Wednesday, 30 March 2011


With the disappearance of that sneaky little hour, the season is gradually and inexorably dragging itself from winter towards spring, somewhat lubricated on it's difficult journey by adequate amounts of water falling from the sky. To escape this I am off abroad for a week, and upon my return I suspect there will feel like a distinct transition from winter clag to spring soakings.

Thus a transition in my climbing, plans, desires, inspiration and instinct. I felt this last weekend at Bowden and Callerhues. Despite conditions still feeling adequate for bouldering, there was something in the air that catalysed my urges towards TRAD. Obviously urges that remain unsatisfied on a Lads' Bouldering Weekend, but ones that will no doubt remain for forthcoming months. This is expected, and suitable, despite the usual anticipated battle with the weather - the latter of course will dictate where to begin, but counting in the County as well as all the Scottish options, there should be much to look forward to.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Sandy Syke.

I was down in Northumberland this weekend to maintain my unblemished attendance record at the Official Lads Bouldering Weekends, in this case number 4. Slightly bleak Bowden, painful Kyloe, the cheap and cheerful Bluebell Bunkhouse, and cool Callerhues. As often the case with these events, I rarely do that much serious bouldering unless I go off on my own and play around a bit. I find the large team logistics gets in the way of actually focusing on climbing, and for me to push my bouldering I usually need a fair bit of focus and plenty of peace. However the large team logistics (lots of pads and encouragement) does have it's benefits for highballs, and Sunday was fun taking advantage of that at Callerhues (I missed out on one good highball at Bowden which was a pity).

Apart from the social side and relentless banter, what was most rewarding about this weekend was checking out a few more trad lines and the entire trad crag at Callerhues. I'd been there before years ago but hadn't really grasped much other than Callerhues Crack was nice and soft and most other things were desperate. This has been well and worthily corrected in the Rockfax guide with plenty of routes going up by two full grades into the realistic realms of actual accuracy. Combining this improved information with a diligent look at potential possibilities has exponentially expanded my ticklist which is now:

Weeping Fingers E2 5c *** - classic flake line, looks fine.
Tossing A Wobbler E3 5c * - cool looking rugosities with a wee runout.
Twin Hats E3 5c * - looks cool but also tricky.
Ned Kelly E3 5c ** - looks cool but also powerful.
Rice Krispies E4 5c * - nice looking wall, loads of gear, might be worth it's old E3 grade.
Toshiba Receiver E4 5c ** - also nice looking, bolder but still gear potential.
Green Fluff E4 6b * - solo and very funky looking.
Micro E3 5c - no stars but still looks nice, decent pro.
The Lurcher E3 5c * - maybe solo and a nice feature.
Hyena E2 5c * - looks a nice wall thing.

Hmmm might need more than just one visit there ;)

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Clash crush.

Just had a rather fun long weekend sampling the diversity that Scotland in late winter has to offer: Great day skiing on full snow cover at Glenshee, good afternoon bouldering in very fresh conditions at Clashfarquar, and a fun afternoon doing trad at Limekilns. Clash was the main point of interest for me, I was very specifically focused on trying to climb Clash Arete, possibly the best line in the best setting in the whole of Aberdeen. And thus:

I'd been completely shut down on this before when Lyons, bRad and I were trying it. It looks....kinda feasible as there are a lot of holds and stuff and they mostly point in the right direction. But it is steep, with minimal footholds and sharp handholds - pain resistance becomes as important as power reserves. This is the hardest problem I've done in a year and I wanted to do it right....

The boulder platform is very convenient, but the approach is tidal. I decided it would be best to be trapped outside than inside, so got there early afternoon at high tide, knowing I would have all afternoon once I could get across. Lo and behold there was a group of climbers who had indeed got trapped inside. So we sat and waited on opposite sides of the tidal bay, in a stalemate, waiting for someone to crack and start wading. Eventually the platform was accessible, they slid out, I slid in, and started a nice peaceful session.

I'm pleased with my tactics for this. I warmed up with a grip strengthener and didn't waste any skin on other problems. I started playing on the moves knowing they would feel desperate and knowing that I would gradually unlock them with patience. I kept playing around in short attempts and resting my skin in between. As soon as I worked out a move, I moved onto the next one to keep the whole puzzle going. And as soon as I worked out all the moves - with a possibly unconventional sequence - I got up, walked away, and strolled around the platform to let my mind and body settle.

On my return, I floundered on the started a few times, then managed to udge my way up, slapped, ignored how much sketchier the moves felt in the sequence than in isolation, hung on tight, and crushed it, happy with a cool problem and happy with some good tactics.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Rainy day stuff.

Yup after a not-too-brief respite, the rain is back. Hopefully it will be bringing some snow onto the mountains to extend to the somewhat tapering out ski season - I've only had one slushy day at Glen Coe this year - but in the meantime it is shutting down the continuation of the recent good climbing I have been enjoying.

So I have retreated to my plethoric collection of geeky indoor activities. Actually I should be retreating to more GYM, more CAMPUSSING and more LEADING/FALLING PRACTICE. But I'm kinda having a week off that because I'm being fucking lazy. Instead in recent times I have been indulging myself with:

Have had a wee urge to paint recently and completed a couple of figures....old figures. Have a few more in progress but am generally very lazy about painting so these will do for now:

(Not to relative scale - click for more normal size!)

Although I'm back on the DRUMS and the BASS at the moment, I had a splurge on some metal recently which was very pleasing to my ears....but less pleasing to those of my friend Wendy who came out with the awesome quote:
"YUCK!!! i had to turn that off after 30 seconds, thats SHITE!! LMAO thats what u listen to? have you not killed enough brain cells?"
Yes it is what I listen to. Yes I genuinely REALLY like it. Yes I feel the same way as your quote about pop music. So the following CDs have been recent favourites...

Behemoth - The Apostasy & Zos Kia Cultus

Burzum - Belus

Gorefest - La Muerte

Immortal - All Shall Fall

Kataklysm - Prevail

I've finally got around to using my new (in October 2010) computer to it's full potential. As well as the usual Starcraft 2 (very good, very refinded indeed) shenanigans with my buddies VULTURE and DRAKE, I've got back into quality FPSes...

Bioshock - Excellent, a very distinctive and intruiging take on the FPS genre. Strong atmosphere, rich background, some emotional involvement and many interesting combat options.

Crysis - Superb, great graphics and great gameplay, the latter was refreshing after COD4. The nanosuit gives you many options and makes you feel in charge of your own gameplay destiny.

Call Of Duty 4 - (aka Modern Warfare) Pretty good but obviously overrated as a typical "crowd pleaser". Great looks and atmosphere and some strong scenes, but average gameplay, twitchy story, and too much war/weapon porn.

Next up will be: Thief 3, Far Cry 2, then maybe Crysis Warhead, Bioshock 2, and I might end up buying Singularity, COD5, Bulletstorm, Dead Space 2.....hmmm actually maybe the weather will improve and I will sack it all off ;)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Risk Quotient at Ratho Quarry.

Turned out to be higher than I expected... A fresh morning, a strong breeze, rain in the west but dry in the East, a keen partner passing through, a few hours to rattle off a couple of routes. The right ingredients for a sensible plan....but there are some factors outside the realm of planning, or even sense.

I started up a cool little arete route. Steady climbing with a bit of gear to a ledge at 9m, some more gear there, then 6m of classic arete laybacking to easy ground. Good for cool conditions, good to start on as there was a rest ledge to recoup.

So I tickled up the lower wall, and grappled the ledge. It was reassuring, a nice crack down the back for hands and protection. Cool. I yarded up and started to mantle. The ledge - a double pillow-size sheet of rock - started to peel away from the wall.


I somehow dropped down without agitating it further, it somehow teetered back onto it's resting posture. I have no idea how....but I do know if it and me had come off, it would have badly injured me and could have fatally injured my belayer (who was in the standard pose, with helmet). GULP.

I outwitted the ledge mantle, stood on it (which was fine, pressing down), put some RPs in a seam, tip-toed up the upper arete, finished the route, abbed down, did a nice sport route, and left just as it started to rain. A good morning. I think. ???

Monday, 7 March 2011

Rather beautiful at the Ruthven Boulder.

Approaching Ruthven...

Another weekend, another damp-in-the-west-dry-in-the-east forecast, another visit to Aberdeen with some bouldering en route. After last summer's somewhat painful attempt, I returned to the Ruthven Boulder in much nicer conditions, and discovered that yes indeed the skin-murdering texture is about the only flaw with this monolithic beast of bouldering goodness. Another chap was passing through and we teamed up for a good syke-filled session...

With my skin just on the tolerable side of critically abraded, I embarked on the long slog across the A96 to Aberdeen, via collecting a well earned and long overdue bottle of Singleton from Dufftown, a favourite smooth and sweet single malt with a distictive dried fruit palate and a spicey finish. Thence followed the usual good hospitality of various Aberdeen friends, a day of trad at Red Wall, an eye-rollingly frustrating replacement of two wrecked tyres from a completely hidden chicane, and an afternoon of bouldering at Portlethen as it was too breezy for coastal trad. A pretty good weekend and while my skin is ready for a rest, my mind is vaguely keen to ramp things up a bit on the trad action...

P.S. Blogspot is still screwing up the fonts for me, but since no-one has said anything, I guess it's fine for other people, which is okay.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Recent stuff.

Bleh, forgot to blog. The weather has been merciful recently so I've done some climbing. Yay for climbing. Bouldering at Clashfarquar and Loch Sloy, trad at Cummingston. Here's some stuff...

P.S. Blogspot seems to keep randomly changing font faces and/or sizes on my blog. Can you please post if it's doing the same for you, ta. Or if you know a fix! double ta!