Occasional postings about Maz and Si's big adventures

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™

Dr Curly
Big Wall "Expert"

NEW! - Endorsed by self-proclaimed Big Wall Cleaning expert and Gosforth Punter Marian Jones-Jones.

Marian Jones, never far from the poo-tube (the orange thing).
As a medical professional and big wall climber of a few days experience, people often ask me about the optimum way of losing weight. Up until now I’ve not been able to give them a good enough answer. Now, however, after extensive field testing and research, I can recommend Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™. This is a fast, effective and lasting way of losing weight.

For a full and personalised programme you will need a credit card at hand and to re-mortgage. But, as a FREE OFFER, just to you, I can give you a small taster of what Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™ can do for you and how to do it. Part of the joy of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™ is that it is essentially a two-for-one offer as both people in the team will benefit. Just stick to the advice below in order to maximise calorie consumption and minimise that excess fat!

Route Choice
This is the first and most important stage of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™. The Big Wall route you choose must push both partners’ ability. As a baseline for free climbing routes the Yosemite 5.9 grade covers a good and unpredictable range of difficulties in a variety of rock features.

Aid climbing is a strenuous activity for both leader and cleaner, so be sure to include a route with a significant amount of aid pitches. The route must be long, sustained in difficulty and involve strenuous features such as chimneys, corners and squeezes to guarantee a full body work out. Twenty or more pitches should be the minimum length. A substantial amount of traversing will ensure challenging hauling conditions, (see below), and an added psychological stress for both climbers.

Dr Curly on Pitch 13, one of the infamous chimney pitches of Half Dome NW Face.

 A route at altitude will add to calorie consumption, as will a route with a northerly aspect. Being constantly cold will increase your body’s calorific needs.

Pick a popular route with a high failure rate. A constant flow of retreating teams as you approach and climb the route will increase anxiety levels and thus calorie consumption. Increased anxiety will lower your hunger too – bonus! On-route these retreating teams will hinder progress and thus increase anxiety further – double bonus!

A route which ticks all these boxes is the North West Face of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley. (VI 5.9 C1+).

The steep side, obviously.

Route Strategy
It is essential to ignore the advice of others. Write off any ideas of a fast alpine ascent, (more time on the route will mean greater opportunities for weight loss), and online beta about equipment required or not required. Always go with the maximum of gear for climbing. Maximise your aid gear such as hooks and your largest and heaviest camming devices.

Whilst climbing, the use of hard to extract pieces of equipment, such as DMM Offset Nuts will ensure maximum energy and time consumption for the cleaner.

Marian weighed down with gear on the Robbins Traverse, pitch 10.

You must be the team carrying the largest and most unwieldy haulbag. In fact, most teams will probably not be carrying a haulbag. Don’t let this put you off! Stick to that Big Wall Strategy! Plan for as many days as possible approaching and climbing the route of your choice. I would suggest a minimum of three nights bivving, two at the base and one on the face.

Be warned – you may come across “Speed Climbers”. Ignore these loons who have only climbed the route a dozen times and are currently doing so in the middle of the night! They will no doubt only be spending a handful of hours on the route that you will be climbing over a period of days. They will have a single short rope, almost no gear and no haulbag. They may have already climbed, or are planning to climb The Nose on the same day. They know nothing of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™. Rookies.

Hauling is a corner stone of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™. The energy required to do so is massive. Time and effort required increases time-pressure and thus anxiety, especially with the inevitable rope snarls and those traverses. It is preferable to have a primary-hauler, which will ensure maximum exhaustion for that member of the team.

What to put in the haulbag is equally important. Bivvi equipment should include a stove, pan and food, (see below). A sleeping mat is advisable, as is a space blanket, but sleeping bags can be left out, (see below).

Water requirements should be greatly exaggerated. Although you may be climbing a north-facing route, go with what you would need on a route of a sunny aspect. At least three litres a day per person is recommended. Plan to have to pour some of that water away on the last bivvi. Calorie consumption and exhaustion will be greatest if you fail to consume this water as you climb.

Hauling will also ensure that you reach the bivvi ledge just after being overtaken by a “lightweight” team. This means second choice for the sleeping spots, perfect. (See Sleeping, below).

Cozy and fresh after 17 hours on the move.

Food choice is another of the cornerstones of Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™. You should ensure you pick water requiring dried food of low calorie content. This should then be shared between the two members of the climbing team.

For consumption whilst climbing a maximum of two “Clif Bars” per person per day is recommended. This should be adhered to regardless of the length of the day’s climbing, even if it runs to seventeen hours. Weight loss will be enhanced if you forget, or don’t have time to consume these.

Breakfast should consist of small and low energy muesli bars or “Pop Tarts”.


Let the member of the team who will carry the least on the approach choose which way to get to the bottom of the route. This will mean an approach of some hours, say six, most of which will be a hard slog in the mid-afternoon sun. The team member with the haulbag should be carrying at least thirty-five kilos.

The approach should involve contact with tourists. They will frequently make you stop by asking what you are carrying, increasing the time on the approach. Feel free to amuse yourselves by free-styling on the answers to these questions – a big sleeping bag, parachute, or gloves (!?), in the haulbag are acceptable answers to those prying questions.

Making mistakes route-finding on the approach will mean not only extra time in getting there, but a substantial amount of extra calorie consumption as you ascend several hundred metres in altitude that you didn’t need to. The approach should mean that you actually have to descend to the base of the climb, even if you get the navigation correct.

This is to be avoided at all costs! Not sleeping means that your body’s metabolic demands continue to gallop on. If you are cold and shivering whilst lying down this is best. Three consecutive nights bivving will have the desired effect on your mental status and energy levels to ensure Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™ has maximum impact.

Rope tight, Marian "enjoys" her third night without a sleeping bag. Pictured on "Big Sandy", at the end of pitch 17.

Whilst bivving on the climb you must be on a narrow ledge, above a precipitous drop of guaranteed fatality. The anxiety this provokes will ensure sleep is not possible as well as the other benefits of anxiety already discussed.

The bivvi ledge will inevitably smell strongly of urine. This does wonders for the appetite.

Night Climbing

Pitch 4 aid-climbing at 4am.

This is recommended on at least one day. Start at 3am to guarantee that several pitches will be ascended pre-dawn. Climbing polished 5.9 cracks with a weak head torch is thoroughly exhausting physically and mentally.

Inter-current Illness

Ideally one of the team should have diarrhoea at all times. One of the team whilst on the approach day and one whilst while climbing seems to work well for keeping that calorie account in the red. Whilst on the Wall this will also ensure more to haul as the poo-tube just keeps getting heavier!

Summit and Descent

The Top. It still smelt of wee.

When you are on the summit of your Big Wall you will have shed several kilos of unwanted weight as well as having gained an enormous sense of achievement. On field testing Dr Curly himself almost felt emotional at the top of Half Dome. Your Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™ however, is not quite over. You must now get to the pizza restaurant as quickly as you can by jogging for three hours down that same path you slogged up. No eating yet though!

The walking route is surprisingly steep and very slippy!

When you return to your mission-wagon and throw in that haulbag you may now feel free to eat a 16 inch pizza and drink beer until you pass out. You can be safe in the knowledge that it’ll take a few more days of gluttony before you need to follow the Dr Curly’s Big Wall Weight Loss Program™ again.

The desired effect?



  1. Ha ha. James and I have been busy belly-laughing at your blog - it's really good. Hope you are having a great time. Nic

  2. What? Don't they have cake over there?

    Get thee to a tea shop. Stat!

  3. Fantastic pictures!!!!!!


    Natalie x

  4. God, that sounds absolutely amazing. Im jealous!
    When pizza at the end was mentioned I thought there was one at the summit.:)

  5. Sounds absolutely MAD! Hope you're having a great time over there. Well done.