Sunday, 30 October 2011

Misanthrope Mission #2

Well it will save me thinking of yet more alliterative bloody titles. This time I went to T'Lakes and T'County in a round trip via the Once Brewed Youth Hostel (and the adjacent Once Brewed Pub which only served Twice Brewed Beer, WTF). Several hundred miles and several hours of driving and I got problem. Huh.

Gouther: Glorious weather on the day. Gouther was in the shade and rather dank, which precluded topping out on most problems. Not a problem for me as being shite and weak precluded getting anywhere near the top on most problems. I warmed up doing Trev's Traverse in a few goes, this is a weird problem which feels very trad. I then spent so long failing on other stuff I didn't get the chance to fail on the rad-looking J Mascis. But I've had a good recce and will be back. Team Buys were at the crag with Gav and Mike Hutton. They're a nice pair, very affable.

Queen's Crag: Dry and fresh on the walk-in, via lots of cows who were doing some very fine mooing. I like cows. Got to the crag. It started pissing down. I had a good recce. Eventually the rain abated enough for me to....walk out as there was no bloody chance of it drying. Still it looks cool. Lots of aretes and a few good faces. Syked to get back.

Hepburn: Dry and fresh on the walk-in. Wanted to check out the lesser-known problems and after some of the worst boulder/heather bashing ever, ended up at Queen Bee Buttress. Oooh there's a cool looking wall/rib above a good landing, starting from a nice mono....And the mono is FULL OF FUCKING BEES. Stomped over to Titanic Arete. I tried this before and couldn't do it. I tried it again and couldn't do it. I've fallen out with this problem. There was a team working hard stuff and a cool-looking project. I went over to watch and their cute wee terrier thing jumped on my lap and wouldn't leave. This was more fun than Titanic Arete so I sacked off that problem. And pretty soon sacked off the day entirely before I risked actually getting up a problem (not that big a risk really).

Sometimes on these trips there just seems to be far more rain and walking and bees and cows than actual climbing. This is a cow:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Yes Men.

I went to the new Climbing Academy wall the other day. It is rather good: The size is epic and the layout, lighting and use of space are all great. The problems seemed good and nicely varied, the music when I was there was good (chilled techno and breakbeat - spot on), and the staff are friendly. I haven't tried the coffee but I have high hopes.

There is one downside though - some of the holds. Waaaay before the wall was finished, I commented on the TCA's Facebook page to please use awesome holds like Bleaustone, HRT and Axis, and not rubbish ones like Core and Holdz. I had no idea what they would put on, only that I wanted such an impressive wall to have nice feeling holds to train on. Well the wall is full of Core, Holdz, and Beacon. Core have improved a fair bit, they are not so over-designed and have some nice textures and slopers, so that's all good and I admit I was wrong to dismiss them. Beacon are fine normal holds. Holdz are as bad as ever. The general texture is abrasive and inferior to other holds, the knobbly features are pointless and less comfortable, and the grit-textured edges are really, really bad. These must be the worst holds I've pulled on:

Anyway. That's not so interesting. Some problems are spoilt by the Holdz, and it would be better if better holds were used. The rest of it is great and I will be training there a lot and be a good paying customer.

What is interesting is the Yes Men phenomenon that arises when a big exciting project appears in the climbing world and has public areas to promote their project and allow customers to comment on it. Praise is duly accepted but criticism often isn't - even when it's in the context of a lot of praise (praise which is tabloidly ignored in the reaction to the criticism). It's not just the project owners (who you expect to have reasonable answers or acceptance of criticism) but other people who seem to have elevated such projects to sacred cow status where those projects can do no wrong and have no flaws - and certainly not have anyone pointing out those flaws. There's a definite "gang" feel to some of the reactions - reactions not just to myself but to other people who have criticisms (such as student prices).

Really if the climbing was so close-knit and looking after it's own, it could do a lot more to be inclusive and welcoming of all climbers.

This reminds me exactly of when the Climbing Works opened, and once again I praised many areas of the wall whilst criticising some of the holds (the ridiculous embedded golf ball / light bulb holds) and how dirty/chalky the holds got. Once again the Yes Men dismissed the possibility that anyone could criticise anything about the wall. A while later the ridiculous holds disappeared and brushes on sticks and notices to clean holds appeared and a great wall became a bit greater because those previously-criticised-but-dismissed issues were improved...

Anyway, fingers crossed I'm off down to T'County again this weekend, and back training at TCA early next week.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Shaftoe Solitude.

Scottish winter season has started - well I could see snow on the distant Lomond hills, and the chance of any reliable last minute trad reprieve is diminishing. So it's time to head down to the B&Q timber yard to construct the biggest possible bargepole that I won't be touching any snow plodding gully bashing bollox with.

So, yay, bouldering season. God bouldering is soooooo much easier than trad. Less time required, less organisation needed. Less stress, less mental challenge. Less seepage, less crag logistics. Okay so conditions are an issue, but getting good friction is scarcely more challenging than getting some sodding dryness. Less reliance on keen friendly partners who are a Scottish scarcity, too.

To demonstrate the latter, I nipped off down to Northumberland for the weekend. I'd rather be getting immersed in Scottish bouldering and have nipped to Glen Nevis but 5 days constant torrential rain (WTFingF) stopped that idea before it could fart out of my brain. So a misanthropic mission to T'County it was. The forecast was good and the bunkhouse is good and the choice of venues and problems is good.

Shaftoe is possibly the most extensive bouldering venue in T'County and somewhere I definitely needed to explore, so I combined a good meander around most of the main areas, with the occasional pause to do the occasional problem, the most fun being the hugely overgraded classic wee Slapper. There's plenty of good varied lines there with usually excellent landings in a good open situation - one for return visits, especially in colder conditions as it was rather balmy there.

The next day of course started with constant rain. Hurrah :(. After a bit of driving around to confirm the day's planned venues were definitely out, I ended up popping past Back Bowden on the off-chance the roofed over bits were dry. It was raining there too when I parked up but after disappearing for a stroll and a mighty log, I felt perkier and the breeze seemed promisingly fresh so I continued the stroll to the crag. Despite it's "unusually sheltered location" that same breeze was blowing a bloody gale and lo the rain stopped and I bouldered some more until my fingertips said "fuck this shit" and I left and drove home.

Video soon...

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Something Terrible

Obviously if you harm others, that is something terrible. I don't consciously harm others by my actions - despite plenty of desire and temptation (overtaking lane morons, I'm looking at you).

But I sometimes do terrible things. If you take away harming others, what else is there?? Harming yourself: through self-neglect, through self-inhibition, through wasting time and a finite life, through not being true to oneself, through not doing the right things to benefit oneself.

Not harm by direct action, but harm by a lack of action. A lack of positive, rewarding, satisfying, healthy, beneficial, true-to-self action.

I do this and thus I do something terrible. This is....part of my personality. A flaw in me, in an otherwise fairly smart, capable, and inspired being. It has always been this way and for many years I have been working on overcoming it - maybe in many years time I will overcome it!

Obviously this applies to climbing very much, as an inspired passion that involves action and training and input and effort. I'm posting this because it was brought home recently, after a couple of weeks of doing fuck all and feeling pretty unhappy with myself, I went to the wall and was fat and weak but at least I was doing something. Listening to that tasty track above on the drive home highlighted that at I wasn't doing something terrible that evening...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Although I am still syked to get as much trad as possible before it becomes too bitterly baltic (i.e. WET I suspect) this winter (still trying to play catch up over the missed summer that never happened), now the nights are drawing in I am getting my bouldering syke and thus plans and inspirations up. Hopefully the quick hit nature of bouldering, lack of reliance on partners or seepage drying up, and lack of midgies will allow some good varied days out. I want to start pushing myself earlier this winter, having done enough exploration last winter to get some good ideas (and thus a vague ticklist up). As usual my ideas are my own inspiration rather than "essential ticks", and remain to be edited, added to, or deleted as I explore around and play on stuff.

So to remind myself, wishlist as follows:

Pump Up The Jam, various - Skye
Razorback, Romancing The Stone, various - Reiff
Various - Reiff In The Woods
The Ship Boulder - Torridon
Blankety Blank - Torridon
Big Lebowski, The Dude - Ruthven Boulder
Brin Done Before - Brin Rock
Various - Cammachmore
Deep Breath Arete, Hamish, various - Glen Nevis
Pyramid Lip - Glen Ogle
??? - Loch Sloy
Swap Meet, Ace Of Spades, various - Glen Croe
The Bottler - Loch Lomond
Nameless Pimp Toy - Stronlachlar
The Chop - Weem
Various Corrie Boulders - Arran
Suck My Woolie, Snow White - Garheugh

Fingers crossed! Better get training eh....

Any I've forgotten post em in the comments....

Monday, 3 October 2011

Three things...

...that say it all:



3. (An oldie but totally timeless)

Fiend says:
they should quote that on metcheck

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Howlerhirst Heat, Simonside Shade.

Another flying Northumberland visit, thanks to the Indian Autumn heatwave that ensures most of England is utterly glorious and all of West Scotland is utterly torrentially foul (obviously as I type this it is pissing down in Glasgow).

(Hot) Howlerhirst is relatively low altitude, rarely climbed on, and basks in the sun all day - yet the climbing conditions were pretty good. (Shady) Simonside is high up on the plateau, much more popular, very exposed and shady - yet the climbing conditions were pretty poor. It's a curious business.

Howlerhirst is the final main tick in my Northumberland apprenticeship. I've now been to pretty much every worthwhile and inspiring crag, big or small, honeypot or hermit-like. Like all the off-piste craglets in The County, it is really rather nice with some very worthwhile routes. The highlight being the stunningly sculpted buttress with the fearsome Guardian Angel on (and a superb, desperate, but frighteningly feasible last great problem: Think cranking up an impending wall on shallow pockets, hanging off fingertip monos placing tricams, and a wild dyno for a super-sloping top...mmmm). But the adjacent mid-grade slab has some really nice routes on it too, well worth a visit (see below)

Simonside is....well it's cool. I have now been to the two main crags on the Simonside Plateau (SS and Ravensheugh) each as many times as I've been to Kyloe Out and Back Bowden. How's that for dedication?? Obviously the quality of these crags repays multiple visits, and more obviously that quality would improve if they got the traffic they deserved, as it is a bit frustrating seeing some great lines suffering from neglect whilst the Kyloes and Bowdens suffer from narrow-minded overuse. This was the case for previous visits and this visit, but I cleaned off a couple of mid-grade routes for Ewan, and I led a couple of great little arete climbs (Gillette being scarcely bolder and infinitely better than the unjustifiably more popular The Stoic - myopic honeypotting even up here!!). I was defeated by Over The Edge, the desperate solo start being too much in the curious conditions.

Hmmmm actually....I think Ewan mentioned going to Harehope Canyon....ah well....:)

Photos (can't be fucked bypassing blogspot's shitty new slideshow crap, sorry). PLEASE POST COMMENTS ON WHICH OF THE FIRST FOUR IS MOST WORTHWHILE THX: