Tuesday, 1 August 2017


Telling a good story is hard to do.  So often, humans get "inventive" and find a story where there isn't one.  Digestible, compelling, dramatic, the more bullshit the better...  In my raft guiding days, stories were important; good stories got you good tips and a Welshman by the name of Dirty Tim was our resident master tale slinger.  The more tall tales Tim slung, the more money he made while the rest of us guides kicked dirt beside the river and watched the procession of guests slap another finski into Dirty Tim's dirty palm.  Anyway, I don't love the modern media approach to storytelling and the fact that if you want to share your experiences with people, you need a "story."  In the timeless words of Homer Simpson "It's just a bunch of stuff that happened."  So here is some of the stuff that happened this spring.

Colombia:  Coffee anyone?  Locals brew coffee more like tea and imbibe this Tinto all day long.

Climbing on the Mesa de los Santos.  Thanks to Netflix, we expected a stressful Cartel style experience but the vibe could not have been more tranquillo.

We went to the opposite side of the Mesa and flew into Canyon de Chicamocha, the Earth's second largest Canyon.

     Next up, the mysterious Mavecure Hills.  Cosmique, barely begins to describe this place.

                              You could really feel the Buena Onda from the hill people.

                                                          Petroglyphs are my favorite!!!

                                      Flying from mythical domes is a close second...

                             Climbing onto giant a waffle iron from the jungle ranks third.

I've never loved fishing, but I love to eat the fish.  This Barracuda-type thing, literally jumped into our canoe and to defend myself (?!) I delivered a fatal blow with my paddle.  Sorry buddy... I never got to taste this little guy, he was in the soup and down the hatch before we got home.  Fishing, is likely how story telling began.

Or was it from mountain climbing?

                              Colombia is quite a place:  Bogota street art is next level!

                          After Colombia was South Africa.  This photo tells the whole story.

 Climbing with my European friends was not like being on a holiday, rest day activities included: packing for the next mish, ferrying a load to the base of the wall or more commonly, climbing.

                              The crew halfway up the wall at a commodious bivi

                        We opened a new route on a big cliff made of Quartzite, the stone of Kings.

Rock quality, check!  After sending this pitch, Seppi yelled down:  "Paul, I feel naa-sing"  Slighlty confused, I though my friend had morphed into the achetypal German nihilist.  What he really was trying to convey was that he got threshold pumped.

This is Hilton Davies, he's the nicest man in Capetown, a South African climbing pioneer with more psyche than I had at 18, and more good stories than most will accrue in a lifetime.

                  Most of this country is made of Quartzite but at Paarl Rocks it's pure Granite.

This zone has never been in vogue compared to say, Rocklands, but no instagram = no worries, you'll have this enchanted place to yourself.   As you enjoy the incredible freeclimbing here, remember, Nelson Mandela served several years of his 27 year prison term in the nearby village, just for being a brother.  Slightly tougher than the Dawn Wall I imagine.

                  Never miss a chance to fly from a granite dome...Thank you Mama Africa!

Thursday, 23 February 2017


Jas Ammerlaan and Seba De La Rosa making the FA of the Spirit Bear icewall

There is nothing so pleasant as ice climbing at sea level, so it comes as no surprise that my backyard is where I enjoy winter climbing  the most.   Thirty years have passed since a true Icepocalypse thwarted the village of Squamish.  Back then, it was straight shafts, leather boots and bearded men only.  These days at least some of the sisters have joined in on the fun.

                                  Katia Voyeur making the second ascent of "Depends -a- lot falls"

There were First Ascents o' plenty:  Jia makes the signature move on the ephemeral and somewhat inappropriate "Gropper"

"Squamish Groomjob" pumpy as can be!

This beauty pillar, "Eagle Eyes" was spotted by Jia during one of many highway 99 scope missions

I didn't have to go far to spy this Squamish uber classic, visible from my deck, "Two minutes for hooking" is more fun than Hockey Night in Canada and delivers excitement until the buzzer sounds.

I jerseyed up with Tony Mac and Willy Stan for a repeat of this Boyd/Flett gem before the Coastal Zamboni finished it off two days later.  The final pitch went down with the sun and I heard a few rare grunts from the lungs of Tony as he battled up the final steep Medusa of Ice.

      We avoided the penalty box and enjoyed the superbe finish as the alpenglow kissed us goodnight (Will Stanhope Photo)

      Visible outside Tony Richardson's living room window, this line on the Chief beckoned like a yodeler from the Krummholz

        Jason K like a thief in the night, sneaking off Broadway ledge via some thin dribbles.

           Pitch 1 of the Ultimate Ultimate Everything: Perfect neve and sticks (Tony Richardson Photo)

                              Jason seconding the Chamonix caliber goulottes (Jia Condon Photo)

                                        Tony STOKED on the crux pitch (Jia Condon Photo)

It's always a gift when your heroes become your partners.  After all these years Jia still wants some.

Hard to beat this position above the Fjord

Thank you Squamish and thank you my friends!  What a season!!!

Monday, 12 December 2016

De gustibus non disputandum

Preferences vary wildly for more than just food, but when it comes to sampling earthly delights, it's hard not to be a glutton.

First up on this fall's flavor of the month was the coarse ground stone of Joshua Tree.  I took advantage of a friend's nearby wedding to sample a few dozen pitches at this most delectable desert buffet.

Climbing without a guidebook or partner had some drawbacks but the bite of crusty granite is always worth a nosh.

I met some new friends that complimented the cosmic vibe of this forlorn outlier of suburban LA

Next stop Bali: an organic fruity delight!

It was great to catch up with friends and loved ones in this far flung tropical sweathouse

                                                    The Sky Surfing was scrumptious!

Bukit has the most amazing winds, consistent enough to fly for hours - strong enough to make the top landings a spectator sport.

                              Ganesha! Balinese people love this happy Elephant man, me too!

                                             Helen on the lookout in Nusa Lembongan

                              Random street man with a spiritual snack wrapped in Banana Leaf

Snorkeling with the Manta Rays at this beautiful rock arch - just a bit on the razory side for climbing

 Next stop Thailand!!!  This place has some of the most exotique flavor profiles on the planet.    The climbing is ok too.

Thais make the yummiest food. What's there not to like about rotting fish or pork with paper?

                                             There are a lot of unexplainable rules though.

                            This one is not open to debate: perfect orange slopers and pockets

                                                                      Mouthwatering, no?

 Ao Nang Tower with Robin and John.   John proving just how polyvalent his Alpha pack is.  A maritime, multipitch, Camera bag


                                One of my favorite partners bringing in the catch of the day

                                      Tony earning his Curry on the Heart of Darkness

                                                  You have to earn this dish

                                                    The not unprecedented Stalactite stem

                                                                Steepness guaranteed!

                                 Trina joining us in the cave through the Thaiwand Wall

                     We emerged to Phra Nang Beach and got some knee deep Noodles!

                                                                           A slice of Psicobloc

There are only a few areas on the planet that provide abundant sea towers and tepid waters for climbers to practice Deep Water Soloing.   South Thailand rules this category, holding the densest clutch of these Karst formations found anywhere on earth.   Sadly not all the Towers are open to climbing:  Valuable Swallows nests used to make the infamous Birds Nest Soup are fiercely guarded by Machine gun wielding security guards.  This stew, literally made from mucous that binds the nest together,  is meant to improve potency but maybe some things are best left for the birds.

                                                        The Phalus Temple at Phra Nang - it's really a thing!

                        The Tiger Cave Temple was breathtaking!  Nature plus Religion.

                              Robin on one of the best pitches ever! Pitch 3 Lord of the Thais

                After a day of Climbing few places are better for après than Freedom Bar

Thank you Thailand!