2017. It’s been one incredible year. From Dave MacLeod’s journey to St. Kilda, Natalie Berry’s various climbing projects and move to Chamonix, to German athlete Xari Mayr’s attempt at Ogre III and his solo ascent of Via Vertigine. It’s all been happening. Here’s a round-up from some of our Pro-Team on their 2017 year in review, and their hopes for 2018.
Q: 2017 has been a pretty dramatic year for you, how would you sum up the year in general?
A: 2017 could hardly have been more polarised for my climbing. At the turn of the year I was still recovering from a broken leg while attempting a new E8 in Sept 2016. That January I was struggling on 8b+ sport routes and feeling unfit and tentative on the rock.
But the poor winter for snow was a blessing in a way. It had me climbing every other day on my long-term boulder project in the Arisaig Cave. Climbing in the cave is very physical and a great place to gain strength.
20 odd sessions, plus a good helping of training at home had me back in really good shape by February and after a really exciting early March of getting higher and higher on it, I sent it to give Lithium 8B+. Certainly the hardest physical piece of climbing I’ve ever done.
I expected this project would keep me occupied for years if not forever. Buoyed from this I returned to another old boulder nemesis and spent a bit of time falling off the final move. This time I ran out of conditions in May and I was losing form from too many rest days while redpointing on Lithium. I had to admit defeat but just re-opened my account on this one last week and could still do the moves, so here we go again!
Q: Sounds like a busy year, regardless of injury! Have there been any particular highlights?
A: Sailing to St Kilda on Captain Bob Shepton’s wee boat to climb new routes with Natalie Berry was a great adventure and I was delighted to come away with multi pitch E7s and E8s after some very late nights on the crag to ensure we made the most of our time there.
But this was perhaps superseded by returning and completing Stronghold E8 6c on Binnein Shuas which I’d broken my leg on last time. It definitely blew away a dark cloud that was hanging over me.
I followed it up with several other E7s and another tough E8 up there. I also had a hard E9 all cleaned and ready to start trying when I got myself in another accident. While skateboarding with my daughter I separated my shoulder badly, rupturing all three ligaments.
Q: Ouch. Sounds painful. We saw snippets of your climbing rehab on your social accounts. How has the process been?
A: The rehab journey has been most rewarding. 3.5 hours daily physio had me back to climbing 8a+ in about seven weeks. It still feels a little weak but so often these setbacks kick you into a higher gear and you end up feeling stronger in the end. Which is just as well as my projects for the winter are all going to need rather a lot of strength. That E9 up on Shuas will still be there for next May, but the crux is a huge jump into an Iron Cross, so I will have to have a lot of rings sessions over the winter.
Q: Has there been any particular Mountain Equipment gear that you’ve loved wearing this year?
A: My favourite piece of ME kit this year has to be the Beta Pants! Every morning they go on it means the forecast is dry and I’m off to try a project!
Q: If only wearing Beta Pants kept the rain at bay all the time! So that’s 2017. How about 2018, are there any particular projects you’ve got in your diary?
A: Speaking of donning Beta Pants and going off new routing, during 2017 I spent about 5 days just walking around a new (as in untouched) climbing area near my home which has more unclimbed rock than I could manage in a whole lifetime.
It was so overwhelming I just ran about like a headless chicken looking at all the crags and boulders. I only had one day climbing there, right before my shoulder accident, and the poor autumn weather prevented me going back in October. So next year, the hundreds of boulders and crags in that glen are top of my list.
Q: 2017 has come and gone in a flash! How would you sum it up?
A: 2017 started with nervous anticipation, since I was still recovering from my torn finger pulley and was lamenting a less than ideal year of climbing in 2016.
The first trip to look forward to was a short sport climbing holiday in Siurana, where my finger finally felt better with no tweaks or pain. I started projecting some 8’s and vowed to return at some point.
Next stop was Finale Ligure, Italy with the UKClimbing.com team. Although the climbing was brilliant and the scenery stunning, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that my injury was giving me grief again; I suspect I had undone some of the healing process whilst bouldering on a cold day at Dumbarton Rock. Once again I was forced to be (over?) cautious and keep any tweaks in check.
Q: It sounds like this year has come with a few challenges injury-wise. But have there been any stand-out climbing experiences for you?
A: Next came the highlight of 2017, a sailing and climbing trip with Dave MacLeod, Chris Prescott and the legendary Cap’n Bob Shepton to St. Kilda.
As novice sailors, the trip over to the uninhabited island 50km off the west coast of the Outer Hebrides was as challenging as the new routes we established. An E7 and an E8 were snapped up on our two dry days of climbing; the rest of the time was spent in the tent in the pouring rain!
The landscape, the island’s history and its flora and fauna were simply incredible and I think it would be hard to find another place that would make such an impression on me.
Q: We’ve seen some of the photography and footage from this trip, and can’t wait for it to be released next year!
Q: So you’ve definitely been to some pretty amazing places this year. Has there been any Mountain Equipment kit that has been your go-to throughout the year?
A: My favourite bit of ME kit is hard to choose, since I’ve been so impressed with the new range of Women’s Rock Clothing generally.
The Women’s Triton Jacket, however, has been a constant throughout 2017, since it performs well on typical UK wet and cold days in town, at the crag or in snowy Chamonix. It keeps you warm and dry without fail!
Women’s Triton Jacket
Q: Well, that’s 2017 done! Any plans for 2018?
A: Having moved to Chamonix in the summer, I’m now looking forward to a winter of skiing and perhaps some ice climbing. Equally, though, I’d love to get stronger and re-build my confidence to pull hard and tick some hard sport and trad routes next spring.
Q: You’ve been working on some pretty big projects this year, Xari. How would you sum up your 2017?
A: It was a very good year for me without any serious injuries, which I’m very thankful for year after year. I’m very happy I could tick off some projects, which had been in my head for a long time, but of course there were less successful attempts like the Ogre III expedition in summer, too.
Q: Was there a climbing highlight for you in 2017?
A: I was lucky enough to spend some great days in the mountains with some good friends this year. One of my highlights was certainly the solo ascent on Via Vertigine, Monte Brento North Face (VI+, A2, 1000m), which made a little dream come true.
I spent two days in the wall and bivied in a hammock in the exposed headwall. Countless roofs and overhangs awaited me on the Monte Brento. Short daylight hours meant that each hold was only visible through the cast of my headlight. With bloody fingernails and torn blisters on my hands, I topped out at 21:40pm.
The Ogre III expedition in Pakistan was less successful, but that’s just how it goes. We chose to climb Ogre III on the very steep and direct route on the South Pillar. From base camp we started the first summit push, but our plans were suddenly dashed upon arrival at Camp II. The tent had been severely battered by an earlier storm and snowfall from the previous few days. And the weather was getting worse. We realised pretty quickly that time was running out.
Q: Is there a piece of Mountain Equipment kit that’s been your go-to clothing throughout the year?
A: That’s an easy one, I don’t have to think a second about it. The Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee was my go-to piece throughout the whole year for ice climbing, on expedition or simply to go out for a run in cooler weather.
Eclipse Hooded Zip Tee
Q: Do you have any big trips planned for 2018?
That’s something I don’t want to give away, but I can tell you this much: there’s no expedition or traveling planned, but I will be focussing on some projects in the Alps, stay tuned!