Bowery Mural

I LiKe tHiS

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Everybody has the right to change.  Do I not?  Must I remain stuck in those brackets?  Nothing infuriates me more than being bracketed by people I've never met.  It's limiting and it's dismissive and I've never made any effort to be anything other than what I am.

I liked that wee couple of sentences above as soon as I saw it.  I seen it somewhere this week.  I think it was Morrissey who said it but don't quote me on that one.  Anyway, whatever, I liked it.

Ange xx

This is where I'm at

Thursday, 29 October 2009

If you could turn your own personal clock back, where would you like to go to? I often ask myself that and then decide that there’s nowhere I’d rather be than right where I am just now.  I have however spent a good few hours over the past weekend turning back the clock and reading old posts in my blog.  And quite a read it is too, especially in the months leading up to the trek and afterwards.  I was a bit puffy-eyed at times let me tell you.

The reason I was going over old ground was that I was looking at this time last year to see what I was up to in terms of getting outdoors, fundraising and with life in general.  You see, I see this blog like an online diary – with the really personal stuff kept away from public consumption of course.  Although in saying that, my recent posts have been quite personal and from the heart and I’m not ashamed of that.  In fact, if I had the guts I would post entries that included all aspects of my life, warts and all... but I don’t have the guts, so I won’t.  Occasionally though, if you look close enough you’ll find that kind of stuff.

I was reminded that this time last year I was outdoors more than I seem to have been of late.  But that’s probably because there was an end goal, a target to aim for.  This year... I’ve been in the outdoors simply because I love it.  This kinda irks me a little though as I’d like to be out a lot more.  I’m really missing being up the hills. You see there aren’t many folks around this way to go out with.  I’ve not been back out or near the mountaineering club since I came back from Nepal.  That is through choice.  I decided a ‘club’ wasn’t what I was after.  Sure there were nice people there and yes they do go outdoors a lot.  But there was also a competitive edge that I never really liked nor signed up for.  I tried, it wasn’t for me.

I re-read the blog post about my first weekend away with the club and found I had written something that on a re-reading was quite funny.  The snow had fallen during the night; the sky was the bluest I’d seen in a while with the sun shining and no wind – perfect wintery conditions.  But I was still miserable that day on the hill.  I loved being out there but something was just off about it.  Then it dawned on me that yes you can become part of a ‘club’ but you’ll never really be part of their well established team, and that’s what I didn’t like.  I felt there was no account taken for newbie’s like me.  Yes I’m pretty fit (but not a machine); I’d only walked up a few mountains then and yet there were still members of the group who marched on up the hill away ahead like there was something to prove.  I didn’t like that much.  I on the other hand was as quiet as a mouse, keeping a steady pace and trying to think of a way to make this as enjoyable as I could for myself.  It put the dampers on an otherwise great time in the outdoors.  The vistas that opened up with each heavy footed snow trodden step certainly played its part.

That night back at the hostel I phoned my dad and begged him to come and pick me up there and then or at worst the next morning.  He refused of course.  So I was checking out the train times from Fort William and decided that’s what I’d do, I’d get a train the next morning, although how on earth I was going to get to Fort William was anybody’s guess!  In the end it was decided that I would get a run down the road from another member who’d decided not to do a second days walking on the Sunday and thankfully I was back in the house by 1pm on the Sunday afternoon.  Now if you go back and read the post you might not pick up on the feelings that I’m now writing here purely because if anyone connected to the club had read it I would have been mortified.  So why write this now?  Well I suppose I’m writing this post as a means to describe why I love getting outdoors.  As with everything in life, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So of late I haven’t been out that much.  Yes there are the usual walks up Dumyat or mid-week after-work walks but I’ve stopped writing about those as they may become too repetitive.  I hope to change this soon.  For me being outdoors is about escaping the usual things in life, getting away from a computer screen, getting away from the noise and hubub of day to day life, but it also means seeing new places, going somewhere that normally I would only see in the photies my mum and dad bring back from their holidays up North and letting the wind, rain, hail, snow and even sunshine bounce off your back as you wander along soaking in all that is great about the outdoors.  Ah... brilliant! 

Colour!  We all love colour don't we?  I have a dilemma over a new bit of kit for the outdoors.  I'd seen an item in a photie and thought it looked nice.  After a few weeks deliberation and pouring over websites to find alternatives I decided on the Montane Anti-Freeze Vest in Cherry Red.  (The alternatives being same vest in Black or Steel Grey OR a PHD Minimus Vest in Drishell Red).  So I ordered the Cherry Red delight and couldn't wait for it to be delivered.  And then it was with much disappointment that I received an email from the website I ordered it from saying that (even though they'd charged my card!) the said item was not in stock in Cherry Red and wouldn't be until 'next season'!! Now there was no indication on the website of low stocks or anything in fact quite the opposite, they appear to still have all colour combo's in all sizes available - funny that eh!

So that brings me to the dilemma of do I just order the black or steel grey or do I pay the extra bucks for a custom size XS one from PHD that is non-returnable!? You can see my dilemma eh?
Then a question came up. Does colour really matter?

My knee-jerk reaction response is of course it does!  Colour is great in outdoor gear - apart from the lazy marketing from some companies who think that to turn something a yuck shade of burgundy or ocean green and then expect that all women will buy it.  No!  I want what the guys have got but cut for women, surely that wouldn't be hard and they'd save money cos they wouldn't need to buy more materials in different colours!!  We're not all girly girls who like to dress in pastel pink or light blue.  We want canary yellow, grass green, strawberry red - none of this mulberry malarkey.  Given the choice I’d rather wear a snazzy pair of green trousers and a red jacket or vice versa.  It might not suit all and I can see that it may not be a big seller but go on manufacturers, and indeed stockists, give it a try!!  You tend to only find these colours in skiing gear which by the way tends to be a lot more expensive too which is a pity.

Given the choice last year when Santa brought me a Rab Neutrino down jacket I asked him for the RED flavour. The other colours were Black (of course) and a dark berry colour. Men, well they got black, red, blue or a nice orange. Why is this I wonder...?

When choosing my Suunto Core watch I chose the black with the big yellow bezel ring. And you know what; most times I wear it I’ll always get someone asking about it.  Now if it was in all black I’m not sure they would give it a second glance.  Mind you it's giant when sitting on my wrist so you can't really miss it.

Don't get me wrong. I do have black or darker bits of kit. Heck I wear black trousers to work most days.  But the black kit I have has wee flashes of colour on it somewhere so it’s not altogether 'dark'.

Now accessories. These should always be in bright colours. I have a bag full on Exped dry bags in various sizes and colour ways and they are ace. Not only are they functional they brighten up a dreary day on the hill anytime.  And my water bottles are a like a 10p mix-up bag full of sweeties colours. 

But back to gear, clothes, for wearing in the outdoors.  I would love to see lovely bright colours out there in the mountains.  I would love for manufacturers to ask the women who actually go out into the mountains which colours they'd like in the gear.  Give us bright bold colours like the boys get.  In fact maybe the boys would like more choice too.  I mean do trousers need to come in black and grey or worse in 'summer' colours of dune beige! (yuck!) Or khaki (double yuck!).  What would be so wrong with a pair of nice red or green soft-shell trousers for the winter?  I'd love that!  Some may not choose bright colours, some may like to wear dark colours and like I said before I do have black jackets and tops but every now and again a wee flash of brightness would be good.  That's all I'm saying really.  Don't get me wrong i'm not saying the most important thing about gear is the colours but come on if we're paying top dollars for items surely more choice of colours would be good.    

Oh aye... so back to the question, should I get the womens Montane Anti-Freeze vest in black or steel grey OR... should I get the unisex PHD Minimus Down vest in black or red?  You see these are the important decisions that I need to make just now.  Cos soon the  question will be which ice axe to buy and then I'll be stuck in a right big puddle of confusion!!??!!  :o)

Ange xx

Banksy pt IV

Friday, 23 October 2009

She carefully ripped the now-yellow non-yellowing sellotape from the bubblewrap that had kept the Banksy under wraps for the past few months.  It really is a masterpiece, very much like her little Da Vinci masterpiece.  And while the Da Vinci is on display for all to see she still couldn't really bring herself to find that spot on the wall and nail the Banksy to it.

It sits on the floor of the brightly lit room and she has shown a few friends her newest piece of art but alas it won't be put on public display yet.  All in good time and when she's ready.

There are a few little flaws on this Banksy.  The Da Vinci has some too.  They both needed fixing up a few weeks ago but she was thankful that the local artist sorted them out.

So... Banksy... it's been revealed but is not ready for display.  Soon... perhaps.

What a week!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

It's been a week of highs and a week of... not-so-highs.  No lows, not this week.  Work flew past pretty quickly but there are interesting developments to come there, let me tell you.  That's for another time though.

Tuesday night saw a trip to Dundee to see Paolo Nutini at the Caird Hall with Susan.  It was a great wee night and we had a lovely dinner in Papa Joe's.  Was a bit strange driving North and NOT going up a mountain though!  Thanks so much for the ticket Susan! x

Monday evenings are now spin bike class evening at The Peak with Elaine.  It's great and gets the legs going like you wouldn't believe.  I come out of there knackered with a face like a beetroot but feeling very refreshed.  In my thinking this can only be a good thing for building up fitness. 

Wednesday evenings are also great!  Yoga class.  It's so good and relaxing but it's great for building strength and stretching my very un-bendy body.  I never knew you didn't need to go to the gym to work up a sweat.  I now love it.  The teacher is great too.  Very calming person.  I feel revived when I leave that class. 

Most evenings are also spent rolling with my TP Therapy rollers (on my dodgy knees/legs).  They do hurt a bit but this is to be expected.  It does take a bit of getting used to but deep breaths help.  I'm so far very pleased with them.

So this weekend was the great WHW*Falldoon with PTC, Phil and Craig and another taking part, Iain was his name.  Regular updates were being provided via Twitter and Spots were being pinged on the SpotTracker.  I decided to take The Boy (Ryan) out for the day today and we ended up at Rowardennan as he wanted to see the 'big boys on their bikes'... oh and 'the big mountains' too!  We headed off along the road towards Loch Lomond and arrived managing to get a space in the car park (it's usually too busy on a nice day).  By the time we'd got there Ryan had fallen asleep and it took me ages to get him wakened and ready to get out the car.  (I had to bribe him with Irn Bru and a pack of Mars Planets). 

We sat on a bench on the shore and watched folk go up and down the loch on jet-ski's and boats.  He loved it.  Then we spied 2 ducks and a swan.  We didn't have any bread to throw them so a guy who was eating his pieces at a nearby bench gave us some crusts to throw.  Both Ryan and the ducks loved it.

A while later we went back to the car to deposit a bag and then walked along the trail a wee bit.  He was trying to jump in puddles i was trying to stop him!  But we managed to get to a nice pebbly beach where we sat on some rocks and shared the aforementioned Irn Bru and Mars Planets - we have a game where we try to see who gets the crunchy ones in the pack, we like it! 

Then he was feeling brave so he went nearer the water to throw some stones in the water.  We were here for ages just throwing stones and he was getting closer and closer to the water.  He survived though without getting wet feet. 

Then it was questions about 'the big mountains'.  'When can Ryan go up the mountains?' was the question.  When he's a big boy I replied.  'I need boots, i'll tell Granda',  'Yes and a rucksack' i said.  'Oh yeah... a rocksack, ha ha ha'.  Kids are so funny with their own words and interpretations.  'How do we get up the mountains?'  'We have to walk up' i said... 'Oh i see!' he exclaimed like it was the strangest thing ever.  He loves being outdoors, whether it be on his bike, his tractor, playing football or just digging in the dirt.  A typical boy.  Fireman Sam is his latest obsession.     

By this point i thought we'd missed the 'big boys on the bikes' but lo and behold about 5 minutes later they were there.  We didn't see them at first being as we were so engrossed in the game of stone throwing.  It was Phil I saw first but he was on his way soon enough and then PTC followed stopping for a wee quick chat.  They were doing well but he said they were tired.

Time was getting on and it was time for us to head home for our dinner.  We headed for the car and packed up and drove down the road passing the boys on the way.  'Angie, there's the boy on his bike' were the words from the back seat.  I didn't peep the horn (incase PTC got a fright!) but gave a wave goodbye instead.  It seems the guys made it to the finish line some time around 8pm this evening.  A great effort by all involved.  Can't wait to read all the stories.   

'That was a lovely day Angie' were more words from the backseat and my heart melted.  It's good to get outdoors with the family.  And tiny little sentences like that make it all the more worthwhile.  He will go up 'a big mountain' soon enough.  But we'll start with Dumyat first before we head to Ben Nevis! ha ha.

Tomorrow I say goodbye to a friend.  Someone I shared my Everest experience with.  Who kept me warm on those cold nights in the Himalayas and who also retreated with me when it all went wrong.  Yes...  Mr Rab Atlas 1000 is being sold.  He's great but way too heavy for me to carry in a pack.  But he's going to a good home in Mr Ian who is a seasoned hill-walker and climber.  He'll use him more than I ever would and it makes sense for someone else to get the use.  Bye bye Mr Rab... Hello Mr PHD Green!!     :o)

So, yeah, what a week!  I'm now going to finish it off by watching one of my favourite films ever - Good Will Hunting.  A great film.    

Ange xx

Musical update:
Paloma Faith - New York
Max Richter - Vladimir's Blues (beautiful tune)
Echo and the Bunnymen - Think I need It Too
Coldplay (all songs)
Paolo Nutini - Sunnyside Up album
Kings of Leon (still love this alum!)

My First... Part 3

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Here goes with Part 3 of the 'My First' series. Today's installment comes from a friend Oliver Metherell who heads up Super7.  Super7 is an attempt to make a first ascent on every one of the seven continents.  So far they have managed 5 continents and are currently fundraising for the next expedition to Antarctica.  You can find out more by heading over to the Super7 website.

Super7 runs a film festival which takes place on 18th March 2010 and is currently at the beginning of a Winter Lecture Series where speakers include Doug Scott, Sir Chris Bonnington and Keith Partridge.  These take place in the Boyd Orr Lecture Theatre, University of Glasgow.  Details are available here.  Tickets for the lecture series are available here.

Anyway enough of the commercialism, in his wn words here is Olly's story of a first new route on Ben Nevis...

Sioux Wall – By Oliver Metherell

This is a story I wrote about climbing my first new route on the Ben…

It seems, well, somehow appropriate, that Britain’s highest mountain is also home to its hardest and most committing climbs. On New Years Eve, while most folk are preparing for Hogmanay, two climbers are shouldering their brutally heavy packs and pounding up the most infamous walk in to the most infamous mountain in Scotland.

It is freezing cold. Too cold to remove their gloves so last night they fumble with the tent in the darkness and eventually got it pitched about half way to the CIC hut. In the morning the alarm goes off at half three and they struggle to get moving. Everything is frozen. Their boots. The water in the pan. The blood in their veins. Everything... They place their frozen boots in their sleeping bags and move around inside the bags to heat the boots. Welcome to their world. The walk in continues through a driving snowstorm. It is New Years day and they have the whole of Ben Nevis completely to themselves. The landscape is one of unimaginable desolation: two tiny figures in an arctic wilderness. There is no habitation. No roads. Just the wail of the endless wind, like the scream of a thousand haunted northern banshees.

’Hard work eh?’ says Ian Parnell ‘Yeah, but at least we’ve got the poles.’ One of the beauties of ski poles was that they allowed you to keep upright as you walked. They are carrying heavy loads but the poles will take some of the weight of the sacs and spare their knees. Oliver wasn’t sure if he could take all the weight of the sac on his legs on this chilly January morning. Ian moves ahead, working hard, blowing clouds of steam into the chilly morning air. Oliver can just about make out the crack of Darth Vader and the corner of Cornucopia in the morning mist.

Ian is a talented alpinist. Along with a succession of tough new routes in the Greater Ranges, he also climbed Everest earlier in the year as part of Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ expedition. Ian’s ability to succeed on the hardest routes was fast becoming the stuff of legend. ‘Watch out’ said the copy in Scottish Mountaineer. ‘This man is after your lines…’

Oliver had clipped the altimeter onto his chest strap and he glances down at it to check on their progress. Nearly 1000m. It is a big beast of a mountain. They’d walked in for over an hour last night and pitched the tent at about 700m. Then, this morning they were up before four, and now it is nearly seven and they still aren’t into the Ciste. They have the place to themselves– no other takers for the big hill on this day, the first of the year. He thinks about the last time he’d been here. He and Gareth Hughes had decided to make a winter attempt on The Long Climb. They had got stuck two pitches below the summit and the only reason why they were still alive was the Lochaber MRT. The MRT had dropped a rope down from the summit and, with a rescuer tied to an end, they had plucked the pair off from their stance in a daring and hazardous rescue. Not exactly his finest hour... He takes a deep breath and drives the rescue out of his mind. Ian turns around. Oliver can see the perspiration on his face. ‘Well’ he says, still panting. ‘Think of how fit we’re gonna be after all this.’ This is one of the best things about climbing with Ian, his optimism and his enthusiasm are infectious. He never complains or moans about how uncomfortable things are.

They can hear the skirl of the wind on the snow. They only stop for a few seconds and already they are freezing. It is definitely a lot colder up here than at the campsite. Crunch crunch; all sounds are muffled by the thick carpet of powder. Scottish climbing. Mountaineering skills have to be honed to perfection to be able to climb here. It is the ultimate test. Just getting to the crags is an adventure in itself. And only Scottish mountains in winter can look so wonderfully atmospheric with their gloomy, maudlin moods.

Sheer climbing talent isn’t enough to get you up the hard routes here. You have to have more than just talent. It was the aristocrat of mountaineering. You can go out every other weekend for an entire season and still accomplish nothing. It isn’t enough simply to be able to climb difficult moves. You have to be an expert navigator, have stacks of initiative and bucket-loads of determination. You have to be able to handle the cold, pre-dawn starts when you could have been wrapped up snug and warm at home. You have to suffer some of the most horrific weather on the planet. You have to be mentally cool and keep your enthusiasm going through all the ups and downs. You have to be able to deal with the Scottish mountains, and every hazard they throw at you, with your wits, your bare hands, and your axe.

He wished there was some way he could underline this to Parnell, but of course he couldn’t, not without sounding like a complete fool. Oliver had actually started training for winter in June and he’d bought an entire season of supplies in October. 10 packs of AAA batteries, 152 GU gel sachets, and a pair of crampons to be used exclusively for monopointing. He could have just fitted the monopoints to his existing pair of crampons but fiddling about with the front points always brought him out in a cold sweat. There is no logical reason not to take them out. – But just thinking about making any adjustments and possibly weakening the threads when these are vital pieces of equipment that are your sole contact between yourself and 1000 feet of vertical doom is too terrifying. He preferred not to touch his front points. And if he had to own a pair of ‘poons exclusively for Scottish winter climbing then so be it. Somehow he saw fiddling about with the 'poons’ as bad luck. And his luck had been good. Until now.

Scottish winter climbing was an intense scene. ‘The world’s bitchiest climbing scene’, according to one commentator. Some people could sure talk a good climb. Oliver often thought it was possible to make a fair assessment of someone by how little they bragged about how good they were, and how unenthusiastic they were about climbing gear. Look at Gareth. It was difficult to tell where the duct tape ended and his clothing began. But hell, he could climb. He remembered Gareth on Bulgy right at the start of the season in Coire an Lochan. Gareth wanted to climb Bulgy and everyone he met in the Corrie was being negative, saying things like: ‘Yeah, you need a friend 6 for that route, man. Ye cannae climb it without a big friend.’ Gareth just completely ignored them and powered up to the crux crack. It is this overhanging off width through a roof, a kind of winter climbing version of The Sloth. Gareth reached down to his harness and pulled out a Hex 9. He stacked it behind a Hex 8 and then powered across the roof. The grin on his face lasted for days afterwards. No matter how many times you went winter climbing, you never got immune to that warm glowing feeling that came over you when you were driving home with a big route in the bag.

The climbers grind to a halt and everything goes quiet. Here it was, Coire na Ciste. Oliver looks up and stares at the cliffs. They are glittering in a carapace of ice. All the exertion to ascend over a vertical mile of terrain with the weight of the big mixed rack wearing burning grooves into their shoulders has been worth it. The cliff was in. Both of the climbers break into massive grins and their nostrils flare. They start virtually running towards the cliff, laughing with excitement, all the weight on their shoulders forgotten now. Sioux Wall was first climbed by Nicholson and G. Grasser in 1972. Taking a direct line up number three gully buttress, it is HVS 5a in summer and climbs a vertical wall that goes right to the top of Britain’s highest mountain. The line they want is a spidery crack that snakes up plumb vertical for almost the entire length of the buttress. Oliver struggles on the first pitch, with the whipping wind freezing his face. Above them the big route looms. Enticing, menacing. Number three gully buttress. A real monster. A sinister but beautiful shield of overhanging rock

Ian grabs the rack from Oliver and he’s off. He inches up the crack. Inches up the crack, Inches up the crack… Inches past the gear left by the previous attempts. Torqueing competently up the crack, he slots his axes in the crack and climbs with consummate skill, occasionally stopping to place some gear. But vertical cracks are never easy, no matter how good the climber. Even on this desperate climb he radiates confidence. With his glasses perched on his nose and that perfect footwork: it reminds Oliver of the style that he’d seen the French guys using when he climbed with them in Fontainebleau. Perfect balance. Precise footwork. Confident moves from hold to hold.

Oliver seconds the pitch on the tight rope and Ian says. ‘The next pitch looks very steep and very hard. We’ll just have to take it as it comes: At least we’ll be improving our knowledge of the route’.

Oliver looks away. ‘I’m going to climb that thing.’ he thinks.

He can feel the pressure of Ian’s eyes fixed upon him as he starts to climb. He is hooking up the crack and it moves slowly past his face. There are hooks, torques, hand-swaps, jams and the occasional runner. ‘Breathe deep’ he tells himself. ‘Breathe deep and focus on using your feet with precision’. And he’s thinking: ‘This is it. This is IT. I’ve been wanting to do this since I started climbing and now it is actually happening to me: a new route on The Ben’.

With this type of climbing, the only way you could tell if the axe was going to hold was to slowly weight it, trying not to grind your teeth too much, with your eyes tight shut and your mouth clenched. Usually, if it was going to rip, it would be as you weighted it. When this happened, all your weight, together with the mass of the rack and another couple of kilos of axes and crampons would slam down on the arm that was holding the other axe. Sometimes after one of these routes his body would be aching not for days but for a week or so. His abdominal muscles would be agony and he would be unable to sit upright in bed, having to roll over onto his side and kind of flick out himself of bed, more like an eighty year old than someone in his early thirties.

A rap song pounds through his head as he starts the crack. In his mind he hears every single intonation of the music.


He hears the bass pounding as his axe smacks into the crack, adrenalin fizzing in his veins. Axe on shoulder. Hand jam in crack. Feeling strong, light and confident. God, he wants to climb it so. A rising tide of confidence, feeling utterly unfettered and unafraid. The endless hours of tedium in the gym. The boredom of stamina training. Endless circuits of the wall again and again, holding on to the holds for a full hour. The agony of cardio vascular training, the sweat cascading off his brow, the exercise bike making a revvy, high pitched whirr and his heart beating at 160bpm. Those hours were not wasted.


Breeze and spin drift completely unnoticed as he places good gear in the splitter crack. Feeling invincible now, wanting to climb above the gear, to look down and feel the surge of adrenalin as he sees the ropes snaking from his waist down to the clinking carabiner and feeling immune to the exposure on the headwall.


’Believe, believe’. Ian’s voice from down below. Conviction in his voice. ’Well done’ says Ian ‘You’re climbing REALLY well.’ Cliff lit briefly by two flashes from Ian’s flashgun.


Suddenly he feels the wind accelerate past his cheekbones. ‘I’ve fallen? Now?’ He thinks, incredulously. ‘How can I have fallen?’

The ropes come slowly taut and he’s suspended in his harness about ten feet below his leashless axes which are still embedded in the crack. He looks down at Ian who has held him on the ropes. Their eyes meet. They both grin and then start giggling like a pair of schoolboys caught doing something that they shouldn’t.

His next thought is, ‘Well, the route is over. It’s too steep, too hard.’
But another thought intrudes.

’Get on with it’

It is the same thought that has prodded him during all those long months spent working on the cycle taxi. During training. After Peru. After the avalanche on Mont Blanc. It has whispered to him, and nudged him, and poked him, and now here it is again. ‘Nothing will come of nothing. Get on with it. ’

He hangs in his harness and works furiously on his arms, shaking them as if he is fizzing a bottle of Moet, shaking out the lactic acid in them. He hauls on the ropes and the cliff passed went past his face. He is livid. They are trying to free climb the route and he’s gone and fallen off. He grabs the axes and drives them into the crack, adrenalin and fear and frustration in every swing. In a matter of moments he is above his high point. A ledge looms above and he swings over to it. There are some cracks for the gear and he belays on it. A surge of inexplicable joy shoots through him. He may have fallen off, but he has climbed the pitch, just as he said he would. It is an omen. What can go wrong now? Nothing.

By this time it is dark and Ian leads the next desperate pitch with his headtorch on. He shivers in the belay jacket as night advances its icy grip. On the wind he hears screams of agony, anger and aggression from above. ’Watch me’ roars Ian ‘Watch like f**k’. He hears the word ‘Safe’ echo down through the darkness and he starts to climb. It is steep, thin and not as well protected as the pitch he’s just climbed and he is thankful for the taut rope that he gets from Ian. He arrives panting at Ian’s belay. Above their heads the cliff kicks back into easy terrain. They have climbed the route. ‘Let’s just concentrate for the next few 30 minutes’ says Ian as he equalises the gear. Then they are sliding down the ropes into the cold dark night and within half an hour they are back at the sacs chugging on black tea mixed with high five powder and reliving the moment.   Happy New Year!

Oliver is supported by The Business, Crux, Montane, Lyon Equipment, and Pocket Mountains
Sioux Wall, VIII, 8. First Winter Ascent, Ian Parnell and Oliver Metherell, 1st January 2006.

Huge, huge thanks to Oliver for passing on his story for me to use and share with you all on my little blog.  Check his website for details of the latest Super7 expedition to Antarctica

Once again i hope you enjoyed that story.  If so please leave me some feedback in the comments.  Also if you have any 'My First' stories, drop me a comment/email.

Ange xx

My First... Part 2

Monday, 5 October 2009

This is the second in the series of My First... about different people's mountain firsts. First munro, first wild camp, best munro, worst munro... Part 1 can be seen here.

First of today's installments comes from Phil off of the blog Fat & Sh1te. He has great stories and photies, check it out. Phil is currently in training for the WHW Falldoon which he'll take part in along with PTC and Craig plus three other mentalists (sorry! just kidding guys! ha ha). It's a race (is it a race? I'm not sure it is!), anyway there'll be 2 runners, 2 road bikers and 2 mountain bikers going the wrong way (or right way?!) along the West Highland Way from Fort William to Milngavie. It takes place over the weekend of 18th October and we wish them all well. Here's the stories so far. WHW Falldoon and here

And here are some of Phil's mountain firsts...

Your first munro?

First Munro was Ben Lomond with a mate called David Kerr, as a paddler I found it hard work but we went on to do several Munros in the next few years including some via winter routes.

Your first wildcamp?

Gees !??? I was brought up in a Country Park next to Lochwinnoch and spent most weekends camping under tarpaulins, bin bags etc First high camp would have been Cairngorm with my old man, we saw the Northern lights that night too !

Your best and worst munro's and why?

Worst Ben Nevis Its a magnet for so many stupid people on the top not prepared for the weather changing.

Best. Probably the best hill day was Beinn Ghlas.

Good company, great weather and an awesome sunset.

A huge thanks to Phil for sharing his stories and allowing me to publish the great photie above.


Second of today's installments comes from .... me!! I'm not writing about my first munro cos I think it's already here somewhere. I'm not going to write about my first wildcamp cos I haven't done it.. yet! Instead i'm going to give accounts of my bests and worsts. Because not every mountain you climb will be a good day on the hill.

Best munro:
I am torn. So far... Bidean nam bian or Ben Lomond. I climbed Bidean nam bian (together with Stob Coire Sgreamhach) back in June 2008 and man it really was a tough day as it was very 'early' in my hill-walking adventures! I went through the ringer and hit an imaginary brick wall so hard (twice) that I did consider cancelling my place on the trek. But the place is magical and looked stunning in the bright blue sky sunshine day of early summer. That was my first visit to the Glencoe area and I've loved it ever since. Looking back on that very long 10 hour day I realise I learned a lot about myself then and it served me well for every hill/mountain/and walk I have completed since. I will go back and climb it again as personally I think it’s one of the best looking hills I’ve seen. And PS.. I love that Glencoe area.

Now Ben Lomond. It was my first walk at night and also my first solo jaunt so it’s relevant here (in terms of firsts). And I like it because it’s not too far away from home, I can do it myself and it’s a great hill. The views are brilliant and on a clear day I think I can maybe see Stirling from it (cos I can certainly see it from here!). Aye it's a good hill.

Worst munro:
Beinn Sgulaird – February 2009. Not that the hill itself was that bad. I never got to the top of this one which pained me a little but I honestly feel it was through no fault of my own. Something happened on the hill that day, events took a turn for the worst and I immediately made a decision right there on the spot which I have stuck to ever since. End of. It didn't put me off though, I just know certain things now. I will try this one again one day too...

So that's it. My bests and worsts - so far. I hope to write about many more firsts on here and now that the colder days are approaching there are sure to be some just around the corner! I'm quite enjoying reading about everyone's firsts or worsts or bests. I like to hear about different folks persectives on the mountains or climbing. It gives you a real sense of wanting to get out there and do more. I hope you are all getting that too. And you know what, don't you just love that by the power of technology we can all share our stories and photies within a few hours of arriving home and having a cup of tea after a good days' adventuring.

Keep it up people!

Ange xx