Friday, 28 May 2010

Bugger up at Butterbridge.

The bugger up wasn't mine! I did fine - I went out to boulder, warmed up, wirebrushed a bit, sat out a shower, wrestled with the usual complete bollox Stone Country guide mis-descriptions / mis-grades, and eventually did a couple of cool problems in good fresh conditions, including this:

And the first ascent of this:

Butters V3 **, named in honour of Bbb-bb-but-but-buttttters who seems quite chuffed having done Strawberries recently.

The bugger up came with this:

Part way through my tickling around, I became aware the traffic was starting to go somewhat awry, around a combination of small car transporter and derailed white van, scarcely a few hundred yards from where I was sat (sit starts, you see). 4 police cars, 2 ambulances, 2 fire engines, a salvage truck and a helicopter later, it became obvious things weren't going to move any time soon. All of which was quite interesting in a detached sort of way, except that this was my main route back to Glasgow, and I needed to be back swiftly. Attempted swiftness turned to inevitable sluggishness when my chosen detour route became a nightmare of HGVs having to pass each other on single lane country roads and finally ground to a gridlock. About turn and leg it to Dunoon and catch the ferry back, which is a reassuringly smooth and rather fun experience, apart from it contribution in turning an hour's return into 2 1/2 hours. Ho hum!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Cruising at Cambusbarron.

Yes, cruising, honestly - it sometimes happens! I occasionally get up slightly challenging climbs, which is invariably due to my uncanny ability to downclimb to rests and often milk the most awkward rests and shakeouts like they are a quad of ripe bulging udders, and almost invariably involves a lot of stress, swearing, and substantial battling, partly with the climb's challenge but mostly with my own psychological demons.

However, that is almost invariably and sometimes that variance includes climbing "normally", unhampered by those demons, and with a modicum of confidence and smoothness. Hard to believe but rest assured it's a rarity. This evening was one of those rare occurences. I bought one packet of Polos and two bottles of midge repellent, cut all the superfluous straps and tags off his rucsac, went to Cambusbarron, seconded a couple of easier routes, warmed up on the challenging "Quantum Grunt" which was quite stiff but I got up it, got on the slightly more challenging testpiece "Big Country Dreams", downclimbed to a rest, milked another rest like a quad of bulging ripe udders, and surprised myself by sailing to the top. Nice to climb something well for a change, and as with almost every challenging route I've done this year, they were both really good. Hurrah.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Kinda nice day in Knapdale.

Kilmichael of Inverlussa is 52 miles from Glasgow as the crow flies, but 97 miles as the car drives, and that drive dwindles from motorway, to dual carriageway A-road, to fast trunk A-road, slow trunk A-road, normal A-road, B-road, single track B-road, minor road, and finally 4WD track as one gets further out in the sticks. This is the sort of place that people who live in the arse end of nowhere go on holiday to get away from it all.

The location makes for an extremely long journey for a single day out, but exploratory lust sometimes demands such escapades. The lust was directed to Creag Nam Fitheach, Knapdale's justifiably premier crag, and the single day was generally very nice - scenery, company, climbing and quite splendid tan-topping weather. The "kinda" comes from the detractions of the drive and also the crag base, a chaotic and overgrown boulder jumble which rivals North Third as The Worst Crag Base of 2010 and is highly incongruous with the convenience of the climbing and tranquility of the setting - there is little option to lounge and relax, unless you are a small-footed midget who likes relaxing whilst standing on one leg on the tiny patio of stable ground formed by the lone flat boulder.

Other than that it's all very reminiscent of a mini-Tremadog in rock feel and features, minus the queues of Classic Rock ticking drones. Strong geometries, rough angular rock, and good climbing. In the end I mostly puntered and avoided a couple of inspiring but sterner challenges. Nevertheless, being Easy Trad(tm) it was Good Fun(tm).

I also had an interesting learning experience on something slightly trickier, a slim, thin, and awkward looking groove. I wasn't really sure about it but thought I'd just "give it a look" and see what gear I could get in the start. One of my few natural talents with climbing (aside from downclimbing and spending ages in awkward and cunning rests) is fiddling in good gear, and Lo! shortly I was surprisingly well protected. So then I thought I'd just "give the moves a look", and promptly took advantage of that good gear by poinging off. Disappointing as I was actually giving it a go, but I had the useful realisation that I had been quite non-committal initially, and although I committed when I'd sorted good gear, I'd still been pretty casual about the climbing. Part of me had realised "hey I'm safe I can give this a go", but I hadn't turned that into full determination and concentration. If I'd made a conscious switch from "give it a look" to "climb it" then I probably would have climbed it!! Something to note for the future.

The end of a nice day:

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Bloody long walk-in to Ben Ledi.

Ben Ledi bouldering is somewhat unusual compared to the schist I've discovered so far. Smeggy sit-start lowballs?? Nope, good high - and often highball - proper boulders. Abstract and unconvincing eliminates?? Nope, proud distinct lines and sheer walls. Snappy flakey rock hidden under slightly more solid lichen?? Nope, clean rough compact schist. Random unmanageable and ankle-hostile boulder jumbles?? Nope, all situated on a fine plateau just 5 minutes from a good track.

So....what's the catch?? Oh yes, getting to that fine plateau, via that good track. The bouldering guide says 30mins on the map and 40mins in the introduction (the bouldering guide is similarly useless when it comes to the walk-in path and the grades of lower grade problems). Lowland Outcrops says 50mins. I say an a full hour if you're stomping it, and at least 1hr 30mins if you're me and you've got fucked legs. Throw in two bouldering mats and a sweltering afternoon sun, and throw out any pretense at being able to bear down when I finally got there. Pity as it was quite inspiring in both the setting and more importantly the climbing. I might go back but it will require a greater logistical overview (probably including a power nap and cans of Red Bull!). On the plus side, the stomp, combined with bonus gym session in the morning, was some good cross-training that will hopefully encourage good crushing.

In the meantime, here is Charlie Baker trying to decide on his next bouldering venue, preferably with a shorter walk-in and more tasty meat nibbles:

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Backlog Blog!!

Previous weekends as follows:
Sorry for all the number bollox but it's been a good run and I can't be arsed to write anything more interesting.

Desires come true at Duntelchaig
Before I considered moving to Scotland, I had 3 routes I'd seen photos of that had really inspired me. I did Edgehog a few weeks ago, and then managed to get to Dracula, which really is a good steep E3 5c crack and not an HVS jamming traverse lke it looks in the photos... One more to go....soon ;). Now I have a thousand more inspirations from my being up here, though.
Dracula E3 5c ***
The All Seeing Eye Font6c ** (flash)

Awesome at Ardmair
I liked Ardmair a lot before, and I like it even more now. Apparently the home of gritty rounded rock and steep jamming sandbags....more like the home of good holds, good gear, and generous grades!
Shakedown E3 5c **
Western Skyline E4 6a **
Space Monkey E2 5c ***
Unleash The Beast E4 6a ***

Lovely day at Lochan Dubh
Originally the plan had been to go to Inverthingy Rock Gym, but since Richie had ticked the crag, we needed another option. A brisk Northerly wind precluded many of the more interesting Gairloch crags, but the sunny and scenic Lochan Dubh seemed a sensible choice. Nice to get on the gneiss, and satisfying to do some big pitches.
The Missing Link E2 5b *
Call Of The Wild E4 6a ***

Minimal respite at Moy Rock
Finally to route off a diverse weekend of schisty stuff, sandstone and gneiss, we added conglomerate into the mix, well indeed it is a mix in itself. It's always fascinated me and Inverness seems the home of UK conglomerate sport climbing. Bizarre and intriguing, who could ask for more. Well, apart from a bit more fitness and freshness after a long weekend...
Little Teaser F6b+ ***
The Dark Side F6c/+ **

Power at Portlethen
As with pretty much everywhere on the Aberdeen coast, Portlethen has shut my ass down. Time for revenge, well only a little bit - small numbers! Under the watchful eye of Mr Big Numbers - indeed the power was his this session, with a massive run of macho problems - I managed to do a couple of previous nemesii fairly steadily. So that was nice. I don't suck that much after all.
Slap And Tickle Font6b+ ** (worked)
The Prow Font6c *** (worked)

Balls conditions at Balmashanner
The lovely Lyons decided a nice sunny evening was best spent clipping bolts in a dank festering hole in the ground, and who was I to argue?? Climbing is a broad church, right?? Apart from bloody mountaineering, that's an entirely different church with it's fair share of wizened old weirdos and kiddy fiddlers. Anyway and alas, Balmashanner really was dank and festering so I warmed up on one lead and warmed down on one errr aid pitch, and that was that. Ace dinner though.
Start The Fire F6b+ **

Climbing really okay at Clashrodney
Next up for my Crushing Aberdeen weekend was a bit of a granite taster. Clashrodney is a nice place with nice climbing, most of which I avoided by sticking to steep and pokey stuff, but that was cool, it turned out to be good fun and give me some confidence. Notably the hardest route felt easy and the easier routes felt hard. Hmmm.
Yellow Peril E1 5b *
Birthday Treat E1 5b ***
Blind Faith E3 5c **

Finishing nicely at Findon Ness
Already evening but with a showery morning forecast the next day, I was determined to get a bit more out of the day, and get a bit more action on the steep and worrying metamorphic schist that spanked my arse sideways a few weeks prior. This time there was distinct progress - my plan of "lots of chalk, slam in the cams, move quick and trust to good holds" seemed to work. There was a bit of a blip going off route on the ambiguous Siva-Guru connection and sitting on the gear before realising I'd ignored a piss easy finish. I can live with that, I got way more pumped attempting the off route version and resting for 10 seconds than if I'd gone direct (a clearer description would help!) initially. Spirit of the law rather than merely the letter of the law!
Siva-guru E3 5c **
Armed Conflict E1 5b **

Mini-beasting at Munich Buttress
A recent inspiration has been the well photographed Monkey Puzzle at Longhaven Quarries. Well photographed and justifiably so as it is an ace tower of rock - strong and dramatic lines up a striking pillar. Both routes I did were brilliant, the mini-beasting came from approx 3m of crux climbing in Jammy Dodger - nope I didn't dodge the jams and yep it was the hardest bit of crack climbing I did on lead. Raaaargh.
Monkey Puzzle E3 5c **
American Route / Jammy Dodger E3 6a **

Final words from the lean and mean Aberdeen legend, regular Font 7a+ ticker, and attempted Jammy Dodger seconder Amanda Lyons:


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Bit of personal history for you.

1986 - Bolt Thrower formed.
1990 - John Peel (RIP) played their "Drowned In Torment" track which introduced me to them.
1992 - I buy their Realms Of Chaos CD.
1993 Saturday 15th August - see Bolt Thrower live at the London Marquee, my second ever gig.
1993 Wednesday 19th August - my ears stop ringing.
1994 - for some bizarre reason I get rid of the Realms Of Chaos CD as I find it too rabid. What a gaylord.
2004 - get back into metal. Buy various CDs including 4th Crusade and Mercenary.
2009 - finally restock with the Realms Of Chaos, Warmaster, and their latest and equal greatest For Those Once Loyal.
2010 - see Bolt Thrower live again, 17 years on, and they are still awesome. Finally get to purchase a highly exclusive hoodie and beanie.

It was an ace gig. What makes Bolt Thrower great is how they are so heavy and so catchy at the same time - they manage to blend a dense wall of sound with such strong riffs and drumming that is both brutal and surprisingly groovy. It would be hard not to mosh along and I didn't even try to resist. The crowd were well syked, from kids who just appreciate a class grindcore sound, to veterans who have been following them for two decades. Karl Willets looked fat, sweaty, old, and still full of energy and excitement at delivering the mighty Bolt Thrower sound \m/ YEAH \m/

Well worth going to. I think I need to see Carcass next if they're still touring...

Here's a selection of their best stuff, Throughout The Ages:

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Dogging at Dumby

Redpointing is of course an intrinsically soulless activity, a shallow exercise in muscular persistence, hard work and learning by rote that is devoid of any of the creativity and spirit found elsewhere. Nevertheless it is good practice for onsight sport climbing and onsight sport climbing is good practice for onsight trad climbing which is of course intrinsically superior and the true measure of quality climbing experiences.

Thus sometimes one must dabble. Particularly when one drives to Glen Croe for some trad and it is drizzling in Tarbet, raining in Arrochar, and distinctly damp in the Glen. Boo hiss etc and back to Dumby, where it does rain for a bit later on but is dry and fresh either side. Recently I've got a bit jaded with bouldering at Dumby - I rarely go and thus scarcely manage to warm up before getting my arse kicked. However it's one of the few crags where classic bouldering, sport, and trad sit side by side, so there are good options available. It was a nice vibe on Sunday with teams on hard bouldering, easy trad, and middling sport.

We were the latter, and middled and muddled on a few things. Specifically I dogged my way up an F7b which was fairly interesting - not sustained and not powerful, but with most of the holds being sidepulls and underclings, very sketchy on the feet and easy to muff. Mmmmm muff. I reckon it will go fine. Good training after the invariably positive indoor wall footholds. I also gave an F7a a good flash attempt, and missed it by a midge's foreskin due to a casual tactical error - clipped a bolt in extremis, got carried away with how well it was going, and rushed into the adjacent crux when I should have lowered a move, shook and chalked, and planned the crux better. Getting very close to a Scottish F7a isn't too shabby though, given how short and gnarly they can be (the routes as well as the locals).

Next up: Trad! (I hope)

Reassured at Ratho.

Funny how climbing goes, isn't it. Funny haha or funny strange? Could be either.

After last Sunday's "Weekend Of Weakness" I decided I need to have a few "Hours Of Power" this week. So I did. Tuesday I went to Ibrox bouldering, that was okay, bit sweaty, a bit weak, but okay.

Then I went to Ratho... The odds seemed stacked against me. Last time I went I found it all hard work, I'd almost certainly lost wall fitness, I was crappish the previous weekend, and of course I was knackered from Ibrox bouldering. That was the theory but the reality was somewhat different, I felt fit and perky, had good route pacing and generally F6cs felt easy (unlike before) and a couple of F7as felt close (very unlike before). Raaaargh.

So far so good. Then I went back to Ratho on Saturday. Surely the previous time was a fluke combination of muscular madness and caffeine consumption, and this time it would be back to high altitude pump shutdown. That was the theory but the reality once again was somewhat different, I had the best indoor leading session I've had for about a year. Again fit and perky, but this time I did an F7a....and then another....and then another. Meaningless indoor numerical gibberish of course BUT a good benchmark of a suitable physical challenge. I got pumped, things felt tricky, and I kept going. And took a few small practice falls. Double raaaargh!

That should have topped up things nicely I think!