I'm a woman

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

Friday, 21 November 2014

Eyeless and Wingless in Malta, by Stevie Gazza Haston.

These Moths are very rarely  seen, once common, now rare. Pesticides, degradation of the countryside, damaging farming practises and just lets face it horrible humans screwing everything up.  Humans are not my favourite this week. The country side is full of guys in camo killing or catching birds, I complained to the police and was basically told to 'Fox trot Oscar'. If your a nice person, and I have no reason to doubt that, I'll explain that Fox trot Oscar means go away, or F…. Off! The police are on the side of the guys in camo! In fact they are sometimes the guys in camo,  one was caught a few years ago poaching.

Like Dante I am having a little down time in the woods, I can't see the wood for the trees, the birds of course don't exist, neither do the fish, the other day I swam into a mist net with mesh so small it could have caught plankton. I have seen very few fish this year all small. The pressure on a small tourist island is very high. 

The cliffs and the tiny amount of public land are the only places to have a bit of peace and recreation in the natural world. In France where I used to climb they are trying to open a quarry which will destroy the peace and serenity of a few hundred rock climbs and two big public walks, disturb endangered Eagle owls and golden eagles who live in harmony with the walkers and climbers, all that noise, dust and destruction of habitat and peaceful recreation for three permanent jobs!  

Friday, 10 October 2014

A dolphin, a parrot, and a homicidal drill, by Stevie Haston.

I found myself under an arch of cream and ochre limestone, maybe khaki with some dappled green, I was a bit sad, but not blue. There was a crack like feature that might turn into a route, it was greys, charcoals, and a trimming of obsidian. The aqua marine of the sandy seas bottom was blue, really truly blue, and calm and translucent. Have you noticed how colour affects your mood? Can you affect colour? Anyway I was musing, being self absorbed, probably in some ways to take the sting out of being under this yellow brick road of an arch, which wasn't really supported very well, and seemed to have been constructed by a drunk, stoned immaculate, giant mason. 
Spinning around, back aiding, cursing, scraping skin, whacking myself with various bit of equipment, I heard a squark that wasn't me, I glanced down and saw a big blue parrot, streaking across a wind ruffled square quilt of aqua marine. Wow, I dumbly mumbled, the parrot heard me, looked up and out at me, fixed me with his big glistening eye, then it did a victory roll, and then flew off into a wider paler blue of the sky.  Cool bananas, or cool blue parrots, or whatever people say nowadays, a blue parrot, no ones going to believe me, 'is the pope a Muslim', 'do bears dedicate in the vatican'.

A week before, the biggest ever Sun fish was seen in the same place! Now then Sun fish are strange at the best of times, and are very rare, but this one seems to have dwarfed all others. I myself had swum through clouds of weird pop corn like organisms, and huge amounts of jelly fish, I thought I,d counted six kinds, it was all like some flash back from an 80s disco, complete with rippling electricity along some envelope like creatures and a double diaphanous swallow tailed aquatic butterfly.

So back to the future, and I'am equipping again, but this time I kinda suspect something odd or cool is going to happen. At the very least I will finish equipping this extraordinary roof and can start playing on it, so I let my guard down. A big splash out in the green, with the water bulging indicates a big preditor, but its a bit far out so I don't get too excited, its probably a big tuna. Then I see it its a big dappled dolphin, he (I assume it's a he) shoots around chasing something, and remember this is happening underneath me in vivid real time, real colour, he comes up with his eyes out, immediately spots me and kinda wiggles his nose, he shoots, or accelerates into the big cave, and I feel a loss, I feel bereft, he searches the big cave, zooming around, aqua flying and strafing for prey.  Suddenly he's back, head out of the water, looks at me, and cruises off, master of his medium, water his play thing. Suddenly I feel deathly clumsy, inarticulate and sag into my harness like a dead dough like jelly fish. 
Just as I am unwinding from this brief sentence of human uselessness in the face of dolphin supremacy I accidentally turn the drill on. I don't panic, its happened to me before, I'ave even drilled myself, just be ok with it turn it off and lick your wounds. The drill has got other ideas, it doesn't just want blood, its transmorped into vengeful driller killer. it starts catching and whiping equipment, friends, and pegs and the hammer around then it drills into a buckle on my equipping bag, and pulls me towards it self, finally it catches a sling around my neck and reels me in, slowly turning my gas off! I now panic! This mechanical choke its got me in is gonna make me pass out, and then I will sag upside down and then die in my own sweet slow time. As I begin to grow weak the drill starts to buck like its in a sexual frenzy of murder, and the heavy battery whips around as I'am loosing focus and  it clobbers me on the eye brow, the fucker coshes  me. Coup de fucking Grace, I start to bleed, at least it will look like I put up a fight, anyway just as an after thought, as the bloody trickle turns into a sprinkle, I grab the drill and I don't just try to turn it off, I frantically search for reverse, If I press stop I die, if I press reverse I live. After some mighty strangling of the device it goes into reverse and blood flows into my brain. 
A few days later with Jeff we tried the route in a big electric storm, Jeffs bare brown torso would occasionally turn electric blue like a celtic warrior. He gallantly belayed with water channeled onto his head thru the roof cracks, I cackled. We shook in the cold but like Ahab I wanted my Whale, then I thought the water looked like it was fizzing and felt prickly. 
We contrived our escape…..to be continued. 


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Choosing and fitting climbing boots, by Stevie Haston.

Choosing and fitting your boots is one of the most important things you can do as a climber! If you pick a boot that fits badly, and doesn't do it's job, you can ruin your holiday. All your training will come to nothing if your boots dont work, your hopes turn to ashes, and your victory laurel turn to an embarasing crown of thorns if you stupidly buy and take the wrong boot on your mission/quest/thingy.   

So why do people pick boots like they pick football teams? Instead of careful consideration they just go for the most popular or their local team! Or if they are a girl or vain they go for the pretty one! Or Macho choice, or whatever. And the last thing you should consider is price! Price and money might be important in ordinary life, but this is climbing, and you can't just cant put a price on success and the pleasure of doing well.

Top photo is my favourite boot of the moment, it doesn't matter who makes it, what matters is that I have two pairs a size apart, Ok! And that's the minimum I will take anywhere!

Here are three different pairs that all fit me, I might take these away too. Why? Ok, trad shoe on the left, toes are flat(ish) in the shoe for comfort in jamming cracks, I might still prefer a less flat pair with a really narrow toe profile for thin cracks-middle photo. Right hand photo is a different boot, it's more asymmetrical lasted, with a big nose turn down, my favourite for really steep rock.

Here's a photo of the different lasting on the last two, it makes a big difference to me. There is also difference in how they stretch I prefer the bottom one, you might not if your foot is shaped different, the bottom one favours a wider foot with a more prominent big toe-me.

This photo shows the degree of downturn, I like downturn, but you might not, it takes some getting used to and some get cramp when they first try them, my tip is get over it. Theres a 0.5 mm difference in the rubber sole which actually means that the top boot will fit certain small pockets seams and cracks, better than the bottom one. The lower boot  edges a little better. You have to choose. You have to know what your looking for and make an educated choice. 
Heres a couple of things to consider, there is not such thing as a woman's boot, or a woman's fit, that's plain stupidity, they either fit, or they don't, you either have wide feet, or thin feet, or what ever TF feet!
Colour only matters in the degree that it sucks up sun heat, and will make you scream with pain. Oh yes we are back to pain. Pain in shoes is very important to many people, if you are cringing in pain, you can't push on your feet. However if your boot is not tight, you can't push either. You might want to compromise, I don't. Turned over toes in tight boots hurt, they can really hurt, and some climbers have bone spurs, and horrible feet due to over tight shoes, modern shoes are better than they used to be, you don't have to go so tight. I go tight, and lots of climbers do, tight might be right! I only wear tight shoes for a hard routes that dont take long, give your feet a chance. Slippers are really good for slipping half off to give your feet a rest, all day comfy shoes are really limited on harder routes, they are my last ever choice.
If you are into steep rock, you need a good heel that doesn't come off, and some toe rubber on top, the perfect shoe hasn't been made, but there are lots of good shoes out there, don't pick the wrong one! Some folk wear different shoes on each foot, it is that crucial at times.
Buying different shoes doesn't mean wasting money, because as you only wear one pair at a time, two pairs will last twice as long as one pair. Last tip, go to a good shop with a big selection of boots, that doesnt mind you taking your time and buy at that shop, dont find your size and buy on the net. Surport that shop, you may think you have the right size, but boots vary, and the edge of the shoe, the business end of the shoe can be badly or wrongly ground and this can make the boot worthless! Hope this helps.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Scarpa Techno X climbing shoe, by Stevie Haston.

So here's a boot which I wouldn't normally look at, or think of reviewing. It's a straight lasted or flat normal climbing shoe it's not turned down! So why have I got them, and what's it to you? Well straight lasted are way more comfortable for most recreational folk, and I was looking for a shoe I could do a bit of crack with. This translates into a all day shoe, but the Techno X doesn't feel floppy, and has a good heel. For all day shoes or Trad shoes most people should consider laces as these primitive string things allow you to tighten or loosen your shoe! 

The shoe has Edge rubber which isn't my favourite, but gives more cross torsion, and protects the foot somewhat in cracks. The upside of Edge rubber is its good on sharp nasty holds particularly at the end of a day when your feet are tired.

This is a good photo showing the rubber on the toe area, this bit is the bit that gets shoved in the crack and gets twisted around, this toe is very good  and works well on most other climbing too, like toe hooks. Make sure you get a good fit though as you can't tighten it right to the end. Remember in climbing shoes fit is every thing. In general this shoe is a good all day shoe that I will be using it on cracks, its comfy and well made, and as I say its not my normal choice shoe. You might consider it if you don't like turned down toes, or tight shoes.  The Techno X is extremely comfy, the tongue is soft and padded, and as its better than a great number of boots I have done hard routes in the past it will defo do for most people up to hard bouldering grades, or climbing, good luck with it.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Scarpa Nitro Gtx by Stevie Haston.

So here's a handy shoe for most purposes, and most seasons if you live in the north or are having a bit of a damp time. Its a  gortex socked shoe, with  a swede upper and very robust, I got it at the moment just for going to the crags as its really damp this year and I got fed up of having wet feet and socks etc. So it works very well in that respect, it's very smart so you can walk around town etc with out looking like you are in the tour de france or an athletic meet like some shoes. I didn't get it as an approach shoe/guides shoe, even though you can use it for this purpose if you wish. 

The sole is very functional in my opinion, the lugs are big enough to handle gravel and scree, and other rough terrain without having hot spots and pressure points like when you have a more spiky tread. Its comfy in town, and the last has a slight roll to it. The sole is sticky at the front and more hard wearing at the back and cleaned easily going through damp soil, its kinnda got a self cleaning lug profile or just stamp them on the ground or kick a tree root and the sticky mud thing should drop off.

Like I said its not for running although it's got a duel layered EVA sole, you could get away with a gog, or a warm up, or kick a ball around with the kids. The toes are protected by a nice sticky rubber box which should last well. The swede should protect the gortex part as its 1.5 thick, it looks good but unless you have a bit of a layer here your goretex sock will effectively punter very quickly, this is worth thinking about when you bush which through thorns as the effectiveness of any waterproof membrane generally doesn't like thorns! So there you go, I thought it was very good, with a wide fitting, and it should last a fair while.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Anorexia , drugs, and no rational control. By Stevie Haston.

Christian Bale, 8b version on the left, 9c on right!

Charlotte Durif the great french comp and cliff climber has written an amazingly critical open letter to Grimper mag in France. In it she discusses the widespread anorexia that she sees in competition climbing and compares it to doping. She also criticises the competion organisation and format. Here is a link to the original in French and a google translation. Her points have been made before and many people agree with her, so what will be done, the answer is nothing! If you have a child or a friend who is anorexic whether they are a climber or not make no mistake it's very serious. Whether it's as serious as Honnold soloing a big wall or an alpinist soloing a north face is also a matter for scrutiny. There has to be some kind of free will in life or our lives aren't ours. In some sports like Body building people take drugs and become very very thin, it's the only way to win or compete. Is every sport like body building, well no, there are a few who don't take drugs, let me try and think of one that doesnt-shit for a second I thought of one, but championship knitting isn't a sport.
What does this all mean to you, you might ask. Well if you have a child in sport not just climbing but say mountain bike riding, you have to consider the risk they will be partaking in and how responsible you want to be! There is not just the risk of tumbling off a bike, or cliff, but the risk of being sick in some way due to drugs or a very odd diet. Now then there are lots of magazine people who read my blog and they are fairly guilty in not talking about any of this, if they do talk they just do a shallow piece and earn their money. Climbing is a very weird sport, it's susceptibility to a small amount of drugs and light weight taking the laurels is really really high. In fact the lighter you are the more change you can have by small amounts of drugs, so children who take drugs and anorexics who take drugs will have the highest success, so in future our sport will be dominated by anorexic or very light weight people who are either sexualy immature or both, if that hasn't happened already. 
And by the way I was commissioned to write about the Charlotte Durif controversy when a commercial web site started a hatchet job on Charlote Durif  for supposedly fibbing, I was reluctant to do this job even though I was short of cash as I knew ultimately that the truth would be illusive and it was just about entertaining the masses. One of the key elements of this so called controversy was a route called PPP, a huge 9a that people said Durif couldn't do. Well strangely that 9a wasn't 9a anyway so it brought it down to more than very possible that Miss Durif could have styled it.
Years ago the best french sport climber and competition guy said that he wouldn't be able to compete any longer without some medical help, as he was feeling big pressure from former eastern bloc climbers, he retired and became plump.
An interesting aside is that this anorexia thing will never go away, it's there at the very heart of climbing, but at least you can see it. You can't see the drugs. I have no right to preach, and every body takes drugs, but the playing field is not level, and, and, and..... 
Another interesting aside perhaps is that Laurence was working with a Tri Athlete recently, who commented that nearly everybody in a famous local race was drugged to the max, its a famous race but winning it won't pay your drug bill for a year. The same week my grand kids who are really into sport and are really into winning were over for a holiday, they really want to be good at hill running, and when they were enthusing I was nearly crying, because fell running is just pharmaceuticals. Still I smiled and marched them up that hill!

If you want some good advice about losing weight in a sensible way, check out Steve Edwards blog  this guy is a climber as well as a sportsman. Good luck Steve. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Designer fitness. By Stevie smart Haston.

Was staying in a swank hotel, which even seemed to care about my veggie food requirements, and bumbled into the Gym. It was a very good Gym, I have to say, no people in it except a very buff young man, he instantly accosted me as to my needs. Anyway after he explained everything, he told me I looked ok for a man of my age, then he kindda arched one eyebrow and asked me some questions and he put int into his machine and gave me a little routine. The routine was ok, I said thanks and went over to the Lat bar, I maxed it out and did a couple of pulls and Mr Buff was on me,  He explained I was doing it wrong! Anyway Mr Buff was a nice guy, and the hotel was nice and all, but the cleaning guy has got more usable strength than Mr Buff.
The boulder problem called Jade has been repeated by a girl-a strong girl- but a girl. I seem to remember this route being touted as a very burly prob by the dudes etc Dave Graham and crew failed etc! Next up, forget the boulders and get on Action Direct, I am dying for this to be done by a girl. Oh and instead of all the Mr Buff training programs in the mags can you please down load what the girl does as I might like to try her program as it seems to work. Thats what its about right, results!
My own personal climbing journey is starting again, so I am up for receiving ideas. I have 8 months before I go to the States, is 8 months enough to get me up the two routes I want to do? Planning my Wellness gentle regime today, penciling lots of Kale smoothies, absolutely no power pulls.
Congrats to Alex Puccio for doing Jade.