Mountaineering Courses

The early spring weather has been great! We’ve been receiving calls and emails about Mountaineering Course availability.  We have space on all of courses.The mountaineering courses we offer are designed to prepare students for climbing expeditions…

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad – 3/23/17

Desert Southwest:
–The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, “Save Red Rock, in an effort to halt progress on a proposed development near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, has accused the Clark County Commission of violating open meeting laws. Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones made the allegation in a counterclaim filed in Clark County District Court on Monday. It’s the latest development in an ongoing lawsuit between the environmental nonprofit, the County and mining company Gypsum Resources, which wants to build 5,025 homes on Blue Diamond Hill.” To read more, click here.

–Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.


–The Associated Press is reporting that, “The body of a climber missing on Longs Peak has been found. Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says the body of the 39-year-old man from Thornton was discovered by searchers on Sunday and flown down by helicopter.” To read more, click here.

–The Gazette is reporting that “a 48-year-old Colorado Springs woman who fell while skiing on Pikes Peak died Sunday, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office said, the latest death on a mountain whose steep chutes, ice and avalanches can make it extremely dangerous even for experts. Rachel A. Dewey, a middle school social studies teacher with Banning Lewis Ranch Academy and adjunct professor at Pikes Peak Community College, was skiing in an area known as Little Italy Couloir near Glen Cove with her husband and three teenage sons Sunday morning when she lost control and fell about 1,000 feet, the Sheriff’s Office said.” To read more, click here.


A video still on the send of Lithium 8B+, Arisaig.
Yesterday, I sent my project in the Arisaig Cave. Nine years after Johan first told me about the cave, that’s me climbed all the good lines. Time to move on! I’ll really miss the place. I’ll miss driving west on the Road to The Isles, leaving behind torrential rain or snow in Fort William, to arrive into bright sunshine as you hit the coast at Lochailort. I’ll miss watching otters and sea eagles going about their business on the beachfront by the cave, as I went about mine. I’ll miss a pre-climb brew in the Arisaig caf, looking out to Eigg. And of course I’ll miss the superbly physical and technical climbs.
In many ways, my days at the cave have helped me to see just how much climbing helps me with life. Given that the climb is almost 50 moves long, in the past few weeks as I’ve reached the stage of redpoint attempts, I’ve needed to rest for the best part of an hour between tries. This experience took me back to doing the same, seven years ago on At Eternity’s Gate, which is similarly long.
On those long rests you walk the coast to stay warm and send lactate through the Cori Cycle. But more importantly, you reflect. There is not much time for that in modern life, even in many types of climbing. Going to the wall to train, for example, is not often a great reflective opportunity.
On both those long climbs with long walks in between, being there and doing them helped me get through some very bleak feelings I was having. It did not diminish them, or take them away. Just helped me to remain resilient. For that I am very grateful. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to live in a country full of places like this, and have the opportunity to spend time in them, so there should be no trouble having similar experiences elsewhere.
Why did I send it now? A huge list of things. I would say that first and foremost, my two primary changes I made to my training had the desired and dominant effect. Firstly, I basically cut 4 hours out of my work day and replaced it with winding down time and going to be early for around a month. Secondly and even more importantly, I dropped my CHO intake south of 50g per day again (on most but not all days), together with restricting the daily feeding window to 6-8 hours. This made my ass lighter and improved my recovery from training. NB I am skipping over a whole world of detail here! I also continued to make improvements in the sequence, right up to the successful try. On the last hard move, I consciously focused on arching and stiffening my back as I threw for the hold. In combination with a hefty power scream, this kept my feet on. I also continued to get more used to the upside-down rest position on the halfway kneebar, and could relax more, stay longer and breath deeper than on previous sessions. I also timed my sessions nicely with good conditions, for once. I also solved my ‘glassy skin’ issue by rubbing some thick skin off my hands on sharp rocks, and then washing them in water to get to the ideal balance of cold and dry vs soft and sticky. At last I could really apply my strength fully to those smooth undercuts. 
The psychological side of the attempts I usually find the most straightforward. I definitely feel that I have a good system in place for managing my level of effort and controlling any nerves or self-consciousness. However, On the successful try I was particularly lucky that I had to dry a couple of seepy wet footholds (the climb starts outside the cave, and is the only part of the venue to be exposed to seeps). After drying them I had only a few seconds to get started before the water ran back onto the,. So there was no time to develop any sense of anticipation for the attempt ahead. In fact, I had to spend the moments on the first kneebar trying to try the other kneepad which had caught some drips as I started. So I arrived at the crux with a fresh mind, unhindered by any sense of occasion, and was free just to be in the moment and give it everything. On that last try I was definitely climbing through the moves faster than ever before. So it made sense that I surpassed the previous highpoints.
***Warning: boring part below. Feel free to stop here***
I’ll call the climb Lithium, and grade it 8B+. I have gone round in circles with the grade for a day or two. 8B+ in the UK is pretty tough. I am not certain this is a grade harder than some of them, nor have I done enough of them to know. So since I am not sure, I’ll just go with 8B+. I also completed the project quicker than I expected, a sure sign that it is easier than my initial expectation. 
It is definitely harder than Malcolm Smith’s Gutbuster 8B+ at Dumby, which I almost did ten years ago, just before I moved away from Dumby and before Malc’s FA. But is it a grade harder? – I suspect so, but not sure. Going by Magic Wood, where I have done a lot of my boulder repeats in recent years, Lithium is definitely a grade harder than New Base Line 8B+, Shallow Water to Riverbed 8B+, Mystic Styles 8B+ and definitely harder than Practice of the Wild 8C. It feels similar in difficulty to In Search of Time Lost 8C which I tried for two sessions at the end of my last trip, and got good links on. But perhaps it is easier than The Understanding 8C which I tried for 30 mins but couldn’t do. By this logic perhaps it’s nearest easy 8C. But again, the UK perhaps has stiffer grading. Whether that is right or wrong is another argument. The bottom line is that it is very hard to reduce grading to an entirely rational calculation. I just don’t do enough bouldering to have a good handle on grades.
It’s also a very specific type of climb, in some ways it plays to my strengths (steep, with rests and technical). But I think I am really weak on the undercuts and pinches. So someone else might find them much easier than me. So, lets go with 8B+. One thing I am fairly confident about is that it is the hardest boulder yet climbed in Scotland.
Anyway, bring on the spring and more great climbs this year.
PS: In case anyone wonders about video of the send, it’ll be in a feature I’m doing with Chris Prescott this year which will hopefully include some great trad projects I’ll be pointing myself at in the coming few months.

The Fort

The Fort from Nevis Landscape Partnership on Vimeo.
I’m delighted to share a film we shot last summer for the Nevis Landscape Partnership, and premiered at the Fort William Mountain Festival last month. It’s my first archaeology film! 
The Iron Age fort of Dun Deardail in Glen Nevis always caught my eye when walking off the summit of Ben Nevis after a winter climb. It’s striking ring-like remains on the summit of a conical hill across the glen always catches the late afternoon sun. I always resolved to find out more about the fort but never did. So it was great to hear that the Nevis Landscape Partnership had arranged a three-year project to excavate the fort for the first time, and that myself and Claire would be filming it this year.
I’m always fascinated to learn something about scientific disciplines I know little about and the archaeologists I interviewed during the excavation were great to listen to and really opened my mind to think about the themes of archaeology in general, and get a better vision of life in Glen Nevis thousands of years ago. Enjoy the film.

PS: If you liked it, maybe you have not yet seen the NLP films we made in the previous two years. Here they are:

Ben Nevis : The Hidden Side from Nevis Landscape Partnership on Vimeo.

Ben Nevis · Wild Times from Nevis Landscape Partnership on Vimeo.

Nineteen Projects from Nevis Landscape Partnership on Vimeo.

Climbing Class and Grade

One of the most confusing elements for a new climber is how the climbing class and grade systems work in the United States. Many individuals go to the rock gym and feel like they understand what a 5.7 feels like, but seldom understand where that g…