Alpine Adventures

Just a quick post to share my last-minute plans for the summer.

I’ve just booked my flights for a six week trip traveling and climbing in the Alps. This will be my second trip to the Alps but this time will be a more focused and specific project climbing some of the hardest big-wall routes around rather than a leisurely holiday.

I was invited on this trip by Robbie Phillips a really strong and well known climber from Edinburgh who’s recently made the transition from crushing really hard sport grades to hard trad and big wall alpine climbs. It’s all rather last-minute as he’d had a few partners fall through on plans for this summer and after working with Finalcrux Films on other projects Robbie heard about my willingness to drop everything to go and climb gnarly big-walls and invited me along.

Our plan is to head to the Italian Dolomites for the first two weeks to climb on the north face of Cima Ovest, one of the three 3000m peaks of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. There are a few projects that we have looked into on the face with ‘project fear’ being the main goal  for Robbie being even harder than the classic line ‘Bellavista’ 8b+ that he made an ascent of last year. From Italy we plan to travel over to Switzerland where I will meet with the rest of the team that are involved in the ‘Eiger Paraclimb Project’ who will be flying over mid July. This project is separate from mine and Robbie’s trip and he’s made other plans for the time with which ill be preoccupied filming the paraclimbing team attempt to climb the west flank route of the Eiger. We have allocated roughly two weeks for this project which leaves us with plenty of time for a good weather window, something crucial for success to a slow moving team. If luck is on our side, the accent might be over and done within the first week so with the ‘spare’ time left over there’s hope that me and Euan might find a chance to dash over to the Matterhorn and possibly attempt a route, only time will tell I guess.

With the para-climbers planning to head home at the beginning of August it’ll be time for me to meet back up with Robbie to head for the main goal of the entire trip. An attempt at ‘Paciencia’ 8a on the north face of the Eiger, the hardest route on the face. I have a lot of apprehension about this route but also a lot of excitement. I’ve wanted to climb the north face of the Eiger since I was a wee boy, since before I even got into climbing, it’s an iconic face that has so much history behind it, along with a serious reputation for being the biggest and baddest. Then to be invited on a trip to climb the hardest route on it… how could I not want to get involved!! We’ve set ourselves two weeks to work on the route and get it ticked meaning my entire trip will consist of six weeks away, I don’t think I can think of anything better.

Anyway, there are plans and then there’s reality and I have no doubt the latter will strike hard with many mistakes being made, unexpected challenges every day with several steep learning curves but we are going, the flights are booked and I’ve never been so psyched!

If you’d like to follow me and Robbie on our trip, follow my twitter where I plan to keep it updated with daily info and pictures.

If you’d like to know more about the Eiger paraclimb project or even donate towards it have a look by following this link.

Training pays off

With the days counting down until I go away to the Alps I’ve been trying to rack up as many hours as possible at work leaving with hardly any free days until I go away. Working chaotic hours almost everyday might sound like a restriction to my climbing but I often find at times like these it motivates me to train more. Finishing shifts in the centre before closing time leaves me with no excuse not to have a session afterwards as I’m already there with little else to do and its easy to be motivated when you’ve been watching others climb all day so even squeezing in an hours fingerboard session between shifts doesn’t feel like a chore when your blowing off steam from the previous shift. With the dramatic change in the weather over the last few days I’ve been jumping at any opportunity to take my training from the fingerboard onto real rock (It is Scotland, it could be raining again tomorrow!)

Today we woke early to try and get the most out of a morning session in the sun before starting work at midday so we headed to the local sport crag Dumbuck. Being notorious For its short, yet aggressively steep routes I was interested to see how my recent level of training would pay off here.

Finding the crag was nothing short of a total mission. The guidebooks approach description say something along the lines of ‘though some fields and up to the crag through the trees’. When in reality it it should say, cross the tick infested fields down the hill to where you will have to battle your way through the overgrown jungle, up the steep mud and scree slope where you will randomly stumble upon some ropes that climb up to the crag…..In other words, we got lost because of Euans fantastic guiding skills!!

Neither of us having been to the crag before we spent the day attempting the ‘must do’ route of ‘Awaken’ 7c+. We both struggled to work out the final few moves through the crux on our first few goes and as time (and skin) started to run out there was some frustration when we finally cracked the crux later in the day only to not have enough energy for a serious redpoint after all the previous attempts. After some serious moaning about skin condition and dehydration We pulled the rope and agreed to come back for the tick another day.

Satisfied with a good session I agreed to go up to get the draws back before leaving, I tied in again and before I knew it I was topping out the route. Clean. No falls…talk about a last minute effort! The psyche was high from the tick after all the demoralising efforts earlier and it was great to walk away with such a high grade having only had just one session working at it, I guess it proves this training malarkey does pay off eh!?