Category Archives: Climbing

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk is Totally Free

Privileged to have a bird-eye view last week whilst photographing Mina Leslie-Wujastyk send Totally Free II (F8b) at Malham. It was pretty inspiring stuff from Mina – as usual!

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk on the headwall of Totally Free II on her unsuccessful attempt last Wednesday

At 70m in length it’s one of the longest single pitch hard sport routes in the UK. Mina tied in at 4pm on Wednesday 9th. An hour later, she had topped the final roof and only two metres or so of climbing remained; a nasty, rounded mantleshelf onto the final, final headwall. Having belayed Mina on the first half of The Groove, I handed over the belay duty to ‘Buster’ Martin and then ran round to the top of The Cove with my camera.

I arrived to see Mina climbing Free and Easy – perhaps the second most ‘out-there’ F7c in the UK. At the top of that she faced the final roof of Breach of the Peace – a huge roof right at the top of The Cove another F7c pitch and definitely totally ‘out-there’.

Finally she committed to the final roof. Determined as ever, Mina was soon on the very lip but it was almost immediately obvious that she’d hit a problem. She could just about reach the final quickdraw above and off to one side of her but the rope drag was so bad she couldn’t pull any slack through and clip it. Then the forecast rain started; initially a few spots being blown in on an increasing wind. She hung there for fully ten minutes shaking out and trying to clip the draw as it swung about in the wind. Cramping badly and in the face of increasing rain she gritted her teeth and committed to the mantleshelf finish. Pulling over the final bulge she drew level with the quickdraw – still stubbornly off to one side. Her movement were determined but her elbows were up. One final last-ditch throw to a distant hold failed; totally blown she fell off the final roof into the wind, the rain and the abyss!

Mina back on the headwall again during her successful ascent on Friday

Two metres off a 70m route after 70 minutes climbing was no place to fall! Two days later Mina was back. Battle-scarred and still pretty tired but with a new game-plan. Her first burn she fell off the top of The Groove. A weaker person might have thrown the towel in – but not Mina! “It’s always worth one more go though” she said before tying in again for what turned out to be a successful ascent, the first by a women of one of the longest and best single-pitch hard sport route in the UK.

Also posted in Photography

Bootcamp

Nothing beats an early trip away to ‘get your eye-in’ ahead of the season in my opinion.

Ceguera Temporal (F6b+) on Sector Ceguera is a rather fine pitch overlooking the village and just a stone’s throw from the climber’s cafe

After a winter of pulling on plastic – or more likely these days – bars, rings, fingerboards and wooden holds, there comes a time in the spring when you’ve gotta bite the bullet and get back out on the rock. It ain’t easy stepping outside again; training has become your ‘thing’ – the norm in fact, but it’s outside where the real action is and where what really matters goes down.

Coffee, a guide and some sun; all you need for some serious chillin’ in the square in Chulilla – on a rest-day, obvs!

Leaving the comfort of your regular training routine feels all kinda scary. Yes, it’s a process we’ve been through before but it’s still a tough one. The holds are smaller and strangely they don’t come tagged with brightly coloured tape! Footholds are none existent; at least that’s how they seem at first! Those who have travelled that road before us have chalked every last dimple as well; each and every one of the plethora of holds within your field of view needs to be assessed and sorted into the good, the bad and the ugly and then incorporated into a possible sequence. This process should take nano-seconds, but your brain seems stuck in second (at best) gear and the pump is coming on fast. Your movement feels laboured and mechanical, wooden at best. That polished foothold is half the size you need it to be as well! And why the heck did the person that bolted the route think it was a good idea to put the next bolt right up there out of reach!

Welcome to bootcamp!                                                                                       

Serengueti (F7a+) at Sector Serengueti is just one of a handful of new(ish) routes at Chulilla slightly off the beaten track. Well-worth searching out however – the rock at Serengueti and the nearby Masters Wall is top notch.

This year’s bootcamp for me was in Chulilla – at least it was until rain stopped play and we reconvened down south at Wildside in Sella. Compared to Chulilla, Wildside comes-up as rather ‘old skool’ now-a-days. Wildside is much more limited than Chulilla, the routes are generally shorter and being older they’re ‘well-loved’ but, in general, they’re steeper. Yeah they’re different; but good different. TBH, a few days climbing at Wildside will hit a different spot than Chulilla; together, they complement each other very nicely. Two class venues – highly recommended!

Oceano (F7b) at Wildside gives steep climbing on good holds; pumptastic!

This trip was all about the climbing so photography took a back seat. Still couldn’t resist getting a few snaps though, be rude not to…

 

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Once more into the breach – a day on The Skull

May 29th; 2017

The Skull is, without a doubt, one of the ‘must-do’ routes in The Pass. Like a giant ogre, Cryn Las hangs over the southern side of The Pass. Early morning summer sun casts deep shadows across Cryn Las; the resemblance to sunken eye sockets looming ominously high on the headwall is both unmistakable and daunting in equal measure.

A sunny but daunting  Cryn Las

A sunny but daunting Cryn Las

The Skull climbs up to and through the left-hand ‘eye socket’ – when looking face-on at Cryn Las.  I’ve ‘wanted’ to do The Skull for years – since the 80’s in fact; last Friday Paul and myself committed to the snatch a day over in Wales to get the job done ahead of the (predictably) forecast end to the good run of weather. I’d not trad-climbed in a couple of years so to say I was a little ‘trad-rusty’ was an understatement. The solution was simple; an evening visit to New Mills Tor (of all places) on the way over however was the perfect opportunity to – at least start – to get my trad head together.

The plan came together like a dream; but would our execution be as flawless? Nothing to E4 seemed like a bit ask to my sport climbing head but nothing ventured. And what could go wrong; how hard could E4 be?

Paul questing into the unknown on the fifth and final pitch of The Skull

Paul questing into the unknown on the fifth and final pitch of The Skull

Long story super short; it was a stunning day and we got the job done – although not without a degree of excitement. One of the great mountain classics in the bag after 40 years of dreaming! A couple of teams were on Main Wall and none other than the legendary Phil Davison was in the groove on The Grooves. An amazing route up an amazing crag; an all-round amazing day. And thanks too to Nick Bullock for the loan of a spare chalk bag; that would have been one experience too far to have to climb that route sans chalk. And yes Nick, I’d agree with you, all three of the main pitches are worth 6a.

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Also posted in Adventure

Young Guns – a.k.a. GB Climbing Development Squad

Managed to touch-base recently with some of the Britain’s best young climbers during a GB Climbing Development Squad meeting.

Aiden Dunne bearing down on the Wasp 8a at The Foundry

Aiden Dunne bearing down on the Wasp 8a at The Foundry

It’s impossible not to be uber impressed with these guys – their output is little sort of phenomenal and their attitude and psyche is amazing. I caught up with William Bosi, Jim Pope and Aidan Roberts at The Foundry. They’d all had great weekend – firstly at Awesome Walls and then at The Foundry. Some, Jim Pope – for example, had even slipped a session in at The Works after Awesome Walls. They – alongside the rest of the squad – are ‘on it’ and gunning for the top slots in this year’s comps. Sure, they all take full advantage of the training facilities at their disposal and the experience of their coaches but they graft super hard and are seeing the results.

I’m in the throes of writing an article on the Development Squad for CLIMBER Magazine BTW, so look out for that in a forthcoming edition if you wanna find out more.

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Also posted in Photography

A(nother) winter trip to the World Climbing Destination that is Chulilla

Most of the time, most climbers visiting Chulilla agree with the premise that it’s Valencia’s best crag and an undisputed WCD (World Climbing Destination). This winter however, Chulilla hasn’t quite delivered.

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Locals say that it’s been the worst winter for 35 years; the un-uncharacteristically heavy rain has almost, quite literally, washed some of Chulilla’s reputation away. Depending exactly when visiting climbers have dipped their toes into Chulilla’s rocky pool, they may have escaped the worst of the rains and hence had a typically Chulilla visit during which they have quenching their thirst for endless routes. Others – myself included – have not been so fortunate. Arriving in late January, we were greeted by dripping wet walls and tufas rather than the normal curtains of immaculate rock.  It’s not solely Chulilla that’s been affected either; the Costa Blanca and Costa Durada have been hit too. Latterly, those confining their activities to more northerly venues – such as in the Lleida area – have apparently fared better.

 

Try Gasolinera at Fantasia if you fancy some old skool action

Try Gasolinera at Fantasia if you fancy some old skool action

The roller coaster kicked off in late December/early January by all accounts. Firstly, it was dry, then soaked, then it nearly dried but then it rained again and got proper wet. By late January the contrast with last year couldn’t have been greater. The only decision last January was whether to climb in the sun or the shade. This year, the shady crags – barring a few – were drenched so it was in the sun or (almost) nothing. Pared de Enfrente and Chorreras – normally thronged with climbers – were deserted; it wasn’t that there was the odd wet hold here and there rather that whole swathes of the crags were gushing wet. Early in our visit we walked – well, actually we ran – beneath Chorreras; it was flowing like a river drenching us in seconds! Pared de Entrente wasn’t quite as bad but soaked nevertheless. Locals say that it’ll be April before these badly affected areas are dry again!

The flipside of the coin was that Muro de las Lamentaciones, Nanapark, Ca Germa and Naranjito were pretty much bone-dry. Teams flocked to these areas either arriving early or late depending on team preferences to climbing in the sun. Most of the other popular crags such as Sex-Shop, El Balcon, El Balconcito, El Algarrobo and El Oasis were in decidedly poor condition too. New sectors such as Serengueti and Masters proved ‘pretty dry’ and so along with old skool crags such as Competition, Ceguera, Peneta I and Peneta II were climbable. Outside the gorge, other old skool and sunny crags such as Pesadilla and Fantasia were dry.

Bar the rainy day, the weather was pretty amazing; stunning blue skies being typical. Most days we thought we could see vultures high above the crags whilst Alpine Accentors and Robins were frequent crag visitors. The cacti in the valley also appeared to be flourishing.

Whilst we were decidedly impacted where we could go and climb, save for a single (forecast) wet day we climbed six days from seven. We bagged numerous multi-starred classics and had a fantastic time despite the wet and hence off-limit crags. Sometimes, you just have to ‘get on with it’. Oh, by the way, if slabby walls are your bag, then have a crack at Gasolinera L1 and L2 at Fantasia and see how you like them. They’re given F6b and F6b+ in one guide and F6b+ and F6c in another but we figured those are still a fair bit shy of the proper grades.

A night-time Chulilla

A night-time Chulilla

One last thing Pedro Pons, who runs the guesthouse just on the (northern) outskirts of Chulilla, has recently published a revised guide (c.22 Euros) to the climbing at Chulilla. Pon’s guide is available locally and it supports the bolting effort at Chulilla. Unfortunately, this isn’t currently available in the UK.

Chulilla from the southInside ChulillaChulilla_townscapeChulilla_townscapeClimbers' Bar ChulillaGraham on Gasolineria (L1) at Fantasia - tough old skool slab actionGraham again - this time on Vol Damm at Pesadilla.Robin at FantasiaRobin at FantasiaSector CompeticionPared de EnfrenteCacti below Sex ShopDale duro Negro about to discharge its suitorRain Towers beneath Pared de EntrenteWhen all else fails...El Brutamonti (L1) at Ca GermaChulilla sunsetChulilla sunset

Also posted in Travel

2016 British Bouldering Championships @ Cliffhanger

2016 British Bouldering Championships at Cliffhanger

July 14th; 2016

Shauna Coxsey and Matt Cousins lifted the 2016 senior British Bouldering Championship titles at the Cliffhanger Festival in Sheffield last weekend.

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Shauna Coxsey – MBE, 2016 British Bouldering and World Cup Champion

 

 

 

 

Shauna Coxsey’s form throughout 2016 has been little short of phenomenal. Having already secured the Bouldering World Cup with the final event still to be held, Shauna went into the BBC as odds-on favourite. That she totally dominated the women’s event at the BBC’s came as no surprise to anyone. But for a single problem in the semi-finals Shauna flashed every other problem brushing many aside as though they were just warm-ups.

The men’s event however was a little more finely balanced. Dave Barrans scored a perfect round in the qualifiers flashing all five blocs. It was however, Matt Cousins – runner-up in the qualification round – that came to the fore in the semi-finals and finals to take the top slot with a deserved and consistent performance.

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Matt Cousins – 2016 British Bouldering Champion

The Cliffhanger Festival – in its ninth year – has become a regular feature of the summer scene here in Sheffield. For the first time however, the festival was held in the city centre rather that out in either Millhouses or Graves Parks. Sharing the stage with a running, biking and hiking hub, the city’s outdoor fraternity were well-served and turned out in force despite the changeable weather.

The setting team – Percy Bishton, Andy Long, Jamie Cassidy, Rob Napier and Ben Meeks – came up with the goods setting a whole raft of interesting-looking, spectator-friendly blocs for the competitors.

The women’s results were:

1st Shauna Coxsey; 2nd Tara Hayes; 3rd Leah Crane; 4th Michaele Tracey; 5th Gracie Martin;  6th Jo Neame

The men’s results were:

1st Matt Cousins; 2nd Nathan Phillips; 3rd Orrin Coley; 4th Billy Ridal; 5th James Garden; 6th Dave Barrans

Finally, here’s a selection of shots from the finals…

 

BBC_2016_Finalists checking out the blocsBBC_2016_Finalists checking out the blocsBBC_2016_Leah Crane wrestling with the crux sloper on W1BBC_2016_Jo Neame hunting the sweet spot on the sloper on W1BBC_2016_Tara Hayes staying low on the sloper on W1BBC_2016_What sloper? It's a pinch not a sloper says Shauna Coxsey (MBE)BBC_2016_Billy Ridal getting into the groove on M2BBC_2016_Jo Neame wrestling with W2BBC_2016_Billy Ridal progressing on M2BBC_2016_Tara Hayes nearing the top of W2BBC_2016_Orrin Coley in the midst of the blankness that was M3BBC_2016_Jo Neame on the tufatastic W3BBC_2016_Tara Hayes on W3BBC_2016_Shauna Coxsey crushing W3BBC_2016_Shauna again on W3BBC_2016_Gracie Martin on W4BBC_2016_Michaela Tracy on W4BBC_2016_Orrin Coley sizing up the dyno on M4BBC_2016_James Garden launching one on M4BBC_Dave Barrans on/off M4BBC_2016_Nathan Phillips landing the crux dyno on M4BBC_2016_Matt Cousins letting rip on M4BBC_2016_Matt Cousins latching M4BBC_2016_And another win to Shauna Coxsey after flashing W4BBC_2016_Women PodiumBBC_2016_Mens PodiumBBC_2016_2016 scoreboard... the envy of the world!

Footnote: I wrongly commented in my 2015 Cliffhanger report that last year’s Cliffhanger was the ninth – it was in fact ‘only’ the eighth.

Also posted in Bouldering, Events, Photography

Selling Ice to the Eskimos?

April 27th, 2016

Question: what have Harewood House, Whitby Abbey, Steve McClure and Scarborough all got in common?

Answer: they are all appearing on VisitBritain website pitching Yorkshire to the French as part of promotional drive for the Tour du Yorkshire which – as you all know – starts tomorrow, April 28th.

So, Q&A over; what that got to do with me or my photography. That’s simple – I’ll explain.

VisitBritain_Malham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amongst the millions of images out there I’m chuffed to say that Visit Britain have used an image of mine featuring Steve McClure on Overshadow at Malham as part of the promotional drive to ‘sell’ both Yorkshire and the Tour du Yorkshire to the French. Turns out, that Visit Britain are using four disparate images, one each featuring Harewood House, Whitby Abbey, Steve McClure climbing at Malham Cove and a group of Sky cyclists at Scarborough, as a hook to get our nearest neighbours over here to take in the scenes. Said images, complete with accompanying graphics et al, are being sprayed to your friends across the English Channel right now…

Top French climbers have – as we all know – ventured across the Channel from time to time in the past; that’s hardly a revelation, if you get my drift. Many top French cyclists came over a couple of years back for the Grand Depart to the 2014 Tour du France. So maybe selling Yorkshire to the French won’t be quite as hard – as the saying goes – as selling ice to the Eskimos?

Be that as it may, I’m pleased to been able to help out with a pix of Steve on Overshadow. Maybe if they hang on a day or two I can get some shots of Steve when he tops out on his super project just to the right of Overshadow?

Anyways, here’s the images/pages being sprayed into France right now…

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Also posted in Photography, Travel

­­­­­­­2015 – Captured

Light years past the roll-over into 2016 I’ve finally pulled a selection of images together that I shot during 2015. It’s always an ‘interesting’ exercise to rummage through the hard drives and pull a selection of shots together that collectively sum-up a years of photographic effort. Even the best made photographic plans change – sometimes, it seems, no sooner than they’ve been hatched. And so it was for me in 2015 when a couple of major projects rolled effortlessly over the threshold into 2016. No matter really, that offered opportunities for others to come forward.

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Apart from capturing some winter scenery, my first photo shoot proper in 2015 was F-BO15; otherwise known as the Foundry’s 2015 Bouldering Open competition. Shooting climbing comps is more often than not nails; the action is fast moving, the ambient lighting at best challenging and the use of artificial lighting difficult in crowded locations. Finally, getting a good angle/shooting position is usually nigh on impossible. It’s usual therefore to ‘shoot on the fly’ which is pretty difficult but when it works it’s pretty satisfying. The year before, at F-BO14, I’d caught Stuart Littlefair attempting one of the 2014 problems feet-first. There was none of that in F-BO15 but there was some ‘swinging ball action’ that was pretty interesting to shoot. Shooting super-low, I managed to capture Ethan Walker just coming off the swinging ball. A suitably positioned chalk bag provided some nice foreground interest and hence depth in the shot; result! In F-BO14 Stuart had taken Ben Moon’s place in the final but Ben Moon v.2015 was there in force – in fact he crushed all before him turning in a (well-deserved) winning performance. Ben’s company sponsors one of the walls at The Foundry and I managed to get a shot Ben powering up the hardest bloc with his logo on the wall behind clearly in shot; I thought it was a nice bit of ‘later wow’ though I doubt many other folks even spotted it. C’est la vie…05_2015_Beddgelert_DSC_0074_capture

Following F-BO15, a wet and soggy walk down an in-spate Padley Gorge seemed to signal the end of winter. Spring always seems so fresh and the light so clear after the misty, muggy days of winter; the woods turn blue with blue bells and it was all rather pleasant. Even a cloudy day didn’t spoil a rare solar eclipse – in fact it gave it a haunting look. Spring 2015 went past in a flash to be honest; I find that’s what happens when I get engrossed in a climbing project. Success nearly came in April but I managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of success so the process of turning up and trying hard soaked up time; time that should really have been spent elsewhere. Finally, following a trip to a scenic Wales, the Eastwood Double was done and I could move on.

06_2015_Scotland_06_DSC03468Moving on took the form of starting my limestone campaign for the year plus a couple of trips away; firstly to Scotland and then back to Wales. Scotland first. This was a four-day trip with Paul, a grand master of the ‘quick hit’. The weather was fantastic so for Day#1 it had to be a monster 12-hour outing onto Cairn Dearg Buttress on the North East face of Ben Nevis. Torro, a totally fantastic E2 – maybe even one of the best on a big mountain cliff anywhere in the UK – was our reward. An amazing route up the middle of the crag just left of Centurion; I’ll happily recommend Torro to anyone climbing at that grade and looking for a full-on mountain experience. It’s perhaps worth knowing that sorting a belay at the06_2015_Scotland_44_DSC03726_alt end of Pitch 3 is ‘rather interesting’, that the fourth crux pitch suffers a bit from seepage ad the final pitch is definitely a sting in the tail. Overall it’s a great route; defo a four-star experience. The descent afterwards wasn’t totally straight forward; dropping into the gully which was still full of snow was quite interesting in trainers! The Isle of Skye called next and over the bridge we went; sadly, arriving with the doggie weather. Rain stopped us from getting involved at Kilt Rock but dry rock near Niest Point was duly located along with Bad Dreams (E3 5b, 5c) and that felt more than adequate as a consolation prize. And the views over Niest Point were stunning. Equally excellent was Whispering Crack (E3/4 5a, 5c) at Rubha Hunish – the most northerly point on Skye – which provided the entertainment the following day; a day so cold and windy that a t-shirt, a thermal, a fleece and then an outer wind stopper together with two pairs of trousers seemed scant protection against with the fresh connies yet way too many clothes to be wearing for leading a

Neist Point, Isle of Skye

hard and physical crack pitch. And what a pitch as well; amazing in fact, the best 45m crack pitch I’ve lead for ages. And still the wind blew on Day#4 – so much so in fact that we sacked-off our intended target and instead slunk off to Glen Nevis were we collected a couple of fine E2’s – including Plague of Blazes (E2 5c) – for our troubles before heading south.

I’m embarrassed to admit that in all my years of climbing – 40+ now and counting – Cloggy is one of the cliffs that had passed me by. The forecast suggested a settled period and a plan was duly hatched. We left Sheffield just after 4am. By 7am we were walking into Cloggy up the railway track; a lifelong ambition was unfolding. Occasionally, a photograph of a climber on an iconic route is etched into your mind’s eye. Ken Wilsons’ shot of Ed Drummond on the first pitch of Great Wall was such a photo for me; the cliff all dark and moody and Drummond dressed in seemingly virgin-like white. It didn’t need any discussion; Great Wall was the #1 target. I got the first pitch and Paul lead the second. Both were quite different and thoroughly enjoyable. We could discuss, as hundreds already have, whether Great Wall is a stiff E3 or an easy E4; in a way it doesn’t matter as long as it’s suitably described – either way it’s an absolute crac07_2015_Cloggy_DSC03791_lo resking route, sustained and interesting. Hacking up the vegetation above to top out was a bit of a downer mind you, but it’s not too long a scramble and it’s alright really. The Axe (E4 6a) seemed like a sensible follow-up pitch. Paul’s lead was suitable steady although I think I may have heard a few squeals of anxiety now and then. Seconding, I was grateful that had any of the thin and seemingly hollow flakes actually parted company then I’d be swinging out in space rather than taking a ride downwards onto a doggy cam sat behind some doggy flake. Another great route – especially to second!

July came round pr07_2015_BBC 2015_015_DSC_1129etty fast and with it the BBCs – British Bouldering Championships – at Cliffhanger, Sheffield. It was a pretty fancy set-up at Cliffhanger again and, not surprisingly, the respective titles were keenly contested. Photographically, the white tarp which covered the temporary wall acted like a giant diffusor so – for once – there was plenty of light which at least solved that problem. Access was, sadly, the usual nightmare however; swinging around on scaffolding and scrambling up the back of the wall avoiding the business end of literally hundreds of screws! It’s always pot-luck whether to shoot from the floor or hanging off the top of the wall and I usually mix it up a bit to get some variety. As it was I got lucky on one of the blocs as I was shooting straight down as Shauna was eye-balling a finishing hold. Part way through the finals I dropped down to the mats and shot a bunch of problems at floor level which gave a totally different perspective, not least as I switched to a long lens and used a wide aperture. It was a great afternoon and Shauna Coxsey and Tyler Landman were the worthy winners.

07_2015_Everglades_DSC_1550_lo resIn late July we set-off to go to the USA. The plan was pretty simple; fly into Orlando, pick up a car and then nip down to the Everglades to check-out some of the local wildlife, back up to Florida for a day at Universal Studios, pull an evening visit to Cape Canaveral to watch a launch, cruse up to Charleston, then hop on an internal flight to Boston and then finally back down to The Big Apple. A simple plan I’m sure you’ll agree; what could go wrong?! Actually, it did roll out pretty much as per the blue-print; save the launch at Cape Canaveral which was binned-off at the last minute due to doggy weather at launch site. It’s tricky pulling out favs or best memories – we seem to get so many in the trip. The ‘gators in the Everglades were well-worth seeing and pretty much as billed; what was a bonus though was the sunrises/sunsets over the waterfronts. The Ringling Museum and Ca’D’Zan in Sarasota Bay was something of an oasis and defo worth a look. Being Stateside, a trip to a baseball match was clearly in order; in the end we caught two although watching the Red Soxs play in Fenway Park was very much the real deal as well as a 08_2015_New York_42_DSC_3287_alt2great opportunity to capture some totally different action. Ditto, some of the sights in Boston; I’m thinking mainly of the Holocaust Memorial and the War Memorial to the US fallen soldiers were especially haunting and reminders of a past. An afternoon walking round the Harvard University complex restored a little balance. New York was crammed with things to visit. Staying longer and doing more would perhaps have been overdoing it and we lift happy with what we’d seen; Grand Central, Times Square, Central park, Rockafella Centre, Empire State Building, Ground Zero, State of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge and last but definitely not least, Manhattan skyline at night.

09_2015_Nettle_DSC_3850_lo resPeak limestone is bread and butter for me photographically and climbing wise. The climbing connies during September and October were pretty flipping good – right up there in fact with the best it’s been for quite a few years – and when it’s that good Chee Dale is the place to be; especially The Cornice. My long-term climbing project there grabbed my attention so photography suffered a kick-back to be honest – it’s super hard to focus (no pun intented) to do both. I did manage to get some shots thought – not only at The Cornice, but also at the altogether more demure Nettle Buttress. It’s great to shoot at these places mid-week when it’s quiet – but you have to take your opportunities when they present themselves. Oh, nearly forgot, some nice fungi down there too in the autumn.

Looking back now the back end of 2015  wasn’t especially productive on the photographic front. However, a weekend visit to Buttermere in the Lake District proved rewarding on several fronts –10_2015_Buttermere_07_DSC_4696 defo photographically. For starters, let’s say that the weather was changeable; both days started with rain and both days finished with glorious sunsets – the autumnal colours were, as expected, pretty intense. Buttermere is one of the more photographed locations in the Lakes and its pretty obvious when you go you’ll see why – a great photo op around every corner; loved it! Rather more ‘off-subject’ for me was a trip to MIMA – Middlesborough Institute of Modern Arts to be exact. It was a flying visit but an interesting one nevertheless. Recommended if you’re in the area.

With 2015 coming rapidly to an end some disparate climbing subjects wrapped up the year for me. I’d got a couple of the Crusher Hold new Slaves to test and review and needed a couple of product shots to accompany said review. A straight product shot plus a product in use provided a rare opportunity to get a little bit creative with some close-ups. Finally, shooting some promo shots for The Foundry for marketing and then the Mammut University Lead Challenge finished the year almost where it had begun! I’ll blame the lousy weather in the autumn for my totally lack of outdoor shots but, in truth, I think it was a poor show on my part for not making the best of what was available.

For the full gallery of shots from 2015 Captured click through here

Also posted in Adventure, Events, General, Photography, Travel

Dec 2nd, 2015: Mammut University Onsight Lead Comp at The Foundry

The winter climbing comps are very much in full swing now – today saw The Foundry playing host to the Mammut University Onsight Lead Final.

Will Smith milking a kneebar before committing to the crucial tufa above

The Foundry’s chief setter, Rob Napier, had conjured up a couple of tasty looking routes up the main wall for the competitors to get to grips with. I couldn’t help drop in for an hour or so and grab some snaps. The men’s final route was on the right-hand side of the prow and off the top of the Bleaustone Wall I had a grandstand view. Connor Bynre and Luke Dawson had both topped out in the opening round so it was totally down to the final to split these two. Will Smith however had his own game plan and very nearly sneaked in and upset the proverbial apple cart. As it was, Connor Byrne flew-off the crucial mid-height tufa allowing Will Smith to take second place and Luke Dawson the top slot although with only 2moves separating all three climbers it was a pretty close final.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay to watch the majority of women’s half of the comp although I was there to see Team GB Member Jennifer Wood hike the women’s final.

Here’s a selection of the action…

Mammut Uni Comp_01_DSC_4910.jpgMammut Uni Comp_02_DSC_4918.jpgMammut Uni Comp_03_DSC_4928.jpgMammut Uni Comp_04_DSC_4933.jpgMammut Uni Comp_05_DSC_4945.jpgMammut Uni Comp_06_DSC_4956.jpgMammut Uni Comp_07_DSC_4963.jpgMammut Uni Comp_08_DSC_4982.jpgMammut Uni Comp_09_DSC_4992.jpgMammut Uni Comp_10_DSC_5007.jpgMammut Uni Comp_11_DSC_5014.jpgMammut Uni Comp_12_DSC_5028.jpgMammut Uni Comp_13_DSC_5032.jpgMammut Uni Comp_14_DSC_5049.jpgMammut Uni Comp_15_DSC_5052.jpg

Also posted in Events, Photography

2014 Captured

Ridiculously belatedly, I know – glaciers have moved faster – I’ve finally pulled together a gallery of images from 2014! Post processing your images take forever – or so it seems – but notwithstanding it’s always worth reviewing your work. Not least, it’s worth asking what works and why and what doesn’t work and why and pulling together a gallery of images is one way of doing just that.

1402_DSC_5417In my round-up for 2013 I said that I’d shot some 7,500 images totalling 263 GB of space and that had trumped my efforts in previous years. Well, 2014 blew those figs clean out of the water; c.13,500 images shot consuming c.454 GB of disk – nearly twice my previous max! Quantity isn’t, nor has it, nor will it ever be a measure of artistic value or quality but – to coin a phase – the more I practice the better my images get – arguably! As an aside it also shows that myself and most other photogs have data handling issues equivalent to companies many times the size of our businesses. Quite literally, digi photogs are awash in data.

Photographically, 2014 was an extremely interesting and different year to those that went before it. I continued to shoot climbing images – as I figure I always well. The bulk of these however were in the Peak District – only a single overseas trip to Riglos being the sole exception. Cycling shots were up for sure – hardly surprising given that La Grand Depart happened on the doorstep. A week-long summer trip facilitated some UK surfing shots but the big newbie in my portfolio was trail running. Vertebrate Publishing were in the final stages of a trail running guidebook for the Peak District and our paths collided. By the time the guide went to print in the autumn I’d shot images on trails all over the White and Dark Peak. As you’ll see, trail running is well represented in the gallery accompanying this post – though more of that anon.

2014 kicked off with some spectacular dawn light on Merseyside. The New Brighton Lighthouse, formally known as Perch Rock Lighthouse, is a favourite1412_DSC01725 of mine and a few thousand other photogs as well! Originally constructed in 1827, the current lighthouse ceased operation in 1973.Since then it has been maintained by the Kingham family. Reports of Northern Light activity flooded the media in the second week of January – so much so that I donned suitable attire and jointed the throngs of night revellers at Stanage for whatever meagre glimpse we might get of said NL spectacular. In the end, most folks bailed an hour or so past mid-night with so much as seeing anything other than car headlights and a light-polluted (admittedly) clear night!

The main event in February was F-BO14 – an open bouldering comp at The Foundry. It produced some surprises along the way. Against some stiff opposition a certain Mr Ben Moon qualified for the final which was absolutely great to see that he could still hold his own in the rarefied air of top-flight bouldering comps. By March the weather was heading rapidly into spring and limestone action at Stoney was underway as well as some grit. It was great getting out again especially as I was in the midst of a climbing shoe review for CLMBER magazine.

1436_DSC_9294A four-day trip to Riglos in late March/early April felt like the real start to the season. And what an amazing route Fiesta de los Biceps is – absolutely knock-out; c.300 m of stunning climbing up unbelievable steep rock. What not to like? Back home after that, the flora was springing (sorry…) into life everywhere. April and May went rushing past in a blur with trips to Wallasey included the unexpected bonus of ‘finding’ The Breck as well as the more usual haunts in Chee Dale and Stanage providing photo opportunities. Farther north, a trip to Northumberland – with excellent weather as usual – was a real bonus. We based ourselves near to Dunstanburgh Castle which is just spectacular as are the nearby rock/boulder strewn coast line.

July, of course, was all about La Tour, what a great event that was – again bags of photo ops. It’s a cliché of course, but I couldn’t resist a snap of the yellow jersey as ‘it’ came past. And following that was the Sheffield Criterium – a city centre race where the pro teams and the best amateurs hack round a loop flat-out for an hour in a first-past-the-post race wins. A brilliant race and another great night out with the camera.

 

 

August and the school summer hols provided the opportunity for me to dip my toes photographically at least into a totally new genre – concerts; specifically Camp Bestival at Lulworth. It did occur to me that I might sneak off for a cheeky DWS or two but the festival was full-on that half-baked idea withered on the vine. What a great opportunity to add some new material to my portfo1467_DSC_4788lio as well as catching some great performances too. The week after we washed-up on the Devon coast at Bude intent on sampling the surf and some Devonian bloc action – both were rather good as it turned out. A trip down to Colchester later in the summer hols offered another opportunity to catch the Red Arrows and an iconic Spitfire. August bank holiday saw us back up north in the Whitby area. As well as a trip round Go Ape in the Dalby Forest we nabbed a few waterfalls and night scenes on the coast. I also managed to fulfil a long-term objective – photographing a field full of fresh cut/baled hay which doesn’t sound much but it seems to have taken me a while to get the tick.

 

1471_DSC_0778Starting in September I dropped into running mode; shooting trail running to be exact for a guide on trailing running in the Peak District. I’d shot runners before – but always as part of events and never as stand-alone image to illustrate a book. The brief was to shoot the runners at various stages around the routes and to shoot couples running wherever possible. With twenty odd routes to shoot in about as many days, it was an interesting challenge. Shooting a single runner as its own challenges but adding in another runner into the equation takes it to another level. Imagine shooting fast moving action and trying to get a good body shape as well as a good composition showing the routes is OK, but getting two runners to run together and look half decent is… well try it and you see what I mean! Fortunately the weather was stunning last autumn and I got the job done to deadline – just! Plus I got to go to some places I’d never been to before in the Peak which was brilliant. I also got to see and photo some great wildlife too.

And when I wasn’t shooting running, I was out climbing and snapping climbing action too – that seemed a doddle in comparison to shooting two runners. Autumn seemed to pass very quickly – the colours were beautiful but seemingly gone in no time and then it was winter, Xmas and then the New Year and then time to start over!

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To see the full gallery of 2014 Captured click thru here

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Aviation, Bouldering, Cycling, Events, Photography, Running