Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year Lessons

It's often too easy to regret the day to day. Your dream routes, adventures or experiences fading ever further away behind a growing to do list. Whether it's pressure from work, family or injuries, life's little speed bumps can seem mountain-like obstacles. Burdened with a year full of all three, I've been guilty recently of feeling a bit too sorry for myself. I had a wake up call a few weeks ago when I heard that Northumberland legend Andy Earl had collapsed with a brain hemorrhage and was being kept in an induced coma after surgery. Well, it seems like there is the first sign of good news here

The fact that Andy came out of his deep sleep on Christmas Eve and his daughter was born on Christmas Day really puts things into perspective.

I don't know Andy that well, although I did have the chance to spend a day photographing him and his Dad John up in Northumberland (pics above Crouching Mahogany E4 6b at Callerhues and on his own route Masterclass E7 6c at Rothley). Several things were really evident that day, one Andy is a phenomenal climber (one of the very best), secondly he seems a genuinely fun-loving, life-loving kind of guy, and finally he is obviously part of a very strong family unit (something I am sure will be invaluable during his recovery). So next time your foot slips off on that nth attempt at the crux, or there are wet streaks at the crag, or just that you have to leave the crag early to go do the family supermarket run remember life might not be ideal but you have to make the most of every opportunity no matter how imperfect.

Here's wishing the Earl Clan speedy progress in 2011, and good luck to everyone in the new year.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Winter Wow!

...and I thought last season was supposed to be the best ever. It's been an incredible start this time and it's patently obvious that not just one or two individuals but collectively the whole British scene has raised it's game. Just scanning the 'net over the last few days you've a new grade IX on the Brack a new Glen Coe grade IX a repeat of Cathedral X a repeat of Cracking Up IX and to top it all off God Delusion just got repeated IX Now that everyone is warmed up what is the rest of the season going to be like...!

Part of me is massively inspired, part of me is massively jealous, and part of me is also a bit alarmed how much I'll have to get my act together for next season (at the moment I am doing bicep rehab with a 1 1/4 kg weight).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ratho Lecture this Saturday

A reminder that I'll be lecturing at the Climbing Centre at Ratho, Edinburgh as part of the Scottish Tooling Competition series. Amongst other things I'm hoping to have some new footage to show from when Ines Papert was over and we climbed Blood Sweat and Frozen Tears. I'm also excited to see some of the comp, dry tooling events tend to be a little more creative than your typical wall climbing event. For more details of the day see here
Me on Dent du Requin - Es Tressider
Me on Bulgy in the Northern Corries
Me loving it
Me hating it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Will Gadd Lecture for Porters Progress

This Thursday, if you live in London well worth catching Will Gadd at the RGS. Will is a true phenomenon, one of the world's most impressive and creative climbers and all-round outdoor athletes/explorers but he is also an outstanding communicator. If you aren't 10% more alive at the end of this show then you are probably fast on your way to clocking out already.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The future of training for ice?

The Climbing Academy in Bristol are importing "ice holds' - plastic training holds that you can swing your axe into and actually get a stick very much like real ice. It's bizarre but it works. Here's a vid of feeble ice climber Tim Emmett getting in some much needed training.

For more info see here:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ratho Lecture 27th November

Really looking forward to this one, a special lecture as part of the final of the Scottish dry tooling competition series. Should be fun to see some of the future stars of Scottish mixed strut their stuff at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho and try and link that madness to some of the games I've been getting up to with tools. Starts 6.30 I think and admission is £5 for competitors and £10 for non-competitors. Here's a link for more info
As a contribution to the growing psyche for the upcoming winter here's a few pics. First pitch 1 of Scotch on the Rocks in the Alps.
Pitch 3 of Scotch on the RocksPitch one of Migrant Direct in this case, it can also be used for the Vicar and Nocando CrackAnd a couple from The Secret on the Ben

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lumix LX5 camera first thoughts

A few weeks ago I bought the Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera. I've been using the Canon G10 as my compact camera but it's not very compact, so much so that I couldn't fit it with a case in my jacket pocket. Partly as a result I managed to scratch the lens. So it was toss up between the predecessor the LX3, the LX5 and the Canon S95. I've not used the LX3 but supposedly the LX5 has a touch more telephoto zoom (not important for me), better video (quite important) and better low light quality with an improved sensor (very important). The following shots are all at 400iso, hand held at 1/15 and 1/13th sec at F2 (very nice to have such as fast lens). I had been disappointed with the low light abilities of the G10, the LX5 seems less noisy. I've adjusted levels but not re-saturated which I would normally do, or sharpened.
Detail of the above is pretty good considering the hand held slow shutter speed fast aperture.Levels adjusted again, no sharpeningReasonable detail again.

So my initial thoughts are decent low light performance, love the 24mm wide angle, nice handling although I have twice knocked the top mode dial and it's a proper compact. It will be interesting to see how it fairs this winter.

Having said all the above I was looking through a bunch of shots taken on a variety of cameras, and it was very obvious which ones were taken on my DSLR with top quality lenses. It does feel that compact cameras is one area that digital hasn't really delivered in compared with film.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Finding the positives

As you can probably guess, by the fact that my blog posts have slowed to an intermittent crawl over the last few months and that when I do post it tends to be all doom and gloom, I've been struggling a bit this summer. Struggling with what it means to be a climber who doesn't climb. I've had lots of welcome distractions particularly domestically but also with my new job helping edit Climb Magazine (by the way our second issue, Number 69, is now at the printers and it's another notch forward) but selfishly these aren't enough. In past I'd always assumed I'd be climbing for ever; puntering away into my dottage probably still climbing E1s as grade creep keeps up with my ever declining abilities (I imagined celebrating my E1 lead aged 80 due to the 2050 guidebook by future-fax upgrading Stanage's Crack and Corner up to Extreme!). But this summer has seen me begin to doubt that. I could see how many climbers reach my middle-ish age and just let it all go. Constant injuries, declining horizons and abilities and most of all the stress of balancing all the over-flowing plates of life. I almost envisioned myself turning to running or cycling.

Well those thoughts lasted about a week, and then I woke up! Partly because seeing me fat and forty in garish lycra isn't good for anyone's health - but mainly it's just that the mountains are just such compelling places I just can't leave them alone. In every cloud there is ... a new plan! And so for this next season I will mainly be doing...

You rarely have to pull hard, in fact you don't really have to use both arms, you get to see a lot of mountain. And also in recent manic winters I've missed out on pretty much every classic ridge in Scotland. Obviously the reasons for climbing these majestic features is about much more than sheer technical difficulties. But even so there are some pretty tempting challenges beginning to form deep in my psyche. I'm finally getting excited about winter again.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bit of Bicep Bother

After two trips out with the axes I finally had an opportunity to head out rock climbing last weekend, the first time for 4 months. The plan was for a gentle day out with mates at Froggatt but after a few careful VS's for a warm up and on my 4th route of the day an attempt on Chequers Crack was literally cut short as I snapped my bicep tendon.That's at least another 3 months out. Operation tomorrow. Perhaps it's time to take up knitting or Golf (with full protective head gear)?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day trip to Dover

Second time outside in 4 months and a "day trip" (we actually drove down the night before) to Dover seemed appropriate. Joining up with Jon and Chalk newbie Alex we headed for a characterful sounding grade V called X Files.Jon can just be seen right of the top of the grass slope, heading toward the obvious hole in the cliff. (The corner on the right is Into the Groove which has unfortunately suffered rockfall and has a big barbed wire fence hanging down it)Me on pitch 2 getting pumped and cheating - clipping into my axes to place 3 warthogs on the steepest bit.Jon at the top of the steep bitJon disappearing into the cliff and a series of World war II escape runnels.
Happy, relieved and covered in a fine layer of chalk.
All in all an interesting day out and good to get the mind and body kick started a little.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Start of the summer

Well quite obviously the summer is nearing it's end but today I finally managed to go climbing outside. The first time in 5 months since my knee injury. So where did I choose - some quality gritstone? a classic mountain crag? er... no the dry tooling hole known as White Goods!

The arrival at the crag was classic White Goods, with a huge rotting carcass dumped by the parking spot. I met up with Rich Simpson best known as a 9a sports climber, but whose interested in turning his considerable abilities to the tools.
The day went about as well as you would imagine having not climbed for 4 months and then visited a ridiculously steep pumpy crag that leaves me broken even when I'm going well. But it was good to finally get out again, and get preparations kicked off for the real season coming up.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The dreams ahead

Yeah! Even though I'm sitting typing this with a swollen knee that has kept me up most of the night, it's a big relief to have had my knee finally operated on. A further relief (as illustrated in the surgeons pics above) is that there was no arthritis and it was a simple meniscus cartilage tear. Obviously the recuperation required after operating is a big knock-down in terms of fitness but at least I can now get stuck into the process of building back up towards my climbing dreams.

Talking of which, like most climbers I always have dream/fantasy routes in the back of my mind, most of which of course I never end up going anywhere near. For the last few months I've found it too frustrating to think much about climbing but now with the imagination unleashed my latest obsession is a short little route on the other side of the globe.

Photo by Wiktor Skupinski/

Victoria's Secret Deviation was the shortest of the five new routes or variations Raphael Slawinski established on the Stanley Headwall in Canada in the winter of 07/08. He graded it M7++, although I think the story goes that the second ascensionist felt M9 closer to the mark. Or perhaps being entirely trad protected Scottish X might be more appropriate? Whatever, the photo above and write up at the time really burnt into the memory, and whether I get a chance to head out to Canada or not this route will be my motivation over the next few months of physio and rehab. (Here's a report on Raphael's adventures at that time )

The other big excitement at the moment is my new job as Associate Editor of Climb Magazine alongside Dave Pickford the new Chief Editor. This has been my first official week in the post but Dave and I have been grafting away over the past month or so putting in the background work. This shot of a "skyped" business meeting while Dave was in Spain (redpointing some amazing sounding 8b+s) is a nice little vignette I think, with Dave's mad hair summing up the creative side that makes him such an inspirational person to work with.

We've got massive plans for the magazine with many changes and a long term ideal where we hope to make each month's Climb as anticipated as much as each issue of Mountain was or Alpinist is today.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Big Sale

Inspired by my camera gear sale a while back (all sold now) I've decided to sell my house. Well maybe that isn't quite the right story but if anyone is looking for a 3 bed semi in Sheffield (5 minutes drive from Burbage) you couldn't get a better bargain. Here's the Rightmove link

We can rebuild...

Apologies for the gap in blogging. There are a variety of reasons but the main thing is my left knee, which blew up in April and I've been able to do nothing climbing-wise since. After a 10 week wait I finally got it medically examined and the surgeon has booked me in for surgery within a week. It's looking like a tear in the meniscus cartilage something I had surgery on 11 years ago. The good news is that, that time I recovered within 6 weeks to travel out to Alaska on my first trip there and climb an amazing new route on Mount Hunter.

The challenge is obviously going to be the physio afterwards and this pic shows a little of what needs to be done. Even though Ive had perfectly reasonable movement you can see the amount of muscle wastage in my left thigh compared with my right (both are tensed in this pic). Just this morning I read a little sports history piece in the Times which illustrates how battling with injuries is such a large part of so many sports performers lives. It covered the 1992 Olympics of the British 400m runner Derek Redmond. Redmond had had to pull out of the previous Olympics just 90 seconds before the start of his heat due to an Achilles injury. In 1991 Redmond was part of the British team that beat the "unbeatable" Americans in the 4 x 400m relay in the World Championships. A real medal contender in 1992 Redmond was the fastest first round qualifier but in the semi final his hamstring pulled and he dropped to the floor in the back straight. His final 250m where he forced himself to finish with the help of his father is one of those famous moments of Olympic spirit (The film is here ).

What I didn't know was leading up to the 1992 Olympics Redmond had had eight different operations on his various injuries. The mind boggles at the perseverance and dedication to keep getting up from those set-backs and explains why he was so distraught in 1992 when it all fell apart. In my case I'm obviously hoping for a happier ending!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Photo kit for sale

I'm selling a big bunch of Nikon and Voigtlander photographic gear. All of it is used, some of it more than others. Heres a quick list of the items for sale

Voigtlander Bessa T 35mm Film Rangefinder Camera SOLD
Voigtlander 12mm f5.6 inc viewfinder SOLD
Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 inc viewfinder SOLD
Voigtlander 21mm f4 inc viewfinder SOLD
Nikon 17-35mm AFS f 2.8D SOLD
Nikon 35-70mm f2.8D SOLD
Nikon Nikkor 28-80mm f3.5-5.6D
Nikon Coolpix 8400 digital camera SOLD

Below are detailed descriptions of the items plus plenty of pics (click on them for high res versions to check condition of the items). All the items have a guide price that doesn't include postage (you pay) but I will take offers. Particularly if you are buying more than one item. If you are unsatisfied with the item I will refund your money (excluding any postage costs) if you return it to me (and it isn't damaged) within 10 days.

All enquiries to

Voigtlander Bessa T camera Offers around £100
£200 new (although I think no longer made?) £120 used

Completely manual 35mm film rangefinder camera. If you think that Leica's cost several thousand pounds then this camera is a bargain entry into the Rangefinder world. The Voigtlander set up with the wide angle lenses offered for sale below is still my favourite camera, better in many ways than the Nikon SLRs I use now. Reason for sale is that I now shoot entirely digital.

Condition: Good, minor wear on main body, scratches on flash shoe on top plate and circular wear marks under wind on lever. Comes with front body cap.

Voigtlander Bessa T Camera

Voigtlander 12mm f5.6 lens inc viewfinder offers around £250
£710 new £400-500 used (prices
A truly gob smacking lens. 12mm has to be seen to be believed. Includes viewfinder, front and rear lens caps.

Condition: Good, Clear optics, black paint finish is beginning to wear off exposing brass underneath on body and rings. Blob of superglue on front of lens cap from my "bungy cord safety strap".
Voigtlander 12mmVoigtlander 15mm f4.5 lens inc viewfinder Offers around £150
£410 new £270-300 used (prices
Something of a legendary lens, amongst the very best I've ever used. Includes viewfinder, rear cap but NOT front lens cap.
Condition: Good, wear on body but smooth movements and clean optics.
Voigtlander 15mm
Voigtlander 21mm f4 lens inc viewfinder Offers around £150
£370 new £250 used (prices
Another beautiful lens. Includes viewfinder and front and rear caps.
Condition: Good, wear on body but smooth movements and clear optics.
Voigtlander 21mm and viewfinderNikon 17-35mm AF-S f2.8D lens Offers around £400
£1500 new £700-900 used

A legendary lens, every Nikon Pro has one. “The 17-35mm is a spectacular lens which outperforms all of Nikon's previous fixed wide angles”. Constant f2.8 aperture, AFS super fast focussing, largely metal body – bombproof. Reason for sale is that I now have to 14-24mm lens and feel like I’m doubling up.

Condition; Good, clean optics, wear on body of lens, scrapes around front filter ring. Lens hood is cracked and a bit battered, includes front (Cosina make – sorry!) and rear lens caps. Review and spec 17-35mm f2.8
Nikon 35-70mm f2.8D lens Offers around £75
No longer available new but I think it was about £500, around £300 used

Professional quality autofocus push-pull style mid range zoom. Constant f2.8 aperture, macro focussing at 35mm. Very robustly built. Superb lens used for a lot of my best shots. Reason for sale scratches on front element which whilst not affecting the vast majority of shots (see examples below) does create flare when shooting into the sun. Hence the ridiculously low asking price.

Condition: Scratches on front element, some marks and wear on lens body.
Includes front and rear lens caps.Review and spec
Nikon 35-70mm f2.8Shot to show lack of distortion or marks created by front element scratch, detail below. Detail of above shot (no sharpening)
Whilst not directly into sun, this shot was pointing in that direction, again no distortion.
Nikon Nikkor 28-80mm f3.5-5.6D lens Offers around £30
No longer available but around £60-70 used
Lightweight and compact autofocus mid range zoom famous for the quality of its performance compared with many cheap zooms. To quote Ken Rockwell “…this is the best example I've seen of a lens that stupider people will dismiss without even trying it, whereas in fact it is among the best midrange zooms I've used!”

Very good condition, Nikon front and rear lens caps.Review and spec
Nikon 28-80mm
Nikon Coolpix 8400 digital camera Offers around £120
Including charger, two batteries, lens cap, camera bag and instruction booklet.
24-85mm super wide angle zoom
8 mega-pixels
Shoots in RAW mode
Uses Compact Flash cards.
Many auto modes as well as complete manual control
Macro focussing to 3cm
640x480 30fps video
Swivel out screen – good to avoid sun-glare and for self portraits.
Pop up flash as well as hotshoe

This type of camera used to be called a “prosumer” i.e. halfway between a professional and a consumers model. The wide angle 24-85mm zoom is a big attraction, as is the ability to shoot RAW images. Reason for sale is that I bought it as a backup for my SLR then ended up getting a second SLR, which is now the new backup.

Condition: Excellent, hardly used. Camera Bag is a bit old but I’ve thrown that in anyway.

Only price I can find online is $899 on Amazon, and chatroom’s talking about over $1000! Nikon Coolpix 8400 digital camera