Chainmail Part… unknown.

Blame a Scotsman. Not any Scotsman of course and certainly not one wandering aimlessly down the high street in Alloa on a Saturday afternoon. Nope, blame that Michael Thompson, him of fame. Sic.

I’ve not been motivated to write for a while, running across England had been the motivation before and that was done and dusted a long time ago. Climbing has taken over my life, owning me like my forehead owns my hair-line of late. There’s a million blogs which focus on rock, plastic, sport and trad… what realistically can I add?

Then Mike tagged me on faceache. Some sort of chain mail thingy. Respond or die. Actually, that may be ptc’s new record.


His ‘elevenish’ questions fought for attention and the answers give a clue as to their origin. I’ve had a Bulmers, life feels comfortable yet fast as it travels towards my future. So I knuckled down and hammered the keys but who wants to hear? Mr Thompson does, maybe a few mates too and I need to write more. I need to write period. Keats did and I should…


1 – Action Man. The Polar Explorer and the Mountaineer. Maybe the Astronaut too, after all, is that not the greatest adventure? It certainly seemed it in the sixties and all of my dreams and aspirations emanate from those plastic dummies…

2 – I’ve taken a PHD down jacket with me in the summer. Down jackets make the evening bliss instead of bearable, when all is going to hell. I like them a lot, especially some ridiculous -26c Haglofs thing I bought as a sample. I love that jacket. I even sent it on holiday with a mate to Denali.

3 – I wanted to write popping to the shop after a fat line of ket but that’s not very inspiring. Mainly because the toughest thing I’ve managed, was getting to the top of Ben Nevis two weeks after brain surgery and a year after a major accident. I couldn’t walk well, everything was hurting and by the time I hit the pub, I needed those two pints and the morphine. Tough, incredibly.

5 – Waking up and already being there. Unzip the fly and it’s there. Every wild camper knows that feeling.

6 – Going home. There’s always a point on the drive home when I become morose and ponder the point of my life. It happens to others too I’ve noted. Should we go home? That’s the key question and I’ve decided no. So in October 2015, I’m heading to northern Spain to climb full-time and live in a van. I’m psyched. I’ll have little money, be mentally and physically challenged every day and I won’t have to go home at the end of the week. I cannae wait!

7 – The outdoors means so many different things to every person who takes a step from the beaten path. Forge your own way. Ignore advice and do what feels right on that day and in that place. My advice is talk to strangers and be open to suggestion. Smile because you can and eat peanuts. Oat cakes too.

Bela Lugosi is Dead

8 – Age is irrelevant. I’ve had my feet a while and they keep on going. What more do I need?

9 – Music on the mountain is not for me… nah, not for me at all. I tried and it was awful as I couldn’t hear nature’s whispering ways. The wind has it’s own beauty if you allow it to speak to you, I’d sooner not miss it’s song. Turn off all the tech gear in the mountains, be there. Get lost even and enjoy that freedom.

10 – If I had to climb one mountain once and then never climb again… it would have to be a solo of the North Face of the Eiger. I’ve scrambled up the start to have a nose and it’s just overwhelming. If I could keep on climbing but only in one area, then the Snowdon massive would be it. Yeah there’s far better but Crib Goch, Cloggy, the Trinity Face in winter? Brilliant. Home is the UK and North Wales just rocks.

Crib Goch leading to Snowdon

11 – I’ve three days in North Wales next week but on the 23rd – I’m heading to Switzerland for six weeks. Salbit South Ridge, some bouldering in Engelberg, the Eiger. No fixed agenda, just good weather to find and myself to push. Top company at times but plenty of soloing to cleanse the soul. I’m a fortunate man.

Words don’t convey how I feel, nor tell the tale that leaps from my lips when conversing over a brew, alcoholic or not. I’m so psyched for the outdoors at the moment and work has been full on, encompassing. Too much and every day almost. The trip is almost here and yet now the decision has been made to jack it all in and head to Spain… this six week alpine adventure has almost become a dress rehearsal for the BIG adventure.

Thank you Action Man. Without you, I’d have not had dreams big enough.





Time to sit down…

It’s been a crazy few weeks since the alpine trip, three months as it happens and whilst in my head it’s been ‘climb, climb, climb’ – the reality has been far more varied and there’s been more than a couple of walking weekends. A trip down the Thames accompanied by Twisted Tim and some progressive beats added some culture, drunkenness and a headache worthy of altitude.


Far too many weekends away, busy evenings, we all know what that’s like and I just needed to regroup, to spend some time at home, to catch up with chores and reflect on what’s been a most amazing year so far. There’s lots to tell and I’ll get round to it soon – Gogarth, Edale, Llanberis and I’ll finally tell my thoughts on the Hitec boots I received back in February as they’ve been abused a fair bit now. I’ll enjoy casting my mind back and tapping the keys… it’s been a grand summer.

PHD – Customer Service

PHD manufacture some damn fine down clothing and sleep systems, they hold a sale twice yearly as a norm and one of the discounted deals in September 2009 was a Minimus styled synthetic overbag. Out came the debit card and mine was purchased forthwith. It’s not been used too much since then, in a snow hole that first winter and earlier this year in Morocco. It’s always had a Minim 300 snuggled inside and generally has an easy life. So I was rather surprised when I turned it inside out last week and found the inner coming apart. Small rips all along the stitching and the synthetic lining clearly visible. Hmmm.

I considered taking it round to a tailor mate of mine but if he re-stitched it, then the inside would be slightly smaller and the same thing may happen again. No, ringing PHD seemed the wise thing to do and get them to sort it properly, expensive kit looked after properly can and should last a lifetime. The phone was answered instantly, I explained the problem and within minutes I had an email authorizing repair. Royal Mail charged me £7.50 for insured special delivery last Tuesday afternoon and on Friday, my neighbours took delivery of a freshly fixed overbag. No charge. “PHD guarantees all its products against faults in manufacture and materials for the life of the product, subject to the limitations of normal wear and tear.” I hadn’t taken any notice of that bit when purchasing.

It’s always good to be positive, it’s fantastic when you can be about a UK company, one that produces products that compare well with any from around the world and then back that up with first class customer care. Take a bow PHD.

Peanut butter sandwiches.

Hot toast and a good coating of melting peanut butter, it’s always been a fave even as a kid when my dad would disappear into the kitchen to make a bit of supper for everyone. I also like a brown sauce sandwich from time to time and eventually came to the conclusion that the best for bread combination was HP Sauce and Sunpat Crunchy. I’m starting to salivate as I write this…

It was all about adding a little kick, a trifle of tanginess to a sometimes dry experience. Some people turn their nose up at the thought the moment it’s spoken and that’s their loss not mine. I can’t see what the cousins from across the pond see in the jello and peanut butter combination, seems strange to me but you can’t doubt it’s popularity. My liking of hot food has slowly increased this last few years, either from age or scalding my tongue on too hot a mug of coffee at work. Either way, I’ve been adding a bit of chilli spiciness to my choices both at home and in a restaurant.

A while back, a couple of mates of mine started their own business making chilli sauces not more than a couple of miles from my abode. They got the branding spot on, up there with Levi Roots in my opinion and they’ve slowly been building a presence in the UK chilli industy, winning awards and increasing sales. If you’ve a few minutes, have a sense of humour and take your chillis seriously, have a watch of this youtube video, it’ll brighten your day.

The range has increased and as seen in the chillifoundry link they now make pickles, plus luckily for me – a range of chilli spreads, using almond, cashew and of course the old favourite, peanuts. Can this compare to brown sauce and peanut butter sandwiches? I wasn’t sure, I’m still not but it’s adds another option for one’s palate. Now I’ve seen the care that goes into the making of Paul and Kelly’s creations, emptied a pot of chilli peanut butter and have been comparing the spreads. I’m pretty useless at describing flavours and no expert on how food should and does taste, suffice to say that that I like the peanut one best. I prefer it on oat cakes as a snack before climbing in the evenings. Chilli for breakfast is too much for me unless I have a hangover. Then it works somehow.

I’d hazard a guess that the chilli cashew butter would be the choice of most. The jar is pretty much just nuts and is a cut above Sunpat or other alternatives. Chalk and cheese if you like and I can’t help but liking. Sinful Sauces – Made in Northampton. Sounds good to me!     

“A race you say?”

An adventure race known as the Cumbrian Commotion. I didn’t take too much persuading to be honest, Tim just seemed to hit the right nerve when he suggested what is basically a triathlon, offroad and longer timewise. Oh dear.

In about 35hrs time, I’ll have my tight leggings on, a triathlete and a personal trainer for teammates and a gut full of nerves no doubt. How bad can it be? A three man kayak, a 25k mountain bike, some assault course stuff and 6 or 7 miles of running. It’s a little hilly in the Lakes and from what I’ve read, it may take a bit of effort. The carbs are loaded, the bike needs sorting and as usual, I’m procrastinating.

I’ll see you at the bitter end.

Nutrition… or the lack of it.

Last Friday, enjoying a beer and a curry after what had been a decent effort on the training front, I realised I’d tweaked the left knee climbing a few hours earlier. I’ve been struggling with tight hamstrings and the inside of the left knee hasn’t been right in a few months but with the adventure race approaching fast, I’ve not really had the opportunity or the inclination to sort it. Stretching has been the only therapy and I’d taken it a bit too far that evening. Ah well.

The planned mountain bike session for both days at the weekend had to slip by and it was feet up on the sofa for a cramming google session on nutrition, DOMS, stretching… anything that might help post exercise recovery. So 5 days later I find myself the proud owner of a tub of PHD Pharma Whey, a shaker and an upbeat attitude thanks to an hour in the bouldering room. The knee feels good to go again.

As for the whey protein – will it help? Certainly, if all the ‘evidence’ is to be believed, it’ll help muscle recovery if taken within half an hour of exercise but what I really want to know is… will it taste good? With a two hour cycle planned for tomorrow afternoon, I’ll soon find out. 10 days till the Cumbrian Commotion and my first adventure race, I should have sorted this out ages ago!