Sunday 28 November 2010

New 8b at Steall, Glen Nevis

Since the conditions got kinda frozen last week I was eager to see if the drips of Steall would freeze at source and allow me to see off an obvious link-up project. A few months ago I did a new 8a+ called The Gurrie, between Leopold and Steall Appeal. So named because I started up it only intending to work out the first 4 moves off the deck and ended up growling and scuffling my way through the crux bulge to the chain.
The obvious link was to take in the second crux of Steall Appeal to bump it to soft 8b. Once I’d worked a sequence around the icicles at the top, I stuck my handwarmer ‘teabag’ in the chalkbag and got it done. Video below:

Friday 26 November 2010

Die by the Drop pics + another new E8

Apophenia E8 7a  - Taking each move as it comes on the crux section. Photo:  © Suzy Devey

Above and below: Die By the Drop E10 7a (video stills)

Man it’s great to be home after a week on the road on one stage or another. I’ve come home to a great spell of weather which has halted work on my book but been great for cragging. 
Yesterday I returned to Donald’s slab in Glenfinnan with Donald himself and the keen gang for a great session in crisp winter sun. Kev dispatched Donald’s E5 ‘Frustration’ in a smooth lead, if you can call one shaky skyhook a lead rather than a solo.
Afterwards I started up the remaining project on lead, with a lump in my throat. It has 2 microwires for gear which is twice as many runners as Die By the Drop just to the left. But the crux is a pure balance move without really anything useful for the hands to apply ‘do or die’ finger strength to if you don’t climb it perfectly on the lead.
As it was, although I had a bit of mishap with lead ropes behind heels on ‘the move’, I felt good on it in the superb conditions after the sun had dropped. Still, ‘Apophenia' still felt like a solid E8 7a to me. I suppose it might be a good idea to sharpen some ice axes soon? What do you do when conditions are perfect for bouldering, sport, hard trad and winter all at the same time? It’s a hard life. Some more photos below of the action yesterday. I'm editing some film of these ascents just now too.

Suzy enjoying the lovely light for photography

Kev, solid on the sharp end of ‘Frustration’ E5 6a

Lovely afternoon at Steall the other day

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Great Climb & Triple 5 DVD’s have arrived

The DVDs of our live BBC Great Climb and also the Triple 5 (5 Climbs, 5 Islands) programmes are ready and Cameron McNeish is dropping them in to me later this morning. I’ve put them up in the shop just now.
The Great Climb DVD comes as a 3xDVD set with the full 6 hour programme of the first ascent of The Usual Suspects E9 7a, including an option to listen with or without the television commentary, extra footage from the climb such as the roof section on Pitch 4 of our route and extras about the background and making of the programme. It’s in the shop here.
The Triple 5 DVD comes as a 2xDVD set of a longer cut of the film with extra climbing, interview and background footage. The ‘5 Climbs, 5 Islands’ programmes that went out on the BBC was 2 hour cut. The DVD is a 3.5 hour cut so could go into more depth about the climbs we did during the challenge and our approaches to climbing in general. It’s in the shop here.
I noticed at Kendal that a lot of folk wanted their DVD signed. If you would like that when ordering from the shop, just ask! Write in the ‘Special instructions to merchant’ field of the checkout page.
Hope you enjoy them.

The Pinnacle wins at Kendal

I’m just home from the Kendal Mountain festival where I had a great couple of nights speaking about The Pinnacle film and The Great Climb. The Pinnacle won the People’s Choice prize for the best film at the festival - thanks for voting for it!
It’s great that people liked it so much. It was a great vibe at the premiere and watching the film for the first time I just felt so glad that we were able to make it. I think Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith’s story is as inspiring as ever and the film shows off Ben Nevis at it’s absolute best.
Diff gave me a pile of Pinnacle DVDs to take home and Claire has just dispatched all the pre-orders today. I had a watch of the extras this morning, which include our live show with myself and Andy Turner talking with Jimmy at last year’s Fort William Mountain Festival, Diff’s full uncut interview with Jimmy for the film, and also Heatherhat’s film about my first ascent of Don’t Die of Ignorance (XI,11) with Joe French on the Ben. All the info about the DVD is in the shop here.

Thursday 18 November 2010

The Pinnacle DVD is here

Hot Aches Productions DVD about our re-enactment of the Smith-Marshall week on Ben Nevis is ready. Tomorrow (Friday) I’m at the premiere of the film in Kendal and will be picking up our DVD stock from Diff there and dispatching orders when we come home on Monday. It’s up in the shop to order if you want a copy, right here.
In case you missed my previous posts about our week, this is what all the fuss is about: In 1960 Jimmy Marshall and Robin Smith, probably the best ice climbers anywhere at the time completed a week of back to back first ascents of cutting edge ice routes on Ben Nevis. The first one-day ascent of Point Five Gully, first ascents of Pigott’s Route, Smith’s Route, The Great Chimney, Minus 3 Gully, Orion Face Direct and a traverse of the Grey Corries as their ‘rest day’. It was a massive step forward and took the generation behind them a good decade and the development of modern ice tools to catch up. Step cutting these routes day after day was a fantastic feat of skill and endurance. It became a bit of a legend in Scottish climbing, to say the least.
Hence, 50 years later, to the day, myself and Andy Turner felt it would be great to go and repeat the week of climbs and make a film about it with Hot Aches Productions. We had a great night after our week with Jimmy Marshall himself, talking about the week at the Fort William Mountain Festival (which you’ll find as an extra on the DVD along with an extensive interview with Jimmy who is now 82). Since then, Paul Diffley has been preparing the edit of the film itself.
It recounts the story of Jimmy and Robin’s adventure and achievement, shows off the routes and the Ben itself rather beautifully I think. It did help that we had a stunning week of weather on our re-enactment.
Hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it.

About to top out on Point Five Gully during our re-enactment of the Smith-Marshall week on Ben Nevis.

Friday 12 November 2010

Die by the Drop E10 7a

After a a couple of weeks of October deluge in the highlands, the mountains had turned an amazing bright gold colour lit up by a rare morning of sunshine. I took my chance and headed out to Glenfinnan with Kev for a look at the slab. I was off to Spain that evening, so it was worth going for a look even just for a few hours. On arrival at Lochailort and inspection of the slab through my binoculars, it was still soaking. 
Over several brews in Arisaig’s caf’, we discussed how precious it was to be have dry days on mountain crag projects in Scotland. It had been over two weeks of waiting since our last day at the slab, and I realised it would over three before I could come back again after a trip away and some work for sponsors. 
The discussion was ringing in my ears when we arrived at the crag at noon to find my E10 project almost dry. It isn’t a long route so I there were no excuses about needing to work sections of it anymore. I knew exactly what to do and that it would never be any easier to lead than today. So why not? Well, because the knowledge of the moves meant I knew how easy it would be to fall. A desperate snatch for a thumb press and another for a poor smear were definitely low percentage moves, above a sole microwire in dubious rock and a couple of comedy skyhooks in a flake you could pull off with the same force as you’d need to open a fridge door.
I guess I was in the right frame of mind, so I led it anyway. Of course the inevitable happened and everything went wrong on the crux. I caught the thumb press but at the same time my toes seemed to buckle on a tiny smear and my body arched backwards. In that breath, I fully expected to fall. But at least I also fully accepted I was committed. So survival instinct could fully kick in and I pressed down into the crimp I’d locked to my knee level with strength you only get above an unprotected drop. That was enough to escape the impending splat and I pressed on, wobbling like jelly, all the way to the top.
What a great experience and I must say I felt a lot better after it and that I’d decided to go for it. 
It’s a slab so who knows what bloody grade to give it? I know there are some hard slabs out there, and I also know I’m an awful slab climber. So all I can really do is compare it to recent slabs and other trad routes I’ve climbed: Harder than Indian Face & Walk of Life? Check. Harder than If Six Was Nine? Check. Harder than Muy Caliente? Check. Etc etc... So maybe it scrapes into E10 7a. 
PS: Will post up some video stills and pics when I’m home from Spain.

Anti-slabs in Margalef

After a summer of climbing a lot of slabs, I’ve been climbing for the last two weeks in the giant roofs of Margalef. Here’s a wee clip of climbing and 8b and 8c (might be 8c+ now after I broke a crucial hold) in the roof of Sector Finestra. These are definitely not slabs!
Part of the fun of climbing here right now is it’s good therapy for an injury I picked up recently. More on this over on my Online Climbing Coach blog here.