UKC Articles – Grappling with Fear – Mid Climb

Interesting article on how to control fear while on a climbing route, do you have any tips or tricks? It something I have struggled with more since a ground fall a couple of years ago.


Lowe Alpine Aeon 35ltr

Recently I have received a Lowe Alpine Aeon 35ltr bag and have been putting it through its paces with a few day in the Cairngorms and thought I would share my views on it.

The Aeon is Lowe Alpines latest offering for a lightweight, technical daypack. Although light weight, just 0.94kg, the bag has been designed to be versatile and take whatever you throw at it including climbing, hiking, running or even the daily commute.

The Aeon comes in a variety of sizes including 18, 22, 27 and 35ltr in a standard fit and women specific fit (prefixed with ND) of 16, 20, 25 and 33ltr. For this test I was using a 35ltr as I was hoping to play in the snow (alas a thaw cycle hit).

Check out my shoddy packing!

Back System

The first thing I noticed when putting the bag on is just how light and comfortable the bag is, the air- contoured back system and Flexion™ strap system gives an ultra thin system that contours well and spreads the load better than nearly any bag I have tried while cutting down on the heavy padding involved in more traditional systems. The straps are easy to adjust while wearing the pack but seem secure.

As with the back system, the hip belt is comfortable and easy to adjust to and contains a pocket on each side, these are fairly small but easily fit a pair of fleece gloves, snacks and the ever present GoPro, although I think they could do with being a tad larger.

The back and strap systems are the most comfortable I have used

In general the pack was extremely comfortable after multiple long days in the hills with no noticeable pressure points and an effective ventilation system. So big thumbs up so far!

Pack Body

The largest size, 35ltrs, is a great size for all your winter walking gear but maybe a touch too small for a mountaineering day with the extra safety equipment, but that may be me carrying too much stuff, who knows.

In addition to the hip pockets the pack has an external hood pocket, internal hood pocket and external body “stash” pocket. The hood pockets are a good size for those quick grab items with good zips. The stash pocket is an extremely light weight stretch material designed to conveniently hold guide books and such although I am sure others will like this feature, I am unsure that its actually needed.


The bag uses a combo of the MultiLock™ and TipGripper™ to secure walking poles on either side of the body of the bag which works well, holding securely and easy to access even in large gloves. This system also acts to secure ice axes with a loop system; although it holds them securely and is easy to access, I personally don’t like how this leaves the pick pointing nearly directly backwards, I would prefer to see a system on the back instead of the stash pocket.

and who put the ice-axe in round the wrong way…

The internal is a single compartment for ease of organisation with a easy to use and secure draw cord closure that was no problem even with my thickest cloves on.

The compression system comprises of a buckle and webbing system at two locations on each side and works as you would expect, simple but effective.

The hydration system allows a bladder to slip comfortably between the pack body and the back system, although I have yet to use this, the system looks to allow good access for those that top up the water while on the hills but also means there is fewer holes in the pack body and less fiddling around to get the hose in position


I think this is one of the best packs of its size that I have tried. Light, extremely comfortable and well designed. The hip pockets could be a touch bigger and the ice axe attachments could be better but all in all its a great pack that will probably become a mainstay for big days in the hills or light weight camping trips.

“Come on! You can do it!”

“My whole career has been from scratch, so I never took it for granted that people care and support what I do.”  – G-Eazy

If you read this blog you will see that I often make reference to Alpkit, who for the last 18 months have kindly supported me on my adventures. When I mention that I am an Alpkiteer to people you get a look of respect (or is that confusion?) in return. Only the pro’s and truly awesome adventurers get supported, right? I don’t put myself in either of those brackets, and I am not a social media “trend setter” either. Who has time or energy to maintain such a public image? But I do get out and about and often end up chatting to random people (or ‘my wafes and strays’ as I tend to call them!) about how great there gear is. I often get asked how I got supported and why did I go with Alpkit?

The answers to both of these questions is simple.

I got supported because I was doing something slightly different and I had the nerve to ask the question, even though I am not a big name. I told them my plan, I told them what I was after, and I told them how I would aid the brand, after all it is a business not a charity! I wasn’t greedy, I didn’t want huge amounts off them. I wasn’t boastful, I had no history of big, epic trips. But I was confident, the challenge was big but it was achievable even with my lack of experience. Brands understand that things happen that cause trips to be abandoned but they want to know that at the start there is a good chance that you will succeed.

And why did I ask Alpkit. Well this was down to a number of things:

  1. They did the gear I was after… well you wouldn’t want to be supported by a surf brand if you are a high altitude mountaineer would you!
  2. I like the way they do thing. The brand isn’t one of the old school established brands, they are trying to do something different and be more approachable.
  3. The ethics. This will be slightly different for everyone, I think ethics are quite a personal thing. Alpkit have a foundation that tries to help people from less privileged backgrounds access the outdoors and generally get people out and about. Would I really like to attach my name to a company that hasn’t got any qualms about using sweatshops and live plucked down? No thank you!

If you are looking at getting supported as an adventurer I would suggest that you talk to the brands that you use, you trust and want your name to be associated with. If you are looking at being supported you have to remember you aren’t just representing that brand, but that brand is becoming representing your beliefs. But my biggest bit of advice for anyone who has read this is: just ask them the question.

Singing the Blues

I have been back from Canada for a while now and I am slowly recovering, my physio has said I no longer need to go but to keep up the exercises and to increase my running slower than I normally would; the bug I picked up on my return has gone (although I fear another one is on its way). But I am struggling with one main thing: the post adventure blues.

We all know what it’s like, you go on holiday and when you come back everything is a bit “meh”. Now think of a six-month trip where you have been experiencing so much and your body has been producing huge quantities of Serotonin and Endorphins… It’s hard…My plan was to come back and keep active unfortunately I was struggling to walk on my return so I couldn’t really do much.

I admit that I am struggling, I just generally don’t have much motivation and it feels like everything is stuck in a loop. I feel like I have been put in a cage and the door has been locked behind me. A brief respite comes when I can get away for a weekend but with paying off the adventure and only having had one pay-day this isn’t easy.

I thought I would share a couple of tips for how I have managed to get past some of the blues:

1 – Keep Active

Although I have been injured I have still managed to keep some form of activity going; short runs (I’m not allowed to do more than 4 miles at the sec), cycling etc. Be careful what you do though and be kind to yourself, I haven’t been able to climb particularly well and my head-game is weak but I try to concentrate on the social aspect while trying to build strength and confidence again.

Photo 1 (stay active)Photo credit: Dan Milton

2 – Get Planning

I have found this amazingly helpful, be it a short weekend adventure on the coast or a big trip to a 8000m summit just start thinking of all the exciting thing that you want to go and plan one of them. I hope to be able to announce my plans soon!

Photo 2 (Planning)Photo credit: Claire Turton


3 – Don’t forget: Excitement of the trip

Don’t forget what was great about the trip, print your favourite photo’s or write about your experiences in a blog or a book. Just remember not to dwell on it too long otherwise you may become one of those people with only a handful of anecdotes that you keep telling for the rest of your life, you know the ones…

Photo 3 (remember)

4 – Don’t Forget: Excitement of your return

Don’t forget the people you were so excited about seeing on your return, they will help a lot! Tell them your stories over a cup of coffee or just go watch a film. Just being round people will help you, for me it was meeting up with the Adventure Crew at Kendal Mountain Festival and just being around friends and family.

5 – Change something

This was my biggest mistake. I have just slipped back into the life I left when I went on my adventure but I am not quite the same person, I should have changed something; my job, my habits… something… anything. It would have helped.

Well that’s my thoughts, I am sure there are many other ideas on getting through the blues, why not let me know in the comments below.

Happy adventures!


Jaunt in Jasper

So I have now made it to the mountain town of Jasper and here is how I got here:

Valemount to Jasper (30/04/2017)

Leaving Valemount I re-joined Route 5 heading generally north, I felt sluggish as I hadn’t been sleeping particularly well for a couple of days. You would think with all the exercise I would be sleeping like a baby but hey ho.

The conditions didn’t really change much, some proper white topped mountains peaking above tree line. This was pretty much the same for the first 20km (12miles) where I joined Route 16 heading East, at this point the road also started to ascend as I approached Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies… I stopped at Rearguard Falls (still on the Fraser River, boy that’s a long river!) The falls are renowned for being the farthest point that salmon migrate up the Fraser River to spawn, about 1,260 km (783 mi) from the ocean. I had a couple of stops before this but I thought a quick walk to the falls may help. On the way back the skies opened and this time it was hail instead of rain, waterproofs were on again and a couple of mins later it had stopped but I was already moving an in no position to strip off, I really dislike riding in waterproof trousers.


Rearguard Falls

A few kilometres after leaving the waterfalls the road straightens out and I got a view of what I think was Mount Robson and boy is she beautiful! Sheer faces with ledges coated in snow… man, I want to climb her one day!

The day wore on and the trees started to thin out and suddenly I discovered I was no longer next to the river but a giant great big lake, Moose Lake to be precise. The lake is stunning and with the mountains in the background I couldn’t help but stop (and not just because the legs being tired) the lake is 11.7 km long and 1.9 km wide at its widest point.


Eve at Moose Lake

Leaving the lake I began to notice that the mountains starting to look jagged and fun and I couldn’t take my eyes off Mount Fitzwilliam, a mass of ridges and the nodulous extension to the north-east, I will really have to come pack with my mountaineering gear at some point! Not long after I was into the national park and heading into Jasper. Just on the way in to town I think I saw some elk, maybe :s

Once in town I headed to the hotel, showered, then headed out for a wander around town and check out what there was to see. The town is more touristy than those I have been in since Whistler but that was expected and its actually quite nicely done with buildings in a semi traditional style, also I am out of season so its quite quiet. I have a couple of days here to explore so quite looking forward to that, although unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to get into the hills as my gear isn’t up to 2500m mountains in potential winter conditions.



O and I forgot to mention I have now crossed a time zone, so only seven hours behind UK time!


Crossing lines

Jasper (01/05/2017)

Most of today I have been wandering around town looking at the sights and eating… lots, but here is what I know about Jasper (thanks google):

“Jasper is an alpine town in Canada’s Alberta province, is the commercial centre of Jasper National Park. Amid the snow-capped Canadian Rockies, the park has glacier-fed lakes, forests and rivers. The Jasper SkyTram climbs to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, with views of downtown. The Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives presents exhibits on the fur trade, railway and early exploration of the park.

Elevation: 1,062 m

Area: 925.5 km²

Population: 4,590 (2016)”
Jasper from the air… well mountain…
Jasper and Whistlers Peak (02/05/2017)
To day I had a trip up Whistlers Mountain (not the ski resort, this is a different one!) by the Sky Tram, which is effectively a gondola, but nice all the same! I decided to walk the 7km to the Sky Tram and I am glad I did the scenery is great round here!
River walk
From the station at the top I was a bit naughty and continued to the summit in trainers and jeans, the snow is still thick up there with me sometimes going knee deep in it but the views were worth it. I met a nice couple of Canadians up there who I chatted to for a while  and took some photo’s for, they also offered to drive me back to town when we got back down which I took them up on. All in all a very pleasant day!

Highland Fling

Just back from a winter mountaineering week in Scotland, not much snow on the hills at the moment with an increase in temperature and some rainfall but it was good fun all the same! Thanks to Jo, Steve, Dooley, Mark and Rob for putting up with me!

Sunday I embarked on the journey from Birmingham to our accommodation at Onich and, as ever, missing the turning multiple times. Quick pop to the shops to stock up for the week then we settled in for the evening… maybe with a cider or two…

 Day 1

After a few discussions the night before it was decided to do Carn Mor Dearg Arête (CMD for short… yes I had to look up the full name for you lot!). We set off for the North Face carpark and its was slightly windy but not overly cold, not a good sign when you are after snow! Those of us who have done the route had completely forgotten how much of a slog it is to get to any of the fun bits and as we headed up the wind increased, spin drift was shooting of the top of CMD all over the place giving great views but not boding well for later in the day. We breached the shelter of the will into the wind and it was not content with being strong (40mph) from just one direction, no; it gusted (55mph) and spun round the mountain hitting us from any and every direction. The wind was strong enough to brace and on occasion just drop to the ground, planting ice axes into the snow to ensure we were safe. Lunch was had sheltered behind boulders and it was decided it wouldn’t be fun to continue along the arête even though we were confident everyone would be fine so we turned round.

The day wasn’t over on the way down we dropped into the lea of the hill and found some nice patch’s of snow to spend some time playing in so much sliding and silliness was had!

Highland Fling -4.jpg

On the way to CMD

To finish the day we had an amazing sunset from our Loch side cottage.

Day 2

Today we had a pair of guides to show us around so it was off to Forcan Ridge, which was a tad of a long drive from where we were staying. As ever it was an long drag up to the good stuff and it was getting warm. By the time we got to the ridge most of us had striped off a couple of layers, some down to there base layers and the route was nearly completely bear of snow. The ridge is possibly 1km long and classed as a grade 2 scramble with some fun traverses and debatable quite exposed in places. This route is well worth the effort and I  more snowy conditions even better. After the ridge we summited The Saddle and descended of the southern side. On the decent we broke into two groups almost without realising as poor Jo’s  toes were taken a battering and Craig and I seemed to get stomp on at about the same time.

16807559_10158365061545151_5041255535669621267_n.jpg On the Forcan Ridge. Thanks to Craig Dooley for the photo! (Instagram @adventuredools) 

Day 3

The seems we have lost any semblance of good weather, the rain has come… based on this Kevin and Jim (the guides) thought it best to do the zig zag on Gearr Aonach which gave us time to practice our skills so most the time was on lower grade scrambles but short roping and different belay technics. By the end of the day we were starting to get a tad cold and wet so the view of the cars was much welcomed!


Craig enjoying him self in the damp Scottish weather

Day 4

Big day today, we undertook Aonach Eagach in less than wintery conditions. Apparently it is the longest and narrowest ridge on the British mainland and its a fun but long day out. The ridge is approximately two miles long and in places less than about 1ft wide. We stated the crossing in clag but the cloud burnt off and first we were treated to stunning views down Glencoe and then the rare “Brocken Spector”! We spent most of the day short roping so the going was slow and team work was paramount, we had no more than 1.5m of rope between us so each move while scrambling can effect the others in the team so we had to move slow and carefully. Good fun was had by all and the pub finished the trip to Scotland nicely.


Scramble fun on Aonach Eagach Ridge fun!