Misadventures in a C1

Boldly going where no Citroën C1has gone before. Photo - Calum Muskett

Boldly going where no Citroën C1has gone before. Photo – Calum Muskett

One thousand miles of driving in a Citroen C1 is enough to leave anybody’s ears ringing. With an engine that sounds like it has several bee hives powering it and absolutely no air conditioning, the car is made more for fuel efficiency than comfort. Despite its compact size, and various other inconveniences, this car was to be our base for the forthcoming five weeks whilst we travelled to some of the best alpine climbing areas Europe has to offer.

For the first part of the road trip I’d be travelling with Welsh ex-pat Wiz Fineron. Wiz and I went to the same school together when we were both in our early teens before Wiz moved out to New Zealand aged thirteen. In the intervening six years Wiz has gone from strength to strength climbing 8c+ routes and 8B boulder problems with seemingly little effort. He’s currently travelling the world, living, in his own words, the ‘dirtbag’ climbing lifestyle, and whilst he was in Europe it seemed like a good opportunity to hook up for a road trip.

Having travelled and climbed in many of the more popular alpine areas over the previous five summers I felt that this year it would be nice to expand my repertoire and visit some new places. The Ratikön held our primary objective for the trip and after a short stop in France we headed across Switzerland and up into the mountains. It was night time when we made our final approach to the Ratikön and neither of our guidebooks made the slightest mention of the road that would lead us to our base camp. For most people, 7km of driving on a dirt track may sound like fun, a welcome respite after hours on the motorway, but in my Citroen C1 – the Corgi of the car world, I began to shudder at every bump or rock that I saw. After 6.5km of driving and only grounding out on several occasions I thought the lion’s share of the driving was behind us; unfortunately that was when we reached the crux.

A short and uneven steepening of the road marked the beginning of our plight and several attempts at upward progress saw the C1 rapidly retreating to the flat area at the farm building. We knocked on the door of the farm and discovered it would cost us 10CHF if we parked here each night. That was the extra spur of motivation we needed. Wiz got out along with a few heavy bags and the throttle went down. The C1 raced its way up the steep gravel track sliding left and right with wheel spin before finally overcoming the steep section and thereafter the parking area. It felt like a miracle that we’d made it up here with an intact car and we knew we wouldn’t be descending for a while!

The Ratikön from the summit of Kirchlispitzen. Photo - Calum Muskett

The Ratikön from the summit of Kirchlispitzen. Photo – Calum Muskett

We had one route on our agenda for the Ratikön, the classic multi-pitch test piece ‘Silbergeier’ which is renowned for its bold and difficult wall climbing. I’d read about Silbergeier in a magazine soon after starting climbing and had of course seen the classic poster of Pietro del Prà standing, one-footed, on a small edge in the middle of an otherwise blank rock face. It seemed like the perfect goal for this trip not only for me but it would also play to Wiz’s strengths as a first big multi pitch route.

The classic poster of Pietro del Pra on an early repeat of Silbergeier

The classic poster of Pietro del Pra on an early repeat of Silbergeier

After a heavy rainfall during the night we awoke to blistering heat and our first views of the Ratikön massif. We had the range to ourselves and after a slow start and a heavy breakfast packed our bags and headed up into the mountains. The climbing in the Ratikön lies on the Swiss side of a knife edge ridge which marks the border between Austria and Switzerland. The final approach up the scree is steep and frustrating until you find a good route and this is followed by a further 200m of scrambling up low angled limestone and grass slopes, all of which provide a good cardio vascular warm up for the first 8b pitch.

Your first attempt at Silbergeier is certainly the most memorable. When none of the holds are chalked up and the bolts look particularly distant it takes some will power to commit to hard climbing – well that, or a younger, stronger and fitter climber to send up first! After Wiz led the first 8b pitch we were all set for one of the ‘easiest’ pitches of the route, a 7c+ which I graciously offered to take the lead of. Unfortunately my plan backfired. Not only was this pitch desperate for the grade, but the bolts were spaced for maximum excitement and on the final moves of the pitch, miles to the side of the last bolt and having climbed myself into a knot, I made a leap for the belay seat hanging just above me!

Wiz seconding the terrifying second pitch. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz seconding the terrifying second pitch. Photo – Calum Muskett


Typical Ratikön conditions on our trip. Photo - Wiz Fineron

Typical Ratikön conditions on our trip. Photo – Wiz Fineron

After another tough pitch, followed by a short, run out 7a+ you finally reach the first comfortable belay where you have room to sit down and stretch out in a weather proof cave. We would be spending a lot of time here over the next week and a half as we waited for the weather to improve. Above us lay the final two pitches: the crux 8b+ which tic tacs its way up on small crimps and underclings followed by a tricky 7c+ which boils down to two powerful moves an inconvenient distance away from the last bolt. The route finishes on the jaggedy summit ridge of the Kirchlispitzen and it’s a great feeling ending at the top of something unlike many modern multi pitch routes. From the summit a series of abseils lead you back down to your bags and thereafter the path.

What can be more stereotypically Swiss than the gonging of Cow bells? It’s a sound I have grown accustomed to over previous visits to Switzerland and I even find there effect quite calming. We’d been camping in the Ratikön for about four days when the herd moved in. The smell of pastures new must indeed be strong to be able to draw an excess of 50 cattle alongside our tents at two in the morning. It was like being camped in the central reservation of a motorway!

With diminished sleep we returned to the route several times over the following week to try pitches and get used to the climbing style. Strong Finnish boulderer Nalle Hukkataival was also trying Silbergeier and was making the climbing look relatively easy after a few attempts. He was also staying in the hut which meant he was up and out considerably earlier than a teenager and myself.

One morning we reached the base of the route to find Nalle trying the crux pitch we’d planned to climb that day. Rather than wasting the day we climbed Hannibals Alptraum, an old school classic which was the pre-cursor to Silbergeier. Despite feeling considerably easier than Silbergeier it had some very chunky climbing thrown in on smooth walls that are desperate to on-sight. The bolts are placed at sporting intervals and the moves to reach them are generally very sketchy! On the final pitch we once again endured a hail and a hasty retreat was made back down having not quite repeated this amazing route.

Attempting the tricky third 8a+ pitch. Photo - Wiz Fineron

Attempting the tricky third 8a+ pitch. Photo – Wiz Fineron

As we tried Silbergeier more I began to realise it would not happen for me on this trip. Although fit enough that I could have red-pointed the individual pitches I was lacking the fitness to free the entire route in a day. It was a real disappointment but I was heartened to know that with a bit of extra fitness I know that Silbergeier is a possibility for the future. For Wiz it was a different story though and we headed back up for him to give the red point a shot.

Conditions were cold and crisp when we arrived at the foot of the climb and Wiz shot up the first 8b pitch without a warm up. Following with cold hands I could barely believe that he could feel his fingers on the small crimps. On the third pitch clouds began to roll upwards and embroil us in thick clag and Wiz had to climb the final few moves in a rain shower. We hid in the cave whilst it bucketed down for over an hour – Wiz sitting Monk like in the haul bag to keep warm, myself shivering but reading a book that I’d thrown in anticipating the change in weather. After a couple of hours the rock was once again dry enough to climb and we continued upwards. The 8b+ pitch was barely dry and Wiz cruised upwards until hit by another fleeting rain shower on the bold final traverse. Unfazed, Wiz gripped harder reaching the next belay and shortly after climbed a very wet final pitch in impressive style. I’ve never seen such a smooth ascent of so difficult a climb in such poor weather!

Wiz red-pointing the third pitch. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz red-pointing the third pitch. Photo – Calum Muskett


Bad weather moving in high on the route. Photo - Calum Muskett

Bad weather moving in high on the route. Photo – Calum Muskett


Wiz keeping warm. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz keeping warm. Photo – Calum Muskett


Wiz atop the Kirchlispitzen. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz atop the Kirchlispitzen. Photo – Calum Muskett

Having spent so long climbing and sleeping in miserably cold and wet weather we wanted a change of scene and felt like Chamonix was the next logical place to visit to end Wiz’s trip on a high. He’d never worn crampons before or walked on a glacier so found the whole experience quite different. It was also a good opportunity for the wily older climber to get his own back and take Wiz on a roof crack when he’d never climbed a jamming crack in his life. Ma Dalton on the South face of the Midi is a classic and rarely repeated route that has a Yosemite style roof crack on one of its pitches. Unfortunately it’s rather difficult and having underestimated its difficulty my poorly made jamming gloves soon slid off my hands and thereafter my hands from the crack. Hyperventilating somewhat I returned to the belay for another go and we continued upwards with slightly less difficulty after the awkward roof crack.

The big roof of Ma Dalton. Photo - Wiz Fineron

The big roof of Ma Dalton. Photo – Wiz Fineron


Wiz seconding another great pitch on Ma Dalton. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz seconding another great pitch on Ma Dalton. Photo – Calum Muskett


Finishing up Cosmiques Arete. Photo - Calum Muskett

Finishing up Cosmiques Arete. Photo – Calum Muskett

Wiz headed bouldering to South Africa the following day to go bouldering, perhaps a wise change of scene considering the continuing terrible forecast. The same day I picked Dan Mcmanus up from the airport – a man who is always up for an adventure and an adventure we soon enough had.

Above Sixt in the Aiguille Rouge is a little known and rarely attempted limestone face called the Paroi d’Anterne on the Fiz. I’d heard rumours of the quality of climbing up here but had yet to meet a climber that had experienced it first hand. On our way to the Ratikön Wiz and I decided we would first hone our skills at multi pitch climbing on the amazing sounding Djinn Fiz, a 15 pitch 7c. Unfortunately we underestimated not only the approach bur also the afternoon thunderstorms and after a few amazing and exceedingly technical pitches we descended before possible electrocution.

I was very impressed by this wall though, which is reminiscent of the South face of the Marmolada in the Dolomites. About a mile in length, it only has six routes ascending its flanks and they are all difficult propositions. Feeling confident after my time sliding off crimps in the Ratikön I sold Dan the idea that we should try the hardest route on the face, ‘Les Yeux dans le Bleu’, a 16 pitch 7c+. This time I didn’t make the same mistakes of underestimating the approach or the weather forecast but unfortunately I made the major blooper of expecting the climbing to be reasonable in difficulty. We hadn’t noticed how sustained the climbing was and despite somehow clinging to the crimps and on-sighting the crux 7c and 7c+ pitches we burnt out big time above as 7b pitch followed 7b. A bold 7a+ pitch was the final straw for me and with elbows above my ears and looking as if I was trying to mantel each hold I finally fell off utterly wasted.

Wiz with the impressive walls of the Fiz in the background. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz with the impressive walls of the Fiz in the background. Photo – Calum Muskett


Wiz on Djinn Fiz. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz on Djinn Fiz. Photo – Calum Muskett

Dan was in a similar state of turmoil and despite putting in so much effort we couldn’t face any more climbing on such tired arms – a rapid descent was made. We both agreed that this was one of the best and most difficult walls we had ever tried and the climbing style really doesn’t lend itself to on-sight climbing. To add insult to injury, when we got back to our bags at the foot of the route, we chased off a couple of Marmots and found that they had been eating our bags! There were gaping holes all over them and much of the padding had been thoroughly chewed.

Dam Mcmanus on 'Les Yeux Dans le Bleu'. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dam Mcmanus on ‘Les Yeux Dans le Bleu’. Photo – Calum Muskett

We returned to Chamonix that evening to do a little comfort eating with friends at a pizzeria near the centre. After an enjoyable meal I thought I’d treat myself to desert and thought I’d ordered myself a cake – when an espresso turned up I nearly cried. That was the low point of the trip.

Back to the high mountains we headed, this time to what I considered to be the safe bet of the Grand Capucin which I’ve climbed five times before. After wading through the recent snowfall to its base Dan realised he’d left his rock boots at the tent and hence another day was lost.

After more dismal weather we decided to give the mountains one last go and approached the south face of Aiguille du Fou. It’s a classic alpine wall that I’d been dreaming of climbing for years. I knew that the approach gully required an early start to ensure all the detritus was frozen in place so Dan and I set off suitably early to facilitate success. After climbing a couple of hundred metres up the gully the sun hit the ridge line above and chunks of ice began showering down upon us. As the chunks got bigger we started to feel like targets at a firing range. Clearly we weren’t early enough and once again retreat was made. We were done with the Alps and its crappy weather and conditions!

When bad weather hits the Alps you are inevitably forced southwards to drier and sunnier climates. The Verdon was our final destination and finally it seemed we had struck lucky. Despite the time of year, conditions were perfect for climbing in the gorge – it was overcast and windy. We also met up with some friends for sociable camp scenes and got thrashed by the locals at table football every evening at the local bar.

Dan and I decided to go for El Topo, an amazing looking 8a big wall in the gorge to the left of the classic chimney line La Demande. After checking out the final few crux pitches we felt well prepared and even quite optimistic about going for a one day free ascent. After a rest day, we awoke to glorious weather and made an early start from the bottom of the gorge. The entire route was in the sun and the forgiving breeze of the previous days had disappeared. To cut a long story short, two gingers, climbing in the sun, in the Verdon, in the middle of summer was a bad idea. After six pitches 6a felt like the living end of difficulty and our feet and hands had were throbbing and swelling with the heat. We abseiled to the ground and made the walk of shame out of the bottom of the gorge, treating ourselves to ice cream to help cheer us up.

Dan climbing the crux pitch of 'El Topo'. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dan climbing the crux pitch of ‘El Topo’. Photo – Calum Muskett


Climbing out of the very bottom of the Verdon Gorge. Photo - Calum Muskett

Climbing out of the very bottom of the Verdon Gorge. Photo – Calum Muskett

Sometimes, weather and conditions just get in the way of climbing, as do high ambitions. After five weeks spent in the Alps and Verdon I could count my list of successful climbs on a single hand. We were on such a losing streak that we expected something to go wrong every time we went climbing and that mentality isn’t useful for making upward progress. On the bright side the C1 had made it through the trip and what’s more I’d only had a single flat tyre. Maybe the weather will be better next summer? Maybe I should just take up bouldering?

A Disrupted Month

Clouds sweeping over the Glyderau. Photo - Calum Muskett

Clouds sweeping over the Glyderau. Photo – Calum Muskett

I’ve only got a couple more days to wait until heading out to the Alps. It seems like a long time ago that I last climbed on warm alpine granite or the water worn high mountain limestone in the European Alps. With the Ratikon, the Dolomites and the Mont Blanc Massif on the hit list for the next few weeks I’m bound to have a good holiday and I’ve got my fingers crossed for some perfect weather!

Jeremey Leong experiencing atmospheric conditions on 'A Dream of White Horses'. Photo Calum Muskett

Jeremey Leong experiencing atmospheric conditions on ‘A Dream of White Horses’. Photo Calum Muskett

My preparation over the last month hasn’t gone entirely to schedule. Having completed quite a lot of really enjoyable guiding and instruction work in North Wales I had a few days free to get out climbing. I was feeling climbing fit and went to Gogarth to have a go at the classic test-piece ‘Extinction’ (E8 6b) on-sight/ground-up. I’d been saving this route for quite a while as I knew I had to be fit for it, but having climbed nearly all the surrounding E5’s and 6’s and still feeling the benefits of a sport trip I decided to give it a bash. Ben Pritchard and Rich Heap came along to film my efforts for a forthcoming BMCtv piece and Dave Evans and Steve Long were kind enough to offer a belay and some support. After a brief warm up it quickly became obvious that conditions were fairly poor so I just hung out in the sun for a good few hours in the hope that conditions would improve. They didn’t and I got sun burnt but I decided to go for it anyway and my efforts were woeful on the hot greasy holds! It turns out that you can’t just shuffle between the ledges on this section of wall and that good conditions are really important for such a steep route that has relatively poor footholds.

I was very keen to return for ‘Extinction’ in better conditions but unfortunately managed to injure my hand quite badly by pulling a rope too hard the following day! I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve done but the injury has improved from struggling to pull a handbrake up in the car to failing on pocketed rock climbs. A combination of Ibuprofen and using elastic bands to stretch my fingers seems to help ameliorate the problem and I’m hoping it’ll sort itself out in the coming weeks.

The worrying wall climb of 'The Haunted' on Craig yr Ysfa. Almost certainly E6 now that the peg is missing below the crux. Photo - Jamie Holding

The worrying wall climb of ‘The Haunted’ on Craig yr Ysfa. Almost certainly E6 now that the peg is missing below the crux. Photo – Jamie Holding


The brilliant 'Freeborn Man' at Swanage. Photo - Gabby Lees

The brilliant ‘Freeborn Man’ at Swanage. Photo – Gabby Lees

Despite this setback I’ve continued to get out climbing and have had some great days out enjoying some of the more amenable routes that I’ve never got round to doing in the past. I’ve had some great days out in the Llanberis Pass, the Carneddau, Ogmore and Dorset. One of the highlights was climbing the outstanding ‘Long Kesh’ on Cyrn Las, which is perhaps the best E5 in the Pass with a mixture of bold, tricky and exposed climbing. I also finally got round to climbing the classic ‘Freeborn Man’ at Swanage which was just as fun as I’d hoped it would be although the choppy seas and general damp weather didn’t inspire much more DWS’ing. Back in the Llanberis Pass Tim Neill inspired me to have a crack at the unrepeated E7 ‘Do or Dai’. After a couple of long falls off the crux I switched tactics and placed a very cheeky side runner which made the route feel considerably easier. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I can claim an ascent of it now!

Gabby Lees enjoying 'Troubled Waters' at Swanage. Photo - Calum Muskett

Gabby Lees enjoying ‘Troubled Waters’ at Swanage. Photo – Calum Muskett


Climbing the unique pillar of 'Dead Presidents' E6 6b, in the Llanberis Pass. Photo - Steve Long

Climbing the unique pillar of ‘Dead Presidents’ E6 6b, in the Llanberis Pass. Photo – Steve Long

I also had a great day out with Pat Littlejohn on the Llŷn Peninsula. Pat knows the Llŷn like the back of his hand and pointed me at a route of his called ‘Overlode’ which awaited a free ascent in the esoteric Gwilwyr quarry above Nefyn. The climbing style was quite unusual on this quarried micro granite and after a bit of a tussle I managed to free the route on my second attempt using an unusual sequence to make headway up the smooth overhanging groove. One of the highlights of the day was discovering that Pat really did make an on-sight first ascent of ‘Alien’ (a rarely on-sighted E6 at Gogarth) in the late 1970’s. It’s worth considering that the crux of this route is made significantly easier by modern cams; Pat’s ascent must surely be one of the most significant pieces of on-sight climbing in Britain at the time.

Making the first free ascent of 'Overlode' E6 6c. Photo - Pat Littlejohn

Making the first free ascent of ‘Overlode’ E6 6c. Photo – Pat Littlejohn

I also had the privilege of carrying the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton when it arrived in North Wales. I carried the baton into the Beacon climbing centre where I was joined by the local climbing academy, the Welsh Minister for Sport and the Mayor of Caernarfon. It was great to see the torch carried by such a diverse range of people over the course of the day and particularly nice to see two non-Commonwealth Games sporting events recognised by the inclusion of the local fell running club taking the baton up Snowdon as well as its visit to the climbing wall.

Carrying the Queen's Commonwealth Baton with Clyde the mascot. Photo - Beacon Climbing LTD

Carrying the Queen’s Commonwealth Baton with Clyde the mascot. Photo – Beacon Climbing LTD

With two days left before my hol I’m going to get some last minute training in, but failing that I’ll be climbing out there with the incredibly strong Wiz Fineron and I’ve just bought 100m of static rope!

Scottish Wanderings

Distant walker on Bla Bheinn, Skye. Photo- Calum Muskett

Distant walker on Bla Bheinn, Skye. Photo- Calum Muskett

One of the great things about working as a freelance outdoor instructor is having the opportunity to travel and work right across the country. It’s true that this isn’t always a benefit of being self-employed, but more often than not, you get to know and work in some really nice areas in the UK that otherwise you might not visit.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been based on and around Skye in North-West Scotland working for a new Joint Services Adventure Training Centre. I was running a mountaineering course and couldn’t have been more fortunate with the venue and the weather. Having both the Cuillin’s and Glen Shiel within a short drive of the centre opened up so many great opportunities for hill walking and the mountains thereabouts are amongst the most spectacular in the country.

Impressive rock architecture on the Old Man of Storr. Photo- Calum Muskett

Impressive rock architecture on the Old Man of Storr. Photo- Calum Muskett


Remnants of a big winter on the Five Sisters of Kintail. Photo- Calum Muskett

Remnants of a big winter on the Five Sisters of Kintail. Photo- Calum Muskett

One of the best days out was going along the Cuillin Ridge from Sgurr na Eag to Sgurr Dearg with some fit Ghurka’s. We had fantastic weather and the more technical sections of the Cuillin such as the TD Gap were really enjoyed by the team as well as the more straightforward but exposed sections of ridgeline. I’ll have to return at some point in the future to complete the full Cuillin traverse but the section we completed was a very nice day excursion of the most technical section.

Camping in Glen Lichd. Photo- Calum Muskett

Camping in Glen Lichd. Photo- Calum Muskett


Looking back along the Cuillin Ridge. Photo- Calum Muskett

Looking back along the Cuillin Ridge. Photo- Calum Muskett

After finishing on Skye I met up with Dave Macleod for a couple of days of climbing. Dave had just finished work on his new bouldering and training wall in his garage which is now the best of its kind in the highlands so he was pretty keen to get out on real rock. Initial plans had been to climb on Skye but we were pushed further West to the Isle of Harris to avoid some wet weather. The last time I’d been on Harris was over ten years ago on a holiday I mainly remember for its rain! This time we only had a couple of days before the drizzle returned but still enough time to check out Creag Mo, a very impressive and underdeveloped mountain crag.

The damp approach to Creag Mo. Photo- Calum Muskett

The damp approach to Creag Mo. Photo- Calum Muskett

Although the approach to the crag isn’t through a swamp it certainly isn’t across dry land and leaving my walking boots behind on Skye was an error that Dave found particularly funny. The first couple of routes I tried to make ground up first ascents of were totally desperate and we soon got our top ropes down the best looking lines up a vertical wall of Gneiss, approximately hard E9 and E7. Both routes were to escape us that trip due to conditions but we did succeed in climbing some utterly fantastic new routes between E3 and 5, doubling the existing number of routes yet these are still only a drop in the ocean on this fantastic cliff. I’d love to return to Harris in the near future to get climbing again but at a 12 hour journey it’s just a little too far to make a shot trip to.

Dave checking out the projects on Creag Mo. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave checking out the projects on Creag Mo. Photo- Calum Muskett

Gorge du Tarn

Springtime in Gorge du Tarn. Photo - Calum Muskett

Springtime in Gorge du Tarn. Photo – Calum Muskett

Gorge du Tarn, in the South of France is one of the most idyllic sport climbing areas in Europe. The gorge has a very relaxed atmosphere and it’s always possible to find shade in amongst the pine trees to escape the mid-day heat. The quantity of big, pocketed limestone walls and towers in the Gorge du Tarn and neighbouring Gorge du Jonte is impressive to say the least and the available rock isn’t grid bolted and polished like many other popular sport climbing areas. Friends had recommended this area to me several times before but I’d always previously opted for trips to northern Spain due to the convenience of flights and car hire. In retrospect I wish I’d done a little bit more research because flights to Rodez airport are cheap and it’s a relatively short journey from there to reach the Gorge du Tarn.

The holiday was a bit of a last minute one following an invitation to join the Neill family (Tim, Lou and Esme) but with seven free days I couldn’t resist a bit of guaranteed sunshine! On our first day we visited the awesome Tennessee sector and started to get used to the long stamina routes, quickly learning that climbing in the mid-day sun was a bad idea. This was a fantastic discovery as it allowed for us to have very lazy mornings worthy of a proper holiday!

Tim accompanied by the vultures in Gorge du Jonte. Photo - Calum Muskett

Tim accompanied by the vultures in Gorge du Jonte. Photo – Calum Muskett

The following day we visited the Gorge du Jonte, which is the neighbouring valley, for a multi pitch route I’d spotted in the guidebook. The route’s called ‘Histoire Deux Fous’ and looked like a fantastic proposition taking in the awe inspiring right arête of a big cliff with a crux pitch of 8a. Following a couple of interesting warm up pitches we were left with the main event. I’d heard that the bolts were a little spaced on this pitch but hadn’t thought much of it at the time. When I was up there with plenty of exposure to boot, my legs turned to jelly and climbing on these run out sections felt utterly gripping. I had to hang off a couple of bolts just to muster up the necessary will power for upward progress and finally got to the belay – a little bit hot and bothered! Although the climbing was pretty straightforward I wasn’t that psyched for red-pointing which is a shame as in retrospect I’d have loved to have finished the job off. It’s a great route though and well worth the attention of anyone visiting the area and in search of something a little more adventurous. There are great views of Vultures up on those cliffs too.

Leading the crux pitch of 'Histoire Deux Fous'. Photo - Tim Neill

Leading the crux pitch of ‘Histoire Deux Fous’. Photo – Tim Neill


Tim enjoying (?) the exposure on the crux. Photo - Calum Muskett

Tim enjoying (?) the exposure on the crux. Photo – Calum Muskett

For the rest of the trip we started heading out later and later, trying to allow as much time for our arms to recover as possible. By the seventh day on my arms weren’t much good for anything other than picking up pain au chocolat and a cola! We visited plenty of great crags climbing sport routes as long as 50m in length which was fun and quite unusual. There’s a huge amount of variety in the climbing too, from short and fingery routes to long overhanging pocketed walls. I’ll definitely be returning to this area in the not too distant future. Thanks for a great trip Tim and Lou!

Vulture. Photo - Calum Muskett

Vulture. Photo – Calum Muskett


Big Tim - too pumped to lift his arms up! Photo - Calum Muskett

Big Tim – too pumped to lift his arms up! Photo – Calum Muskett

Back into the Swing

Pumped out of my mind on 'Tonight at Noon' E6 6b! Photo - Rob Greenwood

Pumped out of my mind on ‘Tonight at Noon’ E6 6b! Photo – Rob Greenwood

The last month seems to have zoomed by. Following my time in Patagonia and then Scotland my climbing fitness had deteriorated considerably and when I got back home to Wales I was falling off routes I’d generally warm up on. My last five months have been very broken up with alpine trips and work and as a result the last month has been spent trying to get as much mileage in my arms as possible to get fit for some climbing trips I’ve got planned later in the year.

At the beginning of March an old friend returned to North Wales called Wiz Fineron. We’d been at secondary school together in North Wales six years earlier and he’d moved to New Zealand with his family. Wiz is a couple of years younger than me and I remembered him being an awesome climber back then despite the fact he was so small. After catching up over a Pete’s Eats breakfast we headed to the Great Orme where Wiz on-sighted everything he tried in damp conditions, following on with a bouldering session then a trip to the climbing wall. It was awesome to see how well he was climbing and really motivating.

Wiz Fineron climbing 'Curved Arete' E5 6b at Black Rocks. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz Fineron climbing ‘Curved Arete’ E5 6b at Black Rocks. Photo – Calum Muskett


Wiz making short work of the Quarryman Groove. Photo - Calum Muskett

Wiz making short work of the Quarryman Groove. Photo – Calum Muskett

We followed this with a couple of trips to the Peak District where I gently re-introduced Wiz to trad climbing by trying ‘Kaluza Klein’ ground up together. ‘Kaluza Klein’ is a short and sweet Johnny Dawes classic found at Robin Hoods Stride. We both took some fairly exciting falls before I stuck what I expected to be the finishing jug only to sketch around a little longer before topping out (see video below!). This was followed by a trip to Black Rocks where we climbed on the Velvet Silence block. We both managed to climb ‘Velvet Silence’ and ‘Jumping on a Beetle’, two of the best highball slabs I’ve ever climbed, and had a quick go at the desperately thin ‘Angels Share’ before deciding to leave it for another time (I woke up the following morning with sore glutes having fallen off so much!). Wiz and I are planning a European road trip in June which should be a great laugh!

Wiz mid-flight off Kaluza Klein. Photo - Owen Hughes

Wiz mid-flight off Kaluza Klein. Photo – Owen Hughes


I’ve also spent a bit of time on Llŷn Peninsula with visiting German climber Benno Wagner. Benno is very unusual for a European climber in that he revels in climbing on the loosest, scariest and most challenging rock in Britain. Combined with this is the fact that Benno is very strong and isn’t afraid of long run outs or massive falls. On our first visit of the year Benno went for the ground up repeat of an E7 of mine called ‘Discord’. After a few falls on the tricky crux section Benno continued through to the bold section above. Looking pumped he began to power scream between holds before reaching the sanctuary of the break.

Benno Wagner climbing 'Melody' E8 6b in atmospheric conditions! Photo - Calum Muskett

Benno Wagner climbing ‘Melody’ E8 6b in atmospheric conditions! Photo – Calum Muskett

Our next visit to Craig Dorys was on a horrendously windy day. We had a go at ‘Melody’, a bold Stevie Haston E8 which climbs up some appalling quality rock. Although the route felt pretty straightforward on a top rope I was happy to take the good excuse that it was raining and a force nine gale was coming into the crag. Obviously in Bavaria, this sort of weather is common place and Benno stepped up to the task and went for it anyway! On our next trip to Dorys, Benno dragged me to the foot of ‘Nightstalker’, an intimidating E8 roof, cruised it, and then took me to the ominously named Shale City to try ‘Ugly’ – the man needs therapy!

I also made a quick trip up to Scotland for some work on the three nicest days of the year. I went for a couple of evening skis and afterwards met up with Dave Macleod for a climb in the beautiful Glen Nevis. I can’t wait to get back up here in some warmer and dryer weather to go rock climbing. Right now though, I’m in France’s Gorge du Tarn enjoying the amazing climbing, warm weather and tasty food.

'Jahu' in Glen Nevis, a classic E6 frightener. Photo - Dave Macleod

‘Jahu’ in Glen Nevis, a classic E6 frightener. Photo – Dave Macleod


'Mammoth Direct' E6 a fantastic Gogarth testpiece. Photo - Tim Neil

‘Mammoth Direct’ E6 a fantastic Gogarth testpiece. Photo – Tim Neil


Big Tim Neil finding the line of least resistance on Main Cliff on the first ascent of 'Main Wall' E1 5b. Photo - Calum Muskett

Big Tim Neil finding the line of least resistance on Main Cliff on the first ascent of ‘Main Wall’ E1 5b. Photo – Calum Muskett

Another Brush with Bad Weather

Blair skinning up Aonach Mor. Photo - Calum Muskett

Blair skinning up Aonach Mor. Photo – Calum Muskett

Having returned from Patagonia I felt like a bit of respite from bad weather was needed – unfortunately though, I was heading straight up to Scotland. Although I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent parts of very sunny summer holidays in Scotland in the past I have only ever experienced heavy rain and snow in the winter time and spent a considerable amount of time shivering in howling winds. Several months ago I booked onto my winter mountain leader assessment with Plas y Brenin who are based up in Alltshellach during their winter season. For this reason I decided to travel up five days early and get up into the hills prior to my assessment.

Blair digging an avalanche pit to check out the snow pack. Photo - Calum Muskett

Blair digging an avalanche pit to check out the snow pack. Photo – Calum Muskett


Making tea Scottish style. Photo - Calum Muskett

Making tea Scottish style. Photo – Calum Muskett

The one positive part of the bad weather was that the snow was brilliant for skiing on. Great soft powder on top of a good base level of snow meant that all the rocks were covered and conditions were prime for ski touring. On my first day out I headed into the Grey Corries from just above Spean Bridge for an excellent ski tour but one that was also marred by bad weather. I learnt that skiing in a whiteout is difficult and that navigating whilst skiing in a whiteout is even more difficult. I had another couple of days on my skis and then headed out with Dr Snow (aka Blair Fyffe) to learn a little bit more about avalanches.

Blair works for the Scottish Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) and heads out most days to check out snow conditions and give an avalanche forecast for Lochaber or Glen Coe. It was interesting looking at what information Blair used to help him understand the avalanche risks, especially given that this winter the quantity of snow that has accumulated above 700 metres is outrageous. The CIC hut on Ben Nevis is virtually buried!

After a few days of playing about in the bad weather I started my assessment with Plas y Brenin. It’s funny doing an assessment or training with PYB as I know most of the instructors so well. I worked for the domestic team of PYB at Capel Curig for almost five years whilst at school as well as for a while afterwards and often go out climbing with the instructors and guides who live nearby. The good thing with courses delivered by PYB is that you’ll always get up to date instruction and carefully considered feedback delivered by some very enthusiastic climbers or paddlers.

The first couple of days look at the more technical components of the winter mountain leader award such as the teaching of simple and safe winter hill walking skills as well as looking at how to self arrest and emergency ropework to get out of sticky situations. The final three days of the assessment comprises of a three day expedition which involves lots of navigation and a couple of nights in a snow-hole.

A rare break in the clouds on Stob Coire nan Lochan. Photo - Calum Muskett

A rare break in the clouds on Stob Coire nan Lochan. Photo – Calum Muskett


Building the perfect snowman - an important element of the winter mountain leader syllabus. Photo - Calum Muskett

Building the perfect snowman – an important element of the winter mountain leader syllabus. Photo – Calum Muskett

The first part of the assessment went very smoothly, some poor weather but nothing out of the ordinary for Scotland at this time of year. On the third day we headed into the hills above Bridge of Orchy and dug a fairly large snow-hole which we were quite happy to spend plenty of time in. Unfortunatley by this point the weather had begun to worsen, it was beginning to blizzard outside and snow was being blown into our hole. Our night navigation exercise was cut short after the situation got a little too ‘real’ to be much fun and when we got back to the snow hole the entrance had to be completely dug out. My alarm was set for every couple of hours and we had a rota set up so that somebody would wake up and dig snow out of the entrance. Unfortunately it had been snowing more than we’d expected and there was eventually somebody out digging every 45 minutes and even between those intervals we were being sealed in by the snow. At 3.30am a large cornice began to build up over the entrance of our hole and the ceiling of our hole seemed to be a few inches lower, presumably because of the extra weight above. We evacuated our snow-hole and headed down to the train station at Bridge of Orchy for a couple of hours kip.

The snow-hole. Photo - Calum Muskett

The snow-hole. Photo – Calum Muskett

After another bleary eyed day of navigating and hill walking we were back at Alltshellach for our final course de-brief. We’d both passed our assessment which meant that our horrendous night in a snow-hole wasn’t a total waste of time and I can now try and avoid any more bad weather at home until Spring brings with it some sunshine!

Reflections

Lost in Patagonia. Photo - Calum Muskett

Lost in Patagonia. Photo – Calum Muskett

Looking back over two months spent in Patagonia I realise that I haven’t covered as much ground as I might usually on a long climbing trip. In fact, most of the ground I did cover was probably between the cafes and restaurants in El Chalten. I didn’t make it up any major Patagonian summits, didn’t repeat a single route in the area and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory on two fairly significant first ascents. Yet, despite receiving a good kicking from the Patagonian weather, I still had a great time and would return at the drop of a hat given the opportunity.

Patagonia is a truly wonderful area. Around the mountains of Fitzroy and Paine is some of the best trekking I’ve ever come across. Old woodlands, bright blue lakes as well as a wild and remote feel despite their relative popularity. The wildlife is also unique and fascinating – Pink Flamingos, Skunks, Condors, Guanacos and Woodpeckers. For climbers, these are all packed into the approach to some of the best alpine climbing on the planet. Despite the popularity of this area amongst alpinists there is still so much yet to be done. Some summits remain unclimbed, many rock faces await first ascents and hundreds of brilliant routes are still waiting to be free climbed.

Thumbs down to Patagonian weather. Photo - Calum Muskett

Thumbs down to Patagonian weather. Photo – Calum Muskett

Our recent trip ended in slight disappointment. After another long approach and careful preparations for climbing, the weather decided that it didn’t want to follow the forecast. A heavy snowfall lasted until late morning and spindrift was pouring down our objective for the day – a second attempt at the unclimbed icy gully system on the East face of the Mermoz. All we could do was turn round and soak up the Patagonian environment one last time before our long journey home.

Ally heading up to the East face of the Mermoz. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ally heading up to the East face of the Mermoz. Photo – Calum Muskett

We didn’t get the chance to try the Compressor Route up Cerro Torre, or to complete a second new mixed route, but we now know the potential of the area and that, given a little bit of good weather, the rewards you can take home could be huge. Patagonia I’ll be back – but next time, please can I have a little more sunshine!

Dave seconding one of the crux pitches on our new route on Aguja Guillaumet. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave seconding one of the crux pitches on our new route on Aguja Guillaumet. Photo – Calum Muskett


Twid hanging out on the South Tower of Paine, another area to return to. Photo - Calum Muskett

Twid hanging out on the South Tower of Paine, another area to return to. Photo – Calum Muskett

Flexible Plans

Sunrise over Paso Superior. Photo - Calum Muskett

Sunrise over Paso Superior. Photo – Calum Muskett

After consuming many steaks, waffles, brownies and pancakes, Windguru, our weather forecasting website, showed signs of a weather window opening up. El Chalten suddenly turns into a bustling town when the forecast improves. The shops are full of climbers purchasing chocolates and biscuits and people suddenly have another subject to discuss other than how bad the weather is: where are you heading over the next few days?

Dave and I decided that the East face of Poincenot looked like it had some good objectives. Good rock climbs that awaited free ascents and also potential for variations or new routes to their sides. We also had a backup plan of several mixed routes, existing and new, in case the temperature was a bit low on the nearby Mermoz. So far it seems that the most flexible plans will be the ones that have the highest success rate and being prepared for several eventualities might mean carrying more equipment but will also increase your odds of getting up something.

Ally approaching the East face of the Mermoz. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ally approaching the East face of the Mermoz. Photo – Calum Muskett

Our approach was in full view of Poincenot and Fitzroy and provided a stunning outlook despite the fact we could see just how far we had to walk. The trail is also popular amongst walkers and justifiably so as the old woodlands and lakes are lovely to walk through and alongside. We were heading towards the high camp of Paso Superior but when we reached the glacier in the early afternoon it was covered in small, slushy avalanches and we decided to make the longer walk in early the following morning. We also met some climbers descending from Paso Superior and they told us that the current conditions were good if you liked either freezing rock or slushy ice climbing in strong winds. Not what we had hoped for!

East Face of the Mermoz. Photo - Calum Muskett

East Face of the Mermoz. Photo – Calum Muskett

After a brief breakfast we were away at 3.30am and making the long slog up to Paso Superior. It was a sweaty walk with heavy bags and I felt like I was in the worst physical condition I’d been in for the whole trip. Once we reached Paso Superior we were treated to a stunning sunrise but clouds quickly shrouded the East face of Poincenot destroying our hopes of free climbing. We headed over to the Mermoz and climbed up to a long steep gully line that Dave had spotted as being unclimbed in the guidebook. The gully had an almost continuous line of ice down it and looked like an amazing proposition.

Dave heading up the first pitch. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave heading up the first pitch. Photo – Calum Muskett


Tin opener moves up the very sustained first corner. Photo - Calum Muskett

Tin opener moves up the very sustained first corner. Photo – Calum Muskett

Dave got us underway and unfortunately for me the second pitch was a steep wide corner crack with very little for your feet. A gave the pitch a go, heaving away on tin opener hook placements, but was soon spat off taking a short fall. Feeling exhausted and unlikely to make a clean ascent, I handed the lead over to Dave who made steady progress upwards and reached easier ground and the next belay.

Despite its modest appearance the following pitch was a scary grovel over an ice bulge on disintegrating ice followed by a thin slab and paved the way to a continuous thin ice runnel no wider than half a foot in places. The climbing remained sustained, with strenuous bulges to overcome every so often, but it was absolutely fantastic. We couldn’t believe our luck at finding another awesome new route to try. We were both knackered though, even starting to fall asleep on some of the belays until our energy gels perked us up. Dave knocked a big piece of ice into his face whilst leading one pitch and he then had the misfortune of looking up when I knocked one down on the following pitch.

Leading up some great ice runnels capped by small roofs. Photo - Dave Macleod

Leading up some great ice runnels capped by small roofs. Photo – Dave Macleod


Dave leading a slim ice runnel. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave leading a slim ice runnel. Photo – Calum Muskett

By mid-afternoon the route was back in the shade and the ice was hardening up again. Dave set off on a clearly desperate but well protected crack and continued up to a steep wall above. After several attempts Dave lowered back down to the belay, not keen to go for the lead without spectres or ice screws to protect him. Both feeling exhausted we decided to descend. When we reached the glacier below we realised just how close we were to easier ground – maybe only twenty metres. If we’re granted another good spell of weather we’re hoping to give the route another shot but given the fact I’m now in bed with a cold, I’m hoping that won’t be for another few days!

Dave torquing up icy cracks. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave torquing up icy cracks. Photo – Calum Muskett


Go With the Flow

On the road to El Chalten. Photo - Calum Muskett

On the road to El Chalten. Photo – Calum Muskett

Dave and I arrived in Patagonia on the first of January looking forward to climbing some of the best granite towers on the planet. When we arrived in El Chalten though we learnt that the weather over the preceding month had been terrible; very little had been climbed and resident Patagonian alpinists were saying the mountains were looking the whitest they’d ever seen them.

Unfortunately, this is bad news for us. Our hopes are to climb the Compressor Route (or South-East Ridge) of Cerro Torre free and on the two occasions we’ve seen the summit the route looks like it’s plastered with snow. In fact, whilst bouldering a few days ago, we bumped into David Lama, the first and only free ascentionist of the Compressor Route who told us “not to bother this season”. This, alongside the negative mood of many climbers in town, is what we’d feared and hoped would not happen. Apparently El Ninõ is in a different place to usual this year and that Patagonia is caught between two weather fronts. This could be true, or it might be the case that after two irregularly good summer seasons the weather has returned to its ‘full on’ normality. Despite all this, the weather in Patagonia is so unpredictable that the Compressor Route may yet come into condition. All it needs is a few days of sunshine to shed its snow…

Fortunately El Chalten is a really nice place to spend time. The pace of life is about as laid back as the internet connection here (I’ll leave you to guess…) and there are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants to enjoy, ‘La Chocolateria’ and ‘La Waffleria’ being my favourite haunts. There’s also some great bouldering, reasonable sport climbing and plenty of trails to go running along.

Ally and Ben approaching the Guillaumet. Photo - Calum Muskett

Ally and Ben approaching the Guillaumet. Photo – Calum Muskett

After about eight days of ‘relaxed living’ windguru gave us a promising weather window and after studying the guidebook we came up with a number of plans ranging from summer lines to mixed routes. We decided to head round the back of the range to the high camp of Piedra Negra which gives access to the back of Fitzroy Guillaumet and Poincenot leaving us with plenty of options.

We ended up finding a bivi spot just beneath Piedra Negra under a boulder and below the snow line. It was blowing a hooly, trekkers were turning back from the Col due to deep snow and we had almost given up hope of climbing the following day. We woke up at a relaxed hour (there’s 18 hours of daylight here in the summer) to blue skies and no wind so began the long slog up to the col. We were intending to climb on the Mermoz and attempt either ‘Vol de Nuit’ or a new line further right but after digging an avalanche pit decided that walking down the loaded slopes would be a bad idea. Instead we looked straight above us and on the right hand side of Guillaumet was an impressive wall with rimed up cracks all over and solid granite. We knew no information about this section of wall having left the guidebook behind but we suspected it was unclimbed.

Dave seconding the superb first hard pitch. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave seconding the superb first hard pitch. Photo – Calum Muskett


Heading up the steep groove. Photo - Dave Macleod

Heading up the steep groove. Photo – Dave Macleod

After a short and very easy intro pitch we arrived at a thin runnel of snow and ice leading up a corner. Dave took the lead and despite its modest appearance it felt pretty thin near the top, torquing in a parallel sided crack. The following pitch was thin and sustained starting up twin cracks before a thin traverse left to an awkward section of groove. I felt pretty chuffed when I got to the top of this having not pulled on an ice axe since last winter. After another couple of great, sustained pitches, we arrived at what we expected to be easy ground, only for Dave to go round the corner and discover that the route wasn’t yet in the bag.

Dave looking up at the technical groove high on the route. Photo - Calum Muskett

Dave looking up at the technical groove high on the route. Photo – Calum Muskett

Dave headed upwards out of sight and I patiently paid out rope expecting this pitch to take a while but before long, I was following Dave up an amazing pitch. Consecutive moves on stein pulls (wedging the axes in upside down) followed by pulling over onto a thin ice covered slab which only just had enough ice on it to make it possible.

We were very fortunate to have found such a great line. It could easily have been too difficult, or a bit of a pushover, but what we found felt like the right level of difficulty and length for the day. It would be a classic in Chamonix! Altogether the route weighed in at Scottish grade VIII 8 (technical grades: 3, 6, 8, 7, 8, 8). There’s no mention of the route in the relatively new comprehensive guide so we’re assuming we made a first ascent, or at least a first winter conditions ascent.


The line of our new route. Photo - Calum Muskett

The line of our new route. Photo – Calum Muskett

Hopefully the next weather window will bring as good a route!

Amazing clouds above Poincenot. Photo - Dave Macleod

Amazing clouds above Poincenot. Photo – Dave Macleod

2013

2013 has been a great year for me. Lots of travelling, stacks of climbing and amazing weather (with one notable exception!). Rather than writing an account of all the best moments I’ve selected a photo from each month and added a sentence or two with each one as an explanation. Enjoy!

January

Andy Turner ice climbing in Setesdal. Photo- Calum Muskett

Andy Turner ice climbing in Setesdal. Photo- Calum Muskett

I spent the New Year and the first part of January in the Setesdal Valley of Norway; a spectacular ice climbing area although a bit on the warm side whilst we were there!

February

Mina climbing 'La Cara Que No Miente' 8a+ in Siurana. Photo- Calum Muskett

Mina climbing ‘La Cara Que No Miente’ 8a+ in Siurana. Photo- Calum Muskett

After a great sport climbing trip to Siurana in Spain I headed back to North Wales feeling fit and enjoyed some great days out on the sea cliffs of Gogarth.

March

Skiing down the Vallee Blanche. Photo- Calum Muskett

Skiing down the Vallee Blanche. Photo- Calum Muskett

I spent the whole of March in Chamonix learning to ski and made my first, aborted attempt to climb a very snowy North Face of the Eiger.

April

Skiing in the Carneddau. Photo- Jamie Holding

Skiing in the Carneddau. Photo- Jamie Holding

April was an amazing month. The weather and conditions were just incredible! On one day I went skiing down Glyder Fach at first light, climbed an E6 at Gogarth, did some instructing in the afternoon and then ice climbed by head torch in the evening!

May

Climbing 'Daisy World' E7 6c. Photo- Ed Booth

Climbing ‘Daisy World’ E7 6c. Photo- Ed Booth

With the continuing good weather I spent loads of time trad climbing in the mountains of North Wales and climbed a bunch of routes I’d been hoping to try for a long time.

June

George Ullrich on-sighting  'Authentic Desire' E7 6b, on Cloggy. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich on-sighting ‘Authentic Desire’ E7 6b, on Cloggy. Photo- Calum Muskett

More time spent climbing in the mountains climbing with James Mchaffie and co and the first trips up to Cloggy.

July

George Ullrich leading the 'Indian Face' E9 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

George Ullrich leading the ‘Indian Face’ E9 6c. Photo- Calum Muskett

After a great quick trip to Hoy in Scotland I returned home and jumped on the send train for an ascent of the ‘Indian Face’.

August

Leading the crux pitch of 'Paciencia' 8a, on the North Face of the Eiger. Photo- Alexandre Buisse

Leading the crux pitch of ‘Paciencia’ 8a, on the North Face of the Eiger. Photo- Alexandre Buisse

August was spent in the Alps. After some fun climbing around Chamonix I met up with Dave Macleod and we climbed ‘Paciencia’ on the North Face of the Eiger – a fantastic route and a great experience.

September

Dave Macleod on the crux pitch of 'Bellavista' 8c on Cima Ovest. Photo- Calum Muskett

Dave Macleod on the crux pitch of ‘Bellavista’ 8c on Cima Ovest. Photo- Calum Muskett

After our short lived attempt on ‘Bellavista’ at the end of August Dave returned to finish it off in September. Unfortunately I just had lots of work to do!

October

Twid walking down the Bader valley in Patagonia. Photo- Calum Muskett

Twid walking down the Bader valley in Patagonia. Photo- Calum Muskett

I became an MIA at the beginning of the month and then headed out to a very windy Torres del Paine in Patagonia!

November

Twid hanging out on the lower slabs of 'Wall of Paine'. Photo- Calum Muskett

Twid hanging out on the lower slabs of ‘Wall of Paine’. Photo- Calum Muskett

Our trip to Patagonia was thwarted by bad weather but we had a good crack and got to the top of the wall of the south face of the South Tower of Paine.

December

Cerro Torre. Photo- Tim Neil

Cerro Torre. Photo- Tim Neil

December isn’t over yet! I’m off to Scotland next week and then to Patagonia with Dave Macleod on the 31st to attempt to make a free ascent of the Compressor Route on Cerro Torre – really looking forward to this one!

I’ve also made a couple of changes with my sponsors this month. Having been sponsored by DMM for four years it’s with a heavy heart that I say thanks for all the help and goodbye. I’m now joining the Black Diamond team and am really looking forward to working with such a well respected company that have such a great product range. I’m also very happy to be combining two of my great passions – climbing and eating, with my other new sponsor Clif Bar. Hopefully my sweet tooth won’t lead me down the path of obesity! On top of this I’m also really happy to be joining Shauna Coxsey, Fran Brown, Molly Thompson-Smith, Hazel Findlay, Steve Mcclure and James Mchaffie as a BMC Ambassador. The BMC have done a huge amount of work in Britain helping access to the hills and climbing areas as well as improving access to the sport; it’ll be great to support them through 2014.

Here’s to hoping next year will be just as good as this one!