Category Archives: instructional

When an Adventure becomes an Epic Part 3

To review… we have been looking at what can turn an adventure into an epic and have focused on preparing well for our adventures in order to avoid dangerous situations. These videos will aid you for preparing well, but for more skills and instruction we would recommend you get the DVD!


And if you are looking for tuition on the techniques you see in these video clips, want an instructor who can help you build up a strong base of experience under their watchful eye and help you develop the skills for choosing appropriate objectives get in touch with us here at The Mountain People!


For the previous posts: Part 1 & Part 2


Here are the final video clips from Self Rescue for Climbers:


Assisted hoist


Escaping the system


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When an Adventure becomes an Epic Part 2

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.04.33 AMIn my last post I looked at some of the major factors that turn an adventure into an epic. One of those factors was lack of preparation – so to continue to help with your preparation here are some more video clips from the excellent DVD resource Self Rescue for Climbers.


A couple of important things to note about these skills:

  • You want to practise the skills a lot so that they become second nature to you i.e. you don’t have to think how to do a french prusik etc.
  • And with time these skills become tools in a tool box and as you gain experience and really hone them then you can give your energies to selecting the right tool(s) job instead of focusing on how a particular skill is executed.


For the first post: When an Adventure becomes an Epic



Prusiking up a rope 


 Abseiling past a knot


 Lowering a climber off a crag


If you are interested in more of these rescue skills I would encourage you to pick up the DVD!


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When an Adventure becomes an Epic


Simon Cox and me after topping out on one of the lines on Toubkal West a few years back. A day that was on the line!


Adventure… pushing ourselves in the vertical mountain world. Epics… running into problems and challenges that could end in a bad way.


There is often a fine line between a good old adventure that summons all the mental, physical and spiritual strength we possess and an epic that could have serious consequences. What are some of the factors that push us over the invisible line between a challenging adventure and an epic?


Here are three of the most common ways we can find ourselves getting into an epic:


  • Lack of experience – Often times people are too ambition and haven’t done the appropriate apprenticeship in one of the foundational climbing disciplines. An example of this would be jumping straight into multi-pitch trad climbing without having a good amount of single pitch trad under your belt or a good instructor at your side to coach you along. Mountaineering and climbing skills are very much a progression of technical and judgment/discernment skills that build on each other which then allow us to push the limits in more serious environment and on harder and more challenging climbs.


  • Lack of preparation – You really want to go into something with your eyes as open as possible to the reality of the situation. So, when getting on a mountain route for example, you want to do your homework, get a good route and descent description, check the weather reports/forecasts, etc. The 5 P’s are essential: poor preparation leads to piss poor performance!


  • Lack of Flexibility – people often get into trouble due to not being able to hold things lightly. They have tunnel vision about a particular route or adventure and get too focused on it. This is a recipe for disaster as the mountain/climbing environment is always changing… weather, route condition, your personal performance levels… the list goes on. If we can hold things a bit more lightly and have a plan B, C, D etc. in our back pocket then, when something isn’t right for our first objective, we let it go and move on to something else.


One thing we can always be working on, of course, is our level of preparation so that we don’t fall into trap 2 above. To help with this, check out a brilliant resource for mountaineering and rock climbing produced by one of the UK’s leading Mountain Guides, Steve Long. Steve has been involved in training people for mountaineering and climbing for years and this dvd ‘Self Rescue for Climbers’ is an excellent resource to help you learn to prepare well for your adventures!



Over the next couple of days I will be posting up a serious of extracts from the dvd, so check them out!



For more information on how to purchase the Self Rescue for Climbers DVD click here!


If you are looking for tuition on the techniques you see in the video, get in touch with us here at The Mountain People, as we can offer you a customised course with an instructor who has been trained and assessed in these elements.


A few more photos from some of the adventures I have been on!





Grade V Ice – Afekhoi cascades




Jay Parks on a multi-pitch sport route in Taghia – High Atlas




Me on lead on Observatory Buttress – Ben Nevis



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Alpine Ridges Adventure


Felix on the crux pitch of the SW ridge of Toubkal West 21-6-14


Last weekend, I had the pleasure of guiding Felix on some of the classic alpine ridges in the High Atlas. Felix is a seasoned climber with both summer and winter and single and multi-pitch experience climbing experience, so he was well up for a Moroccan climbing adventure.




View from the NE ridge of Afella 22-6-14


After walking up to the refuge on day one we spent some of the evening going over short-rope techniques that would be useful for the following couple of days. After that, we made our plan for the following day, which would mean a pretty early start (5:00am) to give us plenty of time to enjoy the SW ridge of Toubkal West, AD+.


Alpine climbing is all about efficiency which means quick route finding, dialed rope systems and moving quickly and, with Felix being a strong, experienced climber, we managed to stick to the rules of alpine climbing. After finishing the ridge in good time we managed to summit Toubkal as well. For those of you who want the “hard way” up Toubkal then the SW ridge of Toubkal West is the route for you!




Me and Felix on the summit of Toubkal 21-6-14


On day three we climbed the NE Ridge of the north shoulder of Afella, gaining a height of 3,980m. This ridge is 600m long and an alpine grade of D+. It is a route of commitment and stamina. After a bit of slower start, we gained the ridge and made good time to the summit. The descent is down the main route of the peak of Afella 4,040m. We found the north-facing gully in not the best of conditions with big, weak snow bridges, which meant lowering Felix down 50m rope lengths and me down climbing after him. All was fine, but it did slow down our descent. This gulley line in winter and even into early spring is generally pretty easy going for a descent, but if you are climbing in the area in summer make sure to have the equipment and experience to deal with it in lean condition. This is all part of alpine climbing; you have your toolbox of skills, experience and equipment and you choose the appropriate tools for the situation the mountain throws at you!




Gully descent off Afella 22-6-14


Well done again to you Felix on taking on some of the biggest and best ridges in the Toubkal Massif and good luck to you on your future climbing adventures!


For those with a good amount of rock climbing experience looking to take on some of the great challenges of the High Atlas in Morocco please have a look at our High Atlas Alpine Ridges trips here!


Here is some feedback from Felix from the trip:


“I had a fantastic time climbing alpine ridges in the Toubkal massif. From the amazing logistics help to the delicious prepared food at the hut, everything was in place to make the most of my short time in the area and get as much climbing in as possible. Climbing with James was a treat, and was a perfect mix of professionalism and friendliness. I was able to use and expand my skill set under a watchful friendly eye, and overall had a tremendous experience with some fantastic people.



Categories: Alpine Climbing, Blog, High Atlas, instructional, James, Morocco, Mountaineering, Summer
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Article & Resources on Solo Toproping/Self Belay

Me on self-belay with a mini-traxion and grigri

Me on self-belay with a mini-traxion and grigri

From time to time I head out on my own to train and have found self-belaying a great technique but it requires a bit of thought to do it safely.  For those of you who are interested in being able to go climbing on your own check out this article posted on


This is a great intro to the subject. Please note that a good level of advanced rope work/anchor building is required. This isn’t for novice climbers!


For another article on the subject please see:


Categories: Blog, instructional, James, Trad

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