I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
No reproduction on other media without the photographer's permission.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Maltese Climbing, Maltese Madness, by Stevie completely normal Haston.

unclimbed cliff!
Just spent three weeks in Malta and Gozo, what can I say, apart from being very happy and comfortable with reaffirming my Maltese roots. I’ll be honest from the start, I did the tinniest bit of climbing and the maximum amount of free diving. The Maltese side of the family are reassuringly still doing their thing, a bit of farming, some work, too much eating, and family stuff. It was easy to drop right back into this life, talking serious one second, nonsense the next, catching fish and being mellow with the help of a few beers. My Maltese climbing friends were full of smiles and laughter, generous and warm like the climate. The editor of Pareti climbing mag was their doing a piece on the climbing, and it was reassuring to see at least one climbing editor-scribbler who can climb rather than just talk and copy/paste. Andrea climbs 8a regularly and has done 8c he was happy with his stay and we hope to see more Italians coming to our small islands. On the day I met Andrea, Simon Alden (Malta climbing club) and I re-discovered a great cliff, and we started doing routes, they will be very good. I also re-discovered the hard work involved in cleaning and bolting and have to thank Gozo Climbing association for the bolts- thanks Xavier. My tally of new stuff was only one new route, but it is the best corner crack on the islands, a gem that sparkles in my memory. I did a bit of bouldering, two new things, super good on the Boulder beyond Mars, again I was reminded how good and photogenic these are, these problems were hard or I am useless.

a Grouper, dead, in my stomach, I'm a non grouper friednly predator

Mainly though I just went swimming, wake up at dawn, cup of coffee, munch some bread, walk down to some rocks and cruise the water. I took a couple of Barracudas which was a first for me. Barras are very scary for a lotta people but in truth they are just fascinating. I swam in two balls of thousands of Barras this trip, and just can’t explain what it feels like. To be inside a swirling mass of these agile predators is just very interesting. The other way you see Barras are in long lines, this is maybe more menacing, they seem more alert and eager for something. The lines are half a dozen or more high and hundreds of meters long, and you can just swim straight into them. The biggest Barras are more solitary little groups of 3 to six, and become more than a little menacing, they are often hunting when you see them like this, and can sprint in unbelievably fast to kill. If you are lucky and I was, you might see ones of a meter or more, the biggest one I saw flicked towards me as we were both cruising a gully in opposite directions, I yelped silently! Anyway saw lots of fish, an Eagle ray, Dentex, Tuna, mostly I just swam with them, but I eat a few fish as I am a predator when in the water. My head is full of the colours of the sea, hard to communicate this too you, if you don’t know what I mean, or the muted way that colours merge, the lack of sound but the presence of something that takes its place, it’s so good! Anyway sometimes up to six hours in the water, and I don’t feel good yet, a long way to go before I become proficient. And I want to get good. My last days swimming was at the Blue Grotto on Malta, an Abseil in, a difficult choppy entry and then glorious caves, boulders and sandscapes, with cliffs above me in the air and cliffs below me in the water. Boats full of tourists came flitting in an out, but they took care with me, thank you. As they passed I’d raise an Octopus for their interest. To get out was a grade 5 climb which I started with a big pack of gear on, and trainers for footwear, tough like this! A lovely day spent in the company of 3 Malts, 1 Swiss, 1 Pole, and me, 1 GozoScot. Last night in the comfort of my mountain home in France I dreamt of Fish, quelle surprise.

GOZO Adventure by Stevie Gozotan Haston

Thanks to Simon Alden&Toni Ann for the photos

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Well Done on Century, by Stevie Gozotan Haston

Well done boys, about time..sounds bold as brass, light rack indeed....Stevie from Gozo

Death and Transfiguration, a goodbye to two hill men, by Stevie Haston

Two people who were members of the outdoor community died recently, and somehow have left a deeper hole in me than seems possible. In future I will try to keep up on this and publish something, nothing too personal, just a polite death notice.  We are all freightened of death, but dying while doing your sport might be an appropriate way to go, as happened to the two individuals in question. The mountains are dangerous and our lives are precarious, and none of us can escape death. But,  and for me it is a very big but, our lives can be transfigured by what we do in our allotted time. I love climbing I think more than being alive without it, so I am prepared to pay the ferryman, some of your friends will be the same and perhaps you are too. The price may seem high but we reach great heights so bare this in mind when you have the sorrow of some ones death, it might help. The two people who died recently both had an effect on my life and for this I am very thankful, and because of this they will never be dead in the sense of forgotten, they will never pass away into the mists of being absent.
In a previous Blog I published a photo of the cover of Studs on the summits written by Bill Smith, a book that the Independent in its excellent death notice for Bill reminded me sold out of print very quickly and is  now a collectors item. It is not because it is a great book, rather it is a work of love, and for this reason it too is loved. Bill loved running the fells,  he lived alone, and lived simply, he died alone, probably of the cold in a peat bog  on Bowfell moors. He was missing for three weeks. In his sad death he has had more appreciation than in life, his work with fell running, much of it unrewarded, has helped the sport immeasurably.
The older climbing community of England and Wales was surprised to lose Ben Wintringham to an Abseiling accident, Ben was a friend to many and a husband to Marion. I think Ben would be surprised by how many people mourn his leaving this world. Ben was helpful to me personally and I know he was to many others. Ben climbed many knew routes and loved steep rock, take some time to say thanks, if you do one of his little treasures, you may not have known him, but without people like Ben our sport would be very poor. I am sorry not to be with his friends celebrating his life, but many of the people who knew Ben  are maybe like me  and live in a different country, so farewell Ben and thank you for your smile. 

Bill Smith, runner. RIP.

Ben Wintringham, climber, RIP 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Trad climbing’s survival in a material world, by Stevie umpayed Haston.

this rack weighs about 8kg
Trad climbing is certainly doomed from what I have seen lately, the once and only way to climb is now just a circus side show! The free climbing ethic grew very slowly over many years until it became established in its proper form in the 1970s, there were many fight arguments and discussions along the way. There were also great climbers and some great impassioned ascents that showed that it was all possible. Out of the many examples I could use, I will highlight the Boulder climbers of the seventies as thee great standard. I do this because they are documented and where written about in great detail and I also know that most of it is true. So the ethic was basically to start at the bottom and make your way to the top with out hanging on gear or using it in any other way. Simple, very, very simple! If you fell off or had a slip or touched something it was called cheating and you had to start again, simple! If you had a lot of gear in or used a rope to protect you from above the ascent was invalidated, simple. One climber a man who inspired me and others, called screwing up on climbs tainting, as in your ascent was tainted. I always thought this term was perfect? These rules (you cant have games without rules) were established by the elite and where adhered to -maybe, sometimes, and certainly not always by trad climbers.  The problem with this ethic came about with the escalating standards and the normal pressures of life, and worse nowadays the thirst for harder routes and controversy in magazines and on the internet. Today a discussion will take place on the internet about Trad climbing by sports climbers, or idiots or both!
The inconvenience of complicated trad climbing often precludes enjoyment and that’s why people take short cuts. Probably every body takes short cuts but and it’s a very big but some of the great trad routes have been done from the ground. You only need to think of Yuji on Salathe with two falls! When you purposely put all the gear in a complicated and hard to protect trad route it’s called cheating! The amount of nonsense I have read recently about this is astounding! In Indian Creek and most of America the ethic for cracks is strict, you must place all your gear on lead or it’s not an ascent. Some people only pay lip service to this but strict ethics have been used (apart from practising on many of the trophy routes, think Cobra Crack and the Meltdown. Examples of hard to protect climbs are easy to find, in Britain full racks of 3 sets of friends plus wires makes the going very hard. A crucial hard to spot placement changes the grade of a climb dramatically. A heavy rack makes the climbing of strenuous routes very much harder. A big rack may weigh 8kgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The exclamation marks are for some people on internet forums who don’t understand that a rack can affect the grade of a route!!!!!!!!!!!!  Try a hard rout with 8kgs extra! JibĂ© and Raboutou used to say that 200grams used to affect how they climbed. I once did a hard offwidth in the desert on a tower with a big rack (8kgs) and collapsed on the summit for half an hour. Inconvenience is just that, its inconvenient. It’s fairly inconvenient to wait four years for the Olympics, or to wait for good powder or good ice, but that’s how it goes.
Many good climbers bend ethics or rules (I have numerous times) but if Trad climbing is to survive we need to at least pay lip service to placing gear. In Britain Mcleod places his gear on his final leads, many people do not, if you make the difference you will understand! And so why do you think he does that because it’s easier or harder? And yes it might be a little inconvenient to do a very hard trad route on Ben Nevis or use good ethics on El Cap but some people do, so please make the difference.

A few things the internet has got wrong!

They accept any old shit because it’s free!

Not checking!

Talking about stuff when you don’t know what you are talking about! This last one could be equally levelled at presidents of the USA.

I will leave you with something a bit more refreshing and upbeat but is on the same lines. There is a sport called Free Diving and in it, the Divers recognise different categories of dive, because lets face it they are different! So we have the most sensational which is the deepest dive but using weights, this draws the most interest, it isn’t the hardest, its just got the biggest numbers. Then we have another category which doesn’t use fins or a wet suit, this you might be tempted to think is purer, and I might be tempted to agree. So if you really want to be cheered up by human performance, click onto William Trubridge free diving the arch in Egypt. Notice there is a guy with tanks, Its 50 meters down, 33 meters across, and 50 meters up. Now that’s free.  And I’m off free diving now!