Sunday, 30 January 2011

Fig4 Drytooling....very good!

Further to my previous post on dry tooling with Fig Fours, I decided to head to Awesome Walls to have a play on their dedicated Fig Four/Schmoolz routes. Had a good hour and a half at the wall, and have to say I really enjoyed it! The tools are great to play around at the wall with and really get you pumped quick, but more importantly there's a real focus on technique and thinking moves over. The only problem with the Fig Fours is a lack of bottom horn, without leashes this makes them hard to use without gripping much higher up on the axe. Outside of that these were great, myself, my brother and my best mate had a great time, and enjoyed pushing each other with new routes, overhangs, corners and tricky moves, and I will definitely be heading out again! But we all agree the Fig Fours are definitely a great piece of kit, will be including some Fig Four training in my training from now on and looking to push my grade a bit when I head to Scotland in Feb! So there's something to aim for! Other than that I'm more motivated for getting out winter climbing a couple more times before the end of the season!

Atko was very fluid with his climbing and hopefully we can really build on our team work for Alpamayo 2012! Also hoping to head to Awesome Walls Stockport to test the Fig Four's out on top rope and leading to see how they function going vertically instead of just traversing! Also going to aim to climb in B2 boots in the future rather than rock boots, and may also consider wearing a helmet (I cracked myself on the head twice and it hurts!!). Also watch out the axes slipping off and hitting you in the face!

The video below shows Simon playing around on a Schmoolz route given the grade V3-4. Enjoy! Download available here:

Monday, 24 January 2011

Fig4 Drytooling....any good?

I have been meaning to write this for some time now. Managed to pick myself up a set of Alpkit's latest innovation the "Fig4" second hand for a respectable price of £25. Have been meaning to get down to the wall, but after missing several chances to do it, I decided this evening to have a play on the wall at work before my evening climbing session. So I headed down a little early to test them.
First things first, I kitted up climbing with my B2 boots, gloves, and helmet. I had a mess around for 30mins or so traversing around the wall. The first thing I will say is that it certainly gets you pumped! After 30mins I was knackered! The small loops on the axes fit all the holds in the wall at work, and are strong enough to easily support my weight dead hanging.
These are very cool to climb with, something very different to enjoy at the wall, and I imagine with sustained practice would facilitate a marked improvement in winter climbing strength. One cool thing about them is the fact you can hold the axe in different ways as the wood is shaped to mimic triggers and rests and various points on the shaft. Mine also cam pre fitted with cord so that when climbing upward should you fall the axe doesnt plummit onto your belayers head!
The one problem I encountered is that many of the holds around the wall were no use what so ever for these, the loops simply slipped off. In one way this adds another dimension, in another (more accurate way) it just means certainly sections of the wall are not climbable.
Alpkit sell these at £65 a pair ( ) are they worth it? From my point of view no. However the amount of mixed climbing I do in a year wouldn't warrant such an investment, however for hardcore winter climbers looking to train in the wall, I would highly recomend these bad boys. Many climbing walls are now stocking these for borrowing during sessions, so worth a play! Alternatively if you can pick them up on the cheap second hand go for it! Definately fun! And I am looking forward to heading to the wall again soon!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A dream of white mountains?

I had a dream a week ago now, in my dream I was clawing my way up the final snowslope of a big mountain. That mountain was Alpamayo. Alpamayo is located in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru and stands at 5,947m, as is widely considered the worlds most beautiful mountain, and looking at pictures it's easy to see why.

Why Alpamayo? Ever since I first saw a picture of Alpamayo I have wanted to climb it, it is an inspiring target for any young mountaineer. Today I was mulling over a couple of options for a 2012 expedition, and have come to the conclusion that Alpamayo is what I want to do, following in the footsteps of my friend and mentor John. Alpamayo is a small amount higher than my previous highest climb, and the French Direct route goes at Alpine "D" which is slightly harder than my toughest route to date.

I have a guidebook on the way "Classic Climbs of the Cordillera Blanca" by Brad Johnson, and have already started a wealth of research on the mountain, I am incredibley psyched for this, me and whatever team choose to accompany me will be looking at July/Aug 2012 as a date, giving me 1 year and 7 months to get my fat ass in gear and train for this, but with the level of motivation I'm feeling right now, that shouldn't be a problem!

This will be the toughest and highest climb of my life, and also the most inspiring.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sealskinz – waterproof uber kit? Or wet flannels?

I have been using Sealskinz products for over 3 years now, this includes; gloves, socks and hat. These products boast a high level of waterproofing and breathability but is this the case? And are they worth the money?
The first piece of kit we will look at are the Sealskinz Ultra grip glove (approx £25). These gloves appealed to me as they were a close fitting, waterproof glove. Useful for maintaining dexterity, whilst remaining warm when wet. I have used these now in Scottish and Welsh winter, high altitude climbing in Morocco, glacier work in Iceland, climbing gritstone HS 4b at Windgather, and many more trips, and can honestly say these bad boys live up to their reputation. They are comfortable and warm, but close fitting enough that tying knots, boot laces and other tasks is simple and doesn’t require them to be taken off. They are also thin enough that they can be worn under a larger pair too. As for the waterproofing on the gloves, you can test this for yourself, stick a small bit of tissue paper in the glove, submerge your hand in a sink full of water, then check the tissue. For me this test left a piece of bone dry tissue!

So far so good Sealskinz!

The second piece of gear is the Sealskinz beanie (£15 approx). This has been a faithful companion of mine for a number of years now, and has accompanied me all over the place. It is comfortable, waterproof, and cozy. It also comes in tactical olive green for military use. The hat itself does tend to rustle a little bit, I imagine this is due to the waterproof layer including in the hat. I have never liked wearing a hat on the hill, but this one is ideal for me, keeps my head dry and warm all day!

Last but not least, Sealskinz socks (approx £20 a pair!). I have 2 pairs of these and have used them extensively all over the place! They are a great sock on their own, what I particularly like is the fact that they come quite high up the calf. This means should your foot plunge into a dreaded Kinder Scout peat bog over the ankle, your foot will avoid the “over the boot” misery many of us have experienced, and keep your foot dry! I tend to wear these with a second pair of socks underneath, this keeps my foot comfortable, dry and warm, whilst protecting against blisters. Again they have a bit of a rustle due to the waterproofing, however they are great socks and really do what they say on the tin with regards to waterproofing so can’t complain about a bit of noise when putting them on!

So overall what would I say about Sealskinz? Great products, and they keep you dry. Certainly at £20 per pair the socks are not cheap, but they are an ideal piece of kit to keep feet dry on those naff days on the hill and certainly worth investing in! The gloves at £25 are excellent, and better/cheaper than other gloves out there that claim to do the same thing.

In a nutshell: Give Sealskinz a go, you won’t be disappointed!