Sunday 7 October 2012


BB starting up the South Howser Tower, Bugaboos, Canada

I'm doing a slideshow this Tuesday evening in Heaton Moor, Manchester (9th Oct). Life has been a bit hectic for blogging of late, so if you want to catch up with what I've been up to on the grit and further afield, this summer's highlight being the Bugaboos with Ben Bransby, this might be your best chance!

The night is organised by the Rucksack club and non-members are welcome.
Time: 7.30pm
Members and under 18’s: £2.00
Non members and guests welcome: £4.00
Raffle and prizes.
Venue for all Meets: Heaton Moor Sports Club, Green Lane, SK4 2NF, GR 879 912 Directions: From the “Glass Pyramid” at the M60 junction in Stockport take A5145 Didsbury Road, 0.66 miles to B5169 Moorside Road (traffic lights); in 0.3 miles turn right at traffic lights into Green Lane. The Heatons Sports Club is 0.25 miles along on the left.
More info at the Rucksack club's website.

Thursday 26 January 2012

2011 in pictures

Finally had chance to review last year's photography and thought I'd pick out a few favourites, and one near miss, that might be of interest.

Hazel Findlay, Apaloosa Sunset, E3, Five Clouds, January

One of those perfect Peak moments - the end of a great day and a reminder why we endure the rain. We started the day with a long drive to Bosley Cloud in middling weather, and after bagging some long-held ambitions on the Secret Slab, headed over to the Roaches and a clearing sky. Hazel went on to have an incredible year, climbing E9 in Devon and freeing El Cap. But for me this image is all about home, and the fact that it doesn't get much better than a sunset soloing session with a few good mates, on perfect rock, with a view as big as your smile. I've made several versions of this shot of over the years, but none have quite ticked all the boxes like this one. Shot on medium-format film, the detail and colours are amazing and I look forward to making a really big print.

Ben Bransby, Gathering Sun, E7, Nesscliffe, late March

What a place – Nesscliffe is an incredible crag. We made our yearly pilgrimage in late March, on one of the first warm days of spring, before the leaves shade the crag and slow its drying. Conditions were perfect. Jason wanted to headpoint this route – Gathering Sun, nowadays considered E7 but for many years (including during my own formative teenage visits) it was a benchmark E8. Having belayed Jase for a while, Ben felt he had the measure of it and set off on a flash attempt. Reading the moves perfectly, he climbed strongly to right below the top, only to be stopped by the very last move - a reach an inch further than he could make. With a bit in the tank he tried every which way until his arms gave out and he took the ride. Not the sort of ascent that gets reported, but its making attempts like these that build climbers like Ben up to another level.

Buttermilk country, Eastern Sierra, California, April

I'd heard plenty of good things about Bishop, but was totally unprepared for the sheer beauty of the landscape - on so many scales. Stopping by for a couple of days on our honeymoon, I never put my climbing boots on but spent hours wandering through the tor-studded sagebrush with my camera. I suspect spring may be the most colourful time of year, but I'm surprised the Buttermilks aren't just as popular with photo workshops as they are with climbers.

Red Grouse, Burbage Valley, October

Very occasionally, male members of the Grouse family suffer from a curious hormone imbalance that causes them to lose all fear and defend a territory against all odds. There are instances of Capercaillies in Scotland attacking people, dogs and even vehicles. Thankfully Red Grouse are somewhat smaller, but I still had the strange experience of feeling intimidated by a normally shy animal. The bird's confidence allowed me to get a great selection of straight portraits, but this image felt like it went in a little deeper, giving a Grouse's-eye view of the world as a covey creeps through the heather.

Dan Varian, Bewilderness, 8b+ (!), Badger Cove, June

Probably Peak's hardest boulder problem, I was blown away by the difficulty and quality of Dan's line. Limestone bouldering is rarely the most photogenic subject, and although Badger Cove is about as impressive as it gets in the Peak, it still needed some careful lighting to project the height and depth into a 2-D image whilst trying to retain a natural feel. This was published in Climb magazine over the summer, though heavily cropped removing much of the impact of the original.

Masked Boobies, Sula dactylatra, Redonda, Carribbean, June

A smaller tropical relative of our Gannet, these birds were nesting on the remote volcanic plug of Redonda in the eastern Carribbean. As well as hosting two other species of Booby - the Brown and the Blue-footed (no titters now!) - the island is also important for its colonies of Frigatebirds and three species of endemic lizard. Unfortunately the numbers are nowhere near what they should be due to the presence of Black Rats and Feral Goats, both legacies of a guano-mining operation a hundred years back. BMC chief exec Dave Turnbull and I visited the island to help Flora and Fauna International ascertain whether climbing or rope access techniques might be of use in eradicating the voracious aliens. Nice as 'tropical island' sounds, it was one of the most inhospitable environments I've ever experienced, and tackling the problem will not be easy. Whether or not climbers are required in the end, it was a huge privilege to visit such a remote spot, and I'm confident the island can be one day restored to its former status as one of the seabird wonders of the world.

Michele Caminati, Angel's Share, 7c (!!), Black Rocks, early March

Almost one of my favourite pictures from 2011, this frame captures the tiptoe dance that makes gritstone's blankest climb quite so special. Unfortunately there is just enough motion blur in Michele's face to prevent it quite making the cut. I have other sharper frames, but none quite capture the same atmosphere. There are a couple of good lessons to be learned here though: firstly, repeating the 'same' shot several times will often throw up something unexpectedly different - here the magic arises in the split second that sees both hands floating just off the rock, and secondly - 1/125th isn't quite enough to freeze even the slow sport of slab climbing. Here's to getting it right in 2012...