Sunday, 21 July 2013

Game over man, GAME OVER.

It's officially too warm for me, even when it pretends to be not too warm. I went to Creag Dubh on a cloudy afternoon, fresh-ish sou'westerly breeze, and 20-ish'C forecast. Pleasant and promising on the belay of Inbred in a windproof, but just too warm on the rock. I started up something bold and having to check my tips and chalk on almost every move indicated.... GAME OVER. I retreated before I got fully game overed. That was one of the "coolest" days recently and it just wasn't good for me to push myself, it was disappointing to do essentially fuck all in a long day out, but it was needed to confirm that I had to wait until it's properly crisp again, when 20'C is an unduly warm day rather than an unduly cool one.

So I haven't done much climbing of note, thankfully I still have my pottering syke to keep the mileage going, and I've also had nice days out with friends and other creatures... Recent highlights including:

Creag Dubh - as well as backing off other stuff, I didn't back off Erse soon enough and ended up in mild but genuine mortal fear 15m up, 5m above terrible RPs, one in a flared crack one in a loose block. Downclimb of death. Also saw two LIVE goats with very big horns.

Berrymuir Head - got puked on by a seagull, not nearly as rancid as my only previous gull vomit encounter, but grim enough, I started swearing at the gull until noticing it was guarding a big ball of fluff with a beak sticking out....a perfectly perky and alive chick awww cute. Also spent much of the afternoon admiring Big Fat Seal On A Rock:

Big Fat Seal On A Rock

And had the common sense of current Berrymuir grading confirmed by two different climbers, and got syked for Roof Roof when it cools down, and had a fine BBQ meatathon courtesy of PJ - eating pure sirloin steak with bare hands nom nom nom.

Arbroath - met "From The Anti-Headpoint Consortium: Ross", now escaped to Perth. Apparently the Consortium was just Dan's joke on Consumed and there's no ID cards, t-shirts, secret handshakes or anything. Another childhood dream RUINED. Anyway did a couple of cool steep routes on Granny's Garrett and watched Ross on a DWS project hidden in plain view beneath it. The sea claimed him before the project did. I wussed out and stayed dry.

Glen Ogle - "Camera....nah only going to Glen Ogle, shitty sport crags and just two of us, won't get any climbing shots. Hmmm maybe there will be wildlife....and last time there was a Hercules flying down the valley....nah fuck it can't be arsed." 2 hours later (after a rank fucking bumblethon through the worst of Callander traffic), pulled into the parking next to a police jeep with two coppers with binoculars....who pretty soon pointed out the pair of golden fucking eagles they'd been checking the location of ARSE BOLLOX ETC. Also failed on 3 grotty dirty F6cs in a row but did manage Metal Guru which was clean and really rather good, ace crux move on it. Belayed Ross Jr on "8a in an hour" and dicked around on a so-called F7b+ that seemed to have a font 7b+ crux but might be worth a look as it's a decent retreat from the heat. Got back from Ogle to Stirling in less than have the time it took to get there.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Mo Fire

The wrong sort of fire though - not the spiritual blaze of passion and excitement but the burning oppression of sultry solar rays. It seems the respite from the ridiculous "southern england" style heatwave was as brief as the usual respite from the typical "northern scotland" style monsoons. From Metoffice:

Fort William:
Sat 20 Jul Day 25 °C W 3 mph Very Good

Sat 20 Jul Day 26 °C NE 5 mph Very Good

Sat 20 Jul Day 22 °C N 5 mph Very Good

Too fucking HOT by far. Ullapool might be the only option this weekend, at least it's got sea-cliffs and some north-ish facing crags....if one can escape the midges.

It looks perfectly timed, just as my confidence and determination are trickling back, any semblence of good conditions are trickling away like sweat down the hands and onto the holds. Once again I must be patient and WAIT and find something better to do than failing on challenging routes just because it's too hot. So what should that be?? Well if I was back in Sheffield it would be obvious - dogging down the dales, sheltering under a canopy of limestone overhangs and trees, dicking around on a rope with little pressure other than training and exercise. Sure the climbing would be shit but there would be plenty of choice. Up here, much less so....

Dicking around on a rope....
Glen Ogle shady side
Tunnel Wall
Dumby before evening
Myopics Buttress before evening
Creag Nan Luch if I'm up that way already
All the bolted torridonian sandstone if I'm up that way already
(Not the Angus quarries as I would rather take a belt sander to my bellend)

Seeking shade....
Reiff area (some of it)
Gruinard area
Aberdeen coast (if not smeggy)
Lakes (East-ish crags esp)
Lednock west side
Crag Lough and Peel Crag (quite a good idea actually!)

Easy mileage....
Yet again, *yawn*

Other options....
Deep Water soloing?? Craig Stirling!! But maybe too greasy if it's that warm.
Getting up high in the mountains?? Ha-fucking-ha. Anyone got any new veins? Though not. Fuck off.

Any other ideas?? Climbing ones of course... Let me know...

Monday, 15 July 2013

Slabs and Paths.

Glen Nevis, the true home of Scottish slab climbing. North West slabs are too easy and too scattered, Creag Ghlas is too singular and too far to walk, the Cairngorms are pretty much Alpine to get to, and as for the Etive Slabs, that's not proper slab climbing or proper climbing at all, any more than a cat skating up and down a tiled roof would be. Proper slab climbing involves crimps and rockovers as well as smears. So, Glen Nevis then - coarse, flakey, textured schist, from roadside to 30mins walk, in a sunny and beautiful glen (albeit with Cafe Beag serving the worst coffee I've encountered in a decade - AVOID). The path of Glen Nevis slab righteousness (not all pure slabs but with signficant slabby or off-vertical climbing) could look like this:

Rubberface - easy and pleasant

Twitch - (not done)

Bewsey Crack - tricky and varied.

Liquidator - [attempted - crack is unclimbably filthy]

Fang - (not done yet)

Plague Of Blazes - classic bold slab, does exactly what it promises

Slatehead Slab -  (not done)

Quadrode - (not done yet)  

Cathode Smiles - (not done yet)  

Double Or Quits Direct - eliminate but nice rock

Reptile - good and varied on funky rock

Earthstrip - classic line, tricky in places

Diode - brilliant route, perfect thin crack/slab, underrated

Kaos - quite tricky and good value

Travelling Man - awkward and unnerving but good

Ground Zero - serious and bold, good rock and good line

Land Ahoy - mostly protectionless but somehow quite brilliant

Vincent (?) -  (not done yet, might not be slabby enough?)

Crackattack - tricky but good the easier way, perhaps a bit steep

Edgehog - polished chalky trade route, but a classic

Mutant - [had a brief look while on Reptile, line is quite obscure]

Savage Cabbage - (not done yet)

Risque Grapefruit - (not done yet)  

Walter Wall - great route with a lovely runout and good climbing

Sweet Little Mystery - [had a play on this, far too dangerous a solo]

Aquarian Rebels - [had a look at this, a bit dirty and looks desperate]

Freddie Across The Mersey - (not done yet)

On Some Beach - (not done yet) 

Triode - (not done yet)  

(I've left out some of the right-hand routes on Wave Buttress because although they look great, I'm pretty sure they will be unclimbably filthy too.)

In the context of this list of justice, my progression throughout has been....okay so far. But it's the last few on the list, especially the last two, that particularly fascinate me. Steep bold slab climbing with BIG but potentially safe run-outs above decent gear. The sort of inspiration that got me to do Poetry Pink after 10 years of desire, and will hopefully get me to do a couple of those routes after a mere 3 years of similar desire. Of course for something "beyond" my limits, I need to get everything right - motivation, confidence, tactics, and especially weather - the sunniest crags in Scotland in the wettest, midgiest area in Scotland beneath the biggest fucking mountain in Scotland makes good conditions surprisingly elusive for somewhere so accessible.

This last Sunday the ridiculous heat had finally fucked off and the breeze had kicked off (it was much cooler at Sunday lunchtime than it was late Friday night). I'd taken it steady on the Wave walk-in by stopping off in the Gorge, warmed up on the rather scary Ground Zero (E3 5b??) and was feeling ready to give On Some Beach a go.... But....


I definitely had the right trousers (cheap Adidas from Sport's Direct, well insulated from the breeze and with the orange stripes nicely matching my orange vest), but the wrong shoes. I'd overestimated how smeary Wave was (not very) and underestimated how edgy it was (quite a bit on the coarse grains and nobbles), and had brought my well-worn soft shoes, good for sensitivity and smearing, but less good for support and toe-power. Even on GZ I felt I wasn't able to dig in hard enough on the nubbins, and I just didn't trust myself to try OSB with that odd stacked against me. Two trips to Wave I've been syked but it's got too hot, one trip I've been syked but wrong shoes....another stroll down through the Gorge path without the experience of that mega-challenge.

Talking of paths...

Another lesson learnt this weekend was to be wary of straying off the beaten path. Even in the super-accessible and well-renowned Glen, it seems anything less than the Scottish Rock (SMC, not Gary's!) trade routes can be scarcely climbable. The day before we went to Creag Am Fithich to take advantage of a brief afternoon and low-ish river wade. Well the river wade was the highlight of the day, as Caterpillar had a fairly filthy finish, and Steerpike had a too-dangerous-to-abseil hollow tree after the actual climbing, and a quite unbelievable grovel up vertical moss. Then en-route back from Wave, Aquarian Rebels had a thin veneer of lichen that made it look even more impossible than it's initial "flared fingertip seam in an utterly blank slab" appearances, and I had to aid the easy escape route of Liquidator as it's crack was utterly full of moss - a pity as the starting moves above the river and the situation are both very fun, and the finish is easy to return to dry land. Opposite on the Gorge Wall, Chimera and Easy Pickings look just as good lines as when I had a brief play on the former 3 years ago, and even dirtier and mossier.

Have any of these routes had ascents this decade?

Was it really a good idea for Gary to directly copy descriptions out of Highland Outcrops without checking if these routes are climbable?

Why on earth is Edgehog so bleached with chalk and wear you can see it from the carpark, but more accessible routes are just walked past?

Is it because of Extreme-bloody-rock?? All Ken's fault?

Or is it because trad climbing is dying in Scotland whilst dogging up Dunkeld and days out at Angus shit-holes are flourishing?? In which case maybe we need Ken more than ever?

Is there any point me straying off the beaten path in the Glen again?

No probably not...

Going to take both pairs of shoes next time though...

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Challenge #5: Bratach Uaine (plus more Aberdeen n stuff)

Finally, back on the wagon. Maybe properly, maybe temporarily, who knows. It's kinda gone thusly:

Harper's Wall: Laid a few ghosts to rest here. Previous scores included a rubbish day failing on Silent Partner, and another rubbish day failing on Che. This day definitely had good potential to be rubbish - it was in the shade, in the shelter of a warm south-westerly, just after high tide with a big swell and sea-spray, and it had rained in the morning. And yet utterly contrary to established wisdom, it turned out to be some of the best conditions I've found on Aberdeen granite. How? Why? I have no idea. Suffice to say I rattled off One Two Three Go, Silent Partner (a successful retro-flash being ensured by me only being able to remember "I got pumped" (it's strenuous rather than pumpy) and "I think there was a wallnut 9" (no there wasn't)), and Free Spirit fairly comfortably and surprisingly enjoyably given the well-described "primitive delights" of the undercut starts. More fun was had with Brad's attempt to continue his ritual sacrifices to the sea, with a dismount off Rock Mushroom leaving both of us dangling from a single small cam above the deepest dankest and hungriest-looking of the filthy green pools at the base "No Brad don't pull back on the rock, as you go up I will go right down...." :).

Black Dyke: Another crag with two unsuccessful visits, but this time due to birds and breeze rather than climbing failures. This time went even smoother than Harper's Wall. We warmed up at Earnsheugh with me following Death Cap and having a rather atmospheric belay on the eyrie between two equidistant gulls that simple sat there, cock-headed, giving me the beadiest of beady-eyed stares. Then we hit Black Dyke with the tide going out, the sun leaving the baked rock, and enough breeze curling around. I got to grips with 3 good routes, including the hardest I'd done for a while - On The Rocks, which despite the guidebook claims of "well protected" required a lot of patience fiddling in tiny wires and cams, and then a cool sideways dyno into thuggy terrain. Very satisfying.

Creag Dubh: Back to Creag Dubh and feeling more like I have a fighting chance of climbing what I really want there. This time was only one route, and more unfinished business. Last time I'd climbed up to the crux of Bratach Uaine 5 times before giving up in disgust at my weakness. This time, after a lot of training, surely I would feel stronger enough to crush it?? Not any stronger physically, it felt just as bloody hard and powerful and reachy. But....I felt stronger mentally after a bit of falling practise, and committed to a full on crossover lunge, got the sloper, blasted up 5m of overhanging jugs to a ledge and gear, and wombled up the rest. Very committing, very cool.

 After a day not redpointing anything...
Creag Nan Cadhag: An intermediate day en-route to Diabeg, just to explore somewhere new. This is one of the many hidden sport crags in the Wester Ross area - this time hidden in plain view above the road past Stone Valley, it is essentially the sport sector of Stone Valley! A good position to catch the breeze and rattle a few routes off. I thought I'd done enough rattling for the day but local activist Paul Tattersall had turned up and after some healthy debate on North West Scotland bolting ethics, peer-pressured me into trying the classic Axe Grinder, which I had little expectations of success on. Somehow I crimped furiously enough the initial ramp and compressed frantically enough up the slopey crux bulge to make it to the top. An unexpected delight and a great little route.

Diabeg: The forecast was cloudy, cool, and breezy, so just to be contrary, it didn't rain, it sizzled instead. Wall Of Flame would have been far too well-named and was off the cards right from sweating up the walk-in, but the fact I could look at it with anticipation rather than terrified incomprehension felt like progress. The morning was merely muggy, but with enough shade to do the totally underrated Bogie opposite the Main Cliff. The afternoon was fierce, with Coel frying like an egg on The Pillar whilst I cowered under a fringe of heather. Retreat to a dip in the bay and the pub was the only option, and pan fried sea-bream with black olive tapenade on a garden pea risotto with a tangy salsa was particularly delicious.

Seriously, fuck off.

After this it has got stupidly hot and a 3 hour drive down an unduly busy A9 into the blazing 28'c sun with no air con was pretty tedious. So now it's no longer to wet to climb, not too cold to climb, nor too midgey to climb, nor too partner-barren to climb, but too hot *rolls eyes*.  But I feel on this wee jaunt that I have built a little buffer of confidence on a bigger buffer of mileage and training, so am happy to take things how they come. Having got into the mileage mode I feel happy to do what the conditions dictate - aiming for the most awesome challenges but dropping down to ticking over if that is what is needed.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Step step step...

One foot after the other, one hand after the other. The sort of methodical pacing that got me into a couple of crags recently, and seemed to keep me climbing reasonably once I got there. It is a bit of an anathema to go to the excellent and usually reassuring Wester Ross for mileage when there are such inspiring challenges up there, but I still have a few places to potter around at... Stone Valley is on the cusp for me as there are both gentle routes like The Thug and Demon Razor to play on (both good fun and good value), but also the imposing Cat Burglar looming over, whispering and tempting. Common sense and rain showers forced a retreat to a swift rope-tarp shelter, and ensured I will have to return to the utterly anti-Fiend 30 minute murderous heather slog at some point....maybe.

Diabeg Peninsula is another crag I don't really want to have to walk to again, as the apparently flat 45 mins around from Diabeg Main is an endless trudge on the roughest of all "paths" with a final sting to get to Rolling Wall - a gentle Leaning Block-esque stroll this is not! Nevertheless I have been reliably informed than the splendid and desperate-looking line of The Applecross Jam is actually "E3" so I might be tempted as I avoided it this time. I also avoided succeeding on Aquamarine, but this was actually bloody desperate. So I have gone from a crap climber failing on easy routes to a crap climber failing on hard routes, more small progress. Mileage on a couple of other routes there went fine, and Brave New World is a truly brilliant E2.

Stone valley local pondering on sandbagging us with duff beta.

Camalot 3, C3 000, two slings, some rope and a rope tarp. Bear fucking Grylls or something.

The final "avoiding challenges" venue has been Rosehearty, by far the best cliff for the E2-5 climber on the East of the UK between Bowden and errr....well I guess you could follow the coast around to Sheigra?? Suffice to say despite several visits I am still dabbling firmly at the lower end of the scale. 2 months ago I was hugely fired up for some slightly harder routes there, at the moment I have to potter, not least because the massive steepness is pretty much my anti-style. Still there was plenty to potter on, and as on previous visits the contrasting slab climbing was even better than the more extensive thuggery on the sea faces. Having a small social group out (all 3 of us!) meant I actually got some nice photos taken too. At the end of the day I might have stood a fair chance on something tricky, but the Essential 1 hour time window between the sun drying the smeg off and the sun making the rock too warm had closed, and I will have to wait for a fresher day. In the meantime there is a lot more training to be done and the fairly dire forecast looks very suitable for that.  

Photodump from Rosey in distinctly non-dire weather: