Category Archives: Photography

Leonidio – The next Kalymnos?

Word on the street was that Leonidio – the latest ‘must-visit’, off-season, hot-rock, Greek destination – was the new Kalymnos! Experience tells the savvy climber that new destinations have a habit of being over-hyped; Leonidio however, sounded a little different. 

Steve McClure onsighting Kopa Kabana F7c+/Kopa Kabana Ext at F8b at Elona

A team was pulled together and flights booked; it was time to go and investigate. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that...

Oliva Hsu cruising up Paranihida F7a+ at Elona

Steve McClure, Simon Lee, Rab Carrington and myself hit the tarmac at Athens International in December 2017. However, we were far from alone in our mission to boldly go. Another team of Brits comprising Chris Gore, Martin Atkinson, Chris Plant, Chris Hamper and Phil Burke were also there on a similar mission. It turned out that Dani Andradi and a number of other Spanish wads were also there cruising round the crags as was a small international team of ladies which included Daila Ojeda and Olivia Hsu. Plenty of other climbers were also there – maybe a couple of hundreds in total albeit all spread out in the various Airbnb’s scattered about Leonidio.

Dani Andrada picking his way effortlessly, so it seemed, up the 60m giant that is Goliath Ext F8b at Elona – again!

We picked Elona from the guidebook as the first crag to visit and what a crag it turned out to be! Barring a dozen or so routes which date back to the late 2000’s, most of the routes there had only been climbed in the last couple of years. If Elona was anything to go by, Leonidio really was starting to look like a treasure trove!

Looking down on Leonidio from the hills

Elona’s overhanging tufa garden hit us between the eyes and knocked us for six; it really was very good indeed! Without a doubt, Elona is a world-class wall giving world-class routes.  

Nifida also has some pretty amazing routes including Bersteingerkante F7c+ and its Ext F8b+; one of Dani’s mates on the initial section

Whilst I would have been perfectly happy to spend the entire week at Elona – yes, those tufa lines really are that lush – Nifadia is yet another excellent crag just round the corner from Elona. A deep central cave divides the left and right hand sectors of Nifadia, both of which – like the central cave – have some very steep routes on them. 

Steve McClure on-sighting (what else) but yet another F8a; Skithrpos at H.A.D.A.

Elona and Nifadia were great crags but we still haven’t even scratched the surface! Next up was H.A.D.A., that too was rumoured to be another great crags so yep, we had a day there as well. It’s a bit of a hike up a secondary valley but very much worth the effort; another stonking crag and one with an absolute mass of new-route potential.

Leonidio high street

In total, we had a week at Leonidio and what a week it was! To be fair we hit it lucky; pretty much every crag was done-dry. Some other friends from Sheffield visited a month or so later in January 2018 and they reported back that they weren’t quite so lucky; as with many places the weather isn’t totally reliable so the crags can be quite wet after a prolonged spell of wet weather. It also appears that it’s not unknown for a dusting of snow to be on the ground in January either.

The half dozen or so crags we visited are literally only a handful of those at Leoindio. For more details on the routes we climbed and the of crags we visited, check-out my article in the latest issue (March- April) of Climber Magazine which has just hit the shelves.

The near-by sea front is a great place to unwind on a rest day

BTW, there’s a new guide out now for Leonidio and Kyparissi. It’s got around 1700 routes in, mostly at Leoindio. It’s well worth getting a copy even if you have the older version. A full review will appear in the next issue (May-June) of Climber. 

Elona Monastery; quite a place to hang out – hope no-one sleep walks!

And the take-away; yeah, there’s an abundance of great routes spread across a plethora of amazing crags at Leonidio. It’s certainly an excellent alternative winter venue destination. Whether Leonidio is the next Kalymnos is hard to say – best go yourself and make your own mind up!

Also posted in Climbing

A Decimal Dozen from 2018

So, as a climbing photog I shoot mainly outdoor subjects right. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t shoot other subjects as well as I’ve always figured that shooting different subjects is a good challenge which ultimately drives creativity. Likewise a year-end review one’s own work offers a good opportunity to see what you did in the year which you like in retrospect and/or what you’d do different if your kit, like The Dr’s, included a Tardis.

Climbing and photography have both been good to me – and both float my boat. Yet it remains very difficult, read next to impossible IMO, to do both in the same time continuum; you need to concentrate on one or the other to get the best out of either. A trip to Spain in January/February, as a climbing boot-camp, has become something of a ‘must-do’ activity. I go with the firm intention to climbing lots and lots and lots but take the camera along as well – just in case.

Paul cranking up the excellent Oceano (F7b) at Wildside

Photo opps on a ‘climbing’ trip are typically minimal but a day at Wildside towards the end of my trip in February offered a fleeting opportunity to get high up and so get a suitable angle. A single opportunity in a whole week isn’t much but you have to grab what you can when you can on these trips.

 

A boarder cruising one of the slalom’s at Risoul

I came to skiing late in life; however, if it wasn’t for climbing I could become a ski-bum for sure! Last year we rocked up in Risoul in early April; thankfully there was plenty of snow about despite it being the end of the season. As with climbing photography, ski shots need to be planned; very occasionally something does pop-up that worth nabbing. Shooting from a lift isn’t the norm but it can give an interesting alternative with luck.

 

Mina on the top roof of Totally Free II, Malham

By May we were well into the Malham season and in May last year Mina was taking a bit of time out from her long-term project to get a bit of mileage done. Totally Free II is one of the longest single-pitch routes at Malham as well as in the country and it’s a stonker. Catching Mina on the top roof had entailed a hell-for-leather run up the plethora of steps on the left of The Cove; it was worth it though even if I had to hang over the edge without a rope to get an angle that I wanted to show the totally out-there feel that pulling over the top roof can only entail!


That candid moment after the wedding ceremony when you’re alone – apart from the photog – and crack out the big smiles!

Also in May I shoot a wedding! My Dad used to shoot weddings and yet it was a gazillion miles what I ever wanted to do. However, when you’re asked by very good friends what the heck can you say but yes!! I argued with myself that shooting digitally at least I’d be able to review the shots as the day progressed – what could go wrong?! It was still a stressful business though; definitely can’t go for a re-shoot afterwards!! Will I do more then? Hmmm, maybe, maybe not – pleasure though to capture Graham and Helen’s big day though…

 

Abersoch Harbour at dusk

Fast forward to August and a surfing trip to Abersoch in North Wales. I’d been threatening to take my girls surfing for a couple of years – going ‘public’ meant that it would be harder to bottle and duck-out. Like many photogs, I’d dabbled with surfing shots – albeit from the safety that the shoreline offers! I’d love to have a go catching surfing from actually in the water but I suspect that will be one item that remains on my bucket list for some time. Arriving at Abersoch late on the Friday we were treated to a storming sunset. Fortunately, I made the effort to get down to the harbour and rattle a few shots off as dusk fell; just as well given the two days of solid rain that followed!!


Katherine Choong pulling down in the Hallshalleran Cave

Flatanger, Norway has gotten under many peoples’ skin; certainly it’s firmly embedded under mine! My second trip last September was the usual mixture of amazing conditions; amazing good and amazingly bad! It’s one heck of a locale is Flatanger – not only a stunning venue with some amazing scenery but its (obvs) got a stack of stunning climbing too.

 

The sunsets are often spectacular; maybe not literally to die for but pretty darned good!

It’s a tough gig though; don’t even consider it if your into apres climb and can’t handle day after day of rain and wind. I’ll be writing a piece for Climber Magazine later this year to if you’re interested keep an eye out for that!

 

Airbnb is definitely a thing these days and images for accommodation listings are an integral part of that process

Come September I had a request to shoot a flat for an Airbnb listings; something different again so off I went! It’s an interesting exercise in balancing perspective and lighting.

 

Chelsea Park in the autumn

Brincliffe Woods and Chelsea Park are literally right on my doorstep; it seems wrong not to capture autumn which is a fantastic time of the year. Again, it’s about selecting a subject, then a viewpoint then having the lighting to tell the story. I spotted these tucked away in a corner of the park so got down low and included a brightly coloured distant tree to contrast the foreground.

 

Mark stretched out on one of NW’s classic Font 7a – Elephantitus

I’m always pretty keen to get away to North Wales bouldering so when a decent dry spell popped-up in the forecast it was an easy decision to pack and go. We had three days of cracking weather and came back utterly spent. I (finally) got to go to an number of areas that I’d been meaning to check-out for some time including Sheep Pen and The Elephantitus  Cave. Sheep Pen is utterly brilliant and the setting leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Defo a venue to check-out if you’re not been and yeah, there’s plenty – like tons – to go at! The Elephantitus Cave couldn’t be different to be honest; a small, lake-side venue but the blocs again are brilliant – especially Elephantitus itself.

 

The eagerly anticipated Statement of Youth didn’t disappoint the KMF audience

Finally then, Kendal Mountain Festival. This is another ‘thing’ which is very much on many climbers’ annual calendar. Last year, the weather was absolutely cracking and I, like many, simply couldn’t resist getting out onto the rocks for a bit. KMF is, of course, all about films and literature and last year they were some pretty stout films and books knocking about. I’m biased, having lived in Sheffield at the time the Hunter House Road houses were the place to hang, but Statement of Youth was a splendid trip down memory lane. Any other year and New Dawn, the film about Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson’s battle royal with The Dawn Wall, might have scooped all but last year it was up against Free Solo which centred on Alex Honnold’s utter audacious solo of Freerider on El Cap; that was captivating.

So that was a decimal dozen of subjects from 2018; no not a dozen, or a Baker’s Dozen but a decimal dozen! Yeah sure there’s 11 pixs – value for money egh!! More this year!!

Also posted in Adventure, Bouldering, Climbing, General, Scenic, Skiing, Travel

Some Top Blocs in North Wales

With temperature dipping into single figures and a three-day high pressure system it was a no-brainer; pack the pads and head out west to North Wales.

Mark picking a pocket or two on Fagin at Clogwyn y Bustach

We figured we needed to avoid the northerly wind and save skin and energy so our two-part plan was pretty simple – start late on the Saturday and head to Clogwyn y Bustach above Llyn Gwynant and hope that Snowdon would act as a giant wind breaker.  Walking-in mid-afternoon we thought we’d blown it but once inside the tree it was indeed sheltered – if however – a tad on the damp side. Bustach was predominantly dry though and kept us entertained for a good couple of hours. Fagan and Sick Happy (Stand) couldn’t be more different if they tried – great blocs though, for different reasons! Fagan, by the way, feels like a limestone pocketed wall and it seems almost impossible not to mouth the words from the famous song whilst pulling up the ever improving pockets!

Mark Sick Happy at Bustach again

Sunday was Sheep Pen day; what a location it is too high above the A5 as it snakes towards the Ogwen Valley. And what rock too – totally lush; defo one of the best locations in North Wales which is just as well as pretty much all the blocs put up a fair bit of resistance and will need more than a few trip up there! The Pinch has to be one of the best and aesthetic looking problems anywhere but the Main Block has got to have a lifetime of pulling on it for most peeps! It was pretty primo connies all day; the snow was still on the tops when we’d gonnen back to the car late afternoon so it clearly wasn’t overly warm all day!

Ogwen at close of play Sunday

We woke on Monday morning to a frost on the ground so we figured a sunny venue would be in order. Craig Llyn, a new bouldering venue on the shores of LLyn Dinas sounded just fine; the east-facing roadside location a total bonus. Voie Normale and Voie Normale SS were just what we wanted to get going. Whether Voie Normale SS is one of the best Font 7a in North Wales is open to discussion but it is defo very good if a little more accommodating for the taller climber.

Pete Robbins warming-up on Elephantitus

Suitably warmed-up, we shifted up the road to Elephantitus. It’s a stunning location and whilst it might only have a limited number of blocs the quality is absolutely stonking. Elephantitus is another candidate for ‘the best Font 7a in North Wales’. Part way through our session local Pete Robbins rocked up and proceeded to polish off the project link starting up Going Down on an Elephant in what couldn’t only be described as double-quick time to give Bucking Bronco Font 7c – nice work Pete!

Pete crushing the final moves on his latest addition Bucking Bronco Elephantitus

Great weather, great blocs, great trip…

photocrati gallery

Also posted in Bouldering

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 Climbing

Snowdon Calling

Sprinkled with a tantalising dusting of snow Snowdon was calling this weekend; at least it seemed so as the Pen-y-Pass car park was rammed at 6:30 am on Saturday!

Nant Grwyd, Pen-y-Grwyd and a hint of Snowdon

Nant Gwryd, Pen-y-Grwyd and a hint of Snowdon

Driving along the North Wales coast road we could see the white-topped Snowdon standing out in the distance. Remarkably, given the high ambient temps, the dusting of snow seemed to be persisting.

Snowdon and Crib Goch from the east

Snowdon and Crib Goch from the east

Tempting as it was, I didn’t get set foot onto Snowdon though that didn’t stop me getting a few snaps in the can first thing Saturday morning…

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Also posted in Scenic, Walking

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.

GB Dev02_DSC_4545_lo res.jpgGB Dev04_DSC_4585_lo res.jpgGB Dev05_DSC_4598_lo res.jpg

Also posted in Climbing

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.

BBC_2016_024_DSC_8808

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, Climbing, Events

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…

Tour Du Yorkshire banner.jpgVisitBritain_Harewood House.pngVisitBritain_Malham.pngVisitBritain_Scarborough.pngVisitBritain_Whitby Abbey.png

 

Also posted in Climbing, 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, Climbing, Events, General, Travel

Feb 23rd, 2016: Three in Three

It’s probably not too far off the mark to say that many of us Brits usually throw our hard-earned cash towards Europe when it comes to skiing; the honey pots certainly aren’t cheap but the resorts are extensive and the sliding is typically good and reliable. The same, sadly, can’t quite (slight understatement?) be said of our home-land skiing.

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Great connies on The White Lady, Cairn Gorm Mountain

Scotland, undoubtedly the premier ski location in the UK, is exposed to the vagaries of the Atlantic weather systems which all too frequently inflict anything from soggy wet snow, low-lying clag and broken runs to savage winds, white-outs and icy runs. That said, the long-suffering Scottish ski industry appears to have had a proverbial leg-up in recent years thanks to some ‘harder winters’ of late. Die-hards continue to head to the Scottish hills whenever the conditions come good.

Sheffield’s recent February half-term, conveniently a week ahead of many others, amazingly coincided with a good forecast in Scotland; settled conditions with low winds, decent (cold but not Baltic) temps with overnight snow showers topping up the already established snow pack. It seemed almost too good to be true and rude not to take advantage.

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On top of Flypaper & Spring Run at Glencoe

Having skied before at Cairn Gorm we were keen to get to some of the other places – especially Nevis Range and Glencoe. Finally, we decided on a blueprint for the trip; kick-off at Cairn Gorm, then switch to Nevis and then finish off at Glencoe for our third and final day. Sadly, the Lecht and Glenshee weren’t showing sufficient snow/runs when the master plan was pulled together although that changed as the week progressed and they too were reporting decent sliding opportunities.

We arrived in Aviemore midweek and awoke to a considerable dusting of fresh snow – that in the valley too; things looked promising! For three consecutive days the conditions stayed pretty good and the skiing was good. Cairn Gorm and Nevis didn’t quite have sufficient build-up to allow so-called top-to-bottom skiing but both had a good chunk of their respective runs open. Back Corrie action was happening at Nevis, albeit for the suitably experienced and equipped. Glencoe however, was virtually fully open with every run good to go above the access gondola.To be honest, getting three good days skiing in Scotland in three consecutive days felt like a rare treat; defo not to be sniffed at. Sure, it’s different to the European experience, but as they say, “if you can ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere”!

Here’s a selection of shots snapped when I wasn’t sliding…

Welcome to Cairn Gorm Mountain!Looking down GunbarrelBottom of GunbarrelLovely connies on The White LadyThe Back Corries on Range Nevis - from the valleyRange Nevis access gondolaHome time - goodbye Nevis RangeAccess gondola at GlencoeView from Glencoe over to The BenLooking down Rannock Moor from the top of Meall a'Bhuiridh (Glencoe)Checking out the back off the top of Meall a'Bhuiridh The top of Flypaper & Spring Run at GlencoeHome time againRannock MoorBrew stop on the shores of Loch Lomand on the way homeLoch Lomand Pano

 

Also posted in Skiing