t h e ad ve n t ure q ua r te r l y
CL I M B AZERBAI JAN
R I D E E NGL AND
H I K E GR EE N L A N D
# U NI T E DBY AT T I T U D E
Stores nationwide | snowandrock.com
Snow+Rock is all about innovation. Since 1982, weâ€™ve been seeking out new and exciting technologies, brands and products, striving for excellence in everything we do. Stand out and aim higher, without compromise. See you out there.
achieve the extraordinary
Expeditions / Adventures / TV & Film www.secretcompass.com Afghanistan / Sudan / North Korea / Bhutan / DRC / Mongolia
Kamchatka / I raqi Kurdistan / Gabon / I RAN / Greenland / SI NAi
M O U N TA I N S P O R T S S P E C I A L I S T S www.absolute-snow.co.uk
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S
D epa r t ment s
16 T E R R A I N C O G N I T A
Five destinations for real adventures on undiscovered trails Lukasz Warzecha
22 S T E E P W A Y D O W N
42 K E M P S T O N H A R D W I C K
Extreme skiing in the central Alaska Range
The diary of Bedfordshireâ€™s greatest adventurer
32 F E N T O F E L L
Riding from the lowest point to the highest peak in England Chris Hunt & River Thompson
14 B A S E N O T E S
The most significant adventure sports news
J I G S AW O F B R O K E N S L AT E
Exploratory climbing across the roof of Azerbaijan Jan Bakker
52 T H E B A S E I N T E R V I E W
In conversation with top British climber Hazel Findlay David Pickford
78 B A S E C U L T U R E
62 B A C K T O B A S E
Whispers: the inner voice of reason Will Copestake
66 B A S E G E A R
The leading adventure watches of 2019 The BASE review panel
68 B E Y O N D B A S E
The case for adventure activism Carmen Kuntz
72 B A S E T E C H
Figures of dreams
Steel is real: the story of steel bike tubing
Tom Jay & Helen Mort
Cont ri b u t ors Dan Milner
Lukasz Warzecha Jan Bakker
Hazel Findlay Michael Clark Jan Pirnat
Editor & Creative Director David Pickford
Publisher Secret Compass
Associate Editor Chris Hunt
Publishing Manager Emily Graham Design Joe Walczak
Submissions firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising email@example.com
COVER: Top Mexican kayaker Rafael Ortiz running the 10 metre drop of Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon river, Washington State. The Little White Salmon is one of the best technical rivers in North America; it is rated Grade 5 on the kayaking grading scale, presenting challenging conditions for experienced kayakers. The tallest waterfall ever kayaked is the nearby Palouse Falls, also in Washington State, which stands at 57 metres (189 feet). MICHAEL CLARK / RED BULL
SOHO POP UP NOW OPEN BLUNDSTONE.CO.UK
EDI TOR’S LET T ER Con st ru c t i ve pa ra noi a
tupidity’, observed the great Polish alpinist and pioneer of
Guinean technique of constructive paranoia when deciding
falling prey to your own illusions’. During his long career of
despite whatever reservations he may have had about the safety
modern Himalayan climbing, Wojciech Kurtyka, ‘means
cutting edge ascents in the world’s highest mountains, it’s fair
to say that Kurtyka probably learnt more than most about the consequences of being guided by ego instead of common sense in situations involving complex risks.
In her superb recent biography of Kurtyka, Art of Freedom,
whether or not to travel in the boat; he had simply boarded it, of the canoe. Diamond’s principle of constructive paranoia can
apply, I think, to virtually any situation where there is a degree of direct exposure to real risk, whether on an 8000 metre peak or when choosing whether or not to board an unstable boat.
For my own part, I’ve probably spent enough time exploring
Bernadette McDonald recalls an episode on Manaslu in 1986,
the no man’s land between acceptable and unacceptable risk to
high avalanche risk. ‘[The slope above us] was loaded with
exercise constructive paranoia in the first place: you need to be
when Kurtyka insisted on going down due to the extremely
ominously sparkling snow, silently waiting in the hot sun.
It was like Russian roulette, but the gun was loaded not with one but with three bullets’ Kurtyka recalled. His climbing
understand what you need to do in order to be in a position to able to identify the primary source of the risk itself. It could be a dead tree, an unstable boat - or possibly your own ambition.
This psychological process of becoming hyper-aware of
partners continued on for a while, until they too were forced to
potential hazards can, I think, be applied to all adventure sports.
agree to this approach to avalanche danger’, McDonald writes.
discipline for me; the sense of freedom and control it gives is
retreat due to the unjustifiable conditions. ‘[Wojciech] couldn’t
‘He knew that if you played [that] game too often, the bullet would eventually find its mark.’
What strategy, exactly, was Kurtyka deploying there? I'd
argue it's a concept formulated by the renowned polymath
Free soloing - climbing without ropes - was once an important second to none. But I consciously moved away from practicing
it regularly due to the increased probability, with every climb completed in this style, that something goes wrong.
One of the last big climbs I free soloed, on a perfect June
Jared Diamond: a system for minimising exposure to objective
afternoon in Snowdonia a few years ago, was Joe Brown’s 1953
he claims, based around the attitude of native New Guinean
mountain rock climbs in Britain. On the final section of the
danger which he calls ‘constructive paranoia’. This approach is, people, with whom he made numerous expeditions into the
remote New Guinea highlands. Diamond noticed how native New Guineans exercised a hyper-sensitive environmental
intelligence when travelling to mitigate any conceivable hazard. For example, they would not sleep under a dead tree, no matter
how small it was. The thinking behind this is simple: if you
camp in the forest for hundreds of nights a year, you’ll know
that dead trees often fall over, and you don’t want to be camping
masterpiece, The Grooves, on Cyrn Las; it’s one of the finest
route, I glanced down. Almost five hundred feet of mountain
air separated me from the scree. Up there, I was a lone dancer in a vast auditorium of silence and space. As I pulled over the
top of the crag, all the reasons I used to solo regularly came flooding back - the unreal thrill, the sense of solitude, the light and space. Yet I was also reminded of all of the other reasons why I’ve now stopped soloing almost entirely.
These reasons, I think, are best summed up by a striking
under one when it does.
phrase formulated by the American sociologist Diane Vaughan,
of constructive paranoia, he claims, after a boat accident in New
Challenger Shuttle disaster. Vaughan identified a process she
Diamond first understood the importance of this concept
Guinea in which the canoe he was travelling in between islands
capsized, due to the boatman driving too fast and flooding the
hull. He and his companions were rescued in the nick of time, shortly before sunset, whilst clinging to the upturned canoe miles offshore in a remote part of Indonesia.
He subsequently met a man who had been scheduled to
travel in the same canoe, but decided against it due to the unstable nature of the vessel and the inexperienced, gung-ho boatman. Diamond then realised he had not used the New 10
in her book The Challenger Launch Decision about the 1986
calls the normalisation of deviance as crucial to the evolution of the disaster. During the developmental phase of the Space Shuttle Program, Vaughan shows how the acceptance of deviance
resulted in a critical, dangerous design flaw in the design of the joints on the solid rocket boosters of the spacecraft. The design team conducted analysis to find the limits and capabilities of joint performance, but evidence initially interpreted as a ‘deviation from expected performance’ was then reinterpreted as ‘within the bounds of acceptable risk’.
To interpret Vaughan’s concept more generally, the
(Willacy once set a round Britain kayaking record). His simple
something that does not follow the accepted rules of good
don’t go out. Second, remember what you see from the beach is 2-3
normalisation of deviance is any process by which we do safety procedure (like climbing without a rope, or getting into
an obviously unseaworthy boat), and which we then get away
with. Then, believing it’s safe to make the same safety shortcut
rules define the concept of constructive paranoia. First, if in doubt, times smaller than what you get once you’re out there. And third, accept the weather forecast for what it is, not what you want it to be.
What I like about Willacy’s kayaking guidelines is the way
a second time, we do the same thing again. And again. Repeat
they reinforce how you have to be tuned in to your emotions to
The normalisation of deviance first came to my attention
deal. And I like the way Willacy points out you must have an
this process indefinitely, and something will eventually go wrong. when reading about the death of diver Guy Garman in 2015 in his attempt to break the world depth record on open-
circuit scuba. With only four years of deep diving experience, Mr Garman believed he ‘knew more about technical diving
than anyone else on the planet’ [as quoted by his dive team, Scuba TEC]. This, clearly, was not the case. Instead, the
practice Garman had ‘normalised’ of doing increasingly
deeper dives and getting away with it had led him to believe,
stay safe - because fear and apprehension can tell you a great awareness of your own limits, together with an innate respect
for the wilderness and the weather, to succeed on your mission. You’ll learn a lot more about this fascinating process in this issue
of BASE, both from extreme skier Tom Grant’s account of an expedition to Alaska, and also in Will Copestake’s Back to Base
column, in which he explains how listening to the quiet voices of reason in our heads can keep us safe out there.
Diane Vaughan’s concept of ‘the normalisation of deviance’
incorrectly, that he was a diving genius. This perception created
is, I'd argue, the psychic opposite of Jared Diamond’s concept
twin misconceptions ultimately cost Garman his life, and they
the real differences between recklessness and pragmatism in a
interconnected illusions of invulnerability and of skill. These reinforce Wojciech Kurtyka’s earlier point about how dangerous it is to fall prey to your own illusions.
Such illusions can be equally risky in all adventure sports.
In climbing, the problem with free soloing is that it can be hard
to know - and even harder to anticipate - all of the variables that may affect your climb. And it’s the variable you don’t anticipate that usually catches you out. Or as Donald Rumsfeld memorably quipped, ‘it’s the unknown unknowns that get you’.
Some of the most pragmatic adventure safety guidelines I've
encountered are John Willacy’s three tips for safe sea kayaking
of ‘constructive paranoia’. By setting the two against each other, wilderness environment become obvious. Experimenting with
the former for too long might kill you in the end, but practising
the latter could keep you alive and well in a dangerous situation. The intriguing relationship between these different states of mind is a dynamic worth thinking about whenever you're heading out there into the wild, and whatever you're doing.
Before you do, I hope you’ll find multiple points of
inspiration in this second edition of BASE; you’re in for quite a ride. Enjoy the issue.
A huge avalanche thunders into the upper Hingku valley in Nepal’s Solukhumbu region. Moments before the shot was taken, the crack of a serac collapse echoed, signalling imminent avalanche danger. Staying tuned to warning signs in wild environments is a crucial part of exercising 'constructive paranoia'. DAVID PICKFORD
OPENING SHOT Photograph | Will Copestake
Exploring a through-cave at Whiten Head, which guards the
receives from North Atlantic storms. ‘Returning to Whiten
a welcome shelter from the ocean swell running outside. These
a welcome upgrade from paddling past with purpose during my
seaward entrance to Loch Eriboll on Scotland’s wild north coast; massive caves bear witness to the regular hammering this coast
Head with time and confidence to explore the area in depth was round-Scotland sea kayaking expedition’, says Copestake.
BA S E N O T ES
K2 paraglider launch record Whilst several paraglider flights have been made from the summit of Everest - the first was made by French extreme sports pioneer Jean-Marc Boivin in 1988 - no pilot has successfully launched from the summit of K2, the world’s second highest peak, which experiences more severe weather than Everest. Last summer, when conditions proved prohibitive on his way to the summit of K2 via the Cesen route, Austrian mountaineer and paraglider Max Berger unravelled his lightweight wing on the shoulder of the world’s second highest mountain. At an altitude of almost 8000 metres, he then took off from the highest ever launch point on the peak. Berger completed his K2 flight having previously summited nearby Broad Peak, from where he flew from Camp 3 at 7100 metres. The previous altitude record for launching a paraglider from K2 was JeanMarc Boivin’s 7600 metre launch point back in 1979. The 40 year gap between these two records shows the challenging and complex nature of launching a paraglider high on K2. The first 1260 on a skateboard At the X-Games in Minneapolis this summer, Mitchie Brusco landed the first ‘1260’ in the history of skateboarding. That’s three and a half complete rotations in one manoeuvre. Brusco achieved his feat by launching from the infamous mega ramp – an oversized roll-in to an oversized box finished off with a 27 foot quarter pipe at the end – allowing for maximum air time. Purists might argue that the mega ramp is incomparable to traditional skating, but three and a half full rotations! Threat to one of the world’s best waves The remote islands off the west coast of Sumatra are home to a plethora of legendary waves. Powerful swells travel thousands of miles across the Indian Ocean before being met abruptly by perfectly angled shallow reefs, which results in mechanical perfection in the form of long, hollow waves. One of the jewels in the region’s crown is Lagundri Bay on the southwestern edge of the island of Nias. It’s a focal point of Indonesian wave riding, and each year some the world’s best surfers descend for the highlight swells. In 2005, after the most powerful earthquake in Indonesia since 1965, the reef at Nias rose almost 10 feet, making the wave more challenging: the take-off became steeper, and the barrel even longer. Today, though, the wave is under critical threat, as plans to build a coastal road that may destroy part of the reef are now rolling into action.
40 years after the first flight off K2, Max Berger unravelled his lightweight wing on the shoulder at 8000 metres Salt Lake City to the summit of Denali On March 20, Clay Hughes and Cody James opened their front doors in Salt Lake City, Utah to embark on 3,630 mile journey to ascend North America’s highest mountain. What made their journey very different to everyone who’s summited Denali before them? The whole thing was human-powered. Carrying all their own food and gear with them, the trip saw the pair ride over 3,530 miles by bike through Idaho, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and the Yukon before reaching Denali National Park. They then covered 63 miles on foot and 37 miles by ski. To reach the top of the 6190 metre summit, the route they chose was the same used by the men who claimed the first ascent back in 1913; a line which is rarely trodden today. Having skied from the summit, on June 22 they confirmed they had successfully completed their journey. The first person to make a human-powered ascent of Denali was Erden Eruc in 2003; he made a shorter (and solo) trip from Seattle, Washington State, and biked home. New permit restrictions on Everest In the wake of one of the most overcrowded and deadly seasons on the world’s highest peak, this summer Nepal’s government proposed new restrictions that would potentially impose a much lower limit on the number of climbers allowed to attempt the summit. Crucial among these restrictions are that climbers attempting Everest would have to prove they have summited another high altitude peak of over 6000 metres, and also that expedition providers on Everest would have to demonstrate they have a minimum of three years’ experience in organising high altitude guiding services. The main purpose of these new rules is to prevent the dramatic rise of inexperienced climbers attempting Everest, and also to ensure expedition providers are properly run and resourced.
The epic bulk of K2 (8,611m), the world’s second highest mountain, seen from the basecamp on the Baltoro Glacier. MAREK OGIEN / RED BULL
T E R R A I N C O G N I TA Five destinations fo r rea l a d vent u res on u nd i sc overed t ra i l s Photography | Lukasz Warzecha
Tunu, East Greenland
The ancient Inuit word ‘Tunu’ means the ‘backside’; the local
by mountains and deep fjords, there are few places on Earth
land sculpted by forces far beyond the human world. This is a
of the Greenlanders, and their strong connection to nature
inhabitants use it to describe East Greenland, an untamed
place virtually unvisited by tourists, and its culture reamains deeply rooted in Norse and Greenlandic legend. Surrounded
as remote and pristine. At the same time, the simple lifestyle
and to the sea, is omnipresent. East Greenland is a place to have your imagination ignited and your heart captured.
Jordanian Highlands, Jordan
Jordan remains a safe haven in a region of conflict, and has some
connects the entire length of the country, from Um Qais in the
new, 400 mile long distance footpath, the Jordan Trail, takes
the north, the rugged wadis and cliffs overlooking the Jordan Rift
of the most spectacular landscapes in the Middle East. The you on a journey past ancient cities, through impressive wadis, and out into the unforgiving heat of the desert. The Jordan Trail
north to Aqaba in the south. The route takes in the wooded hillsof
Valley, the ancient city of Petra, the mountains of Wadi Rum, finally arriving at the crystal waters of the Red Sea.
The cloud cover is solid above our heads; if it wasn’t for the
We’re following the road less travelled to the ancient city of the
about any part of the world. But then the clouds lift, and the
valley that takes us through cloud forests and past numerous
Peruvian stamp in our passports, we could be trekking in just majesty of Salkantay Peak reveals itself. Its massive bulk is breathtaking and gives us our first real flavour of the Andes.
Inca, Machu Picchu. It’s a spectacular trail following a river archaeological sites. Machu Picchu is an exciting place to visit, but on this occasion the journey in itself was the destination.
Banff National Park lies at the heart of the Canadian Rockies,
Jasper highway and you’re as likely to bump into a moose or a
and in winter. It’s a truly wild place, and whilst the local towns
more than six thousand square kilometres of mountainous
and offers some of the world’s best hiking trails - both in summer have all the creature comforts you’d expect in Canada – log fires,
hot tubs and great restaurants – head a mile or two off the Banff-
wolf as another human being. Banff National Park encompasses terrain, with many glaciers, dense coniferous forests, and alpine landscapes: the place is quite simply an adventurer’s paradise.
Viti Levu, Fiji
Hiking across Viti Levu’s rainforest-clad slopes you are
it, partly because it’s hot and very humid. Rural Fiji has a
hospitality of the local villagers. Fiji has so much to offer
villages, where kids are cared for by the entire community.
rewarded with beautiful swimming holes and the great beyond its white sand beaches; the true soul of this country is found in its rugged interior, yet few visitors come to explore
tight-knit society based mostly around the network of small Perhaps it’s this communitarian aspect of their culture that makes Fijians so friendly and welcoming to visitors.
STEEP WAY DOWN Extreme skiing i n t he c ent ra l A l a sk a R a nge Story & Photography | Tom Grant
In May 2019, leading ski mountaineer Tom Grant travelled to Alaska with three of his most trusted ski buddies, where he wanted to apply his
expertise from skiing steep lines in the Alps to some of the biggest descents in North America. His first trip to the central Alaska Range was a successful but humbling experience, where reward was mixed with frustration - and a very close call for one member of the team.
018 didn’t begin with a flying start. At the beginning of
It can be hard to leave the Chamonix ski scene, especially
what was to be an epic winter in the Alps, I tore my anterior
in spring when the more ephemeral lines come into condition.
through skiing, and I’ve been skiing almost full time for over
that the Alps can’t quite provide. We invited Ben Briggs and
cruciate ligament. It was the first major injury I’d sustained a decade now. Needless to say, I didn’t take it very well, but I
had a burning determination to come back stronger. For six
months of each year, skiing is an all-consuming passion for me, and guiding is my profession. I knew it meant a fairly lengthy break from both. My good buddy and prolific steep skier
Jesper Petersson had been through the same gruelling recovery process the year before. Jesper’s support and encouragement
But I was hungry for a big adventure; the type of adventure Enrico Mossetti to complete an experienced team. Ben, Enrico
and I had skied the first descent of the Caroline Face of New Zealand’s Mt. Cook on our last trip together in 2017, one of
the world’s biggest unskied lines. I knew a trip with these three
friends - all of them strong skiers - would mean our sights
would be set on some ambitious ski mountaineering objectives. Travel to uncomfortable places is important. It means you
was a big morale boost during my rehab process, and when
keep growing as an athlete, and as a person. The central Alaska
I was in.
comfort zones. Denali, the highest peak in North America, is
he proposed a trip to Alaska for the following spring, I knew
Range was the right place to take all four of us outside our
a mind-blowingly huge mountain renowned for its extreme
cold, harsh weather and thin air. Flying in from the remote
outpost of Talkeetna on the edge of the central Alaska Range,
our first glimpses of Denali filled us with awe and trepidation. Towering above the other colossal peaks, Denali is a freak geological phenomenon. Its 3000 metre south face is one of the
Travel to uncomfortable places is important. It means you keep growing as an athlete, and as a person
very biggest steep ski descents in the world, cutting through an alpine face of mythical stature.
We decided Denali’s south face would be on the table as
When we finally arrived in basecamp, we fried some eggs
an option to try. It was first skied solo by the ground-breaking
for lunch while staring at Hunter, and discussed what exactly
hadn’t heard of any other teams attempting it. Our other plan
too dangerous, and the conditions were poorer than what we’d
Swedish skier Andreas Fransson in 2011, and since then we involved attempting a very complex but compelling line on the unskied north side of Mt. Hunter, which is conveniently in plain sight directly above basecamp.
we were going to focus on. The line on Hunter looked simply seen in photos from previous years. We decided to load our sleds with two weeks’ worth of supplies and start the long slog up Denali, hauling our gear up the mountain for three days.
PREVIOUS PAGES: Jesper Petersson pauses for thought whilst skiing the Kahiltna Queen west face in the Kahiltna glacier region of the central Alaska Range. THIS PAGE: Jesper Petersson acclimatising high above Camp 14K, with Mt. Foraker (5304m) in the distance.
The big haul was not something any of us were accustomed
to. However, I secretly enjoyed the simplicity of the physical
toil, although we all complained profusely. We felt as though we were moving up the mountain at a snail’s pace - until we
realised we were moving at almost twice the speed of the large guided groups, and most other teams who cached supplies along the way.
The skiing from the upper slopes was as demanding as any I’d ever done. Picking a line on 55 degree spines above an 800m drop, I was totally in the zone
After setting ourselves up at Camp 14K, we waited out a
couple of stormy days, passing the time playing chess. It was bitterly cold at first - a deep, raw cold - in the evening and before the first rays of sun hit the camp. I began to wonder if my time away would have been better spent somewhere a little
warmer where we could actually do some skiing. Wrapped up
Arriving on the summit, I was alone for twenty minutes
in all my clothes inside a two kilogram sleeping bag, it was
in near-perfect weather. It was a powerful moment to be there
froze solid - and we had mistakenly neglected bringing a cook
stepped into our skis atop North America’s highest mountain,
difficult to get out and eat breakfast before 10am. Everything tent. On the first day of good weather, we headed up the classic Orient Express couloir. Jesper and I pushed ourselves hard to
get up to 5800 metres only five days after arriving at basecamp. The frustration of the previous days was soon ironed out by the
intense physical exertion it took to climb up 1000 metres at
that altitude, and then the bliss of a few perfect powder turns coming back down into camp.
alone, and then joined shortly afterwards by Jesper. As we it felt good to share and savour the moment with such a
trusted ski partner. Surprisingly, we were able to make a few fast powder turns straight off the summit slopes. Entering the
Messner Couloir in evening light was simply breathtaking, and we were rewarded with an 1800 metre vertical descent straight back into camp.
To be skiing on Denali was a whole new experience for
The cold and high winds then continued, and I began
us, despite the snow being of poor quality until two thirds of
weather we were counting on never came, and the enormity and
for it. Skiing directly back into camp, we were amused to be
wondering if my first trip to Denali would be my last. The stable
logistical challenges of skiing the South Face weighed heavily on us. We knew it would be a long shot to pull off. Yet Denali is
Denali, and regardless of whether we could ski the South Face
the way down; the incredible ambiance of the place made up welcomed by whoops and applause from the dozens of other climbers and skiers camped out there.
Jesper and I were pleased with finally having had achieved
I still had a burning desire to at least ski from the summit itself.
some success, but also felt slightly cheated that we had not
seemed as if our window had come, and the four of us packed
our niche steep skiing skill-set and apply it to these awesome
Our patience and food supplies began to run thin. At last it
for a three-day round trip to attempt the South Face. Moving
up the mountain, I instinctively felt our bags were too heavy
skied anything that really challenged us. We wanted to take mountains.
Back in basecamp, we were reunited with Ben and Enrico,
and we weren’t moving fast enough. The wind whipped up well
and we planned for one last big line. The 1000 metre west face
Ben and Enrico felt the time had come to bail and move
in 2010 by a French team, and it’s a stunningly beautiful and
beyond what was forecast, and we ground to a halt.
back down to basecamp while Jesper and I stayed up one more
day with the intention of taking our skis to the summit, and
skiing the classic Messner Couloir. This time the weather turned out better than predicted, with summit temperatures a
relatively balmy -25 degrees Celsius. It felt a joy to move at
a good speed and with a lighter pack. Ahead of all the other
teams, we had the mountain to ourselves. Some altitude-
induced pain was nothing compared to the intense pleasure of pushing up the mountain at a decent pace. Jesper and I
of Kalhiltna Queen was an obvious target. It was first skied highly technical ski objective. Holed up in camp during two
days of sleet and blizzards, we rested and waited. On the third day, we left early for the Kalhiltna Queen. Cramponing up the
main couloir of the face at a relatively low 3000 metres, it felt as if I had some boot-packing super-powers; the acclimatisation
on Denali had paid off and everything seemed to be lining up perfectly.The weather was stable, the snow felt good, and the team was motivated.
As we climbed up higher following airy ridges and spines,
finally peered into the depths of the South Face as we neared
I was in rapture at the raw beauty of the place. I felt we were
weather wasn’t stable enough. The view into the South Face,
the summit through some very steep and exposed terrain, with
the summit. We were too late in the day to ski it, and the
though, was almost nauseating. It was on a scale I’d never seen
anywhere, even compared to the Caroline Face on Mt. Cook. My ambition to ski it was still there, but I knew that now wasn’t the right time for it.
surely going to be ending the trip on a high. Finding a way to rocks and ice never far under the snow, we planned our descent precisely according to where we placed the boot pack. I had
an unshakeable confidence that I could ski down the line we’d ascended safely.
FACING PAGE: Jesper Petersson halfway up the Kalhiltna Queen west face prior to the team’s ski descent.
Fear flooded my body, and I skied as fast as possible to get to Jesper. It was with huge relief that I saw a figure stumbling in the avalanche debris far below
Moments later he had disappeared out of sight, having
accelerated at an incredible speed down the couloir. I suppressed a rising panic, realising that there was a high
chance Jesper was either dead or seriously injured, and also some relief that it wasn’t me. I immediately got out my
InReach and hit the emergency SOS button, sending a signal to a 24-hour response centre. I prayed it worked and then
told Enrico to ski carefully behind me and collect Jesper’s skis in case he wasn’t too badly hurt and needed to ski out The skiing from the upper slopes was as engaging and
Fear and stress flooded my body as I skied as fast as
demanding as any descent I’ve ever done. Picking a line on 55
possible down to Jesper. As I was descending, it was with huge
zone, making turns with the joy of knowing I was beyond any risk
the debris from the small avalanche. I was also afraid of what I
degree spines overhanging an 800 metre drop, I was totally in the
of falling - at least not from a technical mistake. This was what we were here for, and we were living out a rare and perfect moment.
Jesper and I made our way off the most exposed sections
of the upper face and re-joined Enrico who was waiting
just below. Continuing down easier terrain, I started to relax.
relief that I saw a distant figure below stumbling around amid would find. I found Jesper badly beaten up, but it seemed that
he didn’t have any life-threatening injuries. At the same time, it was awful to see him in such a state, totally disoriented and in a lot of pain.
Enrico soon came down to us. He tended to Jesper while
A few careful powder turns later, I stopped immediately when
I raced back to basecamp to round up a rescue party and to see
suddenly broke off at my ski tips. The temperature had started
our tents to grab Ben, who had decided not to join us that day.
I felt it wasn’t safe to make another turn. A small, deep slab to warm a critical few degrees. Not sensing any greater danger, I waited as Jesper skied down to me. To my alarm, he skied faster
than I expected, coming in straight below where I had stopped.
A small but much deeper slab instantly broke off around his skis. Within less than a second the slab had pushed him backwards into an ice runnel, and then towards a rock band.
if he could be flown out. I sprinted through basecamp and to
Together we skinned up the glacier as fast as we could with a
sleeping bag and stove to warm Jesper. Behind us, a heavily
laden team of volunteer rescue rangers brought up a sled and medical equipment. The heli eventually made it in through a break in the cloud cover, and it was with huge relief that we watched Jesper being flown away.
THIS PAGE: The team relaxing at the Kalhiltna Glacier basecamp. FACING PAGE: Jesper Petersson peering down the steep entry to Denali’s colossal South Face.
Ben, Enrico and I flew off the glacier the following day
I left Alaska satisfied with the strong experiences I had
and back to civilisation. Jesper spent a few days in hospital
there, experiences that tested my resolve, skill, and patience.
broken vertebra and ribs, but nothing life changing.
deal with the extreme cold, and made turns on some incredibly
near Anchorage before flying back to Sweden. He sustained a
I have a primal urge to seek out adventure, and have to
accept the risk it involves, yet this urge has been tempered over
time with the numbing reality of losing many good friends in
the mountains. I have a seven-year-old son, and the need to seek adventure whilst not exposing myself to too much risk is a
I was pleased that we’d pushed to new altitudes, learnt how to
beautiful and exposed slopes. Jesper still faces a lengthy recovery, but he will recover. Whilst it could have easily been different,
the four of us all returned home, and we returned as friends. In my mind, that made the expedition a successful one.
frequent mental struggle. Nonetheless, I’ve become accustomed to striking the balance right. Attempting these big, steep lines
is the culmination of hard-won experience and dedication to
the craft; it requires a level of mental and physical mastery. Experience and skill can count for a lot, but the uncomfortable reality is that luck plays a huge part in it too.
Stuff happens fast in the mountains, and things can go
The four of us all returned home, and we returned as friends. In my mind, that made the expedition a successful one
wrong very quickly. So often, we rely on intuition to make
split second decisions that can keep us safe. This intuition is the brain making calculations faster than we can consciously
process thoughts and is based on pattern recognition. As skiers, this can tell us where to turn, where not to turn, where the snow is safe and where it might be dangerous. But it is not
fool-proof. The risk can be increased when we’re dealing with
Tom Grant is an IFGMA mountain guide based in Chamonix,
therefore always in a learning mindset. And we need to keep
made first ski descents in the Alps, New Zealand, Canada,
the unfamiliar. We should try to be humble, self-aware, and
France. He is a passionate skier, alpinist and climber. Tom has
questioning what it is we are doing, and why we are doing it.
Norway and Baffin Island. Find out more at tomgrant.guide
THIS PAGE: Jesper Petersson and Tom Grant on the summit of Denali (6190m), the highest peak in North America, prior to their ski descent of the Messner Couloir.
MY LIGHT MY WAY
SWIFT RL // With 900 lumens at only 100g including a rechargeable battery, SWIFT RL is the most powerful Petzl compact headlamp. REACTIVE LIGHTING technology to automatically adjust brightness, a reflective headband for visibility and a single button for control.
Compact multi-beam headlamp, ultra-powerful and rechargeable, with REACTIVE LIGHTING technology. 900 lumens. www.petzl.com 31
FEN TO FELL A jo urney from the l owe st poi nt t o t he hi g hest pea k i n E ng l a nd Story | Chris Hunt
Photography | River Thompson
Anyone who lives in a city will know the feeling of having been there too long. The sense of blockage, the longing for surfaces other than glass, concrete and tarmac... - Robert MacFarlane
The story of a four day ride from Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire to Scafell, Cumbria With my head down, I note the slowing pace at which the white
100km mark for the day. Having just dropped off a loose gravel
London, with a long journey on the motorway and a chain
lines beneath my tyres are passing by. We’re edging towards the trail, I’ve also dropped off the back of our group. We’ve just crossed
over the top of Malham Dale in North Yorkshire, the high point of our morning’s ride before descending into Ribblesdale. As we hit
the road, I’m glad to be descending once again. Thankful for the
effortless speed and the smooth asphalt beneath my tyres, the last remaining glycogen seems to evaporate from my muscles. The idea
High points take all the glory when it comes to cartography. But where was England’s lowest point? None of us had a clue. The crater of a former lake amongst the flat farmland of East
Anglia, a few miles south of Peterborough, is in fact home to that somewhat anticlimactic title. Therein lay the outline for
We were off to a shaky start. Arriving from Bristol and of cancelled trains respectively, River and I eventually met in Peterborough. Final adjustments to our bikes and set ups, and
we stocked up on the first day’s worth of food. From here, just
a few miles south would see us descend to four metres below sea level, in the centre of the Holme Fen Nature Reserve.
A few hundred years ago, this reserve was the location
of Whittlesea Mere, the largest lake in Southern England
and home to endemic wildlife including the large copper
butterfly. In 1851, the lake was drained to create farmland; today, whilst its surroundings are a mixture of agricultural land and suburbs, the reserve remains a marshy wilderness where bumpy trails wind through the forest.
The removal of the former body of water caused the peaty
our journey: from the lowest to the highest point in England.
land to act like a sponge, shrinking significantly as the water
our journey with purpose, riding between them to explore
to measure the rate by installing a gauge. Despite having gone
Whilst the topographical opposites of low and high provided some of the country’s byways was intriguing enough by itself.
With noticeably shorter days, morning chill and the
occasional falling leaf, sleeping unsheltered beneath the stars
after long days on the bike felt like a fitting way to welcome the change of the season. We weren’t out to race, nor to
push ourselves beyond our capabilities. The concept for the journey was self-supported, human-powered, and flexible.
drained away. Predicting this effect, William Wells decided through several iterations, today the cast iron Holme Posts erected at what was already believed to be the lowest point in
the country - illustrate the level the ground has receded, now standing at about four metres. Between the rolling clatter of passing freight trains, birdsong dominates the soundscape, but the large copper butterfly never returned.
Our ride aligned with the launch of Komoot’s Premium
Escaping the city was a prerequisite, with the notion of gravel
service which, integrated with the latest weather conditions,
forefront of our plans.
Increasing through the day 15-20mph the changing direction
singletrack, mountain passes and wild bivvy spots at the To plan our route we’d use Komoot – an experience-based
planning and navigation tool and app – which would help us
quickly and easily design a route. We could include suggested highlights from other riders, which considering our choice
of bikes could be anything from green lanes, challenging mountain passes, or technical singletrack descents. So that’s
warned of direct headwinds for the first couple of days riding. seemed to match our every turn. We felt every breath as we
rode out of the basin of the former lake, taking turns in the lead to provide respite for each other against the relentless
headwind through the flat, exposed farmlands of East Anglia; soon, though, we crossed the border into Lincolnshire.
With self-supported bikepacking, or cycle touring, comes
what we did. With a mixture of mountain biking, gravel paths,
an inherent freedom and flexibility seldom experienced
for our adventure: a four day ride from the marshy, low-lying
we’d simply ride until our legs and minds gave up, or we found
cycle touring and classic road riding segments, we had the basis
Fenlands of eastern England - home to Holme Fen, the lowest point in the country - to Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak.
There’s a romantic simplicity to the bicycle; the freedom
and sense of connection it provides is hard to match. There’s also an undeniably human element to it. You’re extremely
exposed to your environment when riding a bike. The smallest
transformation in your surroundings, the slightest adjustment
in gradient, a swing in the wind’s direction or the drop of a
elsewhere. In that vein, while we’d follow our planned route,
somewhere simply too good to pass. Setting off with just a few hours of riding ahead of us before dark, dusk descended fast. With the ground quickly dampening under the falling dew,
we found ourselves on the shores of Rutland Water. Fed from the River Nene and River Welland, it’s the largest reservoir
in England; it felt like a fitting first point to connect to from the eerie remnants of Wittlesea Mere just 60km behind us.
few degrees in the air temperature can all impact your time on the bike. I like to think of this as positive vulnerability.
PREVIOUS PAGES: Between the gorse and heather which make up the exposed heathland of the Yorkshire Dales, the rocky bridleways are a gravel bike’s best friend. FACING PAGE: The loose slate track leading through the Iron Keld Plantation, Cumbria, opens up for expansive views over the surrounding fells.
PROMOTED CON TEN T IN ASSOCI AT ION W IT H
Riding amongst giants
God’s own country
of Oakham provided morning coffee and sustenance in
proper climb of the trip so far - although in theory we’d
Just to the west of Rutland Water, the pretty market town the shadow of its 12th Century castle. From here, the flat
exposed roads of the Fenlands felt distant as we weaved our way through short, punchy climbs and descents, across rolling limestone hills, past idyllic villages and imposing Norman
castles. In the golden afternoon light, we arrived under the tall pines of Sherwood Forest where we met Rob Marshall
As soon as we turned off the canal, we faced our first been gradually ascending since we set off from Holme Fen.
Leaving behind the old mill buildings of the town of Silsden, we traded the gravel towpath for rolling lanes lined by lichen
covered dry stone walls as our views opened to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
From here, sheep shit dominated the afternoon. By the
from Komoot, who’d join us for the following couple of days.
end of a good day’s ride, brushing off the mix of dried mud,
felt weary. But a new release of endorphins provided by the
budget rendition of an Indiana Jones film.
By this point we were about 90km in and our legs and minds
dusty, winding single-track and with a fresh injection of
poo and dust from our water bottles we felt like extras from a As the light killed the definition in the road ahead, we
energy added to the group, our grins stretched wide as we
passed through the surrounding forests of Bolton Abbey and
miles of fairly nondescript roads and lanes, the contrasting
chose our bivvy spot. Navigating our way down the steep,
tested the capabilities of our gravel bikes. Having ridden
scenery was refreshing and the new dynamic of an additional
rider quickly granted a boost for our tiring legs. Rob had timed his joining up with the ride to perfection.
reached the banks of the River Wharfe, where we once again
rocky tracks through the forest we passed our bikes down to each other as we descended to the riverside.
Sleeping outside in wild places, with the focus of a fire
As we progressed north the skies darkened, and sure
and warm food at the end of the day, offers a valid reason for
downpour as we crossed the border of Nottinghamshire into
the descending dew from a large-leafed oak tree; the partially
enough the threat of rain transformed into a torrential South Yorkshire, and, before long, the surreal Yorkshire Sculpture Park; an outdoor collection of giant artwork. The waterways of the North
As the last of the evening’s hazy golden light threatened to dip beneath the surrounding hills, we ascended from the upper
reaches of the Chesterfield Canal, over the corn fields between
cycle touring in itself. Here, we had enough shelter against
collapsed dry stone wall and building foundations to our backs
suggested a region of busy farmland in the past. We inflated our mattresses and laid out our sleeping bags for the night.
Between the sporadic cloud, the darker skies of our rural
surroundings offered fleeting glimpses of what remained of the Epsilon Perseids meteor shower.
That next morning I woke with the warm breath on my
combine harvesters. We felt a little too close to the bright lights
forehead as a dog made its way around our camp, sniffing
Komoot’s mobile app, we checked what remained of our route
were still occupied. We slowly rose, gathering our kit whilst
of Sheffield to find an undisturbed wild camping spot. On that evening. Ulley reservoir was the obvious spot to aim for,
so we grabbed our supplies for the night, added the reservoir
to our route on the mobile app, and got back on the road. Now armed with a small bottle of Glenfiddich’s finest and a full day
of riding in our legs, we were confident we’d sleep well despite
our respective bivvy set ups; two of them, including my own,
pondering the ability of ultra-endurance athletes to do this
day in, day out. After a while, we watched in perfect silence as two deer edged their way into the cold rush of the river, attempting to cross. This was the escape we’d been after.
Whilst Section 30 of the Countryside Act (written in
our proximity to Sheffield and Rotherham.
1968) permits the riding of bicycles on public bridleways,
through the traffic into Rotherham, jarred by the juxtaposition
any obligation to facilitate the use of the bridleway by
When morning rolled around, our weary trio pedalled
of finding ourselves in the centre of a city. We then edged
our way past the industrial hubs of South Yorkshire before
winding onto the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The longest in Britain, the canal was built to connect the two cities in
the mid-18th Century to enable the increasing trade between the growing cities of Yorkshire. It took almost 50 years to
complete, and by the 1860s over a million tons of coal a year was being delivered to Liverpool. The gradual, continuous
ascent provided easy miles across the southern Pennines, and delivered us to the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
that same act also specifically states that it ‘shall not create cyclists’. Interpret that how you will; but the bridleways
we’ve followed past the limestone crags, caves, and stone-
built ruins of the Yorkshire Dales National Park felt like the
perfect match for the adventure-ready gravel bikes we were riding. Following miles of dry stone walls, the rolling hills of the Dales provided slow but engaging progress on loose gravel tracks and grassy bridleways.
Heading northwest, with the wall of the Lakeland fells
rising on the horizon, we descended from the Dales with the ominous peaks of Cumbria lying dead ahead of us.
FACING PAGE: With road bikes now designed to suit all conditions and terrains, and bikepacking bags and kit becoming lighter and more compact to the bike, gravel touring is a natural progression for long distance cycling; and the Yorkshire Dales is as good as anywhere to do it.
PROMOTED CON TEN T IN ASSOCI AT ION W IT H
Sheep shit dominated the second afternoon; we felt like extras from a budget rendition of an Indiana Jones film
The rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales provided slow but engaging progress on loose gravel tracks and grassy bridleways
The Lakeland fells
Hawkshead YHA where we had beds booked for the night.
winding and fast-descending tarmac took us in good
sunset as we pressed deeper into Cumbria, with the high country
With muddy moorland trails behind us, the speed of
time towards Kendal, as I attempted to restore my blood sugar levels and empty legs, in the hope of a late afternoon
injection of caffeine. This was also where Rob would leave
us, as Kendal was the last option for a direct train back to Manchester.
The peaks surrounding Lake Windermere brought a premature of the Dales basking in gold behind us. We arrive just minutes
before the kitchen closes for the night, and settle in. Holme Fen now felt a long way south as we considered the diagonal line we’d stamped across the map over a couple of locally brewed IPAs.
With aching knees and dehydrated bodies, we woke to
We soon found our way to Ye Old Fleece Inn, the town’s
our 5am alarm to repack our saddle and bar bags for a final
coffee and potatoes drenched in cheese made their best
journey back south. The only chance of a connecting train into
oldest pub. Sat out on the street in the last of the day’s sun, efforts to encourage us back on the bikes for the final run into the Lakes.
We’d heard stories of people riding at least part of the way
up Scafell Pike. But we’d also heard rumours of riders being practically laughed off the mountain by hikers as they tried to fight the crowds pushing a bike. While I had mapped a route to the top using Komoot, it came with strong warnings of
long hike-a-bike sections, and with other substantial sections
categorised as ‘unknown terrain’. We fly the final 10km to the
chance of scenic off road trails before we started the long London was at 2pm from Kendal, so we were keen to make the most of our final morning in the wild before heading back
to busy urban lives. Competing with hikers on the region’s
most popular peak with loaded bikes on our backs seemed less appealing, though, than some real local exploration. So instead of battling with the hikers on Scafell, we opted instead to ride a couple of much quieter nearby trails.
We pedal out under a barely risen sun. A low mist is
draped over the valley between lake and peak as the early
PROMOTED CON TEN T IN ASSOCI AT ION W IT H
chill wraps around our knees and stings our knuckles. Across
landscapes in a short time; lowland forests, the suburbs of
we descend towards the base of England’s highest mountain
farmland, the high country of North Yorkshire, and finally the
slippery slate bridleways with views over the surrounding fells,
where we plan to take an icy plunge into the country’s deepest natural lake, Wast Water (74 metres at its deepest point).
big cities, the remnants of the industrial past, rolling rural epic drama of the Lake District.
At each connecting point of the rail journey home, we were
Later, as we navigate our connecting trains towards home,
asked by someone about where we’d been, what we’d been up
all, we’re reminded of the intrigue and sense of occasion that
windburnt cheeks, chapped lips and fatigued bodies felt like a
we have plenty of time to ponder the past few days. Most of comes with adventure on two wheels. On some level, almost everyone connects with bikes, whether it’s a nostalgia from riding as a child, or because they regularly ride 100km on
to, and why. Whatever the reasons for our ride, the sting of our worthy exchange for the real adventure we’d had, and for the cold beers now in our hands.
Sundays, or because they know someone whose enthusiasm
Thanks to Mason Cycles for providing their latest InSearchOf
zig-zagged across England, traversing a wide array of different
bikepacking luggage system for this adventure.
for the bike renders it a worthwhile pursuit. On this trip, we’d
and BokehTi bike models, and to Apidura for supplying a complete
FACING PAGE LEFT: As night begins to fall, a diversion in the route for food or shelter is usually called for. With the Komoot mobile app, incorporating this into your ride is simple. FACING PAGE RIGHT: The north shore of Rutland Water was the perfect bivouac spot. THIS PAGE LEFT: Old factory structures along the Leeds and Liverpool canal. THIS PAGE RIGHT: The first cable ferry across Lake Windermere in Cumbria commenced operation in 1870. A century and a half later, the current ferry, the Mallard, shaved off a cool ten miles from our route.
Your next bikepacking adventure is waiting... Wherever it takes you, komoot can help you plan your ideal route. The komoot app is used by millions of people to plan their routes and navigate their adventures, whether exploring a new route to their favorite spot or uncovering a brand new region for the first time. Bikepackers love komoot for its sport-specific features: • Easy route-planning tailored to your ride: Choose your start and end points, choose your sport, and komoot will join the dots ensuring a great ride from A to B. • Detailed surface-type and elevation profiles: Bikepacking calls for asphalt or gravel. Never again will you find yourself pushing your steed along a technical singletrack, or worse! • Offline maps: Stay on track, even when you don’t have signal. • Voice navigation: Get verbally navigated around every turn — no matter how small the train, and never take your eyes off the road with komoot’s turn-byturn voice navigation. • Device integrations: Sync komoot with Wahoo ELEMNT, ELEMNT Bolt and Garmin devices, or simply navigate from your phone.
Unlock a region bundle worth £8.99, for free. Go to komoot.com/g and enter the code:
KEMPSTON HARDWICK The secret diary of B ed ford shi re’s g rea t est a d vent u rer Story | Kempston Hardwick
Illustration | Dan Milner
Kempston Hardwick is a keen-as-mustard-adventurer and dad, in that order. Old enough to remember when car interiors smelt of petrol, Hardwick defies his rapidly amassing years by seeking outdoor recreation, and the exponential escape from domesticity it offers at every
opportunity. His readiness to embrace al-fresco challenges has delivered him with worldly opinions that he applies to every turn in life, whether bagging Munros or browsing the organic frozen pizza aisle of Waitrose. It is believed he was named after the place where he was conceived, a disused railway station somewhere near Milton Keynes. He is a good friend of Dan Milner.
Part 2: Getting After It
veryone worth their weight in mapping apps knows the
immersion in escape. Oh and later, brew in hand, to also pull
your eyes and let a tsunami of invisible stimuli flood your nasal
see. I didn’t come to be enveloped in an aerosol of sausage oil.
smell of adventure, right? Climb a hill, lie back, close
cavities. Ah those smells. I reckon most adventurers could even breeze through a blindfold test.
How about the olfactory punch of crisp alpine glacial
ticks from bodily crevices that only qualified urologists should Nor did I come to listen to snoring. But sausage oil and snoring is what I have ended up with.
Maybe I only have myself to blame. Maybe I should
ice? Hell yeah. Easy. The musty slap in the chops of lichen-
have stuck with plan A. Plan A was good, at least in theory.
What about the Great British Countryside (or GBC as I like
those mossy outcrops that delivered Instagram Gold could
munching reindeer? Bring it on.
to acronomise — so much quicker to text) and its iconic heady mix of sweet hay and spilled diesel, or the GBC’s repressive nasal
wrench of damp Welsh sheep and… sizzling sausages? WTF. Sausages weren’t part of my Fresh Air Immersion Plan, or FAIP for short. Especially since I’m trying so very hard to become more selflessly environmentally conscious.
But now a pungent shroud of vaporised fat is hovering
around me like a swarm of lardy horseflies. At least it’s
drowning out the funk of my tent; I really should dry it out
better before packing it away. No, I didn’t come to North Wales to smell sausages. I came to Get After It.
I came to hike energetically up ambitious inclines to reach
summits where I could raise both arms above my head and
claim another Instagram shot (arms at 10-past-10 position, if you’re asking). Crib Goch ticked. I came to gaze across
sweeping vistas, clamber up mossy rocks, squelch carelessly
through bogs and wallow among tussock grass. And to find 42
That’s why it was called ‘A’. After all, the grassy knoll between
have been a decent camp spot. It had potential: it was quiet, and it was out there. It ticked boxes. Maybe I should have
persisted. But then, it did seem a long way from civilisation, and well, you know, The Big Outdoors (TBO) can seem awfully big at times. Lonely even. And anyway, that crystal clear brook
nearby was appendage-numbingly cold. Even in summer. Okay, I could smash out my little wood stove (you remember; it’s the one that charges USB devices too), make tea and rehydrate my dehydrated dinner. But damn, that water was way too cold for
washing my feet. And I hate camping without a decent wash. Washing stops my sleeping bag getting fusty, and Kate hates having to wash my fusty gear. Our dryer isn’t big enough, she says. I think that’s just an excuse.
Don’t get me wrong. I did unroll my tent. A moth flew
out. Can moths last eight months without eating? And I
sat marvelling at the corner of paradise I’d found by myself.
I was soaking up solitude, silence, smells. Ah, the smells. Rich
and voluptuous. I wish you could post smells on Instagram. Hashtag: SmellsOfTBO. They almost made up for my hay
fever kicking off. No, the mildew-peppered groundsheet didn’t
My tent has a low roof. It’s for the solo adventurer in each of us. So while I lay inside and posted Instabangs, my stove melted a hole in the space-age nylon
help my allergies (thanks for pointing that out). But like any
adventurer I know how to push through. Forty minutes passed. I was feeling good. Good about life, good about my recycling
So I was forced to reach for plan B. And I am enjoying
efforts helping the planet, our planet, good about me. And
Plan B. Don’t get me wrong; I’m still immersed in the outdoors.
feeling good about myself. Try it: it’s the perfect spiral.
But now I’m safely nestled between the weekend homesteads
if there’s one thing that makes me feel even better, then it’s But then I hit The Midge-ing Hour. Or TMH. The
adventurer’s nemesis. I’m sure these little shits have shut down expeditions. I think it was in the Antarctic, or maybe the Arctic?
Whatever, the one with the penguins. So I fended off this haze of pests with one arm — not both, just in case someone thought I was
engaged in an Instagram frenzy, or worse, called the Coastguard. Or would it be the RAF? Anyway, I’m not the sort of person who needs rescuing, not with my extensive outdoor experience.
So I retreated into my tent. Bang. Midges outsmarted.
But it’s hard to charge your phone and rehydrate your
This weekend is all about being immersed in the outdoors. that are Colin and Sue’s caravan to my left, and Ralph’s canvas
emporium to my right. Col’ (as Sue calls him) is from Solihull. He likes sausages. Ralph’s tent has two bedrooms. He snores. Yes, Plan B has its downsides and no, it doesn’t pack the same social media potential punches of Plan A, but nor do I have to
endure the instability of boggy ground, or the wee-inducing babble of a crystal clear brook. I mean, how does this campsite make its turf so level?
And gone with the brook and bog are the midges.
Instead I have a washing up sink, shower and toilet just
dinner inside a tent. Dangerous even. It says so on the label;
a short walk away. Handy. After all I’m never sure what to do
oil-derived fabrics. That’s probably why Native American
to just leave it behind. And okay, Plan B costs £8.50 per night
something to do with my outdoor gear being made from
tents had such high roofs — so they could cook inside them.
But my tent has a low roof. It’s for the solo adventurer in each
of us. I think it’s called ‘Solitude Found’ or ‘The Hermit’ in the catalogue. So while I lay inside and posted Instabangs, my hot stove melted a neat hole in the space-age nylon. And the biting blighters poured in. WTF. 44
with my used bog roll in the wilds. Even if everyone else seems and comes with a list of Do’s and Don’ts. But we need those
out here, don’t we? Otherwise there’d be chaos. Embracing the tranquillity and fresh air of the GBC doesn’t mean the natural
order must always prevail. Even here, surrounded by pungent and bleating sheep, there is still a place for snoring and the smell of sausages. Isn’t there?
WAVE Only 20 minutes from central Bristol Book your inland surf now at
m o c . e v a w e h t
JIGSAW OF BROKEN SLATE Ex pl oratory cl im b i ng on t he roof of A zer b a i ja n Story & Photography | Jan Bakker
t is very difficult to get a permit, so that’s why we don’t
We hit the trail with more than 20 kilograms on our backs.
apply for one’. Our fixer and guide Tunar’s comment is a
The weight is mainly climbing equipment and food rations
since we received the last message from him. We were getting a
conversations are abruptly ended. We turn off our phones and
concise statement of Azerbaijani logic, yet it’s been three months little worried, as he’d previously planned to climb the infamous mountain Peak Pobeda in Kyrgyzstan. Relieved by a sign of
life from Tunar, we finalise the details of our expedition in the
Azerbaijani Caucasus. We’re planning to climb four 4000m peaks, with an approach through an off-limits valley in the
Shahdag National Park. These mountains straddle the border of Azerbaijan and Russia’s Dagestan, making it a geopolitically
for the six day expedition. When we reach the military post, head torches, and walk on the tips of our toes past the barracks. I’m relieved when we reach a small alpine meadow, out of
sight and earshot from the border post. First light trickles in
and the contours of the mountains around us become visible. An indistinct path, sporadically used by shepherds and illegal hunters, disappears into the dense forest.
Gradually we make our way through a pristine wilderness.
We pass waterfalls without any barriers or warning signs, and
which Tunar Aliyev is the chairman. We set off from Azerbaijan’s
purification. Nature here is truly overwhelming. Via a small
Finally we’re on the road with an alpine club from Baku, of
modern capital city in an old, rattling Mercedes van across the dry plains, heading for the forested foothills of the Caucasus.
The base of our adventure is the hamlet of Qamarvan, where
we stay in a mountain home owned by Igor Gagayev. He is a
passionate storyteller, and loves a good glass of vodka. He is
also, conveniently, the driver of the commander who runs the
military border post that patrols the off-limits Yatakh Valley. Igor has thus arranged ‘unofficial permission’ from the military
commander to trek and climb in this unspoilt virgin river valley. Despite the commander’s consent, he still advises us to pass the
border post in the dark to avoid unnecessary delays. We get up in
cross crystal clear rivers from which we can drink without
mountain pass, we are re-united with the Yatakh River, which
has lost quite a lot of its volume at this altitude. However, the vertical relief of the river is considerable and at times it takes
a while before we find a place to cross. Vertical cliffs on both sides of the river block our passage continuously. In total, we
cross the river sixteen times, sometimes hopping from boulder to
boulder, and sometimes wading through the fast-flowing water. At an altitude of around 2400m we are reaching the tree line, and
continue our ascent on the boulder-strewn river bank towards our base camp.
The first four thousand metre peak we aim for is the 4165m
the dead of night, and after strapping our packs on the rooftop of
high Bazaryurd, invisible from our base camp. The approach to
trek on a bumpy dirt track.
zig-zagging up, he just scampers up the slope in a straight line
a rickety Soviet-era Lada, we head up to the start of the approach
the ridge is steep, but Tunar doesn’t seem to care. Rather than
On the last 1100 metres of Bazarduzu, with each step in the deep gravel we slide half a step down again; and on reaching the first false summit, all we can see is how the ridge narrows and steepens
to the craggy crest of the mountain ridge. The final ascent is
on the main ridge of the Caucasus, separating Azerbaijan and
between a couloir with deep gravel and loose rocks or a section of
Bazarduzu, and two remote 4000m peaks just to the west.
a messy pile of scree and boulders. We have to make a choice scrambling on chossy, razor-sharp slate. We chose the slate, but
in hindsight it was perhaps not the best decision. The thin slate
breaks off constantly and it’s hard not to dislodge loose stones. Our Azerbaijani friends head up the gravel route, which is more
strenuous, but safer. After an hour of meticulous climbing, my buddy Twan and I reach the top of the ridge and we can see our objective, Bazaryurd, still far away.
The landscape up here is barren and bleak. It’s the end of
the summer and most snow has now disappeared. The terrain
Russia’s Dagestan. It sits between Azerbaijan’s highest mountain, According to the map the lake is situated on Russian territory, but we accept the minimal risk that a Russian border patrol will
make it up this high. From basecamp we climb out of the valley
with our full packs, again on dizzyingly steep terrain. At 3300m we stash some climbing equipment and food. From here, we
could see that the glacier between the two western peaks, Gora Ragdan and Charundag, has almost vanished, making some of our hardwear dispensable.
A fairly new way of categorising an expedition is measuring
is not much better than below. Scree is exchanged for unstable
the level of enjoyment during and after the trip. Type 1 fun is
very exposed, knife-edge ridge before arriving on the summit.
miserable while doing it, but it’s fun in retrospect. Day three of
rock formations. We climb for three hours and are treated to a On the top of Bazaryurd, Tunar is waiting with what appears to
be a champagne bottle, which contains a note that he left on the mountain in 2013! We are waving the Azerbaijani flag on our first 4000m summit of the trip.
The next morning we wake up a little jaded from the tough
day of climbing on Bazaryurd. Although we are not climbing any
peaks today, it may be an even more strenuous day than yesterday. Our goal is to set up a high camp at a small glacial lake at 3600m
enjoying the trip during and after. Type 2 fun is essentially being our expedition falls in the latter category. We’re looking up at the
immense south buttress of Bazarduzu. It’s going up and down and
looks utterly daunting. With a deep sigh we start the ascent of the remaining 1100 vertical metres. It’s like climbing a volcano. With
each step up in the deep gravel we slide down half a step again. We reach the first false summit and see how the ridge narrows and steepens. The next hurdle is today’s crux and perhaps the crux of the entire expedition: a Grade 3 scramble on rotten slate.
PREVIOUS PAGE: Overlooking the easternmost glaciers in the Greater Caucasus, seen from the summit of Bazarduzu, Azerbaijan’s highest peak. FACING PAGE: The brutal ascent of Bazarduzu’s south ridge. Azerbaijan’s highest mountain is located in a remote and geopolitically sensitive area. THIS PAGE UPPER: The wild, untouched border zone of Shahdag National Park. THIS PAGE INSET: One of the many river crossings of the Yatakh River.
The pathless wilderness, the uncertainty about the routes, and the unusual, remote location made this journey a proper adventure
Without a heavy pack and on stable rock, this climb
When we leave our camp at 7am, I decide that I will stick
would be a walk in the park. It’s only a short ascent, but left
to one mountain. None of the team members know the route
sweaty palms, I try to find solid enough rock to hold on to.
The first few kilometres along the broad ridge are easy and
and right of the small saddle below is a 500m precipice. With
We are forced to solo this section, as there is no stable rock for an anchor. Besides that, the slate is razor sharp and would
probably cut through a climbing rope. I’m relieved when the entire team makes it up without a scratch, but I do start to question the level of risk we are taking.
None of the other team members seem to be impressed
by the climb. Perhaps I have become more risk averse, now I’m a father of two young boys? Or is it my increased level of
experience in the mountains that sharpens my risk assessment?
and we started far too late for an epic summit day like this. pleasant; I realise that yesterday I climbed with my head down
the entire day. The views left and right across the Azerbaijani Caucasus and Dagestan are phenomenal. We can see our entire
route to the cone-shaped Gora Ragdan in the far distance. The mountain looks like a dormant volcano. The ridge narrows
and we are facing a short but dicey section where the slopes on both sides drop hundreds of metres with an incline of at least 50 degrees. And again, that damned broken slate under foot.
We find a line just underneath the top of the ridge that seems
By the end of the afternoon we step onto the watershed
safe enough to cross. Carefully we place our feet at what we hope
than ten hours now and gradually daylight is fading. In the far
ground again. The team re-groups at a small plateau. In my mind,
between Russia and Azerbaijan. We’ve been moving for more
distance on the Russian side we can see the village of Kurush. Situated at 2480m, it’s one of Europe’s highest permanently
inhabited settlements. The final descent on gravel is bliss as
we ‘ski’ down to our high camp where we pitch our tents just before nightfall.
The border mountains west of Bazarduzu are stark.
is stable enough rock, and without major problems we find solid
I’m doing my maths on today’s objective. It’s 11am. So far we’ve been on the move for four hours, without breaks. I estimate the summit of Gora Ragdan to be another hour and a half of climbing on rotten, exposed rock. We could be back in camp by 6pm if we don’t take breaks, about an hour before sunset.
‘I’m heading back’, I tell Tunar. He seems shaken by
Glaciers that used to cover the northern slopes are demoted to
the announcement. ‘Why?’ I explain that I feel that the
different shades of brown and grey are beautiful in their own
before dark, and climbing Azerbaijan’s highest mountain,
small patches of ice and will soon be gone forever. Still, all these
right, especially in the soft early morning light. The route to
Gora Ragdan (4020m) and Charundag (4078m) is about 12km - one way. Tunar is ambitious. He hasn’t done these mountains before, and he wants to climb them both in one push.
terrain is simply too dangerous. I want to be back in camp Bazarduzu, is much more important to me than these other
two mountains. Twan agrees and after a short break we traverse back to our camp. Tunar and two other team members continue their climb, knowing that they will have to make
THIS PAGE: High camp by a small glacial lake on the summit ridge, right on the border of Azerbaijan and Russia’s Dagestan. FACING PAGE UPPER: The layered ridges of the Azerbaijani Caucasus stretching into the distance. FACING PAGE LOWER: En route to Gora Ragdan, visible in the distance.
their way back in the dark. I feel we made the right decision.
and zigzag up the soft gravel of the lower slopes. The ascent feels
is also still awake. ‘Have you seen them coming in?’ ‘No.’
After four hours of sustained climbing, we reach the remains
I turn on my head torch and check the time. 11pm. Twan
I’m getting worried. They’ve been climbing for 16 hours now, of which four hours will have been in darkness. What if one
of them has fallen off the ridge? A fast rescue operation is impossible. There is no mountain rescue in either Dagestan
or Azerbaijan. Attempting a rescue ourselves is not an option either. The slopes are too steep and the rock is too brittle and unstable. I turn and turn in my sleeping bag, and finally hear
voices just past midnight. The three men stumble into camp, completely exhausted but okay.
I wake up to the soft sound of snow falling on our tent
good, we are well acclimatised, and the packs feel much lighter. of a weather station on the highest point of Azerbaijan. To the
east, the vertical walls of Shakhdag rise up from the lowlands of Dagestan. The north face of the Bazarduzu summit ridge is
plastered with the most easterly glaciers in the Caucasus Range. And to the west, we can see the high Caucasus in Georgia, partly
engulfed by clouds. There’s a brisk, cold wind, and it’s time to start
our almost three kilometre vertical descent back to Qamarvan via
the broken terrain of the south buttress, the wild Yatakh Valley, and again a nerve-wrecking passage of the military border post.
Technically, the climbing we encountered was terrible.
sheet. The rest of the group is still asleep. Twan and I decide to
The terrain was difficult to access. The combination of gravel,
Bazarduzu. Clouds envelop the mountain, but occasionally the
But the pristine wilderness, the uncertainty about the routes, and
pack our stuff and start our summit attempt up the 4465m high top of the peak reveals itself and we notice there is a dusting of
snow around its summit. The climb looks incredibly steep, and
we scan the west face of the mountain for a feasible route up to the broad summit plateau. We leave the snoozing camp behind
rotten slate and steep ground made the expedition hard going. the exciting geographical location made this journey a proper
adventure; the kind of adventure that is becoming increasingly rare in our age of advanced technology and ever-increasing human infrastructure in the mountains.
T H E BA S E I N T ERV I EW David P ic kfo rd t a l k s t o H azel Fin d lay Photography | David Pickford
Hazel Findlay (30) has pushed British rock climbing to new levels in the last decade she’s spent at the top of her game. Today, she’s one of Britain’s leading adventure climbers, with a host of groundbreaking ascents to her credit that, together, form one of the more formidable
CVs of any contemporary British climber. In 2012, she became the first British woman to climb a traditionally protected route rated E9 on
the British grading scale - a major breakthrough for trad climbing in the UK. Two years later, she became the first British woman to climb an 8c graded sport route - another major leap forward. Shortly afterwards, she became the first British woman to make a free ascent of
El Capitan in Yosemite, California - the world’s most famous big wall and the centerpiece of rock climbing in North America. Alongside
her personal climbing, Hazel has developed a specialised mental training programme for climbers wishing to improve, which draws on her reading of philosophy, sports science and flow theory. I caught up with her earlier this year to discuss her life in the vertical, what adventure means to her, and to find out more about her personal philosphy of risk.
When you have a true adventure, you instantly know you’re never going to forget it
For you personally, how critical is an element of adventure for the climbing experience to have value?
I like climbing for different reasons. I like adventurous climbing but I also just like climbing for the movement and
for the pleasure of trying hard and accessing flow. Adventurous
climbing puts you outside of your comfort zone which is great, As a professional climber, the sport has a key role in your life. Do you see climbing primarily as a sport or more as an adventure?
and this is the space where you learn, but you can’t always be in that space. I love hard sport climbing which isn’t very adventurous, but it still has value for other reasons.
I guess I see it as an adventurous sport. I’ve always had a hard
What are the key ingredients for adventure, in your view?
athletes, I think of tennis players with training regimes and
it’s not an adventure. Equally, you have to be able to leave your
time considering myself an ‘athlete’ because when I think of coaches and tournaments, and that’s not what most of my climbing life has looked like. To me, climbing is more than a
sport; yet it sounds clichéd to say it’s ‘a way of life’. And it’s
more than that too, it’s sort of like a testing ground for me, it’s the place I go to test myself.
This idea sounds a bit like the Samurai concept of bushido, the code of honour associated with martial arts mastery
There must be unknowns; if you can control everything then
comfort zone, which means it’s going to feel uncomfortable at
times. This means that you may not be having fun the whole
time, but it doesn’t mean that the experience is not valuable. Real adventures are always challenging, which means that you usually always learn something on a good adventure. When you have a true adventure, you instantly know you’re never going to forget it.
that the Samurai warriors were bound to follow.
Following the logic of what the Romantic poet Keats called
martial arts, but all the mindset stuff I teach in my mental
- which is central to any adventure, do you think some
I think there is a link there. Obviously I’m not an expert in
training is about trying to attain what’s often called a ‘mastery mindset’. And through that process of mastering a discipline
like climbing, what you learn permeates your whole person and you gain skills that apply to the rest of your life.
Your climbing career has been based around the adventurous side of the sport, as opposed to the performance-oriented competition arena. Was this a conscious choice or a natural process?
I have always just followed what inspired me, and that was
adventurous climbing in interesting places. The professional
‘negative capability’ - the necessity of accepting uncertainty people are better suited psychologically to adventure sports than others?
I think the skill of dealing with the unknown can be a trained
skill rather than an innate quality. In reality, though, I think the
way you’ve been brought up often determines it. If you’ve been protected from challenge and uncertainty as a child and as a young person, then it becomes much more of a struggle, and it’ll just be harder. If you start from a position where you simply
can’t deal with uncertainty, and then uncertainty becomes a reality, you’re going to have a hard time.
climbing came later when brands decided that they wanted to support what I was doing.
PREVIOUS PAGES: Hazel sport climbing in El Chorro, Andalucia, Spain. In this image she’s making the crux move of Life Will Never End (7c) on the Los Tigres sector of the Makinodromo, one of the best cliffs in Europe for high level sport climbing. FACING PAGE: Hazel making her groundbreaking 2012 ascent of Once Upon A Time In The South West (E9 6c) at Dyer’s Lookout on North Devon’s Culm Coast, becoming the first British woman to climb a route of this grade.
You were the first British woman to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite;
the first British woman to climb a trad route rated E9 [one of the highest grades on the rating scale for traditional climbs]; and also the first
British woman to climb an 8c rated sport route. All these were major
achievements. Which were the biggest milestones at a personal level?
I think all the routes you mentioned were big milestones. It was my dream to
free climb El Cap, ever since I saw the videos of Lynn Hill in the valley [Hill is one of America’s greatest rock climbers, and made the first free ascent of
The Nose on El Capitan]. It really tested everything I had to climb Golden Gate [on El Cap]. The E9 was maybe less of a true test, because the climbing really suited me, but from a career perspective it was really important. Climbing 8c
was important because it helped me believe that I really was an athlete as well as an ‘adventure climber’.
The ability to deal with the unknown can be a trained skill, rather than an innate quality What’s your view of how first female ascents should be reported in the climbing media and the media at large?
Actually, I think that there is some utility in first female ascent reportage. As much as people like to say otherwise, there are big differences between men and women. The sport is not a level playing field. The average height of
a man is 5.10, I am 5.2. All the routes are graded for the 5.10 man, and it’s
useful for me to know when a woman has done a route because chances are she is more similar to me physically. I also think that the first female ascent gives media outlets a bigger excuse to talk about women in climbing, which
I think is really important. That said, I don’t think women should chase first female ascents or that we should celebrate every first female ascent.
Does the current media environment make it easier or harder to be a professional female adventure athlete?
Some aspects make it harder and some make it easier. Brands and climbers
want to see more female climbers in a sport which is still male-dominated, so in that sense brands are on the lookout for strong female adventure athletes. However, female athletes are still sexualised in the industry more
than men. So there are more pressures for women to look a certain way. I also wonder whether there is gender pay gap among adventure athletes in the industry? We don’t really have data on that.
If there is a gender pay gap in the adventure industry, could it be because some women ambassadors are contracted by brands as ‘athlete models’ rather than contracted as athletes?
This whole subject is largely conjecture, really. Unfortunately sexuality as a
marketable commodity is more valuable to a woman than to a man, so it’s more important for a woman to be attractive as an athlete. But I don’t know how this effects the pay gap. It may be contributing to a process where a
female athlete’s activities are not taken as seriously as they might otherwise
be. Unfortunately it’s hard to talk about this issues honestly as the subject is pretty radioactive.
THIS PAGE: Hazel in her element at Pavey Ark, one of the great trad crags of Langdale, Cumbria.
Climbing has taken you to some really interesting places
What are the results of the rise of indoor climbing as a
adventurous travel within the context of climbing?
context of climbing?
such as Sudan and Newfoundland. How important is
I love to travel and see new places. For me, seeing the world is important to understanding it.
What’s the most interesting place climbing has taken you?
I recently went to Mongolia which was pretty interesting.
It’s hard to believe that there are still people who live nomadically, with no fixed abode. Mongolia is so sparsely populated with very little infrastructure; going there is like stepping back in time.
Is climbing as a vehicle for adventurous travel important?
popular fitness activity for many people in the wider
One way of seeing it is as what used to be one sport is splitting into
two very different activities. There’s a lot of people now who start climbing with no intention of going outside. Some climbers speak of it as a problem, and I’m not sure that’s quite right. A real problem
would occur if too many people started climbing outdoors, because of the environmental impact that would have. Some popular crags
are already getting seriously crowded. Will we see crags with ticketing systems in the future? At the moment, you don’t need a permit or ticket to climb outdoors, and that’s part of the joy of it.
I wouldn’t have gone to Mongolia just for the climbing. Travel
You’ve done a lot of research in the field of mental training
best climbing places, I go to places that are culturally different,
sports too. What have been the main results of this work?
is a really important component for me. I don’t just go to the and where you can learn something you might not learn anywhere else.
for climbing, much of which carries over to other adventure The mind is what dictates all the decisions we make, so it’s really important! As an athlete, the mind is the thing that gets
THIS PAGE: Hazel making a quick ascent of the hard Italian testpiece The Doors (E8 / 8a trad) at Cadarese in northern Italy in 2012.
you to follow the training program, it gets you to the climbing
choice about your reaction is internal, as you can chose how
think it’s fixed. But it isn’t - you can shift your mindset and
performance or safety.
wall, it keeps you focused. So mindset is everything. But people make something that you used to see as a waste of time as
to respond in the most useful way for you to maintain your
something valuable. Then there’s the discomfort perspective
So we encounter this emotional feedback and therefore
programmed to find heights and falling through the air scary
Yes, and the observational mind takes time and patience to
too; climbing is an uncomfortable sport, and as humans we’re
and uncomfortable. But we can re-wire our minds to be okay with that discomfort. Training your mind to be comfortable
in uncomfortable situations is crucial in adventure sports like climbing. It’s also useful for other things in life, too.
Isn’t this idea that ‘every reality is a reality of the mind’ centrally an existential notion?
In some ways it is more of a Buddhist idea, as Buddhism
feel fear or pain?
practise. The cool thing you learn from climbing is learning to respond rather than just react, so you don’t get that tunnel
vision. People who are good at this in an adventure context
rarely apply it to the rest of their lives though. I find it hard to control my responses in the rest of my life. But you can realise
that with the right approach you can apply these processes to the whole of your life.
recognises that suffering is an internal experience, just an
What are the key psychological barriers for most people
that suffering is caused by the habits of the mind, not by the
Falling is the key one really. I’d say 80% of people have some
artefact of our conscious experience. A Buddhist might say externals. So if you can train your mind not to react in that way, then you don’t suffer. In climbing, in some ways the fear response is rational, as you could be in real danger. But your
fear of falling. That’s not to say that people don’t have other
limitations, like fear of failure. But they’re less likely to seek coaching for this as it’s harder to diagnose. It takes a lot of
Discomfort and struggle is important. We should gravitate towards challenge instead of away from it, and try to gain a positive conception of failure
How do you separate justifiable and unjustifiable risk?
I think it’s a deeply personal thing. Our relationship with
death is really unhealthy, I don’t want to say to someone they shouldn’t do this or that. It’s more a question of thinking about
what we should admire. My level of justifiable risk is really low. If I think I might die on a climb I just wouldn’t do it, I don’t need that sort of a challenge. Some risk is okay, but I can learn a lot from low level risk. Some young men feel they can only
learn anything from hard alpinism, then they fall in love for the patience and persistence to correct it. You can apply the same loading idea to mental training as to physical training. If you
first time and it all changes, when they realise you can learn from many other things in life.
take a massive fall and really scare yourself, it could be the same
What things learnt through climbing and adventure
take time to come back from that. There’s still not a proper
I think a sense of the value of discomfort and struggle is
as injuring yourself physically through overtraining. And it will culture of fall practise, and this is one reason injuries happen.
Do you feel that most people can improve their performance in adventure sports through mental training? I think everyone can.
What’s your own approach to risk?
The main thing with risk is you need to be sure that you’re interested in it from an experiential perspective and not just an achievement perspective. If you focus on the achievement
then you’re just doing it for your ego. I get a bit of a bad taste about some of the stuff that goes on in mountaineering for this reason. Some of it seems to be so much about ego, which strikes me as the wrong reason to go into the mountains. Showing some humility out there is crucial.
can benefit ordinary life?
important. And also that we should gravitate towards challenge instead of away from it. Also, prioritising learning rather than ego
wins. And gaining a positive conception of failure, and of seeing the process of not succeeding as progression rather than failure. How do you see your career as a professional climber evolving in future?
This summer I did my first corporate coaching course, teaching the principles I’ve learnt through my climbing coaching in
professional situations, so people can get more out of their work on a personal level. That’s what I’m really interested in
doing, but I want to explore other avenues with the coaching.
I’m 30 now and I do want to focus on my own climbing too. Perhaps I don’t want to be a professional climber for my whole life, particularly if I have a family.
For some people, interacting with danger is a fundamentally
What advice would you give to ambitious young climbers
greater capacity for dealing with real risk in a wild
It’s good to try to learn to do things for the right reasons. Use
alien and uncomfortable. Do certain people have innately environment than others?
We just don’t know enough about the science of nature vs nurture from a personality perspective. But it’s better for us to think that
whatever we’ve got now, we can improve upon what we have, rather than being fixed. Even Alex Honnold [the world’s most
adventure as a tool for learning, rather than a route to ego gains. What luxury would you take to a desert island?
I wouldn’t take anything, to get the full castaway experience!
accomplished free soloist] talks about how he trained his mind by soloing progressively harder things. So even the best free soloist ever has still had to put the training in!
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your climbing career?
Probably my shoulder injury. It was a 7-year-long injury and
I had 3 years of not being able to push myself, and a whole year out of climbing completely. It taught me about this idea that
your suffering is your reaction to the world, I had to learn that I didn’t need external things like climbing to be happy.
THIS PAGE: Hazel making the first female ascent of the coveted American trad testpiece Air Sweden (5.13c) at Indian Creek, Utah (USA) in 2010.
Training your mind to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations is crucial in all adventure sports
BAC K TO BA S E Whi spers Story & Photography | Will Copestake
nce on the tide you can’t turn back, whispered a voice in my head. It was frighteningly persistent, and I felt slightly sick.
Eighty days into a solo sea kayaking expedition around Scotland,
But the voice whispered again in my ear: once on the tide
you can’t turn back.
There is a delicate balance between a sense of fear and
I had reached Cape Wrath, the most northwesterly point of
willingness to commit in any walk of life, be it a businessman
is ‘the turning point’ as the Vikings named it, and the gateway
from the kitchen floor, or a sea kayaker navigating a tidal
mainland Britain on the north coast of Scotland. Cape Wrath
to an infamously rough and committing stretch of paddling. I had safely landed in a small cove and settled into a bothy for
the night. Wandering to the top of a nearby cliff, I had hoped
to inspect what lay ahead and build confidence for what I might experience over the coming days.
Looking east along a line of headlands, I felt my stomach
churn as I watched huge waves breaking over tidal races. The
investing in his stocks, an arachnophobe picking up a spider
headland. In almost every case, there’s a little voice in our heads that advises hesitation. But part of the allure of adventure, of
course, is to overcome that thought just to see what happens. You might arrive around a headland triumphant, or you might
throw that spider across the room with a childish scream. The point is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.
In a paddling sense, I had experienced this voice of doubt
flow was faster than I could paddle against. I knew it would be
before Cape Wrath, mostly on offshore open passages. I found
tossed amongst the conditions I was looking at. A voice in my
paddling away from land, from where it grows louder and
different at slack tide, but I couldn’t shake the thought of being
head had started to whisper fear, and fear quickly turned to self doubt. Over the last 800 kilometers, I had grown used to tidal
planning, and executing each day to make best use of the flow (or lack thereof ). I had ready advice available from friends just
a quick phone call away, but out here on this remote cliff, I felt very much alone. Once on the water it would be just me, my
kayak, and the North Atlantic ocean moving swiftly east. There was something frightening about the total commitment of the
north coast; the fierce reputation of this place had built up in my head over the last few months, which made it seem worse than what I had paddled so far.
the call starts in the back of my mind after an hour or two louder. At such times, the temptation to listen was always alluring even when I was experiencing calm and manageable
seas. If I turned back for the weather then that was a choice well
made, but retreat for no good reason - other than a beckoning doubt - brought instant regret once home. To push past the voice with observation and rational reasoning always led to a
tremendous sense of reward at overcoming it. This was how I
would treat the north coast of Scotland, headland by headland, with good preparation and by managing the difference between irrational fear and rational awareness.
Below my feet, the cracks and booms of waves against
rock thundered through a chatter of seabirds nesting on their precipitous perches below. Like those birds, I felt I was teetering on a thin ledge between safe land and dangerous sea. In reality
my success or failure lay squarely in my planning for the tides and winds; a process I had already become well accustomed to.
FACING PAGE: Will Copestake listening to the quiet voices of reason in a big swell off the northwest coast of Scotland.
The voice whispered again in my ear: once on the tide you canâ€™t turn back
I could see the eastward stream pulling full bore through a narrow gap. The sea curled over in a chaotic spray of white horses: I felt sick just looking at it
Looking down, I could see the eastward stream pulling
full bore through a narrow gap. Between mighty cliff and
rocky island, the sea curled over in a chaotic spray as the
flow broke into white horses. I felt sick just looking at it. The thought of entering that chop churned my stomach and kept
me awake most of the night. As the next day arrived and the tides were slack, I checked conditions were good - which they
were - sucked up my nerves, and pushed out to sea. Anxiously rounding the corner of Cape Wrath, I entered the waves that
had stirred up so much fear and doubt from the shore. Indeed
it was rough, and required hard paddling to execute success,
but to my surprise the reality of the race wasn’t fear, but fun.
I passed the cliffs with a smile on my face, and with all self doubt removed in the process.
Over the next week I slowly pushed across the north coast
one headland at a time with the same repeating routine of primal fear ashore, and paddling enjoyment on the sea. On
land, safe and dry, my mind was burdened with nerves each
night, but on the water the next day they were washed away with the immediate purpose of the journey at hand.
After several successful headlands rounded, I started to
ignore the voices of fear. Complacently letting my planning slip, this led to my most epic and challenging experience during my entire circumnavigation of Scotland as I rounded Holborne
Head. My second last headland in the north, it was the one day
of my trip where the conditions became what I had feared. This was the day of all days on which I should have listened more carefully to those whispers of doubt.
My mistake was reversing the routine; I had ignored the
A huge swell had risen against the tide and a high wind
whispers of fear which had led to a lack of proper precautionary
bow to stern on their face. The new confidence of having aced
event had been shelved in an effort to escape, afterwards it
lifted the waves steeply enough to easily take my entire kayak
the last few days without issue now turned to desperation, as I found myself fighting for survival for several hours. I
planning. Whilst, perhaps surprisingly, the fear during the utterly consumed me.
On reflection, the experience had been terrifying. It was
remember the moment a wave actually barrelled over me,
the closest I have come, before or since, to having a serious
into the breaking foam. I remember too the crack of waves
with a reluctance to return to the water. It was a valuable lesson,
surfing me sideways as I braced hard, white knuckles piled erupting against the cliffs of an inescapable shore. I remember a horrible sense of being totally stationary as each crucial
emergency on the sea, and for days after it affected me deeply but experience, as always, came just after I needed it.
Those voices can sometimes turn from a hinderance to a
paddle placement wallowed in the waves. Every minute felt
useful tool. I have long said that, the safest paddlers are the
was sinking and I was running out of energy. When I finally
recognises risk and listens to it by matching their planning to
an hour, and every stroke an effort to stay upright. My kayak reached safe harbour, I was so exhausted that I needed help from a stranger to lift my kayak from the slipway. My cockpit was twelve inches deep in water from a leaking deck and I was
shivering hard from the cold water and sheer adrenaline. I was physically and emotionally spent. 64
timid ones, but it is perhaps better to consider that a safe paddler their ability. By acknowledging the ‘whispers’, rather than fear
them, a greater picture of the journey ahead and its possible
outcomes can be made. Knowing when it is appropriate
to listen to them, or to ignore them, is then purely down to experience.
Since completing my solo circumnavigation of Scotland
towing and instruction than I was used to. In order to achieve a
kayak guide. Like my adventure, which began with relatively
was the one I had learnt through expeditions, which I translated
I have been privileged to turn adventure into a career as a little experience in sea kayaking, I learnt to guide in a rather
unconventional way. I was hired on the merit of that Scotland trip to an expedition guiding outfit in Chilean Patagonia where
I was regularly sent into seriously remote locations in 45 knot
headwinds with large groups of novice paddlers. Needless to say, that first season was ‘educational’ and took swift and effective
‘safety first - safety second’ decision process, my most useful tool
into my guiding format. I had to constantly listen to the
‘whispers’ as I’d discovered along the north coast of Scotland. By asking ‘what if ?’ during every decision, dangerous incidents
could be avoided pro-actively. To ignore those instincts, though, meant picking up capsizes and reactively rescuing people.
Whether I’m leading trips in Scotland through my
decision-making to an extreme, with lots of dynamic choices
company Kayak Summer Isles, or on a major expedition in
now progressed through in subsequent years) on how to kayak
whispers in my head. This approach, I think, might just make
involved. At the time I had no formal training (which I have
guide, and I only had the qualification of experience. I quickly
learnt that guiding and strong personal paddling were two very
different skills, although there were some overlapping elements. The technical skills of Patagonian guiding involved a lot more
deepest Patagonia, I now maintain that listening ear to the sense to a safe and experienced paddler. Rather than being the
first sign of madness from too long spent at sea, staying in tune with the inner voice of reason is a sound practice for any major adventure.
THIS PAGE: The author heading into the deep end on a big surf launch off the Scottish coast. WILL COPESTAKE COLLECTION
BA S E G E A R The l eading a d vent u re wa t c hes of 2019
Suunto 9 Baro Finnish company Suunto has been a pioneer in the development
of wearable adventure technology for several decades. Their latest flagship adventure watch, the 9 Baro, raises the bar
further beyond their previous models. Itâ€™s a multisport GPS watch designed for professional athletes, with modes for almost every adventure sport, a built-in heart rate sensor, and a battery
life management system which means it can have up to 120
hours of battery life - a major advantage for endurance racing, multi-day cycle tours and alpine climbs. Key features: GPS navigation Intelligent battery modes Over 80 sport modes Barometer Altimeter Wrist heart rate sensor suunto.com
Garmin Fenix 6 series American brand Garmin has established itself as a world leader
in adventure technology in recent years. Its latest line up of
cutting edge multisport watches, the Fenix 6 series, represent the state of the art of smart watch technology for athletes
and adventurers. These watches prioritise performance design, advanced mapping and activity sensing, and optimised training
metrics; the easy-to-navigate operating system is a big plus, too. Key features: GPS navigation Advanced activity tracking Advanced training metrics Wrist heart rate & pulse oxygen sensors Topo maps and ski maps Garmin contactless pay service garmin.com 66
G-Shock Rangeman Casioâ€™s G-Shock Rangeman series of adventure watches are designed specifically to cope with the harshest environmental
conditions, including exposure to extreme cold, dust, mud and sand. They also offer a dual charging system that supports both
solar and wireless charging. These watches are clearly oriented towards users who require their adventure technology in the
most robust possible package, rather than with the largest array of features or sport modes. Key features: GPS navigation Solar & wireless charging Digital compass Thermometer Altimeter Barometer gshock.com
Tissot T-Touch Expert Solar Swiss brand Tissot is a pioneer of wearable touchscreen
adventure technology. Their T-Touch Expert Solar is, they claim, the worldâ€™s first touchscreen watch powered by solar energy. Packaged in a robust, stylish anti-magnetic titanium
case, and utilising a classic analogue design on the watch face, the T-Touch Expert Solar is ideally suited to those who prefer a more traditional style in their wearable adventure tech. Key features: Touchscreen technology Solar charging Digital compass Altimeter Perpetual calendar Swiss quartz movement tissotwatches.com 67
B EYO N D BA S E The case fo r adventure a ct i v i sm Story | Carmen Kuntz
y head spins as I wander through elaborate exhibits at the massive European outdoor trade show in Germany. Shiny stoves, carbon hiking poles and waterproof bags blur
as I weave to the back corner of one of the exhibition halls. I’m not here to make a business
deal, but to give a presentation about river conservation; specifically about the work that my kayaker friends and I are doing to protect some of the last wild rivers in Europe. Passing the
endless stands of high tech gear, it occurs to me that the outdoor sports industry has turned
into an extraction industry, a fashion business, and a technology industry blended into one. This multi-billion global business is everything, in fact, but an environmental industry.
Traditionally, adventure sports were about using skill and knowledge - and often the
necessity of taking risks - to experience and enjoy the challenges of navigating through
wilderness. Gear was a means to get up the mountain, down the river, or through the snow. Until relatively recently, the adventure sports community was a counter-culture, a bunch of dirtbags on the fringe of society, who would often repair their gear rather than replace it.
But what I see at this trade show suggests a different outdoor community is emerging;
one where consumerism has firmly taken root, and marketing tactics feed a philosophy that
we must make certain purchases in order to enter the great outdoors. Advertisements mix
terms like ‘innovative’, ‘extreme’ and ‘high performance’ with ‘eco-engineered,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘re-purposed,’ suggesting that this equipment will not only enhance outdoor performance, but that it will help the environment too. Conservation concepts, it seems, are somehow being used to fuel consumerism. As I sat down on a small stage with half a dozen people in attendance, I questioned the state of the contemporary adventure community.
Reducing the environmental impact of adventure sports is no doubt important.
Innovations that limit pollution and waste are good. After all, petroleum-based products and
single-use items used in the backcountry have a negative impact on the Earth. But why is it that only a handful of the world’s biggest outdoor brands support environmental protection?
After all, without wilderness environments there would be no market for their products.
So why wasn’t wilderness protection part of the sales pitch? Taking out the credit card was implied, of course. But taking action was never mentioned.
THIS PAGE: The deep canyons of Montenegro’s Tara River are a paradise for kayakers and attractive to hydro power investors. But who do rivers really belong to? JAN PIRNAT
It took me many years of a lifestyle deeply connected to
largest river conservation action in Europe. International media
take action. From canoe trips as a child in Canada, to kayaking
the construction of six dams, pressuring private investors and
the environment - rivers specifically - for me to wake up and and raft guiding through university, to my current profession
as an adventure sports writer, the more time I spend on rivers
exposure, bright kayaks and peaceful protests helped prevent EU funding sources to back out.
This river conservation movement in the Balkans is special,
the more fragile they seem. I’ve watched a river I paddled as a
because it addresses the root of the problem. These activists
meetings to protect a tributary of my home river from a dam
are trying to stop dams - on rivers from Slovenia to Albania
kid get dammed and destroyed, and I’ve participated in public
and diversion. It was increasingly clear to me that the places I was privileged to enjoy from the seat of a kayak need to be
defended. With hydro projects and their destructive dams threatening the whitewater playgrounds I cherished, I felt a desire to try to protect the rivers that are so central to my life as a kayaker.
Luckily, I ran into a dedicated group of Slovenian kayakers,
aren’t demanding more regular dam releases for kayaking. They - before they are built. Through engaging and entertaining
media, they are working to change the common perception that hydro-power is completely clean, green energy. They prompt
people to ask the question: to whom do our natural resources and wild places belong? Corporations, governments, and supranational institutions? Or to all of us?
Challenging people to think for themselves, Balkan Rivers
climbers, filmmakers and photographers. Their response to the
Tour explores the crucial environmental issues and science
the Balkans was to combine whitewater kayaking, storytelling,
water resources or natural filtration systems when a dam is built?
threat of a multitude of dams planned to be built on rivers in
and direct action. They blurred the lines between paddling, protesting, and media attention. Their annual kayaking and conservation project - Balkan Rivers Tour - turned into the
behind hydro power production. What happens to ground Flood mitigation processes are interrupted and normal nutrient
cycling stops. The seldom-discussed dirty secret of large hydro
is the massive methane and carbon dioxide emission that large
THIS PAGE: Pristine, crystal clear water running from Montenegro’s mountains into the Adriatic Sea; a paradise for whitewater kayaking. JAN PIRNAT FACING PAGE: Balkan Rivers Tour combines activism and adventure sports to keep wild rivers of the Balkans free of new hydro power projects and their associated dams. ANDRAZ KRPIC
Imagine if half of the world’s biggest outdoor brands teamed up with conservation NGOs to support their campaigns to protect wild places?
reservoirs emit. Hydro power is often toted as a major solution
owners want to help protect wilderness areas. But in the end,
valleys or wetlands, and drying up riverbeds are not solutions.
to make choices and take action to influence change. Just being
to the energy crisis. But displacing local people, flooding river
it’s up to us, the individuals to whom wild places matter,
Hydro power can simply compound the existing environmental
out in the environment doesn’t make you an environmentalist,
I took an easy step towards helping preserve rivers, and
doesn’t make you a nature conservationist. If you love a wild
problems it purports to solve.
joined in with an already established conservation movement. But that is how outdoor enthusiasts have been involved in some
of the biggest environmental movements in the world – they just
in the same way buying a product because the tag says ‘eco’ place - if you spend time climbing, skiing, paddling or riding there - then you have a duty to be active in protecting it too.
Environmental activism requires creativity, resourcefulness
joined in. Many have been successful in defending wilderness
and guts. Activism isn’t confined to protest movements; it can
War in the Woods, or even America’s Standing Rock protests
imagine if half of the world’s biggest outdoor brands teamed up
areas. Tasmania’s Franklin River protests, Canada’s Clayoquot are all examples of extreme circumstances that motivated local people and the outdoor community to take action.
In general, though, it’s tough to get people to act today.
take on many forms, including financial support. For example, with local conservation NGOs to support their campaigns to protect wild places? Solutions like this are hardly out of reach.
The adventure sports community has a simple choice to
In my experience through Balkan Rivers Tour, if you organise
make. We can either ignore the huge global issue of wilderness
organise direct action to protect the wilderness where that race
Or we can choose to act, using our creativity and natural rebellious
an adventure race, hundreds of people will attend. If you
takes place, only your friends show up. But if we run out of wild
places to enjoy adventure sports, then all the gear manufactured by the outdoor industry becomes useless. It’s that simple.
Back at the outdoor trade show, I’m navigating through
the maze of gear, tempted to point the finger at the industry. But there are some brands who can see the big picture. Some adventure athletes who have become outdoor business
being destroyed in various ways and for different reasons. streak as a catalyst to make environmental preservation the rule
rather than the exception. If every keen adventurer became an
instinctive guardian of the environment in which their activity takes place, the patchwork of defended areas would connect to create a global map of protected wilderness. If this were the
case, buying an expensive ‘eco-friendly’ labelled jacket made of recycled plastic bottles might seem a little less necessary.
BA S E T E C H S t eel i s rea l Story | Chris Hunt
For classic bicycle enthusiasts, no number is more iconic than 531. Recalling a golden era of bike racing, those three digits represent a time before the superlight carbon fibre shapes which dominate pro pelotons today. Back then, boundaries weren’t being pushed; they were being
set for the very first time. And the ‘531’ stamp on the inside of the seat tube defined the era. Whilst recent technological advances have led
frame builders to lighter materials, there’s a resurgence in the use of steel for cycle tubing as the line between off-road and road bikes begins to blur, and when bike-based adventure travel is booming. The story of butted steel tubing
The high strength of the chosen metals alongside this
In 1897 Alfred M. Reynolds, the son of a nail manufacturer
patented butting process meant exceptionally light frames
perplexing frame builders for many years. With a fresh
again Reynolds was enlisted into Britain’s effort, and 531
in Birmingham, looked at the same puzzle which had been
approach, he revolutionised the engineering of bicycle frames. By thickening the walls at the ends of the tubes, he patented
the tube butting process. Keeping the centre of the tubing thin removed weight from the tubes, and by thickening the ends
were being built. When World War Two broke out, once tubing was used to construct the wing spars for Spitfire
fighters, the subframes for Lancaster bombers, and RollsRoyce Merlin engine mountings.
In 1947, after the end of the Second World War, the
where the tubes were joined did so without compromising
Reynolds frames weighed more than half a kilogram less
synonymous with steel tubing in the bike industry, where today,
remained the state of the art for four decades, and was used
strength. It was this technique which made the Reynolds name alongside the Italian tubing giants Columbus and Dedacciai, the British company remains an icon over a century later.
than they had at the turn of the century. 531 was so good, it to create the front chassis of the Jaguar E-type of the 1960s.
‘This technology could be utilised on all bike frames
His new approach quickly attracted attention beyond the
but was particularly well-suited to racing frames’, Tom tells
was called upon by the government to produce tubing for
Luxembourg’s Charly Gaul and later including the likes
realms of the cycle industry. In World War One, Reynolds military bicycles and motorcycles, and even for the frames of military aircraft. After the war, the focus soon shifted back to
the application of butted tubing for bike manufacturing, and in 1935 Reynolds launched the 531 brand.
‘When it was released, it was the first high performance
material developed specifically for the cycle industry and was significantly stronger than any material that had come
before it’, explains Tom Cleverly, Development Engineer at
me. ‘21 Tour De France wins later – starting in 1958 with Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil – 531 cemented its place in cycling history. The 531 decal on the seat tube became a
badge of honour for builders and riders alike. I suppose the
true test of an icon is how it manages to transcend the world of cycling. People may not know a great deal about cycling or
even Reynolds, but if you ask them there’s a fair chance they’ll have heard of 531. This is something I still see today’.
Steel itself is not a naturally occurring element, but rather
an alloy, a combination of metals selected and melted together
for a specific purpose. 531 in this case is said to have been coined from the ratio of alloying elements within the steel –
5 parts manganese to 3 parts carbon and 1 part molybdenum.
Reynolds 531 was used for the wing spars of the Spitfire fighter, the subframes for Lancaster bombers, and Rolls-Royce Merlin engine mountings
Based in Brighton, Dom’s bikes have become known
as fast, mile-crunching machines and are a regular feature of ultra-endurance cycle races and events around the globe.
‘Modern steel tubing has a large diameter which allows it to
retain its strength when very thin wall sections are used. And this makes it possible to build lightweight frames which are long-lasting with a lively feel’, he tells me.
‘Generally, I use the best blend of tubes for the particular
model that I’m designing, to give it the correct balance Steel frame building in the modern era
Today, 84 years after its launch, and besides nostalgia and
the second-hand market, 531 tubing is largely obsolete. Bike
companies looking to evolve into lighter, faster machines,
opt instead to work with aluminium, carbon and titanium.
But with the rise of gravel and adventure cycling, along with the re-branding of cycle touring as bikepacking, steel is an increasingly popular option for progressive frame builders
and the evolution of the steel alloys used today, means that steel bikes are far from a relic of a bygone era.
‘Steel is an excellent bicycle frame material. It’s easy
to form, very tough, and durable’, explains Dom Mason of
Mason Cycles, a leading British manufacturer of steel framed bikes. ‘It also responds very well to welding and brazing. Steel
bikes are often described as having ‘spring’ and ‘life’ to them which is a combination of the materials, using the correct tube shapes and sections, and also of good design in geometry’.
of riding properties; toughness, durability, and physical dimensions’, Dom explains.
For each frame Mason Cycles designs, the variations in
steel tubing combine to best suit the intended functionality
of the bike in question. The requirements are so specific that each tube set they use is custom designed and made specially using a combination of tube profiles, shapes and bends.
‘Our latest frame, the InSearchOf, uses steel construction
for a perfect combination of ride quality, comfort, toughness, durability, and weight’, says Dom. ‘The objective for this bike
is to provide a machine that can move very fast across variable terrain and will transport a everything a rider requires, for
self supported, ultra-distance riding. The aim is that it should never leave the rider stranded because of the terrain or because
of physical damage to the frame. Many riders don’t trust carbon
because it can be damaged by dropping a loaded bike on a rock, or a broken rear mech smashing itself through the chainstay.
If you’re deep in the wilderness this can be the end of your
PREVIOUS PAGES: Italian tubing giant Dedaccaia is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of the steel tubing used for modern bikes. © MASON CYCLES FACING PAGE: The Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, an early version of which was used in the legendary WW2 Spitfire fighter plane, used Reynolds 531 butted steel engine mountings. THIS PAGE: Steel bike frames made with Columbus tubing ready for the next stage of the manufacturing process. © MASON CYCLES
race - or it could be life-threatening. Steel is much more resistant to damage and can be more easily repaired using conventional
means, so help is never too far away. The bike needed to be very
comfortable for many hours in the saddle and also confidence
inspiring and forgiving on steep and loose terrain, when fully
loaded and with a fatigued rider. It also had to retain a lively and engaging ride. Taking all these factors into consideration,
The myth that steel means heavy by default is gone. Now we have steel tube sets capable of holding their own with carbon race bikes
steel construction simply provides the most advantages,
using a blend of Italian Dedacciai and Reynolds 853 tubing’. A connection with the process of how their new bike was
made is increasingly attractive for bicycle consumers. The
What does the alloy composite of today’s leading
opportunity to develop a personal relationship with a local
adventure steel look like? I ask Tom Cleverly for his view.
down to the smallest details, provides a unique experience to
am not allowed to know it’, Tom says with a grin. But soon he
matched by a visit to the likes of your local bicycle megastore.
Pride in his product, perhaps.
to work with and builders don’t need to invest in expensive
Metals in the US. A maraging stainless steel that gets its
or perhaps renowned frame builder, and customise the frame selecting your new bike; an experience which simply can’t be
‘For custom frames, it [steel] is perfect. It is relatively easy
‘The true composition of 953 is sworn to secrecy. Even I
concedes to admitting he knows exactly what it’s made from. ‘It’s a patented alloy made for us by Carpenter Special
moulds like carbon fibre or post weld heat treatments as they
strength from the formation of intermetallic precipitates –
Tom Cleverly. ‘I also think people are becoming more
‘It is hard to work and unforgiving on tools, but it does allow
would with aluminium’, says Reynolds development engineer
iron nickel lathe crystals – after heat treatment’, he explains.
environmentally conscious of the products they buy. They
for the creation of some exceptionally light weight steel frames’.
to end up on the scrap heap at the end of its life. The fact that
a nod to the likes of 531 in the past, have little reference to the
can be recycled themselves only can only add to that appeal’.
less romantic, more an exercise in branding’, he says. ‘There is
The age of super steel
generally speaking. The 900 series is our range of stainless
strength of over 1650 MPa, which means stronger, lighter and
1650 MPa. Reynolds 953 should really be called 1650’.
bikes in what Reynolds have tagged ‘the age of super steel’.
in carbon fibre, steel remains an outstanding material for
and 953 effectively dispelled that’, says Tom. ‘Now, you have
suffer from the same problems of catastrophic failure that
lightest carbon fibre race bikes’.
repair a steel frame; repairing a carbon frame is much more
want something that’s going to last and isn’t inevitably going materials such as 921 come from solely recycled sources and
Today, Reynolds’ flagship composite 953 boasts a tensile more versatile tubing creating the new generation of adventure
The numerical names of today’s super steel however, while
ratio makeup of the alloy. ‘The modern names are decidedly a link in that the higher the number, the higher the strength steels, but with a yield of 1450 MPa and a tensile strength of
The overall trend here is that despite all the advances
‘The myth that steel means heavy by default is gone. 853
adventure bike frames - it’s very strong, very light, and doesn’t
a tube set capable of holding its own with all but the very
carbon fibre can experience. It’s easy and cheap to weld and
For traditional cycle tourists, steel frames have always
provided the perfect platform to be loaded for long distance
tours. Now, with lightweight camping kit being smaller the introduction of bikepacking bags attaching directly to
complicated and requires specialist tools.
Over a century after Alfred M. Reynolds’ groundbreaking
invention of butted steel tubing, steel bike frames are clearly here to stay.
handlebars, seat posts and top tubes, and the popularity of self-supported ultra-endurance riding surging - we’ve entered the era of true ‘go anywhere’ bikes.
‘You only have to look at the frames coming from the
likes of Fairlight, Stanforth and Mason to see where steel really excels’, Tom points out. ‘It’s strong, tough, and with the
appropriate tube diameters and profiles a very responsive yet
compliant ride can be achieved – the famous ride of steel. We’re
seeing steel being ridden by Transcontinental race winners and
round the world tourers alike. Those kinds of riders both want a bike that is going to carry them fast, far and in relative comfort
whilst withstanding a hefty amount of abuse. Reliability and
comfort tend to trump overall frame weight when you are miles from the nearest town, let alone the nearest bike shop’.
FACING PAGE: Detail of the headset unit of a steel bike frame: steel is stronger and more easily repaired than carbon fibre. © MASON CYCLES
B A S E C U LT U R E Fi g u res of d rea ms Artwork | Tom Jay
Poetry | Helen Mort
The Failing Light Here comes the failing light.
across the shoulders of the moor,
in thin bands while you are still out
seep through, enter like a man
It moves in stealthy over Stanage
climbing, watching the placement of your faltering hands.
It will enter autumn and who takes a back pew
and hunkers down for the funeral
It is not like twilight or dawn light,
of somebody he never knew.
It is nothing like a flickering bulb
till it seems to come from you.
not like the first touch of dusk. in that cottage - all musk
and a bad aspect - one summer
Now, it gathers round your legs and torso It is a voice, unrecognised,
saying your middle name. Or else
when your world was Cumbrian
the acrid smell that follows rain.
in the borrowed room
you trembling, your fast heart going
slate gloom, when you shook you could never get warm.
The failing light will yawn
It is you in the ex-warehouse climbing wall, faster, you practicing and practicing a fall you cannot master.
The Angler â€˜Climbing is something like danceâ€™ - Thi Nguyen and since I donâ€™t dance these days
with laughter. Granite moves
in my calves and fingertips,
bouldering above a river, and
the movement stays bunched
knotted in my shoulder blades
with a new partner. I admire him: the river rising through him
or I hold my hand out to the slab
until their dance is tidal,
asked by someone else. The daylight moon
and never changing it
and find it shimmying away from me,
is a backwards glance. The grass shivers 80
his body lapping at the sky the ground drawing him back.
Hathersage Itâ€™s the night robin, near midnight,
singing in bad weather. Or the thought that snow could shore us until Spring.
How twilight makes the moors half-luminous
and the man in the post office knows you by voice. Itâ€™s hard to say a thing simply, but here, the sun manages it,
a flashbulb through the branches, taking your own photograph all the way out of town.
Tom Jay is a freelance artist and illustrator. You can find out more about his work at tomjay.com Helen Mort is a widely published poet, and the author of two volumes of poetry, Division Street and No Map Could Show Them. She is also a keen runner and rock climber.
PA R T I N G S H O T Photograph | Ben Tibbetts
Jon Morgan and Paul Cornforth are spotlit on the Kuffner Arete
of Mont Maudit at sunrise, high in the Mont Blanc massif in the heart of the Western Alps. â€˜This burst of sunlight lasted less than a minute before the clouds shifted and the scene darkened. I had
been waiting higher on the ridge when Jon and Paul came over
the snow crest at the perfect momentâ€™, the photographer recalls. This photo features as the cover of the new book Alpenglow:
The Finest Climbs on the 4000m Peaks of the Alps.
Pro Trek Smart have teamed up with Discovery Channel’s brand ‘Discovery Expedition’ to give exclusive access to their world of documentary filmmaking. Telling the story of those men and women behind the camera who film in some of the world’s most testing environments - equipped with the Pro Trek WSD-F30. Find out more at amazon.co.uk/ProTrek © 2019 & TM Discovery Communications, LLC. All rights reserved.
BASE issue two / autumn 2019, features climbing in Azerbaijan, skiing in Alaska, hiking in Greenland, Peru, and Fiji, gravel bikepacking in...