Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: Small holds and big numbers in review.

Aka 2012: The Year I'm Not Complaining About Scottish Weather.

Sure the nation's weather might have been screwed up overall, and there was no sign of an Indian Summer, but the Saharan Spring drought in the Highlands And Islands more than compensated for that AND just about for last year's 4 month monsoon debacle (which had encouraged me to have little sympathy for English climbers moaning about their mere 4 continuous weeks of summer rain). 6 weekends in a row in the North West (Skye x 3, Sheigra, Reiff, and Glen Nevis) ensure I had outpaced previous years before Summer had even started (not that it actually did of course).

Outpaced it in exploration that is, in particular getting fully to grips with the sea-cliffs that fringe Syke's jigsaw shape. Keeping up pace in Big Numbers (aka fuck the numbers and enjoy the inspiring challenges) took a while longer, partly because I had forgotten that to summon the determination to try hard, I had to get on something that I needed to try hard on. In the end however, I got on some very cool routes scattered around Scotland and a few in Cornwall too.

Obviously this year as well as being hampered by fucked legs and fitness and weight, I was nursing a TCA-tweaked elbow which like my previous golfer's elbow is fairly chronic. However this didn't cause much of a problem on the Easy Trad and indeed some of the warmer weekends seemed to do it more good than not climbing. Maybe this will be like the previous GE and mysteriously clear up after a year (I'm keeping it careful this winter), at any rate it is manageable. My recent tweaky shoulders, finger, and thumb are also doing okay. What a fucking wreck! But then again after a few gym sessions I've benchpressed my own weight and squatted 100kg, not bad for someone with minimal venous return \m/

The main ones that got away this year were the much-desired Lewis Week, for the second year in a row, and a recent inspiration for Hoy mainland cliffs, as well as harder challenges in Glen Nevis and Creag Dubh. Since I'm staying in Scotland for a wee bit I have another chance for those this coming year, along with the equally long overdue Pfalz and Berdorf plans. With Morocco underway, I think the inspiration list is getting shorter rather than longer?? The inspiration itself isn't fading at all though!!

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Morocco #3....climbing.

Moroccan rock is:

  • Orange.
  • Plentiful.
  • Impressive but often rambly.
  • Varying from Arapalisian perfection to towering rubble.
  • Surprisingly accessible from the windy mountainn roads.

Moroccan climbing is:

  • Orange.
  • Plentiful.
  • Great if you choose the right routes (and avoid the rambly ones!).
  • Diverse and usually well featured.
  • Soft-touch if it's something Emma and Paul put up on a shady crag.
  • Solid at the grade if it's something Steve and Katja headpointed on a sunny crag.
  • Slightly hampered by long drives and prickly descents.
  • Good fun so far and hopefully plenty more to come next week.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Morocco #2 - proper post.

I might have been a bit tired for the previously blog post.

Morocco is....

The scenery:

  • Lots of bloody mountains everywhere.
  • Lots of funky square houses and villages.
  • Barren orange and brown crags.
  • Scrubby shrubby valleys.
  • Almost all the A Roads are single track lanes full of hairpins.

The weather:

  • Sunny.
  • Very sunny.
  • Really stupidly bloody sunny.
  • Also cold at night.
  • Very crisp and dry.

The plants:

  • Spikey.
  • Thorny.
  • Prickly.
  • Spikey and thorny.
  • Spikey and prickly.
  • Prickly and thorny.
  • Spike and prickly and thorny.

The animals:

  • Donkeys.
  • Lizards.
  • One family of wild boar (woot! but they ran away before I could get photos / cuddles).

The people....are really fond of:

  • 6am prayer calls of massively amplified wailing and ululating.
  • Walking in the middle of the road (especially at night in black clothing).
  • Staring intently at passing cars as if they have just landed.
  • Police roadblocks (which so far have gone very smoothly once they realise we are idiot Europeans and therefore inconsequential).

The food:

  • Tagine.
  • Meatballs.
  • Fennel infused breadsticks.
  • Beer that lives up the to famed African brewery standards.

The climbing.....mmm that can wait until next time.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Morroco #1

Morocco  is....

Sunny, chaotic, empty, orange, blue, tiring.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012


I'm leaving soon for 12 days trad climbing in Tafraoute. There's been a lot of shouting about this on UKC recently, needless to say I was inspired to go way before it become a trendy buzz destination. Arrogant but true - I had the book and tried to get it organised last winter but couldn't fit it in. This trip has happened by random chance with a stranger off UKC, but so far my experience of such trips has been pretty positive - usually someone who is syked enough for an interesting destination is syked enough to make a good trip out of it. My intended partner is keen for multi-pitch and a bit of culture, I am keen for technical single pitch and little culture apart from lamb tagines, but with a long trip we should hopefully fit plenty in. The last week has been characterised by the ubiquitous rain, inevitable punterflu, and unsurprising weakness messing around down the wall. None of which should be a problem for Easy Trad (tm), and hopefully my Siurana pre-match friendly will allow me to warm into things well. If it rains I have a lot of e-books and my laptop so might even do a blog thing in the early evenings.

Needless to say I am ignoring Christmas apart from chilling with the family and eating good food. This is about as close to festive spirit as I come:


Monday, 17 December 2012

Siurana Sendage.

Had a long weekend in Siurana - a semi-last minute trip that I was kindly invited on which I very much appreciated. I've been to Siurana, and Costa Daurada, and Spain before, so the climbing was very familiar and I wanted to focus more on pushing myself than on exploration. Thus in the weeks preceding the trip, not only did I have a chronic fucked elbow, but also fucked shoulders, and a fucked finger, preventing almost any useful form of wall / stamina / power training. I tried to work around this with gym sessions, and tackle harder issues with falling practise, and this might well have worked as I had a pretty great trip - good climbing, good variety of Siurana crags, good wee cabin (albeit with a shit shower) and a good value campsite bar... I might have to take a break from tortillas though!

I managed to climb several challenging routes at my previous uninjured limit (but still fucked legs of course). This was despite adding a fucked thumb to the list of my injuries during a vicious gaston / thumb-sprag - I felt a crunching sound part way through the move and thought I'd broken a chunk of rock off....with the rock still intact I thought I might have torn my thumb off, but it was still intact and attached, I think I had just damaged some stabilising tissue, and thankfully after a rest evening it was manageable. Careful taping allowed me to keep generally cranking hard each day, including two routes where I really had to battle and one with a wild slap as the last move which took all the commitment I had and was one of the most overall challenging moves I've done on a rope - very satisfying, and symbolic of a successful trip!


In the bar: Perros NO!

 At the crag: Perros SI!

Some pretty rad and exposed route.

 Rainy afternoon but sheltered by capping roofs.

Solid challenge which I barely scraped through with a duff sequence.

Previous solid challenge was the red flake and headwall just left, amazing position.

Final day and body has given up!

Team Send (god that's a fucking gay and poncy cliche isn't it?? Yes we are all relative punters but we all pushed ourselves and put the effort in and had a great time so fuck it)

Monday, 3 December 2012

Scottish Bouldering

What Scottish bouldering is all about:

  • Driving at least 2 hours to find interesting blocs.
  • Wading through bog, or bog and rocks, or bog and snow, or bog and bracken, or bog and heather, but never ever anything that could pretend to be a path.
  • Discovering that the so-called classics don't exist or are contrived rubbish.
  • Discovering that the best lines don't ever seem to have been climbed.
  • Discovering that any sit starts are actually crouching starts, kneeling starts, lying starts (in both senses of the word), pad stack starts, or only possible for people with 8' wingspans.
  • Spending hours scrubbing holds until the mass of lichen and moss gives you all over body camoflague.
  • Hanging on to deteriorating heather trying to excavate finishes from the vegetation.
  • Teetering on a pyramid of stones/bouldering mats to try to scrape snow off the top-out because you can't even get up the downclimb.
  • Trying to make sense of the ridiculous jigsaw of rocks and bog and bouldering mat to make some vague form of "landing" so the hike back through bog doesn't turn into a broken-ankled crawl bck through bog.
  • Completely failing to match any of the problem description to any feasible method for doing it.
  • Working out an obvious method and then pulling a previously untouched hold off.
  • Flashing a problem that should be beyond your limit, after failing on the warm-up downclimb.
  • Finally making sense of it all just before the day gets dark / you get hypothermic.

What it doesn't usually involve:

  • Rocking up somewhere and jumping straight on a clean obvious boulder problem

But what sometimes happens after all the hours of faff and misadventure:

  • Climbing some totally brilliant problem with great moves up a natural line in beautiful wild surroundings and wondering why the fucking hell no-one else puts the effort into travelling a bit further from Dumby / Porty to actually climb these damn things and it's left for some outsider who isn't local, nor a long-term resident nor even a fucking boulderer to actually get out and do them??

(NB: The latter hasn't happened that much in recent weeks, but it's been pretty close a few times)

Friday, 30 November 2012

Getting Cold at Glen Clova

Not much to add to this - just a nice afternoon out in excellent winter conditions. Some cool stuff in the Hollow Boulders, although it took a lot of lichen-brushing and head-scratching to make sense of the actual problems. In the end I just climbed the lines instead of the listed problems, which seems fairly common with Scottish bouldering.

My finger is still fucked, but my elbows and shoulders seem to be responding okay to theraputic exercises. Clova was okay as none of the problems needed left hand crimps. I also spent a while trying the Mouton roof which is hard and excellent and only hurt my finger a bit because the lip hold was digging in. I've added that to my hitlist which means unfortunately it is getting longer rather than shorter!

Revised bouldering hitlist:

Razorback, Romancing The Stone, various - Reiff -

Big Lebowski, The Dude - Ruthven Boulder

Brin Done Before - Brin Rock

Gale Force, various - Laggan 2

Le Col Du Toit De Mouton, Lady Sam - Glen Clova

Pyramid Lip - Glen Ogle

The Chop (7a eliminate version) - Weem

The Bottler - Loch Lomond

Nameless Pimp Toy - Stronlachlar

??? - Loch Sloy

Abracadabra, Craigmaddie

Suck My Woolie, Snow White - Garheugh

Various - Farr Boulder

Various - Cammachmore  

Various - Arran Corrie Boulders

Various - Moray Boulders

Various - Narnairn Boulders

Hopefully my injuries will be able to cope with some of these, there is enough variety there to hopefully avoid stressing whatever is currently the worst (e.g. I won't be touching The Chop for a long time but Pyramid Lip could be fine...). I'm quite inspired ...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Scottish Injury Season begins!!

Or continues. Or increases.

Okay so my elbow has been fucked all year. Fine for trad, okay for sport, bad for bouldering and indoor training.

No problem - for winter training and bouldering I'll do some gnarly pressy pushy gastony stuff.

Okay so now my right shoulder is some theraband.....okay that's clearing.....reach under a desk and dislodge my left THAT is tweaked.

No problem - for winter training and bouldering I'll do thin fingery crimpy technical stuff.

Okay so now my left hand ring finger A2 pulley is tweaked....tender to touch....tender to crimp.

No problem - I'll just chill out and ease off any training.

Okay except I'm going to Siurana in 4 weeks and unlike the more exploratory trips to San Bartolo and Ariege/Cavallers, I'd like to be climbing fit enough to push myself a bit.

No problem - I'll do lots of fitness training and general exercise. yeah like I can fucking do that :S

Okay so what can I do??

The elbow is manageable by taping, massage, stretching, warmth, eccentrics. The shoulders are manageable by theraband exercises and massage. The finger is manageable by as much rest as I can tolerate, hot/cold treatment, massage, stretching, careful taping. All of them are manageable by taking care and avoiding specific climbing that aggravates them.

The fitness problem is unavoidable except by continuously banging my head against the demoralising brick wall of absolutely physical limitations, and by some nimbly outwitting at the gym (I think swimming is out due to shoulders).

What else??

Weights - I am quite syked for weights at the moment. After all it's got lots of NUMBERS to aim for and just like climbing that's the only point of it, what more motivation do you need huh?? It's a way to push myself physically without damaging the tweaky bits and possibly even benefit them by training antagonistic and surrounding muscles. Obviously it is nowhere near as good climbing training as climbing training, but it can work the core and be a good prep for CV work, and if it's the exercise I'm doing that's a fuck of a lot better than not doing it.

Falling practise - still a huge deal for me, and still something I definitely need to train and am currently doing so a bit - a few falls each session at the wall, and I can definitely ramp that up. Okay so I've got to choose the right non-aggravating route to get to the fall zone, but the more I can do of this the better. If I get physically weaker but mentally stronger that would probably be better than the other way around.

Stretching - god I get so fucking bored by stretching, I'd rather do 2 2 hour gym sessions a week which I bloody hate, than 10 mins stretching each day. MUST TRY HARDER.

And of course the usual gentle climbing stuff - outdoors preferably, indoors stamina only. Keep moving but keep diligent and monitoring my tweaks at all time.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Scottish Winter Season begins!

Well in a moment of madness and perverse determination, I am sticking around Scotland for a while longer, partly in the hope of ekeing out more trad radness in the spring, which means I have to weather another winter. Brrrr my old bones are wondering whether this is a good idea, but then again the weather this weekend shows some promise - it is glorious in the North West. With a minimal response for possible climbing partners, it is time for another Misanthrope Mission to kick off the season's bouldering. So I'm digging out last year's universal failure of a bouldering ticklist and trying to get some of these final mental blocs done. I've done a few, removed a few, added a few:

Pump Up The Jam, various - Skye - yes, romped along it in a heatwave :)

Razorback, Romancing The Stone, various - Reiff -

Various - Reiff In The Woods - yes, done Haven which is enough.

The Ship Boulder - Torridon - yes, done Squelch & Swamp Monster which is enough

Long Winning Streak (+SS?) - Inchbae - yes, done the normal problem, SS looks good but might not go back.

Blankety Blank - Torridon - too hard and skin-trashing

Various - Cammachmore

Big Lebowski, The Dude - Ruthven Boulder

Brin Done Before - Brin Rock

Deep Breath Arete, Hamish, various - Glen Nevis - nope, DBA was uninspiring lip traverse with bad landing, Hamish looked stupidly sandbaggy, did lots on the other side of river.

Pyramid Lip - Glen Ogle

White Matter - St Bride's Wall - yes, surprise ascent on a showery summer's day.

??? - Loch Sloy

Swap Meet, Ace Of Spades, various - Glen Croe - nope, probably too hard with a fucked elbow.

The Bottler - Loch Lomond

Nameless Pimp Toy - Stronlachlar

The Chop (7a eliminate version) - Weem

Various Corrie Boulders - Arran

Suck My Woolie, Snow White - Garheugh

Gale Force, various - Laggan 2

Abracadabra, Craigmaddie

Probably enough to get on with ;)


On to the weekend, and maybe winter isn't all that bad... A car with a view.

Firstly I got to the ever-reliable Torridon, where the rock was mostly crisp and dry, and the ground was mostly sodden and sub-aqueous. I'd forgotten just how fundamental BOG is to Scottish climbing! The Torridon sandstone is brilliant and makes me wish I lived locally in winter as well as summer - this overall area no doubt has many harder lines that would inspire me over many sessions, but on a flying visit it is harder to push my limits. I did try with Blankety Blank but couldn't even remember how to do the start let alone shred my fingers on the crux above. So I stuck to the classic Ship boulder and it's plethora of shallow bog highballing classics. Never has such a soft flat landing felt so intimidating, partly because some lines stray over the few harsh boulders, and partly because some classic lines go so far OUT through the steepness, mat positioning is an obtuse guessing game - especially with my flaccid old Pods. Swamp Monster and Squelch were aptly-named reward enough.

Snowy mountains might be utter bollox for climbing, but they provide a nice backdrop... A boulder with a view.

Secondly I got on with some unfinished business. Since the forecast was glorious the whole weekend, it obviously rained a lot overnight. No need for an Alpine start despite the Alpine backdrop around Assynt. Reiff In The Woods was touch and go, especially in the haven that shelters Haven. Not wanting to waste the epic round trip, I resorted to abseiling to clean holds (there's no issue with "damp sandstone" as there are no flakes crozzles or nubbins, just solid rounded edges and a solid arete). This worked and I blasted past last time's high point. Brilliant problem.

Finally it was onto the underrated Inchbae and it's plethoric scattering of proper blocks, unfortunately only a few of these are big enough for proper blocs, but those few are really very good, fine rock in a fine situation. I'd nearly done A Long Winning Streak last time, but ran out of daylight on the unlisted sitter. This time I made sure I got on with the original problem, which was well worth it, one of the best technical wall problems in Scotland. Crucial multi-use inverted thumb-sprag? Yes please. And that was enough for now.


Since I started writing this in the Forest Way bunkhouse, I'd like to give a shout out to the following fine establishments:

Old Gairloch Inn - good food, good beer, and have been very helpful with late diners.

Mountain Coffee Company - good coffee, hippy vibes, and cakes so large they have their own gravitational field.

Sail Mhor Hostel - good value and nice simple relaxed vibe.

Forest Way Bunkhouse - small but perfectly formed.

The Ceilidh Place - good food, good beer, good breakfasts, and a useful if pricey bunkhouse.

Kinlochewe Hotel - friendly bar that compensates for a cattle-herd bunkhouse.

Torridon Campsite - toilets showers and the best value in Scotland: FREE. Much respect.

Making Wester Ross climbing all the more enjoyable and logistically feasible :).

Monday, 29 October 2012

Training season begins...

Got the Ratho for the first time in a very long time. I actually can't remember the last time I did route training. I'm sure it was before the Pyrenees....before pre-trip TCA training....before the days pottering around the Central Belt and Sheffield....before the punter-flu bollox....before Cornwall radness....before the nice trips to the ' was sometime back then, possibly...

Suffice to say it is feeling rather wintery out there (wet today!) and it is definitely time to keep training and keep active. That is my general plan for the winter - keep active at the wall, gym, outside bouldering, routes, trips abroad, short runs, swimming, anything. My elbow is still injured, obviously, it may heal soon or it may not, but it means I just need to do general training rather than pushing myself hard. Indoor routes, the gym, and outdoor climbing fullstop being ideal, rather than the dubious temptations of TCA.

So it was good to get back to Ratho. I thought I would both be out of practise due to the lack of wall training, and feeling on reasonable form due to a week away. And thus it was - I did fine. My fingers struggled a bit with the cold, I got pumped as always, and also my lungs were aching from the general effort. All to be expected although the lung thing is a bit weird....then again my fitness is a bit weird i.e. completely fucked. Despite that I did a few challenging routes and felt like I was treading water okay. So that's fine for now.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Hello from errr sunny Glasgow.

So I'm back, from the Cavallers trip that turned into an Ariege and Cavallers trip, which was actually pretty good given the diversity of areas we got to explore. The last couple of days were a great day on some classic Cavallers routes (a mixture of delicate slabs with funky chickenheads, strong cracks and flakes, and towering 40m pitches) and a draining day driving 360 km in search of dry rock (we found a tiny bit) and general recceing (had a look at the Santa Linya cave....shockingly impressive, a humbling experience).

Overall it was a good trip....the cunning plan of retreating to the Ariege worked well, the days on Cavallers granite were great, and the variety and some fine routes were rewarding. I climbed okay during the trip, I didn't push myself very hard, partly due to moving around a lot, partly due to the often slightly greasy conditions, partly due to initial unsurity about the granite climbing (I'm pleased to report that both Cavallers and Auzat have proper grading rather than Pedriza-style nonsense). But I did some good challenges and felt fairly climbing fit, also my elbow and shoulders felt better throughout the trip with the more mileage I got in.

Now it's back to cold wintery Scotland and coming up with the next cunning plans. I definitely want to get abroad more this winter, and also get more climbing done in the UK overall, seeking out the warmth and suitable crags rather than just restricting myself to Scotland. More on that later. As always I will be looking for syked partners to explore with - often the biggest challenge!!

In the meantime, the grand total of 4 self-explanatory photos from France and Spain:

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Hola from Spain, at last.

We are now in Spain and have indeed been in Cavallers, after a gruelling 6 hour drive (3-4 hours on windy mountain roads) due to missing a road junction, nearly getting swept away in a tsunami of sheep, trying to get settled into our booked accommodation with the Catalan owner's dad and a total of one word comprehensible between us - "hola", and finally climbing beneath the bloody massive dam at Cavallers. I am so tired I can't even be arsed to have a second beer, so am blogging to pass the time until 10pm bedtime!

Our stay in Ariege was both pleasant and worthwhile in the end. The climber's gite at in is a real treasure: Comfy rooms, good kitchen, ace shower, breakfast in the morning, even decent coffee if you double the amount of grounds the friendly owners put in ;). Definitely a base I'd come back to. We made the best use out of the weather - hearing about floods in Lourdes and rubbish weather from Siurana to Costa Blanca reassured us we had made the right plan B. Combining late starts, some optimism and a bit of luck, we were able to avoid roof-angle rotpunkting in crusty caves, and after a couple of damp starts managed to climb daily and sample limestone at Sinsat, Rochethingy De Chateau and Carol, gneiss at Appy, and in particular granite at Auzat.

The latter we'd recced on one of those damp starts and estimated it was worth prolonging our Ariege stay for - and damn right it was. Granite slabs....but unlike the low angle large crystal no holds horrors of Pedriza (and probably Cavallers from first impressions), the Auzat granite is fine grained, with positive holds, and the perfect steep slab angle that makes those holds necessary - big rockovers on crimps and nubbins, none of this padding bolleaux. Some of the most fun granite I've been on, and another reason to come back to the area and combine it with some of the more imposing limestone we didn't get to.

We have two days (in theory a possible morning en-route to the airport if I can persuade stinky fox that a 6am start is really a sensible plan). At least one of those will be a full day at Cavallers, maybe the other will be too or maybe we can mix it up with a bit more Cavallers and a bit more limestone. The very typical granite at Cavallers is a good change but not my favourite rock so can work as a good combination with the lime....we shall see...

Friday, 19 October 2012

Hola...err...bon soir from Spain...err...France.

Desperado Red Edition, random French lager, and Kwak 8.4% this evening, so this blog post might be even less coherent than normal...

We are in France. Not Spain. Nor Glasgow. Spain was the plan - inspiring Pyrenean granite up at Cavallers. Slabs and features and all the usual granite goodness (not my favourite rock but I find it intriguing enough especially on sport climbing) all scattered close to a mountain reservoir. A cheap apartment in the local village and plenty of winter sun limestone nearby if it got too cold or rainy up in the mountains. Plan A seemed infallible...

....except for a swirling miasma of hurricane strength low pressure grinding it's way across Spain and spewing it's torrential rain showers over the Pyrenees like a bukakke shoot on a Ferris wheel. Arse bugger wank etc etc.

So Plan B has been to cancel the apartment and retreat to a climber's B&B in Ariege, crossing the border which was characterised by an ancient outpost in a random village and an incredibly fluffy rug dog on the French side, into an area forecast to be sheltered enough to escape the worse of the deluge.

Maybe it has, but there has been enough of a mild deluge today to restrict activity to a recce of rather good looking granite slabs at Auzat, and then some bog-standard Euro-lime at Sinsat. Still we did some climbing, it's quite muggy which while unpleasant for climbing is beneficial for my elbow and shoulder tweaks, and got some inspiration....

Since Cavallers looks to be getting a lot of rain and thus might take some time to dry, we might extend our French border crossing for a couple of days into next week, then head South. Or we might end up rotpunkting polished bollox in chossy ever-dry caves and watching more Starcraft 2 videos WHO KNOWS.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The punteration.

I have recovered from the punterflu but not from the associated residual (or is it chronic?) punterdom it seems. I've managed to keep active and get out climbing a few meagre times, but it's definitely been ticking over at a subterraneanly low level rather than ticking the all important Big Numbers *snort*:

Weem: Slogged up to Aerial Crag. Super grim as I hadn't been active for two days and my legs wouldn't work at the top. Easy mileage in a pretty nice situation. Did the job.

Glen Ogle: Slogged up to Mirror Wall. Super grim as...errr my legs are fucked. Got pretty angry and thinking a lot of FUCK YOU thoughts at the world and society. Lovely situation and a nice bit of rock, but some problems with seepage so had to faff around a bit. Learnt that I don't like leading routes if I've inspected them, even if it's only to dry off seepage. Okay day.

Trowbarrow: No slogging! Warm day at a sun trap. Haven't been there for years. Did a couple of steady routes, tried something a bit steeper, got pumped, got fucking cowardly and slumped onto a peg instead of doing one move to easier ground. Disgraceful. But okay day apart from that.

Houndkirk Tor: First time on grit for years. Cool day but still vest-on conditions and pretty greasy. Didn't expect much and just went for an easy circuit, which worked fine. Ended up with my skin more trashed than my elbow for the first time in ages.

Plus some sessions at TCA trying to redress the fucked skin / fucked elbow balance, and a couple of gym sessions confirming I am fat as well as weak. Moan moan whine etc ;). Still at least I am moving so if I keep at it I'm sure I'll end up getting some fun stuff done soon...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Laid Low

Once again I come back from a good climbing trip (same with Gibraltar, same with Caithness) in good spirits and good climbing fitness and the fucking punterflu. Caithness I caught it off Geoff, but Gibraltar I was virtually living on sunshine and fresh fruit, whilst Cornwall, despite a couple of days raving, the last few days were an intensely rewarding mixture of exercise, fresh sea air, and lots of sleep. It doesn't make any sense and it means instead of carrying on with my good form and good climbing, I've been a bit wiped out, not badly so but enough to miss the good weather last weekend and feeling I have to crawl my way back into things. I've started doing that with two short TCA sessions and an even shorter run (mostly to use the standard DVT-derived chest-wrenching exhaustion after 10 mins try to clear my lungs), all of which have been "okay".

My body is very slowly getting back to normal, but my mind is still ailing: The combination of this abrupt end to a good climbing period, an even more abrupt change to cold dark autumn, a poor autumn forecast, ponderings on whether I am staying in Glasgow or moving back South, and a cancellation of a potential trip abroad has made me feel detatched and distant from the climber's path in a surprisingly short period of time. Faffing around waiting for a cold to settle with no significant exploration planned and no obvious inspirations to follow due to time and weather doesn't feel right to me. I think I am also suffering from SAD a bit these days, I never used to but then spending more time in the frozen and dark wasteland that is Scotland might have some effect.

Anyway the plan is: Keep active and keep training while my cold is recovering, look for any opportunities to get to my remaining Scottish inspirations, be aware of suitable transitions into more wintery climbing (sandstone, gritstone, short technical routes), and try to get a trip abroad organised ASAP. And try to get some power back into my blood....

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Whilst in Cornwall... would have been rude not to do some climbing. Downright disgraceful in fact, given the exciting array of both adventurous and refined sea-cliff climbing that lies along the invariably scenic and geologically tortured North Devon and Cornwall coastline. Personally I tend to eschew the honeypots of West Penwith, simply because I have less inspiration for the granite, and prefer the austere pleasures of culm sandstone and the intrigue of pillow lava and the Atlantic coast. Thankfully I met up with local veteran Mark Kemball who was up for exploring "wherever", so I could sample a variety of coastal and inland crags. It went thusly:

Diamond Wall, Lizard:
(deep water solo)
Still terrifying, although a choppy swirling sea didn't help: Highly syked plans to do some F6bs here to warm up for F6cs at Nare Head were as rapidly abandoned as my attempt on a F6a to start was rapidly abandoned into a F4+ escape. I felt at least as scared above the sea as I would above the land, and especially wary of the rock, line, grades, and errr everything. I still want to get to grips with DWS but it certainly didn't happen this trip!

Carn Brea:
Good lines, decent rock, nice situation and great landings made this a suitable evening quick hit before getting my rave on. The conditions although cool-ISH were pretty mediocre for frictional granite, but I managed a few good easier problems including Classic Arete (below) and a nice "V3" crack that was more like "VS".

Kilmar Tor:
(recceing, soloing, walking, bouldering)
After bouncing away until 4am this was really just to meet up with Mark and hang out with his bunch of merry men. The walk-in was knackering, the wind ferocious, and the rock rather coarse and gravelly. I just pottered.

Kellan Head:
The first proper day out, after only bouncing until 2am ;). I'd been to Kellan ages ago and done a couple of routes, and got some inspiration for some standard but attractive pitches on the Waterslide Wall. The pillow lava was nice, the warm-up route was well worth it's appealing line, and the harder Rock-a-by Baby had a wild and exciting crux (once we'd worked out the photo in the book was unspeakably bad beta!!). A very chilled out evening at the campsite followed.

The Cheesewring:
(sport, trad)
Coastal options were limited the next day as a very brisk nor'wester precluded the more interesting North-facing crags, so the variety and general shelter of the Cheesewring was proposed. This was a mixed day - falling off the first move of Warrior through sheer carelessness was shockingly bad, somehow smearing and pressing up the desperate crux of Trouble With Lichen was shocking I managed it at all, the hardest corner climbing I've done. A few easier leads and seconds surrounded this, and confirmed that I'm not a huge fan of quarried granite per se. Like inland limestone and central highlands schist, it has some great climbs but they have to be specifically chosen, unlike gritstone or gneiss which are intrinsically good.

Cow And Calf:
Back on the sheer and stylish sedimentary sandstone of the Culm Coast, where every crag has some interest and every good climb has it's fair share of wee crimps and RP protection seams. C&C is steeper and more dramatic than some crags, and a recce 5 years ago had inspired me for the two brilliant climbs I managed: Dark Side Of The Moon was a great big swaggering pitch with a proper technical crux and a good fly on the wall feel, while Elisa Johanna was the most intense lead I've done this year - exciting and bold climbing with spaced protection, that took almost all the committment I had. Very satisfying. On the way back out we walked out past the Elisa Johanna itself....820 tonnes of metal torn into pieces by 30 years of the sea's relentless ravaging....pretty wild...

...200m later...

So overall a great wee trip, and I got very inspired to get back down there. I love the feel of the coast....everything feels like a hidden gem :). While I was down there my elbow felt mostly fine and didn't really need tape, my shoulder felt completely healed....but I tweaked my back putting my tent back in the car, and got a minor bout of man-flu to slow me down this weekend. Both easing off now will see what more I can get done in Scotland before autumn closes in too far...  

Bangface 2012!

Hard to resist with a line-up like that. 90% of time I look at festival / weekender line-ups and at best there are 1 or 2 artists I would be tempted to see, the rest is mundane indie dance student semi-alternative bollox. Bangface always seem to hit properly hard though and in the end this proved too much to resist, even as a solo mission with a lot of driving.

Unfortunately that amount of driving resulted in me arriving late on Friday night, setting up camp several miles from the rave, and then not having enough petrol to get there and back and not enough energy to dick around with taxis and stuff. If I'd known that night's line-up was: Dave Clarke > Venetian Snares > Bong-Ra > Outside Agency then I'd have tried a bit harder....clearly I am pretty pissed I missed that lot.

But I got good value raving on the next two nights, catching, in order:

Renegade feat Ray Keith Live:
Pretty good job of a live set and pretty good jungle overall, although a bit stop/start and I'd have preferred more old-skool Ray Keith stuff.

DJ Starscream (ex-Slipknot):
(techno, dubstep, jungle, breakcore)
Good and surprising set, I thought this dude was just relentless breakcore but he mixed it up pretty well with a full spectrum of styles, building up to the proper mashed up stuff, all pretty good.

(electronica, jungle, hardcore)
The surprise of the night, I only caught the last part of this set but it sounded really nice, bleepy trancey melodies with fast jungle and hard techno beats. Not sure if the whole set was like this but would happily see more of Wisp.

808 State:
(oldskool, breakbeat)
Another surprise, I didn't really know much about 808S apart from them having done some old skool / housey anthems, but despite the least charismatic frontman ever, they did some good breakbeat stuff, and some of their newer tracks which were nice solid drum and bass styles.

Current Value:
(hard drum and bass)
Excellent! Proper hardcore Current Value style, but not all pots and pans, with a few abstract and dubsteppy bits thrown in amongst the mayhem. Set of the weekend for me and great to dance to. I find some of the modern hard dnb a bit relentless on CD but it works great in a rave.

Producer & Hellfish:
(gabber, breakbeat)
Good stuff, exactly as expected, I used to catch Producer loads in my earlier raving years, and he's still going strong, mixing it in well with Hellfish and some hip-hop and breakbeat styles with proper pogoing gabber beats.

DJ Yoda:
(hip-hop, funk, dubstep, audio-visual)
Well put together set of slick and entertaining audio-visual mixing. Entertaining stuff although not my sort of thing to rave to.

(electronica, ambient, techno)
Again another nice set but not really that energetic and dancey. Some of the earlier parts were excellent listening ambient / downbeat.

Aphex Twin:
(acid techno, industrial electro, breakhop, neo-jungle, noisecore)
Good set....maybe a great set. Slightly marred by early technical hitches (15 mins late start, then 15 mins downtime just after starting), and being bloody boiling in the rave so I had to chill out even when he transmogrified into the jungle stuff. But the actual music was often great, some classy acid techno, the vibes were mad (5 lasers + 15 giant inflatable dolphins at one point) and the breakcore finish was amazing. So yeah good stuff...
(Terrible sound but you get the idea)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Autumnal Aberdeen

It's feeling pretty autumnal at the moment.... The changing of the light is particularly noticable - when the grey cloud smothers Scotland it feels especially gloomy, but when the sun burns through the increasingly low angle of it, whilst slightly perturbing, produces pleasing golden light that brings a certain romance to the landscape. There is little friendliness in the weather overall though: the Indian Summer has firmly hit Scotland in the way Scotland does best - a gale is lashing through Glasgow and Western Scotland is lucky to get one dry day a week. Something that England-based (currently dry) climbers would do well to remember when they whine about their "poor summer" compared to Scotland's good early summer - just bear in mind that last year when England had a decent summer and good autumn, Scotland had shit-all apart from rain for both...

In these conditions, once again the East Coast saves the day with all it's percularities and quirks and shelter from the Atlantic lows. As much as the changing of the seasons has made me feel a bit perculiar myself (despite usually liking autumn a lot), I'm still syked and inspired enough to keep trying hard, with mixed but pretty decent results. This time, despite concerns about my shoulder, it eased off surprisingly rapidly with a day's climbing, and I tackled the following climbs of personal note:

Red Army Blues @ Sickle Row - a route that doesn't seem to get much attention, but it should as it's bloody great. I started this in a strangely sedated state of mind and spent ages on it getting my determination to match up to my rising syke and awakening body. Eventually it did and despite all the faff I really enjoyed the stylish line and some great moves.

Sair Fecht @ Floors Craig - the one at FC that I was pretty sure I could do, and yup it worked just like that. Straightforward gear but good cranky crimpy moves made for a nicely cruxy climb compared to the usual schistpumpfest horror shows.

The Pugilist @ Floors Craig (failed) - the one at FC that I was pretty sure would be twatting desperate, and it was. Obvious steepness, overrated holds and awkward gear, leading to it being brutally pumpy. Not a the sort of route that suits me trying to push my standard on, I fell off downclimbing to ground but my heart hadn't been properly in it anyway. Fair enough some styles of route are going to be too hard, all I can take from it is learning that I should try to stack the odds more with warm-ups and feeling fresher, to give myself a fighting chance on routes that fight dirty.

Photos of Sair Fecht:

Monday, 10 September 2012

Creag Dubh Diversity, Brin Rock Rambling.

Another weekend not in the North West, but not that far away either. The sinuous A9 pass bisects the Central Highlands and the Dalwhinnie to Inverness arc curves determinedly enough from the Fort William direction to the Ullapool direction to align itself with the North West, the quality of the climbing available confirming that. Weatherwise it seems somewhere in between and guessing the forecast for Creag Dubh is a matter of triangulating the Aviemore, Fort Augustus and Fort William forecasts (old Metoffice site, of course), and having a little faith.

That faith was rewarded this weekend, with dry and breezy weather and reasonable conditions, even a bit warm in the sun on Saturday! So how did I end up completely drenched mid-afternoon? Belaying under the Waterfall buttress waterfall, that's how. Whilst the climbing was dry the breeze was strong enough to provide intermittent showers and spray at the base....the novelty wore off by the time my downie was soaked, and put me off doing any of the harder routes there, although I am more inspired than ever. I did manage a couple of fine and highly contrasting routes in other areas: Case Dismissed on the Barrier Wall is steep, safe, and super-pumpy, only a crucial hand-jam got me up this, whilst Ticket To Ride on the Lower Main Wall is sheer, juggy, and steady but super-bold higher up. Having had a good explore and reacquaintance with the crag, I am declaring Creag Dubh season open and am determined to go back soon!

The next day we went to Brin Rock, which now has a full complement of trad, bouldering, and sport - although in the grand tradition of Scotland's clannish and insular local scenes, the seemingly popular sport climbing, whilst listed on UKC, is not usefully described anywhere, so for an outsider to actually climb there the usual veil of secrecy has to be penetrated....or maybe just ignored. The trad climbing itself seems to be ignored, as we soon found that highly starred routes looked undeservedly neglected. Maybe the approach slog puts people off, 10-15 minutes of boulders and heather is pretty grim although to be fair it's mostly the leg-murdering angle that made it so hard for me, I'm sure the able-bodied could cope with a bit of moral fibre. Anyway the crags turned out to be worth the effort - a pleasant belay perch at The Needle gave access to Gold Digger, an soft-touch but fine and varied route in an excellent position, and a return to Zed Crag pointed us at The Wild Man, an action packed wee route that was good from start to finish. That, and an easier warmup, was all we did, but it was cool to check out the crag. I still have to go back for Brin Done Before of course!

Following this weekend, although my right elbow is feeling okay, I tweaked my right shoulder when my foot slipped seconding Muph Dive, and got stung on my right forearm by a bloody wasp at Barrier Wall, which is still sore and itchy. I'll need to keep up with shoulder AND elbow theraputic weights now, ugh.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Aberdeen Assault

As I suspected the weather has turned to balls in The West - regular checking of Fort William and Ullapool forecasts shows only sporadic days of thick grey cloud and humid south-westerly winds to provide intermittent respite from light or heavy rain as the weather gods deem fit. I still keep my hopes up for the odd two day trip to Wester Ross, or the famed but elusive one day hit for Glen Nevis, but in the meantime I've initiated my Plan B: The East, including the Aberdeen Coast, Moray Coast, Central Highlands and Lowlands. Whilst this doesn't have the seemingly endless choice of excellent rock that the North West does, it does provide a curious variety of interesting rock types (or more like an interesting variety of curious rock types!) and plenty of surprisingly enticing challenges.

Following tangential warm-ups at Covesea and Ballater, and some emergency "steepness over-compensation" training on the Ratho comp wall, I had a few days in the area this weekend, and briefly they went thusly:

Red Tower & Grey Mare Slabs: Nice day by the sea, visited two crags to give Simon a good taster of the gnarly granite, and did a few classic routes - Neanderthal Man and Vulture Squadron both being worth an extra star for their sustained quality. I tried something harder but was a bit too warm. Will be back!

Berrymuir Head: Nice day by the sea but curiously too greasy. Warmed up, failed on some slopey thing, Simon didn't fare much better on his route, so we called it a day after a couple of easier things. Curious that sun and a seemingly fresh breeze didn't give good conditions, but chatting to a local local afterwards confirmed my suspicion that the SW breeze was just too warm and humid.

Johnsheugh: Nice day by the sea and this time much fresher so had an ace day out. This revamped crag is where all the cool kids hang out, and even uncool unlocals are allowed here so I was keen to sample 25m of diverse bulging wall climbing, and certainly did that with a steady warm-up and 3 fine and satisfying routes.

Coble Boards: Nice day by the sea and still pretty fresh, the NWer getting even this crag in decent nick (not quite decent enough for the burly Jihad whose slick angled slopers are tucked under a sheltering roof). Is it a bunch of coblers? No it's quite a cool wee crag in a nice setting with a good viewing platform. The routes are short steep and sometimes pretty weird so classic Aberdeen schist then. We had fun and saw a pod of at least 6 dolphins cruising south along the coast.

Next on the agenda: Berrymuir in fresh conditions, Floors Craig, Sickle Row, Whisky Cliff, Rosehearty...

Friday, 31 August 2012

Battered at Ballater.

Battered - arms and shoulders still tired.
Bloodied - ground-up little fingers from fingerlocks.
Broken - a cracked torn nail from falling over and bashing my finger.
Bruised - swollen and stiff knuckle on the same finger.
Beaten - by 2 out of the 3 challenging routes I tried in a day.

Finally a day at the Pass in good fresh conditions - a slice of mid-autumn crispness at the end of August, maybe a sign of things to come? - but was it enough....not quite. It's still just plain hard there, and despite (or perhaps because of!) the short gritstone-esque style of climbing, I still don't feel that comfortable with it. But I've given it a good go, and that's something. Also, despite twice as many failures as ascents, it was actually a decent and interesting day.

I warmed up, inadequately, and tried Doctor Dipso, a cool, short, open wall climb, and failed just before easy ground due to being immovably pumped. It was very close  - with a bit more determination I could have done this. But with a bit more cunning I would have not paid too much attention to a veteran E6 leader with 20 years experience of Aberdeen climbing who said it was "not pumpy really", and warmed up a lot better. Although the style of climbing suited me well, the sustainedness definitely warranted a further warm-up. I need to heed that.

However that dismal failure was a warm-up in itself, so when I got onto Cold Rage next, it was a different story - after several times up and downclimbing at the lower (and hard!) crux, and a lot of huffing and puffing in the upper groove before a merciful back and footing rest, I managed to grind my way up this exhausting and satisfying route. Despite the hard unnerving start, having a good rest above and sensible gear for the rest of the route made it mentally comfortable if physically tiring - and the experience made the day worthwhile.

Finally, I mentally tossed a coin as to whether I had enough energy and dry skin and light left to try Peel's Wall, lost the flip and failed on the route. This was one time when I should heed the E6 Aberdeen veteran who said it was okay (it's not) but a bit pumpy (fucking pumpy). Equally I shouldn't have heeded rumours of it being safe and technical - it's only safe if you can place the very limited gear, instead of being totally out of balance on the lower flake, or blocking the crucial wire placement in the upper with fingers. A nasty experience trying to avoid groundfall potential before I could get to slump on the gear. Maybe I was a bit tired from other routes, but I definitely need to heed warnings of pumpy, and be wary of local climbs with local gear placements!

So: Warm up better, be warier of pumpy routes, don't take protection for granted. Don't go back to Ballater for a while!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Covesea Crushing.

Hands on the good edge beneath the roof. Grab the big fat pinch with left hand and bring right hand into the angled finger jam slot in the roof crack, thumb in to the crag, little finger away from the crag. Lean way out and reach left hand around to the sharp rib running up from the jutting block ledge from the lip. Right foot on the good edge, and try to reach the high slanting ridge with the right hand....can't reach, drape hand on non-hold and slap left hand higher up the sharp rib. Lunge and get the right hand on the small ridge, bring right foot to smear on fat pinch and desperately flail left foot around on the lip until it can be teased on to the jutting ledge. Match hands on the small ridge area and grunt into a rockover to a victory stance on the ledge.
If you don't want the beta for Urban Gorilla at Covesea, don't read the above paragraph! Although really it is quite easy to work out from the ground (the only difference from what I had precisely planned was a lower right foot and higher left hand for the crux reach). This was probably the highlight of a rather good day at Covesea - it was a line that definitely inspired me, but definitely played to a couple of my weaknesses of long reaches and pulling around roofs, thus a satisfying surprise to do it, and do it well (I guess I find it easier to commit to hard moves when there is perfect protection next to me and a big rest coming up ;)).

Other highlights included Bottle Republic (actually E3 5c but a good **), Dancing In The Dark, Banana Republic which were less challenging but equally high quality in both strong lines and strong climbing. The time of Covesea being mis-regarded as a sandy, dodgy, greasy esoteric backwater is OVER, and the now 11 routes I've done there confirm that.

As a punctuation to the day we also went to Tarlair, following the enticement of the guidebook photo. This turned out to be more of a line of dots or random ungrammatical squiggle rather than a satisfactory exclamation mark to the day. The sheer face of smooth rock and hard grades put an end to both the so-called warm-up route and any further challenges. Although I did learn I need to be able to detach myself from grade expectations and try to fight harder on the actual challenge, irrespective of how ludicrous a sandbag it might be.

On the plus side, since the crag sits below the infamous 13th hole of the Tarlair golf course, I did find 8 golf balls beneath the crag!

Today it rained, we got one route in early in the morning, recced Cummingston for future challenges (still inspiring, I definitely like the sandstone!) and had a spectacularly good moccaccino with whipped cream at the Mambo cafe in Aviemore.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Tradless Training

The last couple of weeks have featured a lot more punterflu recovery and general relaxing than proper climbing involving cracks and nuts and stuff. But I have managed the odd bit of pottering to keep active if nothing else:

Kishorn Boulders - great location, great rock, great selection of easy problems. Mid-grade stuff a bit less described managed a few cool problems (see below).

Ardmair Beach - a nice circuit here, did a few things I did before and a few things I didn't. I like the Ardmai roof problems, although they are all fairly similar, it's good fun having the trickery involving powerful crimping and devious heel-toes, rather than grunting around sloping lips.

Tom Riach - wow this is erratic as erratic comes, a highly singular bloc of conglomerate casually dropped in a forest a long way from it's nearest potential origins at The Camel or Moy. A nice circuit of "easy" wall climbing which is quite cranky and crimpy, good fun.

Ratho - first time training for ages, and I did okay. As part of "angular overcompensation", I stuck to mostly steep stuff, in the hope that when I get back to the horrors of Rosehearty or South Aberdeen schist, they will seem less outrageously overhanging in comparison. In theory...

Legaston Quarry - meh. Back here for the first time in 9 years and it might be 9 years before I can next stomach it. I kinda like the idea of the sandstone wall climbing in theory, but relentlessly morpho climbing and a veritable turd of a mis-grading system reduce my enthusiasm pretty quickly. Oh well on to some TRAD next I hope :)

Friday, 17 August 2012

State of play.

2/3 of the way through the main trad season and my route list is looking as follows:


Lewis: - not got to yet!
Tweetie Pie Slalom  E5 6a ***
Limpet Crack  E3 5c ***
Neptune  E2 5c ***
Blessed Are The Weak  E5 6a ***
Various routes

The Prozac Link  E4 5c ***
Various routes

Supercharger  E3 5c ** - unrefined but a good adventure
Wish You Were Here  E2 5b *** - quite stiff and rather good
Have A Nice Day  E3 6a ** - saw detatched holds from WYWH, decided no.
Golden Shower  E4 5c ***
American Vampire  E4 6a *** - exhilerating and exhausting jamming
Fight Club  E3 6a ***

Rubha Hunish:
Whispering Crack E3 5c *** - fantastic mega-pitch, loved it.
Northern Exposure E2 5b *** - no time and put off by rock.

Digitalis E3 5c *** - brilliant, perfect crux.
Mother's Pride E4 5c *** - brilliant, quite steady, amazing second pitch.

Staffin Slip:
Various routes. - did several, good value good mileage.

Occam's Razor E4 6a *** - great, quite steady, good position.
A Paddler's Tale E3/4 5c *** - great, sustained cruxes, not sure how I made it in greasy conditions.

Reiff: - more to go back for!
Headstrong E4 5c ** - steady but rather cool, good moves.
Wyatt Earp E3 6a ***
Crack Of Desire E3 6a ***
Various routes - did Headlong E4 5c ***, excellent wall climb.     

Ardmair: - added to list because it's awesome
Neart Nan Gaidheal E5 6a ***
Twisting Twitcher E3 6a **
Burning Desire E5 6b ***

Wester Ross: - not really got there in the right weather
Tollie Crags:
Each Uisge Direct  E4 6a ***
Murray's Arete  E3/4 5c *
The Shimmer  E4 6a **

Loch Tollaidh Crags:
Flag Iris  E4 5c **
Various routes.

Stone Valley Crags:
Demon Razor  E3 5c *
Flashing Blade  E3 6a **

Gruinard Crags:
How The West Was Won  E3 5c ** - cool, was a bit unsure about parts but a rewarding pitch.
Stand And Deliver  E4 6a **

Edgewood Whimper  E4 5c **
Porpoise Pun  E3 5c ** - good bold wall climbing.
Wall Of Flame  E4 6a ***
Instant Muscle  E4 6a **
Rough Justice  E2 5c * - more like ***, great pitch.

Glen Nevis: - been going further North instead but need to get to soon!
Aquarian Rebels E4 6a ***
Quality Street E3 6a ***
On Some Beach  E5 6a ***
Freddie Across The Mersey  E5 6a **
Crackattack  E3 5c *** - pretty cool, worked out the easy way.
Mutant  E4 5c **
Triode  E5 6a **
Risque Grapefruit  E4 5c **
Fingertip Finale  E4 5c * - backed off as too scared of horizontal swing onto skyhooks.
Precious Cargo  E5 6a *

Creag Dubh: - been going further North instead but need to get to soon!
Colder Than A Hooker's Heart  E5 5c **
Harder Than Your Husband  E5 6a **
The Final Solution  E5 6a **
Acapulco  E4 5c ***
Bratach Uaine  E4 6a ***
Case Dismissed  E3 6a ***
Ayatollah  E4 6a ***

North East: - been going further West instead but need to get to soon!
Moray Coast:
The Prow  E5 6a **
The Essential  E3 5c ***
Senakot Rose  E4 6a **
Old Fashioned Waltz  E3 5c *

Aberdeen Coast:
Red Army Blues  E4 6a **
Downies' Syndrome E4 6a **
Sair Fecht  E3 6a **
The Pugilist  E4 6a ***
Johnsheugh routes
Various other routes

Pass Of Ballater:
Peel's Wall  E4 6a ***
Smith's Arete  E5 6a ***

Central Highlands: - been going further North instead.
Glen Lednock:
No Place For A Wendy  E2 5b ***
Pole-Axed  E4 6a ** - horrible rock and approach.
Gabrielle  E4 6a *- horrible rock and approach.
Diamond Cutter  E3 6a ***

Glen Croe:
Edge Of Insanity  E4 5c **
Short Sharp Shock  E4 6a **


Which means:
1. I've done a great job of getting to Skye and a decent job of getting to the North West. Finally getting to grips with Skye sea-cliffs is a big tick off my list.
2. I've eventually managed to work up to doing some more challenging climbs and hopefully this can continue to the rest of the season.
3. I've still not managed to get to Lewis and will make that a priority next time weather and partners coincide.
4. I've generally ignored the closer / Easterly / more weather-sure options in favour of heading North West, but there are still plenty of things that inspire me in those areas so I will need to get more focused on those venues too.
5. There's still plenty of routes to do including the North West, but many of them are at cool-weather-friendly crags so hopefully will be in condition later into Autumn.
6. There's probably some more training I can keep doing to top up my climbing to tackle some harder routes, so far I can think of: 

  • Falling practise
  • Stamina
  • Steep route practise in general (always useful in Scotland)
  • Lock offs and reaches (based on experience)
  • Toe / calf training (based on experience)
  • More falling practise... 

Unfortunately I've still got punterflu which is driving me mad as I'm still syked and want to train and climb and not just rest up like a fat gelatinous lump of mucus!! It should be over soon...

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Pulling my finger out #2

Apparently I have been on this last weekend trip. Forgoing the inevitable delights of the North West, I headed back into the furthest North East and the hidden delights of the Caithness coastline, the only delights of note in this otherwise curiously soulless area of the country. The seacliffs themselves are a curiosity, reasonable of access, diverse of rock type, full of great routes and empty of fellow climbers. More fool them, because in my now 9 days total climbing in the area, I have concluded that it is really bloody good, for all the aforementioned reasons.

This last visit I have perhaps reached the pinnacle of my climbing in the area, as I managed to climb my longer-term desires of Occam's Razor and A Paddler's Tale. The former was particularly enticing in line, situation, and the promise of a distinct crux around a jug with rests before and after. It all went pretty smoothly, the crux took some working out but was reasonable, the rest after took a long time to get to but the finish was easy and fun. The latter was climbed pretty much by accident - abseiling down at the end of the day, it was still, midgy, and the rock was getting smeggy, the route looked steep and intimidating, so I only started up for a look, with the firm intention of getting scared and retreating into the adjacent chimney. Somehow I completely failed to do this and somehow I managed the climb. Quite a surprise and a real bonus after Occam's.

That was pretty much my raison d'etre for the 9 hour round trip, but in an extended weekend I also managed to fit in introducing Geoff to the delights of Mid-Clyth and getting a wee bit of mileage myself, introducing Brad to the delights of Ardmair and getting a wee bit of mileage myself (and a lot of inspiration for future visits, I'd forgotten just how relentlessly good Ardmair was), and introducing James and Colin to the delights of Loch Tollaidh and getting a wee bit of mileage myself. I probably could have kept my finger out and stopped bumbling around on mileage, but I was pretty knackered by the time I headed back West, so just coasted along on my Sarclet success and relaxed a bit.

Actually, the knackeredness was probably a harbinger of things to come. I now have the punterflu again, due to being too punterly. This is not particularly welcome at this time of year (or at any fucking time!) but I will just have to ride it out with a lot of rest and recuperation and a bit of training and a bit of getting back to the action soon.

Above: Chillaxing at SOFTmair on a bright and breezy day.

Above: The glorious Gruinard Bay (visited on a previous weekend), with about a dozen good crags in view!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Pulling my finger out #1.

....hopefully the next stage in this year's slow progression. I've trained over winter, got injured, had a good spring getting back into the trad, stayed injured, trained more steadily over the last couple of months, kept doing sporadic trad so I don't forget how to fumble wires in and get scared, and now I have the opportunity to hopefully capitalise on that. And I'm still syked!!

This last weekend was the start of the next stage: Getting more focused on the trad and starting to push myself a little bit, in volume and intensity. I had an enjoyable but very slow trad progression over the spring - although I got out lots on some great days, it took weeks and weeks to feel confident and determined to tackle harder climbs. Now I do feel more confident, but it's tempered with a caution that a slow pace might be required, so I'm giving myself the opportunity to do that, with slightly more intense mileage.

The weekend was good, constant monitoring over the weather forecast (THAT is why I finally got a smart phone) allowed us to avoid both the torrential storms that swept across Central Scotland, and the swarming hordes of midge death that would have driven us insane if I hadn't revised Northern Highlands North enough to find a useful East-facing crag. An evening at Rhue, a day at Road Crag and Gruinard Crag, and a short day at Morning/Evening Walls (rather good little crags) gave a good variety of venues and routes, a few of which I pushed myself on and did pretty well :).

Next time: More cautious crushing, I hope.

In the meantime, here's a toad:

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Keeping my hand in #3.

Same as before, but in ever decreasing circles of localness, this time ending up at Limekilns, sandwiched between a late start, a torrential storm, and seasoned with only the briskest of breezes. Just another afternoon mileage route out, and I did manage to get a few routes done as well as getting inspired for future challenges. A couple of steady routes and a slightly harder that got my surprisingly pumped for a vertical wall. All good training, and adding in a different style to previous weeks, so the hand is kept where it should be, in the rock (ideally in a good jam ;)).

Hmmm, if the horrible new Blogspot interface isn't too much of a dick, I might even have some photos...

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Keeping my hand in #2

Another brief day out, this time at The Pass Of Ballater. Did a couple of easier routes, felt fine on them, felt on reasonable trad form, and that's what I really needed to know. I had hoped to get on some harder routes there but the conditions were pretty odd. Sunny and cloudy, breezy and still, cool and muggy, dry and sweaty. It just didn't feel the right time to push harder. The Pass is a funny place. I've realised I don't actually like the granite much - awkward, angular, and polished, and thus pretty conditions-dependent - but I do really like the look of some of the harder routes there - Peel's Wall, Smith's Arete, Cold Rage and Doctor Dipso - which take more stylish lines up more elegant rock. Unfortunately neither I nor the weather were up to those lofty tasks today, so The Pass remains a sort-of project crag for me, despite it's seeming crag convenience I will have to carefully take advantage of just the right time (a cold, fresh time!) to make the most out of it. Ah well.... More mileage somewhere else next time.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Keeping my hand in #1

In accordance with my general plan of keeping training while circumstances and weather are preventing proper trips, I had a flying visit to Aberdeen over the weekend. After a couple of weeks of fairly regular indoor wall, and less  regular gym training, I wanted to keep my hand in on the trad, and of course just do some fun climbing ;). No big plans, just a weekend of steady mileage on surprisingly dry rock in surprisingly good weather. Hidden Inlet, Promontory Wall, Dykes Cliff - all the classic Aberdeen hallmarks of short, steep, pokey routes with fiddly gear and either obscure moves or shocking pump for their size, or sometimes both. An acquired taste which I still find curiously irresistable, and intricate enough to keep a good trad focus.

I actually got quite syked in the end, and I'm assuming that if the weather reverts to Met Office's ominously predicted "normal conditions" i.e. being fucking shit in North West Scotland, then the East coast will get some respite and I might be back there more often. Which although it's a consolation prize is no bad thing as I have quite a few inspirations along that coast.

My elbow has been fairly sore recently. 2 weeks ago it was fine when I was doing 3 gentle sessions at TCA. Last week I went to Ratho and it was sore (not sure why?) and again doing row weights on Wed (a bit of a mistake) and again on a slightly stiffer circuit at TCA on Thu (overuse by then). The weekend it felt tweaky with the odd nagging pain, but I was careful with warming up and massage, and I think the Easy Trad(tm) was fine as the last two days have been better. I think I got a bit carried away with the TCA training - again! I had to start off easy because I was such a fucking punter after not training for ages, and then climbing-wise I moved smoothly on to more challenging circuits, but I don't think my elbow was quite ready for that. I need to stick to more stamina stuff, if I can find anyone to go to the bloody lead wall with!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Current Concepts.

It's raining. A lot. The forecast is dire. I have stuff to do. I'm still totally syked for cragging but that has to be on the backburner. In the meantime there are a few things to consider:

  • There are plenty of options for good single days out or weekends, especially if I maintain my current form and can do some of the radder routes I've spotted. I'm going to keep in mind the following plethora of options depending on weather and wind:
  • Day trips: Glen Croe, Allt Doire-Bheith / Stac An Eich (Glen Coe), Creag An Fhithich Beag / Polldubh / Gorge area (Glen Nevis), Glenfinnan, Creag Dubh, Huntly's Cave, Pass Of Ballater, Weem, Glen Ogle, Glen Lednock, Abroath, Roslin Glen.
  • 2 day / Weekend trips: Gairloch, Reiff, Caithness, Cummingston, Tarlair, Rosehearty, Red Tower / Whisky Cliff / Berrymuir / Floor's Craig / Johnsheugh (Aberdeen).
  • I need to remember to warm-up well and actually try challenging stuff as I've probably got enough mileage under my belt to summon up the syke to see it through.
  • I want to do more 6a on lead. Only one so far this year and it was really more continuous 5c. I'm feeling warmed up enough to start having some technical challenges....I want to get into the habit of harder moves. Mostly because they're fun :)
  • the weather and conditions fluctuate manically, I want to keep my eyes open for good bouldering days. Although I am still far too injured to push my limits, there are still plenty of high quality problems I haven't got around to throughout the country, and if the weather sometimes suits them more than it does trad, sobeit.
  • Training....I'm keen to do plenty of training at the moment, hopefully I can build on trad mileage with a training kick up the arse. Indoor routes + lots of falling practise, indoor bouldering endurance sessions, gym weights + cv sessions. Restarted this in the last week (Ratho - good, weights session - kinda fun, TCA - sweaty weak and horrible) and need to keep it up.
  • Elbow....still fucked. As per usual. Expect the same injury report for many more months. I am managing it though, and keeping up with massage, taping, and theraputic eccentric wrist curls. It's been fine on trad (especially in warm weather), but a lot less fine with "casual" bouldering, so I need to take extra care with that.

That's it really....keep training....keep open to all the various days out options....keep careful....keep syked.