/ NEW ARTICLE: Merry Christmas from Andy Kirkpatrick

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Merry Christmas

In this important and insightful article, Andy Kirkpatrick takes time out from his Christmas turkey to guide us through some of the techniques and hints that have kept him alive in the most hostile mountain conditions in the world; The Scottish Winter.

Staying Alive This Winter by Andy Kirkpatrick

Read More: http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=729

Be safe and good luck for 2008
riquet - on 25 Dec 2007
In reply to Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor:
I liked the article since it goes straight to the point without much long and boring explanations... good for newbies and good it comes from such well known characters.

One concept tickles my curiousity: Learn from a course... I see the point when it says you'll save time and potentially eliminates some of the risks taken unwittingly. however two thoughts came to my mind and I would like to see what people make of them:

a) Climbing is all about learning to objectively see risks and assess them. if you don't see the risks for yourself and start small (=small risk) and increase it over a course of a few months/years to do big(=big risk) how are you suppose to learn for yourself.
kind of warning kids on bikes... don't go too fast you might fall... well didn't we all not listen and fell once??

b) Taking a course makes you go on the mountain faster and on harder ground faster without all these years of pottering yet seeing what the weather can be like... That is to say, you have been shown, but have you digested it enough, does it not make you overconfident and put you faster on grounds that could be beyond you?

I have been seriously pondering these ideas for a while and can't come to a satisfactory conclusion... + old the household names never went to courses they learned the hard and long way and indeed made mistakes and had nearmisses... is this not why they are now so proficient?

See my problem!!! What do you think?
Dr.Strangeglove - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to riquet:
as you point out there are pluses and minuses to courses - I think for learning how to
do stuff you will struggle to beat them - except by hiring a guide / having very good mates.
but you are right that you only get the hard-wired hill smarts by getting out there and doing stuff.

even when given good advice - "gear up in a safe zone" you learn it much better when you try and gear up in a very unsafe zone, i.e. half way up the first pitch. ;-)

a good comparison would be with ski/snowboarding instruction - people get taught very well, and very fast these days- sure that leads to some problems, but also lots of people having a great time.
Erik B - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to riquet: I tend to agree with you Erick, looking back the near misses I had when starting out was climbing in really bad weather, i dont think a course prepares you for this as I doubt guides take you out in such weather, I also agree with you that going on a climbing course might instill a false sense of security in that you may think you know it all. I did actually attend a course in my first season at glenmore lodge, this wasnt a climbing course but more a mountain awareness type thing, avalanche awareness and how to stop yourself sliding too far etc and i think this wass highly beneficial (although ive never used these snow belays since!) generally speaking the technical aspects of climbing is not the part of winter climbing that will kill you, statisticaly descending from the hill is the most dangerous part (usually in the dark). It is during these descents when your knackered and coming down from the adrenaline high when you will more likely trip or take undue risks crossing/descending loaded slopes. Also I think andy saying that if you follow his clothing mantra from his site then you will never get hypthermia, i think this is incorrect and misleading, 2 of the deaths last year probably discounts this theory, exhaustion and injury and extreme weather (eg fluctuatons between warm and cold) can result in hypothermia no matter what you are wearing. I also think eating habits should have been highlighted as this is key and is something I took a while to learn, a fish supper the night before wont set you up for a long day on the hill, but a huge plate of pasta will, and lets not forget bevvy, bevvying the night before seriously affects you and your body the next day (take note students!)
I think too much has been read into the sneachda deaths last year, they all had different characteristics and to me is more symptomatic of the huge increase in popularity of the sport and the hyping up of the northern corries by the media. having had a good few struggles early season in these corries the most dangerous aspects about them is the height, the location and the terrain, the car park is at 2500ft (not far off munro height), the terrain is hard with lots of large scree and boulders (holes only covered in powder early season) making walking a nightmare particularly when your knackered and in the dark in a white out walking into a northerly (most people dont know the good route through the scree) and the location is that they face north with no other mountains in the way to offer shelter from northerly storms coming off the north sea with nothing but hundreds of miles of open sea for the winds to gain momentum before they hit the n corries..

still, good to have such articles by the likes of Kirkpatrick as he is a high profile figure who will be listened to, so well done andy and ukc and all the best for 2008! as always, lets hope the winter actually kicks in properly this time!
drysori - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to Dr.Strangeglove:

> even when given good advice - "gear up in a safe zone" you learn it much better when you try and gear up in a very unsafe zone, i.e. half way up the first pitch. ;-)

A fair point, but if you don't take some stuff in on a course then you'll probably end up learning it through your own experience - so nothing lost there. If you do take it in, in this instance always gear up somewhere safe, then it doesn't matter much how you learned it. Maybe there's a point about self-learning which makes you better able to judge the risks and reasons for certain habits which is better. Rather than just "knowing the rules" you are assessing them, so you know when to ignore them.
drysori - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to riquet:

> b) Taking a course makes you go on the mountain faster and on harder ground faster without all these years of pottering yet seeing what the weather can be like... That is to say, you have been shown, but have you digested it enough, does it not make you overconfident and put you faster on grounds that could be beyond you?

*Most* of the people I know/have met that have done courses have been the sort of people who take the risks seriously enough to want to learn from a guide. But I think your view here will certainly apply to some. Through our university club we've run leading courses, and these do seem to produce a few who think they've done the course now they're an experienced climber. In reality I think this is caused mostly by the courses being too easily accessible, it's on a plate for them, I think people who've had to be more proactive about doing a course would be less likely to have this attitude. (Also not helped by mostly being guys aged between 18 and 23 obviously!)
drysori - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to riquet:

> I have been seriously pondering these ideas for a while and can't come to a satisfactory conclusion... + old the household names never went to courses they learned the hard and long way and indeed made mistakes and had nearmisses... is this not why they are now so proficient?

I think many household names are that for this reason, that they were pushing the boat out and had a few close calls. They may not have done courses, but from what I understand most of them (Admittedly not all!) were mentored in some way by much more experienced climbers, something which happens a lot less today I think.
telemarker - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor:

I thought the article was good. I am a big advocate of going on courses when i can afford to and when I feel I need to but I find myself agreeing with everyone else. The biggest lessons I have learnt have been from situations I have found myself in and really not wanted to be in.

Again agreeing with the others I think the best way to learn is to find experienced people to teach you. Thats the route I am taking and so far I like to think its working for me but maybe I am lucky to have friends who are able and willing to take me out.
telemarker - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to telemarker:

p.s keep on with the good work at bringing these articles to the masses. It can never hurt to hear from experienced people and its always a good reminder.
In reply to Everyone:

Being an instructor myself, yet also being psyched by the adventurous nature of climbing and I guess by the risks involved - I'm at odds with myself in some ways. I learnt to climb on my own - with another 12 year old friend. One day a chap at the crag showed us a multi point belay - it was a revelation! I wouldn't swap my early days for a course - no way! But I guess I'm lucky that I didn't have an accident. Also, when I was 12 - my pocket money wouldn't have covered a day out with an instructor.

Some people are lucky and have experienced friends and that's great, some don't and for those I think risk and adventure are different to ignorance - so retrospectively, I would say - if you've got the brass, then a course isn't a bad idea.

Great article and I hope it answers some questions for any 12 year old (or any age) climbers out there!
Dr.Strangeglove - on 26 Dec 2007
In reply to katonka: agree, but theres stuff you know intellectually and stuff you know in
your bones. much easier to forget/ignore the former.
andy kirkpatrick - on 26 Dec 2007
Not sure if it's in the article, but off the top of my head Andy Cave and Rich Cross are at least two climbers I know who went on courses when they where starting out, that 'added' more skills and knowledge to an already growing skill set, and so I think being tought is a good way to reduce your chances of an accident.

One thing that often sets good and bad climbers apart (ones you feel safe with - and ones you feel are going to come to a nasty end), is that good climbers know how little they know, and bad climbers think they know it all (something that seems to often be found in instructor types, who are unable to show any kinks in their knowledge).

Have a good new year!

Cheers

Andy
riquet - on 26 Dec 2007
and bad climbers think they know it all (something that seems to often be found in instructor types, who are unable to show any kinks in their knowledge).


exactly the thinking behind my questions.
Indubitably in a course you would be taught "best practice"... fine but to know best practice is very good when you also know "less good practice but since I haven't the right gear and since I double checked i am not going to go for the grand saut this should suffice" it seems better.

A generation of people who go straight to best practice do not dabble (Is this a word?) with things and when in a fix may find it hard to think laterally ( I do!).

Hence, courses are good but are not a panacea... or am I just being pernickety.

This is not an attack to anybody, just thinking out loud (sometimes worse than farting out loud admittedly).
Happy new year to all

Burnsie - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to andy kirkpatrick:

Good article Andy.

Hear are my musing, I'm stuck in the office so plenty of rambling time, not aimed at anyone in particular, just my observations.

Be slick as they say in America - or as we say in Scotland, Don't fanny around.

Slick getting out of the car - Have split the rack the night before so all you have to do is put your boots / gaiters on and go.

Slick on the walk in - I.e rucky packed in right order - rack and rope at the bottom, hat & gloves / nibbles & drink at the top. Know where you are going, case out walk ins on crap nick days.

Be slick gearing up - Eat your sarnies WHILE gearing up. don't spend 20min taking in the view and then gear up. decide who is doing the fist pitch on the walk in give this person both halfs of the rack as soon as you get to the gearing up spot. The other person should be flaking out the ropes not just standing about waiting for something to happen.

Take in the view FROM THE BELAY ledge, you have plenty of time here.

Be slick at gear swap overs. Only take the gear if you are confident you are going to nail the pitch or give it your best shot. Fannying around bottling something is a good way to waste an hours or so. I.e. make the decision before you swap & set off.

Be slick packing up at the top / rucky drop point. - open rucksack, take your food / water out, bung everything in, forget the wee rubber things for your crampons. Sort the gear at the car or at home.

I recon a slick team can gain 2 or 3 hours by being organised. 2 or 3 hours in winter is a lot of time and can make the difference between topping out in the dark or not and as Erik says, topping out in the dark is when the shit usually hits the fan.
sutty on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie:
Fer fecks sake man, how are the others going to get benighted if they follow your words? Next thing you will be advocating they can actually use the gear dangling off their harness.;-)
riquet - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie:
That is a very good point Burnsie... being slick is so important, but I found it took time. I'm slicker with well known partners. I am never very slick at the start of the season (2/3 first days out).

However, there is being slick and being too fast that you make mistakes
Did just that once and nearly bitterly regretted it (or not at all!).

So consensus seems to be... start with experience mentors (paid or unpaid) and practice, practice a bit more and never stop practicing.
This can be frustrating (frustrated me when younger) for younger and ambitious folks...
Is there any point trying to tell them and sound dull (and lose credibility)?
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie: add to that..

"Slick Dumping is key" Stuart 'The Dump Meister' Burnsie circa 1996(?) somewhere on a crag (doon the first pitch) near orchy


mine that route ya durty bassa? :-)
telemarker - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie:

Yeh thats something me and my mate need to work on. At time we are just to slow and have had some interesting walk outs but its all part of the learning process.

My own personal note would be to always have a head torch. I only made that mistake once ....
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to telemarker: to be blatantly honest I hate rushing gear swaps etc, thats the time to chill out, psyche up, smoke fags, eat haribo sour mix sweeties, drink bar bru (ginger),take a pish, etc etc. I personally prefer the leader to climb as quickly as possible and the secondar no to spit the dummy oot, greet (cry) and take ages :-)
P Klauzaa on 27 Dec 2007 - cpc3-nott6-0-0-cust782.nott.cable.ntl.com
In reply to Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor:

Well done Andy

Brillant, brilliant article.

A must read for all UKC members.

People need to use more common sense.
ads.ukclimbing.com
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to pingod: "all ukc members"??? fancy a joab wi the 'still game' crew?!!!!

damn lies and statistics, I will wager a tenner that approx 80% of UKC members wont have a castlemaine xxxx of a clue what our learned friend andy is on aboot!!!

however, for the true followers of real climbin... theres some good food for thought in andy's article (and this thread)

awra best fer 2008 mate
Burnsie - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Erik B:

The art of the swift dump can't be overlooked as an essential winter skill.

Erick, agree there is being slick and there is rushing - 2 different things. Also find being slick as a team works better the more you climb with someone.
It just amuses me how some people have no sense of urgency when winter climbing and then are surprised when it gets dark and they still have 2 pitches to go.

biped - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie:
> (In reply to Erik B)
>
> The art of the swift dump can't be overlooked as an essential winter skill.


I hope you shouted "Below!".
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Burnsie: I dont mind climbing in the dark these days, decent led headtorches and the wee BD ones strapped tae yer shins for footwork (copyright Dave the Hunter), shitein it about the dark adds to stress and forces mistakes I reckon.

norrie keeps telling me about his bizzare ability to be able to climb hard routes (circa 19 canteen) in the dark with nae head torches, too many carrots in the drum back then I reckon? (or mushies mebees? of the shamanistic kind?) :-)
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to biped: naw he didnae, thankfully it wis baltic, the jobbies froze to make guid placements, the dump meister keeps on insistin his lead was tech 7, i thocht tech 3

:-)

burnsie, jokes aside, the smell was howfin, guid route though :-)
Burnsie - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Erik B:

you'll be glad to know my arse in under better control now (you git, thanks for broadcasting that to the world!)
Not good to drink/ eat milky things when your are lactose intolerant. it did take me a while to figure that out - like 28 years.

I also recently "improved" the turf placements in ravens gully.

Aye good route - gies a should if you are looking to get out - one more day to go ....

Norrie Muir - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor:

I look forward to young Thomas R's words of wisdom on this topic.
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Norrie Muir: norrie, talking of drum, ish, ive got 15 large packs of GV for ye, long story... when you about?
Norrie Muir - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Erik B:

Magic. I am working tomorrow, but off until next Thursday, either e-mail me at work tomorrow or text me.
Guy "Fawksey" Wilson - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to biped: I have learnt the art of reabsorbing the dump, considering I will have drunk beer within the previous 12 hours all shits will be "beer shits" and require at least a dozen wipes of the arse not to be afflicted later by "ring sting" - though a big clump of moss is great its hard to come by on Green gully

I am slow at kitting up, I even try to kit up as fast as possible but still end up behind everyone else, my mate forgot his headtorch an abbed off a route with his mobile on and strapped to his forehead to see the way
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Fawksey: do you habite in a wee street called inverness street in the G51 postcode area per chance?
Guy "Fawksey" Wilson - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Erik B: I must not be the man you think I am as I do not - I live in a wee street in Colne Lancashire
Norrie Muir - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to riquet:
>
> So consensus seems to be... start with experience mentors (

The only piece of good advice I got from an old winter climber when I was young was from Con Higgins. He told us not to have a sh*te on the hill in winter as this drops your core temperature. It is better keeping it in as it keeps you warm. It is better than a spare fleece or a belay jacket.
Erik B - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Fawksey: aye, makes sense mun, you must ah beeen wan ae they 'problem neeburs' annat

its ok, since i moved into the locale the area is noo on the up (nae smack involved by da way)

for the southern property magnates readin this, crackin investment is inverness street, 5 bedroom hoose wi nae lounge or bathroom goin fer offers over 5 grand (and that includes the pooer kerd and letter boax)
Guy "Fawksey" Wilson - on 27 Dec 2007
In reply to Erik B: I am only a problem neighbour to thosen who inflict their noise upon me
Jasonic - on 29 Dec 2007
In reply to Jack Geldard - Assistant Editor: Good article, it is difficult to get it right. Too careful with health and saftey, and you can miss out, too bold and A+E beckons.

Being organised, having your nav sorted, carrying a flask/belay jacket/bivvy shelter can all help. Gear does not need to be expensive, but needs to work. It is difficult to imagine how severe the weather can be until you are in it.

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