway we spent the rest of the day at winspit talking about how we were going to try and pull this off. I also had in the back of my mind on how I was going to explain to my beautiful wife at home that I was off on another one of my adventures.
Kieron planned to put some sort of plan together then send me all the info via email so we said our goodbyes and off we all set home.
Driving home I was actually feeling quite nervous and thinking of ways that I could make this trip sound really interesting to the wife so she would not mind me going, I am going anyway but will be better if she’s happy that I am.
Later that night me and Sarah were sorting things out in the dining room at home, I pulled her into me and said look at that picture up there? What do think…Beautiful isn’t it. Its just a mountain she said. Anyway I explained how I had wanted to climb the matterhorn since I was a little boy and I had first watched the Walt Disney film “The third man on the mountain” and also explained on how an opportunity had come up for me to attempt it, I told her that I would only be away for a weekend and some how managed to pull it off.
Over the next few months we had put a plan together and manage to find another climber crazy enough to take this challenge on with us. His name was matt, I knew him from my local climbing wall. we had never climbed together before but I knew he had done some amount of climbing in the alps before and he was pretty competent at moving on rock.
Our plan was to fly to Geneva on Thursday October 1st late afternoon, then drive to Tasch, then start our climb up to the Solvay Hut on the Friday and summit and back down Saturday, Fly home Sunday…..That was the plan anyway.
The Weeks passed and the time finally came. I arranged to pick Matt up in Guilford on the way to Gatwick, Phil and Kieron were getting the train from Portsmouth and we were meeting them there. We arrived at the Airport and all met up. For some reason I was getting picked on by the airport security and managed to get searched at every checkpoint. Other than this, having to re-arranged the bags as I was 20kg over weight and nearly missing the flight due to a BLT sandwich the flight went pretty well.
We arrived in Geneva and so did all of our equipment so things were good, we Picked up our hire car and started to make our way towards Tasch. We arrived there at around 00.30 Friday morning and pitched the tents, weather was good and it was a pretty warm night so we didn’t bother with the outer sheets.
We woke at 0600 and dragged ourselves out of our sleeping bags, I had slept pretty well and felt really good and ready for our climb. Matt was pretty cold has he had only brought is lightweight bag. We packed our tents up and got all our kit ready and set off, We parked the car at the train station and got the train into Zermatt, I was quite excited has I had never seen the matterhorn before other than in pictures and from far away in chamonix. We came round a corner and there she was, She was beautiful, Not the highest mountain in the world or the hardest to climb but def the Prettiest.
We arrived in Zermatt and made our way to the supermarket. It was a big step in deciding what food to take and also on trying to get has much water in the pack has we could. Once all stocked up we made our way across town to cable car, I was trying not to think about altitude sickness but it kept creeping back into my mind, I am normally really good with it and it doesn’t normally take me to long to acclimatise but then again I don’t normally come straight from the UK and go to 4000metres all in one day.
We got in the cable car and made our way up to 2785metres, we sorted ourselves, had a quick toilet stop then started our way up to the Hornli hut, the path was well mapped out and was pretty easy, there were a few sections that were covered in ice and snow but they were protected with a safety cable in place to hold onto, it didn’t stop me ending up on my arse a few times. We made it to the hornli hut well within guide book time but it was bloody hard work and I was starting to realise I wasn’t actually has fit has I thought I was. We had a rest for about twenty minutes at the hornli hut taking a few photos and discussing the route ahead, during this time quite a few Hikers were arriving and also two other climbers and French guy and his girlfriend, we had a little chat and found out that they too were attempting the same route as us. We set off before them and made our way to the first rock band. This was fixed with a line, the climbing without this would have been no harder that severe but it was nice to have a rope in place to pull on.

The route finding itself was pretty hard and the rock was very loose, If you could imagine a top out at boulder ruckle then times it by ten you would start to get close to how loose this rock really is.
We steadily made our way up the route scrambling in sections then climbing in others, the route tends to keep zig zagging onto the east face then back out onto the ridge, Every now and again you would pop right up onto the ridge and get a glimpse of the 1000metre north face, It was amazing and so big, But by heck it was cold, I have so much respect for the guys that do the routes on that face, I was getting cold just standing on the ridge for a few minutes but can you imagine what these guys go through belaying and even worse bivying on that face, but this didn’t stop me thinking I was going do a route on this face one day.
After a long tiring climb up we eventually made it to the Solvay hut, I was very relieved has by this time I was feeling pretty tired, I was quite glad when the others said they were tired has well.
The salvoy hut was tiny and we were hoping that we were going to be able to find a bed in there, luckily the only other climbers in the hut were our French friends from earlier in the day, I didn’t mess around two much, I quickly grabbed some food, took a few photos then hopped up into bed. I think the time was around 17.00, so we had been way ahead of time all day.
The night ahead was probably the worst night I have ever spent on a mountain, I didn’t get any sleep and my head felt like someone was drilling nails into me, I was sharing with Matt and he didn’t seem to get much sleep either, I was busting for a pee most of the night but was worried on how I was going to get out of the bunk, It must have been at least a 6a+ to down climb from that thing. Eventually I could hold it any longer so decided to go for it, I didn’t bother climbing I just went straight in for the bed base jump, Weather was looking pretty clear outside and it was very cold, I didn’t spend long outside the hut, I climbed back into bed and finally managed to get a couple of hours sleep, We woke at 6 and got up, we got our gear ready, we planned on leaving a fair bit behind and only taking what we needed, we had to melt a little snow has we were all pretty low on water.

We set of for the summit attempt around 0700, We went straight into the climbing, there was no gradual walk in, the minute you step out of the hut you are at the base of the towering rock wall, Phil took the lead, we were making decisions on certain sections whether or not we would rope up or just solo it, Overall we pretty much soloed the whole route, this was dangerous but it did also save us a lot of time.

The route started to get a little more serious due to snow and ice so we decided to put our crampons on. At this point the two French climbers had caught us up, they too decided it was time to put there crampons on, they were moving pretty quick so we decided to let them go in front and lead the way.
The climbing started to get a lot steeper and harder, If there wasn’t any fixed lines in place then this would be very hard, It was very tough on the arms pulling yourself up the rock face. I was feeling pretty tired now and was hoping that the summit was near, Kieron was having trouble with his hands getting very cold.
We carried on up the rock face following on being Phil, he kept saying “we are nearly there” I thought to myself he’s bloody been saying that for ages, eventually we reached the summit slope and I could see the top, this wasn’t to steep but did require the use of your axe, I started to get the feeling of success now and you was feeling pretty cool with the tourist helicopter hovering around with people taking photos of you .
I had done it, I was on the summit of the Matterhorn, I wasn’t thinking that we still had to get down.

After taking a few photos and congratulating each other we started to descend back down the snow slope, by this time two more climber were coming up to the summit. We waited for them to get to the top before heading down has the snow was pretty soft and kept falling and rolling down the face. Down climbing this slope was very hard and dangerous, the snow was just braking away from under your feet causing me to slide, We made steady progress, half way down the slope I looked down and to my horror noticed my crampon was hanging off and only attached to me with the strap to my ankle. Shit how am I going to get out of this one, I punched my axe into the face and made sure it was secure, then manage (don’t ask how) to hold on with one hand and use the other to put my crampon back on, phew that was a close one. We carried on down to the rock sections where we used a number of abseils to make our way back down to the hut, when we got back to the hut I was pretty tired and I remember looking down the ridge to the cable car thinking Christ that’s a long way, it was 1300 now and the last lift down to Zermatt was at 1645, We had said that if we miss the lift we would be real heroes and make the extra 3hour walk down to Zermatt.
We collected our extra gear from the hut and pushed on down to the hornli hut, we down climb most of the route unroped and when it did get a little tricky we used abseils, quite a lot of the time you had to dodge and prey that you wasn’t hit by any of the falling rocks whilst climbing. The route finding on the way down was also much harder that on the way up, the climbing wasn’t to hard but it was just so loose, I remember thinking to myself that this mountain looks so pretty from far away but when you are on it all it is a big pile of rubble.
The time was around 1600 and we were still at least an hour away from the hornli hut, I was just hoping that it wouldn’t get dark before we got there, I knew the walk out from the hut was pretty straight forward so I didn’t mind doing that in the dark. By this time I had also used up the last of my water and was starting to become very dehydrated. We eventually made it down to the hornli hut at around 6ish, we had a rest and discussed what we were going to do for the night, we all decided that we wanted to push on and get down, especially knowing that we had to leave for the airport at ten the following morning. There were a few more climbers at the hut that were planning to do the route the following day, I asked them on the off chance that one of them might know if there was an outside tap anywhere, and there wasn’t.
We pushed on down towards the cable car all hoping that there was a toilet open or an outside tap so we could get some water, It was pitch black now and the descent had become a little harder the ice was frozen solid and the path was very slippery, I somehow managed to scrape my way back to the cable car station, Matt was with me, Phil and Kieran had fallen behind a bit, when they arrive Phil announced that they were going to bivi at the station for the night has keiron had twisted is ankle, I didn’t really think about this has I was pretty desperate for some water at this time, we searched everywhere, and there was nothing, then we walked over to the control room and to our amazement it was open and would you believe it “ a 1 litre bottle of water on the table” it felt like winning the lottery. Phil looks around and noticed a big container full of liquid under the counter, we wasn’t sure what it was so I left it down to Phil to have a taster, luckily it was water. We decided to sleep in the lift control room, it was like a 5 star hotel, it was so warm that I slept on top of my sleeping bag. We had to make sure we were up before the lift operator arrived in the morning to find us all asleep in his hut. I slept great that night and didn’t wake up once. We woke in the morning and cleared all our stuff, we made sure that the hut looked the same has it did before we went in there, we waited for around an hour and half for the first lift to come up. It was so nice to step onto that lift and make our way back down towards the valley. I’m pretty sure the lift operator knew we had kipped in his hut though, think it might have had something to do with the smell and all the condensation on the inside of the windows.
We arrive back down to the valley and had no time to waste so we jumped on the train and made our way back to Tacsh for a quick shower before setting off for the airport.
We made the flight in time and all congratulated each other on a great trip.

If anyone wants to attempt this mountain then I highly recommend that you do it when its not busy, I know for certain that I wouldn’t want to be on that route on a busy day.


Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hedbury Sport

I started the day today feeling very tired and thinking that I was going to have a complete nightmare on the easiest of routes. I arrived at the Langton House carpark to find two of my Friends there, They had spent the night there and were planning a days climbing at guilimot ledge. I haven't climbed there before so I couldnt comment much about the place. After chatting a short while Phil and His dad arrived so I said my goodbyes, Got Alisha ready, got the rucksacks out of the van and off we went. Phil took us a different route into the crag today and i am glad he did because it is a bloody damn sight easier than the route i have been travelling the last few years, Even Alisha wasn't complaining. We arrived at the crag and i was quite surprised as we were the only ones there, Hedbury has a habit of attracting the big crowds due to the easier beginner routes at the far end of the crag. After finding a nice spot we slumped our bags down and chilled for a little, Phil was off looking at some seriously hard routes whilst I was just thinking oh god here we go. We decided to warm up on an easy 5+ called "Goddam Sexual Tyrannosaurus". A pretty easy route that we both seemed to fly up with ease, When I got to the top I shouted down to Keiron to see if he wanted to lead the route or if he wanted me to set up a top rope,He asked for a top rope so I set it up then lowered down the route. Keiron tied in and set of up the route, He managed the route with ease and I think he could have lead it quite easily.

Next we decided to Try the 6a+ to the right of us called "Ammonitemare", The guide book read,"sustained, technical and hard for the grade".Phil cruised up the route making it look pretty easy, all that was left now was for me to cock it all up . Once I got on the route I didn't feel any hard moves through the whole route, I actually really enjoyed it and felt I was starting to flow a little, I didn't feel as tired anymore and was looking forward to trying something a little harder.
We moved along the crag, we looked at another 6a+ then the 6b. In the end we decided to try the 6c called " Hangs like a dead man". I was a little nervy has 6c is right on my climbing ability. I belayed Phil has he worked his way up the route making it look easy, He reached the top without a tiny bit of sweat anywhere on his body,I lowered him down to the ground and he untied from the rope. It was now my turn...Phil kept telling me how easy the route was and that he was sure I would be ok but I wasn't to sure, The route itself didn't look to bad, most of it was my style of climbing but there was just one little section that i wasn't to sure about "TINY CRIMPS" on a overhang.I chalked up and set off up the route, I felt pretty good on the first section, I clipped the second bolt and down climbed a little to a no hands rest, after feeling good i set off knowing that the crimps were close by, I crimped the first hold with my right hand then the left,slowly brought my feet up and then a little slap to the next set of crimps, my left leg was a little shaky at this time, i wasn't quite sure why because i was right on the quickdraw, maybe it was the adrenaline or something like that. Anyway I pulled up and bang,managed to latch the big side pull, I quickly moved up the route to the big flake at the top of the crack, After hanging around a little trying to shake the strain off in my arms I set off, this section was hard for the feet,I had fell off here a little earlier in the day and i was a little nervous, I just relaxed and started to climb, i managed to get my feet sorted and move on up past the corner, I had done it...the last section of the route was covered in big jugs so i knew i was home dry, i climbed up and clipped the two bolts, then left off a shout of first 6c and clean. Phil told me i had to take a victory jump, still excited i didn't think a just took the lob, I didn't fall that far but it was still fun, Phil lowered my down the route where i untied with a big smile on my face. I thanked Phil.

A few more routes were climbed through the day Phil and keiron including "Jumping the gun"6b . Also Alisha managed to climb the grade 1 "Very Ordinary route". Phil also had a little play on a 7c which looked nails.

Overall today was a great day and Hopefully th start of some harder routes for me.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A Tiny Alpine Epic

During the Alpine Raid trip myself, Julian and Nick decided to attempt the midi plan traverse. We managed to book ourselves into the cosmiques hut for the night so we could get an early start the following morning.

Once all packed and ready to go we left the camp site in Chamonix to catch the last cable car up to the midi station. There were not many people on the lift as most people were coming down at this point. The weather wasn't looking to good and it wasn't long before we were in complete whiteout conditions with the cable car blowing all over the place. We finally arrived at the midi station where is was now very cold with lots of fresh snow being blown around. At this point I was a little concerned as I knew how bad the Auguille de Midi ridge could be with fresh snow sitting on top.

After little discussion we decided to just go for it as we knew the journey around to the Hut wasn't that far and would only take around an hour. after getting ourselves geared up we made our way out of the ice tunnel into the unknown.

We decided that Nick Should lead because he was the lightest and if for some reason the ground was unstable and he did fall we would be able to hold him.
Descending this ridge is bad on a good day but we were finding it quite hard today, We were in complete whiteout and the snow was very powdery causing our crampons to not bite as well as they should do, I also had a problem with my Glasses steaming up but I was unable to take them off due to all the spindrift flying around. Around halfway down the Ridge All of a sudden I heard a loud cracking noise, My first thoughts were that the ridge was collapsing and I was about to be taken down the mountain in an avalanche, I stood still waiting for it, and nothing, I looked down at Nick in front of me and noticed he was crouching down, I could still here the cracking noise and it seemed to be coming from his direction, I walked down to him and noticed to my amazement that he was getting some sort of charge through the ridge and up through his ice axe and the cracking noise was him, He couldn't let go of his axe and seemed to be shaking a little, finally he managed to let go of his ice axe then "bang" a loud roar of thunder and lightning. he turned towards us and shouted"Run". I didn't need asking twice and started to run,scrape and drag myself back up the ridge, I could barely breathe and the altitude was killing me, I was pulling on the rope from Julian to get him to pull me a little but he was just as out of breath has me, I stopped for a matter of seconds to catch a breath, then nick was shouting behind me"don't stop..just run", eventually we made it back up to the top of the midi station and into the snow cave. after getting our breath back we were quite shocked at what had just happened, We decided that maybe we should'nt head round to the hut and maybe we should wait until the morning. We have been back up since and managed to do our intended climb, we have also given Nick a new nickname of "Buzz".

A message to all " stay off the ridges in a thunder storm"

Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are
naught without prudence, and that a momentary negliance may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; Look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end