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 ;).