Monday, 9 January 2017

2016 Highlights!

2016 was a wild year. I managed to climb A LOT.

Other responsibilities were put on hold or just permanently abandoned and I continued embarking on as many adventures as I possibly could. My savings have been dwindling and it's definitely not a permanent way of life, but I know that if I was doing anything else I'd just be wishing I was doing this.

I've collected together some of my best photos and experiences from the past year, enjoy!

The year began in El Chorro, where Bron and I had volounteer jobs at the Olive Branch Guest House for the second winter in a row. Climbing every day, eating and sleeping well and being in the happy, social environment of the Olive Branch I felt fitter than ever before.
Swimming Through A Shark Attack Extension 8b
The first crux on Cous Cous 8c, didn't quite manage this one
I continued my aid-solo vision quest from last year. The local Spanish climbers decided I was completely insane and gave me the nickname "the Warrior". After one large upside down fall I teetered my way up the splitter crack/seam, leapfrogging my two beaks, excellent!

For some reason Bron and I decided to climb 7 full height routes on Frontales in a day, around 50 pitches and 1500m of climbing! This involved lots of simul-climbing, other shenanigans and some very sore toes.
Big day!
Since she is an untrustworthy Canadian, Bronwyn is only allowed 90 days in mainland Europe, and by the end of February she only had a couple of days left. We jumped on the ferry to Africa and headed down to explore the multi-pitch limestone in Akchour, Morocco.

"Taghazout" is an 11 pitch 8a, with some really wild overhanging tufas. I'm pretty sure we got the second ascent of this route so footholds kept crumbling under my feet as I stemmed up the side of a huge tufa on the crux pitch.

I managed to onsight the route by the skin of my teeth, here we are being goofballs on the summit.

In Todra Gorge we climbed some choss, met some great people and abseiled off a bush...

After a 4 days of chaotic bus journeys with chickens and a donkey ride, we made it to Taghia. Spectacular limestone big walls rose in every direction. Apparently the locals go to elaborate lengths to allow their goats to traverse these walls...

Here we are at the top of the classic 700m 7b (or 6b A0) "Barraka".

After two days of climbing under bluebird skies we found out why no-one goes to Taghia in March...

The next trip was a month in Yosemite with "Scottish Hardman" Robbie Phillips, our mission was the bold El Cap free route El Niño. After a huge fall, we both sketched our way up the first three hard pitches, some very thin slabs indeed!
The Black Dyke pitch
Our first attempt ended after two days. I was feeling pretty burnt out after over a year of continuous climbing. We left our water and portaledge stashed at our high point and returned to the Valley floor. Hopefully this taught me that I am not invincible and need to pace myself, although apparently I have learned the same lesson several times now...

The second attempt was more successful. There were multiple pitches that were right at my physical limit. I kept almost giving up, only to "wonder-fluke" them at the last possible moment, that feeling is why I go climbing.

Despite some serious difficulties including dropping the tea bags on day 3, we pressed on and made it to the top, spending 6 days on the wall. Both Robbie and I freed every pitch. We also had a great time, thanks Robbie!

And now for something completely different...

Bron and I had talked for years about doing a combined canoeing and climbing expedition. The mission was to canoe the Little Nahanni and South Nahanni Rivers, which flow past the Cirque of the Unclimbables, where we hoped to do some climbing.

There were 7 of us in total, including Bron's dad Geoff and brother Alex. It was the perfect trip: a great group of people in a beautiful remote area doing some outrageously fun stuff. 

After a week of tumbling down class 3 and 4 rapids on the Little Nahanni, we left our boats by the river and hiked up into the Cirque with supplies for 10 days.
Hanging out at base camp
 The mission was to get Bron's dad to the top of the Lotus Flower Tower. This was to be his second multi-pitch ever! We had some bad weather over our two day climb, including one rainstorm where we got out our tent fly at a hanging belay and all huddled under it.

The upper headwall has some of the best moderate granite cracks anywhere, ever. So good!!!!!!!

From the top we could see for miles into the Ragged Range. This was at 8pm after a day of climbing, we then rapped the whole face, getting down at 3am, oof!

After 30 days on the river and in the Cirque we paddled into Blackstone Landing, making the whole trip entirely without air transport. Here is an article I wrote for UKclimbing about the trip.

I trained through August and September, gradually upping the amount of exercise I was doing each day. The goal was to free climb El Cap in a day, via the route Freerider. Some days I'd do things like 3 hours boulder mileage, then 100 laps on the auto belay, then cycle home and go for a 10 mile run. Arriving in Yosemite I was feeling fighting fit and Bron and I warmed up by doing the "Rostroman" challenge, we climbed both Astroman and the Rostrum (classic Valley 5.11s) in about 12 hours. We found out later that Bron might be the second woman ever to free both routes in a day? Cool!

I also got to climb again with Alan Carne who is a legend and apparently my long lost twin? Here we are on Romulan Warbird.

My first attempt at Freerider in a day ended in failiure 6 pitches below the top. Here I am middway through the Enduro Corners utterly defeated. It was an interesting experience to reach that level of fatigue, in the end I got cramp in both arms just trying to unclip my daisy from the belay! We bailed through the night, rapping most of the Salathe with one 70m rope and got down early the next morning.
Why do I do this again?
Luckily Pete Whittaker arrived to guide me up my second attempt. Here he is on the crux pitch 24, the viciously crimpy 13a Huber pitch.

And here I am working the pitch I failed at on my first attempt, apparently the "redpoint crux" of Freerider in a day: the 12b second enduro corner pitch.

After a few practice days, we went for it from the ground and both freed the route in 16h45m. It was a pleasure climbing with Pete, he was calm and good humored the whole way, even when I convinced him to stop at the world's most uncomfortable hanging belay in the middle of the night two pitches below the top... 
This was Pete's warm up for his rope-solo free ascent of the route a week later, incredible! Apparently going with me as a partner only sped him up by 4 hours compared to self belaying, abseiling and then jugging every pitch, haha!

As a last route of the season Bron and I decided to climb the West Face of Clouds Rest. The route is called "My Favourite Things", isn't in any guidebooks and doesn't get done a lot but it's amazing and you should all go and climb it. It was really really beautiful at the top too!

On our drive back to Bron's home in Ontario it would have been rude not to stop in Indian Creek and climb some finger cracks...

I ended the year with a cross country ski trip in Northern Ontario with Bron's family, and a new years eve bonfire!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Top 10 routes of 2015!!!

These are my top 10 routes from 2015, so many awesome adventures!

10. ANCIENT ART 5.11a, Fisher Towers, Utah. Is it sandstone, or is it mud? Is the whole route actually an April Fools joke? Definitely the craziest and most unlikely rock formation I've ever climbed on

9. THE CASUAL ROUTE 5.10b, The Diamond (4,346m), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. "It turns out climbing 5.10 is really hard when it's covered in snow and you can't breathe..."

8. Bron's house in Perth, Ontario to Yosemite, California. 5 days of driving, this one was so good we did it four times!!! There and back twice.

The glitz and glamour of life as a professional dirtbag. Making coffee in the Macdonalds carpark (free wifi) because you're too cheap to pay 1 dollar for a coffee inside...
Death Valley. Not a good day to stock up on reduced Easter eggs...
Iowa has a lot going for it as a state...
7. PEACE 5.13c, Tuolumne Meadows, California. I wore through a pair of shoes in 5 days on this route. Extreme knob-crimping at its finest...

6. A PhD in Mathematics. Approximate grade of 8c. Still can't believe I actually finished this.

Ah right then, glad we got that cleared up.
5. SALATHE in a day, El Capitan, Yosemite. SALADAY! Climbing the best cliff in the world in 17 hours of semi-rushing with mild to moderate fear, excellent.

Shayna leading out onto the headwall at sunset.
Taken by me in the exact same spot as the picture above.
4. MOUNT WATKINS SOUTH FACE 5.13c, Yosemite. Great free climbing on a remote big wall. Would have been better if we hadn't got lost on top and had to phone Bron's mum and dad for directions...

Topping out after midnight on Halloween, no need for costumes!
3. MOONLIGHT BUTTRESS 5.12d, Zion, Utah. Mind-blowing to imagine Honnold soloing this. Prestashing the portaledge made for luxury big walling at its best!

2. DISKO 2000 8a+, Blåmman, Norway. This trip required a lot of faith in pre-placed beaks and a lot of faith that one day it might stop raining.
Base camp.
Pitch 2, 8a+ corner!

Dave showing off ;)

Summit, more rain, YESSSS!!!!
1. FREERIDER 5.13a, El Capitan, Yosemite. Blood, sweat and sharks. 6 days on the wall, I never want to look at another Ramen Noodle.
Bron having a lovely time in the Monster offwidth. I did not have a lovely time.
Bron catching up on the gun show.


Half Dome, REGULAR NORTHWEST FACE. First off we forgot a sleeping bag, then we got stuck behind some aid climbers, 19 hours of grimness ensued... Then the route fell down a month later!
I guess it wasn't so bad really...
Pure psyche on display after topping out at 11pm!
If next year holds even half as many awesome adventures I'll be happy. Roll on 2016!!!