Climbers Against Cancer

Twelve months ago, a friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His name is John Ellison. I’ve known John ever since I got involved with coaching and managing the GB Climbing Teams back in 2007; it’s hard not to know him, as he’s always there! He has given tirelessly to climbing and to competition climbing over the years and it was a massive shock when he told us all about his illness. It seemed impossible that such an amazing person could have anything negative happen to them. I’d always kind of assumed that the perma-grim on his face was some kind of lucky charm.

Photo: John in his natural environment…. you guess the answer!

His reaction to this news though, has been something that has re-affirmed why he always looks so happy. Instead of running away from the black news and devastation he has ploughed an incredible amount of energy into creating a new organisation called “Climbers Against Cancer.” He recognised that climbing and climbers are “special in that no matter what the creed or colour, there is a natural desire to support each other and encourage one another to succeed.” He would like climbers to come together as a family of friends who will support John in his cause to raise awareness and funds for research.

As you may have noticed through Facebook and Twitter already, there are some big wad supporters already! John seems to have a strange ability to chat up pretty much any climber, get them in a t-shirt and then snap the photo for the cause! I even saw him with his arm round Chris Sharma and Tom Bolger’s waist the other day….. John, you naughty boy.

So what can you do to help share the love?

1. Get on Facebook and “like” the official CAC page

2. Share any photos of CAC supporters.

3. Visit the CAC website in about 2 weeks to buy yourself a supporting t-shirt!

4. In the meantime I know you can buy CAC t-shirts from The Climbing Works

5. Alternatively, you can always get involved with Cancer Research UK

So, just  remember if John can pick himself up after this situation has landed on his doorstep then we as climbers are more than capable of getting off our arses to help in some way. I doesn’t have to be money – even spreading the word and helping John in his mission will be much appreciated.

Even big wad photographer and all-round nice guy Lukasz Warzecha gave up his studio and time to get John surrounded by 2 of the loveliest ladies in comp climbing, 1 ice climber with massive biceps and 2 jokers with big Friends.

Spread the love!

Hook or Book; The Zone E9 6c

So far this winter I’ve struggled and struggled. My two projects have seen sessions of no success and to be honest I’ve been feeling a bit frustrated. It’s not like the training isn’t going well – my fingers (and specific training goals) are the best they’ve ever been and I regularly PB, but it’s still not quite enough for success on the given line. I guess, I’ve got to be patient. The best thing to do when this happens though, is to get out and do something – something that will give you a bit of a buzz and feel like progress. That’s right isn’t it?

I decided I wanted to see how my projects and finger strength compared to something on the hard grit circuit and thus see if progress from last year really was being made. The Zone, E9 6c at Curbar kind of fitted the bill. Nice wall climbing, fairly challenging sport grade (not the usual gritstone 7a+ frightener) and bold enough to thrill. This route was put up by British climbing legend John Arran and one I remember the first ascent of it well, back in the day.

Photo: Gnarly bugger and inveterate soloist. John Arran

This weekend, I finally bit the bullet and called up Pete Whittaker and told him I’d man up if he promised to hold my ropes and carry me to my car if it went pear shaped. As usual he was totally psyched for it – I already felt stronger just listening to the enthusiasm on the phone! It’s way easier to commit to routes like this when you’ve got a good mate who’s going to bring the right vibe to the crag on the day and who knows even less about skyhooks than me.

The first half of the route is a highball boulder problem up to a series of flatty edges where you can arrange some skyhooks. This highball V3 takes a little of the edge off the nerves to start and settles you into a rhythm, which you then immediately break by spending 10 minutes trying to place the hooks. In fact I got totally pumped putting them in place and the ensuing down climb of a few moves was desperate in this state – a big reminder that I’ve not done any AeroCap for about 3 months!


Photo: the 2 poorest hooks – my mind needed them though.

After taking a few hours of resting, faffing, waiting for the holds to stop being warm and procrastinating I finally went for the lead. I’d moaned for the previous 2 hours about how the crux hold wasn’t cool enough, but somehow I felt that I’d probably sketch it out if I really needed. Climbing the bottom section felt reassuringly solid the next time and arriving at the hooks for a shake out, I bolstered my confidence by only eye-balling the good group of skyhooks. I couldn’t face even a glance at the bad ones as I knew they were there only to make me feel less scared.


Photo: the good grouping of hooks – surely these are ok?

Moving onto the top sequence of the route I kept thinking about the mental tricks that I learnt on Century Crack last year. The moves glanced by so sutbly that even when I got the crux hold and it felt terrible I didn’t think much of it. Adjust thumb, sit on right foot, bump right hand up a touch (go further than you think), throw for pebbly-boss…. OH SHIT….. that was nearly off. In someways I felt like I’d actually fallen off the route, but there I was feeling gripped on the last hard move. Pete was telling me I was looking smooth (good liar) and all I had to do was crimp it up. Index finger on, crimp that finger first, adjust hip left a little, feel toes inside boot, move foot across, share feet….. ah. Ok all over.


Photo (Mike Hutton): bottom V3 highball – great problem in its own right. Luverly.

Topping out on the route was such a disappointing feeling though. I’ve never done a headpoint before where I only did it to progress my headspace. I’d always done them in previous years because I wanted the route so badly. This time, I’d taken my obsessive approach to training and self-progression to a headpoint and it didn’t work. Trying dangerous routes in this style for me has to be about how much I want the experience, not just as a tool for progression. A real lesson learnt this weekend. In the end I just ended up thinking about what I really wanted; to do those other projects!!

Many thanks to Mike Hutton for the photos…