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Laying the floating subfloor

After considerable research into different options for laying my floor I eventually settled on a straight up copy of what the guys at moreysintransit.com did.

Other options

I strongly considered two other options:

  • Van William's cargo conversion. The downside to this method was that he chose to drill into the base of his van to secure the floor, something I'd like to avoid at all costs. Additionally the number of steps (dados, etc.) that he used seemed overwhelming to me as a total novice, although I'm sure these could have been skipped.
  • faroutride.com's floating floor. Their plan (and blog in generally) is totally awesome, has amazing insulation and requires no drilling of the bed. The big downside is the sheer number of layers involved; because my Transit is a low roof model vertical space is at a premium, even if it means slightly less insulation in the floor. Additionally, while cost isn't my major concern, this is not a cheap option!

Key design elements

So what are the key design elements of the subfloor I decided to go with?

  • Fill in the floor ribs with wooden offcuts; these are secured with 3M 4200 marine adhesive which cures in 24h
  • Lay TrafficMASTER 3-in-1 underlay on top of the bonded wooden offcuts; this underlay should provide some noise isolation, thermal insulation as well as a radiant barrier due to the foil covering
  • Lay the 15/32" ply on top of the overlay; this has been scribed to the shape of the van floor
  • Screw the top ply sheets into the wooden offcuts filling the floor ribs with wood screws

The total cost, weight and overall height is reasonable with relatively few skills required to achieve a good result. At this stage I haven't decided what my top floor will be (vinyl, carpet, hardwood?) or whether I will use metal or wooden carpet trim.

The process

Cheap OSB used as a template (scribed, cut, offered up & repeated until perfect)

Cheap OSB used as a template (scribed, cut, offered up & repeated until perfect)

Without the stock liner to use as a starting template I instead picked a cheap piece of 8'x4' OSB and scribed the wheel arch onto that. Through a repeated process of scribing, cutting & offering up the cut wood to the floor I eventually got a decent template. That said there were still some areas I'd overcut, so I marked these down on the board so I could make adjustments when transferring to the final ply.

I bought three 8'x4' sheets of 15/32" ply ($28.45/sheet from Lowes) and had them cut the long edge to 69" leaving me three 4'x69" sheets plus offcuts to be used for filling the floor ribs.

Transfer template to final ply; I then flipped the OSB and re-copied to the other side of the final ply for the other side of the floor

Transfer template to final ply; I then flipped the OSB and re-copied to the other side of the final ply for the other side of the floor

For the piece closest to the cab I scribed a few small areas directly onto the final ply, cut this and achieved a good fit. By overlaying my OSB template I was able to calculate the offset to start transferring my template to the final ply sheet.

Being new to all this I didn't manage to get everything sorted in a single day, but I finished up the evening by measuring the gaps between the floor ribs and transferring these to my offcuts for cutting the following day.

The following day I finished off the top of the subfloor by cutting out the previously marked up lines for the middle sheet, as well as transferring my template OSB to the final sheet and trimming. The result is a good, tight fit which left just the curve of the rear entryway and the square 60/40 door step to cut which were done quickly.

At some point I will need to return to the short rear sheet in order to cut an access hole for lowering the spare tyre.

Next up was securing the small offcuts to the floor of the van. For this I used 3M 4200 but unlike moreysintransit.com I found that a single large tube was not sufficient and will need to return to buy another to finish off the job. Prior to laying the sheets I cleaned the rear of the van with a brush and then 91% isopropyl alcohol to remove any grease and accumulated dirt - it had not looked this clean since the day I bought the van!

Currently the van is sat with the top floor reinstalled and all of my breeze blocks as well as other heavy items weighing down the floor to ensure a good bond.

Once cured I labelled my work, installed a few final strips of Dynamat Xtreme (because why not) and began to prepare for the final installation.

With the sub-subfloor complete I rolled out the underlay and cut around my final sub-floor template. This included an approx 2" gap at all sides so that the underlay would raise above the screwed down floor. The awesome 9" professional heavy duty scissors I bought made lightwork of the underlay.

Small cuts put at all corners in the underlay to ensure that it can fold up where it meets the sides of the van.

I tried installing wooden dowels along the joints to keep the floor at a constant height but found I had insufficient space to get these to line up

I tried installing wooden dowels along the joints to keep the floor at a constant height but found I had insufficient space to get these to line up

With the underlay cut, I laid it down in the van and confirmed that the top subfloor still fitted snugly. In an attempt to keep the subfloor from lifting at the joins I drilled small holes along the edge and cut some dowels. Unfortunately in practice I didn't have enough space in the base of the van to align the two sheets and push them together.

With the subfloor laid I went around and drilled countersunk holes along the pre-marked pencil lines that lined up with the pieces of wood glued to the floor. In hindsight I should have drilled these outside of the van prior to installation to keep the sawdust from getting everywhere.

As I began to install the screws I found a few pieces of the glued wood to be insufficient for holding the screws. I believe this was down to insufficient purchase with the short screws (i.e. insufficiently countersunk holes to get the required depth) but also just because the quality of the top layer of ply varies along the sheet.

In a few cases I had to drill multiple holes to get a good secure screw. Currently this looks quite ugly but in future I plan to fill all of the countersunk holes with wood filler so the end result should still be clean.

On a final note there is one small corner of the van (in front of the driver side wheel arch) where the wood has warped slightly and does not sit flat. Unfortunately at this late stage I cannot see a way to resolve this issue so I will need to live with it. In practice I'll be installing a cabinet or similar over this area which I believe will keep the floor flat.

The Plan for my Ford T150 camper conversion

Thanks to the great climate in California I'm lucky to be able to cycle to work every day without too much thought about the weather. The van will be primarily used for weekend trips but also as an "occasional driver". Since I'm not living in the van long term the RWB & low roof were compromises to make it more practical day-to-day.

I'm into rock climbing, photography (particularly at night), walking and generally hanging out in nice places. This just means that a large living space isn't top priority as I plan to be in the van only to drive places, briefly in an evening after the activities, but mostly to sleep. Therefore it'll be a relatively simple conversion with a focus on the basics: road noise, heat insulation, airflow, light, practical storage & sleep comfort.

Perhaps the biggest reason for it being simple is that I have no idea what I'm doing and yet I'm already committed to doing the bulk of the work myself.

Road noise

I've already installed Dynamat Xtreme on the majority of the large panels and wheel arches

I've already installed Dynamat Xtreme on the majority of the large panels and wheel arches

I've already covered most large surfaces with Dynamat Xtreme. A single "mega pack" contains 9 sheets of 24"x48" which so far looks to have me covered - although at $289.99 it's really not cheap! While there are a bunch of other alternatives (e.g. Roadkill) that run about half the price, Dynamat Xtreme appears to be hands down the most heavily recommended product.

These noise isolation products generally require 25-50% panel coverage to significantly cut down on panel vibration. I'll write a more detailed entry later on but it's fair to say that initial impressions are good.

Insulation

Insulation is a double-edged sword. A well insulated van will retain heat through a cold night and keep out the heat during a hot day -- up to a point. In the day the reverse is true - a van left baking in the sun all day long will get hot no matter how well insulated but that insulation will prevent the hot air from getting out.

I've come across arguments for not insulating vans at all in hot climates like California, however from personal experience I know that it can still get very cold at high altitudes, with significant wind or in open areas (deserts) at night. Before reading more, please go ahead and follow the previous link as it is without doubt the most comprehensive round-up of different types of van insulation, as well as great explanations of radiation, conduction, convection & radiant barriars that I've found.

A Thinsulate-lined Transit (moreysintransit.com)

A Thinsulate-lined Transit (moreysintransit.com)

Armed with some excellent information on the subject I've ordered a 150 sq ft roll of 3M Thinsulate which I hope will handle the whole of my van. Thinsulate generally appears to be shipped by a frequent van conversion forum member called Hein.

Again, more detail to come once I've insulated the van, but generally speaking Thinsulate makes sense because it's easy to work with, doesn't require worrying about vapour barriers and has a good but not crazy R-value (e.g. it'll keep me warm in California on cold nights, but perhaps not in more frigid areas).

Airflow (and light)

Airflow & insulation are not really seperate topics as they have a big impact on each other. Airflow is key to both keeping a van cool and free of moisture. In the insulation scenario above where a heavily insulated van heats up during the day, massive airflow is one way to quickly exchange the hot air inside with cooler air from outside.

A powered fan vent is one way to exchange this air - get back to a hot van in the evening, open the vent and crank the fan. The vent might be left open during the night, optionally with the fan running (on a thermostat) to increase airflow and remove moisture.

In our exhaust vent example the air needs to come from somewhere. This might be a cracked window or door or perhaps a dedicated floor vent. Such an idea is something I'm definitely considering as being placed at the front floor of the van (cool air) it would pass through the back and pass out of a roof vent (hot air) promoting airflow. Because it's always open this would work during a hot day when it's not feasible to leave open a window or door due to risk of theft.

Stock Ford window with sub-window on a dark green Transit Wagon

Stock Ford window with sub-window on a dark green Transit Wagon

Currently my plan is uncertain - I am having a Ford factory glass window with opening sub-window retrofitted behind the driver side soon. This will allow more light and air but beyond that I'm still undecided:

A standard 14x14" roof vent (powered or otherwise) would not only raise the height of the roof by 2-3" (no more parking in my garage) but would also be an obvious marker of a converted van.

A custom sunroof (such as CR Laurence's ridiculous 22"x38" NewPort) has the benefit that it would be largely flush with the roof (and therefore relatively stealthy) but would be unpowered and could not be left open during the day. There's also a pretty hefty cost both in buying the sunroof & having it fitted. Such an option is tempting though as you'd get crazy amounts of light during the day and an opportunity to see the stars or rain while sleeping at night.

Practical storage & sleep comfort

A fairly standard T5 layout with rock n' roll bed

A fairly standard T5 layout with rock n' roll bed

Standard van layouts often come with rock 'n' roll beds (seats that fold flat at night) that occupy about 4/5 of the internal width as well as cupboards along the side away from the door, often including a small kitchen the fridge, hobs & sink. Clearly these are optimised for day use and while there may appear to be a lot of storage spaces, the ability to stash larger items is limited.

I'll be installing a permanent bed at roughly 4/5 width at the back of the van, leaving an empty space at the side to allow storage of larger and longer items. This might potentially include space for a bike, bouldering mat, etc.

T5 platform bed with plenty of under-bed storage for large & long items (mine will likely not be full width like this one)

T5 platform bed with plenty of under-bed storage for large & long items (mine will likely not be full width like this one)

The bed will be raised quite high from the ground to leave space underneath for storing more large items, likely to be held in large, pull out bins. In future I may look at installing a single heavy duty drawer similar to that in Alex Honnold's van, although this would mean stripping the interior for general cargo use becomes much more difficult. Clearly there will be a balancing act between under bed storage and sleeping height -- I'm not going to be able to sit up straight in the bed but it would be nice to be able to sit up leaning against a side wall. I'm currently aiming for a US full size mattress which is approximately equivalent to a UK double. This will leave approximately one metre of space towards the front. The mattress will be foam, perhaps even from one of the well-known online retailers such as Leesa or Casper (depends on mattress depth).

Stretchy cargo netting can be used on the roof or side panels

Stretchy cargo netting can be used on the roof or side panels

At both sides of the bed I'll install small cargo nets for storing smaller items such as 'phones, wallet, keys, etc. Extending and collapsing tripods can be particularly annoying when shooting subjects immediately outside of the vehicle, so I'll experiment with a simple double loop system so that I can stash them on the ceiling at full extension.

I plan something similar, except attached to the larger of the 60/40 doors

I plan something similar, except attached to the larger of the 60/40 doors

Towards the front of the van I plan to have a small set of drawers for storing cook and tableware along with a top surface suitable for preparing and perhaps cooking food. I am not installing running water, a stove or a powered fridge. Most likely all cooking will be done on a small table attached to the larger of the 60/40 doors that will fold down outside of the van with the door open. Any perishable foods will be stored in a cooler box (sufficient for weekend trips).

I will install rotating bases to one or both of the cab chairs to increase usable space in the back. A freestanding collapsible table will likely be stored somewhere in the van for use from the cab chairs (think laptops). The table will be freestanding so that it can also be used outside of the van when weather permits.

Finish and panelling

Both the walls and ceiling will be panelled with a thin ply. For the roof I may look at using a low plush automotive-style carpet to help reduce sound reflections inside (this may not be necessary with a large foam mattress). On the free wall at the back (i.e. without an adjoining bed) I may use a thicker ply suitable for installing fixtures to help make the side space more usable. Wall finish is TBD but they may just be varnished and left as-is.

Finally the floor will be either lino or a low plush outdoor carpet. At the moment the practicality of lino is winning as do not plan to allow the floor to be removed easily.

Power

Initially the van will not have a leisure battery. That said, I will run wiring throughout to allow a relatively straightforward install in the future.

The ability to run laptops and use a roof vent fan is quite a compelling reason.

Already present in the rear are stock lights. I may or may not expose these but will likely not install my own lights as cheap, battery powered lights that can be centrally controlled from a remote control are plentiful on Amazon.

Embarking on a cargo van conversion
2016 Ford Transit 150

2016 Ford Transit 150

At the end of February I bought a brand new 2016 Ford Transit 150 cargo van. More specifically it's a regular wheel base (130"), low roof with 60/40 side cargo doors. Extra options include cruise control (essential for any sort of long distance driving) and an upgraded 6-speaker stereo with Ford SYNC. Of course it's in a classy "builder's white".

This has been a long time coming, having first considered the idea of converting a VW T5 three years ago back when I was living in London. All of the reasons I had not to do this have now gone: driving and parking a larger vehicle is much easier in the US, distances are greater (and the opportunity to drive long distances and stop off on the way at rest stops is appealing), more of my trips will be road trips (no point in owning a van only to end up flying to destinations in Europe) plus I had a little more cash available for the purchase.

Decent cargo carrying capacity even in the smallest Transit

Decent cargo carrying capacity even in the smallest Transit

Prior to the purchase I'd never driven such a large vehicle for more than a day at a time. My previous experience was with small cars (Fiat Punto) and medium sized estate cars on work trips to the US. Initial impressions are good: it's easy to drive, has a great view of the road, is exceptionally comfortable for longer distances and people seem to be more respectful of the van. Plus its cargo carrying capacity has already come in handy while getting settled in California.

Over the coming months I'm going to be going through the process of converting this standard panel van into a stealth camper, which I will do my best to document here. Prior to receiving the van I'd done very little planning and I've quickly come to realise just how much more work is involved than I realised. An overwhelming amount of work.

The aim for my conversion is a simple, practical camper, without all of the bells and whistles. There'll be no toilet, no shower and (at leas to begin with) no leisure battery, although I do plan to run wires so this is a straightforward option in the future. For now I'm focusing on building out the back with a solid foundation: noise isolation, insulation (although relatively light since it's primary destination is in California), decent floor and nicely finished walls.

In a future blog post I'll outline the major steps (as I understand them now) as well as put down my plans for how the interior will be laid out.

Stay tuned.

Low roof fits in garages, carports and most parking garages

Low roof fits in garages, carports and most parking garages

Arco 2015

Logistics and dates

Beata and I flew out from London on Friday 26th June 2015 arriving at Verona airport around 9:20PM. We picked up a pre-booked hire car at the airport and drove north on the A22 toll to Arco, arriving at our campsite around 11PM (this was a problem -- see below!). We flew back Sunday July 5 giving us eight full days to climb (not including rest days).

We both agreed we would not want to do it without the car. We drove to all crags, stashed our gear and stealable equipment and used it extensively on rest days. For €75/each for a cheap car it was a no-brainer for us.

Campsites (and warnings)

We had pre-booked at Campeggio Arco for the full duration of our stay (10 days), including having paid €100 as a deposit. Upon arriving we found the gates were closed and locked at 11PM every evening, not to re-open until 8AM. We assumed we'd be able to park outside, pitch and handle everything in the morning but this was not an option. The night security guard was unhelpful, rude and had alcohol on his breath. Personally I was unimpressed by the lack of toilet seats on the men's toilets (sit downs not squatters) but I later discovered the other toilet block did have toilet seats. Otherwise the facilities were very good and clean, although charging by the hour for Wi-Fi was a joke.

Some friends were staying at the ever-so-slightly cheaper Camping Zoo a further minute down the road by car. We spent some time here and both agreed this was the campsite to stay as climbers. Staff were more friendly, the grounds were more relaxed and critically the gates were never locked (great if you want to make a dawn start in summer). Our friends arriving after 11PM and were able to register and pitch without any issues (without pre-booking). This places also includes free Wi-Fi and pitches seemed more shaded and private than Campeggio Arco.

Both of the campsites are a short walk (10-15 minutes) into Arco town centre. A number of crags are within walking distance (particularly some good multi-pitching) but you'd be seriously limiting your options.

Weather

Really hot. Too hot. We experienced a dramatic thunder storm one evening but everything was dry the following morning.

I'd recommend a very airy tent; we shared an Alpkit Kangri (geodesic expedition-style tent) and all ventilation was open without giving up mosquito protection and we were too hot. Not that I'll be going back again this time of year, but if I did I'd take my MSR Hubba Bubba NX and I think I'd be far more comfortable.

The group we were with (and our levels of motivation) meant we were climbing mostly during the day, not always paying good attention to when specific crags were in condition. Big mistake. We saw nobody climb anything hard, perhaps a 38m 7b I tried was the hardest thing I saw anybody look at. Back home I can red-point 7b in a day (admittedly shorter, more bouldery) but here I set off fresh and returned to the ground dehydrated, exhausted and lacking motivation to do anything else. That said, some of these routes had spectacular climbing - the movement, the continuity, the position, everything was spectacular.

The Climbing (and my performance)

Start of a spectacular 7b at Nago

My impression of Arco was that the best routes were long. Short, bouldery routes exist but they didn't capture my imagination and were often polished. If you climb 7s then the longer routes were in great condition and featured outstanding climbing. These routes come in slabby, vertical and overhung varieties. One particular route I tried "Eh Mersh" 7b at Nago was amongst the most fun routes I've ever tried -- 38m with interesting stamina climbing the whole way interspersed with a couple of moves that were just a little harder than the rest.

My performance was terrible. Two weeks earlier I'd sent two 7c projects in a day but this was in the final week of my "performance phase" (Anderson & Anderson training) and perhaps should have been rested not trying hard stuff in hot weather. I don't believe this to be the whole story - heat was a huge factor and we did not take advantage of climbing after dawn or before sunset, something we've done in the past but were unable to motivate ourselves to do before, perhaps because it was so hot that by this time we'd only managed to be asleep comfortably for a couple of hours. My diet was also poor as I was treating this as a holiday and a climbing trip; in better temperatures I'd still have been able to climb hardish even with a little extra weight but here everything came together.

Those are all of the excuses but at some point I need to face it:

grading at Arco is stiff!

Crux pitch of Olocausto

We didn't visit an extensive number of crags but we did enjoy Nago, Massone looked great but the left hand end was super polished, L'orto (the one crag never in the sun - we should have climbed here every day) as well as enjoying Spiderman (6c, 200m) at Monte Colt and bailing on Olocausto (7a, 180m) at Placche Zebrate.

Prior to visiting Arco I felt I was a decent enough slab climber, having sent 7a, 7b and even a 7b+ in Kalymnos, but it's clear that slab is a different beast in Arco. While leading the hardest pitch of Olocausto at Placche Zebrate I was repeatedly shut down and had to resort to stepping on bolts to make progress (even with the bolts the moves were still hard and scary!). My feet seemed to slide from the rock; perhaps due to the rock being hot or some lichen on the rock, but most likely because I was not able to make use of the "ruthless friction" the topo advised. My advice would be to work through the grades and get accustomed to the style.

Guidebooks

At my request a friend picked up two guidebooks for us - Arco Rock (single-pitch sport climbing covering a huge area) and Arco Walls (multi-pitch sport climbing also covering a huge area). These were about €35 each, in English and apart from some poor transport directions they served us very well. However, they were massively overkill for an 8-day trip. I saw other people with a much smaller guidebook, presumably a limited "best of Arco" which in hindsight is what we should have picked up as we only climbed at the best crags and beelined for the recommended routes which is what I'd expect this guidebook included. Neither of our two guidebooks covered Via Ferrata but we were able to ask friends for advice on where to go.

On directions in the Arco rock book - the written directions are in some instances exceptionally poor, to the extent that three cars independently got lost while visiting one crag. Additionally the QR code GPS locations are to be taken with a pinch of salt - in one instance an upper and lower car park had been swapped, and another the GPS location in no way matched up with the parking areas in the text description (but did manage to take us up some seriously sketchy roads).

Non-climbing days

Generally these are rest days but with all of the Via Ferrata around these are not always such a great rest.

The start of Che Guevara

Perhaps 1/3 of the way up

Punto Panoramico from the summit

Beata and I climbed the easy but spectacular

Che Guevara

with over 1,300m of vertical ascent. It's a 3c but you can make it much harder if you climb without using any of the cables or rungs. There's a short section where this is pretty much impossible but I was still able to use just two runs for the whole VF. Only do this is you have confidence you can complete the moves as VF gear is obviously not for falling on. On a hot day this could be very uncomfortable - we were lucky to get a cloudy day. It took us six hours to get up and about four to get down, but this was due to taking a wrong turn (watch out for signposts with incorrect distances!) and an injured knee.

Dolomites from Sella pass

Another day we drove north along the A22 (more tolls) into the Dolomites, driving up the Pordoi and Sella passes to get some great views of peaks and valleys. There were many opportunities to get out and have a short hike but for us after Che Guevara the previous day this was strictly a rest day before climbing. This was definitely recommended although I would advise planning and researching the route you take for a few hours beforehand to maximise your views -- ours was rather spontaneous and thus a little unorganised.

Looking south towards Lake Garda from Castello di Arco

Shorter rest activities include walking 20-minutes or so up the hill to Castello di Arco. The castle has an entry fee (around €8) to look around the grounds -- there isn't a huge amount on display but the views are spectacular (and different from what you get on the walls due to its unique position in the centre of the valley) and it was a nice place to meander around and relax.

One afternoon we drove to Lago di Garda, parked the car for €1/hour and went and sat by the lake. Great for relaxing although somewhat busy while hot.

Miscellaneous

  • Everything shuts around mid-day until 2-3.30PM (depending on the shop) for siesta; most shops then close at 9PM
  • There's a big supermarket a short drive from the campsites, as well as smaller shops in Arco centre
  • Ice creams are exceptionally tasty and good value at €1 per scoop (although there was some debate whether a two-scooper at €2 was worse value for money than two one-scoopers at €1 each ;)
  • La Sportiva shop offers some decent discounts on shoes (think Sterling prices except in Euros)
  • Best pizza available near Arco is the buy-a-slice in one corner of Arco town square (wait until they bring a fresh one out and immediately order a few slices, or get a big group and order what you want)
  • Pizza restaurant between the two campsites is worth a visit also
Lewis
Round-up of climbing in 2011
As 2011 draws to a close I've taken a train journey to the north as an opportunity to select photos that represent my climbing throughout the year.  The past twelve months have been really great; I've had the opportunity to climb with new people, on new routes in some great new locations.

This year has been the year of full weekend climbing - away with the daytrips to Swanage and Portland and in with the weekend camping trips to (well, yes) Swanage and Portland but also the Peaks, Southern sandstone, North Wales and even Cornwall!  Unfortunately no trips abroad but that's just something to work on for next year.

I've had the opportunity to push my grade a little - achieving my first E1 (OS 5a, 5b) at Chudleigh, first F6b+ onsights and many solid attempts on harder climbs up to F7a!  I was finally able to achieve my long-term goal of climbing the spectacular blunt arete that is The Cutting Edge, F6c+ on my third attempt.

Many thanks for those who have had the patience to climb with me this year - in particular: Vlad, Owen, Mishtu and Kirsten.  Hopefully we can get out and do some more epic routes next year!

January

The year was off to an early start with a few nice trad lines out at Subluminal, Swanage, with Vlad and Owen.  Climbers were also out in force at The Cuttings in Portland.

First climb of 2011: January 9th


February

Owen and I headed up to Scotland early February and headed off on an introduction to winter mountaineering course with Adventure Peaks.  We have arranged to meet our guide, John Pickles, at the same time 2012 to pick up where we left off.  On February 14th the three of us did Ledge Route (II), our first real winter climb.

Day 1: Ice axe to the face

Vlad and his pies; a great day in the Peaks after being rained off on the Saturday

March

Headed out to Cheddar Gorge with Owen to climb the classic Utopia (HVS 4c).  Also managed to get in a few hard sport lines while we were there.

Fond memories of the old climb-mobile


April

April is the month the climbing really picked up.  We were out at a new venue early in the year on a two-day trip.  First destination was Chudleigh on a Saturday and Haytor on the Sunday.  Bagged The Spider (E1 5b) which I propose is overgraded - there are HVS 5a lines in the Peaks that go way harder.  The majority of the climbing at Chudleigh is polished and crap; it seems unlikely I'll be rushing back in 2012.



The moment where I was told the auto-focus had locked onto my nipples

Classy hen party

Gear at Haytor

Ben bringing up Owen's wife

Owen making Aramis (VS 4c) seem easy; it scared the shit out of me


Owen having trashed my rope

Ultra-classic

It's always great to take new people out for the first time on rock.  Here's my boss Grzegorz and colleague Bhaskar at Hedbury.

Grzegorz and Bhaskar at Hedbury, Swanage

Of course the Peaks is about the grit.  But bolted limestone does exist.  A great day out at Horseshoe Quarry with Anna, Vlad, Zoe and Emma.


Anna coming up the first pitch of Men at Work (F5)


Anna climbing Sag Ponir (F5)

Girls girls girls... enjoying the sun

Next up is one of the defining moments of 2011, certainly for Vlad.  We'd been climbing at Harpur Hill Quarry and had managed the spectacular 3* Coral Seas (F6a), I'd had a good punt at Apollo Creed (F6b) but then Vlad took a big fall leading People Will Talk (F5).  A huge block of loose rock came away with a run-out Vlad clinging on.  He just hit the ground but was fortunately okay.  Many lessons learned that day.

Safe at the bottom of People Will Talk

At least 10m

May

With Vlad out of action I headed down to The Cuttings on the early May bank holiday Monday with Grzegorz, Bhaskar and a friend.  We managed a single line before the rain hit.

Grzegorz on the breakfast baps


Rain

A view of Blacknor from a belay

Installed with the best intentions

Went out climbing with Mishtu for the first time after meeting her at the Westway thanks to climbfind.com .

Sun cream applied for the first and last time while out climbing with me

Mishtu seconding (with rests!) Fallen Slab Arete (F3 3*)


Two great days of climbing and camping

For the late May bank holiday Mishtu invited Vlad and I up to North Wales for the weekend.  In return we took her up a) her first multipitch; b) her first trad route (even if she was seconding).

Before climbing Flying Buttress


Vlad the burka woman


At the summit of Flying Buttress (VD)

A view of Flying Buttress

Epic hut, courtesy of Imperial College London


Randomly bumped into some old friends from Manchester


Mishtu seconding what is probably Equinox (VS 4c)


Not even sure what this was... but it was hard and damp and I had to retreat

Some B&E



Turns out Vlad has lovely soft hands

Incredible walls in the slate quarry



Slate embedded in my thumbnail

Beautiful clouds just before sunset along the M5

June

Sheltering from the rain under a huge roof at Winspit Quarry




Least willing climber of the year






Mishtu huddling for warmth under a small roof in the Peaks


Mishtu leading the spectacular Slings Shot (F5) at Blacknor North, Portland

Many great post-climbing rest spots


July

June/July has now become established as one of the key times in the climbing calendar - the annual Harrison's Rocks climbing/social trip.  It's rather under-represented here but as always, was a spectacular weekend with good weather, good climbing and great friends.

Post climbing pint

Disaster struck when I forgot my rock boots on a trip to Winspit Quarry.  I still managed to lead F6a with sandals...

Those rams-head lower-offs are hugely overrated

Top pub grub at The Castle Inn, Corfe (but no Dorset Apple cake)

Camping chairs: better left at the store

Another great trad multi-pitch, this time climbing Giant's Cave Buttress (VS 4c) at Avon Gorge.







The Ship Inn for a pint following a day at Blacknor North and The Cuttings (another failed attempt at The Cutting Edge (F6c+))
By July I was successfully climbing F6b/F6b+ onsight most of the time.  F6a had become my warm-up and I was really enjoying starting to push those grades.

August

Scrambled eggs on the OmniFuel - the unleaded petrol got ditched soon afterwards

Mishtu seconding at Sennen, Cornwall


Mishtu coming up Dolphin Cracks (HVS 5a) at Sennen

A nice, late finish to the day


At the belay on Doorpost (HS 4b ***)



Stunning sunset as viewed from The Ship Inn, Portland

Another good day out with Bhaskar

The hole in my thumb was finally about to go

A hole in my hand from climbing some hard trad routes

September

By September it felt as though the good climbing just wasn't going to end.  But that wasn't true... the days were starting to get shorter, but I had some great climbing partners and there were still plenty of opportunities to get out on the rock.

Foreigner sat atop Gaia, Black Rocks


October

Come October we'd given up hope for balmy summer days but to our surprise the first weekend in October was truly sweltering.  Down at Dancing Ledge in Swanage we'd not experienced heat like this all year.  Truly the most fondly remembered climbing day of the year.


Me hiding from the sun in a bivvy spot

Other tourists enjoying the unseasonal October weather

Swimming in the sea!



Once the heat passed, we were back on the rock.  Vlad's probably on Empty Promises (F6a)


More lessons learned: how not to make espresso on the go


Mishtu taking a lead fall on an overhung climb at The Nook, Portland


Keith climbing in the darkness

Vlad going up by headtorch... the days were getting shorter

In October we returned to Harpur Hill Quarry for the first time since People Will Talk.  We tried some hard sport lines but the cold wind was definitely against us.  Days were getting even shorter.





Anna out at Castle Naze in the Peak District

Vlad on a solid trad lead


A failing attempt at The Sloth (HVS 5a), The Roaches



The day I discovered Microsoft Photosynth

The Roaches Lower Tier

Ultra-classic Valkyrie (VS 4c ***)






November

Bea climbing near The Cuttings

Mishtu onsighting The Jam (F4) at The Cuttings, Portland

December

Climbing necessarily tailed off in November/December.  Conditions meant it was still possible to climb but the weather was cold, the days were short and the drives were long.  All round the risk of a wasted trip increased.

Owen, Adie and I headed up north to Fort William for a couple of days of wild camping and a bit of trudging about in the snow.

After a lovely 3am roadside kip

Stunning morning view



What's impressive about this list is the sheer number of days that have not been included.  The more routine trips to Portland and Swanage were just not photographed.  But these were the days when the majority of the hard routes went down and we all got a chance to really improve with our climbing.
Lewis