Thursday 19 February 2015

All go

Starting up Feeding Frenzy VI,7 on Ben Nevis last week

February is always all go in Lochaber. First of all, we have been sending out a lot of copies of Make or Break. Thanks to everyone who’s ordered it and I hope it is starting to help you with your climbing and injury rehab decisions already. We’ve had a few recurring questions about it:

‘Is it better [for us] to order it directly from our site, or Amazon?’ 

Yes it’s better to get it direct from us than the mighty Amazon. We are shipping them all over the world, every day. Plus, you get a signed copy this way!

‘Are we releasing an ebook/kindle version?’

No plans to at the moment, although we might do it sometime.

Thanks for everyone’s great feedback on the book so far. It means a lot.

In between dealing with book related things, I’ve been in my wall training a lot and rebuilding fitness. I love my wall! It’s so great to finally be in there regularly, just pulling on holds and enjoying it. I’ve also been out on the ice which has been in present in large quantities on the Scottish mountains recently.

On the first ascent of Transition VI,7 Ben Udlaidh. Photo: Chris Prescott/Hot Aches Productions

Firstly I visited Ben Udlaidh with Natalie. It’s somewhere I used to go a lot as a youngster and have done several new routes there, most of which are still kind of unknown since the guidebook is so out of date. The day we visited it was just starting to warm up and some pieces of ice were starting to fall off. So we had to grab some of the action quickly before it got a little dangerous. We climbed a lovely unclimbed steep icicle on the lower tier, with some steep mixed pulls at the bottom to gain the ice. Most folk go to Udlaidh for the pure ice lines, but the routes with a little mixed ground are really good fun and rather underrated.

Natalie enjoying an ice cave rest mid way up Transition VI,7 Ben Udlaidh

Then I had a few days on the Ben. A couple of these were abortive. One day we rocked up at the foot of a Neil Gresham route Feeding Frenzy (VI,7) which takes a wild hanging icicle left of Mega Route X. It was in great condition and the most attractive piece of ice in the coire. I climbed a nice entry pitch and belayed below the icicle. I was just bringing Kev up when we heard a long series of blood-curdling screams in the distance, possibly across on Tower Ridge. They were horrible to listen to and carried on for several minutes. We felt something extremely bad must have happened and felt the best thing to do would be to go and see if we could help. I see online that at least two other teams on other routes did the same. But noone yet found the source of the screams. It was still the right thing to do to bail off our route, just in case we could have assisted. But it left us with unfinished business. 

Approaching the icicle on Feeding Frenzy, VI,7 Ben Nevis

So we returned a couple of days later. I climbed up behind the icicle and at first tried to break a hole through the curtain to access the front face. It seemed pretty solid so I stepped onto it and climbed right around the whole thing and up the right edge of it. It was a fantastic trip and I see it got at least one further ascent from Nick Bullock and Tim Neill some days later. Kev wasn’t able to manage some of the cross through moves on the traverse to the ice with his prosthetic ice tool, so I had an exciting abseil down it to retrieve my gear from the back of the curtain.

Over the last day or two the weather has been poor, so it’s back to training. I’m also at the Fort William Mountain Festival each night over the next few nights. We went to the opening night last night which was brilliant. We premiered our film about the geological and botanical investigations on the north face of the Ben last summer and listened to several great speakers and musicians in a packed hall. There are still some tickets for the remaining nights, so do snap one up if you can make it. We will be in the exhibition hall each night with climbing books and films, and I’m speaking about Make or Break in the Book Festival line up on Saturday afternoon. See you there! Below is the showreel we put together for the festival to give you an idea of the footage in some of this year’s films.

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