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Factor Two


Factor Two is a climbing podcast with impact, brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com. It brings you the best climbing stories straight from the people at their heart - and the best climbing stories are always about a little bit more than just climbing. https://www.factortwo.co.uk


United States


Factor Two is a climbing podcast with impact, brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com. It brings you the best climbing stories straight from the people at their heart - and the best climbing stories are always about a little bit more than just climbing. https://www.factortwo.co.uk




Birth Pains of New Nations - Pete Oxley

The whims and motivations of climbers really are another world to the person in the street. Understanding them is crossing a threshold, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief to start to see the world of risk, adventure, suffering and more in a different light. Those thresholds exist within climbing too. One of them is understanding the obsessive new-router. I think we can all appreciate the buzz of discovering something no-one else has done. We could probably imagine cleaning something, maybe even drilling some bolts, although I bet few of us have actually done it. Even fewer can really get inside the mindset of the truly obsessed. That person who will plough time and money that could be used on trips and climbing into finding, cleaning and climbing new routes. Pete Oxley is one of these people, and what fascinates me about him, and others who were new routing at the same time, is the sheer volume of routes he was putting up - more than 800 new routes, many in Dorset, but also in Avon and Cheddar, the Peak District and south and west Wales. His output is probably only surpassed by Gary Gibson, Martin Crocker and Pat Littlejohn. Pete’s opened up routes of all grades, but was responsible for some of the hardest lines around, including Laughing Arthur, E8 6b, and Infinite Gravity, F8a+, both taking on the impressive overhangs at Blacker’s Hole in Swanage. Pete was also part of a new wave of climbing in the 1980s, with new ideas and a pushback against traditional ethics. That tradition is particularly strong in Britain - we don’t like bolts. Or, rather, we didn’t like them. When Pete started his new routing activities the direction of climbing was changing. He had a reasonably traditional induction in some ways, spending years trad climbing before really becoming obsessed with bolting lines, but also a rather insular way of creating his own routes and problems, coming up with training methods and opening up unusual venues, like railway bridges. At the time, continental ideas about sport climbing and bolting were creeping into the UK. There was still an abundance of rock to be climbed, if you knew where to look, and there were venues where, today, it seems obvious that you’d bolt them. But back then that wasn’t the case - someone needed to be the first, and they had to have a thick skin to weather the storm of criticism that would follow. Pete’s routes emerged, through a few mistakes and accidents along the way, as one of the biggest legacies of the era. If you’ve climbed on Portland or Swanage you’ve almost certainly done one of his routes, and you’ve probably clipped his home-made bolts. In order to achieve this legacy Pete lived on the dole, like many UK climbers in the 1980s. He was probably the only full-time climber in south-west England at the time. He invested his time in training, finding and cleaning new routes, testing out new ideas for bolts and enjoying the creativity of the sport. His unusual drive - spending many days alone on the sea cliffs bolting and cleaning, in all conditions - have created a legacy for the climbing community. In this episode I talked to Pete about the source of this motivation, the development of Dorset as a sport climbing destination, and why he was so inspired by the late John Peel - a parallel story of a new creative independence in climbing, matched by the growing indie music scene. Pete would like to thank his partner of 29 years, Jan Rostrom, his parents and the Portland Pipers (they know who they are) for their support over the years. Sign up to the newsletter at: https://factortwo.co.uk You can follow Factor Two on Facebook. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


Hateja - Louise Thomas and Glenda Huxter

If you had to select your late 90s dream team for a British, all-female Himalayan big wall trip, you couldn’t go far wrong with this one. Glenda Huxter was onsighting E7, Kath Pyke had extensive experience on rock and alpine routes, and Louise Thomas brought even more big wall and expedition experience to the team. Their 1997 objective was a first ascent on Beatrice, by chance the first Himalayan Peak named after a woman: British mountaineer Beatrice Tomasson. The south-east face of Beatrice towers over the Charakusa glacier in the K7 region of the Karakoram. The base of the granite wall starts at over 5000m, leading to the summit ridge at around 5800m. They were joined at base camp by Mike “Twid” Turner (now Louise’s husband, who featured in the episode Brave New World), Grant Farquhar and Steve Mayers, who were also attempting a line on the face. The dream of a pure all-female ascent crumbled fairly quickly when an initial reconnaissance revealed only one line of weakness through the overhangs at the base of the wall. The two teams worked together to overcome this section, with Louise establishing difficult aid pitches, and they found a higher camp above the difficulties for their portaledges. From this point the boys went right and the girls left. Over the course of several weeks, they endured poor weather and problems with altitude sickness, but they pressed on. The face was putting up a fight, but the boys had found the easier line and eventually topped out on the wall. The summit itself was a dangerous, loose ridge traverse away, so like subsequent teams they avoided it. The girls were left in a difficult position. They were committed on the wall and had put in weeks of effort to get this far, but time was running out. They had one day left to push for the top. They formed a plan. With an alpine start, they would press on as far as they could and hopefully make the top before a self-imposed cut-off time, but the weather had other ideas. They woke to fresh snow and all seemed lost, so they zipped up the flysheet and got back into their sleeping bags, resigned to retrieving their gear and making the long abseil retreat. But luck was on their side after all. With a later start they headed back up their fixed ropes and, as they neared the top, the weather cleared. They decided to press on to see how far they could get, and the wall started to relent. Their cut-off time came and went, but they kept climbing, determined to make the summit. They made it, late in the day, but elated. The descent was arduous, with huge haulbags, hundreds of metres of rope and one shredded sheath before reaching their advanced base camp on the glacier. It’s a testament to the determination of the team that they were able to push on right to the end, but also to the talent they had brought to this expedition. They called their route “Hateja”, meaning “Strong-willed, determined lady” - a suggestion from their base camp cook - and graded it ED+ A3+ 750m. In this episode, I spoke to Louise and Glenda about their experience of the expedition and what had helped them to dig deep on that final day. Follow Factor Two on Facebook or Instagram. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


Finding the Balance - Katherine Schirrmacher

We all get enjoyment from climbing for different reasons. For many of us those reasons change over time, according to our geography, time, money and other pressures in our lives. I’ve read Katherine Schirrmacher’s blog for years, and she’s unusually good at expressing all of those little things that can affect your motivation or self belief. Like many of us, she was excited for the adventure of trad climbing in her early days, but she became an all-rounder; sport climbing, bouldering and competing as part of the British team. Being good at climbing can be a really satisfying thing, but if you spread yourself too thin, in too many disciplines that’s hard work. When you’re young and free you can sustain the energy needed, but as you get older all of those other features of life - work, children, relationships - creep in and put pressures on that time you were so eager to use for climbing. You pick up injuries, or can’t get out so easily when conditions are good, and when you’ve been so focussed on your performance that it’s hard to reel back. So how do you find a balance? For Katherine, it’s been about understanding what really brings her happiness in climbing. It could be giving herself permission to try a route, or leave it for another day. It might be focussing on the great friendships she has in the sport. It might be the sense of being in a beautiful place, or moving well on the rock. And, of course, it could still be climbing hard, but on her own terms. Many of us use climbing as an escape, but Katherine told me she’s learned to appreciate just how central it is in her life. In doing so she’s been able to find ways to match her goals to the things that will really make her happy, and she’s done so by listening to how others do the same. You can find Katherine on her website at lovetoclimb.co.uk and on Instagram @katherine.schirrmacher Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Follow Factor Two on Facebook or Instagram. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


El Capitan - a film by Fred Padula

In the spring of 1968 San Francisco film maker, Fred Padula, drove into the Yosemite Valley and gazed up at El Capitan. He had been approached by one of his film students, Glen Denny, a talented climber and photographer, to advise on making a film about climbing The Nose. Denny had been part of the team that made the third ascent of the route. He’d also made the first ascent of the Dihedral Wall and was well connected in big wall circles. The concept was to create a film that would be as awe-inspiring as climbing The Nose. The logistics of such a film felt impossible to Padula at first. The Arriflex camera alone weighed 6.5kg, without film, and filming capacity was measured in feet, not Gigabytes in those days. A 100 foot reel was just 160 seconds of footage, and changing the reel on the wall in bright sunlight was so awkward that they’d lose 40 seconds of that every time. Recording sound was no simpler. Padula had a 4-track recorder specially made as there were no commercial models. He had to experiment with masts to be able to receive a strong enough signal from the climbers’ microphones. After all of this effort only 2 of the mics worked. After much negotiation they found a team - Richard McCracken, Gary Colliver and Lito Tejada-Flores. They’d need money too. Denny approached the founder of The North Face, Douglas Tompkins, who had recently sold his San Francisco shops and was looking to invest in adventure films. With money from Padula, Denny, “Cado” Avenali and Tompkins they had what seemed like a healthy budget of around $30,000 - more than $200,000 at today’s prices. The problems with filming took their toll, however. Tompkins had been inspired by his friend Bruce Brown, who had become a millionaire after his legendary surf film The Endless Summer was released a few years earlier. Brown is credited with kickstarting a surf-travel lifestyle that was a boon to brands and the sport. Tompkins wanted a piece of that action and was starting to realise that the slow pace of both the film and the climbers wasn’t going to replicate the excitement of The Endless Summer. Unbeknown to Padula, Tompkins left the project and withdrew his money. Padula was left as producer, deeply in debt and with limited idea of what the film was supposed to be. They finished the filming on the wall and he and Denny continued to film scenery shots around Yosemite, before Denny also got cold feet and abandoned the project, asking Padula to destroy the footage. After a day in court Padula was left with the film and the debts. Over several years the film sat in his San Francisco basement while he paid off the debts and got hassled by different people over when the film would be made, either because they wanted to see it, or in Avenali’s case because he wanted a return on his investment. With the help of Tejada-Flores and McCracken, Padula laid out the film and the sound and got to work on creating his vision of what the film could be. In 1978, ten years after filming first started, he released El Capitan to much acclaim. It went on to win the Grand Prize at the 1979 Banff Film Festival. In this episode Fred Padula and Richard McCracken talk about making the film and the challenges they faced in both climbing the route and filming on it. Factor Two is produced by Wil Treasure for UKClimbing.com Find us on Instagram @factor.two Music in this episode is from Blue Dot Sessions.


Hard Grit - Rich Heap, Niall Grimes and Seb Grieve

When it was released in 1998, Hard Grit gave us an insight into something we didn’t often see - the actual ascents of the hardest, most dangerous lines on grit. In an era before everyone had a smartphone, before digital photography was even mainstream, many of the photos we saw in the magazines were staged. The hardest lines captured on video were often toproped reconstructions. Hard Grit changed that, by virtue of a few lucky coincidences and a lot of hard work. Director Rich Heap had helped Johnny Dawes with some of the editing on his film Best Forgotten Art. Johnny left for a roadtrip in America, and Rich was left with his camera. Without much of a plan he started filming some routes on the grit. Being a talented climber himself, and living with Seb Grieve, meant that he had access to the grapevine of some of the boldest and best climbers around. He started to amass some interesting footage. Then one day at Black Rocks he captured the scenes that would bookend the film - Seb’s first ascent of Meshuga and Jean-Minh Trin-Thieu’s famous lob off Gaia - and he realised he had something special. Realising he had a film on his hands, Rich enlisted the help of Mark Turnbull to act as producer. The pair set about building on his footage. They created a loose storyline around the history of gritstone climbing, presented by Niall Grimes. In the process a new mythology around these ascents was born, and had an international impact. One of the central themes to the film was the madness of the whole thing. That madness was embodied by Seb Grieve, shouting and talking to himself on the most terrifying ascents. But Seb wasn’t mad, he’d practiced the routes carefully, he’d made detailed notes about the gear and, crucially, he’d actually looked closely at the “shipwreck” of a flake on Parthian Shot. Seb is the film's have-a-go hero, but he had a healthy CV of hard ascents already, including early repeats of Braille Trail and Gaia. In this episode Seb, Niall and Rich recall how Hard Grit came about and how it became a part of the climbing culture it reflected. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Follow Factor Two on Facebook or Instagram. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


A Play for Voices - Helen Mort and Anna Fleming

When you look at the books on a shelf of mountaineering literature one thing is quickly apparent: the vast majority are written by men. The same is true with the episodes I’ve produced for Factor Two. The simple fact is that there have historically been more men engaged in the kind of adventures that we choose to tell those high profile stories about. The kind of stories I’ve sought out have often fitted a similar mould. I came into this episode with a simplistic question. Would those stories be different if the protagonists were women? Back in 1987 Dave Cook addressed the International Festival of Mountaineering Literature with his keynote speech, Running on Empty. He argued that climbing writing was becoming stale and insular and needed to be prepared to “push the hyperspace button”. He wanted to see writing which embraced wider topics in the world and became more inclusive of ideas and people. Writing should talk about people as lovers, workers, genders and we should see the mountains not just as a playground, but as the ecosystem of which we are a part. Sound familiar? We often forget the fact that most of what we deem to be success or progress in climbing is socially defined. Our stories are important because they become the unifier - they help us understand community expectations and goals. Of course, there’s a good dose of vicarious glory to be wallowed in as well, but we often overlook that what we want to celebrate isn’t some objective reality - it’s the subjectivity of good stories. To explore this I sought the help of Helen Mort and Anna Fleming, both writers and climbers. I wanted to understand whether they’d been inspired by the same stories in the same ways that I had. Are we meeting the challenge that Dave Cook laid down more than 30 years ago? Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com You can find writing from Anna and Helen on their websites: Thegranitesea.wordpress.com helenmort.com Follow Factor Two on Facebook or Instagram. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


Brave New World - Tom Livingstone and Twid Turner

It’s hard to be truly disconnected these days. Even in the weirdness of isolation over the past few months many of us have been working from home, constantly bothered by the connections around us. Sometimes it’s just a little too much. I’ve missed the isolation of the mountains, but even they aren’t as isolated as they used to be. In most places in the UK you’re not far from a phone signal. If you’re calling for help that’s great, but if you’re trying to escape it’s not so good. There’s the expectation of contact now. In expedition terms this can mean live-streaming your ascent, even from some of the most remote spots on Earth. It means always having the ability to call for a rescue - and we’ve seen a lot of debate about putting rescuers at risk as the hills open up recently. In the more remote parts of the world rescue may be even more hazardous, or not possible. Where do we draw the line here? Are we just a bit too connected these days? In this episode I followed two stories. Piolet D’Or recipient Tom Livingstone told me about calling for a chopper on the descent from Koyo Zum in Autumn 2019, after his partner Ally Swinton had fallen into a crevasse and sustained a serious head injury. They had a text-only satphone, so were able to send out an SOS and receive some messages, but had a nervous 28 hour wait for help to arrive. The second story is from Mike “Twid” Turner, one of the world’s most accomplished expedition climbers. He told me about being trapped in Alaska with Stu McAleese 20 years ago, with food dwindling on a melting glacier and a malfunctioning satphone that meant they couldn’t call out. The Cessna that was due to pick them up was delayed. Despite the glorious weather in the Kichatna Spires where they were climbing, poor weather in Talkeetna had grounded the flights. So they waited - for 15 days. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Find Tom Livingstone at tomlivingstone.com or on Instagram @tom__livingstone Find Mike "Twid" Turner at themountainguidingcompany.co.uk You can follow Factor Two on Facebook and Instagram @factor.two Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


Deep Play - Neil Gresham and Dr Rebecca Williams

"I climb better when I'm scared." I've heard this quite a few times. I even thought it was true about myself for a while in my earlier climbing career, but it surely can't be true? After speaking with Hazel Findlay about maintaining the bubble of a flow state in the last episode, there was one part of her account which reminded me of something else. Something different. Hazel's story was about maintaining concentration and avoiding falling back into a distracted mind while climbing at her limit. Magic Line has spaced and difficult to place gear, but the physical danger was a small part of the equation. The distractions were the same social and performance anxieties that most of us deal with, coupled with an added expectation as a professional climber. When Hazel hit the rest just before the final boulder problem on Magic Line she burst out of her bubble of concentration and had to fight hard to rebuild it to finish the route. It reminded me of something. After flicking through some old magazines and guidebooks it dawned on me - Neil Gresham's account of climbing the Indian Face in 1994. Neil had described how his body was being torn apart by his mind on the final moves to the finishing jug. Anchored to that jug he had felt a wash of regret and joy at being alive. Unlike Hazel he had been completely distracted by a genuine fear of his impending death. He'd ridden it right to the edge on one of the most dangerous routes in the country. Despite this experience he went on to attempt Meshuga at Black Rocks a few years later - taking a bad fall on the unprotected section of the route and tumbling through the boulders below, sustaining a head injury that took him the best part of a year to recover from. He returned in 1999 and made the second ascent of the route. This decade of risk taking culminated in the second ascent of Equilibrium at Burbage South. He put everything he had learned into this route, physically and mentally, and when it was done he decided that was enough. He didn't want to risk his life for these routes again. On the Indian Face Neil described how close he came to falling off the crux, high on the face above questionable protection, certain that he would die. What was it that kept him on? With the tension building his calves were shaking, his tips were sweaty and his mind was wandering. He says he thought he was off, but something screamed inside him and kept him on the rock. Is there something primal that drives the urge to survive strongly enough that you can keep it together when it really matters? What was it that Neil had experienced in extremis on the Indian Face? And why would he put himself in that position again? In this episode I try to answer these questions by following Neil through the 3 ascents and understanding what's really going on in his mind, with help from clinical psychologist Dr Rebecca Williams. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Neil Gresham offers training and coaching services at NeilGresham.com. Dr Rebecca Williams is a psychological coach for climbers and a consultant clinical psychologist. You can find more information on her website at smartclimbing.co.uk. You can follow Factor Two on Facebook. Wil Treasure on Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: All music in this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions.


Walking the Magic Line - Hazel Findlay and Dr Rebecca Williams

Flow is a concept that can divide in climbing. For Dave Thomas it was the joyous experience that removed him from other problems in life. For Mina Leslie-Wujastyk it was a performance tool. Mina told me that a lot of her understanding of flow had come from conversations with Hazel Findlay and it had helped her to develop a different mindset both on and off the rock. Off the back of these interviews I wanted to know more, both to understand flow as a scientific concept and as a more ethereal tool for self fulfillment. That journey took me down some interesting paths in climbing, from the writings of George Mallory to US legend Doug Robinson, to an understanding of how flow can improve our physical performance or our wellbeing. Through conversations with Hazel Findlay and Dr Rebecca Williams I've explored the strange places that a flow state might take us, how better to experience one and the apparent contradiction at the heart of it all. There are many inspirations for this episode. Obviously previous interviewees Dave Thomas and Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, as well as current. Robert Macfarlane's Mountains of the Mind provided some of the additional thoughts and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's excellent book Flow. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Compassion Lee Rosevere Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/ Other music licensed from Blue Dot Sessions (www.sessions.blue)


The Moment You Doubt - Ben Bransby

Many of the stories in Factor Two feature the same scenario - What next? You always imagine ticking the big goal might be enough, but it rarely is. For Ben Bransby and Jvan Tresch it seemed obvious what was next. Patagonia has long been the most difficult and revered home to big walls in the world. Notorious weather systems, complex peaks, difficult routes and tricky conditions create a mix where simply completing anything in a season is an achievement. In their first season in 2003 they managed just that. On route, accompanied by Adam Long. In fact, they were probably the only team to top out on anything in Patagonia that season. While in El Chalten they bumped into Bean Bowers, a familiar face, who was impressed by their efforts and invited them to team up and attempt the coveted Torre Traverse the following season. Bad weather meant they never made it onto the traverse, a route later climbed by Rolando Garibotti and Colin Haley. Frustrated with the poor weather Bean left for a week to head to the coast. His departure was timed with a week of good weather and Jvan and Ben were able to take advantage of the window with the first free ascent of the Fonrouge Route on Aguja Poincenot, as well as a new route on Aguja Saint Exupery. After celebrating in El Chalten the hungover pair were woken early in the morning by Bean's return. The three set off on an extraordinary 56 hour push on Fitzroy, making the second ascent of the Slovak Route. I spoke before about how Patch Hammond, Leo Houlding and Ben's stories are coming of age tales. Between his ascent of Freerider in 1998 and his Patagonia seasons Ben had a real coming of age moment. On an expedition in Greenland in 2000 his father was killed abseiling down a peak. Ben was just 20. He was halfway up a route on the Thumbnail when the news was broken to him, having just completed the first ascent of a new E6 with a team including Gaz Parry and Ian Parnell. Ben had to break the news to his mother over the phone. Here Ben tells the story of his Patagonian adventures, coloured by a mature view on his relationship with his parents and how they have informed the love he has for climbing. Find Factor Two on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/factortwopod/ Twitter - @treasurewild Music credits: Dark Fog Kevin McLeod Incompetech.com Odyssey Kevin McLeod Incompetech.com Techno My EchoOo KiDNN Global Warming Kai Engel Deadpanned Jahzzar Asylum Mystery Mammal Timeless Lee Rosevere Denouement Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/


Freebird - Ben Bransby

After hearing from Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond about their legendary Yosemite season in 1998 there was one obvious gap in our story - Ben Bransby. Before attempting Freerider with Patch, Ben had made an ascent of the Salathe Wall with Mark Reeves. It was his first taste of big wall climbing and gave him the confidence that he could get himself out of trouble if needed. The climbing world might have been astonished at his and Patch's efforts on Freerider - remember at this time that there were only 2 free routes on El Capitan - but for Ben it felt like unfinished business. After getting gripped on the Monster Offwidth and succeeding on the Enduro Corner and the Boulder Problem he and Patch ended up jumarring the Huber brothers' fixed ropes to finish the route. A few years later he returned to the valley with the goal of doing Freerider "properly". In doing so the seed was planted for a one day ascent with Swiss climber Jvan Tresch. A few teams had done this previously, including the Hubers, who overtook Patch and Ben in 1998. Their ascent was almost curtailed by the wrong kind of commitment. They were arrested and jailed in Yosemite after being caught shoplifting kneepads to try to protect themselves in the Monster Offwidth. After being bailed out on a Friday evening they were due in court on Monday and could end up being thrown out of the valley. In the early hours of the Saturday morning the pair set off on what would prove to be the biggest, hardest day of cragging they'd ever had. Being committed on El Capitan like it was just another day at the crag was a dream come true, and one that Ben holds up as his proudest climbing achievement. As with Patch and Leo, this is very much a coming of age story. It's clear that with each ascent Ben was looking to the next adventure already, banking the experience for future use. But this story is an echo of previous tales in Factor Two in many more ways. If you've listened to our episode Nine and a Half Hours with Duncan Critchley you'll see what I mean - A one day ascent of El Capitan with a Swiss climber? The reverberations from Duncan's Nose In A Day back in 1984 are a little spooky, right down to the words they use. That's what I love about these stories, climbing is such a shared experience. Getting a little glimpse into that shared mindset is something relatable at any level. Music credits: Stiller Tag Philip Weigl Free Tone Textures Small Colin Aftermath Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com) I Am Running Down the Hallway of Viewmont Elementary Chris Zabriskie Plantation Audionautix.com Subdivision of the Masses Philip Weigl Brooks Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Living in the Shadows - Franco Cookson

Internet forums wouldn’t be the same without their villains and heroes, would they? Franco Cookson appeared on the UKC forums back in February 2008. He began posting prolifically from the off and rarely stopped to consider the responses from others. In those early days, he was the classic antagonist, cocksure and loudmouthed, but also somewhat detached from the climbing scene at large. He was also only 16 at the time, but in many ways his obsession with the North Yorks Moors and new routing means that he is operating in his own scene. Franco’s early climbing career played out in an unusually public manner through the forums. A couple of months after his first post he went on a winter trip to Ben Nevis with friends Ian Jackson and Dave Warburton. It proved to be an eventful trip, with Franco being avalanched, an ascent of Point 5 gully and Dave being dropped a full rope length when Ian’s belay ripped on an attempt at a variation to Smith’s Route. Mike “Twid” Turner rescued Ian that day and wrote a short piece for UKClimbing detailing the incident and some lessons which could be learned from it. Ian was a couple of years older than Franco and had become something of a mentor to him, introducing him to the wider climbing world. Twid’s advice was considered and didn’t name names. Franco responded angrily to the perceived criticism. He hadn’t been on the mountain that day, but felt that facts were wrong and showed no inhibition in attacking people who thought otherwise. Ian responded calmly, correcting a couple of misconceptions and thanking Twid for helping him out. Just four months later Ian was killed in an accident while threading a lower off on a sport route in Chamonix. He was just 19 and made one of those mistakes that we’re all aware of, but that can be made so quickly and catastrophically. Franco was in the Alps with a young team at the time. Losing his friend and mentor has had an understandably profound effect on him, but not necessarily in the ways you might expect. Rather than turning away from climbing he plunged headlong, often literally, into seeking out dangerous and difficult first ascents. His internet persona may have calmed down, but his appetite for unusual routes and not playing the game the way that’s expected hasn’t changed at all. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Featherlight (remix - Vocals by Heather Feather) Lee Rosevere A Bicycle Ride Through The Nation's Capitol (Lokin' Out) Honey Trappists Sad Marimba Planet Lee Rosevere Waiting for the Moment Lee Rosevere Muted Space Tajirius Blur the World Tajirius Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


No More Heroes? - Patch Hammond

Patch Hammond has remained a bit of an enigma in the climbing world. If you flick through the magazines from the late 1990s you’ll see a scruffy youth with an impressive climbing CV – onsighting E6 and E7 in North Wales and climbing with the likes of Tim Emmett, Neil Gresham and Leo Houlding. In the last episode we heard from Leo about their ascent of El Niño on El Capitan – Leo’s first big wall. Patch and Leo had travelled to Yosemite together, but while Leo was socialising at Camp Four and becoming part of the Yosemite scene it was Patch who was heading off trying to get better at the style of climbing there. Patch met Ben Bransby for the first time in the valley. Encouraged by the Huber brothers the two of them set out to repeat Free Rider – the same route featured in Free Solo with Alex Honnold. They set off from the base of the wall to attempt it ground up, with no experience and borrowed gear and made an impressive effort. They didn’t quite manage to free climb the route, but put in what was at the time the most impressive British attempt on El Capitan. Under the wing of the Hubers, Patch talked Leo into attempting El Niño, telling him that he’d already done a 5.13a pitch and was convinced Leo would stand a chance of onsighting 5.13b. Plus the route would suit them – no crack climbing on this one, slabs and adventure climbing exactly like they’d been training on in the slate quarries and at Gogarth. Patch’s memories of those years climbing revolve around the community he became a part of, and the mentors who guided him. He still seems in awe of the fact that he could be a part of this scene where everyone was a hero to him. He didn’t seem to realise that maybe he was one of them too. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Plantation Audionautix.com Stiller Tag Philip Weigl Aftermath Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com) Solo Acoustic Blues Audionautix.com Autumn Sunset Audionautix.com Subdivision of the Masses Philip Weigl Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


No More Worlds - Leo Houlding

Back in 1998 Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond achieved something almost unthinkable – a near onsight ascent of El Capitan. They were just 18, had no big wall experience and headed to Yosemite without any great ambitions for the big faces. They had intended to try to headpoint some bold, hard new lines, but quickly discovered that the sort of lines they were after didn’t exist in Yosemite. When they arrived there were just two free routes on the mai wall of the Captain. The Salathé Wall, freed by Paul Piana and Todd Skinner in 1988, and The Nose, freed by Lynn Hill in 1993. But the mid 90s saw a new team emerge – the Huber brothers. In the few years before Leo and Patch’s trip the Hubers had started to establish themselves as a free climbing force in the valley. In 1998 Alex and Thomas Huber made the first free ascent of El Niño. The Hubers employed seriously redpointing tactics to achieve their route, preparing each pitch meticulously before making their ascent. Taking Patch and Leo under their wing they encouraged them to try the route. It was still well chalked, the hardest climbing was in the first few pitches and their hand drawn topo was still fresh. After borrowing the gear they would need and making up their big wall tactics as best they could over 5 days, Leo and Patch stood on the summit. Leo had managed to onsight all but one pitch, with Patch freeing many as well. It was an astonishing achievement at the time, but even now El Capitan awaits a true onsight ascent. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Plantation Jason Shaw (audionautix.com) Solo Acoustic Blues Jason Shaw (audionautix.com) Porch Blues Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com) Subdivision of the Masses Philipp Weigl Brookes Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


On and Off - A headpointing story

Prompted by Franco Cookson’s article on headpointing recently I thought I’d dig out this interview I recorded in November 2017 with Tim Lowe. Tim is a climber from Yorkshire with an enviable ticklist of routes, including the Yorkshire Triple Crown of The Groove, Urgent Action and Supercool. Over the years he’s been a keen sport climber, but Tim also likes to stick his neck out on trad routes. Back in 1992 he took a huge fall on The Cad, on North Stack Wall at Gogarth. A little hungover and not warmed up, he lunged for a break and didn’t quite make it. He thought it was the end, but his belayer caught him. It put in Tim’s mind the idea of “dropping a rope” down some of the more dangerous routes before going for the lead, resulting in broken bones at Ilkley in September 2017. You can see photos from Ilkley on the links below: https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=299700 https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.php?id=299729 Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Reflections Lee Rosevere Somnolence Kai Engel Background 02 AccusonosSFX Free Tone Textures Small Colin Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Clouds Come and Go

In the last two episodes we looked at aspects of flow, whether seeking the euphoria as an escape or chasing it as a performance tool. But there’s an area of climbing where flow won’t be enough. The objectives are too long, too complex and too unpredictable. At altitude everything becomes harder, your muscles ache under the lack of oxygen and, as Rick Allen has found more than once, your mind can wander. Rick is one of the world’s most accomplished high altitude mountaineers. He’s climbed several 8000m peaks, including a new route on the north face of Dhaulagiri. In 2012, together with Sandy Allan he made the first complete ascent of the Mazeno Ridge on Nanga Parbat. The Mazeno is the longest ridge on any 8000m peak, with more than 10km of climbing over eight 7000m summits before the final push. Rick and Sandy spent 18 days on the route, running out of food and water and pushing themselves to their menta and physical limits. The ascent won them a Piolet D’or in 2013, although Rick says the recognition from the climbers he respected was more valuable to him than an award. Last July Rick was the subject of an unusual rescue on Broad Peak. After attempting the summit solo, he became disorientated on the descent. His hallucinations saw him discard his rucksack and take a fall down the face before he was spotted by a drone sent to search for him. The episode has given him a chance to reflect on the risks he takes in the mountains and his partnership with Sandy, who told him in no uncertain terms that he’d made the wrong call on Broad Peak. Rick realised he needed that other voice to ground him, to help him see what was real. Yet he and Sandy are very different characters, chasing the same dreams. For more information on their ascent of the Mazeno Ridge you could read Sandy Allan’s excellent book, In Some Lost Place. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Arisandra Parvus Decree Aspirato Kai Engel Expectations Lee Rosevere Run Kai Engel Meekness Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Me and My Shadow - Mina Leslie-Wujastyk

Mina Leslie-Wujastyk has already established herself as one of the best sport climbers in the country, with redpoints up to 8c. For the past few seasons she has been attempting Rainshadow, Steve McClure’s iconic 9a at Malham. It’s more than a step above her previous ascents, and initially something that it hadn’t even occurred to her to try. It seemed too unfeasible. When pushing the limit at some point you will find it. We often say this with risk taking, but the same is true when pushing your physical boundaries. Over time Mina has become more confident that she could successfully redpoint Rainshadow, but at first it was an impossible dream. Staying motivated for a few sessions on a route isn’t hard; but staying motivated when your project enters double digits and multiple seasons isn’t easy. I wanted to understand how Mina stays focussed on a long term goal, and how she does that in the face of the chance that she might never succeed. In the last episode with Dave Thomas we saw how a need for control, maintaining integrity and establishing your own identity were important. Finding ways to enter that elusive flow state was how Dave achieved this. Mina isn’t out for risk or resolving inner conflicts, but her story boils down to the same key features: desire, belief and understanding her own identity. The difference is that for Mina flow is a tool to be utilised. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Looking Back Lee Rosevere Somnolence Kai Engel Quit Bitching Broke For Free Aspirato Kai Engel Pulse Sioum Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


More Than a Dream - Dave Thomas

The young Dave Thomas was motivated by one thing above all others – soloing. In his own words he’s “Never climbed a hard route”, but anyone looking at his climbing C.V. would beg to differ. In 1989 he soloed the classic E6 Lord of the Flies at Dinas Cromlech. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. He’d been putting the miles in on the Rubicon traverse in the weeks leading up to the day. In his mind he had set a date with destiny. He’d decided he wanted to do it, so he would. The logic here might seem strange to some; Dave had led the route 3 years earlier so he knew he could do it. That was enough. He showed up on Easter Sunday, waited for the streak of water running down the wall to dry, and flowed up the route. The experience has lived with him ever since as a joyful memory to draw upon. But Lord wasn’t Dave’s most impressive ascent. The year before, on the back of a conversation with Crispin Waddy, he set out on what still stands as one of the most audacious solos the world has seen. He took in the first two, crux, pitches of Caveman at the Old Redoubt in Devon before veering off to create a new direct version, Terra Cotta. All of this solo. John Redhead talked of having Authentic Desire in climbing dangerous routes. It was the thing which kept you safe, the honest reflection on your own motivations. I wanted to know if Dave experienced Authentic Desire for his ascents. The answer was a lot more complicated that I thought. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Small Steps Lee Rosevere Soli Kai Engel All the Answers Lee Rosevere Silence Kai Engel Under Suspicion Lee Rosevere Evermore Kai Engel Very Low Note Kevin McLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


Sally Can Wait

There's something both romantic and illogical about taking the ultimate risk in climbing; leaving the rope behind and going solo. Justifying that is a question which has always fascinated me. For many people it's such an absolute risk that the answer is easy, but I've always thought it was more grey than that. I've asked all of the climbers I've interviewed for this series the same question, about why we do it and how we justify the risks we take. It turns out that we're all motivated by similar things. One day that motivation came back to bite me. I ended up on the deck at Froggatt, a fitting, bloodied mess for my friends to deal with. I'd always felt there was romance in risk, in doing the unthinkable. I never felt heroic. I wasn't out to prove myself and, if anything, I felt that to prove something would be to miss the point. That makes it about someone else and this was my thing. I questioned all of this after my accident; with other people clearing up the mess this was no longer just about me. Among the letters I was sent by friends afterwards was a booklet of stories written by John Kendrick. John is a bit of a hero of mine. He's the honorary president of my old university club and over the years we've met up a few times for a drink or a climb and exchange letters and postcards. While I was coming to terms with the trauma I'd put friends and family through I read John's story of his own solo endeavours in the Peak District. He would have been the same age as me then. What surprised me was that while I'd been obsessing over the idea that soloing was a very personal thing, John had taken this risk for the most frivolous of reasons: to win the attentions of a beautiful woman. In this episode James McHaffie and Katy Forrester recount their own close calls soloing, while John explains why he took the risks himself and why he's so ashamed of what he did all those years ago. Factor Two is brought to you by Wil Treasure and UKClimbing.com Music credits: Brand New World Kai Engel Denouement Kai Engel Meekness Kai Engel Remedy for Melancholy Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/


The Black Dog

Katy Forrester is a former member of the British bouldering and ice climbing teams. She's a fell runner and an accomplished trad and sport climber, with routes up to 7c+ and E8 under her belt. She also has a black dog. Katy is open in talking about her experience of depression and how she tackled her metaphorical black dog with a real one - a 5 month old labrador called Jade. In this episode Katy talks about her experience of dealing with depression. As a naturally competitive person she became frustrated at being unable to perform to the level she wanted, her frustration turned to self-loathing and what had started as a positive experience became something she realised she needed to walk away from. I was curious; there's a mental resolve and mindset needed to be successful in competition climbing, but also in hard headpointing, which is what Katy turned to for her fix. How can someone have such difficulties in one aspect of their mental life but be so strong in others? Katy talks about how learning coping mechanisms to deal with aspects of her depression has also brought benefits in her approach to hard climbing. Katy is sponsored by Eden Rock climbing centre and Scarpa. You can read her blogpost at http://katyforrester.com/i-had-a-black-dog/. If you or someone you know is affected by the issues discussed in this episode help is available. You can contact the Samaritans on 116123, seek a referal through your GP to NHS mental health services, or you can go to ntw.nhs.uk/selfhelp where you'll find an array of self help guides dealing with depression, anxiety, bereavement and other mental health problems. Factor Two is brought to you by UKClimbing.com Music credits: Odyssey Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) March Kai Engel Somnolence Kai Engel Brand New World Kai Engel Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/