Sunday, 20 February 2011


Given the season - the cold-weather-short-days-winter-sun-crisp-friction-bouldering-strength-season when its at it's rare best - I find myself fancying techy gritstone-esque routes. Short, technical, thought-provoking, bold, bouldery. The sort of routes where you boulder around for an hour, emerge steaming from your duvet jacket cocoon, place two bits of gear, stand around getting a bit nervous, and execute some delicate funky moves just before your hands go numb. The sort of routes that gritstone does perfectly, but are rarities in Scotland. Rarities, but not entirely absent. It just takes some cunning and planning to find them. This is a current list (with good mid-grade options) I'm pondering on:

Lowland Outcrops (E.g. most places of little consequence) - The standard easily-jaded Local Climbing blah but with some interesting places scattered around.

Trossachs/Arrochar (E.g. Glen Croe, Loch Sloy, Glen Ogle, Glen Lednock) - Often a bit on the steep side but some good slabs and shorter routes that are suitable.

Glen Nevis (E.g. Roadside, Blacks, Wave etc) - Living in the shadow of errr Ben Nevis this is very weather specific, but some of the more accessible crags have the right style of climbing.

Mull (E.g. Scoor, Erraid) - Still not been alas, but the photos of short granite and schist outcrops definitely look right.

Gairloch (E.g. Mungrisdale, Gruinard Crags, Stone Valley, Loch Tollaidh, Diabeg) - Some of the best crags are a bit northerly facing, but there's a wide choice that fit the bill.

Reiff (E.g. Ardmair, Stone Pig, Pinnacle, Seal Song) - Despite the rock quality Reiff is not THAT good as it's so well featured that most harder routes tend to be thugfests rather than techfests.

Aberdeen North (E.g. Ballater, Red Wall, Round Tower etc) - Pretty good as can be pretty technically intense and good in cooler weather.

Aberdeen South (E.g. Long Slough, Harbour Wall, Floors Craig etc) - Generally a bit too steep and strenuous (i.e. very), but some potential.

Northumberland (E.g. Everywhere) - what more needs to be said? Gritstone with more holds and less hordes.

P.S. It's still wet and shit out there, BTW.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Soggy syke.

Syke ebbs and flows. Mine is flowing (?) at the moment. I am syked to get out on the rock and CLIMB. Bouldering, trad, sport, circuits, projects, mileage, new areas, testpieces, whatever. I just feel the love and desire for the pleasure of touching, pulling, and moving over rock.

Naturally this is coinciding with a period of prolonged dampness. I don't think anything has been reliably dry for nearly two weeks now. At this time of year - as with any time of year in the UK - this is "normal". Blech. Also at this time of year there is a little leeway - a small drizzle shower can ruin a whole day, whilst in summer things might dry out. Or might not. Suffice to say I can't put my syke to good use at the moment.

No doubt the weather will turn crisp or sunny or fresh and breezy and then I'll somehow be syked to paint toy soldiers and listen to death metal instead. But just in case I can put my syke to delayed-good use. I've been doing a little bit of training at Ratho, a crude mixture of routes, falling practise, steep ground, bouldering circuits and beastmakering. Not very focused, but my current relevant weaknesses are not very specific - mostly fitness (trainable at gym etc) and lock off / pulling power (trainable at wall but less relevant to outside desires). Keeping reasonably climbing fit and ticking over will do.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Bumbling at Bowden.

Made a last minute plan to visit The County on a free day with a decent forecast. Decent as in sun, cool temps, light breeze - but also after a previous day's rain, so some caution was needed. I first checked out the exposed and sunny Goat Crag, which I've only done one easy route at. It was pretty dry and the plethora of considerably less easy routes looked rather inspiring, but I felt a bit underprepared for the diverse sandstone battles. So off it was to the definitive classic and fairly honeypot Bowden Doors, where I again recced some harder inspirations, and eventually met a dude for some routes. However it was feeling a bit nervy on some sandyish top-outs, so we retreated to an easy bouldering circuit, which was fun....and also turned out to be a bit nervy on the shallow bog solo of Child's Play F6b S1!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


Thusly I determine the main things I need to work on and DO are:

1. Keep in touch with climbing partners regularly, promptly, and positively.

2. Prioritise plans for the most inspiring areas with like-minded partners.

3. Plan more proactively but flexibly in advance rather and last minute.

4. Get started on days out earlier to make best use of time.

5. Keep fitness training and make it a regular habit.

6. Keep eating a decent diet with small portions, less junk, more water.

7. Train stamina, finger strength, finger power, dynamism and endurance at walls.

8. Falling practise, falling practise, falling practise, falling practise.

9. Work on route reading and gear placing outdoors.

10. Stack odds in my favour with suitable weather conditions.

If I don't, keep reminding me and beat it into me until I habitually live like this to make my climbing lifestyle more pleasurable and personally rewarding!!

Monday, 7 February 2011


8. Climb a few F7a+s.

Some inspiring and challenging sport routes to aim for, and what I might need to do / improve / be prepared for.

I expect some of these will be particularly challenging given the stamina, fitness, and strength required, and in particular the luck required with onsighting harder sport. Nevertheless the choice and general quality of these routes gives me plenty to go at, and if I feel fit enough then they will be worth a try.

General requirements: Falling practise, stamina, falling practise, fitness, falling practise, route reading on varied rock, falling practise, falling practise.

Persistence Of Vision, Dumby - needs: very cold and dry conditions, someone to give it a brush first, finger strength, basalt technique, falling practise.

High Pitched Weem, Weem - needs: finger / crimp / deadhanging strength, fitness and stamina, 30 degree training, climbing speed.

Screaming Weem, Weem - needs: as above.

Grand Theft Auto, Rob's Reed - needs: fitness and stamina, good conditions, training on bad holds.

Sun City, Cambus O May - needs: dry breezy weather, crimp strength, fitness and stamina, dynamism, careful footwork training.

Sticks And Stones, Cambus O May - needs: as above.

Paralysis By Analysis, The Camel - needs: route reading, stamina, route reading, stamina, more stamina, decent conditions, climbing speed.

Mactallah, Goat Crag - needs: cool weather, stamina, strength, route reading.

Yosemite Wall, Malham - needs: cool weather, stamina, strength, footwork on polished holds.

Appetite, Malham - needs: as above.

Plus lots of supporting F7as at Chapel Head Scar etc etc.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Real winter sun at Red Wall seacliffs.

This weekend I visited the third in the triptych of welcoming Aberdonian climbing couples I know. This was all rather pleasant: bRad, Amelia, Atlas (above) and Dido hosted me graciously and we went out climbing. Well, the people, not the cats. Although the cats could have done a better job than I did on Sunday. But first, Saturday. Winter sun, good East Coast weather (escaping the deluge in the West), and bird-free pink granite. These are other good reasons to visit Aberdeen climbing, and why I intend to do more of it this winter season. On Saturday we visited Red Wall, and lo it is RED and a WALL. It also doesn't have any shortcuts to the base of the crag apart from abseiling, certainly not wandering through the intriguing sport climbing quarry, and wondering how appealing a swim would be if we attempted the green bulging sea-traverse to the base. Eventually we established base camp - via abseil - and rattled off a few routes. Despite the short day, false start approach, late arrival of myself from Edinburger, and climbing as a team of 3, we still managed 4 good routes albeit with the second and third following the last route in something between dusk and pitch dark. I didn't tackle anything major - I have a general syke to do so but am cautious of the conditions and Aberdonian sea-cliffs in general - but did a couple of fun routes.

Sunday initially promised sun. Then mist. Then torrential rain. Then sun again. Eventually it settled on one of the few things that wasn't forecast - light cloud and cool grey temps. We had a look at the dramatic and photogenic Round Tower but alas despite no rain and little seepage, it was damper than a squid's snatch. The infamous coastal clag in full effect. Without sun and breeze and indeed any margin for error at this time of year, options were limited to sensible retreat, but it was a good recce for the future. Thusly we ended up at Transition wall, where I transitioned from someone giving a vague impression of climbing competence, to an inept bumbling blob of punterdom. I was fat and weak in ways which are hard to describe and impossible for mere mortals to comprehend. Anything which required a modicum of arm strength rather than crimping or compression left me beaten, battered, and belligerent. Oh and my skin was utter rubbish too. All rather perturbing, but it turned out to be a good workout, I suppose. God knows I need one!

Saturday, 5 February 2011


7. Climb a few E5s.

Some inspiring and challenging trad routes to aim for, and what I might need to do / improve / be prepared for.

It is worth noting that having had a good look at almost all of these, I am SYKED ;) Inspiration >>> challenge >>>> grade.

Nijinski, Auchinstarry - needs: very cool dry conditions, practise with friction/slab/arete climbing.

Purrblind Doomster, Cambusbarron - needs: dry breezy weather, practise finger jamming, speed and precision with gear, falling practise.

Anger Management, Cambusbarron - needs: dry breezy weather, bouldering power for start, fitness, good gear planning.

On The Beach, Polldubh - needs: morning shade, good route reading, fitness for first crack, mental stamina.

Freddie Across The Mersey, Polldubh - needs: similar to above.

Triode, Polldubh - needs: cool breezy day, even better route reading, practise on slabs and bad holds.

Colder Than A Hooker's Heart, Creag Dubh - needs: good technique, schist-familiarity, deadhanging / crimping strength, fitness.

The Final Solution, Creag Dubh - needs: overall fitness and stamina, deadhanging / crimping strength, rapid gear finding.

Smith's Arete, Ballater - needs: cool fresh conditions, bouldering / arete practise, short term power endurance, flexibility, quick gear placing.

Neart Nan Gaidheal, Ardmair - needs: fitness and stamina, quick and careful gear placing, falling practise.

Spirit Air, Loch Maree Crag - needs: lots of fitness and stamina, route reading, crimp strength, mental stamina, good weather.

Thursday, 3 February 2011


Exploration plans, ideas and inspirations to work on.

I've seen him live at the Cold Meat Industry festival years ago. Pretty cool stuff, although better as bedtime listening music.

Last year I did pretty well with exploring cool places, although was hampered by the Scottish weather, some disorganisation, and a shocking amount of faff that prevented a summer trip. This year I want to get MORE ORGANISED. I have a better idea of when I can go places, a better network of climbing partners, and a pleasingly decreasing list of Scottish venues. Thus...

2. Get to somewhere interesting over Easter (Pedriza? Alscace?), and over summer (Scandinavia? South Africa? Hatun Machay?). - needs: plan in advance, find similarly motivated partners, investigate areas fully (including travel, accomodation, car hire, guidebooks, weather options etc), book soon to make firm committments and keep costs down.

3. Week long trip to Lewis, several days sea-cliffing in Skye, long weekend in Caithness, long weekend in Mull over winter/spring. - needs: plan trips firmly but flexibly with similarly motivated partners, make such plans a priority over lesser plans, have all the relevant information to keep the costs low.

4. Get to Merionydd & Lleyn when weather is bolleaux in Scotland. - needs: keep in touch with suitable climbing partners near those areas, keep checking the weather there, make such plans a priority over "normal" Scottish areas.

5. Keep exploring cool places in Scotland. - needs: keep in touch with similarly motivated partners, make positive plans, take advantage of any weather windows, have good plan Bs.

6. Explore more bouldering over winter: Torridon, Reiff, Skye, Mull, Inverness, Aberdeen, Trossachs, Northumberland, Carrock Fell, Gouther, St Bees. - needs: early starts not to waste petrol, sensible planning with training and skin conditions, knowledge of where to stay for multi-day trips.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


General climbing related issues to work on and improve.

As always the main challenges with climbing - not just my climbing, almost anyone's climbing - apart from the utterly crucial personal psychology are WEATHER and PEOPLE (I still aspire to join the ranks of those very fortunate people who have a good local scene of similarly-syked partners...). For me there is the additional challenge of FITNESS which has been an uphill battle since DVTs preventing some simple exercises. Weather is both uncontrollable and malicious (ah, if only it was just one of those!), so can only be worked around with knowledge, readiness and flexibility. The others can be worked on directly...

1. Keep in touch with friends and partners better and organise myself more proactively. - needs: reply promptly to partners in whatever media and don't put off emails, always reply even when unavailable, accept invites if I'm free just for the social side (if suitable), try plans with regular partners I already know before asking on UKC, try to be a good partner myself, make plans in advance with the option to change them rather then leaving them until the last minute.

9. Keep fit at gym, pool, and wall. - needs: get in routine of exercise, make it logistically convenient to fit into life, use workouts that are beneficial but easy to be motivated for, try to do gym work that compliments wall work and pool work and vice versa, go with current inclinations rather than worrying about specifics (better to go and do a sub-optimal workout than not go at all), stretch regularly after showers, download more ruff and rude drum and bass MP3 mixes...

10. Lose 1 stone via the above. - needs: watch diet - eat smaller portions, be aware of and avoid overeating, avoid fatty convenience food, maximise enjoyment of healthier foods, drink lots of water, make exercise and healthy eating part of routine.