Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas..

With winter approaching fast I am psyched to get out and climb some mixed/ice routes, I have no plans in place yet other than a late alpine trip in April but theres still plenty of time to squeeze in a late ice trip somewhere. I am also at the ready should north wales slide into condition over the winter period, For a long time now Ive wanted to climb the devils appendix in ogwen so fingers crossed this year could be the one. Over the past weeks I have put in allot of effort training on the tools, Day after day doing sessions at my home training wall, Ive also started using a 10kg weight vest in the hope this will also help me improve, I defiantly feel allot stronger now and my stamina as seemed to improve to. Ive recently been working on a new project with Rob Gibson, The line is now fully equip so only needs to be climbed, however this is going to be the difficult part, the first pitch isn't too bad and probably only around M7, but pitch two is a horizontal roof probably in the region of M10+, I'm psyched to keep training though and hopefully climb this some time soon. I was out this weekend in the caves at winspit doing a little training, I also took my Friend for his first play and the tools, we had a good day and I'm sure he now as the bug. I jumped on Smackdown whilst there and managed to repeat it, I could definitely notice the improvement in my strength and stamina.

Lets hope 2014 brings lots of new routes, great climbing and adventures and many good memory's, I guess all that's left to say is I wish all my Friends and family a wonderful Christmas and all the best for 2014

Frank the dog

Repeating "Smackdown"

Perfect winters day

Dan getting to grips on "smackdown"

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Last weekend see some of the top mixed climbers all get together and produce what was to be a memorable weekend at its best..
This was the first time i had visited the Annual Whitegoods drytooling meet, the meet is put together for the crazy few that love to climb steep rock climbing on tools, the venue being white goods in North Wales, the event was sponsored by Alpkit, DMM and Eclimb. the weekend involved lots of climbing, laughs, good times and a lot of inspiration.
I travelled up with Scott, Dan & Rob, It was really good to have Rob out again and see him back on the tools, Rob being someone that I admire in climbing. he had also put up most of the routes at the crag. we spent two days climbing, i didn't climb anything harder than M7 but was pretty happy on how I felt on the tools. 
Ramon Marin managed to put up a first ascent at the crag called "Careful Torque", this was pretty impressive to watch and the line was given a grade of M11.
Rob Gibson also managed to repeat his hard testpiece "The finnish Route" M10, this was pretty amazing especially as this was his warm up route.
The weekend also had a really good slide show and inspiring talk given by Scottish winter climber Simon Yeasley, it was an awesome presentation inspiring people to look for new routes and lines rather than continually climbing routes that have been climbed. It certainly inspired me..
The weekend has push the psyche up and made me step up my training, this weekend I'm heading out with rob to hopefully find a new line..
Big Thanks go out to Dave Garry, Ramon Marin and the team for putting the weekend together, was pretty dam amazing and already looking forward to next year...

Ramon on the first Ascent of "Careful Torque" M11

Sometimes drytooling can be tiring..

Scott Swalling on "Left wall" M5

Me on "Subculture" M7

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Snakes & Ladders

Adventure is inside us all, some people choose to ignore it or don’t even realise they have it, its there lurking in us all, then every now and again they discover it, then not long after they soon realise that its an amazing place to visit. With me my mind is constantly on an adventure, Even the days I’m at home or sat in the office my mind is constantly dreaming up the next trip, can that route be climbed, can I climb it, is that mountain possible, what if? These are the questions that run through my head daily but sometimes dreams and thoughts are all they can be. Most of the time big adventure comes with a big price, trips to big mountains need the time, cost lots of money and needs lots of resources so it can be difficult to live out every dream you have. But not all adventures have to be cost thousands, Just a few weeks ago I was in North Wales on a climbing trip and due to bad weather we were at a loose end, I had in the past heard of an adventurous day out called “Snakes & Ladders”. This was an adventure that somebody went on in the slate quarry’s of Dinorwig some time ago and left a story and route description so others could follow there journey. The route consist of Caves, Rusty ladders, old chains and it makes its way into unknown areas throughout the mountain quarry. With Bad rain and heavy winds what perfect adventure to take on. We searched the Internet and found the topo, took some copies and decided to set of, we travelled with only the minimum essentials, waterproofs, harnesses, a few slings, belay plate, 50m rope and the urge to run the route and get out alive before nightfall. The guide recommends 5hrs to complete the full adventure. With conditions the way they were we needed to move fast and be quicker than that. We set off from the car, we decided to run the areas we could to speed the time up, the wind and rain was battering us both and after a few minutes we were both pretty soaked, this wasn’t going to stop us though, we pushed on before arriving at a large cave, we pushed through and out the other side, we seemed to be in a hole in the ground, there was a chain on the vertical rock face leading to opening halfway up the wall, the first Obstacle, this looked interesting, especially as water was running down the blank face, we climbed the chain for around 20 metres, this being difficult not having and traction from our feet on the wall, we eventually arrived at the cave, we pushed on through before coming to an abseil point. Before abseiling we checked on the description to ensure we were on the right track and what we needed to look for next. We needed to be 100% sure on where we were heading, up in the mountains and not having rescue equipment the a mistake of entering the wrong hole or cave could be non escapable and fatal. We needed to abseil the line then look for a tiny hole in the rock in which we needed to enter. We searched for what seemed an eternity for that hole, with the wind and rain battering us adventure was sinking, we were both getting cold and the thought of retreat seemed pleasant. But no! we wasn’t giving up that easy so continued to search, after around 45 minutes we eventually found something, we were both unsure though as the entrance was small, it was also very dark so we were concerned that maybe we were dropping into a bottomless void, the gap was barely big enough to fit through, we decided to look though, we squeezed through before dropping to the bottom, it was dark. So dark that although not showing I was scared I was, I guess I was worried that if there was a hole along the path we would fall. All we could see a long way a way was a tiny light. The end of the tunnel. We didn’t have head torches as we wanted an adventure. We made our way along the tunnel, my hands on Phil’s back, one step in front of the other slowly checking for firm ground to stand on as we moved closer to the light. We eventual made it to end and the beat of my heart slowed again. The next section looked dangerous and very unstable, we needed to climb the steep slate scree slope to a flat ledge half way up the mountain, climbing this was tough, with every two steps forward you would slide one back, we were crossing big slate boulders and thoughts were running through my head that this could avalanche at any time, at one point a rock I used to pull on dislodged and I fell back, luckily grabbing another, I gasped loudly, that was close, a realisation check on how things can go so wrong so quick, I thought for a few seconds on the reality of what had just happened and then continued up until arriving at the ledge and the section of ladders. The next section was a large rock face with a sequence of ledges up the face, there were ladders running up each face to the ledges, we both looked at each other and laughed, the words that were said to each other can’t be said here but you get the idea. The ladders were rusty, broken, hanging away from the wall, rungs missing and pretty much as old as they looked. We weren’t roped up and decided to go one at a time, Phil being the lightest I made him go first. These ladders are hard and scary to climb at the best of times but with the rain and strong winds it was a test. I could feel the ladders swaying in the wind, creaking with every step, then when the wind blew harder id stop and wait. I will be honest. I was scared; if the ladder broke or fell it would have been the end. Every now again I would hear Phil giggle and I guess he could here me doing the same, we both knew this was not a giggle of happiness, more of a scared shitless giggle and adrenaline. We eventually made it to the top to my relief and found some shelter. We took a little break to eat and read the next part of the adventure. The weather was getting worse, you could see the wind blowing the heavy rain around the mountain, the sky was just black, no outline of cloud or a hint of improvement, we need to push on. We had a little walk/run now to get to the next obstacle, the description was for a large hole described as the centre of the earth, at the bottom of this lay two caves, we needed to find them. We pushed on and eventually found the hole, it was huge and very deep, the only way into it was to abseil. I remember thinking if this is the wrong hole there is no way we are getting out of here, what if there is no cave at the bottom, we would be stuck. No phone reception and the only way out would be to climb featureless slate in the rain. After two 50m abseils we arrived at section of loose ladders that lead deeper down the hole, the ladder was only attached to the wall by a piece of old rope, I still couldn’t see the caves but wanted to continue, I headed down a number of ladders before arriving at the bottom, I looked around and could see a number of crystal clear pools of water, I scouted about before eventually seeing the entrance to the two small caves. I shouted up to Phil to come down. We were on route. We pushed through the cave into a void, as if we were on another planet, complete silence and sense of loneliness, I could see another section of ladders in the far corner leading upwards, this being the only way we pushed on. We climbed the ladders and eventually arrived at the top. We were safe. There was another section to complete which involved crossing an old railway line where the floor had gone, with the wind and rain bad we decided to walk around. Just over two and half hours of an amazing adventure and we were back on the footpath which lead back to the car. Of all the mountains I’ve climbed, adventures, epics I’ve been on this is up there with the best of them, the route gives adventure, team work and a sense of unknown. I’m not sure how much longer the ladders will last but I Hope I one day get to experience this again.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

A Different Game

With weather not great and feeling pretty psyched to train and climb I decided to head out on the tools today. I headed to my training cave at winspit, although not a 3 star area it does give a good training cave away from the sport climbing and any possible rival problems, id put up a route here last year called "Smackdown" so wanted to head back down and have a play. I warmed up and felt pretty strong, i looked at a possible link up of the warm up line into the original smackdown, after a couple of goes i was happy to link it and make the tick, I think the grade still gets around M7 but the climbing goes on for allot longer.
I finished up warming down and watching the weather batter the south coast, the walk back to the car was going to be wet. I decided to go and look at Rob Gibsons " A different Game". Graded at M10 and not having a second ascent yet i was keen to have a look. I had been on the route a few years back with Scott Swalling and to be honest it felt pretty desperate for both of us. but psyched and wanting to push it i wasn't going to let that stop me.
The line takes the roof of a cave in the south western quarry, its around 12 metres long and apart from the starting pillar is completely horizontal until the finish, with the roof not being that high its not possible to lead it, it needs to be climbed by putting a fixed line in place then using a lanyard for protection.
I had a good look at the route and its seems very loose and dirty, i spent around an hour on cleaning the first section and plan on heading down again and cleaning it up, once clean I'm pretty psyched to spend some time trying to work the route and get that tick.

I've been climbing at Winspit now for over 10 years and i was quite shocked to see the amount of rubbish lying around, so please if you do read this and love climbing and the area as much as I do then take your rubbish home. I may even consider taking some black bags down and personally cleaning the area up.

Stormy weather on the south Coast


Sunday, 20 October 2013

North Wales Climbing

With some spare time and in much need of a break I headed to North wales for a weeks climbing with Phil, we both had a pretty big ticklist so we were hoping the weather would be on our side. we headed on up early sunday morning driving most of the way in heavy rain, we arrived at 1pm and eager to climb headed straight to the pass, we jumped straight on the cromlech boulders and ticked some of the easier problems upto V4, we had a little play on a tough V8 and also looked at the Famous Jerry's roof V9 problem. after sometime of battling out we decided to head up to Dinas mot and run up diagonal, we headed up and I took the lead on the frst pitch, I arrived at the belay and the heavens opened, Phil followed on up and due to rain continuing we decided to descend the route.
Things didn't improve much for the next few days so the rest of the week was spent climbing on the slate, this being my first time on the slate it was quite an experience, it wasn't long before I realised Handholds were small and feet were not existent but after some time and a few shin whacks I started to get the hang of things, despite the weather we managed to get allot of routes ticked.
With there being a big storm on one of the days we even took on the famous HVS snakes & Ladders, the guidebook time for this is around 4-5hrs, myself and Phil solo run the route and manged to complete in 2hrs flat, of all the mountains, routes and adventures Ive had this is defiantly up there with the best of them, basically its a adventure of climbing chains, ladders, travelling through tunnels and abseiling into unknown large holes, (I would recommend this to anyone wanting some fun, and if experienced makes it a whole lot more fun in the rain.

We also managed to visit paressellars cave and try out some of the toughest boulder problems around, this place is not for the weak and it certainly shows you how weak and helpless you are, even the V7 routes here are allot tougher than back home, Both myself and Phil walked away hurting and a crushed ego.

even though the weather wasn't the best we still managed a good week away, Come to realise that when teamed up with Phil we always seem to get things climbed, hopefully I can persuade him to come back to the alps and attempt some of them harder lines...

The Cave

Monday, 23 September 2013

Lightning Strikes

A good days bouldering today with Phil & Drew down at the cuttings, after climbing a fairly easy new line set by Ben stokes we headed to try Drew's project "Lightning Strikes" he came come close to sending it today but a picked up a slight finger injury so decided to call it, Phil had an awesome day sending Lightning Strikes V7, Relativity V6 and coming close to ticking the boulderfeilds classic Liqaud Sunshine, I can close to Relativity and had a little play on LS but didn't manage to get it, Il be back next weekend though for another play, a little more training and hopefully il get it ticked..

Drew on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Drew on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Phil on "Lightning Strikes" V7

Me on "relativity" V6

Phil Belcher


Saturday, 21 September 2013

Lessons learnt

After a few months planning and hard training the Zmutt Matterhorn attempt was on this weekend, conditions seemed OK and fitness and morale of the team was good. It was an early start leaving Bournemouth at 2am on Thursday to get to Gatwick for the early flight to Geneva. I was going to meet my partner Matt for this climb there, we had spoken on the phone a few times and both had knowledge of each others abilities in the mountains but this was the first time we had met face to face. The flight over was good and we got to know about each others backgrounds a little. We arrived in Geneva safely and picked up the hire car, this being a tiny VW UP, not my ideal selection but good enough to carry out the task in hand, we made the 3hr drive to Tasch where we would set up camp for the weekend, on the drive in we received some info from a friend warning us of a snow storm coming in late Saturday, this was a big problem to us and needed to be thought about carefully, we talked about the possible other routes in the area, or even making a earlier attempt than first planned, we decided to continue and head into Zermatt to check the forecast and speak to the guides to check there thoughts on it and if things would improve. Both the weather charts and guides info concluded that we either needed to have a death wish or be insanely luckily to pull off an ascent of the ridge. We talked over a beer and looked through the guidebook, we contacted the Hornli hut to see what things were like on the mountain and there response was also that it can’t be climbed like this. After looking through the guidebook we decided to head up to the Breithorn and attempt the full ridge traverse of the mountain, this is only graded at AD but is quite long and made harder by no acclimatisation before hand.. We continued drinking and decided to head up first thing on the Friday morning. We set off from the Klein Matterhorn and made our way across the glacier to the base of the Roccia Nera face, we pushed up its slopes moving fairly quickly, all very straight forward and with the amount of snow we didn’t even need any front pointing, before long we reached the summit ridge which was pretty corniced up, we followed some older snow tracks and eventually reached the summit of Roccia Nera, after a few photos and refuel of food and drink we decided to push on and try make the full traverse, after a sustained snow arĂȘte we arrived at rock pinnacle, short sections of climbing see us reach its summit and the 2nd of the 4000 m summits, we pushed on, to get off the summit and on the ridge the other side required a couple of 20-25 metre abseils, after the second abseil the rope got jammed, after a long time trying the free it up we decided to cut the rope, we could have jumared back up the rope to sort it out but time was fading and we were both tired from altitude sickness. We also new we had a spare so we could tie into this, We continued across a very tricky section with big exposure, Matt started to take a turn for the worse feeling very unwell and struggling to see properly, is vision was blurring and he was experiencing allot of dizziness , we pushed on across the snow arĂȘte for a while longer before looking for an escape route, the slopes below were very steep and very crevassed, a fall into one would have been near impossible for the second to hold on and would have most certainly been the end,by this time Matt was feeling worse, I was also starting to feel unwell, with time fading and darkness approaching fast we made the decision to call Mountain rescue, this was a last option but we didn’t have any bivy gear and with a storm approaching our chances of survival were slim.. After around an hour we could see the chopper scouting the mountain, we made the signal and they moved in, they managed to lift us up one at a time on a cable, when the rescue chopper was above it was freezing the wind in which it generated was incredible, once in the chopper I seemed to take a turn for the worse, my head stared to feel like it was going to explode and lost and real knowledge of what was going on, I only remember few short sections of the rescue team checking my pressures and levels, they informed me I needed to go to hospital fast, we flew to Aosta in Italy, to be honest I didn't really remember much of it,it all happened pretty fast, we landed and they took tests again, by this time Matt seemed to have perked up where as I seemed to have got worse,we exited the chopper and I was advised to go to hospital. After a good few hours of tests, heart monitoring and a brain scan they decided I could leave. The problem was we now had a big problem on our hands, we were in Italy and our passports were safely in our car in Switzerland, after speaking to our insurance companies we were advised to make a trip to the embassy in Milan, however this wasn't open until Monday and would cost a fortune to have it open Sunday for us, we decided to try and chance it and persuaded a cab to take us back to Zermatt, 350 euros later we were back at our tent. We woke the next day and both felt fine, with a short weather window we decided to head up again and finish the rest of the traverse, other than slight headache we made good progress and completed the climb in good timing, the weather did then as predicted turn bad. With the weather bad Sunday we headed to a local rock area with a large overhanging wall, we spent most of the day working and making up new boulder problems..

Ive learnt allot this trip and how things can go from being good to bad in no time at all, There were mistakes made, lessons learnt but if the mountains were easy and didn't produce challenges for us we wouldn't want to climb them, other than this it was a good trip and we managed to get things climbed, Ive made a new friend and partner and we seem to climb well together, now to the drawing board to start planning the next trip...

Breithorn Travers

Climbers below on Glacier

Matt On the Summit of Breithorn

Me On the Summit of Breithorn

Matt On the Summit of Breithorn

On the Summit of Breithorn

Traversing the ridge

Much Needed Drink

Base Camp

Rest Day

Rest Day

High altitude tents not so good in the rain

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