I'm a woman

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

Friday, 15 September 2017

Free Climbing is not Free! by Stevie not Free Haston.

You know the term Free Climbing, but have you ever paused to think, is it free? Or how free, freeish perhaps? Free Diving, is not exactly Free unless your a lotus eater living by the sea. Terms of endearment, or willy waving terms to big up the protagonist? Freedom was a big massive word when I was young, its still the biggest word in my vocabulary, but the meaning seems lost to me now.

 3 years ago, stretchy rope, inattentive belayed, work the next day!

Four years ago I pulled out of a big race, my knee collapsed, I had been up in the first twenty places for bits, I had trained for nearly a year and wanted to place fairly high, the injury was certainly free!

 Free?

Free Ride was the upmarket term for what I had always done, which was to ski off piste in the mountains! Suddenly every Nob, and his Dog was doing it! The gear certainly got nicer! It came at a cost of course, the authorities started to shut things, and put barriers up, saying danger and other obvious stuff!


 Chicks for free?

There's lots of songs about Free, strangely they all seem to cost money. Where's my interesting life, where's my interesting wife, wheres my fast car? The sea was full of plastic today, the southern wind kept all the carbage pressed on the southern coast, more plastic than fish.

 Free Lunch, or poison?

I dearly want to go back to Dresden Sandstone, in the old days I would have hitch hiked and dossed down in caves, and it would've cost me nothing but time! Today most places don't allow hitch hiking, or it's kept to a minimum, and you can't stay in caves in Dresden, it's verboten!

 7c, six bolts, about 130 foot, free becomes a relative term.

The above climb is fast receding, I won't have the level soon, old age will forbid it, or the social police will drag me away as being to old to risk my life. A friend posted a photo of an early attempt at Salathe wall just before Todd and Pianna did it, he didn't, he had other things to do, his life was not free. In reality Freedom is way too big a word for humans. It's a term that can only apply to animals, not social and confined humans.  

Big fish, was free, now dead.

Free, not really, already caught it was dying at 18 meters depth! Trapped in line it drowned, I couldnt free it, perhaps I,ll eat it, or feed it to the stray cats. The stray cats are free, they breed, and most die, some live a short while, and breed before they die, some climb the tree they are born under, but they don't have a word for Free climbing, they beg for food as there arnt the free animal resources in the village to sustain them. Am I like one of these stray cats I wondered today? Like them, I have no concept of freedom. I felt free for a few hours climbing over rocks and swimming this morning, but then I do not go back to my cave, I go back to my apartment, and clean my expensive carbon fins, and classify my day into words. Maybe I,ll drink several beers…… and fall off my balcony…shades of ….a friend… who once new freedom… and couldn't cope with the chains of being ordinary.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Gozo is going, by Stevie gone Haston.

Gozo just featured in the German mag Klettern, it is not a bad spread. Words by me, some photos not by me, or by my dearest, poverty does not allow for a good photo machine at the moment! Double shot (admittedly very good) was by some yanks, Americans only contribution recently were a few dangerous, now rusty bolts. To be fair, the Canadian Sonny Trotter, added a few sweet deep water solos a decade ago, but he is Canadian!

 In Charlottesville America they want to tear down some ex slavers statues, meanwhile in the UK we honour one dollop of a human nasty racist with being on the £5 note, mind you it will soon be worth 5 shillings!

Gozo just got some rain, and we saw a few more German climbers, if you want a few more climbs, donate to my fund for more routes, access, and safety. The new guide book to the climbing here might have the deepwater soloing in it, what do you think? I hesitated to have it in, and finally didn't because our deep water stuff here can be very high! Lots of good stuff goes over 15 meters, topping out can be very high!

 Ray Charles visited me recently.

 the route portrayed here on this page is 40 meets and lots of bolts, they should be of Titanium. The route just to the right is easier 6a, not in the present guide book, and 43 meters, even more bolts! Expensive!


Gozo is still very beautiful, routes etc, but now that some of the summer tourists are going its breathing again...

It's raining today, first for months and months, winter is coming, and I need to do at least 20 new routes! 
Saw a Sea Horse the other day, Verner a diving instructor noticed us free diving and very kindly signalled to us, and we went down, and saw it, just mind you, their cammo is amazing, thanks Verner! The world does not go around because of money, it is pushed and heaved around by people doing good things, and showing me Sea Horses.  

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

The Art of Freedom review by Stevie Haston.

Hello fellow bookworms, have you been doing pull ups for your eyes? Have you read anything lately? Attach safety belts, and recline, read this book. 

 Never judge a book by its cover! Since when in our busy lives did we ever obey that great commandment!

So I have reread this book already, and I reread Bernadette's other necessary book Freedom Climbers, why? Well it's necessary reading, it's compulsory reading in fact, I mean it. With out reference we just float around, begging to be rescued from the morass of the sea! In this clumsy reference, the morass refers to climbing mags, and the blurb that climbers put out about themselves, long past is the time when our ascents spoke for themselves. An example might be an interview of the first Soloist of Freerider, and on the cover is an anonymous blode bimbette-does this seem right to you?   

 Mr Kurtyka who are you sir? Does a himalayist have any relevance in the world of rock climbing-please answer.

Kurtyka and his mates forged some of my own climbing, and not necessarily in the big mountains either.This groups influence was profound and still lingers on. Perhaps today the Visigoths that we all were are now absorbed Roman citizens, and dont care about fighting cold high mountains, but I will soldier on dreaming.
Mountains are big things, they are symbolic barriers, and heavens, and the abodes of the gods, mere mortals must lay at their feet and worship. Well not quite, you can be rich today and be telliported to the summit on oxygen, and other drugs by one of the great rip off, and support nasty regimes incoperated, or you can be a Kurtyka or indeed his oppo, Kukuszka. Your choice.

 this photo is the rebirth of great climbing for me! John Porter, and the great Alex Machintyre and Voyek. from the book this photo by John Porter sums up climbing for me, a few lads joined together in an unknown land, sorting the diet out, secretly wondering if they will live and love again.

A pet hate of mine is nationalism, and climbing writing is full of it, a weird thing as climbers themselves as a group are way above this slimy emotion for the most part. Anyway why do we adore the Polish climbers to this day? Well this book of McDonald goes much of the way in explaining why. They were brave, they were bold, they were visionary, and they were over there in the himalaya doing it, not just talking about it.



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Bernadette McDonald has done a great service to us all with this book from the peculiarly secretive Kurtyka, a man who has often hid himself from the lime light, and refused those baubles that lesser climbers crave, and grovel for-medals for mountains!This book is a must read, and it brought chills down my spine as I somehow felt the air thinning, and the chill entering my safe bedroom, as I read of the ascent of Gasherbrun 4, this ascent more than any others seems to prick every climbers bubble of self worth, and it shines above. Why? Well read the book. But your a sports climber you say, we are all sports climbers compared to Kurtyka, and Kukuszka, and Alex,  et al, we are just deluded and in love with our own image. Modern magazines do not differentiate between a blonde bimmbette, and Alex the Soloer of Freerider, so how can they talk of the privations of running out of food,  or loosing your way. As I talk of loosing the way at altitude, you must read the book for the glimpse into the relationship between Kukuszka, and Kurtyka, it's an essential Mephistophelian tale, you can bung Messener in to the mix too, just to add to the flavour. I will perforce explain as you might otherwise loose the thread- the essential selling out of climbing in the collection of Peaks, as Messner and Kukuszka did was alien to Voytek.
I will leave you there with question or statement, selling out, it's the modern way, is it the way?

Art of Freedom by Bernadette McDonald, the ice and times of Voytek Kurtyka, published by Vertebrate press.

   


Monday, 4 September 2017

Continuity in Cornwall by Stevie stuck Haston.

An invitation to voyage came through the Cornwall Climbing Club, so I went and did a lecture for them!
I wanted t see Cornwall again, touch granite, and stare into the Atlantic, and feel 50% of my Viking genes throbbing.

 Kurt Albert, he has gone climbing somewhere else..

The lecture went well, it always does, although subdued by copious quantities of beer, Laurence Gouaults photos spoke for themselves. From Snowboarding high Himalayan Peaks, to small rocks, my little life sparkles, sometimes.   

 Bernd Arnold…. he is still climbing on this sweet planet.

Fly by plane, train to Penzance, car to a cottage by the sea, a girl called Sarah picked me up-she looked vaguely familiar. Sure enough we knew each other through the magic of North Wales…ah North Wales sea cliffs… what could be more fabulous…well Corwall perhaps.

 Gabriel Regan and I, still pulling down.

So I met old "oppos", Chriss Ripple Grifiths, Eggy, and then Gabe! If you don't know who Gabe is you haven't done anything on Grit, Gabe is Grit. He was pure distileds inspiration, bold and gifted, he was the leader of our little tribe centred around dossing in the Woodshed, and on Windy Ledge at Stoney Middleton way back in the Peak district dark ages. 

 Gabe watching his daughter climb on Trean Beach.

Climbing is not just a collection of numbers, although we speak of 9c grade sport climbs, and 8000 meter peaks, climbing is more, it is grit in the soul, it is the Atlantic wind blowing my hair on an early ascent of America on Carn Gowler cliff with big 40 foot waves!

 Trean people…..
notably my old "oppo" Eggy -on the left.

A young man called Voytek had kindly put chalk on all the boulders at the beach with his oppo (name please), their kindness allowed us (40 people) to enjoy this great bouldering area with soft sand lubricated with beer. Community can be a continuous thing, an organic thing, stretching across continents, oceans and peoples! I am fairly proud to be part of the climbing tribe!

 the rain came…so what… it came late.

I didn't want to leave, I'll probably go back, after all a few classic climbs escaped my grasp in the South West of Abdominal Albion. 

Gozo as I arrived home, sparking a bit, fluttering its eye lashes at me..

Well thats it folks. Bye, energy for blogs is being hampered by living. A big up to Ripple, and Eggy, and Gabe, a big up to the small community of climbers in Cornwall, a big up to the sea, and the three dolphins and the seal I saw in the 17° water. A really big Fuck U to Ryan Air  that kept me waiting, and where as usual horrible. I,ll just leave with a short political comment, Bristol did not have the crazy amounts of Pawn Shops when I went through it all those years ago! The UK has Pawn Shops, Food Banks, and CCT cameras, England is not dying as the Water boys once sang, but being sold off.  

Friday, 25 August 2017

Maurice Fargues by Stevie not Maurice Haston.

"The sea is calm, the sky is clear", these are the words spoken in his honour at a ceremony celebrating his death. Who was Maurice Fargues?

Maurice was a friend  of Jacques Cousteau who was second in command of a navy project which was experimenting with tanks of air and diving. Maurice was a young man of 34 with two kids, and had previously pulled out the now famous Cousteau, and his other boss out of the Fontaine de  Voucluse when they got Nitrogen narcosis compounded by carbon monoxide! This was the forefront of human exploration, as captivating, or more to me than future moon landings!

Why does Maurices death still affect me? You have to go back in time to how a young boys mind works-and of course "working mind" is perhaps not the term which is most accurate in describing with male brain function.

My young mind and perhaps it is egotistical to speak only of my mind but mine was seriously affected by thoughts of adventure! People who are my age, and a little bit older where fundamentally affected by Jacques Cousteau, and another man called Marcel Ichac - this is even more true in France. Although French, Cousteau was all over the UK cinema, he made great little films, and had that modest intelligent demeanour that has largely disappeared from sportsmen's portfolio. Cousteau when he was a kid had teamed  up with Marcel Ichac in Megeve, just a long stones throw from the mecca of World Alpinism! Synchronicity is a funny thing-isnt it? Marcel ended up the Alpinist chap who did a documentary about Annapurna,  and of course Cousteau did the underwater stuff-the two other Poles of the Earth. My little life has been fundamentally damaged, or enhanced by all this propaganda. I guess without these two guys Ichac and Cousteau, and the caving book by the frenchman …. I would not be who I am.

Now back to Maurice Fargues. Maurice died on the end of a rope at 120meters depth, he had successfully signed his name on a slate, but then for obvious reasons (nitrogen narcosis) started his journey towards death. He died on normal air -air becomes toxic at -66 meters, or even before.
He died in an experiment to understand depth and air toxicity, in doing so he saved lives. He was a French Navy diver and there is a room some where named after him in a Naval school- better than the small polluted round about named after Lionel Terray in Chamonix! Ichac did a documentary about Lionel which I haven't seen BTW-hope it was good.





So now you know who Maurice Fargues was! Thanks Maurice for your service.

As a footnote I would like to mention Cousteaus brother Antoine who was nasty piece of work, and who wrote a paper during the war with very dubious  content, he was anti semitic,

    Diving and climbing are accessible to all thanks to the few who went before.


Me warding of Nitrogen narcosis…thanks Maurice.


and defended collaboration even after the war, he spoke in favour of internment of Jews
 that earned him the death penalty. This sentence was commuted to a long prison term. Cousteau kept a very long arms distance away from his sibling, and was of a profoundly different structure, but I would, I think be remiss in not mentioning this evil. Evil is there, it can even appear in our own sport, climbers are not immune from being dicks, or worse. Climbers being dragged into the Nazi propaganda machine is an easy example of it.   Anyway here is me raising a glass to diving and climbing, sometimes the confusing thing about people is they can do something great with their left hand, but something awful with the right. It took me two broken legs to understand the ground was hard, other moral and political lessons seem to be getting confused in todays silly times.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Controversy, gear and fear, by Stevie Shaking Haston.

 A little light discussion might follow! Those of an argumentative nature should probably talk about football, or politics.

This arch of beautiful rock has gone the way of many humans,poof it is no more. The Azure Window as it was viewed by my dog who was more interested in sniffing out human shit.


The world changes, "nuffing" as they say stays the same. A sea arch falls down and a nation goes into mourning, albeit a small tiny nation.  The temperature of the earth changes and what happens to peoples psyche-shit they just buy more sun tan lotion! People are truly dumb, Trump master bating (baking he certainly nurtured them) the Nazi and other evil deviants. The Nation Health Service  in the UK is being sold to people like Richard Branson, and nobody seems to care. Well.

 My little life betwixt the sky and the sea floor.

The rescue services of Chamonix, guys I used to boulder with, and who would risk their lives to save my sorry ass have recently issued some guide lines about equipment. Nothing terrible an ax, crampons, suitable foot wear, and a down jacket, strangely enough I have nearly always taken just that. Sometimes a little cord was added for rappels or crevasses! It sufficed for hundreds, or thousands of routes. Was I safe-who knows-but at least I covered my bases. Is a runner in trainers safe on the MontBlanc, well depends on the runner, but generally we would have to say, no he isn't equipped. Was Honnold well equipped on Freerider? Yes I think he was. Would I have been safe on Freerider with the same gear? Of course not, my mental equipment, and skill level were and are inadequate. 

 An old tradition of Lace making, my mother and her mother did it,we try to keep it alive, but very few care.

Some things change,climbing has changed, but being cold and slipping down towards a crevasse are largely the same I would say. So kit up. I have always said that racing is for the track, even though I have raced in the mountains. The time for the Blanc can only go down by a few mins, and if you ask me the real time is a good bit slowed. 

 Naked before the Fan.

Naked Before the Mountain was the title of a book by  who? Certainly not a runner, naked this, Alpine style that, Naked Climbing was a term of Voytek used to differentiate his ascents from lower climbers, Fast and Free was a term I like, and grew up with and even propounded. They are all just marketing in many ways. The book about Voytek which I will review next goes into detail how Voytek thinks his best climbing partner was locked into a competitive battle with Messener to climb all 8000sand meter peaks-well of course he was! But Voyteks very climbing was the same, it was all one upmanship.

When you are in an Alien environment you must take certain precautions- you are a visitor only!

I spend time in the water, probably half my free time is in the water, I know the sea since a child, it is not my friend, but I still love the sea. I treat the sea with huge respect, different equipment choices, I never race the sea, never. Do I go into it naked-yes I do. I sometimes have used tanks of air, and I also free dive-is one better than the other-no it isn't. In the mountains with snow and ice and crevasses, an ax is a very handy bit of kit, so are a good appropriate pair of shoes with some spikes on it. Have more Fun and success, but engage brain, its an often neglected bit of kit.

Monday, 14 August 2017

The Art of Freedom, a biography of Voytek Kurtyka by Bernadette McDonald reviewed by Stevie Haston.

So looked in my mail box, and found what I been waiting for-the book arrived. Like a bright cloud on a grey day, it's a happy sight,  promise of a change in the weather, or in this case a good few hours immersed in mountains.

 the long awaited book.

Is it better to do or to read about the doing by others? In the case of Voytek, maybe we all can just rest calm, lie on the sofa and enjoy his climbs. Can one enjoy the first ascent of the mythic West Face of Gasherbrum 1V, which Kurtyka and Schauer did all those years ago? Can one visit the day when standards were perhaps frozen? We will see, for as yet the book is open, or opened at odd photos which sometimes trigger emotions and memories. 


John Porters photo of the 1978 team of Porter, Zurek, Kurtyka, and Dirty Alex MacIntyre.

I have been climbing in the morning,  Free Dived in the early afternoon, and now I will vicariously share steep, startling difficult climbs, on my sofa. In the picture above you will see a big rucsacs carried by slight men, their houses and futures loaded on their backs, refugees from the modern world trying to rediscover pre second world war commitment. Kurtyka has often hidden, or ducked interviews, and celebrity, perhaps this book will tell us why. Soon I will share my impressions of this book, of this great climber, until then take it from me, the thoughts of some of these climbs sends shivers down my weak spine. Bye from the sofa.


The Book is published by Vertebrate publishing, and Rocky Mountain Books Canada.