Tuesday, 22 June 2010


I very rarely take trad (or indeed sport) leader falls while climbing. I am far too cowardly for that - scared of falling, scared of the prospect of falling, scared of committing to a situation where I might fall. Although I'm not actually scared when I am falling, the transition from attached and climbing to detached and falling is too much for my poor wee brain to handle. This is probably the biggest hurdle in my climbing and holds me back the most out of any psychological issue. Hence a constant battle to overcome it, and hence semi-regular falling practice at the climbing wall.

Curiously, I have taken more trad leader falls in the last few weeks than I have in the previous decade, as follows:

Thing Of Beauty, Aonach Dubh - short jump off onto gear after going off route due to fucking useless guidebook description and ambiguous line, and getting too pumped to reverse.

Freakout, Aonach Dubh - proper fall due to terminal pump and literally not being able to hang on.

Legover, Creag Dubh - proper fall due to pulling a hold off.

Susan, Mid Clyth - small slump onto gear due to pulling a hold off.

Curiously, although perhaps unsurprisingly, this hasn't made me any less scared of falling. Booo. The Freakout fall was the best and most properist, several metres due to rope stretch, and at the time I was going for it and trying to do a move knowing that I might well fall. The others were pretty minor, maybe this is why - I'm getting used to dropping onto gear but not getting used to committing a long way above it. My fear is quite in proportion to the length of the fall, even though the falling sensations and safety are no worse at all with longer falls. All of which leads me to conclude....ummmm....ahhhh....oh well. Back to the drawing board...

Monday, 21 June 2010

Very little climbing at various lovely crags.

Climbing trips - sometimes you win 'em, sometimes you lose 'em. Recently I've won a few, so in the grand karmic balance it's not that surprising to lose one.

In recent years I've become very inspired by the Caithness area - lovely looking sea-cliff outcrops, reasonable approaches, peaceful area, benevolent (for Scotland!!) climate, what's not to like?? Finally I got up there butr due to various circumstances the promised mega-ticking-trip didn't happen. The climate had a moment of malevolence, mixing midges and mizzle in equal quantities - it was climbable, but not captivating conditions. And there were issues with the abseil approaches and a loose block falling onto my partner's (thankfully helmeted) head. Despite this there is a lot of great looking stuff there and the few routes I did confirmed the quality. On the plus side, I got a good recce of many great routes, the Wick campsite is very nice and very cheap, and there's a good curry house in town.

In recent days I've become extremely inspired by the Caithness area....and will be back soon!!

Retreat was beaten via: Strathconnon - okay but too hot and too midgey; Cummingston - kinda cool but too late and too greasy; Cullen Caves - ugly choss but good fun power bouldering, unfortunately Cullen Skink in Cullen was somewhat disappointing; Luath Boulders - nice rock but rubbish micro-bouldering; and finally Glen Clova - lovely evening, fairly inspiring, but so knackered due to low-level gayflu that I quit after seconding a couple of routes.

Thusly a rather flaccid non-celebration of midsummer. Long trip, lots of crags, little climbing. Best just to view this as a recce and recuperation time - I think a wee break to let the gayflu settle, then a guns blazing return with maximum SYKE is the best plan. Raaargh.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Backlog Blog!!

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

Au revoir dreams at Aonach Dubh
The last one of my trio of old, old dreams, after Edgehog and Dracula, was of course Freak Out. Like the others, I'd seen a photo years ago and just knew I had to do it. Well, I haven't, I tried and I failed. But it was an interesting failure, perhaps more interesting than success.

The climbing session hadn't started auspiciously. First there was the 3+ hour drive from Edinburgh, then the 45 minute walk-in which was a full brutal hour and a half for me, and then the warm-up route up a rather enticing wall turned into a nightmare of bad route descriptions and ambiguous lines, culminating in having to jump off after far too long on the wall. None of which boded well for an assault on Freak Out, starting at 8pm and fully knackered...

Nevertheless, once beneath the amazing line, I went along with my inspiration and summoned all my determination. The first pitch went very smoothly, and the second started well. Up into the leg-murdering non-rest under the crux roof, fiddle, reverse, repeat and rinse. Eventually commit, blast through the crux and keep blasting up the crack. Apparent good holds turned to pointless slopers as I reached them, tactics went out the window and I kept going until arriving at some big flatties before a good undercling flake. I've heard that once you feel so pumped you can't carry on, you have two moves still left in your arms. I carried on. I didn't even have 0.2 moves left in my arms...

Hanging several metres lower on the rope, a wave of agonising exhaustion swept through me. I just managed to blurt out that I needed a minute, before shuddering through a full body debilitation until I could eventually think straight. I left a couple of wires and we escaped. So, I failed. But not through cowardice or lack of committment or psychological issues - I was beaten fair and square, I gave it my all, and pushed beyond my limits. I could have done it - a few seconds gained by better tactics low down or swifter moves to the flake, but it's hardly relevant. In this case it was as interesting to fail as to succeed, although unlike the ugly and frustrating psychological failures, there is little I can learn from this - except sometimes, you do just get beaten.
Sir Chancelot E1 5b **

Calming down at Covesea
Covesea lives in the shadow of the Moray Coast Burbage Popular End duo of Cummingston and Logie Head and is grossly underrated. Tales of "underuse" and some "dirty rock" weren't enough to put me off, and as usual I was right to give it a go. Lovely location on a secluded (if not quiet, due to regular RAF Tornados) non-tidal pebble beach, a compact crag with some strong features and good mid-grade climbing. Short, accessible, punchy routes were a good tonic to the previous day's exhertions and a few surprisingly good hours sleep in the car. A better tonic came after as my partner had to meet his lad after school, the possibility of going back out to the crag turning rapidly into the possibility of watching them swim around in the harbour. Having a few hours to kill and some muscles to relax, I joined them, mostly in the ice cream and sunbathing capacity, but after witnessing his lad gleefully pushing his harbour-wall-jumping limits, I had to do the honourable thing and join them in the water - bloody freezing but bloody good fun!
Family Affair E2 5b *
Sandinasta E2 5c *
The Growl E2 5b *

Approaching Gairloch

Lovely times at Loch Tollaidh
Back to the wonderful Gairloch which remains my favourite area in Scotland. Very gneiss crags in a very nice setting! Lovely scenery and lovely climbing and you can now add a lovely cafe to that mix - The Mountain Coffee Shop in the main village provided the fuel for a day that was both action-packed and delightful. Masses of midgies chased us away from Tollie Crag, but at the breezier and sunnier Tolldaih crag there was not a single one until they swarmed at 8pm, when it was pub o'clock anyway. The climbing was ace too, involving three very different challenges - pump, hard moves, and boldness - all very rewarding.
Peweky E1 5b *
Hollow Heart E3 5c **
Heave-Ho E4 6a *
Strip Teaser E4 5c *

Rough rock at Road Crag, Beastliness at Beach Crag, Jolly good fun at Jetty Buttress
Keeping the breezy and open theme to beat the midgies, we honed that theme to "touring the most imaginatively named Gruinard Bay crags". Post in the comments what you think the above crags are named after and you probably won't win a prize... Grey weather and the odd light semi-shower called for a more moseying around day, nevertheless on most routes I got more of a challenge than I expected - but as much good outcrop quality too.
Radical Jewish E2 5c **
Armburger E2 5b **
Right Charlie E2 5c **

Crush failure at Clashfarquar
5th day on and a flying visit past the roaring Lyons.
Fiend: "What ever you want to do lass, I've had some good days out so I'll happily go along with your plans..."
Lyons: "Well I fancy looking at Clashfarquar, there's this classic 7a arete there."
Fiend: (thinks "mmmm 7a arete") "Cool, sounds good."
- after the soaking wet walk-in -
Fiend: "Fuck Amanda Lyons, fuck this walk-in, fuck Aberdeen bouldering!"
- 30 seconds later having chilled out on the boulder platform -
Fiend: "Actually this is a cool spot and a great line"
- 2 hours later after a lot of faffing and very little progress -
The Guidebook: "Clash Arete F7a+ ***"
Fiend: "Fucking 7a PLUS???? You told me it was 7a!! No wonder it's bloody hard!!"
Lyons: "Whatever, you can do 7a+..."
Fiend: "Not that bloody quickly I can't!!"
In fact not at all in that session. It is a cool spot tho...

Cool days at Creag Dubh
Day 1 was cool because it was cool i.e. bloody cold. Middle of summer so cold grey skies, ominous hazy horizons and a howling wind seem de rigeur. I even kept my t-shirt on when climbing - yes it sometimes does happen! Not very enticing conditions but I got a nice taster of the attractive (in places the grain of the rock strata is very like wood....it's nice) but challenging (in place it's steep thin and pumpy....most places!) Barrier Wall. One to come back to.
Day 2 was cool because it was cool i.e. rad and awesome dude. In keeping with consistent weather it was bloody glorious and frostbite was swapped for sunburn. 2 big routes in the sun (OTH proving rather stiff) and then one in the fresh and pleasant shade (TF proving to be pretty easy but absolutely brilliant, one of the most enjoyable climbs this year). A pretty good opening of the important Creag Dubh account.
Muph Dive E2 5c **
Jump For Joy E2 5b **
Ruff Licks E3 5c ***
Over The Hill E3 5c ***
The Fuhrer E4 5c ***

Raped skin at Ruthven
Another attempted bouldering session after a few days on, another arse-kicking. The Ruthven boulder is a mighty fine boulder in a mighty good setting. A big bold bulging monster on a flat grassy base a few minutes from the road. It is also rough as FUCK, the gneiss having that particular granitic grain that manages to combine skin-shredding coarseness with a soft-tissue-crushing crystallinity in one hardcore rock texture. Climbing-wise it is rather good, but one to go to with plenty of time and plenty of freshness. I had neither this time, but I will be back...

Leaving Ruthven

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Stronnng Fiend STRONNNG!

Not really strong, just overuse of my right hand hmmmm...

Also, have a picture of pussy:

Minor beasting at Myopics Buttress, plus Arse At Aberdeen.

Not a great exploratory weekend just passed, but not a bad training on either. Haven't really pushed myself much physically recently, but ended up going back to Dunkeld to play on Myopics Buttress, where I got roped into a good dogging session. Had a good play on the steep and powerful "classic of the buttress" and a good rotpunkt attempt which I very nearly got but had missed crucial foot beta and then when I got the beta I ran out of strength. Still that felt like it gave me a good workout which is nice.

The next day at Aberdeen was not so nice, possibly due to that minor beasting. Despite good fresh conditions (sunshine and breeze), another good partner (Canadian b-Rad), and an inspiring cliff (Craig Stirling), I failed on one of my desired routes there, due to utter pump and fiddling in shoddy gear and missing better gear slots. Uggggh. Oh and I lost a shoe in the sea and got hit by a wave when I abseiled too low and nearly went off the road and nearly got done by two speed cameras on the way home. Thankfully a scheduled early return precluded any further climbing / sea-related debacles, but it was quite disappointing given I've been doing okay recently. Once again mastery or even competence at Aberdeen sea-cliff climbing eludes me... Hopefully the weather will allow me to head west and avoid it for a while!