Saturday, 25 February 2012

Black Diamond On-line Catalogue - Alpinism 2012

Back in the autumn when I was out in Chamonix I spent a few days out with Jon Griffith to get some photos and footage for an new on-line catalogue project that Black Diamond and Jon were working on.  It was the first time I'd ever done any filming or been interviewed (as you can probably tell!) and to be honest I found it pretty difficult to start with but we had some really good days out and it was fun to be involved in a small part of the project.  

As usual Jon produced some outstanding photography and you can see all his work here

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Central Grooves

I eventually made it up to Scotland at the weekend for the first time since the wash out at New Year, unfortunately the rubbish forecast for Saturday turned it into a shorter weekend than planned and a one day hit on Sunday to Glen Coe.  Malcolm and I were both really keen to do the mega classic Central Grooves, VII 7, in Stob coire nan Lochan so route choice wasn't going to be a problem and an early start had us arriving in the coire under beautiful early morning sunlight with no wind.

Central Grooves lived up to its reputation of great climbing and sustained right from the word go.  After a technical first pitch and a steep second pitch Malcolm dispatched the crux third pitch with bold moves on cruddy ice off the belay and then a long fun final pitch up easy ground finished it off.  A quality route well worth the five hour drive each way and good to blow the cobwebs off the tools at last!

Beautiful early morning light as we enter the coire

Malcolm starting up the first pitch

Pitch 2

Pitch 2

Pitch 2

Malcolm on pitch 3 after the tricky moves off the belay

Pitch 3

Pitch 3

 Pitch 3

Looking across at a climber on Tilt

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Chris Walker Memorial Trust Grant

The North Face of Chamlang, 7319m - we hope to attempt the obvious 
spur/ridge just to the left of the centre of the photo (photo - Cory Richards)

In October I'll be heading back to Nepal with Nick Bullock and into the Hongu Valley where  
we hope to try a new route on the North Face of Chamlang, 7319m.  The face itself is just under 2000m vertical (its big!) and we've got our eyes set on the obvious and stunning spur that tops out just to the east of the summit.  

We recently received the great news that we've been awarded the first expedition grant from the Chris Walker Memorial Trust, which was set up to remember Chris after he tragically lost his life in 2010.  I only had the pleasure of meeting Chris once back in 2008, Nick and I had just arrived back in Lukla after having our base camp stolen and Chris was just setting off with a group to climb Baruntse in the Hongu.  He was working as a guide on that trip but even with a hard few weeks ahead of him it was obvious, whether working or playing, he had true passion for the mountains and the adventure they bring. 

A big thank you to all those involved in the Chris Walker Memorial Trust for awarding our expedition the grant.  For more information on Chris, the memorial trust and how to apply for the grant visit

Sunday, 12 February 2012


As usual I'm a bit late with this post but at the start of February Cat and I got back from three weeks travelling around Thailand, climbing, sightseeing and enjoying the local cuisine.  We started off with a few days up in Chaing Mai in northern Thailand, the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand is an old university city and after a day and a half speeding round Bangkok in tuk tuk's the chilled atmosphere and quiet streets were a nice change.

As well as getting a feel for old Thailand, eating some great food, visiting temples and elephants and wandering around the weekend night markets there's also some great climbing on the nearby Crazy Horse buttress.  About a 45 minute ride out of town the crag gives everything from technical face routes to steep tufa fun and is a really well set up and managed area, well worth a visit for a few days.  We used the bus service provided by the local climbing shop to get to and from the crag, its by far the easiest way and they even bring you a hot lunch to the crag at lunch time!  

Next up we headed down to Ko Phi Phi which after Chiang Mai was a massive culture shock and not quite what we’d expected and more like the Costa Blanca than Thailand.  Still the scenery was spectacular and we spent a lot of time in the water exploring the reefs and many exotic fish.

After two days on Phi Phi we jumped on the ferry to the climbing mecca of Ton Sai and Railay.  I’d gone a bit sceptical of what the climbing was going to be like after many stories of sweaty and polished rock but figured the setting would make up for it.  Ok it was pretty sweaty and fairly polished but for me this didn’t detract from the quality of climbing and spectacular views.  Ton Sai itself though was unfortunately a different story, garbage everywhere, smell of sewage and stories of people getting sick, a real shame that its suffering from its own popularity.  After a brief look around Ton Sai we ended up staying in Railay East which wasn’t that much more expensive but much cleaner although did lack the atmosphere and vibe of Ton Sai.  As expected 7 days there was far from enough and we only visit a fraction of the crags but were both really getting into the climbing by the end of it.

We spent the final 5 days of the trip on the small island of Koh Loaliang.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip for me, with only 25 people on the island when we were there and a short 30m stroll to the climbing from the tent, paradise.  We met some really nice people, spent chilled evenings with cold beers round the bar and quality climbing that comes into the shade late morning, perfect for those lazy mornings!  I even managed to surpass my own expectation and finished off the trip by flashing a 7b+, quite a personal achievement for me and it’s got me fully psyched for to put some proper time in and try to get fit on the rock this summer, would love to climb 8a one day...

For info on Crazy Horse at Chaing Mai there is a great article here about the crag and all the logistics If you don’t end up using the bus provided by the climbing shop maybe think about dropping a small donation in with them, it’s a really impressive set up they’ve got going but need all the help they can get.

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok

Maya Bay 'The Beach', Ko Phi-Phi - a bit busier than in the film!
(photo Cat Freeman)

local taxi heading home for the day

Cat enjoying the amazing setting of the classic 
multi-pitch route Humanality, Ton Sai

 End of a days climbing at Happy Island, Phra-Nang Beach

 Koh Loaliang - tents on the left, climbing on the right!

Golden a 6c on Loaliang, possibly one 
of the best routes at its grade? (photo Cat Freeman)