Thursday, 1 March 2018

Peak Fiend??

I did some bouldering recently and it looked - and sounded - a bit like this:

According to old skool legend and mild-mannered intellectual Andy Popp:
We have reached peak Fiend - good work sir.
Which made my day :). What is Peak Fiend? Ridiculous clothing, ridiculous music, ridiculous enthusiasm for climbing despite both of those? But more than that, it's all just genuine. It's just me. Sure some of it might be a bit silly for some people, sure I might ham up certain aspects to entertain/amuse/provoke others....but those aspects are all part of me. Not that I have to justify this and it's all a bit navel gazing (I need an angled mirror to see past the gut), but it amuses me to explain the process:


A few years ago when I was bouldering around in The County, I saw some cool roof problems that it would be nice to do when it got a bit warmer: Bechstein at Back Bowden, Roof LH at Kyloe Out and Neb Roof at Shaftoe. All properly horizontal, all looked great, all 6C. Hmmm, 6C6C6C....666, this triggered off some nostalgia for my teenage dabblings in LaVey-ian Satanism (before I transitioned into even more ludicrous and unjustifiable militant aestheism before settling on a more realistic agnosticism) and my more mature appreciation for music linked to the dark side in general, and thus provided a theme for the climbing. There had to be 3, they had to be 6C, I had to do them all - not 2, not 4, not a 7A sneaking in there. My aspergers demanded it.

Vague further plans included trying to flash them, trying to do them all in a day, trying to flash them all in a day. Hah! Peak Fiend might be many things but it's not climbing that bloody good. As it turns out Roof LH was abandoned due to being more like 7A+, I did the other two in an hour or so each and after two hours on RLH there were several moves I couldn't do in isolation, B4 Traverse at Back Bowden was subbed in off the benches (Goat Traverse and Extreme Rock were considered but neither made the cut), it might not be a true roof but it is suitably horizontal and suitably great fun. Also abandoned was the idea of doing these in warmer times as would befit such burl, I got psyched and got on with it. This of course required the optimum clothing balance to keep most of my body warm but my skin cool enough for all the slopers. Hence beanie, vest and tracksuit bottoms, a matter of pure practicality and any colour-matching a matter of pure coincidence.


Bechstein went down fairly quickly, the trio of warm-ups to the right and breezy cave situation setting me up well. The sequence went exactly how I envisaged except for a missing foot sequence going for the lip - and was as cool as I envisaged with the crazy press into a vertical gaston in a roof and flicking into a fingertip undercling, all made feasible by an initially scary (until it popped out annoyingly easily) heel-toe. Neb Roof had always looked the hardest to me, massive holds but only for the upper limbs and since my lower ones weigh quite a bit from DVT distortion / deadlifting beef, I had to do something with them. The notorious toe-hooks first had me raging about them being too morpho for my stumpy frame, but then morphed into a feasible sequence of several feet first movements - all very satisfying. B4 Traverse I'd tried before and was happy to have the baltic breeze on this one, a very precise heel and very precarious slopers saw me scraping along it on a last-ditch attempt of the day.


After this day I drove back feeling exhausted and nauseous, the idea of trying to get a video edited was considerably less appealing than passing out in the Harthill Services carpark for 12 hours. But I guessed correctly my state was cold/hunger induced so at least opened Movie Maker over dinner as my innards slowly settled. Of course the soundtrack was a key issue and I already had plans: Drokz - I Accept The Word Of Satan was essential, which I have on this compilation - yes I still genuinely love gabber, and was listening to some on the way down to Back Bowden the second time. But could I do more?? I've never been a Slipknot fan but have always liked their Heretic Anthem for the catchy chorus "If you're 555 then I'm 666, what's it like to be a heretic?" . Could I mix that in?? Hmmm well...

An hour after getting back feeling like a zombie, I'm downloading Mixxx. Half an hour after that I'm bouncing in my seat as my crude first ever mix actually works: Dropping the first beat of IATWOS as a post-chorus HA breakdown starts, the kickdrum pauses and returns with a bass bounce just as a shouted "Heretic" finishes, then a quick pause in the gabber allows me to flick the speed back up to it's 220 bpm. I am actually more excited than doing any of the problems, as ace as they were. For extra satanic flavour, I manage to drop the main start of Gorgoroth's Untamed Forces (which I have on their album - yes I still genuinely love extreme metal and was listening to this on the way back from Shaftoe) after a drum roll on IATWOS, not a proper mix but the speedcore drumming on UF works well. 3 problems, 3 tracks, one unholy theme, I am unduly giddy.

Peak Fiend is real Fiend...

Sunday, 4 February 2018

An Enthralling Experience.

Possible progressions:
Despite mild but persistent illness, despite a winter mostly off due to that and my leg, I'm tentatively confident with my climbing at the moment. I've been training quite regularly and feeling quite adequate on indoor bloques and routes. Due to the bleak misery of Scotland I've had winters before that are solely dedicated to training but have led into springs solely dedicated to doing pretty well outdoors. However I still have half a mind (okay, most of my mind, it's a bit obsessed) on what I could do to progress. At the moment, by far the biggest improvements to my climbing would be to fix my digestive issues (in progress - seen consultant, due for ultrasound, more bloods, stool test, possible endoscopy) and move somewhere near an actual decent amount of crags (not nearly as in progress as it should be). In terms of what I might actually train for, apart from the usual bollox (stronger, lighter, fitter, lighter, more flexible, lighter, etc), one thing I am focusing on is.....focus. Specifically trying to maintain focus and composure when the situation becomes physically and mentally stressful, which obviously happens a lot climbing trad at your limit, and is harder just to climb through than other disciplines. I'm calling this....

Calm amongst the chaos:
The idea being to keep putting myself in mildly stressful situations while training, and keeping aware enough to accept the chaos, acknowledge how it makes me feel, and try hard to keep calm - and all that entails, e.g. maintaining efficiency, precision, relaxation, etc. Obviously a lot easier said than done but the idea and the awareness is a start. At Kyloe In the other day, there was chaos on two scales: The chaos of the weather, very cool, very windy. Sitting with my back against The Nadser, watching the wind tunnel of tree clearance stretching beneath the grossly underused High T wall, pines weaving and waving at me, there was feeling of calm in my little oasis of light breeze. And the chaos of my initial method of trying the start of the problem: left hand on a ripple combining a 1/4 first joint razor for the lower two fingers and a micro sloper for the forefinger, right hand on a decent 1/3 joint slimper, left foot in micro-navel pocket, pull desperately with left hoping there's not the 1mm creep of skin that is insta-fail, then right toe on a sloping nubbin.....placing the toe and trusting it is the stress, all points of contact tentative and ready to fail. I focus on focus, holding it and springing for the sloping v-notch, occasionally tickling it. Despite feeling a long way from the problem, I enjoy putting my principle into action and viewing it as training, until I find...

A surprising solution:
During rest periods (mostly to let my skin cool down, despite 4'c air temps and -2'c overall temps from 20-30mph westerlies), I alternate between drinking camomile tea, providing moral heckling to The Fox who is mostly eschewing Kyloe power bouldering in favour of easy soloing into moss top-outs, good on him I say as the routes here are bloody marvellous and deserve a lot more traffic, and idly fondling the other non-holds on the Nadser. Bored of diminishing returns on my low-percentage start, I try pulling on on with inimical left hand ripple, right hand on a gratton adjacent to the decent slimper, right toe in a lower central micro-navel, left foot crossed behind me for balance but ready to spring into the original left pocket. This all makes sense but also makes most use of the steepness of the "slab" start, surely I shouldn't be able to compress that hard between two tiny holds, but with cool fresh skin, they feel like...

Bleeding bivvy ledges:
Which is one of the highlights of this problem and indeed winter bouldering in general. The gratton in particular is an unexpected delight, I wish I'd measured it or at least videoed it for my own satisfaction, maybe 3-4mm, perfectly incut as such things are, maybe 1/6th first joint. Yet it works, I squeeze hard enough, flick my left foot on, and catch the v-notch comfortably. I forget how I fell off, maybe surprise that this method is so much more feasible. I do what I always do with a breakthrough, shoes off, go for a stroll, keep both skin and mind calm and dry. Stepping back on, The Fox is loitering to provide ME with moral heckling, and I already have a planned sequence for the top. One go I'm stretching for penultimate slopers but I'm not sure where I'm going and have a hunch it won't work. A quick trot around and a thorough clean and chalk, another go and I tickle the now-obvious holds but too dynamically. Accepting that the full fingertip mantle of the left-hand pico-ramp - pinky springing off to get maximum pressdown - is both unfeasible and essential, I teeter further and do it. A problem that I thought would take many visits is suddenly done in 2 hours (and 4 goes with my new starting beta), surely that can only be...

Cheating conditions:
It's a concept I've had for many years and have sometimes applied well: Try hard with most optimum conditions imaginable, fool the holds into actually being holds, fool myself into actually climbing things that on paper I shouldn't be able to. The essence of learning to boulder on gritstone, I expect. Pretty sure I did that on Brad's Arete pre-ban, definitely did it on Spinal Slab burning 8A Lord Loggington off in attempts required, and always had it planned for Soft On The G in sub-zero temps. And here too, it's essential. The idea of trying to pull on these tinies in anything less than perfect weather is as incomprehensible and bewildering to me as Turkish poetry, thinking in 4 dimensions, or choosing veganism, while moulding my firm skin onto them this day is a genuine pleasure, almost as much as the penultimate move. Given my usual inhibitive sweatiness, I'll happily take this, although I won't take the given grade since: 1. It blatantly isn't and 2. Bouldering grades are horseshit anyway. I will definitely take the thrill of the experience, though :)

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Pink and purple.

I love a bit of pink and purple action I do.

So it's a strange time at the moment. When I bashed my leg two months ago and I got it x-rayed at Macc A&E, I was a bit lax with hand hygiene and picked up some norovirus or equivalent, which to put it conservatively, was the worst thing in the history of fucking bullshit. So night 1 was hobbling out of The Roaches with the biggest leg impact I've taken, night 2 was turning myself inside out, and days 3-5 were existing on ~600 calories average while trying to heal that leg. Can you guess where my immune system went?? No, me neither.

The leg healed really well. Slow and steady and seemingly strong (more on that later).

My insides?? Not so much. Ever since the virus, I've had bouts of nausea every two weeks, lasting many hours, enough to stop me sleeping, stop me eating, and wipe me out for a couple of days. The origin point seems obvious, but the actual problem is unknown - and still being investigated. My diet is much better and I'm taking various natural supplements to help. This has put a dampener on things from my state of mind to my grander climbing plans. However in-between these bouts, after I recover my strength, I'm discovering that my strength is, well, surprisingly okay.

Take the last couple of weekends. Sunday day time I got out for the first time in 2 months and did this:

Really good fun. Tiny sloping ripples, extended moves, and a precarious feel. Nice day out. Proper mint connies and all that. That evening I feel happy, eat plenty of chicken and a light green salad, and soon started feeling nauseous out of the blue. Neck two anti-nausea tablets, crawl into bed, and finally pass out at 2am (early by bout standards). Couldn't do fuck all for 2-3 days. Rest of the week feel gurgly and bloated having started taking strong pro-biotics (bad timing).

Friday I don one of my highly motivational death metal vests (Cattle Decapitation), go to the gym feeling weak, and bust out a PB of 80kg x 2 benchpress (can usually only manage one). Saturday I swap to another vest (Napalm Death), brave a freezing cold Ratho, do my hardest indoor lead ever and get very close on an equally hard one. Sunday I am keep the ND vest on as I am still awaiting a fresh vest (Behemoth), go to the gym again, 3rd day on and not having done proper deadlifting for nearly 3 months, warm up, equal my 160kg and death-growl my way to a 170kg PB (see, the leg is okay). Hopefully if / when the next bout hits, I will be able to take some heart in this.

Back to Saturday and purple routes. I was chatting to Big Bob as usual and he pointed out a new Purple 7b on the Justice Wall. "Saved it for weeks, but blew it"...."Totally sustained"..."Fighting all the way in the middle"...."No rests at all"...."Will be a good top-roping training route". Robert and I are sort of vaguely equal in our climbing. What he lacks in strength, bravery, and strong vests, he makes up for in height, tallness, reach, and, errr, ummm, okay stamina, too much stamina. Generally if it's too pumpy for him then it's waaaaay too pumpy for me, but that's okay, having done all of my "onsightable" routes at the Mighty R (the other Mighty R, huh), I'm just after pulling a bit harder on things I won't get up, but will have a good fight however far I get.

Initially, this goes to plan. My first proper route is another Purple 7b, but this time on the New Comp Wall, a pure power-to-weight section that is my anti-style - particularly when it's a 7b ladder of incuts and pinches and no jugs in sight. However instead of getting shut down halfway up, I somehow end up one bolt from the chain and have to jump off as I can do the moves but not the clips. Not bad.

Sticking with the theme, it's on to Justice Wall Purple. I do like doing the earlier sections of harder routes here as they give a good cranky fight compared to easier full length stamina plods - good to mix in both. My aim is to get to the 2/3 height main lip, as I reckon I will be fine on the fingery lower section, while the steep middle section has decent enough holds to keep going but will burn me out totally, and it will all be good training / fun. Initially it all seems to work: The start is cranky and crimpy enough to offer little respite. Going into the middle section, Robert's warning comes true - all the decent holds are tucked around or beneath volumes ensuring they rapidly disappear as footholds, leaving volume smears and sketchy moves. I'm nearly off on some reachy moves part way but sporadic falling practise gives me the confidence to just go for it, and I stay attached - even at the lip. Aren't I supposed to be dangling on the rope, nursing my forearms already?? Apparently not - even when another tricky crossover to a sloping rail nearly spits me off again, but the frictional condition is a silver lining to the freezing cold and my paws drape along it. Another on/off move sees me, increasingly surprised, at a good edge shakeout, far further up than I should be, I can barely hear Lauren's distant encouragement below. I've been fighting for a while now so keep doing it, vigorous arm flicks and hyperventilating lead into another I-should-have-dropped-this reach to micro-jugs and then somehow the finish. My lungs are still hurting on the drive back.

In the grand scheme of things, while I feel occasionally fucking rotten, and indoor climbing is irrelevant toss, this does show some potential...

Oh and the pink part of the equation?? I've done quite a few pinks down at TCA. They are great problems with plenty of techniness and always make training fun. Possibly a bit too much fun as the weirdo knacky slopey ones always tend to lure me away from the pure power training a lard-arse like me should be doing. Including the squeezy egyptian volume sloper tickle problem on the new comp wall. One weak and queasy Sunday it felt entirely unfeasible, a few days later I unlocked it (and several others) fairly determinedly, mostly helped by Fultonious shouting "SAUSAGE" at me as I snatched for the shapely finishing hold  (more like a croissant shape to be honest but if Ally has got pink sausage on the mind who am I to argue).

Friday, 5 January 2018

The fleet.

I quite like radio controlled cars...

Car: HPI Savage XS
Type: 1/12 4WD monster truck
Upgrades: HPI SS-40WP servo, HPI CVD axles, HPI HD drive cups, Proline Big Joe 2.2 wheels, TBone Thrasher bumpers, orange anodised nuts.
Purpose: Everything!! Serious bashing, cruising, crawling, being a RC BEAST.
Speed: 40 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: bashing  the  shit  out of it

Car: Tamiya Dual Ridge TT02B
Type: 1/10 4WD buggy
Upgrades: Absima CR2S receiver, Savox 9kg servo, Hobbywing Quicrun 13.5T brushless motor, full ball bearings, Tamiya aluminium drive shaft
Purpose: Enjoying the kit build, learning off-road track driving, gentle bashing
Speed: 23 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: nice skate cruising

Car: FTX Colt
Type: 1/18 4WD mini buggy
Upgrades: Absima CR2S receiver, FTX 9g servo, FTX brushless ESC, Hobbywing Ezrun 7800kv brushless motor, FTX aluminium CVD axles, FTX sway bar, custom nylon sheet bumper, blue anodised nuts
Purpose: Melting the ESC and Brushless motor, mini-scale off-road track driving, fast cruising
Speed: 36 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: getting the brushless conversion working

Car: Himoto Mastadon / Maverick Ion XT hybrid
Type: 1/18 4WD mini truggy
Upgrades: Maverick Ion MT wheels, Ion MT front and back bumpers, Ion aluminium shock absorbers, Ion aluminium drive cups, Ion aluminium dog bones, 3S Lipo
Purpose: Bashing, repairing, being too fast for it's own good - will probably sell soon.
Speed: 36 mph (3S lipo)
Finest moments: n/a

Car: Carisma GT24TR
Type: 1/24 4WD micro truggy
Upgrades: Carisma aluminium shock absorbers, Carisma carbon fibre shock towers, Carisma 12000kv brushless motor, pink anodised wheel nuts, custom nylon sheet bumper, custom LED lighting rig
Purpose: Being great value for it's size, bashing, cruising, fixing.
Speed: 31 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: serious skatepark fun

Car: Losi Micro Truggy
Type: 1/26 4WD micro truggy
Upgrades: Losi brushless ESC + 2.4ghz receiver upgrade, Losi 2.4ghz transmitter, Losi 10500kv brushless motor, Losi micro SCT front bumper.
Purpose: Being ridiculously fast for it's size, bashing, cruising, good travel RC
Speed: 33 mph (3S lipo)
Finest moments: being fast....and fun

Car: WLToys P929
Type: 1/28 4WD micro truck
Upgrades: PNRacing 50T brushed 130 motor, custom LED lighting rig
Purpose: Street cruising, night-time cruising - will probably sell soon.
Speed: 23 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: christmas cruising

Car: Oorlando Hunter
Type: 1/35 4WD micro crawler
Upgrades: 300 RPM motor upgrade, HPI RF45 receiver
Purpose: Fascinating micro-kit build, desktop crawling, annoying cats - will probably sell soon.
Speed: n/a
Finest moments: annoying cats

Possible future aims:
Tamiya Konghead 1/18 6WD monster truck
Traxxas E-Revo VXL TSM 1/16 4WD truggy
Volantex Vector 40cm brushless boat
(RCs follow the n+1 scale, but unlike owning lots of bicycles, it's considerably less geeky and not as certain a guarantee of massive bellendism).

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Gym'll fix it.

The simple raw beauty of an authentic natural experience. This is not the gym.

Looking down from that raw beauty into the septic miasma of Glasgow. Gyms lurk here.

It's raining (I don't even know if it is, but it's a fair assumption), we're training. Circuits, hangs, bloques, plastic, resin, wood.......metal?? All of the above??

Gyms are awful places. Crass, bland, utterly sterile, full of terrible music and desperate girls on the treadmills and inflated meatheads flexing in the mirror. About as far from the raw beauty of a natural experience as it gets....but out in that environment, say, braced and dangling above the sea on the "grossly overhanging" Call To Arms, those very arms and and indeed legs burning, the idea of having some fitness and strength is quite an appealing one and could even make gyms an appealing means to that end. 

Of course, that end is climbing and gym training isn't climbing training, as people (often people who are already very physically fit with fully functional legs that require little additional work AND very climbing fit etc etc) are quick to point out... "Do more climbing training", they say. Bloody great idea if you have rhino skin and steel tendons. On the other hand when I have the following options...

1. Train climbing 5+ times a week, bouldering, routes, boarding.
Likely result: Unable to climb hard after first week due to fucked skin and fingertips. Unable to climb at all after second week due to chronic golfer's elbow and shoulder impingments. 

2. Train climbing 3+ times a week, rest on the other days.
Likely result: Able to cope with the climbing level, get fat and demoralised in between times. Climbing progress slows due to weight and slothfulness.

3. Train climbing 3+ times a week, do awesome outdoor activity 2 days a week.
Likely result: Able to cope with the climbing level, but either drown, get hypothermia, or give up awesome outdoor activity as it's too bloody miserable in Scotland in winter - or even if I survived I'd be too hampered by DVTs to make full use of a glorious hillwalk in horizontal sleet. 

4. Train climbing 3+ times a week, go to gym 2 times a week.
Result: Able to cope with the climbing level, complimentary training at gym improves core and antagonists, along with CV in a drier environment, weight is stable and climbing progresses due to stimulated muscles and improved motivation/energy.

...then hopefully those uberfit uninjured climbing hones can forgive me if I choose the option that actually works for me.

Bear in mind I try to use the gym quite sensibly - I have no intention of becoming an inflated meathead, although I do enjoy lifting heavy metals in short controlled bursts:

Yup actually having FUN doing a physically challenging activity can be a useful motivator.... In terms of weights, I've spent a bit of time looking at bodybuilding videos on Youtube to find what is effective for bulking up and finding common threads e.g.: focusing on the 8-15 rep range, aiming for the maximum time-under-tension, isolating specific muscles, not resting weights on fully extended/contracted limbs, doing specific muscle group sessions, eating a lot to support muscle growth etc AND THEN DOING THE OPPOSITE e.g. focusing on 1RMs and high weights / low reps for pure strength, aiming for maximum effort in very short bursts, working overall movements, resting between reps and long rests between sets, mixing in all different muscles groups in small doses for each one, and trying to eat healthily but not excessively.

My usual gym training consists of some of (in varying proportions):

Climbing relevant training:
Lat pull downs
- All pretty damn obvious. I don't mind mixing in some higher reps with these as I figure a little bit of muscle gain from pulling down on stuff is probably offset from being able to, errr, pull down on stuff.
Antagonist weight training:
Shoulder press
- Bog standard antagonist stuff. High weight low reps for these, warm-up on 5s, then down to 3s, then down to 1RM. Total of 15 reps overall with lots of rests. I love the motions of both of these especially bench.
- Also standard antagonist and probably good for helping with mantles. I usually do these in sets of 10, again banking on relevant muscle gains.
Leg weight training:
- I love deadlifts. If you don't love deadlifts, check for a pulse. All round great exercise for maximum muscle stimulation. 
- I have problems with leg fitness, which is particularly noticable on steep uphills. I figure that a bit of leg strength might help. Also good for rock-overs.
- High weight low rep stuff for both of these of course. I don't want fucking cyclist thighs.
Core training:
Leg raises
Machine crunches
Machine rotations
- Bog standard core. Again I don't mind doing longer sets for these as they are so relevant to climbing.
CV training:
Compound lifts
- Very light weight clean and jerk into overhead press, renegade rows etc. Overall body and good heartrate boosters in a short time.
Sledge pushing
- The sledge is a cunt, nuff said. This is THE most relevant exercise I've found for slogging uphill with a rucsac on, not least because I hate it, so it must be right.
Rowing machine
Recumbent cycling
- Both obvious, both specifically good for me with my legs, the former as it uses other muscles too, the latter as the recumbent posture encourages venous return. I do these after the heavy weights as they're meant to be more effective once muscles are stimulated.

Will this get me to "tick 8a" or "first Enumber" or whatever crass fucking bullshit I'm supposed to aim for?? Not directly, no. Will it improve my body and mind overall to be better prepared for climbing training and physically harder climbing subject to a lot of climbing training?? Yes, yes it has.

Gyms are awful places. But they are useful places to push yourself physically and improve yourself physically, and I've kinda grown fond of them in that way.....and all those poncy twats down there, at least they're putting the effort into something physical and active and progressive....

The music still fucking sucks tho.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Three of the decentest.

It's been a long time since proper blogging. Sucktember slipped into Cocktober and then into Knobvember and no-one noticed except the days of rain and sunshine and showers grew shorter, as they invariably do, but not drier. The lack of proper blogging might correspond to the lack of proper climbing, my grand dreams of an autumn cranking to match my spectacular spring in the South West were diluted into homeopathic proportions and washed down the drain. I got South of the border a couple of times, one of them was to Armathwaite with a bone dry forecast and the whole thing was damp and I did some shitty greasy boulder problems in the first bay while Katy's lunatic Jadedog dug a WW1 style trench and turned the highballs left of Time And Motion Man back into proper solos and it was a fucking waste of 3.5 hours driving. As was Berryhill where I failed on an HVS (!) and then out of "sunshine and showers" only one of those came true.

Cheviot from Berryhill. Atmospheric and bollox.


Amongst all this fucking DROSS, there were moments of enlightenment, and by enlightenment I mean doing cool routes that might be a world away from my mega-inspirations but are also a world away from greasy eliminate bouldering (best left to Peak Limestone fans and other perverts who rank only slightly above winter climbers and vegans in the fucking weirdo stakes). Such as:

Counting Out Time, Newtyle Quarry:

Aka proper climbing at Newtyle which has become infamous as the dank hole in the ground where the aforementioned winter perverts gather to slot their tools into grubby slots. It's also got an impressive sheet of slab which no-one climbs because of it's 2 minute access, loads of mid-grade climbs, quick drying, evening sun, scarcely an hour from the Central Belt etc etc so why would anyone actually climb there instead of queuing for chalk-crusted smeg on Marlena wall or polishing Dumby some more?? Anyway it must be said that the slab itself is a bit bold, the E2 warm-up I did had one good cluster of gear in 25m. But on the other hand this gem has a great line and loads of gear (even at the "bold" overlap), it also has a proper slate smearing crux and overall is quite a treat. I loved it.

Whipper Snapper, Ashie Fort:

Another crag in the "hordes of the unwashed polishing the pebbles at Moy while this more accessible, closer to Inverness, equally sunny and infinitely more scenic crag languishes relatively under-used" ilk. I like Ashie. It's tricky, techy, necky, can look a bit mossy (nothing that more traffic wouldn't help), but it is essentially a grit-scaled conglomerate crag in strictly the mellowest of situations. This day, sandwiched in the middle of the dreichness, started badly struggling up a seeping HVS and finished well styling up this elegant and bold route. A vast amount of gear can be faffed in before the crux scoop, at least one or two bits might hold. Thankfully with a bit of composure and commitment it all went smoothly, another little gem.

Duel Variation, Dunkeld:

No photo for this one so here's a picture of an enormous and rather cool caterpillar instead. Due to the weather I had too many visits to Polney (and Upper Cave but I'm not talking about that), none of which involved doing what I really wanted to do. Something about this really steep impending wall with flakey crimps and a tied down sling for gear before eventually getting a distant peg put me off. As usual enough psyche and I eventually crack, one of the visits I had the usual indepth look, then a sit down and a good talk with myself about committing to the process, and then did it. Did it bloody well too, flicked a skyhook on during the steepness, cranked to the peg, tried a cam to back it up, didn't fit but I didn't faff, just ignored it and rocked over the lip to not glory but the satisfaction of snap decisions erring on the side of actually doing the climbing. And yeah another great wee route.

The moral being, good routes are good routes even if they're not quite the good routes I wanted to be doing....

Friday, 17 November 2017

Trajectory Of The Twat

Left foot up smearing, right foot up smearing, step left foot onto high edge, bring right hand over above left hand onto the arete... Something - still unknown - gives way, the compressed posture springs me out, arcing me down, the meticulously planned running belay comes tight, slamming me into the overlap like a soft meat wrecking ball. Thigh on the overlap, calf on the shelf below, knee luckily nestled in-between. Lower to the ground I was nowhere near, a couple of minutes unable to think or speak, but through the haze of pain I am weight-bearing so the bones at least are intact. Half an hour sorting kit, a mile hobble on the rough wet track on my own in the dark. Recompress myself into the car seat, test I can do an emergency stop, drive to Macclesfield A&E, x-ray confirms no breaks, but massive swelling, bruising, and a full length compression stocking for the foreseeable future. Hartington Hall hostel. Drive to Glasgow via almost every services to keep leg moving. Prop box and pillow under desk so I can use computer... And here I am, from that position to this one.


The grit had been called and I was out of the starting blocs pretty quick. After an abortively mediocre weekend at Crookrise, I'd written the list and summoned the determination - both steps that usually summon the rain gods for several months but maybe they were bored after all their exertions throughout autumn?? In an extravagant convergence of Audi A3 TDIs, Tom had driven from St Austell and I had driven from Glasgow and we met at the crag in glorious weather. I'd spent a few years getting inspired by such grit routes, a few days getting intimidated by this route, and a few hours at the crag analysing, calming down, planning and getting inspired. And then I got on it and then I fell off it and then I was lying on the ground thinking:

 "What the FUCK happened?? I had planned so well, I had climbed well, I had fucking FAITH in the grit and that's the whole point of being able to climb it?? And how the fuck can I try anything challenging if I fell off a 'safe' section and here I am lying on the ground??"

This, in a way, was more upsetting than the fall, than the pain, than the failure, than the prospect of injury and recovery. If I do everything right and it still goes wrong (and this isn't some bullshit like winter climbing where the whole route or climate can fuck you over untoward), how can I trust the rock, how can I trust myself?? Mistakes are easier to learn from than lack of mistakes....

Except they were there, and the dark hobble gave me enough time to think about them: In general, I don't fuck around with maximising the safety system, and I try hard not to fuck around with faffing too much these days (it's a work in progress...). This time:

1. I underestimated the need to faff on that one section of the route. I'd got very focused on the start ("traverse right with care" - implying it was remotely difficult when it wasn't, and is part of a much easier route, which I'd have known if I'd have read the guide more) and the finish (clearly bold). I hadn't got focused on the sequence getting to the finish, because hey it wasn't mentioned and it was right next to the gear, right? When I got there it felt tricky but I still didn't take it that seriously - my mind wasn't in the moment, it was in the future, thinking "I just need to get this done so I can be stood up and work out that bold finish". But of course that section still needed focus and really my trademark faffing would have been much more suitable. Don't underestimate the easy / un-mentioned sections on gritstone.

2. I overestimated the safety system. I'd got so focused on the bold finish and using a running belay to not hit the ground, I hadn't considered other risks in the fall and that the running belay might be unsuitable for other sections (though if I had fallen off the finish, the sort of impact I took would still have been better than a groundfall). DOA - Distance, Objects, Angles. I'd been so fixated on the distance of a fall that I hadn't looked at the objects (the overlap) or the angles. Tom did the running belay plan perfectly, but if I'd actually planned for a softer catch on most of the route, I could have avoided such an impact. Consider all aspects of a fall not just the distance, and consider falls from all possible areas of a route.

If I did this sort of route again.... I'd read the book carefully, I'd know the start should okay (but still pay attention to it). I'd divide my focus up more evenly. I'd plan out the gear and running belay better. I'd look at other aspects of the fall and try to plan for those. I'd anticipate challenge throughout the route. I'd take heed if sections started to feel unduly tricky and treat them with respect. And hopefully I wouldn't fuck it up, or if I did I wouldn't fuck myself up. And understand that, I'm pissed off that I failed but I still have some faith.


Finally the current state of affairs after a week: I can hobble effectively and almost walk normally (slowly!) if I'm warmed up. My leg is still swollen but the bruising is coming along rather nicely. I'm able to go to the gym but only for arm stuff or very light CV using my legs. I'm aiming to do gentle climbing within another week. I have no idea what muscle damage there is or how long it will be to get full strength back, so outside climbing might be several weeks off, but at least I can train reasonably in the meantime. I can probably bash around with RC cars as long as I don't stand in one position too long...