Saturday, 31 December 2011

Annus Demi-Horribilis.

Or should that be Anus Demi-Horribilis??

This year has been a year of two halves for me:

Part 1:

Malta - great
Later winter bouldering at Ruthven Boulder, Loch Sloy, Clashfarquar etc - very nice and satisfying
Pedriza - great
Long weekend in Mull - superb, best Scottish trip all year
Long weekend in Gairloch - very good
Long weekends in Caithness and Stranraer - good
Sweden - super-awesome
Brief trip to Creag Dubh and Camel - good
Generally maintaining an enjoyable E3 standard every trip out - pleasing
Losing a few pounds in Sweden - reassuring

Part 2:

Terrible weather all summer - suckage
No trips to Lewis / Skye / Ardnamurchan / Glen Nevis - suckage
No Indian Summer respite - suckage
A couple of decent trips to Aberdeen and local crags - pretty good
2 weeks of dry weather in November - some respite for bouldering
Increasing weight gain - very demoralising
Decreasing fitness - very demoralising
TCA opening - great training and a useful mercy
Exploring the County bouldering - good
Hard work changing medication to reduce weight gain - just plain hard
Persistent man-flu / throat/chest infection - suckage

It's pretty simple:
Good weather and trips away = good health and good spirits = right.
Terrible weather and less climbing = bad health and bad spirits = wrong.

Incidentally, my other interests have been pretty fun this year - have painted some cool figures, listened to some great drum'n'bass / hardcore / metal, and played a lot of good PC games - all of which is nice and passes the time during the incessant rain / rest days, but as fun as all those things are, they play supporting roles, not the main performance.

I've realised that the regular climbing lifestyle is not just important to me as it's the biggest inspiration to me, it's essential to me as an active lifestyle that balances out my mental and physical health issues. I am who I am and that is what's right for me.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Festive fun.

Balls to Christmas, but at least en-route South to meet with friends, family, and food, I got to briefly indulge in the fourth festive F - fun climbing. Northumberland was, as usual, the only dry place and the obvious choice. Bleak grey weather made everywhere much of a muchness, so I decided to explore esoteric Edlingham, a useful recce if nothing else. In the end I only recced the Homo Horizontalis and Whale buttresses, which was enough. The latter was dry but a bit "under-appreciated". I got to work with chalk dusting and gentle brushing and the holds started feeling good. Just as I got it clean enough, it started raining. Woo-fcuking-hoo. Homo Horizontalis turned into Homo Coweringus Shelteringus and luckily it passed. A quick romp up the Harpoon problem, a quick fiddle on the harder wall next to it, and that was enough.

The next day I visited my old haunt of the Climbing Works. It's getting very grubby but the atmosphere is good, the amount of problems is vast, they keep tweaking it and the comp wall structure is ever-fluctuating. I had a pretty good session there, which made Christmas sedentation more tolerable. I think the latter has outstayed it's welcome with me so I need to get back gymming/training/climbing ASAP.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Misanthrope Mission 4.

35 days since I last got out. Yes the weather and my gayflu (still persisting, on 2nd course of antibiotics now) have been that bad. Jesus. This mission took some effort, I really didn't feel great trying to wake up early and get going for it. So it was a late start, a LOT of driving and a bare minimum of climbing. But still good - back in touch with the purpose of winter and my purpose in life.

The forecast was good all over the County, so after much East vs. West deliberation, I decided to take advantage of the dry West and give Queen's another go. It was very crisp and bone dry....and completely snowed under there. Hmmm. I'm not having much luck with Queens! Onwards to Shaftoe which has everything facing in every direction and that worked pretty well as the sunny stuff was warm and dry and the shady stuff was cold and frozen and when the sun went down there was stuff that was cold and dry yay for friction. Before that I pottered about and recced Shaftoe South and came to the following conclusions:

Cafe Noir - worth a lead! Good line and obvious gear in a flake.
Antler And Deck - looks good and quite feasible, need mats and spotter.
Butch Cassidy - ditto.
Little and Often - crude but okay but top was iced up.
Pocket Rocket - looks crude and bland and too hard.
The cave stuff - very trad looking, best for summer power training.
Duvel - too small.
12 6c - too small and wrong on topo (shown perched over 10m drop!)
Slim Shady SS - looks good, bigger than it seems and perfect landing.

After that faffing and not climbing much I ended up in the Central Area to try to maximise the conditions on some of the sloping walls. Buford T Justice (not Belford, oops), I very nearly flashed by sheer determination but muffed my foot on the last move. Boo. I then ended up working it with the camera battery in my pants to keep it warm. That helped as I did it in the end. Despite being an eliminate it's a cool problem with some miserly slopers! Moved onto Smooth Wall, after a few goes this seemed impossible - similarly poor slimpers but this time with a bulge in the way. But! Lo and behold I worked out a foot placement and suddenly it seemed very feasible - this was exciting. Unfortunately despite getting super-close, I had to keep waiting for my skin to cool down in between attempts, and while I had the patience for that, the daylight didn't and buggered off leaving me to walk out in the pitch dark. But not before I saw a mouse scuttle across the frozen marsh beneath the wall (presumably very cold) and an owl swooping around (possibly solved the mouses coldness permanently).

So yeah. Another day with an epicly b0rked driving:sending ratio, but cool to get out at last!!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Walking Corpse.

^^^ this has been me in the last few days. The gayflu has been especially gay and seasoned with lashings of a mild throat infection (feeling a bit like the Brutal Truth vocalist sounds) for the optimum blend of crappness. I've turned down wall sessions and good forecasts in the County and have been set back a good week in general logistic progress, so I feel like a walking corpse mentally too, BLUURRRGGGGHHHHH. Hopefully I'm getting over the worst and will be able to get back into things with renewed energy soon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Fight The Power

I can't fight the power of the weather. As predicted it crapped out spectacularly. Glasgow escaped the worst of the storms but roadside floods are becoming the norm not the exception. Needless to say I've been reduced to training at the admittedly inspiring (if frustrating in my current state) Climbing Academy, and trying to find a balance between pushing myself to slow the decline into weakness, and not injuring myself trying to haul my corpulent carcass in an upwards - or sideways - direction.

I can't fight the power of the screwy chemicals fizzing around in my mind. I've been changing some medications to try to stop the incessant weight gain I've had in recent years (no, not the Glasgow diet, as nice a deep-fried pizza is I haven't had it for months), and the short term side-effects are harsh. Anger, agitation, anxiety are currently characterising my life and inhibiting many activities - and making me feel shit about that inhibition, woohoo, stupid brain! I did have some respite over the weekend, clearing my mind with some relentless hardcore beats in the Industrial Strength Records 20th Anniversary room at Fantazia at the Arches. Dancing to gabber is waaay more productive than trying to run / walk uphill, so evidentally I need to get clubbing more. Both Youtube vids are highlights of the night :).

I can't fight the power of the stupid fucking gayflu cold I've just picked up. Although I guess I might as well get it out of the way at the moment.

Hopefully when the gayflu fucks right off and chemicals settle and the training works enough to at least achieve an equilibrium of fatness and weakness, I'll be able to get on with following some inspiration and rad trips out and about won't just become...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gentle Classics in Glen Croe

Not much to say really. All easy stuff but nice problems. I did have a look at something harder but it was cold and made my fingers hurt. The rock was in good condition but the ground was boggy and I got trenchfoot.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Glen Again.

Secret Squirrel came visiting. The weather was still good (ridiculous that the Indian Summer has happened in sodding November) and she was keen for some bouldering, so we went back to Glen Nevis Southside. Still loads to explore there. Apparently there is an out-of-print guide that covers hundreds of problems in the Glen, but once across the treacherous and mildly terrifying weir crossing, the only sign of any use, chalk, or cleaning is on the 3 generally inferior problems chosen at random in Scottish Bouldering. The others have often required a good scrub to get lichen off crucial holds, and even pulling the most obvious hold off one problem - but what is underneath has been invariably good rock and good climbing so far.

We also had a fun time at the end of the day: Battling up our respective last problems in the howling wind, sporadic drizzle, ominous dusk, with little skin nor energy left, surrounded by the bleak and ominous cloud-drenched mountains, and only the threatening prospect of a nighttime the river crossing to look forward to....but still great fun just climbing :).

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Misanthrope Mission 3.

More mockery - I spent the entire summer trying to get up to Glen Nevis to climb with a Canadian lass who was staying in Fort William and keen to sample the local cragging. After numerous Facebook exchanges, Metoffice scrutinising / swearing at, and last minute texts, it never happened. Come November, she's long gone, most tradding partners are winding down for the winter, seepage is creeping through, and it's getting a bit too chilly. So yeah the weather is good and dry for several days.


Still, I made it up on the last dry day, and although frustrated by being able to see the mighty Wave Buttress but not climb on it, I did get some good bouldering exploration. The forecast was to be foggy, still, and cold air. It turned out to be clear, windy, and mild air. No worries about condensation and pretty good nick. I recced the Polldubh boulders while waiting for my Morrison's pseudo-redbull energy drink to kick in, and decided they were a bit brutal to start on...

Glen Nevis youth bouldering team in training.

Instead, I thought I'd just nip across the river to Tim's Arete for a warm-up and then head back via a packed lunch. 2 precarious weir crossings, 5 hours and numerous problem attempts later, I had no skin, no energy, no chalk and no camera batteries left - Glen Nevis Southside has a lot of potential both tapped and untapped on wild and rough rock. The clip below is just a sample, I'll be back when the above factors have recharged (and it's dry again so I've got a few months to regrow skin :S).

Monday, 7 November 2011

Coigach Clambering.

So it is now November. The days are a lot shorter, climbing time is limited, the temperatures are cold and options restricted. I'm busier and my time is limited and I've given up on getting up North and getting more trad done. So what the fuck does the weather do?? Get totally awesome in the North West. A whole fucking summer waiting for half-decent half-dryness, and now it's pretty much past the point of pointless, there's several days of sunshine up there.


Still as mocking as this respite is, it is respite nonetheless and thus must be as vigorously seized as one would seize a passing cat who is hoping to sneak by without getting pounced on and having it's tummy mercilessly rubbed and nuzzled. Given the time of year it was mostly seized and sandwiched between bouldering pads. Just like the passing cat should be...

The pre-match friendly was at the Inchbae Erratics. These are indeed erratic but then again isn't most of Scottish bouldering. This area had the usual pre-requisites of absent approach times and a useless map, but also curiously accurate grades and definitely deserved star ratings. The erratics are scattered over an unerratically and consistently boggy plateau, and although spread out, the problems are really rather good - strong lines and good moves. It could do with more development and is a good stopping off point en-route to Ullapool.


The main game took place firstly at Reiff In The Woods. It was supposed to be at Reiff By The Sea but this was hampered by that same sea leaving landing pools and a slight lingering damp. There were hardy souls climbing trad there, which was nice to see. RITW is a classy little spot - roadside but with stunning views, sheltered in trees yet exposed to sun and breeze, jumbled together but with plenty of strong lines. Indeed the lines were stronger than I was!! We made little headway on anything challenging until trying the cool "spot from sitting in the car" thin wall/arete. After a few goes we were both close and it was almost in the bag - and after a few goes the "unbroken sunshine" forecast pissed on us and it was almost dusk so no chance of it drying, arse bollox knob etc etc.

Rainbow. Unfortunately a main ingredient is rain.

Sunset prettiness on Stac Pollaidh.

Secondly for variety it was the well-reputed Highland sport venue of Goat Crag, one of the triptych of classic animal-themed Scottish sport climbing crags. I still think it would be great on a summer's day to catch the morning sun at The Elephant, shelter from the afternoon heat at The Camel, and finish basking in the evening at Goat Crag. Or maybe the other way around to catch the shade. Anyway, the weather was great at Goat Crag, utterly unlike my climbing. Not only am I fat and weak, after a mere few weeks away from roped climbing, I'm back to utter gaylordistic cowardom, arse bollox knob etc etc.

Even the bumbly warmups can be photogenic.

A much better view than looking inward to my climbing.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Misanthrope Mission #2

Well it will save me thinking of yet more alliterative bloody titles. This time I went to T'Lakes and T'County in a round trip via the Once Brewed Youth Hostel (and the adjacent Once Brewed Pub which only served Twice Brewed Beer, WTF). Several hundred miles and several hours of driving and I got problem. Huh.

Gouther: Glorious weather on the day. Gouther was in the shade and rather dank, which precluded topping out on most problems. Not a problem for me as being shite and weak precluded getting anywhere near the top on most problems. I warmed up doing Trev's Traverse in a few goes, this is a weird problem which feels very trad. I then spent so long failing on other stuff I didn't get the chance to fail on the rad-looking J Mascis. But I've had a good recce and will be back. Team Buys were at the crag with Gav and Mike Hutton. They're a nice pair, very affable.

Queen's Crag: Dry and fresh on the walk-in, via lots of cows who were doing some very fine mooing. I like cows. Got to the crag. It started pissing down. I had a good recce. Eventually the rain abated enough for me to....walk out as there was no bloody chance of it drying. Still it looks cool. Lots of aretes and a few good faces. Syked to get back.

Hepburn: Dry and fresh on the walk-in. Wanted to check out the lesser-known problems and after some of the worst boulder/heather bashing ever, ended up at Queen Bee Buttress. Oooh there's a cool looking wall/rib above a good landing, starting from a nice mono....And the mono is FULL OF FUCKING BEES. Stomped over to Titanic Arete. I tried this before and couldn't do it. I tried it again and couldn't do it. I've fallen out with this problem. There was a team working hard stuff and a cool-looking project. I went over to watch and their cute wee terrier thing jumped on my lap and wouldn't leave. This was more fun than Titanic Arete so I sacked off that problem. And pretty soon sacked off the day entirely before I risked actually getting up a problem (not that big a risk really).

Sometimes on these trips there just seems to be far more rain and walking and bees and cows than actual climbing. This is a cow:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Yes Men.

I went to the new Climbing Academy wall the other day. It is rather good: The size is epic and the layout, lighting and use of space are all great. The problems seemed good and nicely varied, the music when I was there was good (chilled techno and breakbeat - spot on), and the staff are friendly. I haven't tried the coffee but I have high hopes.

There is one downside though - some of the holds. Waaaay before the wall was finished, I commented on the TCA's Facebook page to please use awesome holds like Bleaustone, HRT and Axis, and not rubbish ones like Core and Holdz. I had no idea what they would put on, only that I wanted such an impressive wall to have nice feeling holds to train on. Well the wall is full of Core, Holdz, and Beacon. Core have improved a fair bit, they are not so over-designed and have some nice textures and slopers, so that's all good and I admit I was wrong to dismiss them. Beacon are fine normal holds. Holdz are as bad as ever. The general texture is abrasive and inferior to other holds, the knobbly features are pointless and less comfortable, and the grit-textured edges are really, really bad. These must be the worst holds I've pulled on:

Anyway. That's not so interesting. Some problems are spoilt by the Holdz, and it would be better if better holds were used. The rest of it is great and I will be training there a lot and be a good paying customer.

What is interesting is the Yes Men phenomenon that arises when a big exciting project appears in the climbing world and has public areas to promote their project and allow customers to comment on it. Praise is duly accepted but criticism often isn't - even when it's in the context of a lot of praise (praise which is tabloidly ignored in the reaction to the criticism). It's not just the project owners (who you expect to have reasonable answers or acceptance of criticism) but other people who seem to have elevated such projects to sacred cow status where those projects can do no wrong and have no flaws - and certainly not have anyone pointing out those flaws. There's a definite "gang" feel to some of the reactions - reactions not just to myself but to other people who have criticisms (such as student prices).

Really if the climbing was so close-knit and looking after it's own, it could do a lot more to be inclusive and welcoming of all climbers.

This reminds me exactly of when the Climbing Works opened, and once again I praised many areas of the wall whilst criticising some of the holds (the ridiculous embedded golf ball / light bulb holds) and how dirty/chalky the holds got. Once again the Yes Men dismissed the possibility that anyone could criticise anything about the wall. A while later the ridiculous holds disappeared and brushes on sticks and notices to clean holds appeared and a great wall became a bit greater because those previously-criticised-but-dismissed issues were improved...

Anyway, fingers crossed I'm off down to T'County again this weekend, and back training at TCA early next week.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Shaftoe Solitude.

Scottish winter season has started - well I could see snow on the distant Lomond hills, and the chance of any reliable last minute trad reprieve is diminishing. So it's time to head down to the B&Q timber yard to construct the biggest possible bargepole that I won't be touching any snow plodding gully bashing bollox with.

So, yay, bouldering season. God bouldering is soooooo much easier than trad. Less time required, less organisation needed. Less stress, less mental challenge. Less seepage, less crag logistics. Okay so conditions are an issue, but getting good friction is scarcely more challenging than getting some sodding dryness. Less reliance on keen friendly partners who are a Scottish scarcity, too.

To demonstrate the latter, I nipped off down to Northumberland for the weekend. I'd rather be getting immersed in Scottish bouldering and have nipped to Glen Nevis but 5 days constant torrential rain (WTFingF) stopped that idea before it could fart out of my brain. So a misanthropic mission to T'County it was. The forecast was good and the bunkhouse is good and the choice of venues and problems is good.

Shaftoe is possibly the most extensive bouldering venue in T'County and somewhere I definitely needed to explore, so I combined a good meander around most of the main areas, with the occasional pause to do the occasional problem, the most fun being the hugely overgraded classic wee Slapper. There's plenty of good varied lines there with usually excellent landings in a good open situation - one for return visits, especially in colder conditions as it was rather balmy there.

The next day of course started with constant rain. Hurrah :(. After a bit of driving around to confirm the day's planned venues were definitely out, I ended up popping past Back Bowden on the off-chance the roofed over bits were dry. It was raining there too when I parked up but after disappearing for a stroll and a mighty log, I felt perkier and the breeze seemed promisingly fresh so I continued the stroll to the crag. Despite it's "unusually sheltered location" that same breeze was blowing a bloody gale and lo the rain stopped and I bouldered some more until my fingertips said "fuck this shit" and I left and drove home.

Video soon...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Something Terrible

Obviously if you harm others, that is something terrible. I don't consciously harm others by my actions - despite plenty of desire and temptation (overtaking lane morons, I'm looking at you).

But I sometimes do terrible things. If you take away harming others, what else is there?? Harming yourself: through self-neglect, through self-inhibition, through wasting time and a finite life, through not being true to oneself, through not doing the right things to benefit oneself.

Not harm by direct action, but harm by a lack of action. A lack of positive, rewarding, satisfying, healthy, beneficial, true-to-self action.

I do this and thus I do something terrible. This is....part of my personality. A flaw in me, in an otherwise fairly smart, capable, and inspired being. It has always been this way and for many years I have been working on overcoming it - maybe in many years time I will overcome it!

Obviously this applies to climbing very much, as an inspired passion that involves action and training and input and effort. I'm posting this because it was brought home recently, after a couple of weeks of doing fuck all and feeling pretty unhappy with myself, I went to the wall and was fat and weak but at least I was doing something. Listening to that tasty track above on the drive home highlighted that at I wasn't doing something terrible that evening...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Although I am still syked to get as much trad as possible before it becomes too bitterly baltic (i.e. WET I suspect) this winter (still trying to play catch up over the missed summer that never happened), now the nights are drawing in I am getting my bouldering syke and thus plans and inspirations up. Hopefully the quick hit nature of bouldering, lack of reliance on partners or seepage drying up, and lack of midgies will allow some good varied days out. I want to start pushing myself earlier this winter, having done enough exploration last winter to get some good ideas (and thus a vague ticklist up). As usual my ideas are my own inspiration rather than "essential ticks", and remain to be edited, added to, or deleted as I explore around and play on stuff.

So to remind myself, wishlist as follows:

Pump Up The Jam, various - Skye
Razorback, Romancing The Stone, various - Reiff
Various - Reiff In The Woods
The Ship Boulder - Torridon
Blankety Blank - Torridon
Big Lebowski, The Dude - Ruthven Boulder
Brin Done Before - Brin Rock
Various - Cammachmore
Deep Breath Arete, Hamish, various - Glen Nevis
Pyramid Lip - Glen Ogle
??? - Loch Sloy
Swap Meet, Ace Of Spades, various - Glen Croe
The Bottler - Loch Lomond
Nameless Pimp Toy - Stronlachlar
The Chop - Weem
Various Corrie Boulders - Arran
Suck My Woolie, Snow White - Garheugh

Fingers crossed! Better get training eh....

Any I've forgotten post em in the comments....

Monday, 3 October 2011

Three things...

...that say it all:



3. (An oldie but totally timeless)

Fiend says:
they should quote that on metcheck

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Howlerhirst Heat, Simonside Shade.

Another flying Northumberland visit, thanks to the Indian Autumn heatwave that ensures most of England is utterly glorious and all of West Scotland is utterly torrentially foul (obviously as I type this it is pissing down in Glasgow).

(Hot) Howlerhirst is relatively low altitude, rarely climbed on, and basks in the sun all day - yet the climbing conditions were pretty good. (Shady) Simonside is high up on the plateau, much more popular, very exposed and shady - yet the climbing conditions were pretty poor. It's a curious business.

Howlerhirst is the final main tick in my Northumberland apprenticeship. I've now been to pretty much every worthwhile and inspiring crag, big or small, honeypot or hermit-like. Like all the off-piste craglets in The County, it is really rather nice with some very worthwhile routes. The highlight being the stunningly sculpted buttress with the fearsome Guardian Angel on (and a superb, desperate, but frighteningly feasible last great problem: Think cranking up an impending wall on shallow pockets, hanging off fingertip monos placing tricams, and a wild dyno for a super-sloping top...mmmm). But the adjacent mid-grade slab has some really nice routes on it too, well worth a visit (see below)

Simonside is....well it's cool. I have now been to the two main crags on the Simonside Plateau (SS and Ravensheugh) each as many times as I've been to Kyloe Out and Back Bowden. How's that for dedication?? Obviously the quality of these crags repays multiple visits, and more obviously that quality would improve if they got the traffic they deserved, as it is a bit frustrating seeing some great lines suffering from neglect whilst the Kyloes and Bowdens suffer from narrow-minded overuse. This was the case for previous visits and this visit, but I cleaned off a couple of mid-grade routes for Ewan, and I led a couple of great little arete climbs (Gillette being scarcely bolder and infinitely better than the unjustifiably more popular The Stoic - myopic honeypotting even up here!!). I was defeated by Over The Edge, the desperate solo start being too much in the curious conditions.

Hmmmm actually....I think Ewan mentioned going to Harehope Canyon....ah well....:)

Photos (can't be fucked bypassing blogspot's shitty new slideshow crap, sorry). PLEASE POST COMMENTS ON WHICH OF THE FIRST FOUR IS MOST WORTHWHILE THX:

Monday, 26 September 2011

Bumbling at Bruin Cove with Birthday and BBQ Boy Brad.

Enough Bs?? I hope so. So this last weekend was back up for Aberdeen Brad's highly successful Birthday Event ;). The forecast was good, not too many non-climbers were going, Brad was keen to climb both days, and not even the prospect of a mostly vegetarian barbeque could put me off.

As it was the BBQ provided me with the best tick of the weekend - an entire block of bbqed Halloumi. Nom nom nom but man did I have a raging thirst the whole drive home...

Other ticks were kept low-key with the emphasis on chilled days out rather than big challenges. Day 1 was Sickle Row, a nice sunny spot, I was knackered from a few night's bad sleep (including my cunning plan of preparing for the Rothley single day mission by staying up late playing Starcraft2 hurrrrr) so stuck to mid-grade mileage. Day 2 was Bruin Cove, a nice sunny spot, I was totally refreshed after a great night's sleep, but to avoid hampering the BBQ plans stuck to mid-grade mileage. Both nice fun days. I did miss a bit on getting on something a bit errrr stiffer (unlike Brad and Johannes later in the evening ;)), the sense of doubt and discovery and rising to the challenge and getting into a more focused headspace to deal with it. But that can wait until next time...

Friday, 23 September 2011

Rude awakening at Rothley.

Had another day down in The County the other week. Rothley is a fuck of a long way for a single day, especially when the 6 hour round trip involves a gripping emergency stop + swerve on the M8 (not my fault), a detour avoiding a 1 hour gridlock, the death of my MAF sensor yet-a-fucking-gain (and associated panic attack until I realised what the problem was), and finally some airtime (my fault) off a stealth hummock on the road by Rothley (in the grand tradition of Northumberland roads being very straight left/right, but a lot less straight up/down.

Anyway once at the crag I managed to calm down enough to do a bit of climbing. The plan had been to combine routes (which I was syked for) with bouldering (which B was syked for). In retrospect this turned out to be a very good plan as we got so trashed bouldering we left while it was still light, shocking. So mixing in some routes would have been a good use of the time and climbing / skin-loss balance. As it was it was too sodding windy to climb routes particularly on the more delicate fare that awaits once you've done the excellent Rothley Crack.

That same wind made it good conditions for bouldering, which was nice. A steady circuit was order of the day, suitable for the general levels of punteering involved and to get used to bouldering and the rock again. That rock being particularly harsh for Northumberland, more akin to a crozzly featured gritstone than the finger-caressing finer grain further North. So that was a bit of a shock to the system, as was feeling errr fat and weak. Why am I still surprised at that?? Well I wasn't really....more just inspired to get stronger, which is nice.

I am syked for the Climbing Academy Glasgow to open (bloody awful headache colours and bloody awful Core holds and all - it will still be great to have somewhere to get beasted bouldering on a whim). I am syked for more exploration over winter. But I am syked to push myself projecting problems sooner this year. Last year I explored lots of easy circuits earlier on, and didn't start crushing (snort!) until February. This time I'll have a bit more focus I think...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Northumberland Nibblings.

In that meagre 2 day weather window I mentioned before, I got down to Northumberland to do a bit more exploring. Day 1 was still blowing a gale so it was suitable to explore somewhere in the woods. No, not Kyloe although that is very good for routes and I've done some really nice climbs (still need to get High T in good condition). But rather the distinctly obscure Callaly crag, recently micro-popularised by Beastmaker repeating The Young, which is indeed a stunning bit of rock and really should be on every hardcore boulderer's ticklist. The only thing hardcore about me is my taste in techno, so we stuck to the easier routes which despite being short and esoteric offered pretty intense climbing on good rock. After a couple of spicy routes on the upper block, I cleaned The Auld for Ewan to climb, he cleaned Family Affair for me to get onto the initial ledge, find the lone gear placement was out of reach and the move was too hard, so that one got away.

Day 2 was not blowing a gale but was still pretty good weather so it was suitable to explore somewhere exposed, or so we thought. Linshields One was exposed to the backdrop of military training, as we conveniently missed the red flags at the Otterburn range so spent the day climbing to the soundtrack of artillery and small arms fire :D. Curiously it was under-exposed to the wind so we did have to battle midgies and sweatiness a bit, but it was worth the effort as Ewan did a couple of spicey little routes and I managed to tackle Stealth and Mirage, two tasty little slab climbs that I think I'd seen photos of years ago. Both used the same collection of gear and it was arguably the biggest Cluster Of Bollox ((c) Pylon King 2003) that I've ever placed. The beta is:

Ballnut size 2 in shallow slot.
Ballnut size 1 in shallower slot.
RP 0, directional, in tiny seam.
HB 0, directional, in tiny seam.
Camalot C3 size 1 in very shallow down-facing seam.
RPs 4 and 5 stacked together in small borehole pocket.

With climbing gear 6 wrongs can make a right, although it was a rather tentative right whose veracity was best left untested, so it took a while to commit to both routes, but was fun when I did so.

Definitely up for more County action over the winter. I've only got one more esoteric place to explore - Howlerhirst - and then it's back to mixing and matching all over the place, I might even go to some honeypot crags ;).

P.S. Just discovered that blogspot have switched to the stupid pointless user-unfriendly slideshow style photo display bollox. Will have to make sure in future that whatever pictures I post just use a normal link or are full size anyway. Bleh.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The Dismal End.

It is now mid-September, the definitive, quintessential, Indian Summer time. When the showery frustration and occasional mugginess of July and August give way to the settled mellow warmth of early Autumn, when the crags have slowly but finally dried and seepage is at bay, when the midges are satisfyingly dying out, when the second great weather window of the year opens and allows some of the best climbing times.

As I write this, the tail end of a fucking HURRICANE is ripping through Glasgow like a cataclysmic expulsion of weather god diarrhoea, spraying 5cm deep torrents of rain on 70mph gusting winds. Oh but don't worry, there is a good weather window coming for a couple of days.....and then it's straight back to pissing SHIT again.

The dismal end to a dismal summer that never even started. A summer where everything seemed deceptively stacked in my favour: Last year felt like a recovery year from DVTs, this felt like a year where I was going to really get into climbing and progress and enjoy. I had plentiful and diverse inspiration for further exploration and nearer challenges. Following last years's dabblings, I had varied and succinct places to visit: A week on Lewis, long weekends in Skye, Caithness and Ardnamurchan, weekends at Glen Nevis and Creag Dubh - remarkably little to ask for an entire summer in which I had plenty of time. I also had - eventually - plenty of keen partners to explore with.

Time. Inspiration. Fitness. Plans. Partners.

All meaning fuck all without any reliable weather (since April, apart from that couple of weeks in July).

Some people seem to get berateful or bemused at my dismay with this dismality. "But it's Scotland, what do you expect??" Well I expect something better than the coldest summer in Scotland since 1993....a climbing contact said it had been the wettest summer in Fort William for 25 years and given the astronomical amount of aborted attempts to meet up and climb, I believe her.

If I was only into going to the gym, training at the climbing wall, pottering on local crags, going swimming, painting toy soldiers, listening to drum and bass and techno and metal, playing computer games, playing pool, hanging out in cafes and occasionally restaurants, chatting shit online and offline etc etc, then SURE the weather wouldn't be a problem... But I'm not - I'm also, and mostly, and genuinely, into exploring crags all over the country and beyond. Exploration which requires more than the occasional dry afternoon to justify the journey and punishing petrol prices.

So, yes, this really does suck for someone with my tastes and inspirations. It sucks for all of us climbers. I hope the suckage comes to an end soon, with at least some respite.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Aberdeen Antics.

I had a couple of rather anticful days in Aberdeen recently (yet a-bloody-gain the usual Plan B when the west was too sodding sodden). Drove up one morning, climbed at South Cove, Long Slough and Red Rocks, visited Atlas and Dido errrr I mean bRad and Meme and had a nice time hanging out and chatting shit, then then next day climbed at Earnsheugh and Rock Band Cliff, and drove home. A pretty good surgical strike, doing another challenging but ultimately amenable (and excellent) route Cirrhosis at South Cove, and firmly detonating my long overripe Earnsheugh cherry with quickdraw gobbling single pitch ascents of Death Cap, Bat's Belfry, Pterodactyl and Weird Sister between Geoff and I.

Why do I seem to end up at Aberdeen so much?? And given that is rather easily answerable (weather, friends - the area has good ones of both of those - and a reasonably pleasant drive up), why do I persist in being inspired by the climbing there given it is a birdy, greasy, obtuse, highly local-centric mishmash of stupidly steep schist and grubbily granular granite that is often lacking in line or height and tries to make up for it in general discomfort?? Well despite all of those objective facts, it does have it's charms - variety, accessibility, distinctiveness of rock, and if you get it right, pretty rewarding climbing. I often struggle to deal with it, particularly the angle and conditions, but there is always plenty to persist with, and when the persistence pays off it is rather fun - as this trip was.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Close Call at Callerhues

What a great wee crag Callerhues is. Even by Northumberland standards it's off the radar - well away from the famed and overused Bowden and Kyloe, guarded by a long-ish walk-in, sitting in splendid isolation on the expansive and exposed moorland, revelling in any sun and breeze that passes it way. Fewer climbers pass it's way, and so miss out on aesthetically featured sandstone and many varied and classic micro-routes whose small size belies their intensity, where an 8m route will have a full 8m of quality climbing from cranking off the ground on perky rugosities to teetering over the rounded top on subtle seams.

I passed it's way on Sunday, and got to sample a bit more climbing than on my first visit in 2003. Neil and Simon got involved with some funky sketchy HVSes and E1s that used to be mere VSes, we all did Weeping Fingers (I was chuffed with how smoothly it went), I did Tossing The Wobbler (above) without much of a wobbler. The actual wobbler and close call came on Rice Krispies later in the day. This steep sheer crunchy wall, home to two bold and intimidating routes, had inspired me previously but seemed out of my reach. Closer inspection revealed protection potential and ignited my inspiration, so I gave the route a try. A lot of ferocious crimping and downclimbing got some seemingly adequate gear blindly placed. And thence I climbed....

In a rare moment of confidence and committment, I just went for it. Crimped past the gear, crimped leftwards above it, crimped into an impasse at the top. Having checked out the finishing flutings, I just went for them too. Got a hand over, it felt okay, but as soon as I tried to move a foot, I started sliding. Shit I'm actually going to fall....Now the gear seemed okay but it was placed blind and it wasn't that far to the starting boulder below. In that flash of sliding, I felt....okayish....but still nervous, I was definitely falling and not pussying out. But in that moment, I did manage to pussy out, of a sort. I flicked a foot over into an adjacent chimney sidewall and got in balance. I escaped, didn't fall, and didn't do the route despite all the committment and having a hand on the top.

A close call to falling, but also a close call to doing the route. An inch further on the fluting and I could have held it, got my foot up and pulled over. A few inches further from the sidewall and I would have fallen.

I think this will haunt me for a while. I was really pleased that I committed and really excited going for the moves without inhibition. It was unusual to actually be falling off, even if I escaped that actual fall. It was frustrating to be that close. It is confusing to have so little to learn - I could have done a bit better but there's no real lesson there, other than sometimes you just miss out.

Still, I engaged in the route and there's still more to go back for at Callerhues ;).

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Death or glory at Dunkeld.

Me: So, should I do Rat Race then??

Andy: *stares*....I'm not saying anything, it's a great route though.

Me: Yeah, well, I'm syked!!

- usual faffing gearing up chalk basting ensues -

Me: Okay cool I'm going to go for it.

Andy: Yeah, that's the stuff, death or glory!

Me: *snorts*....More like slumping on the gear sulking, or glory!

- usual battling gear fiddling and panicking ensues as I'm trying to get into the so-called rest niche -

Me: Shit, these holds are shit!!

- one move up -

Me: Shit that's it I'm dead, I'm dead.

- etc etc -

In my defence, I kinda meant dead as in when the school bully threatens you at lunchtime "Jenkins you little scrote, you're gonna be so dead after school", rather than actually dead dead. The threat of slithering down with negative dignity to safely slump on the adequate gear was more real, but being pumped and sweaty and stressed, it was enough of a threat!

Also in my defence, I fiddled in some closer gear, committed to the squirm into the niche, soundly and profanely berated the guidebook for implying the sloping cramped body-trashing static grovel was anything like a "good no hands rest", but used it anyway. Transferred the arm pump to all over body pump, thrutched upwards into some sort of normality, did the slabby bit and the roof bit and yeah did the damn climb. Bit epic but very cool and worth the effort. Glory, of a sort ;).

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wankshitting hidden holds at Weem.

A free day and a decent forecast and two syked partners. I was keen to get somewhere either new and exploratory or with some rad challenges to get involved with. But the team-of-three-ness and a slow start precluded that, and Weem seemed suitable to keep the momentum going with convenient logistics (although it is a bloody hour and 40 minutes from Glasgow even with the new super-awesome fully open M80).

THe Secret Garden crag certainly is secretive, and the disorientating maze of rhodedndron (sp!) carnage and uselessly vague guidebook instructions made us glad of our personal tour guide Simon to lead the way, albeit sans requisitory machete. Once at the crag it was a pretty good day ticking almost all of it. I felt pretty fine on the trickier routes, and the blind and balancy schist is fairly relevant training.

The one that got away, well you'll never guess from the title, but it had a hidden fucking hold. I was up and down over this big roof so many times. Lots of holds, that soon ran out and ended up in the wrong place to pull over on some flat sloper notch thing. So many times trying to get the seemingly suitable hand on that hold. One final lunge for it it, one slump on the rope, one brief glance of the hidden slot on the right side of the hold, one piss-easy graunch over the lip. One small tourettical burst of swearing....for about 10 minutes. Ah well. Cheating fucking route ;)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ramping it up a bit at Ratho.

The previous trip was a weekend in Aberdeen. Good wee trip....but....fuck me it is a long long time since I got to proper climbing areas. Will there be a chance to get to Lewis, Skye, Wester Ross, Ardnamurchan, and back to Creag Dubh and Glen Nevis?? A good two months of late summer / autumn, often the best time the year after April/May......seems so feasible on paper, but I have fuck all hope. Really a dismal summer.

However there was a slight respite in the dismality of my water-treading non-progression (Why progression? Why not just potter on? Because progressing is fun and pleasurable and interesting by taking you to new areas of climbs and your climbing and seeing what happens, that's fucking why...). I got to Ratho one evening with the intention of climbing in the quarry. It was warm and still and moist. Usually a good excuse to go to the wall itself, but Simon was syked for outside and that seemed fair enough. After a wee warm up or two, I led a cool route up the main wall. Just a bit trickier than my usual punteering, but it required some committment and calming myself in the conditions - including sweating away and staying pumped despite being on a good ledge. Dropping a rope down revealed the face was - you guessed it - gently overhanging. So much for Scottish wall climbing!!

The upshot of all this is to confirm my previous post that I can actually do okay on climbs that suit me well. And that I'm now rather syked for more of that!!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

On personal challenge and personal style.

The other day I actually tried something tricky. I didn't do it but that I actually tried it was a hopefully decreasing rarity. The route was a slanting sparse crackline up a wall that overhung 3m in 15m height. I make that 1 in 5 so 15-20 degrees overhanging. Hmmm. Bloody Scotland and it's bloody steepness. The weather was good and I'd warmed up well, I climbed up to a mid-height slopey crux and back down again. Back up, more gear, back down. Back up, somehow committed to the crux and pressed on until a metre below the top I was struggling to hang on to flat jugs just to clip gear, let alone move up. Since the finish was 45 degree slopers into flat (not incut) grass, I knew I was beat. No stropping or sulking, but in the post-route analysis I was particularly fond of the excuse of it being my "anti-style".

This seemed obvious at the time, but in retrospect I did wonder if it was a too convenient excuse?? Surely I had done enough around Scotland that I would have tackled such steepness somewhere, and should be capable pushing my limits on it despite my fatness and weakness. Well, as it turns out, no. Definitely no. Recalling the more challenging routes I've done in Scotland looks like this:

White Meter, Loch Sloy - slab.

Chisel, Cambusbarron - just off vertical, powerful cranks but not pumpy.

Big Country Dreams, Cambusbarron - steepish but good rest between two short cruxes.

Walter Wall, Glen Nevis - just off vertical, bold with good rests.

The Fuhrer, Creag Dubh - sheer wall, good rests and good holds.

Auto De Fe, Berrymuir - okay this is very steep but short-lived and obvious gear to go for.

Captain Pugwash, Hidden Treasure Wall - vertical with a reasonable shake at the top.

Heave-Ho, Loch Tollaidh - steepish but good rest between two short cruxes.

Strip-Teaser, Loch Tollaidh - slab.

Call Of The Wild, Lochan Dubh - steepish but good rest between two short cruxes.

On The Western Skyline, Ardmair - vertical with good holds and good shakes.

Unleash The Beast, Ardmair - steep but some resting jams and obvious gear.

Where on this list does it say 15 degree overhanging stamina routes with no rests?? Hmmmm?? It doesn't. Because I don't do them, not at my limit anyway. I'm not good at them, I don't suit them, and although I aspire to be a well rounded climber, such routes are not really suitable to push myself on. So I need to get on some challenging routes that are my style, as well as doing more stamina training. Play to your strengths, work your weaknesses...

Friday, 19 August 2011

Detachment and distance.

Ever since coming back from Sweden, I've had a lingering and persistent feeling of detachment and distance. Detachment from who I want to be, distance from what I want to be doing. Being more active, being more determined, being fitter, being more exploratory, being more progressive, making better use of my climbing time, being true to my self of exploration and inspiration. Something like Sweden (for example) was true to me, the sluggish, vague, floating along that I'm doing now is not.

This is symptomatic of a greater feeling of detachment and distance I feel from things in the past that were equally true to me. Although I am (slowly) working towards setting myself up for a lifestyle of action including climbing and travelling (in a general sense not in an extreme climbing bum sense), I feel like I'm in a fuzzy cocoon, in a sort of stasis while life outside goes on. While my fitness slips away unless I am totally diligent, while time passes slowly by, whilst things that have inspired me become more memory and less reality.

This is certainly not helped by my own utterly contrary and self-inhibiting predisposition to procrastination, indecision and inaction (an aspect of me that is totally at odds with what inspires me and what is true to me), and is probably not helped by side-effects of medication I am on (which I will be looking into this autumn). It is also not as drastic as this post might imply - what I've written might seem doomily emotive, but it is a subtle niggling malaise rather than an outright angstastrophe.

I write this because it is very much (although not entirely) climbing (and training and fitness and exploring) related. And because I try to clarify my thoughts and feelings to see if anything can be done about them. And I suppose that is, apart from just doing more and keeping more active, just this, which, of course, I already knew.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A recce of Arran.

Arran bouldering that is. Yes the mountain stuff looks great blah blah 600m altitude walking pretty much from sea level FUCK THAT.

So, the bouldering. Contrary to the mountains the bouldering is the very definition of accessible, not so much roadside as actually on the road itself, in the case of the Cat Stone at Corrie. Warm weather, limited time and a lack of spotters precluded much sendage, but I got to check out the following areas:

(Above) Very pleasantly situated beach bouldering on well-sculpted gabbro. But very limited with only a few good problems before the rock turns too ledgy or scrittly. Good potential for some serious highballs but I wouldn't go back.

Corrie Boulders:
The classic road circuit, on road or off road take your pick. A line of proper granite lumps scattered throughout Corrie village, with proper coarse texture and proper frictional slopers. I did a wee bit of bouldering but it wasn't the weather for it. What I saw inspired me to come back when it's 15 degrees colder and I have 100% more bouldering buddies with me, to tackle some good bulging slabby things and some good bulging roofy things.

Mushroom Boulder:
A brief look at this overhanging beast provided additional inspiration. While some aspects are crude and could do with a good scrub, the combination of juggy roofs leading into spicey highball slab finishes looks like another good "team fun" venue and contrasts nicely with the granite.

So, a vague plan for winter:

1. Grab some syked friends, lots of pads, a flask of coffee and a short piece of rope.

2. Drive down and get an early ferry across to the island as passengers (car alone is £62 return UGHHH, passengers £10 return).

3. Get the bus up to the far Corrie boulder and start there.

4. Walk back through the other boulders loosing skin but gaining sends.

5. Hitch/bus back down to the Mushroom. Ab down and brush off the finishes. By this time skin should be trashed but muscles not quite worn out - finish them off on the steep sandstone.

6. Bus back to Brodwick and ferry home.

7. Celebrate with fish and chips.

8. Yay!

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Gaylord chosseering at Glen Clova.

Glen Clova:

  • Lots of mid-grade climbs to go at.

  • Good location and outlook.

  • Nice sunny but exposed position.

  • Strenuous but short approach.

  • Decent area of the country for weather.

  • But...

  • The only problem being the climbing is a bit shit.


  • Lots of mid-grade climbing experience.

  • Good personal inspiration and outlook.

  • Nice ability to work out positions.

  • Short but capable of strenuosity.

  • Decent determination to chase best weather.

  • But...

  • The only problem being HIS climbing is a bit shit.

Less of a "maintaining standards" session and more of a "maintaining a complete inability to progress even slightly" session. A previous session at Ratho had me feeling surprisingly unpunterish but once on real rock with the real prospect of climbing above real trad protection and really actually getting a vaguely tricky climb done, the gaylordness - and complete lack of overall fitness - was out in standard force. I did manage a couple of easier routes tho so there is some mileage there. Also got to recce plenty of Clova for future potential - i.e. there isn't that much that looks super-awesome enough.

Learnings from this session: more determination when tackling trickier routes and definitely more fitness training.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Summer bouldering on Simonside.

Weekend forecast was funny. Didn't really make many plans. Ended up on a last minute trip down to Northumberland, where the weather was neither funny nor funny in fact it was fully fine. Solid sunshine, a bit of a breeze, and definite dryness. Perfect for checking out Simonside on a long summer's day. Unfortunately there was a slight technical hitch when my planned partner didn't appear nor answer any sporadic phone contact over 2 hours waiting. It later turns out he had a car crash and was admitted to hospital for a few stitches OOOOPS.

Oh well in the meantime I made some use out of the 4 hour round trip by hiking up onto the Simonside plateau, via a serious of blatant and cruel false summits, on a bumbly bouldering mission. This kinda sucked as it didn't involve any Easy Trad, but was kinda cool as it did involve a lot of walking, a fair bit of easy bouldering mileage, some renewed inspiration for Northumbrian rock (useful in the current return to dire weather), as well as a useful recce of a few cool problems for winter conditions. It felt like a "full" afternoon out and was vaguely useful training for the greater ranges so that's nice. Still missed the trad tho, still missing bigger challenges tho.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Clambering at Creag Dubh and The Camel.

Back in sunny Scotland, I just had a nice wee trip in rather glorious weather. Time constraints prevented heading too far afield, so Central Highlands it was. Creag Dubh is one of those crags that keeps on giving - there is so much at the low-mid extreme standard that there always seems to be something to do. My main inspiration is some of the harder Great Wall routes, but warm weather and general lack of both fitness and confidence discouraged that. Seepage discouraged Ticket To Ride, laziness discouraged Barrier Wall, but a dry Waterfall Buttress provided a good opportunity to sample the semi-aqueous delights there. A couple of good routes - one very much in the classic "easy but bold jugpulling" Creag Dubh style - got me rather syked for more.

However variety is the spice of life and B-dawg was keen to get humping The Camel, and that seemed like a good plan to me, so after the usual nice & cheap Newtonmore camping and greasy spoon breakfast complete with irredeemably awful coffee, we trotted up there in a mere hour. The day was warm, the Camel was cold and the cobbles could feel cruel to numb fingers, but I managed a few routes including the deservedly classic Stone Of Destiny, and yes, you can ride on the stone :D

Unfortunately my lack of fitness took it's toll on the hugely harder classic F7a, and I slumped off. More stamina training needed, more indication that despite these fun trips I'm still treading water, and it made me grump like an Orc:

P.S. Left over from a previous blog but cleverly continuing the C-theme, here is some more Caithness Culture:

This year there were 10 different tractor magazines in the Wick Newsagent, rather than merely 8. I was stuck what to buy and ended up so confused I bought a copy of Climb instead (which coincidentally had an article on Bohuslan).

Monday, 25 July 2011

Sweden the photos.

Bivvy hut in front of the lake.

Lake in front of the bivvy hut.

Typical walk-in at Seglora.

The amazing Afterburner.

More Afterburner.

How can anyone possibly resist??

Typically chilled out climbing vibes at Galgeberget.

Weekly washtime!

View out from Svaneberget.

Nice route at Utby in Gothenburg itself.


And another nice route at Utby.

Same. Funky rock there.

Dunno what it is but in the words of my mum: "looks friendly tho;-)"

Dude where does the line go??

Somehow not getting too lost...

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sweden the ticklist.

(5 days climbing)

En Liten Bit Granit 6 **
Granitebiten 7- ***
Machete 6 *

Prismaster 6- *** (second)
Afterburner 6+ **

Petroleum 5+ ** (s)
Bideford Dolphin 5- * (s)

Galgen 6- *
Ater Komsten 4+ ** (s)
Ballabaget 6+ **

Mallorol 6- ***
Chapman 6 **

Granite Grotto:
??? F6c
Spektakel F6a
Islandshäst 6b+ **

Norden's Ark:
Jarven 5+ *
Snoleoparden 6+ **

Hostsonaten 6+ **
Bergkirstis Polka 6- ***

Lattja 6+ **

(1 day climbing)

Snett A Vanster 6 ***
Ants In My Pants 6- ** (s)
Panda 6- ***
??? 5+ * (s)
Bagarmossen 6 *
Svara Diedret 6- **

(2 days climbing)

Punsch 6-
Kronartskolkans Flykt 7-
Delikatessan 7-
Kastrationsangest 7-
Ankedammen 7
Vino Tinto 6
Gasa Marsch 6
Basalt 6
Gettingen 6-
Arponas Planet 7-
Blackfisken 6+
Mluda Matilda 7
Matildas Groggveranda 7
Bjorn Sover 7-
Svartenbrandt 7-
Arkiv X 6+
Lenas Led 6-

??? 5- **

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sweden the country.

  • Everyone drives a Volvo. Usually an estate. This is great.

  • Unlike the UK, most people do not drive like complete fucking morons. This is good.

  • There seems to be no national radio station devoted to minimal techno 24 hours a day. This is very bad.

  • All Swedish people speak good English and are usually very helpful. This is a revelation that British people could learn from.

  • Unfortunately there are no English signs anywhere at all, for anything. Although "toalett" and "stopp" are mercifully comprehensible.

  • All Swedish children are very blonde and seem very happy.

  • Most Swedish women are very blonde and wear very short shorts.

  • Everything is extremely expensive. The only exceptions being pre-grated cheese and low-alcohol beer.

  • Supermarket meatballs are fairly average and I can't eat a whole packet of them.

  • Restaurant meatballs can be very awesome.

  • South-West Sweden consists entirely of fields, pine forests, lakes/inlets, and small lumps of granite.

  • In Bohuslan, those small lumps of granite can be very awesome.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sweden calling...

I am going to Sweden for 12 days! Bohuslan! Climbing! And the rest of my experience will hopefully be summed up in the two videos above! Won't have my laptop so no updates but no doubt there will be some extended waffling when I return...

Monday, 4 July 2011

Sunstroke at Stranraer.

Decisions decisions this weekend. The weather forecast was good but the midge forecast was less good especially in the hills, with the wind sometimes struggling to break the 5 mph bare minimum. Sea-cliffs or similar were proposed, and for the purposes of convenient travelling were narrowed down to: Ardnamurchan, Aberdeen area, or Stranraer Peninsula. Much triangulation of surrounding Met Office locations and averaging out potential wind speeds ruled out Ardnamurchan, enthusiasm for a dry-in-the-west forecast ruled out Aberdeen, so Stranraer it was, for the triple whammy of Crammag, Llaggantalluch, and Portobello (the crag, not the Edinburgh district not the London district nor indeed the mushroom, although there was talk of taking some to the crag, sauteeing them on a camp stove and getting the essential but still apparently unclaimed "Eating Portobellos at Portobello" tick).

So yes. The weather was glorious. I got sunburnt knees from my cutting edge shorts + compression stockings combo. And a sunburnt head. And sunburnt shoulders from my "hide the gut show the guns" wifebeater. We did some great climbs each day. Slabs and roof cracks and thin walls and all sorts. The micro-granite is a unusual delight, the greywacke a familiar delight. We saw a curious seal each day (probably not the same one) and lots of annoyingly loud seagulls. I did one of my finest crag turds ever, coiling it out in a splendid figure of 8. We stayed at a huge caravan park at Sandhead that despite being very distant from the wilderness experience, did good butties and good coffee. And went to a very nice pub nearby for a fine meal punctuated by a splendid butterscotch profiterole dessert, probably the highlight of the trip.

Hurrah for climbing really!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Classic Caithness Coolness.

Yay! Back to Caithness at last. Somewhere that always inspired me from reading about it in guidebooks and magazines (I wonder if Duncan Disorderly knows I pinched his OTE with the Caithness special a few years ago??), and somewhere that has proved to be worth that inspiration on initial and subsequent visits. My visits now total 3, which I hoped would be enough (not least because of a certain tedium with the neverending Inverness > Wick finale of the 5+ hour drive), but will likely require at least one more, as this trip was 66% rather than 100% successful...

Much Climbing at Mid Clyth
Yay! For Mid Clyth. A brief initial visit merely sampled the compact and heavily starred Stack area, this substantial return visit confirmed the validity of those stars in an orgy of steep wall climbing. Yes, it really is as good as the guidebook (the definitive, not the less reliable selected guide which criminally misses out this fine crag) says, with a veritable plethora of minor classics crowded side by side above the most convenient (abseil descent aside) of flat platforms. More than you can shake a stick at....or even a seal. Verily the seals were out in force, lowing and mooing and staring quizzically at our bizarrely non-aqueous antics. Those antics simply included a lot of great climbing....and that was that.

Showers at Scarlet
Since the weather forecast predicted 3 unbroken dry days, the rain had the decency to wait until midway through the second day. Oh what courtesy. Before this meterological blip, the mighty Sarclet was the natural choice for the day. Sarclet is somewhat more adventurous, although the main adventure involved trying to construct a vaguely comfortable two man survival shelter out of a ropebag, a rucsac, a small rockshelf with a good RP above it, and a few badly tensioned and even worse placed anchors. This sufficed - barely - for early showers, thus allowing us to snatch a couple of warm-up routes. However the last route was led in light drizzle and seconded in substantial rain. After a soggy and swearful retreat, the sun came out at the car. Arse and double arse.

Evening Esoterica
After an emergency - and pleasingly free - weather check at the Wick library, there was enough promise for the 3rd day....and the 2nd evening. The showers had scarcely tickled Wick nor the coast further North, so we tried Auckengill, lured by the dubious promise of easily accessible 3 star 8m routes. Hmmmm. Well apart from obviously not being 3 star routes, it was pretty cool. A charmingly relaxed location above an arguably even more convenient platform. The couple of chosen routes were definitely short but also distinctly steep, providing some good value. Not nearly as steep as a final digestif route at The South Head Of alleged E2 5b with a hard 5c/6a crank above just adequate wires, hard to place amongst severely overhanging climbing the whole of it's brief and brutal way. This required enough up and downclimbing to get a Munro tick, yet was still fun enough climbing to make a perky E3/4 despite such dicking around.

Slipperiness at Sarclet
Thanks to the still dry forecast, the day dawned drizzly on the campsite. Back to the ever-useful library and the promise of a dry afternoon to be worth a morning caffeinating (Morag's Cafe being surprisingly good in this regard), perusing the vast array of tractor magazines (10 different ones in total, I was struggling to decided between Vintage Tractor, Old Tractor, and Classic Tractors) and general faffing (like I need any practise). Heading out to finish the job at Sarclet once more, the brightening day and freshning breeze promised the elusive sending conditions. However my befuddlement about onshore and offshore breezes and sea-cliff conditions was at the fore again. After following the mighty Pimpernel and doing a brief warm up, my chosen inspiration, despite looking reassuringly welcoming from a pert wee belay ledge, was greasier than a whore's fuckflaps. Thus escape was made, and there was little more to be done.

A rather good trip but a couple of Sarclet classics still close....yet not close enough...

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Two sides...

Two climbers.

One route.

One challenge.

Both climbers tackle this challenge. Both climbers push themselves. Both climbers have to put a large amount of effort and many attempts into the route. Both climbers have to overcome previous difficulties to succeed.

One climber completes the route, and in his celebration of success, just mentions the route name and maybe the quality, but not the grade.

One climber completes the route, and in his celebration of success, just mentions the grade, but not the route name nor the quality.

A small detail, but...

One meaning or two different meanings?

One inspiration or two different inspirations?

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Leisurely climbing at Loudon.

I had a terrible thought recently. I've been getting a few decent local days out, and I suddenly realised that it would be theoretically possible for me to be one of those smug patronising twats who, after a typically abysmal non-summer, whitters on with crap like "What was the problem with the weather? I got out a few times every week, it was fine" as if their myopic and insular repeat visits to the same local crag in between showers did the term "getting out" any form of justice.

So, make no mistake, the weather is fucking appalling. Sure I got out last Thursday evening, and yesterday afternoon in nice fresh dry weather, but Friday was pissing down, Saturday was pissing down, Sunday was constant showers, and today is so pissing down it makes Friday look like the Sahahra. Local cragging is keeping my hand in but it is in no way the sort of proper trips that a summer is for.

Anyway, Loudon. Finally got out with B, whose regular mid-week days off usually coincide with the rain when we've planned to climb, but not yesterday. It was quite fine at Mount Loudon despite a bit of mugginess on the walk-up (and maybe a bit hot and bothered after overshooting the A71 junction and ended up South of Ayr...). B was keen for trad mileage, I was keen for more treading water, and we followed that keeness, conquering Mount Loudon via 7 good routes, culminating in finally laying Epitaph Sodding Variation to rest. This was quite pleasing because last summer I had a right flap on it before reversing off, this time although quite hard it just worked naturally. So I guess I am maintaining a steady level. Hopefully this will set me up for pushing things a some distant point :S

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Dabbling at Dumby.

I've gone off Dumby a bit. Unless I got there properly focused with a clear intention, I usually end up dabbling on the boulders. The boulders, however, being stern, unforgiving and generally disdainful of human beings, do not tolerate such dabbling. They demand no less than the upmost dedication and the upmost determination to their harsh and hostile intricacies.

Plus I am fat and weak and can't do problems I could do years ago.

However I sometimes go down and get tempted to dabble in other directions - further upwards, with a rope and sometimes a rack. The other evening was one of those occasions. My fingers were knackered from a good campus / fingerboard session (part of the plan to de-weakify, given my fucked legs severely inhibit de-fatifying), so I just fancied some Easy Trad. Dumby isn't the best place for that once you've done the big Windjammer/LongBow combination, but a bit of hunting around reveals some options.

First up was The Whip. This was given a bland 5b grade in the old guide. IIRC, Dave Macleod was asking for feedback on some Glasgow outcrops, and I amongst other suggested that some of the longer "problems" at Dumby and Craigmore might just deserve adjectival grades. For example, The Whip is 5b, hard 5b to start and then fairly mild 5b to finish - 8m up above an abrupt angled landing. Well worth it's E2 5b and two stars. I set off in warm weather with little chalk and clunky resoled shoes, just intending to play on the bottom to warm up. However the steadily defined moves and good rests just encouraged me to go all the way up, so with some trepidation I did.

Second was some searching with Neil for a suitable lead for both of us. I spotted Eldorado, an obvious if mis-described direct start to Desperado. Neil muses "I thought you wanted Easy Trad, like HVS, rather than E3 5c". Well, errr, E3 5c IS Easy Trad, particularly when it's a short direct start to an HVS rather than some overhanging and unpredictable mega-pitch. I can't pretend otherwise. So I got on it. The start took some working out, with a low altitude but high chance of failure off balance lunge to a jug. After that it was steady up the HVS, which was actually an E1. I rather enjoyed it. Neil thought it was okay. The consensus was the start was sort of E2/3 5c/6a, with more risk of severe lacerations from brambles and broken glass than actual breakages of one's own.

And that was that. Very much a "treading water" session, like ALL the ones I'm having - and getting bored with - at the moment. Fun in itself but not satisfying the deeper exploratory and progressive urges. The weather is still sodding awful but I keep trying to be patient and keep training...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Backlog Bollox

Holy arse on toast it's been a long time since I posted any ramblings on here. The main reason being that things have been a bit bollox with weather, car trouble, partner mis-organisation, general slothfulness and other malaises.

Things I haven't done recently include:

  • Got back up to anywhere inspiring in the North West or North East.

  • Booked any rad and awesome trips away.

  • Climbed much that has been particularly challenging or progressive.

  • Kept up with training hard at the gym.

  • Kept up with training hard at the wall.

  • Followed my concepts for having a great climbing year.


What a choad.

What I have done is sat on my arse too much, and then a bit of the following:

Horribly Weak at Harper's Wall
The low point of this year if not my life. Not only did I have to resort to climbing a VS, I actually enjoyed it. Ugggghhhhh. VS. Fucking hillwalking.

Breezy Cruising at Brown Crag
Obviously the above was completely unacceptable. So, after a good night's sleep and a strong coffee, Phil and I headed down to Brown Crag to see what we could do. The initial plan was to go back to square 1 and get some good E1 mileage there. As it turned out, conditions were good, the vibe was good, I was suitably wary/prepared for the steepness, and slowly eased my way into E1 5a, E1 5b, E1 5c, E2/3 5c, E2/3 5c, which whilst only just above hillwalking / descent route level, did actually feel like climbing. All pretty nice routes too.

Kinda fun at The Keel
I arranged to climb with Stuart. He suggested The Keel, a new local sport climbing crag on the Aberdeen coast. Ugggghhhhh. I expected something that would make Boltsheugh look like Ceuse. Really the last sort of place I'd want to go on a decent day with a plethora of trad available. Nevertheless I went along to give it ago, cos he's a nice guy, I might get some good training in, and maybe persuade him over to Coble Boards afterwards. As it happens although The Keel was short, steep and scruffy, it was long enough to make leading feel pretty worthwhile, and the climbing was actually kinda fun and it felt good to get involved and get a decent workout.

Casual Flailing at Carrock Fell

Each time I go to Carrock Fell it seems to be in bollox conditions. This time I thought previous bone dry days plus a forecast 10-20 mph Easterly wind would encourage some sort of friction but alas no. The rock was dry but my skin wasn't and although it was cool-ish there was a vague mugginess that ensured a brief session and a determination to revisit more in winter.

Going Okay at Glen Ogle
More local days, blah blah. Went up to Glen Ogle to sample fresh breeze and afternoon sun and it was pretty good despite it being blind rounded dusty slopey obtuse schist at it's almost worst. Nevertheless I climbed okay, highlights being a near miss on a slopey F7a - had actually committed fully to the moves and was 0.0000001 seconds away from getting a jug when I lost balance. Good that I put the effort in rather than wimping out but annoying it was rewarded with failing anyway. And a near success on the classic E3 crackline which was easy on all the steep bits and tricky on all the slabby ledgy bits and while never actually hard was sufficiently obscure enough I very nearly came off on dusty rock but somehow persuaded myself to adhere. Not so much a fun romp as a good exercise in staying calm.

Chilling at Cambusbarron
Finally went to Camby just for something to do, and that something to do seemed to mostly be lounging on my mat enjoying the sporadic sun. Did one warm-up route, tried a supposed easy E3 that was utter nails, backed off in a confused micro-huff, decided it was too still / tiring to try anything challenging and blah blah.

SoOoOo....what next to sort this debacle out. I'd love to say "more Highlands and Islands awesomeness" but I doubt the diabolical weather gods will be that kind. I certainly need to keep up with my concepts for dealing with shitty weather. I also need to train a lot more, and follow up some leads for a climbing trip abroad. Better get my arse off the toast and into gear then...

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Waiting Game.

Some free time, some keen partners, some atrocious weather.

This is the way it goes but once all the moaning and ranting and fist-shaking is out of the way, what is the best way to make the best use out of it?? In Arno's Problem - Question - Opportunity terms:

Problem: The weather fucking blows.

Question: What can I do in climbing / planning terms to maximise current and future enjoyment despite the weather??

Opportunity: Work out what areas are best to explore in weather that fucking blows, work out what climbing desires can be incorporated into weather that fucking blows, take the opportunity to train in preparation for when the weather doesn't fucking blow.

So, here are some ideas for reference, for when it's the typical south-westerly sunshine/fuckingshowers wet in the west weather:


Northumberland: Callerhues, Rothley, Simonside, Bowden, Goat Crag...
South West: Laggantalluch, Crammag Head, Kiln O' Fuffock...
Central Outcrops: Tig-thingy Viewpoint, Glen Croe, Ardvorlich, Glen Lednock, Glen Ogle...
Eastern Outcrops: Glen Clova, Limekilns, Roslin Glen, Cambusbarron, Angus Quarries, Weem...
North East: Ballater, Rosehearty, Tarlair, Red Tower, Harper's Wall, Earnsheugh, Craig Stirling and more...

...all of which have either useful training routes (physically and mentally challenging), or specific inspirations, or would be interesting to explore, or would tackle useful climbing styles.

Other plans:

Bouldering: Glen Nevis, Arrochar (projects ;)), Carrock Fell, Gouther Crag, Gillercombe etc etc, Queen's Crag, Simonside Plateau, Shaftoe etc etc...

...the weather might be occasionally warm but it's often bloody windy during sunshine/fuckingshowers periods, so conditions can be surprisingly good. More mixing and matching, more exploration, more physical training, more fun.

Suitable inspirations: As well as exploring super-awesome areas, I do want to push myself a bit more and explore new areas of challenge and personal climbing development. Some of those challenges are more local, more compatible with general training and a focused hit... that could be a good aspiration.

Training: I've found I need to progress physically to progress with my climbing overall, particularly fitness, stamina, and power to weight ratio. The gym, the campus board, the mighty R, the local-ish sport venues are all suitable and I do have some syke to keep using... ...this needs to be balanced with "keeping my hand in" on trad, but should leave me better prepared when it's dry enough to get to proper venues.

Overall: when the weather fucking blows, explore locally, mix and match with other climbing styles, train hard, and be ready to crush the Highlands and Islands :).

(And paint more toy soldiers and listen to more drum and bass...)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Usual Bollox.

Sunshine and showers, the most despicable and infuriating of anti-climber weather conditions, guaranteed in it's unpredictability to turn out gorgeous if you stay in and and start pissing down as soon as you go out to touch rock, the heaviness of Scottish showers ensuring that even wet-weather options get adequately annoying seepage and the general on/off nonsense of such a reprehensibe climate cock-up preventing even the most slightly interesting trip away, maximising the boredom of snatched hours at local venues and allowing the myopic and unimaginative to claim they're having an awesome early summer climbing because they go to Stanage / Avon / Dumby every sodding time.

The silver lining to these mocking clouds being that I am 1. Kinda busy and 2. Kinda syked to train, after the last two glorious trips away which were great exploration but left me with a slightly sensation that I was STILL lagging behind the potential I wished to progress into, and needed to up my stamina and general physical and mental ability to cope with the steepness that obviously or insidiously infests most Scottish mid-grade cragging. Hence sessions at the campus board, gym, and the mighty R, which I went down to last saturday after a campussing and gym session and still did okay, which shows potential THERE but I need to, and will do, a fair bit more in the meantime. Bring on the pump.