Thursday, December 24, 2015

That was 2015

2015 has been another good year and I've been lucky enough to climb a stack of great routes. The year started well with Nikki and I climbing that standard route on Neilion, on Mount Kenya, on January 3.

Nikki near the top of Neilion.
Once back home I spent all my weekend's (I only missed one weekend between the middle of January and Easter) winter climbing in Scotland. Needless to say I managed to a fair bit done. Highlights included getting dragged up the Shield Direct in a storm by Pete; climbing Crowberry Gully and Route Major with Nikki and a perfect weekend in Lochaber, climbing Northeast Buttress and Stand and Deliver with Tim. 

Pete at the top of the Shield Direct
Nikki pleased to be back at the car after Route Major.
Tim on a bizarrely desserted Northeast Buttress. Every other route on the Ben was rammed.
Me trying to control the pump on Stand and Deliver on Anoch Beag.
In May, Nikki and I with our good friends Heather and Jonny climbed the Old Man of Hoy. Our slightly ambitious plan was to climb three sea stacks (Hoy, Stoer and Am Buachaille) in a four day round trip from Sheffield. The four of us successfully managed Hoy; Heather, Jonny and I managed to struggle our way up Stoer in the drizzle; but bad weather and a lack of moral fibre meant we weren't sufficiently motivated to attempt Am Buachaille in the rain.

Nikki and I scope out The Old Man of Hoy. 
On the top. Left to right: Nikki, Me, Heather, Jonny. 
Another great day out in May, and no pushover, was the Stanage VS challenge. This involves climbing the 36 routes that are graded Very Severe in the 1989 guide book. Tim and I had blast doing them all in slightly under eleven hours. 

Tim and I at the top of Crab Crawl - The final climb of the challenge.
For Nikki 2015 has been mainly about suffering. She has undertaken a load of gruelling challenges to raise money and awareness for male cancer. (Her dad was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year.) You can read more about her suffering here and can donate here. June saw two of her most bonkers challenges. First, she attempted to bike from Lands End to John O'Groats on her own in seven days, failing 55 miles from the end due to illness. Second, she became to the first woman in the UK to 'Everest' a hill. For those of you not in the know, Everesting involves biking up, and down, a hill until the the vertical relief of Everest is achieved. Nikki choose Froggatt in the Peak and biked up and down it 38 times in just under 25 hours. In other news I lead Comes the Dervish my first E3.

Nikki back in Sheffield after almost LEJOG.
Nikki midway through "Everesting" Froggatt.
Me leading Comes the Dervish.
In July Nikki and I headed to the Alps for a two week holiday. Unfortunately it was unseasonable hot and Nikki was unbelievable tired, after her Ironman the week before, so the trip was less productive than I'd hoped. That said Matt and I had a great trip up the S Ridge of Aiguille Noire de Peuterey, including an impromptu night of snuggling. At the end of the trip Nikki climbed the Allalinhorn, her first four thousand metre peak. 

Matt low down on the S Ridge of the Noire. 
Matt enjoying his shiver bivi.
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August was another productive month for rock. Highlights included: a brilliant evening doing Nightmare of Brown Donkeys at High Tor with Dunc; went on an afterwork soloing rampage at Bowden Doors; climbed the Lakeland classic Gillercombe Buttress with Nikki and did the chosstastically brilliant Fantam B on the Lleyn Peninsular with Josh. 

Duncan reacquainting himself with trad climbing on Nightmare of Brown Donkeys. 
Bowden - I can't believe I'd never climbed in the County before.  
Nikki at the top of Gillercombe Buttress. 
Josh taking in some of the best Choss the Llyen can offer. 
In September Nikki went back to finish the last day of LEJOG; Dad and I had a brilliant weekend climbing mountain routes in Scotland and I had a week of holiday in the Alps. 

Good things come to those who wait. Nikki at John O'Groats.
Dad half way up the Pause. About twelve pitches through our 16 pitch day on the Etive Slabs.
Me looking down Loch Avon after climbing the Needle on Shelterstone Crag.
Will and me on the Rebuffat Gully on the Tour Ronde. 
Will, Heather and Me on the summit of the Tour Ronde. 
H-Flo styling on the S Face of the Midi.
In early October Nikki swam the length of Ullswater while Dad and I canoed beside her.

Nikki swimming like a fish. 
Two weeks ago I finished working for First Ascent and headed to Scotland for a week of winter climbing with Hamish. Unfortuantley after three days a big thaw set in, curtailing our plans. I can't complain too much as one of those was a day of near perfect weather in the North West Highlands. 

Hamish enjoying the sensations of Deep Throat.
Me climbing Central Buttress on Beinn Eighe. 
Hamish getting grumpy because it is getting dark.
Pete in his element.
On Boxing Day I'm heading here for Six weeks. Should be great. 

Hopefully the weather will be like this...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Father and son

I've been to write this for months, but I've only recently got the pictures from the weekend from my Dad.

Back in September I had a quite simply brilliant weekend rock climbing in Scotland with my Dad. I was really lucky that my Dad introduced to climbing at quite a young age. He took me a few times and I hated it, especially heights and being lowered. Thankfully he didn't put any pressure on me and left me to play with lego for a few more years. Then when I was around twelve or thirteen something changed. For some reason I started to want to go climbing and started pestering him to take me all the time. Not much has changed since and we've enjoyed many great routes together over the years: Troutdale Pinnacle; Kippling Groove; a Dream of White Horse; Zero Gully; the Hornli Ridge; Astral Stroll - you get the idea. 

I bunked off work early on Friday and drove up to Dad's. We got in his car and continued up to a damp Glen Nevis, where we pitched the tent. The next morning it wasn't raining but it was very humid and looked as though precipitation to could begin at any moment. Ever the optimists we headed to Etive Slabs. Arriving at the Coffin Stone it was humid and the midges were out in force. The only route that looked vaguely dry was The Long Reach. I started up the bold first pitch with trepidation. Thankfully it all went to the plan and by the top of the second pitch the sun was out, the humidity had dropped and a gentle breeze was keeping the midges at bay. The rest of the route flew by. Though going off route on the penultimate pitch and doing 5b padding moves with gear a long, long way below me was rather exciting. 

Soon we were back at the Coffin Stone to find that the rest of the crag had dried out nicely. We decided to nip up the Pause to finish the day, which was almost as good. With sixteen pitches now in my arms the last pitch (which is also climbed on the Long Reach) felt substantially harder than it hard earlier in the day.

The next day we climbed the Needle on Shelterstone crag. Possibly the best mountain E1 I have ever climbed. Nine brilliant pitches on one Scotland best crags. 

Unfortunately at around midnight on Sunday evening my car, with nearly 240k on the clock, decided to die on the side of the A1. I suppose you can't have everything.

Ready for bed on Friday night.
A bold pitch one on a damp Long Reach.

Dad padding.

Dead on lead on the Long Reach.

Me on the crux of The Long Reach. Actually I was off route on the Long Wait.

A now dry Pause.

Dad on the Pause.

Dad approaching the Crevasse belay.

Re-racking in Riasg.

Me looking colourful underneath Hell's Lum.

Shelterstone Crag.


Dad on the Needle.

High on the Needle.
Loch Avon 
Happy Dad.

Me leading the last but one pitch. 
Top of the crag. 
R.I.P after five years of faithful service. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Freezing cold, soaked through and scared out of your tree...

A.K.A when light, fast and high goes wrong...


Chamonix is hot. Crazy hot. Everything appears to be falling down. A couple of days previously Matt and I enjoyed a quick morning dash up the Contamine Vaucher on the Peigne. We raced up the route, in shorts and tee shirts, in a little over three hours, over taking the all other parties, including an indignant French man wearing a site hat, on the way. 

Matt had the weekend off. What should we do next? Something big of course. The Walker Spur? A very, very long held ambition of mine. Apparently it was bone dry at the moment, so we could race up it rock shoes. Easy. A quick chat with my friend Will brought us back to earth. The snow on the top of the Grandes Jorasses was melting, throwing rocks down the spur. A couple of days previously five Brits had been helicoptered off the Jorasses. One with a broken leg. The rock fall sounded suicidal. We had a rethink. The American Direct? The Aiguille Traverse? 

Eventually, after we woke to rain on Saturday morning, we settled for the South Ridge of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. A bit easier than we had liked but a good tick and a nice short Sunday day out. After all Matt had to be in work on Monday morning. We drove through the tunnel and after obligatory Courmayeur pizza walked into the hut. There was no snow on the mountain so we ditched our lightweight boots in favour of running shoes and left our super lightweight ski touring axe in the valley. In a last minute ditch to save weight I chucked out my Buffalo Mitts that weigh all of 75 grams! As success was guaranteed we took only a single 60m rope rather than a pair.

Alarm bells should have started ringing when we got to the hut and saw that the route had taken two aspirant guides we knew of fourteen hours hut to hut. Instead we just thoughts that they'd been a bit slow. Guidebook time for this route is twelve to fourteen hours up and five down.

The next morning started uneventfully. We moved well up the ridge making good progress. I wasn't firing on all cylinders for some reason, I'm not sure why. I wasn't struggling with the climbing I just wasn't moving that fast. Nevertheless we were making good progress up the route. At around two in the afternoon we reached the top of Point Ottoz. There was only one more tower to overcome before easy scrambling to reach the summit. At this point it started to rain lightly. We took stock in my bothy bag and weighed up the options. Rap off - not really possible with only a single rope, five wires and five cams. Descend the way we came - also not really an option and would probably take at least as long as it did in ascent. Get rescued - No real reason too, plus our only phone was out of battery. We decided our best option was to continue climbing up and over. We kept climbing in the drizzle. Slower now due to mixture of wet rock and fatigue. 

At four pm the rain got heavier, making the climbing harder. We decided to call it a day and made a thirty metre rap down the east side of the ridge, luckily finding a small ledge we could both sit on. Wearing all our clothes (Not a lot: a thermal tee, fleece hoody, thin synthetic hoody, waterproof jacket, buff, thin gloves, thin trousers and no over trousers) we laid the rope out on the ledge and got inside the bothy bag. The rain intensified. Inside our orange world it was humid but at least we were able to stay warm. I pulled on my thin gloves and cursed myself for leaving the Buffalo Mitts - they weigh nothing. My hands were warm enough in the gloves but the gloves were already soggy. I knew in the Buffalos they'd have been warm and dry. I wrapped my arms around Matt and tried to steal his warmth. Every so often we forlornly tried to revive the phone to no avail. 

We presumed that in the valley my wife, having seen the bad weather come in, would have arranged rescue. We half expect a helicopter to arrive that evening. Darkness came and nothing. Inside our bag time ticked away slowly. I held Matt tighter, thinking weak thoughts. What would we do if dawn came and the weather didn't clear? How long could we sit out a storm on this ledge before succumbing to hypothermia? Why wasn't I in the valley with Nikki enjoying our two weeks off? The rain continued to hammer down. Our legs were both cramping up really badly. To relieve this we got out of the bag to stretch. Freezing cold quickly engulfed us and we began to shiver uncontrollably. It was at this point I realized the seriousness of our position. Without the bothy bag we'd be dead. Quickly we got back in and tried our hardest to get warm again. The clock ticked slowly on.

At some point before dawn the weather seemed to calm. I stood up again to stretch out my cramping legs once more. The cloud had lifted and we could see the lights of Courmayeur below us. It looked like we'd got away with it. Shivering uncontrollably again we got back in the bag. No matter the helicopter will come and pluck us off in a few hours. 

Dawn came. It was still cold so we stayed in the bag, ears pricked. We heard the slightest whir of a chopper and I leapt out arms in the Y shape. The rain that had been falling all night was actually two inches of snow. The helicopter was far away in the distance and didn't appear to be coming closer. We got back in the bag and shivered some more. Eventually the sun came round and started warm us. By this point we'd figured that no chopper was coming and we'd have to sort our own mess. The rock had started to dry and wasn't too cold. We carried on upwards, kicking the occasional step in the frozen snow with our rock boots and doing our best to avoid verglas. At eleven thirty we reached the summit of the Aiguille Noire de Peuterey. The descent was long and tedious with lots of down climbing and short abseils. It took us seven hours and cost us all of tat and most of our slings, not that we cared. We got back to the valley to find my very relieved wife at eight that evening. I was pleased that we'd been able to get ourselves down, safely and hadn't resorted to needlessly calling a helicopter. Self reliance is an essential part of mountaineering. 

Matt looking relaxed outside the hut the night before. At this point we still thought it was going to be easy.

South Ridge of the Noire.

Matt low down on the ridge. All going to plan.

Higher up. It's still going to plan. 
The rain has started. Less than ideal.

Our home for the night. Cold.

The snow has stopped. The lights of Courmayeur below. 

Not a happy Burdekin. 
Soldiering on the next morning. 

Smiles on the summit.

Post route gear splurge. The bothy bag is the orange thing, this size of a chalk bag, in the centre. It saved our bacon and I won't be going into the hills again without one.