I'm a woman

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

Monday, 19 March 2018

Grivel Rocker rucksac, by Stevie Rocker Haston.

The new version of the Rocker rucsac is a bit lighter than the old one, thus giving you a bit more carry on stuff rather than just rucsac. I am reviewing this in some ways for the modern climber-the modern climber travels budget airlines, and sometimes only uses carry on. You have to be careful with carry on, and this is a tadge under Easyjets little nazi square box. It will squash in if its not overloaded, but don't relie on it. Otherwise it is a brilliant bag for flying around and traveling.

 The carry strap on the side is handy for moving it around like a case, or throwing it up into the overhead bins.

 The side next to your back is generously padded for a light pac of this size, 2.1 kg, or 76 oz. Don't expect it to carry like a rucksack, it carries like one of the big camera bags, I don't find this disagree able for short walk inns. It's got a waist strap, and a chest strap.

 The inside is the big feature, it opens like a case, which I find totally brilliant for hotel rooms or the crag floor under routes. It square shape makes it un knock able, it doesn't roll etc, its stable and thus contains it stuff as thus becomes your climbing base. 

 Along with the case lid entrance comes pockets and a gear rail/rack. Again these are brill feature if like me you have lost loads of kit over the years by being careless, no more excuses.

The Rocker comes with a basic rope tarp of a good size.

I'ave had a few of these over the years, even over using them in situations they weren't designed for, like equipping routes. Use them properly and they will be a pleasant addition to climbing or other holiday trips. They are not an Alpine bag, not a running bag, but in its area of expetise the Rocker rocks. 

Ethelred the Unready, by Stevie resigned Haston.

I am unready, I am unfit-therefore I can't do! Does this stop politicians? Is Teresa May fit for leading this poor benighted country, or is she the worst leader that good old England had since Ethelred the Unready?

 Mrs May seems to have an IQ that is woefully inadequate for her task, her accent seems ok for high faluting, but I wouldn't trust her to make the tea. Her Christian name was shared by my Mum who although a saint would have probably fallen for all the anti Ruskie Bollux, and silver chains, and twin set-but hey my mum was not very bright. My Mum was a tea lady who would most likely put her hand in her pocket, and bought any hungry child a meal, May would eat the childs meal saying she was preparing for the Viking invaders, but most likely on the wrong coast.

Climbing is a simple affair, you get weak you fail.

You get strong and the route sometimes passes.
 I'll whisper in your shell like Mrs May, "you'r a fool and your playing with our lives", the Russians are our brothers and sisters, they are poor like us, you may hang out with oligarchs, but I have hung out with the Russian ice climbers, and they are the same as me.

 It is not a Red Day, it is not a time to cut throats, or rattle sabres, it's a hungry day, a bare day, the electricity bill needs paying, sort our need for food banks out, give food back to the poor.

 Stop listening to your portfolio of companies with money invested in death.

I canot personally think of a time when we had a dump ass in the Presidency of the USA who entertains Porn stars, and a Dumb ass in the prime minister ship who entertains delusion and unreadiness, all at the same time.

Cold War, get ready, get prepared.

Being a climber I am used to looking at what people climb, indeed my job is too improve their ability, if I had two students like Trump and May,  I would dissuade them from climbing, they would trip up over their egos before tying their knot wrong!

If any of you people out there in Na Na land think that May cares about an ex Russian spy, or Trump cares about a wall, you have won the booby prize. Do you for one second think she, or he care? And if you think it is terrible for the Russians (who ever they are?) to interfere in an election, try thinking about Bush's brother doing exactly that in Florida! Democracy doesn't work when you have a two horse race with both horse owners are often selling off the stables, or are all related by business. 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

New Horizons, by Stevie horizontal Haston.

The weather has gone from mixed horribleness to perfect perfect. 
I suppose in a few years if the predictions of global warming are correct which I think they are, we will have horrible winters with very hot insuperable summers.

 Spot the diver. Rough of late, better wet in the sea than wet on the cliff.

 Spot the diver! Different day, crystal clear, nobody else, it will be different soon, same spot other 50 divers.
 These flowers are from Rocket salad, lovely tall flowers, leaves are still good, your supposed to rip them up before this but I have left a few plants just for pleasing my eye and the bees.

 An old cliff, by the hidden door, cleaned three routes, two short 5s and a tricky 6+, the latter 35 meter slab, wonderful. 
 prelude to some slick slab climbing, here its richly pocketed, one day it should become a jolly cliff in the lower grades with possibly the finest bouldering wall in the Maltese Islands.

Cyclops Eye grade 5 superb route, very pleased to have rediscovered this pleasant spot.
If people would like to see more routes, they should think of donating to my Donation button at the top of my page, this was 3 days work, and I need to organise a big rubbish clean up. Please think of Donating.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Wearing Helmets, by Stevie Haston.

Stealth Helmet in yellow,  198 grams!
Do you wear a helmet? You should, I must confess I don't all the time, but I insist everybody who I teach at beginner level does. If you don't wear one why? In the old days they were heavy and made you look like a dork, today they are much better and attractive. Reasons for wearing them are less.
The Harder shelled version is more durable and less worrisome when your baggage is not in sight or with careless users. The HS also has less ventilation holes so is potentially warmer!

 Stealth Helmet more side protection.

TheStealth is a very good helmet I prefer it in version 198 grams because I am a minimalist but its worth looking at in the slightly heavier version.

 Even my hard as rock head needs protecting sometimes.

The Stealth comes in a Carbon shell but unless you are very wealthy the normal versions are the war to go.  I don't like to say you should wear a helmet, but I think you should consider it. I always wear one where things could hit me, falling ice, climbers dropping gear. The yellow one protects you from the sun a bit and is a good hot weather in the sun helmet. The Hard shell version is white and might be an even better hot weather helmet. The choice is yours.

Grivel Stealth Helmet comes in Yellow and Titanium. The Stealth comes in a harder shell for more durability, this is called StealthHard Shell (HS), it is slightly heavier but will prolong the use of the Helmet.

Be safe.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

One line blog, by Stevie Haston.

First World War = 10% civilian casualties.
Second World War  = 50% civilian casualties.
Vietnam War = 70% civilian casualties.
Iraq War = 90% civilian casualties.

In the next War truth is not a casualty but dies. Double speak which was born long ago, finally gains its crown

There are no such things as smart bombs, only dumb people who believe in smart bombs.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Unknown Pleasures by Andy Kirkpatrick a review by Stevie Haston.

Who is Andy Kirkpatrcik? I thought I knew, I certainly once knew, but now I am absolutly sure I don't. Is this a good thing? Yes it is, he is not a climber any longer, but a very good crafty writer. Maybe I should rephrase that because his razor like prose and acid sharp remarks should really drag out some precision from me. So, he was once a fairly rubbish chubby climber who literally dragged himself up by his boot laces to being an accomplished  aid climber (and not to denigrate that substrata of climbing too much) he did in all that pounding of metal into defenceless rock, seems to have found himself as a real adventurer  with some astounding stuff under his belt, that isn't just "smelly cod from Hull". Why the reference to smelly stuff from Hull? Well Andy's beatification is a tortuous one, from a lowly impoverished housing estate in one England's finest forgotten deprived areas, he some how arose to being a very funny guy with lots of social insight and very popular to boot. But obviously his journey has marks, if not scars, he did badly at school etc how one asks can some one with such a talent for drawing be regarded as sub normal shows the mistakes that the UK system is stuffed with. His vehicle was climbing. Fighting dyslexia, and a lack of true climbing ability he triumphed against all odds and did some very fine climbs. Its like a rags to riches tale and very exciting. Am I joking? No I am not. How does his book score? 9 out of 10 for me and for like minded people, but please take a brain, he has pointed this book and these discourses at the high brows.

   One of the very fine bits of art work by Andy Kirkpatrick  in his own wonderful book, its an opening of a page, it is almost like being at an autopsy and discovering inner workings, workings of a fine mind.

If you want another review of this book you can have a much wordier and more polished one from Denis Gray in the web site One for the Crow. He points out that many fine climbers emanated from the Hull area, but really this is  silly. Comparing Kirkparick to Redhead, or Dirty Alex Mac, or even suggesting that there might be something in those dark waters which might after distillation produce climbing excellence or writing ability would be racism. Which brings me to an interesting point, Andy talks politics, perhaps not my kind, but very interesting and as Denis the Menace points out left him rethinking some of his stances. This political content and sometimes anti liberal view point is what has brought some criticism of Andy recently. I think some people, Andy included would say he is poking fun at correct received liberal thinking, AKA Political correctness, I might after a few drinks be on the authors side so put me down for some of that finger waving. It is for you to make the call, I for one would defend his right to speak, and I did find myself listening, not all the time and certainly not on the diatribe on abortion. 

Andy's book Psychovertical was an immensely good book and rightly won much praise, but Unknown Pleasures is much better, its more raw, less ingenuously about climbing and more about what we all are- self absorbed. But again is this compliment, or spite? It's a compliment, read the book you will get much pleasure, his illustrations are worth it by themselves, but it his written self portraits through 50 % of the chapters that is truly interesting. 

A little snippet from Andy's Epilogue. This is simply to prove, although I love this book to bits, he can get things very wrong, wrongest, or wonderfully wrong, and thus inducing much thought and conversation. He somehow conquered dyslexia, but getting around the crux of a hard slab will forever be out of his reach. This is the magic of climbing, it refuses to be dissected, climbings greatest achievement was being the camel  that bore this writer on his wonderful journey from Hull across Yosemite granite and arctic ice! On this camel he traversed dyslexia to great writer prowess, he forged climbing into his own instrument of torture, he became a fat Russell Brand with sex and tell, he talks of bodily functions where others fear to tread. A wonderful book, I raise a glass to you.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Pride before fall, by Stevie Haston.

When things are fraught, the tough get going! In my case when things get tough I normally retreat. A few fairly minor injuries are adding up. How do I know they are minor-well because they are. Have you seen the Paul Pritchard hit by a rock/open like a tin can brain photo? Now thats an accident, that's not minor. Paul's book might be reprinted soon, it won the Boardman Tasker and the Bannf grande Prix in the same year. Paul was also unlike many people who write books nowadays, the real thing!

 Pride comes before a fall. My last great route, when I wanted to strip a few pieces of kit off it months later I took a fall with the rope wrapped around my thumb and nearly tore it off.

 Finding lines, joining the dots, masterpieces by the easy painting method.

 Some days are stoned immaculate, but they are a bit apart, I'am up to my 50 scuba dive in the last few months, some of these have been extraordinary, some dare I say it ordinary!

 Is all bread equal? No of course not. Wolfsburg in Germany is the richest city in Germany and was made to make cars! A shame we don't respect Bread as much as cars.

 Entering a sucking vortex of a cave, will I come out!

 The dog is thinking, "my master who controls my food has disappeared should I get worried"?

An early example of Double Speak, gobbledy gook.

I found a new cliff the other month, perfect for easier routes, no gear to equip them however and there is rubbish to be removed. It's a lovely place, overlooked by walkers, tourists, and nasty hunters drop their cartridges there and kill birds with impunity. Worst of all is the villagers use it to dump rubbish. Can I be bothered to clean this place up? Do I have the time?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

A couple of reviews coming up, by Stevie Haston.

Hearing is not listening, reading isn't understanding, and well, climbing is many different things to many people! I have a seemingly impossible review of an excellent book to do. It's impossible for perhaps only me to give this brilliant book the review it deserves, but I will strive to do so. Possibly I will do it in a strenuous fashion, but I feel obliged to give it a good long intense review. Andy Kirkpatrick has won the Boardman Tasker twice, and certainly deserved it once, this isn't faint praise as I thought one of his books brilliant. This book is touted as brilliant, but it seems more than that to me, more honest, more the inner man, less the actor, writer, and funny lecturer, and more the man! 

 A person should listen, as well as see and read, and perhaps observe in different modes, camera obscurer, and fish eye for the masses.

 Artwork in this book is by Andy himself, and is a pleasure.

 The Rocker rucksack  has been improved and lightened, I'l give it a twirl  for you soon.

Andy in his book is hinting at much baggage, and talks about it a lot, he is very brave in his writing, perhaps braver than in his climbing.

the Rocker is probably the best airplane bag/rucksack you could every own.

Do you need to love mountains to appreciate them? What is your opinion on Abortion? The book Unknown Pleasures might have been called Unknown Questions, and I think many people will like it. Review soon.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Birth of a man, by Stevie Haston.

A big front was coming through, and Alex a friend was coming over to climb, what to do? Prayer sometimes pays, or is it just the delusion of the super desperate. Prayer did the trick, my lapsed catholicism wasn't fooled, happenstance, and having almost divine knowledge of my local cliffs probably helped.

 Zee front of Doom.

Our first day out was really a gift from the gods, the clouds were really obedient and parted, the light was radiant and reverberated off every glistening grain of sand in the perfect sandstone we climbed. 9 routes gave in to our steely hands. Well one did offer a bit of resistance, Czech Diect tore a good chunk our of one of Alexs fingers, some Irish lilted swear words sang in the sparkling air, and we finished with a spray ridden belay above the operatically inclined heavy orchestra of the crashing waves. All good dramatic stuff.

 Second day.

Second day we ran out of options it had to be one thing, the Underworld! Visiting the Underworld is one thing, the tricky bit is getting out either in one piece, or with your soul whole.

 Is  it so cold in the Underworld that there is ice next to Africa?

The sixty meter abseil was the same, not one centimetre more, or one less! The routes were wet, clammy and covered in sea slime, perfect for Alexs cut finger to fester.

 Desperately seeking Suzan, or a way out?

Photos in the Underworld are very hard to take, on auto, the focus is tricked by the super saturated air and things become distorted, like a weak mind. At the back of the Time Tunnel the huge expanse of dark was seemingly darker than usual, a one hundred foot Cyclops could have appeared, and I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. 
The day before in the wonderful mote spangling light, with the clash of titanic waves, Alex on one route had various rainbows appearing around his head! Today Alex had a few water spouts twirling in the sea behind him when we did Stix and Stoners. I am not sure he believed me about the first one and he was fully occupied controlling severe oedema of the forearm. When he turned around at the safety of the belay he saw one, reinstating my reliability re the truth, and goblins and daemons, and suck like mystical creature and physical weather/sea phenomena. At the top we coiled ropes in the dwarf flowers, mainly camomile, and resurfaced into Planet earth and the vicissitudes of the so called real world. We had crossed the Stix and come back, one day I will stay down there. We did a route down there called Everlasting and it was so long that I felt like I was watching Ground Hog Day, such is Magic.

Alex following the never ending story that is Everlasting, 44 meter pitch up very steep ground.

For any body who doubts the magic of this cliff, on the day I opened Everlasting, a Curveir whale appeared underneath, 7 meters long not a big whale by any means, but not at all common.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

New Horizon old vertical, by Stevie Haston.

I miss the mountains like an old lover, I miss the mountains like a lover I never had but hoped for with all my heart, I miss the mountains. They don't miss me ….they don't care…I am nothing to them.

 Italy looking and feeling like Nepal, even with burning leave smell, annual burning of chestnut pruning!

Returning to the hum drum of my small island after being intercontinental is sometimes depressing, a small life on a small pleasant island. Anyway some of the grandchildren came over to swim and climb.

 Grand children getting ready to lead me up a few routes.

Kids are always good to climb with, not always true, but this time yes. Nice to see they have improved with out me! So, I make them lead. Papi can be dragged up routes!

 this exit from a sea cliff route was too tight, damn my big chest, had to retreat, kids took the photos!

On a windy sea storm day two of the kids and I go for a little walk, and I solo down a little cliff and try to exit through a letterbox. Well-cant get through I huffed and puffed and my legs were dangling over the drop and the kids who where safely on top got a little concerned so I reversed. The waves got me, the waves had bombed the kiddies on separate occasions, they liked it, I will have to watch those kids,they don't like to wash but like to be sea bombed!

 Big cliff (140 meters) on a biggish day.

The powerful swirl of the sea seemed to draw us down, lots of routes to be done on this cliff but loose soft rock will make them fearsome.

 Little Leo, seconding a grade 5 which is a bit loose.

Leo my little grandson looks very like my father and is strong and shares his grandfathers logic, this is good and bad! He is a good little climber but also likes Canadian Kayak-well good he might get a strong back.

 Little Lilly giving scale to some of the mysterious Maltese Cart tracks.

On one day we went to see some interesting tracks, the mysterious Maltese Cart tracks. A new set of fantastic ones were found or rediscovered in an olive orchard.These tracks are prehistoric in origin and various ways for their construction have been put foreword because there is no erosion between the tracks and the tracks can often not be parallel. Nobody knows which in some ways is great, but sure leaves a puzzle, some people the animal that pulled the cart were flying birds!

Diego the little Italian Greyhound showing how perfect this track is.
These tracks are worth seeing, they remind me of Roman roads, possibly italians might have better ideas than us and the British who were here before.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Repentance, by Stevie Super Haston.

Have you repented? We need to repent! Are you a sinner? 
Do you know the route called Repentance Super? No matter if you don't, I'll give you a little picture with a few words. Repentance Supe is one of the best classic ice climbs you can do, and all the more worth talking about since ice climbing is so accessible to people today. Is it a classic, for sure it is, is it hard, well it can be, what level of joy and satisfaction do you get- big Big HUGE Satisfaction with big indelible memories.

  Sneaking up on Olie.

a few pitches up, with a little polemic, and a fall by another party, seclusion is now not always possible but ice reigns supreme.

"Why". this word was repeated slowly, I was waiting for Francois in the cold of the night, it was something very minus, and I was out side my flat in Italy! I only had travelling and work clothes, my boss Olie had successfully manoeuvred me into saying yes to a bit of Repentance and I was regretting it. Thin running tights with flashing silver highlights are probably not the best outfit for -12 and a red light district! Francois finally got to me before I froze or excepted one of the offered from the working girls. Like I said Repentance!

Repentance o the left.

I know the valleys of northern Italy fairly well but the high valleys of Aosta have been my home. Is Repentance my home? Well as a big sinner I have tried to repent and in truth Repentance I have done with the last ascent 6 times. I probably did the second ascent, at that time I was a very swollen headed and daft hombre, or if I am being kind to myself I just didn't care about reputations. Repentance was done by Grassi, Godfra Perrou, and Damillano, three guys who monopolised all the ice climbing press in Europe, when I did Repentance I thought it a very nice cascade, but only equal to Welsh Cascades done 20 years before. I wasn't that peeved, just noted down in my Black book not to trust certain people, and editors.

Walking up it looks really good.

Our team was Francois who lives  and works as a guide under the Matterhorn, and Olie my boss who lives in Aosta, and me the repenting one who once was a professional ice climber. At the carpark it was -20°C!I don't know about repenting, but I was regretting saying yes. As a man who lives closer to Africa than mainland Italy, the cold is no longer my favourite. We had the best gear apart from my clothes. My boots were summer boots, but were up to the task of -20°C which was not a surprise!

The walking along the main Cogne valley is flat and super beautiful with various cascades frozen into climbing perfection. I haven't climbed any of these cascades for many a year but know the valley from more recent runs, and snow boarding escapades. Even if you walk the valley it is still one unforgettable day. But if its a cascade on your mind, it really has to be Repentance.
We completed the climb to the top and abed off.

The team did well, we patted each other on the back, shook hands etc. My Boss was particularly pleased as I know he has wanted to do this for many a year! Francoise fourth ascent my sixth, just as good as the first time if not better. There was another team on it, they were great too, if you are reading this you guys from Torino, thanks. As for the young man who took a big whipper on the left side of the cascade, you looked solid going up the route on the right after you recovered, bravo.
the climbers bar afterwards.

We walked back sedately from the climb, very happy. I walked alone thinking of all the magnificent climbs I have done, thankful to my partners, thankful to conditions, and my very large portion of luck. If you see a chance take it as the song goes. Frozen cascades will be a rarity soon, they are the last Unicorn. For people who are gear nerds, we used Grivel ice axes, my companions didn't use leashes, I did. We all used G20 crampons, which it is simply impossible to beat, we used Scarpa boots, I used the Rebel which is really a summer boot but was good for me, the other two lads went one warmer. Grivel screws, a selection, but for me the 360° is still the best Ice screw on the market. All three of us used the Stealth Helmet which was great, its lightness makes it unnoticeable, I walked back with it on my head! My clothes were completely wrong as were my gloves!

Memories of Ice are sometimes very nice this was one of them!