Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ice climbing movies

I've only been ice skating this weekend, but here's the movie version of last weekend's climbing. Probably only of interest to desperate ice climbers who will really watch anything with an ice axe in it, the three of us who were there, and fans of early 90s grunge (check the sound track). If you fall into any of those categories - enjoy!

Lintojanvuori Ice Climbing from Toby A. on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

More Helsinki

Another day, another strategy meeting. Ho hum. But here, dear readers a panorama of Helsinki's harbour area from the top floor of the hotel where today's meeting was held.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Strategy days are boring, even if holding it in the Parliament makes it seem grander than it is. But the building does have WiFi, so here, dear readers, is a view of the Eduskunta - the Finnish Parliament - on a chilly, snowy January morning.

And here is the view from the top of the steps up to the building.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ice is nice, but knocking the crap out of it is better

It's been a stressful week - some big downs, a few good ups, and too many things to do all at once. Not much fun really. This isn't an attempt to get sympathy, rather just the context to why Saturday was such good fun. If you have had a trying week, I really suggest finding a hobby for the weekend that includes smacking and kicking the crap out something. As I'm far too much of wuss to do mixed martial arts, instead of that something being a person, various large lumps of ice were the alternative. Cathartic violence is the only description for it. So English Tony, little Toni and myself headed to Lintojanvuori near Valkeala on Saturday and spent the day bashing up and abbing back down various icefalls.

G12s - classy classics

The first interesting discovery was just how good my general mountaineering crampons were on steep ice. After last week's crampon breakage, I was a bit worried that using my Grivels, normally only used for steep snow and neve when mountaineering, it would feel like I couldn't get my feet to stick on anything. Instead the opposite was true and they felt just as good as my normal 'poons. Admittedly conditions were in my favour, with lots of the ice being soggy and soft with temperatures only a few degrees below freezing, but still it was a real revelation and confidence inspiring that they will definitely get me up anything that my rather modest ability allows me to realistically try climbing.

Toni gets into the Groove, WI3+

We did six of seven lines each and as all the routes at the crag are about on average 20 mtrs high, I reckon I did 120 mtrs of steep ice. There aren't really easy bits on the cliff - you step off the ground on to 75 to 90 degree ice and then climb that until you mantle back on to the flat top-out. So that is actually quite a lot of steep ice - and my shoulders, biceps and forearms definitely let me know it when I woke up this morning.

Me belaying whilst simultaneously gear reviewing - clever multitasking eh?

In the past climbing as a three has been a bit annoying/relaxing as it normally involves some standing around waiting your turn. But yesterday we managed to turn it into an advantage that meant almost constant climbing. One person would lead to the top, belay and bring up the second. The second would wonder off and set up abseil on another tree with a spare rope as the leader brought up the third man. By the time the third man up, the second would be back down on the ground, racking up for the next lead. It also meant I could 'model' for my next UKC review of a RAB duvet jacket whilst Tony got to play fashion photographer! :-)

Toni gets stuck into the brutal upper pillar of Righthand Fall, WI4

Lintojanvuori isn't particularly high, but it is long and there are another couple of sectors with ice on them that we didn't even have time to get to yesterday. It's a good cliff - I'm not sure why it hasn't ever been developed for summer climbing. I'd be interested to know if anyone has done any summer routes there. There are few good looking cracks at least - somewhat Kustavi-looking in style.

Tony gets going on Main Area Right Fall, WI 3. Note the really too sexy carbon fiber BD Cobras

Tony's new carbon fiber Black Diamond Cobras were a point of interest for the day. They really are rather beautiful bits of engineering. I've not tried carbon fiber tools before, and its a slightly weird feeling - like riding an aluminum framed bike for the first time after only having ridden steel steeds. It somehow felt more 'organic' like the tools had wooden shafts. But at the same time they felt more hollow - a somewhat unnerving feel. Probably like changing bikes, it just takes a bit of time to get used to - although Toni after top roping a completely crazy free standing pillar with them seemed to be plotting a kidnap attempt and seemed rather taken with them. Just because I'm jealous and want to be a downer, any fans of sexy carbon fiber should check out this rather amusing blog first.

Higher on the same route

So all in all - a pretty good day and good to get away from town and all the head-stress. Cheers fellas. Lets just hope for sunshine and blue skies for the next trip. Update: If anyone is interested, there is a very quick photo topo of the area of the cliff closest to the car parking here. It forms slightly differently season to season, and I suspect that WI grades don't really work for short routes like we get here, but at least if gives an idea of how steep the different bits of the ice flow is.

And again

A 'big-up' to the young woman working at some uncivilized early hour at the service station in Liljendal. After hearing me and Tony speaking in English she immediately started chatting to us in perfect English and was that absolute model of friendly, good service - something that isn't necessarily the norm in rural Finland. She gave an otherwise perfectly normal coffee'n'donuts stop, a bit of sparkle and reminds you that if you just give someone a smile and kind word it can start their day on a good footing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Too much of a good thing

Fox tracks on a lake, Kauhala.

Me the Corner Climb (M3-ish?), Angelniemi.

Dave leashless styling on another brutal start to an Angelniemi ice smear.

What ice climbing looks like if you are a cliff

I'm a bit behind in doing last weekend's ice climbing post - it has been a manic week. Too many promises made to many people to write things that are hard to write. C'est la vie. So it was a good weekend except I broke a crampon.

A dead Terminator

This could be something to be pissed off about, but oddly I'm not at all. Firstly it happened on the last route of the day so no climbing was missed out on. Secondly, it wasn't so catastrophic that the crampon fell off halfway up the route, so no dramatic falling off was involved. And thirdly it just makes me feel like a real 'core climber, because in the eight seasons I've had them, I've clearly done enough climbing to wear them out. In fact considering that basically crampons are designed for kicking stuff with, it is a credit to the designers and manufacturers at DMM that the things have lasted for as long as they have as I get to climb most weekends normally from November or December into March or April. That's quite a lot of kicking stuff with.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watching the Inauguration

I saw a bit of the concert for the President last Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial; it looked so cold and rather grey. I've got absolutely nothing against Shakira in rubber trousers, but I did worry that she must have been feeling a bit parky up there.

I was thinking that not even Barack can sort the weather out. But look now. Blue sky and sunshine. That man is simply too cool for school.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lock 'n' load/rock 'n' roll

Very, very long term readers of this blog might remember that I've pondered on the continuing attraction of black leather fingerless gloves to both terrorists and counter terrorist forces worldwide. Beyond the odd heavy metaller, the rest of us have moved well beyond that particular fashion dead end. But just take a butchers at these fine fellows:

These are Azeri special forces: uniforms, crevats and camo facepaint - all colour-coordinated and accessorized nicely with the obligatory black leather fingerless gloves. How cool is that? I wonder if they wear their knee pads round their ankles as well?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

American guns in Mexico

(Photo: ABC News) I reckon the drug war in Mexico was one of last years great non-stories in the media - always bubbling away in the background, some good journalism going on, but generally not getting huge attention. I had heard that most of the guns used by the criminals come from sales in the US, but I hadn't realised just in what huge amounts:
...the arms that cartels can and do buy from the open U.S. market -- completely illegally -- leave Mexico's police force and even its military outgunned. There are nearly 7,000 gun shops along the southern U.S. border, about three for every mile. They sell thousands of hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, and "cop killer" guns and bullets that cut through Kevlar body armor. The weapons quickly flow south, again with barely a nod from U.S. Border Patrol.
Can I just run that by any American readers - you can buy hand grenades and RPGs in gun shops? That is definitely a "WTF?" moment. The quote above comes from a very interesting piece at Foreign See this ABC News story as well.

I've just had another thought - watch John Stewart
and fast forward to to 4.20.

Everyone is doing the "if missiles were being fired from (insert you neighbour here) into (insert your city here), wouldn't you respond?" The Israeli ambassador to Finland was saying this the other day for instance. It's a fair enough question - and maybe the answer is yes. But how does that look from the Mexican government's point of view? "If hand grenades and cop-killing high powered hand and machine guns were flowing into your country from suppliers across the border in your neighbour - wouldn't you respond?"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A not-about-Gaza post

I've been asked to blog something about Gaza for work, and I've wanted to say something about it here as well, but I haven't yet. It's all too fucking miserable to be honest. I think Hamas have shown themselves again to be zealots who don't care who gets killed - including their own kids - if it makes their bizarre point. I think the Israeli leadership has shown itself to be crass and willing to play politics with other people's lives. The IDF has shown itself ready to use massive force recklessly and then to lie about their civilian killing mistakes - even when they surely were just that, mistakes. Too many pro-Palestianian protestors around the world have turned out to be religious zealots who are surfing a new wave of religious anti-semitism or ridiculously cockeyed anarcho-leftist types who are all about teenage posturing and are in it for the ruck as much as anything else. And too many of the pro-Israeli voices are ridiculously screaming "I'm the victim here!" which just makes them look foolish to any disinterested observer as the IDF artillery pounds Gaza and F16s and Cobra attack choppers swoop overhead. Meanwhile the Israeli people get further away from ever being able to live without fear and the Palestinian people continue to get pissed on from a great height. I wish I didn't care and that most people didn't deserve better, but they do - both Israelis and Palestinians.

Anyway, my day was hugely improved upon when by mistake on Youtube I found this:

One can not loose all faith in mankind when somewhere in Tokyo there is a man who dresses up in an Imperial Stormtrooper costume and dances for apparently no reason at all. Tokyo Dance Trooper, I salute you.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Axis of mediocrity: Today and M&S

(this picture is pants on just so many different levels)

This is really just for the British readers...

What is about the bloody Today Programme and Marks and Sparks? I'm sure if the M&S chief exec farted excessively it would become the 8.10 podcast from Today. They're obsessed with the place - and it all tends to whiff of the whinging Home Counties, middle class, middle brow demographic that many accuse Today of serving. Gaza burns, but we get to hear 10 minutes on Mark's crap sales figures. I swear Today have been doing the same story every quarter for last decade.

I suppose John Humphrys buys his y-fronts there or something.

On a vaguely related note I'm sad to read that Ed Stourton is leaving Today. He and Sarah are the two presenters that don't make want to hurl the radio at the wall for their general smugness and combativeness-to-the-point-of-pointlessness interviewing style. Yes Messrs Humphrys and Naughtie, I'm talking about you.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Getting the lowdown on Pitkäjärvi

So Christmas in the UK was pretty chilly by British standards, but arriving back in Finland it was good old proper cold. So I could hardly not go out and see how the ice was forming. Thanks to Nora for taking some pics, and Timo for belaying.

Timo and me umming and ahhing over whether the ice is thick enough for ice screws

At Nuuksionpää there was enough ice to climb - just, but not really enough to get any gear in. It was also -10 so the ice was brittle and fracturery (which should be a real word, even though it isn't). Hence a route that I've soloed many times before was, umm, quite exciting even with a rope on.

The answer: it's not

It's weird as there is no snow at all, but everything is very frozen as the temperature has been below -10 for much of the last week. This has made perfect skating conditions on the lakes.

Skaters on Pitkäjärvi

It's almost enough to make me go and buy some hiking skates, although more outdoor equipment might not make too popular with my family. The ice is so clear, you can see into the lake as well which is pretty neat.

Bubbles and pressure cracks