Climbing new routes with Chris Weedon

I thought I would do a short write up a bit about some routes Chris put up at Swanage last year.

New routing requires you to be either very knowledgeable about a climbing area or, to be a bad-ass climber and climb the hard, more obviously unclimbed lines. Chris Weedon has the advantage of being both – and his latest routes put up on the South Coast show-case this fact.

Chris put up several new routes – but ones that stand out for me are the routes at New Dawn Wall at Fishermans Ledge; ‘Slide Show’ (E7 6c), StuckOn (E5 6a) and in Boulder Ruckle; Bert and Ernie (E2 5b).

Slide show – E7 6c
An epic line with an easy start to a mid-point gear point but from there to the top there is no gear, the climbing is thin and deserving of the grade. I tried this on top-rope a couple of times – and unless you have very good flexibility in your hips you are going to struggle to remain balanced on this route.

The top is very bold and the moves are tenuous and committing. Maybe once my A4 pulley is healed I will get down and work the route a little more – it is an inspiring line and simply an awesome route.

Chris Weedon climbing the impeccable but hard Slide Show E7 6c on FA

StuckOn – E5 6a

Another cool route – and the first I have climbed with pretty much only Sky-Hooks for protection. I climbed this straight after seconding Chris on the first ascent picking up the ‘second ascent’ for the route. It has a tenuous and awkward start and from there you move up in to a flowstone holes with very little in the way of gear. The gear mainly consists of sky-hooks – Continue reading “Climbing new routes with Chris Weedon”

Free climbing on The Nose

Ok – so Oli Lyon and I arrived in Yosemite for what was to be a month long trip and we started out hitting up a few shorter valley routes, a bit of sport climbing and we were struggling to adjust to the style of climbing – we needed something to toughen us up a bit. So, more-or-less on a whim, we decided to climb The Nose – probably the most famous rock climb in the world – an incredible line up the prow of El Capitan.

El Capitan; The Nose approximatey taking the line of the shaddow

The next day we started getting things ready; food shopping, preparing water bottles and organising gear.

The gear for climbing the route was the usual generic stuff as in the typical-gear-shot picture below; and the other stuff we took was as follows:

Sleeping: 2x roll-mats, 2 sleeping bags + bivi bags, portaledge with fly
Living: Spare teeshirt, down jackets, synthetic jacket, rock shoes, trainers (for jugging), sun glasses, sun cream, camera (cannon g12 & oli’s pimp one), go pro, speakers/mp3, torch, lip balm
Cooking: MSR Reactor, two plastic spoons & forks, pen knife, lighter x2, 1 mug, 1 med gas canister (NOTE: CAUTION I would never use an MSR reactor again – they have a tendancy to break and be totaly unfixable – in some places this is game over!)
Climbing: Approx 40 cams (as we planned to free climb needed a few more), nuts, some hooks, mini trax, 1 set of aiders, jumar straps, belay device & gri-gri each, 2x daisy each (& other generic climbing hardware) topo, 70m climbing rope, 60m trail line/ab line (half rope), 100m haul rope (sponsor English Braids), tape (we accidently got shit stuff so basically didn’t use it), chalk
Food & water: 3.5ltr/day + a can of coke each per day, tea & coffee, mike cartons (free from deli), 1 pop-tart each/day, 5x lunch, 4x dinner, 4x breakfast
Shitting: Toilet paper, duct-tape for sealing it up

Breakfast (for two): 2 pop tart, 2 sachets of oats
Lunch (each): 2 cliff bars, half a bag of dried fruit/sweets
Dinner (for two): Packet of cous-cous, half jar of sause, 1/4 block of cheese (or 1/2 a salami sausage or tuna can).

Our mighty 52 cam collection (thanks to friends!)

So – we planned to spend 5 days on the route – but fixed ropes to Sickle Ledge the day before to make it even easier. We were going to aim to free climb as much as we can so we were in no rush to do the job. My first trip to Yosemite we only speed climbed – it was awesome – but now to get a flavour of hauling and doing it the slow way.

The other aim was to get some cool photos for supporting brands Rab & English Braids Ropes.

The next morning we got up – geared up – and got to the base of The Nose ready to free climb the first 4 pitches. We roshambo’d for the lead – Oli won and fancied leading second – so I got the first two pitches. The first pitch was actually pretty tough compared with the 5.10d grade – although early mornings and first lead of the day is never that great. The pitch is up a crack/pin scars – which have been ground smooth by countless aid placements. I messed up one sequence and took a small fall on a RP.

My climbing improved after this – less sloppy – and the 2nd pitch – which goes around a corner and up a steep crack was burly, a bit harder, but went really well – feeling more ‘in to it’ and climbingContinue reading “Free climbing on The Nose”

Yosemite valley life & road tripping

Living in Yosemite as a climber is not overly straight forward. Firstly you are limited to the amount of time you can stay in the valley (2 weeks) and especially Camp 4. To stay at Camp 4 when it is busy requires you to que up at the site enterence at 5am to try and get a camping spot.It is not unsuprising that some people who want to stay for longer tend to spend their time sleeping in caves or just somewhere in the woods with the bears.

Vagrants biving (legitimately!)

The only problem with this is that, if caught, you get Ranger bum-raped and shipped out with a $500 fine; meaning the people who do sleep rough need to have a co-ordinated back story at all times just in case; ‘We arrived in the valley today’ – ‘Tonight we are staying on El Cap’ – ‘Last night we were on the Captain’ – ‘Tonight we are leaving the valley’ might be a choice set of explanations. It’s a  bit of added stress for people who stay in what is unofficially coined as ‘Camp 5’ – but being able to stay for longer and do amazing routes is worth the hassle (for the people who might do this).

Other than that you are free to enjoy the scenery (so long as you do not collect fire wood, recycle bottles from bins, have a piss in the woods, park in the wrong place, leave food in your car, leave food in a locker for too long, sleep in a car, sleep at the bottom of a route, sleep anywhere outside a designated camp etc..).

Rules aside it is an awesome place to hang out! With clear cool stoney bottomed rivers, beautiful waterfalls, awesome woodland, bears strolling around, fantastic weather and Continue reading “Yosemite valley life & road tripping”

Why you can’t stop the start-up crack

As you probably already know starting a business can be hard work and if it fails, compared with the hours you put in, it can reap poor financial rewards. Despite this once you start-up, even if you have multiple failures, it is completely illogical and perhaps impossible to stop.

If you are a first-time (or second/third time) entrepreneur there are many reasons why your business might fail with the most likely reasons coming down to the following;

Poor business model; the business model is not scalable, not set-up in a way you can employ another person (or this is very difficult) or there just is not enough people willing to pay for your product or service which leads on to my next point..

Poor market research; you did not fully understand the market you are trying to enter, the incumbent or perhaps not obvious competition are just too hard to budge, customers are just interested in something new or there just is no market demand for what you are providing and perhaps where you are providing it is wrong.

Poor effort; you had something that could go somewhere but were too lazy to put in the effort, or effort in the right places, to get it going. Perhaps you were not able to build a team that could do so either.

Rarely will a business fail based entirely on something that happens which is out of your control. Take global economic crisis – sure you might get hammered, may have to let people go, and it will be difficult but a robust business model should be able to survive testing times with the profit margin taking the hit.

Your point?

I am getting to it.. The above things, although perhaps ‘obvious’ on paper, when it comes to really understanding them – nothing works like real experience. And no learning is better than hard-learnedContinue reading “Why you can’t stop the start-up crack”

Training to free climb El Cap

I am in the middle of training for an attempt to free climb El Capitan via the Free Rider route. The route has sections of E7 climbing which is basically as hard as I can realistically climb normally but after perhaps 4 to 5 days of climbing and general tiredness gained from living on the wall. Alex Huber made the first ascent of Free Rider in 1998 – a variation on the Salathe route.

An image borrowed – from Mayan Gobat’s blog via Google. Click the image to see her blog.

El Cap is a 3000 foot high granite rock face and is possibly the most famous rock face in the world. To climb it using aid techniques can be pretty straight forwards technically (not to ‘do it down’ however – it is still a great achievement).

Climbing it ‘free’ however means you have to get up using your own strength only. Every pitch must be climbed clean at least once; so no falls, no sitting on gear, no rests and no pulling on gear.

We plan to climb the route ‘team free’ (means that between us all the pitches have to be climbed free) and we are realistic enough to realise we have no chance on on-sighting the route (so far no-one has) but we are keen to try and do the route ground-up if possible. This means in all likelihood taking falls until we manage to climb every pitch clean.

I saw this title image of this blog somewhere and it rings true. This is, at least for my standards, doing ‘epic shit’.

I am going to be going with Oli Lyon who has been training like a dog for the past 3 months while living in Chamonix.

Training regime:

My training has not quite been as steady as I would like – being in the middle of a business launch and building up Repskan’s client base. To top it off we have been going through office relocation over the past month or so making my time being a bit strained.

What I am doing is:

– Trad climbing every second weekend

– Training routes at The Castle Climbing Centre (my local wall) and slowly pushing up my stamina into a zone which might make the route possible. I am doing this 3-4 times a week and try to do it in blocks so it gives my body a chance to feel like it has been climbing a multi day route

– Also fingerboard work and and Continue reading “Training to free climb El Cap”

Cold and pain in Chamonix

The day after climbing Chere Couloir (late Jan) the weather came in cold and generally not very pleasant, the temperature dropped to -25 and it had snowed during the night. With the weather forecast looking like it was only going to get worse we had to weigh up our options.

I had hoped to go down and snow-hole underneath some of the big routes on the back of Tacul, but if the weather was bad it would only mean a longer walk getting ourselves, and all our kit, off the mountain.

We decided to climb the relatively easy Cosmiques Arette with our day-packs full of stuff to leave at the Midi station and come back for the rest of our kit. We figured it would only take a couple of hours so we had a leisurely 11am start.

The weather was seriously cold and the snow conditions were poor. There was two to three feet of fresh snow making climbing generally slow. By the time Oli had climbed 40 metres up the route I was already pretty cold and with every plunge of my ice axes and hands in to the snow my hands just got colder.

The snow blasts melted on my face and, due to the extreme cold, immediately froze again forming lumps of ice on my eye lashes – freezing my eyes shut. 

The route climbs to a mini summit from which you abseil down twenty meters or so to get onto the next section of climbing. Unfortunately due to the snow heaped up on the ledges Oli lowered too far and we ended up off route. By this time the wind had really picked up and the snow was relentless. After Oli traversed with no pro for about 20m he was able to climb up a steeper section of mixed climbing to get us back on route.

As I joined him at the next belay we were back on track, but due about an hour hanging at the belay in fairly ferocious wind my hands were very cold and stopping after climbing I experienced the most intense and painful hot aches. Although Oli was leading the entire route in one block the main thing I had to do was suffer diligently.

Another section required me to take the rope in tight and then lower Oli down a small cliff Continue reading “Cold and pain in Chamonix”

Five tips for hydration efficiency

Hydration is always a major issue when doing extended periods of exercise; dehydration can cause severe drops in physical and mental capabilities, slow you down and exacerbate the problem.

There are usually guidelines quoted telling you how much water you need based on activities and conditions but what most people tend to over-look is techniques that you can employ to improve your hydration efficiency and that allow you to consume and carry less water while maintaining a good level of hydration.

Here are my top tips for hydration efficiency;

Tip #1: Small sips often

This is the most important method to improve your hydration efficiency. I learned this during a 4 day trek through Malaysian jungle; I was trekking with two Sweedish guys, and as I had the water sterilisation pills I was aware of how much water each person consumed. It was during a very hot spell of weather (in an already hot and humid place) we were sweating so much that you could literally squeeze a puddle of sweat from your tee-shirt after taking it off.

Clearly this sort of activity requires a lot of water to stay hydrated and as there were plenty of small streams to re-fill we could drink as much as we needed. I noticed that between leaving after breakfast and arriving at the next camp I was only consuming a little over 2 litres of water whereas my friends were drinking well over double this amount and despite this I felt well hydrated.

The reason I could get away with comparably so little water was that I was using a hydration pack and was having a small sip of water every time my throat & mouth felt dry. It may have been as little as 10ml Continue reading “Five tips for hydration efficiency”

Climbing in Chamonix with Oli Lyon

My and a good friend Oli Lyon decided to get a winter trip in, Oli has been living in Chamonix for the winter season so I was keen to get over and do some routes with him.

I flew out on an early morning flight from London City airport and by 4pm we were already up on the hill on way to the Abri Simmond hut (only open in winter) where we planned to stay. The weather when we arrived was brilliant and the sunset led to some great photographic conditions.

Oli skiing in dragging his sled.

The alpen glow was epic and we got some good shots of the Midi!

We decamped at the hut (3600m) the temperature was probably about -18 degrees Celcius – so cold and high enough to feel fairly rotten. We ate tortellini with Spicy Italian Dolmio sauce with cheddar chunks melted in. This heavy carb dinner had our bodies burning hot which helped us get to sleep in the cold.

I have been on 6 winter trips to the Alps and I have never seen the face of Tacul looking this snow covered; there was in places 2 ft of rime! It made it look really wintery and pretty cool.

We got up the next morning to go and climb Chere couloir a fantastic ice route with the odd 90 degree section, although actually having done it before in winter, it is a great warm up climb to get you into the ice climbing mind set.

We climbed the steep burchund, soloed up the first pitch to the base of the steeper climbing.

The climbing was fantastic, and the weather was pretty stable throughout the day, we climbed the 400m route quickly and ended up on the top of the ridge after a couple of hours. We rappelled back down, the route has bolts on belay anchors so this is a really quick process. at the bottom our ropes were not long enough so we ended up rapping off some very thin looking Abolkov threads left by another climber which I was glad to say held for both of us. Sooo much fun!

Nathan Murphy abseiling
Nathan Murphy abseiling

Ice climbing in Conge

I was not expecting to go to Italy, but we (me and the seasoned climber/extreme skier Oli Lyon) decided to do a road trip and find some water fall ice to climb. We arrived in Conge on a week day evening and it was like a ghost town, the snow was falling lightly at just the rate you would want if you were doing a snowy scene in a film.

We climbed a few routes, then did a bit of soloing which was great! Ice cragging (first time for me) was fun, but won’t not replace mountaineering for me.

Oli Lyon wrecking the place
Nathan Murphy soloing
Nathan Murphy soloing

Ever had Italian strudel? (if it is Italian) was very very rich and heavy – it tasted like there was a spirit in it of some kind – but over all nice if expensive!

Half Dome in a day

As part of our three week trip to the valley we wanted to climb the Regular route on Half Dome. After resting from speed climbing the Leaning Tower we geared up and got ready to hike up to the base of Half Dome. We went up the death-slab route which, although steep and pretty arduous with all the gear, was actually not too bad. There were fixed ropes in place for the steep sections that you could hand-over hand climb so the main trouble was a lack of fitness. As it was a surprise trip (only one week’s notice) my general fitness was not particularly amazing – my office-conditioned legs could not keep up with Oli – a ski racing coach when it came to strength and up-hill plodding.

Regular Route on Half Dome
Half Dome – Pic by Oli Lyon
Oli Lyon at Half Dome Camp
Oli Lyon at Half Dome Camp

Half way up we enjoyed some amazing views and after a while, and forcing through quite a lot of shrubbery with big bags, we got to the base of Half Dome. Like all the other routes on this end-of-season trip we had the entire face to ourselves (with the exception of a wing-suit flyer jumping at dusk). We didn’t want to bring up a stove, plates or cooking equipment and as we had bought burgers, sausages and baps we figured we could make a stone-based cooking arrangement.

Nathan Murphy Cooking food on a rock
Cooking food on a rock & comp sauce sachets from the shops

I slept badly for some reason despite being warm enough and on a perfectly flat surface – we got up – racked up and moved to the base of the route.

The plan was to climb most the route moving-together and using a Wild-Country Rope-Man at belays to prevent the second climber pulling the leader off incase of a fall.

The second strategic decision for the route was for me to lead the whole route and Oli, being more experienced at cleaning gear, would second.

I raced up the first pitch, pretty easy climbing and I placed the minimum amount of gear for saftey in order to reduce the number of times we needed to transfer gear up to me on the tag line.

As I got around 25 meters of the deck I lunged up for an edge – my right foot on a smear however as I touched the edge with my left hand my foot popped off – a bit more polished than expected perhaps – and I fell about 30ft in a weird fall in which I seemed to lumber and slide my way down the corner. It was a pretty daft mistake; but I carried on after a mildly disappointing assessment that, with the exception of a few bumps and a cut finger,  I was good to keep leading.

We got off to a pretty bad start! The first half of the route is actually very craggy/meandering – it is like a long HVS pitch – and we had way too much rope between us to do this simul-climbing. The rope drag got REDICULOUS and at the time Oli thought I was just faffing like a little bitch but the reality was I was placing gear every 10 to 15 meters and was still having to haul rope up, perhaps hold it my teeth before climbing a section.

In one section I was in such a climbing frenzy to make up lost time I went about 20m off route, climbing up very loose blocky rock, and after a while I just could not get more rope – it was totally jammed – a blessing in reality as it made me take stock of the route and my bad navigation. It did mean however down climbing the section unprotected as the rope was so jammed it would not feed back to Oli.

In retrospect the whole charade was down to poor communication; partly Oli’s fault for pushing and not listening but mainly my fault for pushing past Oli’s certainty – until he understood what I was trying to communicate. It did not help that for the duration we were at least a pitch a part – usually more. I should have forced Oli to come up to my belay and explain the issues but at the time I just could not be arsed so carried on with rope drag in a mild cut-my-nose-of-to-spite-my-own-face way.

Anyway – it all came to a head when taking a carabiner off the back of my harness, not realising the small wire of the rope-man was hanging on it, I managed to neatly roll it off the biner and drop it down the route. From there we were back to short-fixing and a much more relaxed style of climbing – it was from then on we started to enjoy the climbing again and moved well.

We were hoping to climb the route in 10 hours or so, but our bad start had totally destroyed that so we just went at a normal short-fixing pace.

Nathan Murphy (author) on Half Dome's awesome crack climbs
Nathan Murphy (author) on Half Dome’s awesome crack climbs

We had lots of fun, I kept on leading until we got to a big squeeze chimney in which I just could not figure out how to do so I put ‘Oli-off-width-master-Lyon’ on the job. As I lowered on some old tat – it gave way – luckily it was backed up a few feet below with a cam – but always a good reminder and gave me a nice retro sling (it had managed to work itself around the edge of a chock stone). Oli dispatched the squeeze chimney quickly – at times during this pitch he was totally sideways with his legs kicking out the crack like a frog. He clipped a piton, I jumared up got back on the lead, and we carried on for a few hours.

Night fell quickly and, at a suitable spot I suggested swapping lead for a bit, after 15 hours on lead I was getting pretty tired and needed a bit of belay-time to eat some food and re-charge. It was about that time that I found how crap Oli’s torch was; he had been using a Petzl E-Lite as his main torch for the trip – light and stuff – but his one had become faulty during our trip – it had a loose connection or something which meant that 80% of the time it was off. This meant when jumaring & cleaning you had to keep shaking your head to try and get the torch to give a flicker of light in-between hanging in darkness. This obviously slowed down the progress of the second.

Oli accepted and lead the next few pitches until he found a belay spot in a square slanted hole about 15ft deep, it was probably around 11pm by now and Oli who loves a shit bivi (and another) and was was also tired thought we should try and bivi for the night in the hole. It was rediculous but I lowered him down, the bottom was pretty narrow and it would have been a bloody terrible bivi.

Oli in his ‘bivi’ spot hole

Despite Oli’s enthusiasm for a vertical stacked/cramped bivi I suggested we get on with the route so I racked up and took the lead again. As we reached Thank’s Giving ledge I put a couple of great cams in the corner for Oli to jumar up; I walked back and forth up and down the ledge – partly to entertain myself and partly to see what was coming (I did the last two pitches in one so did not have enough rope to short fix) – in the day time I imagine there would be quite a lot of exposure, but at night the 1000ft drop was basically irrelevant.

Oli got up, I moved fast across the ledge, up the squeeze chimney and on to the face. There are a couple of cam hook moves, and not having used one before, actually managed to pop one and take a reasonable swing which was punctuated by some course language. After that was some face climbing and not long after we were finally at the top of the route.

On the last pitch a pain in my big toes, which had been accumulating, really started to come through, I took off my climbing shoes and it was seriously painful. Wearing fairly tight rock shoes for 21 hours non-stop the pressure on the back of my nail was causing serious aggravation. To add to this the temperature being around zero or -1°C combined with the pressure of tight shoes meant blood had not been able to get to my toes for quite a while and, perhaps partly a result of previous frostbite, this caused loss of feeling in my big toes for two to three months.

We finished the route we were both pretty knackered – the whole thing had taken around 21 hours – waaaaay longer than planned but it does not really matter. The route is incredible – simply brilliant and fun climbing throughout!

At the top we walked around for quite a while trying to find the Cables to get down, but as they had been taken down for winter they were hard to find at night, we got out the wind, put our feet in our bags, I borrowed one of Oli’s many jackets and we just lay down trying to be warm in a rather chilly bivi until the sun came up.

As soon as it did we decended holding on to the cables (which were laying on the floor) and walked back to camp. I did most of it in bare feet as putting my swollen toes in to my shoes was more painful then walking on granite rubble.

Half Dome was a great route – a good learning experience; I had not simul-climbed much on rock routes before and otherwise was just brilliant climbing.

Nathan Murphy (author) looking a bit wasted
Nathan Murphy (author) looking a bit wasted
Hands after 21 hours climbing
Hands after 21 hours climbing