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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Posted in Photography, 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

Posted in Climbing, Photography

Guilty Pleasure

March 7th; 2017

There’s something about skiing that gets under the skin - for me at least! I get all the pleasure of being up in the mountains – the stunning environment and the amazing feeling that skiing gives – yet I don’t have to endure all the hard graft of flogging endlessly uphill that is part and parcel of mountaineering. Mountaineering, of course, is more than that – but skiing, at least for me, is just unadulterated type #1 fun – mostly.

Mont Blanc from the Grand Massif

Mont Blanc from the Grand Massif

We’ve just been to Grand Massif – our third visit in fact. The Grand massif is the sprawling ski conurbation that encompasses Flaine, Vernant, Les Carroz, Morillion, Vercland, Samoens and finally, Sixt. It was easily the warmest visit – mainly we skied with open jackets and a thin baselayer only – even gloves were dispensed with at mid-day. We skied over from Samoens into Flaine one day only to be greeted by temps of 17 degs – yep, seriously warm. Not surprisingly, there was less snow than usual; sufficient, but definitely less. It’s dumped over a metre of fresh snow since we were there so the rest of the season should be pretty much assured.

There’s considerable development underway at Samoens; both in the village itself and at Samoens 1600 – the base for operations in that neck of the woods. A monster development in town is going to add a fair number of peeps, and pressure, to the infrastructure but not nearly so much as what is apparently a ClubMed development at Samoens 1600 where, so the word on the street has it, a c.400 bed development is partway through the procurement process. All the extra bodies will create the need for additional uplift, new pistes and – it is said – some re-modelling of the exit runs off Tete Des Saix @ 2118m where the two existing runs will surely be swamped under the burden of the new skiers.

The last run home from the Desert Blanc

The last run home from the Desert Blanc

Whether all this is positive or not depends on your viewpoint. It’ll undoubtedly be a plus for local businesses as well as those directly linked to the ski business. The environment will take a further hit and that’s the mute point I guess. Yet it can only be duplicitous to raise concerns about new development and turn a blind eye to that which has already been undertaken – after all, all the existing lifts and pistes weren’t dropped-in overnight by the ski-gods.

Interesting, Grand Massif was awarded the Green Globe in autumn 2016. In fact, Grand Massif is apparently the first ski area in the world to be awarded the Green Globe Certification. There’s some blurb on the back of the piste map related to said certification. Here’s what it says:

“Green Globe is an international certification programme which rewards the efforts of tourism businesses in their social, economic, cultural and environmental initiatives. The programme is built on a series of 40 topics set out in over 300 obligatory and optional criteria ranging from management to sustainable development… and is a firm long-term commitment since [they] have to present significant improvements every 2 years in order to keep the certification.”

So there you go. Something positive to offset the guilty pleasure of skiing in that area…

Deux Pain SVPOn-site bakeryOn-route to Samoens 1600On-route to Tete Des SaixLooking past Corbalanche towards FlaineTete Des Saix - Corbalanche panoMont Blanc from the top of Desert BlancThe joy of an open pisteDropping into MorillonThere's never a rush to start the final run homeTete Pelouse (2474m) above the Desert BlancSunset over Cluses on the way back from FlaineDown-town Cluses

Posted in Skiing, Travel

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.

Chulilla Jan2017_03_DSC05955_cropped

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

Posted in Climbing, 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.

Posted in Bouldering, Climbing, 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…

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

 

Posted in Climbing, 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

Posted in Adventure, Climbing, Events, General, Photography, 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

 

Posted in Photography, Skiing

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…

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Posted in Climbing, Events, Photography

July 13th 2015 British Bouldering Championships at Cliffhanger

The best bouldering comp climbers in the country went head-to-head over the weekend in Millhouse’s Park Sheffield in the British Bouldering Championship and the action was pretty captivating. After three intense rounds, Shauna Coxsey and Tyler Landman collected the male and female titles respectively.

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Shauna Coxsey – cruising to another victory

Amazingly, it was the ninth season for the Cliffhanger Outdoor Festival and as usual Matt Heason and his team had done an amazing job of arranging the event as well as the weather which– Sunday morning excepted – was on its best behaviour for once! I’ve always been lucky enough to get along to Cliffhanger and photo the climbing competition. It’s a frantic, full-on, run-and-gun affair and this year was no exception – although for the first time the climbing wall was housed under a bespoke scaffold-based construction clad with white tarps. Previously the wall had been within a dark and dingy ‘big-top tent’ and photographing the action was always a massive technical challenge in which the photographer wielding the biggest and most mobile lighting units usually came away with the best results. This year was fantastic by comparison – the massive white tarps acting a giant diffuser casting nice soft light on the bouldering wall. As usual the setting team dished-up a veritable mix of the delicate and powerful. Competition climbers are so strong these days that it’s not enough to go small and steep – hence there was some dirty vert and blob-city action amongst the blocs as well as some dynos and down-and-out techie stuff in the corners. Most noticeable about the competitors was the number of young guns within their midst – many emerging from the junior classes and looking – if not baying – for success. It’ll only be a matter of time before they come away with the metalwork!

The final results were as follows:

Men 1 Tyler Landman 2 Dave Barrans 3 James Garden 4 Orrin Coley 5 Nathan Phillips 6 Billy Ridal

Women 1 Shauna Coxsey 2 Fanny Gilbert 3 Leah Crane 4 Diane Merrick 5 Jennifer Wood 6 Molly Thompson-Smith

Finally, here’s a gallery of images from the finals. Hope you enjoy…

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Posted in Bouldering, Events, Photography