Sunday, 18 August 2013


I'm really enjoying my climbing at the moment. I don't really care if I'm climbing inside or out, using the beast maker or just watching a climbing film. I like everything about it.
I do still prefer to climb outside, its just a bit nicer really isn't it, but I have managed to tick off a few cool problems at indoor walls. OK so indoor climbing isn't cool and no one really wants to hear about it but I'm still proud of my achievements.
Now to outdoors. On Friday I made a trip to Hepburn in Northumberland. Despite a quite frustrating start to the day when I fell off nearly everything I did end up climbing some pretty cool problems, and finding others that I really want to go back and try. I managed to climb Rheumatology (7a) and 3 6b's which I had been unable to finish off on a previous visit. These were Roof Problem LH, Roof Problem RH and Fine Arete. They all went down reasonably easy as well, which makes it all the sweeter. Whilst walking around the woods near A Northern Soul I found a cool looking line which wasn't in the guide but had some chalked up holds. I spent quite a while attempting it, but not really getting anywhere. I guessed it would probably be 7c (it just looked like one). A quick check on UKC and a google shows that it is called Trivial Pursuit and gets either 7b+ or 7c.
Trivial Pursuit
Today I made a trip up to the crags after doing some work in the library. I spent a while working the L-R variation on the Low Black Wall Traverse (7b). I managed all the moves on it which is pretty cool. I almost go it linked too but the final move is a very low percentage dynamic foot placement sort of monster so I fell off. Hopefully I will get this linked soon!
Low Black Wall Traverse
In other news my dissertation seems to be going well but I haven't really tried to manipulate the data yet so it could all still fall to pieces!

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Edelrid Mega Jul Review

Edelrid have released a new belay plate to the market. In essence it is an auto locking tuber plate. Its name is the Mega Jul. It takes ropes between 7.8 and 10.5 mm and has a smaller brother called the Micro Jul.
If its just an auto locking device then why not just use a trusty GriGri I hear you say? Well a GriGri only works on one rope, unlike the Mega Jul.
The Mammut Smart Alpine works on 2 ropes what about that? Yes Mammut does have and auto locking belay plate which works on 2 ropes but it doesn't have a guide mode, which is very useful if you are doing a multi-pitch route. The Mega Jul also weighs much less than the smart (65g instead of 125g).
Here is the operational video which Edelrid have released to go with the Mega Jul. I think its best if they explain how to use it.

I really like the auto locking feature of the belay plate. It makes it much nicer to belay with when sport climbing. The handle makes it easy and smooth to pay out slack for the leader. Lowering takes a bit of getting used to but is easy to do once you have practiced a bit.
When I have shown the belay plate to people they seem a bit put off by how thin the metal work is. I suppose this is just progress though. All belay plates need to meet the same criteria to be put on the market so I have no problem with the quality of the materials used.

So how does it stack up against other conventional belay plates? The Mega Jul does everything a normal guide mode belay plate does, and then some, but does this come at any disadvantage.
Well weight wise no. Black Diamonds ATC Guide weights 88g, 23g heavier than the Mega Jul, and the Petzl Reverso 4 comes in at 59g, only 6g lighter. I think to have the auto locking function available its worth the extra 6g.
Guide mode is set up in a slightly different way than with the Black Diamond and Petzl plates but it all works the same.
The Mega Jul comes with the added advantage of allowing you to abseil without using a prussick. Personally I don't like abseiling so I will just stick with what I know (a prussick), but its nice to know its there.

Unfortunately the lightweight Mega Jul does seem to have some problems. I have seen 2 different images online of the exact same breakage, where the handle breaks off from the main tuber plate. This is a bit worrying, and fortunately hasn't happened to me.

The Edelrid Mega Jul gets a rating of 1 thumb down. I really like the auto locking feature but those breakages really need to be seen to by the guys at Edelrid. I really wish I could have given it a higher score.

Evolv Shaman Review

I have been testing the Evolv Shaman rock shoes for a few weeks now and here are my thoughts on them.
The Shamans have a lot to live up to. They have won a number of awards including the Editors Choice awards from Urban Climber and Climbing. They have even been developed by rock climbing god Chris Sharma. Last but not least with a name like Shaman these things should have magic powers.
Evolv Shaman
Comfort: For a very aggressive shoe the Shamans are really quite comfortable. I have to admit that the first few times I put them on they were super tight but after a few uses they started to feel a lot better. The uppers are made from a synthetic fabric, called Synthratek, which doesn't stretch very much, unlike leather. This means that they will fit about the same as they did when you first tried them on, although they are likely to mold to your foot a bit. Synthetic fabrics do tend to smell quite bad, so let them dry out properly after use! I had a quick sniff of mine last night and they weren't too bad really, but I did identify some faint unpleasant undertones which I can only describe as pig slurry.
Hooking: Shoes always fall off my feet when I heel hook. It was something I was beginning to accept up until I used the Shamans. These things stick to my feet as well as they stick to the rock! There is a nice big patch of rubber over the toes which helps to stick toe hooks.
Proper Solid Hook (Photo Credit: Minerva Design)

Rubber: Evolv's Trax XT has been formulated to be the best performing rubber on the market and I might have to agree with them. This stuff is so sticky that I managed to stick them together tip to tip (see photo)! The down side of super sticky rubber is that it is quite soft. Evolv are very environmentally minded with respect to their rubber. Where 100% friction isn't needed they add in 30% recycled material.
Precision/Feel: The Shamans have 3 velcro closures which gives a precise glove like feel. The toe box of the shoe is featured with a Love Bump and Knuckle Box. This Evolv claim keeps your feet in a position of power while being very comfortable. Whether this is true I do not know but it does feel nice on your feet and eliminates hot spots.
Sizing: I got these in a size 44, which is about the same as the Scarpa shoes which I usually wear. I generally wear a size 46 street shoe.
Edging/Smearing: As I have said before the rubber is quite soft so isn't great on small edges. They also weren't that great on smears to begin with but they have softened up a bit, and thanks to the good rubber, perform well. They have been developed primarily for steep things so once you start pulling onto foot holds they feel very good.
Durability: Again very sticky rubber isn't going to last that long. But then again they might not slip off things quite as much so you get everything sent quicker, perhaps allowing them to last a bit longer. I wouldn't expect these to out live your bog standard wall shoes though.
Looks: Like this really.
Overall: Ok so they will start to smell but they do feel so precise, the heel is good and the rubber is phenomenal. A top shoes. These get a maximum rating of 2 thumbs up!

The Shamans are available from with 10% off.

Saturday, 10 August 2013


Recently the Edinburgh climbing scene has been up in turmoil after some inconsiderate soul desecrated one of our great dolerite crags....
Edinburgh crag gets new lease of life after climber invests their own money bolting forgotten climbs....
Bolting mayhem
These two sentences sum up either side of an argument which has been raging on UKC and in other groups. The cause of this argument is the recent bolting of 4 previously traditional climbs and the equipping of 4 other lines. The new routes are, as far as I can tell, thought to be fair game, but the retro bolting isn't so universally agreed upon. The routes in question are Pettifers Wall (E4), Slow Strain (E2) and Wally 2 and 3 (both E4).
Tom on Slow Strain
If all of these were popular trad routes I would agree with the anti bolting crowd. I have looked at UKC and Pettifers Wall has logged once on lead pre-bolts, but since the bolts have been added it has been climbed at least 10 times. Slow Strain like wise has seen a big increase in number of ticks since bolting. Wally 2 and 3 I don't agree with so much. They are on the more popular trad part of the crag so maybe they weren't to be bolted.
Sinclair on Pettifers Wall
Ratho Quarry isn't just a rock climbing venue. Half of the quarry is taken up by the massive EICA Ratho, the largest climbing wall in Europe. Thanks to EICA I feel the rock climbing should be treated differently. Having a lot of mid grade sport routes next to the center may make more people climb outside, which can only really be a good thing. Why let a perfectly good crag become unused because a group of climbers that shout loud convince everyone that bolts are not needed. If these particular climbers actually visited the crag stopping it from becoming an overgrown mess then maybe they would have a point, but they don't. If it was my decision I would bolt the entire crag so that people would use it!
Myself on Pettifers Wall
Anyway, today I went to try the new sport routes with Sinclair Cooper and Tom Stork. We climbed Slow Strain (6b), Pettifers Wall (6c) and the new route of Kamikaze (6c+). Kamikaze was by far the best route out of the three, and felt very stiff for 6c+. I would go as far as saying it felt like the hardest sport route I have on sighted, despite apparently doing a 7a+ at Robs Reed last month. It was also nice to see other climbers at the crag!

Sunday, 4 August 2013


I have finally got my thin sections made for my dissertation (Orcadian Basin sediments from Spittal Quarry, Caithness), which means I can finally start doing work! But before I said good bye to my life I decided I should have one last day out climbing.

Sprung (Photo Credit: Minerva Design)
With that in mind Chris Prescott, Chris Williams, Sinclair Cooper and I went to Bowden Doors in Northumberland on Saturday. Whilst at Bowden we met two guys, called Alan and Mick, who were photographing some rock formations on the crag and asked if they could take some shots of us too. Always one up for being the subject of a decent photo I happily obliged.
Where it starts to get hard (Photo Credit: Minerva Design)
I really wanted to get back on Sprung (font 7c). I have tried Sprung a number of times but never really managed any significant links on it. My first attempt today saw me link from the sit start up to the first of the sharp crimps after the rock over move. I was pretty pleased, and managed this feet a few times during the day. I still had the crux move to get though. I tried a number of things; pulling really hard, pulling harder still, move foot, pull harder again, but none of these worked.

(Photo Credit: Alan Errington)
In the end I managed to get my right foot out of the dish I use for the rock over, by putting my left foot on the rail below, tensing, then moving the right foot onto the crimp I use in the rock over (it makes sense to me, maybe you had to be there). Lack of skin and energy put an end to my attempts on this. In the end I climbed Canada Dry (font 4+) and Main Wall Traverse (font 5) and had a couple of goes on Poseidons Adventure (E4) , so a bit of an anti climax to the day.
I shall hopefully get some good finger boarding sessions in and return with more strength and skin to complete the problem!
Poseidon (Photo Credit: Alan Errington)
On Friday a I received a new pair of shoes from They are Evolv Shamans, designed by Chris Sharma apparently. I will write a review soon but my first impressions are very good.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Moon Logo Vest Review

I recently received a Moon Logo Vest to review.
The moon vest is made from 100% organic cotton, making it nice and green. Mine is in green too, making it extra green. It retails at £20, which you may say is a lot for a shirt without sleeves, but like I've said this thing has green credentials, and it's got a cool looking Moon logo on it. If green isn't your thing it also comes in yellow and dark grey. When I think of eco friendly fabrics I think of potato sacks. Luckily the cotton used here feels nice on your skin, and has kept its colour even after being washed.
Vest tops, or wife beaters as they are affectionately known, don't really conjure up images of someone cranking hard on some blocs in Font. Instead I get a mental image of some flat bloke sat in an old chair drinking special brew with take away spilt down their front. The sort of thing you might see on one of those soap episodes which have a help line number at the end of it.
Why then would you wear one? There is slightly less skin coverage than with a normal t-shirt so you get obvious weight and cooling advantages here. But why not just go completely tops off? Everyone knows about tops off for power. Does vests on for power work too? Do vests make you feel a bit thuggish allowing you to send those steep power problems? These are the questions climbers want to know.
Since receiving the top I have been conducting my own experiments into this. I feel a bit stupid wearing a vest, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Knowing that you already look a bit silly may mean that you don't mind trying that move you don't think will work and falling off. Falling off things is, of course, a good way to improve.
Trad climber in vest (The Big Sender Collection)
So to answer what I feel is the main question here: Do vests make you a better climber?
Firstly, to decide on what a better climber is, you need a base value. For me I take my standard climber ability as wearing a t-shirt. A trip to Rothley, in Northumberland, has been my yard stick for measuring ability between clothing types. This test is centered around a surprisingly good font 7a called Gloom. On my first visit I worked the problem in a t-shirt and couldn't do one little section in the middle (rubbish). My next trip saw me start climbing in the vest top. This time I managed to link the middle section, but I still hadn't done it from a sitter (better). Later on that day I tried the problem without a top on and got it sent (best!).
Poor Ryan
This completely fair and scientific test proves that tops off for power is still best, but vests on is better than t-shirts.
So why buy a vest if going tops off is best? It is not always possible to go tops off. Maybe you have chest hair like Ryan Giggs or you climb at a wall that has a no tops off rule. Remember, in this situation, vests are better than a shirt.
There are dangers associated with wearing vest tops too. They do have a thuggish look about them. Is that how you want to be seen? Maybe don't wear them to a job interview or to a nice restaurant.
Shifty looking students wearing vests, probably about to be turfed out by security (Fergus Cuthill Collection)
Another danger you may forget about in the UK is the ridiculous tan you get.
Do you want to look like this man? (Fergus Cuthill Collection)
So on balance... the Moon Wife Beater Vest Top is a useful addition to any rock climber's arsenal of performance improving items. It could come to have the same place in a climber's rucksack like those super tight shoes that you're saving for the right problem, Climb On (or Tip Juice or other popular moisturising brands) and a beany hat (review on head wear to follow when it gets cooler hopefully). If you're going to get a vest you might as well get one which has some green credentials. For this the Moon Vest Top is ideal.
This is a hard product to rate. It is somewhere between 1 thumb up and a thumb up and a thumb down. Im sure it will be useful for those sweaty nights down at the wall at least.

The Moon Vest Top is available from with 10% off. 


I went to Rothely, in Northumberland, with Mehmet Karatay and his wife Gemma. We managed a good few hours of bouldering before it started raining.
Gloomy problem
I wanted to return here to climb a problem called Gloom. Gloom is a font 7a which starts in a little gully and traverses out via some sharp crimps and a pebbley sloper to top out into heather. Other than the top out the problem is really good with hard moves between reasonably good holds. I had tried Gloom on my previous visit but I couldn't do one section in the middle. After a little bit of work I managed to get the moves (it just required a bit more body tension than I was expecting). I had a short break and then sent the problem on my second go after this.
The crux move
I'm really pleased to get this done as although it is in a bit of a hole the moves are great. I must have tried quite hard on it too as I am feeling it today!

Almost at the grass