Tuesday, 20 May 2008

....but is it fun??

Abseiling off gear after leading "Rubblesplitskin" at Diabaig. As you can see it's not a typical Diabaig steep slab.

This was an inspiring line but a pretty arduous ascent. It's very steep, tiring, slightly greasy rock on a muggy evening, sometimes hard to place gear, a bold middle section with some nasty rock and a tricky blind finish over a roof. All very Gogarth. Highlights of my eventually successful ascent include having a right wobbler placing gear on the lower section and having to downclimb to nearly the ground, having a good struggle in the middle section past a throbbing block that was my only hold AND gear placement, and having an absolute tourettes tantrum desperately reversing the obtuse top roof back to a rest. Even the Pylon King was shocked by the volume, duration, and sheer profundity of my profanities.

The question then: But is it fun??

The answer, overall, is yes. Despite this being a fine battle (almost all the other climbs I did in Scotland went smoothly, many felt easy), I can say that I enjoyed it and had fun overall.

I enjoyed: Yarding up the start and discovering the holds were there; recovering enough on the lower rest to feel I could push on; going for the lower crux, trusting myself and cranking to a jug; being totally committed above that crux and knowing, as nervey as it was, that I would continue; getting into the upper rest and sorting my gear out; revelling in the exposed position; finally working out the top roof and pulling through it with gusto; and finishing steadily having put some good effort in.

Despite the struggle, I enjoyed a lot (not all - the stressful moments I hated!) of DOING it, not just having DONE it.

Which is nice.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Not Wales.

I had planned to go to North / Mid Wales at the weekend or just after. However a drizzly forecast for Saturday prevented the weekend trip, and subsequently I've decided it would be best to rest my elbow a bit (it felt okay after Scotland but achey on the weekend) and get on with other stuff.

It feels a bit odd at the moment, having this constant reason to not go climbing. I sometimes have quite varying climbing motivation, depending on people, plans, places, and future possibilities. At the moment, if I don't feel like getting out (despite opportunity and good weather, two factors that often make me feel I "should" get out even if I'm not totally psyched), I always have the reason that it's good to rest my elbow some more. It's a bit of an excuse for laziness, BUT it's still a true maxim for me at the moment:
The best climbing I can do is not climbing.

Still I am inspired by Mid Wales in particular. Not too far away, quiet, interesting, lots to explore, plenty of good sounding proper trad routes. The Merionydd guide is a bumper volume of inspiration and confusion - it's taken me a couple of years to make sense of the potential there. Some of it is fairly esoteric and exploratory, but that's good, it means there's fresh stuff to climb. Which means, BIGGER inspiration, SMALLER numbers, and better for my injury.

Next time...

Friday, 16 May 2008


Pylon King: We are going to North-West Scotland in May.

Fiend: We are? Okay

Simple as that really :). PK had this grand plan that we needed to wait for a good weather window in May, early enough to avoid the worst of the midges, and shoot up last minute to explore the highly regarded cragging around Torridon and Diabeg. All credit to the old goat, it was a very good plan. He monitored the weather, I provided the transport, and over this weekend, we went.

It was really rather good...

Actually I'm really rather tired so I won't write so much on it now, but...

Our campsite:

I think PK summed it up best when he said that the usual great climbing areas in the UK - North Wales, Lakes, Devon and Cornwall - are 3 star climbing destinations, and Scotland is a 4 star climbing destination. I found the scenery around the Torridon to Ullapool area to be particularly stunning, the combination of typically rugged mountains and hills, with lochs and forests and isolated villages, all surrounded by an undulating coastline scattered with islands and inlets. Magical. What is most noticable is that although any individual scene can be equalled by the best scenes elsewhere in the country, there is SO MUCH up there - drive over the next hill and it was equally beautiful and tranquil.

Climbing on the superb Torridon sandstone:

The climbing is similarly lush and lovely. As well as the usual 2 hour walk-in mountain bollox (some of which does, admittedly, look stunningly good), there's plenty of varied and accessible outcrops offering single pitch climbing as good as any in the country. We climbed on the major crags of Diabeg and Seana Mheallan as well as other gneiss crags further north, and developing a new little outcrop just next to Torridon itself. I relished the choice of fresh routes throughout the grades, and thus could keep things fairly steady to avoid aggravating my elbow. Seemed to work okay - had a bit of pain to the touch each night but it was gone by morning, despite no access to icing. Easy trad is the way forward :).

Chuffed at the general scenery/climbing/weather combination:

More later, maybe. Or other waffling.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Bank holiday shenanigans.

Shenanigans is a good word. Well maybe not a good word to read but it sounds good and has a good meaning. It was one of my brother's favourites when we were younger. Possibly 'cos he kept getting bollocked for his shenanigans.

So, Bank Holiday. I'm not a particular fan of the "necessity" to get away and do something spectacular on BH weekends (apart from destinations that need 3 days to justify the journey, of course). Traffic jams, hordes of bumblies, lack of accomodation, etc etc. And the usual British guarantee of the weather being unguaranteeable. Better to save the special trips away for quieter weekends and let the weather dictate the timing rather than fighting against it. All about successful trips rather than fitting in with the status quo.

Anyway I have no idea what the weather was like in the UK this weekend because I wasn't here. I had a cunning plan and nipped over to Valencia to visit Fiend 2 before it got too hot. A long overdue and fun visit and naturally I managed to sneak in a couple of climbing days at Costa Blanca crags that were just over an hour from the city.

The hot sunny weather dictated shade, my elbow dictated some moderation in what routes I climbed, so I chose Bellus and Pena Roja. Both had good shady sectors and plenty of nice F6s. Last time I was sport climbing in El Chorro I was on top form and managed to push myself to flashing a few F7as (SMALL NUMBERS! :)). This time I had a vague notion of flashing a couple more but common sense got in the way and I stuck to 6s. Led 9 routes including several nice 6b/6cs in a couple of afternoons....there would have been a time in the past, pre-Chorro, when I'd have been happy with that. And indeed I was this time too. Good climbing.

(I was thinking of ranting about how - having been on several Euro sport climbing trips - the feel of climbing over there is getting pretty samey. Because, to be honest, it is. I felt that quite strongly on the first day - all pretty familiar. But on the second day, again the same stuff, I didn't notice it. It might be homogenous, but it's still FUN in it's own way.)

Mmmmm elbows...

Incidentally, just like going to Font, it might have seemed stupid to go sport climbing when my elbow is tweaked. It probably is somewhat stupid, but careful icing, massaging, warming up, not pushing too hard, and listening to any warning pains alleviate the stupidity a bit. Plus, it was only a couple of days, and I really want to take advantage of climbing in different places.

More pertinently, now it's getting too warm to boulder effectively and to sport climb abroad much (restricting the options anyway). So this will be my last strenuous climbing for a while - back to trad and choss over the summer, and hopefully the reduced physical intensity should help my recovery.

~ * ~

Another highlight of the trip was a fantastic meal at the Submarina restaurant in Valencia. This restaurant is part of L'Oceanogràfic Aquarium complex, itself part of the surreal collection of organic sci-fi buildings of the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias, all situated in the giant ex-river-bed-now-public-park that snakes through Valencia and is probably the city's best feature.

The restaurant....well the food was very good (my scallops were large enough to have their own gravity and came with a lobster and sea-urchin reduction, my lamb shoulder was succulent enough to make chewing obsolete and was garnished with an intense thyme froth), the wine was very good, the service and decor was very good... But I've had a few meals to compare on those grounds. The restaurant itself however, is spectacular. It's situatated underground in a circular pit beneath a huge shell-like canopy dedicated to the restaurant alone, and the dining floor is surrounded by a giant fish tank with thousands of fish circulating the whole thing. Mostly anti-clockwise but a few deviant fish and anarchic manta rays insisted on going clockwise. Truly a James Bond setting and quite amazing sitting beside this constant stream of fish - memorable!

Some fucker eyeing up my main course:

~ * ~

One slight sour note to finish off an otherwise great fun trip was quite probably earning myself a speeding ticket coming back from Stanstead. In the interests of common sense I was sticking to a steady 80, but unfortunately kept at a steady 80 passing a speed camera in a 50 limit through roadworks. You know the score - it's dark, the camera isn't visible, the roadworks don't actually start for another mile, there's no other sodding traffic in the same county, the lanes are exactly the same as usual, and the 50 is entirely unjustified, blah blah.

Okay, so, my fault, I sped, I probably got caught. Hands up and I'll pay it if it comes through. What I don't like and what leaves a sour taste in my mouth, is this being an example of the constant battle drivers have in this country against the country's infrastructure - road regulations in particular. Yes there are many cases where regulations are good, useful, justifiable, and it feels exactly right to stick to them for everybody's sake. But with the increase in regulations, limits, restrictions, and generally fucking around with the roads to make them harder and harder to drive on (as if traffic, bumblies, and petrol prices don't do that enough already), it just feels like a war of opposition. Very much "them" and "us". Instead of working together, it's like they just want to make it a pain in the arse to drive around, and naturally we don't want that, and resentment abounds.

Still I'll just have to be more dilligent about cameras in the future.