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.