Check out what's in the December issue of Climb Magazine. You can subscribe online at www.climbmagazine.com or pick up a copy at your newsagents or at your local climbing shop.
Walk of Life: extended coverage of the world's first E12 by James Pearson and David Simmonite.
The incredible route, dubbed The Walk of Life, is found on the dramatic 50m cliff of Dyer's Lookout in North Devon. It begins with a very serious slab with tenuous and unprotected moves on thin holds and smears eventually leading to better holds and reasonable gear at around 15m above the jumbled boulders. A fall on this first section of the climb would likely be terminal and James feels that this small section alone is the most dangerous piece of climbing he has ever done. From this point the rest of the route is very sustained and protected by a combination of small wires, tiny Wild Country Zero cams and CAMP Ballnuts (small sliders) in soft and sometimes brittle rock. After a further 10m of complicated climbing, The Walk Of Life joins the line of Dyer Straits, a route first climbed by Ian Vickers in 1998 and given a grade of E8 6b. Dyer Straits traversed into the huge wall at half height and was originally protected by 13 pegs, complete with pre-placed quickdraws, and climbed more like a sport route at F8a+.
On initial inspection, James found the pegs to be badly corroded and staying true to his strong ethics, he removed them all, deciding to attempt the climb solely on leader placed protection. This decision increased the physical and mental difficulty of the route massively, and along with the demise of crucial holds, the upper section alone is an incredibly sustained and difficult proposition.
James had attempted a lead of the route a month previously after making a 4.15am start to make the most of cooler morning temperatures and a favourable state of the tide. James made his way up the dangerous first section to reach a rest point and better protection. From there the climbing becomes much more sustained but a little safer, relying on tiny gear in suspect placements.
Alaska: Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker's bold new route There's a Moose's Loose Aboot this Hoose.
Exactly a year to the day I was making the same journey, part of what has become an almost annual pilgrimage to the Alaska Range. Last time persistent inclement weather meant that we never even set eyes upon the Tooth; this time I was determined to finally climb in the mythical Buckskin glacier.
Initial inspiration came from the 'Godfather', Jim Bridwell, and his fearsome routes Dance of the Woo-Li Masters and The Beast Pillar. And who could resist the temptation of Paul Roderick's truly stunning photograph of the East Face of the Moose's Tooth published in Alpinist magazine. This time I wasn't going to take no for an answer.
The commitments of daily life, work, relationships, and the need for 'consumerism-style' short-hit climbing trips make expeditions to Alaska ideal. However this is only possible with the help of the risky work of the Alaskan Bush pilots. Don Sheldon, born in 1921 in Madison, was a key figure in the ioneering of glacial landings and became a living legend after several heroic rescues from high on enali. He began flight school in 1940 and served as a gunner during WWII after which he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Without his and others commitment, climbers would face a gruelling approach through bear-infested bush and miles of complex glacial terrain over several weeks before setting foot on the mountains.
Stomping Grounds: Upside Down George Smith
To describe this sea level traverse as such is to show one's age because the lifeboat station is long gone. Talking of age, when people ask me how I have come to spend 25 years pursuing a career in outdoor education I tend to explain that it's a result of academic underperformance. But to be honest it's been an amazing rivilege. I have taken hundreds of inner city youths and team development delegates into this surreal piece of rock architecture. The formations here are as bizarre as any on the bigger cliffs.
Newcomers are amazed by the place, in awe of the steepness of the bubbled cliffs above them, they overlook the escape-ability afforded by the odd hidden ledge system.
So once you have got them along a rope length of handrail, they are as it were, hooked. There are lots of great traverses on the 'Range' south of Abraham's Bosom but this one has an extraordinary chimney. Perhaps 100 foot deep, it leads to a through cave and onwards, leaving everyone in a pleasant state of disorientation. Occasionally a Tyrolean traverse can be set up to add to the thrills. Despite its perceived isolation, there is often another gang somewhere scurrying along the sea washed ledges .The Ogwen Cottage crew, for example - introducing people from Birmingham to the concept of uneven surfaces. From an instructional point of view, my all time hero is one of the 'Oggy Cot'team; Ray Greenall. I'd meet him here and on gorge scrambles.
Gear - Gadgets by Tom Richardson
Over the last year or so in which I have been writing this column I have accumulated various notes about particular pieces of gear that I think are of interest in a variety of ways but which have not been possible to refer to in any other articles. So, this month is something of a Tombola (excuse the pun) of innovations, gadgets and ideas. Some are new and some have been around for ages, but all are interesting in their own way.
If you are a regular reader, you will also know that I never attempt to score or rate every model of a particular type of gear. Instead, I usually select some of the items that are available and use them for real on my trips in the mountains and in the wilds. I trust my life, or at least my comfort, to the gear I discuss. This month, I have made an exception for one and a half items. The one item is because it is impossible for me to test, so special thanks go to Heather, Alison and Serena for their enthusiastic help in Nepal testing the Shewee, but more about that in a moment. The half is because I haven't really checked it out - I haven't built up the nerve. See later.
I attempted to find a logical sequence to these items but there isn't one so I've gone for the most gadgety first.
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