Paradise Regained: Deep Water Soloing in Mallorca

I have just returned from a Deep Water Soloing trip to Mallorca. The idea is that you climb the wonderful limestone cliffs, up to 15 metres high, without ropes and the sea is your safety net. It seemed de riguer to fall or jump in each day, just to get used to it. I must admit, I spent the first couple of days not falling in. It just seemed wrong!

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‘On The Edge’ – 5 reasons I Love Ridge Climbs

I’ve always enjoyed reaching the summit of a mountain via a ridge climb. Whether working as a leader on a well-worn classic route or trying a first ascent, a good ridge lingers long in the memory. But what makes them so special?

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The first day climbing – staying calm under pressure

Being a mountain guide is about being a leader, finding the way and making big decisions. But it is also about being a mentor, enabling others to be the best they can be. One element I have always enjoyed is coaching people to rock climb. Sometimes people have climbed a lot and want to improve so they can realise a particular ambition, for others it is a completely new experience.

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Lessons from Mont Blanc: How Europe’s highest peak taught me to deal with change.

One of the biggest challenges we face in life is dealing with change. It’s the same in the mountains. To avoid accidents you need to see the world clearly, see the changes happening and then change your behaviour. When you are a novice just starting out, there is so much new information to interpret that it is hard to fully understand each situation. Snow conditions and weather represent the two biggest elements of change in the mountains. In order to survive as an Alpinist, you need to gain enough experience to clearly interpret these.

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5 Valuable things climbing on gritstone taught me!

I gave a speech at the Royal Geographical Society in London last month and I started by saying how the foundation of my climbing began on gritstone. I always feel lucky that I learnt to climb on the gritstone edges of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. There is no better place to test yourself as a leader. People can be disparaging about the modest height of Stanage or Froggat Edge (20 metres or so, max) , but ironically that is what makes them so serious. On relatively small cliffs the ground is always close by, meaning even a short fall could end by smashing into the ground. And the ground beneath gritstone cliffs is not kind and often littered with sharp boulders.

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The art of speaking and the ‘right to roam’.

After giving so many motivation speeches ‘indoors’ on teamwork and leadership at corporate events, it was a real treat to get to speak ‘outdoors’ recently. The Peak District National Park held an event to mark the 10th anniversary of CRoW. The Countryside Rights of Way Act has significantly increased open access in England for all. In The Peak District alone, On September 19th 2004, the public’s right of access grew from 240 sq km to more than 500 sq km, opening up a new world to be explored inside Britain’s first national park.

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Naranjo de Bulnes; third time lucky.

The great tower of El Naranjo de Bulnes in the Picos d’Europa is one of the most famous mountains in Spain. Ever since seeing a photo of it as a teenager I wanted to climb it. However, for one reason and another, it would take me many years to succeed and teach me a few things along the way. I first tried to climb Naranjo de Bulnes 20 years ago, alone and in winter, approaching on skis. I was working in Spain and I had a couple of days free. The weather was so bad I never made it to the base of the mountain and I had to take refuge in a shepherd’s hut overnight. I left without even seeing the peak.

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Secret Switzerland – Top 5 Mountain Gems

One of the perks of working as a mountain guide - being the leader of groups - is the opportunity to explore off the beaten track. Over the years I have discovered some real Swiss gems, venues rarely crowded. Here are five of my favourites.

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The Better Part of Valour

At 6am the storm was still raging and it was almost 10am by the time we got going. We decided to travel light as we had so little of the good weather window left. Straight away it was a test of teamwork and motivation: taking it in turns to break trail through deep snow, navigating around crevasses and trying to stay warm. Periodically, I took compass bearings just in case the visibility dropped; Simon placed waymarks in his GPS.

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Exploring the Cordillera Darwin – From one base camp to another

After flying 12,000km, we arrived in Ushuaia. It was dark, bitterly cold and blanketed in snow. Our skipper Marcel gave us a warm welcome onto his lovely boat, Iorana, and poured three glasses of very fine red wine. My kind of basecamp! After a couple of days negotiating paperwork, first with the Argentinean navy and then the Chilean navy in Puerto Williams, we set off west along the Beagle Channel. Strong winds meant we often only moved for a couple of hours before seeking a sheltered anchorage. We were trapped in one spot for two days, the wind roaring in the channel. Almost a week after leaving the UK we finally got close to the big, pristine mountains. We had met just two fishing boats since leaving Puerto Williams, and now there was no one. We passed a couple of Megallanic penguins and up ahead glaciers calved into the sea. The mountains here felt raw and inaccessible, guarded by impenetrable forest right down to the water’s edge.

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