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 Wick....an 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 remaine...so 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 bit....at 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...