Thursday, 22 April 2010
Abortive attempts at Auchinstarry, determination at Dunglas.
I've been to Auchinstarry 3 times in the last few weeks, with the intention of trying something a bit more challenging i.e. Nijinski. Day 1 - warmed up, showered off. Day 2 - warmed up, showered off. Day 3 - warmed up, showered....but it passed. Oh hurrah. That meant I actually had to try it....obeying the inexplicable exhortations of my soul.
[Talking about souls, or rather the lack thereof, one thing I notice when reading about Nijinski is the vast hordes who have top-roped, or most usually attempted to top-rope it. This is....both highly vulgar and even less explicable. It's THE standout line and classic bold head-game LEAD testpiece of the Central Belt, what on earth would possess someone to waste such a quality climb by top-roping it, at very best a pointless no star muscular exercise?? As it happens when I turned up, lo and behold there was someone dangling off the end of a rope, scuffing their way around the crux with clearly no concept of the challenge involved nor the ability needed. I couldn't resist and politely suggested that if they can't do it, there was the obvious alternative of not doing it (why do people always miss this option?) and instead doing one of the superb mid-grade leads scattered around the quarry. They probably thought I was a complete cunt - "Hi, I AM a complete cunt" - and there was muttering to that effect, well, I have strong beliefs in aiming for quality climbing experiences and encouraging people to do so, rather than low quality abuse of something they shouldn't be anywhere near. This isn't a fucking climbing wall and Nijinski isn't a 3 star classic for fucking aiding your way up on a top-rope. Thankfully they packed up pretty shortly and disappeared....a bit of a sour taste was left but not as sour as if I'd kept hush and not put my real life money where my online mouth is.]
Later on I got on the route for a look. Many years ago I'd watched Grimer starting this (onsight but with pre-placed wires IIRC) and thought the lower arete looked quite worrying. When it formed in my mind as a possible idea, I was more worried about the highball start than the crux - but protected - finish. I was wrong both ways, the highball start is piss as is gaining the gear slot, and the upper crux seems inexplicable, blind, and very hard. Having teased in no less than 8 microwires into the so-called gear rack - of which 2 were actually good! - I felt fine with the fall potential but not with the failure potential. I got stood on the quartz ripple a few times (and reversed), but got bored with not knowing what to do next, so finished up Death Is...
So yeah, I asked people to not top-rope it in the context that it really should be led onsight, tried to lead it onsight, and had to escape off. What a cunt?? Well, no, not really. I was prepared to put myself out, to commit to it, to give it a go, to try to raise my game to the level the climb deserved. I was there standing on the ripple with a collection of tiny wires a few yards to the left, not sitting on a rope from above. I didn't manage it this time but I have a strong belief in the experience I am aiming for and aspiring to....I think I'll wait until I'm a better climber before I go back.
Next day I was bored with quarried basalt and trad too (a bit jaded after two good weekends at Northumberland and Polldubh) and fancied a change rather than a rest so what better than confusing, blind, over-bolted, loose, green and freezing cold esoteric sport climbing?? What better indeed. We went to Dunglas for a few hours and played on the new micro-sport wall. A bit like many such places, it's a bit crap and a bit good at the same time. It's everything I wrote above, but it's also hard, powerful, and pumpy for short routes, and therefore good training, which is sometimes all you need. Did a few routes and a couple I had to fight a bit on, so that's good. Not sure what's next but mixing it up is definitely the way. Although as usual it looks like the weather will have the final word in the near future.