Sunday, 26 February 2012


Two Climbing Venues...

Craigmore is a okay wee crag for gritstone-style mid-grade trad puntering (if you subtract a star from everything), and an okay wee crag for bouldering. It has a lot of rock but that which isn't tall enough for routes often isn't distinct enough for bouldering, giving lean but sometimes refined pickings. The rock is okay, the landings are okay, and the dank wooded shelter of the crag is a good boon in westerly gales. One such day the other week I snuck out for a couple of hours. The Pine Cone is a pleasant situation as promised, feeling both open to the creeping sunshine and tucked away from the rest of Glasgow. Jamie's Overhang looks quite minor until you actually pull on and realise that it's as burly wee cunt of a problem that is close to it's star rating and highly distant from it's supposed grade:

Other areas I recced:

The Wizard - great line, looks quite easy, proper highball finish, pretty classic.
Wizard SS - lowball start into the above but actually looks alright.
Wide Eyed - odd eliminate, not sure where it goes and what it uses, not super inspiring.
Terror SS - good line, SS is a bit of a non-move wonder but could be fun, good name.
Andy's Arete - another lowball sitter but another decent-looking problem - looks especially interesting as it's covered in useless holds above a good landing.

So that's somewhere to keep in mind next time the Atlantic winds are howling through the city.


Clifton is a nice wee crag for gritstone-style mid-grade trad puntering, but a strange crag for bouldering. And by "strange" I mean "bollox". I get the distinct impression that it was only included in the guide because it really really should have some decent bouldering even if it actually doesn't. Beneath the crag is an toppled jumble of extensive granite blocks, whose landings and surroundings rarely make extensive granite blocs. If these otherwise promising stones were airlifted out of the boulderfield and dropped on flat ground at appealingly jaunty angles, there could be some truly delightful problems. As it is all the problems are conceptually good but invariably flawed to the point of irrelevance...

Knife Party - grubby arseball, is the crux keeping off the ground or keeping off the crowding prop boulder?
Study Break - non-move wonder with the tiniest floor-space to start off.
Trauma - at least has a line (or a few), and some length, in fact all it is missing is any form of landing....unless you think Porth Ysgo landings are a bit too toddler friendly.
Wall Problem - again an acceptable bit of rock that is cramped by a prop boulder that must be negotiated more than the actual line.
Paul's Dyno - nasty sandbag above brambles and blocks, with the bewildering recommendation of ignoring the clean direct finish and tackling a lip traverse added on for the sole purpose of maximising moss above a degenerating landing zone.
Zillion Dollar Sadist - a ludicrous "problem" which is pretty much a slanting chimney eliminating the sensible choice of lying down on the boulder beneath you.

So balls to that. I put my shoes on, touched the starting holds of Paul's Dyno, took them off, and went to have a look at Sandyhills. I walked onto the beach, got to the shore, and the tide raced in almost as quick as I escaped. I left...

Friday, 24 February 2012

Make Your Transition

It's coming to that time of year when the bleak cold wetness of the Scottish winter gives way to the miserable mild wetness of the Scottish spring. Unlike the changing of the seasons everywhere else on Planet Earth, this does precisely fuck all for the chances of being able to climb upon rock, apart from the random single month of dry spring/summer/autumn weather, whenever that might choose to occur. What it does mean that on the stolen days between the sodden downpours, the lukewarm temperatures might be enough to tolerate route climbing rather than bouldering. This brings great joy to my trad climbers heart, or it would if there was the slightest chance of getting the 15 or so North West Scotland trad days I'm really syked for done this season. Bitter about the endless battle against the elements? Me? Really?

Anyway in the meantime there is the transitionary period when it's not quite warm enough for 30m of sustained gneiss, but too warm for 3m of slopey sandstone. This is where many subtle things may happen - route training begins, sun-trap outcrops can be savoured (if they set their traps well enough), Aberdeen sea-cliffs may be assaulted before the birds do the same, and short technical bold and bouldery routes provide the transition between bouldering and tradding. Living in Scotland these are a rarity but there are some to be sought out and explored, and I am quite syked for the idea! The idea includes these ideas flitting around my head:

Glen Nevis: Fingertip Finale, Precious Cargo, Sweet Little Mystery, Where The Mood Takes Me - soloey little things on subtle schist.
Pass Of Ballater: Peel's Wall, Smith's Arete - bold classics on suntrap granite.
Glen Croe - Edge Of Insanity - more bold schist.
Bowdens: On The Verge, The Gauleiter, Poseidon Adventure, The Trial - a great diversity of gritstone-style sandstone routes.
Goat Crag: Underpass, The Hard Shoulder - similar hidden gems.

Where else? Post some ideas for me.... Obviously there's local stuff from Quadrocks to Limekilns, but more exploratory ones are more welcome.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Queen's Quadruple Quest.

Quest 1: Nice day. Walked into the crag. It rained.

Quest 2: Dry sunny day with snow on the ground. Walked into the crag. It was coated in snow.

Quest 3: Sunny breezy day. Showers just past. Walls soaked. Didn't even walk into the crag.

Quest 4:

Ohhhh YEAH. Amazing conditions. Lovely day to be bouldering, right on the cusp where unbeatable conditions turn into unsurvivable cold. Tris and I survived 5 hours although it was touch and go at the end. A quick half of Twice Brewed bitter at the Twice Brewed Inn (shown on the bouldering guide map as "Once Brewed", I was really not sure about drinking Twice Brewed at Once Brewed, or vice versa) kept morale enough to finish the 250 mile round trip.

Despite the conditions, this turned into more of an easy mileage day. A nice warm-up circuit, a couple of good middling problems spoilt by weirdo landings, and some fun problems later on seen in the video, including this Queen Line:

I did want to push myself on harder things at Queens, but there just seemed to be niggling little issues on the day:

Victory Arete SS - top-out felt too dodgy with smeary feet and a nasty blade of rock to skid onto. Even after flashing both stand-up versions to the top it just seemed unjustifiable and couldn't be arsed trying the sitter to not top that out either. Could have tried harder to pad the blade I guess.
West Wall - not sure about line, we tried an easy line but backed off the top-out again because of bad fall potential not difficulty.
Mxymatosis - not sure about finish, saw a climber climb to the top but the direct finish was too dirty. Again dodgy fall for that sort of nonsense.
Border Reiver - had a brief look at the end of the day but needed more time, more cleaning, and more attention given it's highball nature.
Left Hand Leap - kept trying the wrong method, got suckered in by a fruity pinch on the very arete but that's not the actual line, which goes up the righthand face. There's even a photo in the guide! Not that that's always to be relied on...

So dodgy lines and dodgy landings were the main deal! I'd go back for all of those with better preparation and knowledge. On my own, I'd probably be most tempted by working Worldline, probably waaaaay beyond me but could be interesting. Loads more easy stuff to warm-up on too.

An easy day on Sunday left my body feeling good on Monday, so I focused on a harder session at TCA, and felt quite good. Hurrah.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Fluffing Flashes.

Flashing....yeah the police have given me a formal caution and I'm not allowed within 100 yds of any Glasgow school.

I like flashing boulder problems. I like working them and unlocking them and solving their intricacies and going from not being able to do a single move to doing the entire problem. But I also like flashing problems. I like how the focus shifts from working the problem to working it out in advance. All the tactics and tricks and planning and plotting. And the actual attempt, the challenge of quick thinking, adaptability, execution, and above all, determination. Fighting when the moves are not exectuted optimally, fighting to stay on because there's just no point in letting go. Not a masochistic battle, but a pleasurable one.

So. Carrock. I had an inkling I could flash Sing A Rainbow. Why? Steep prow, a couple of crimps, amazing conditions. That suits me well. Not too fiddly, sequences that can be assessed from the ground. And I didn't do it. Nor did I flash anything else that day. But they were all close and I want to learn from that....

I Can, I Can't - could have flashed, but didn't because: Just slid off the cut-loose move as I got my toe back on. 2nd and 3rd successful go I used exactly the same method just hung on! A little bit more fight and better preparation brushing the hold and I think this would have been fine.

Sing A Rainbow - could have flashed, but didn't because: Wrongly judged that I had to get my right hand higher at the start, but once in that position I couldn't move to get the left-hand crimp. In fact reaching off the low right-hand pinch is very easy and I should have had a quick look at that option before moving my right hand. I ended up working the problem, because the off-balance slap higher up is quite unnerving with a weird swing/fall potential, BUT on a flash attempt I think I'd have had the sheer battle to go for it.

Undercut Arete - could have flashed, but didn't because: I choose the wrong starting method. Both the "feet miles away on the back wall" and "footless hang into heelhook" methods seemed quite unlikely with my bloated body, but I flipped a coin and tried feet on first. Feet promptly off and arse back on ground. I then tried the hang method and really surprised myself by crunching up into the heelhook. If I'd tried that first go it would have gone.

Purple Slab - could have flashed, but didn't because: Tried the wrong method first go, second go my lower foot slipped. This is a bit more on/off and outside my control, but I could have ignore the right-hand method and then put my foot on with more care. I think I was a bit casual at this late stage in the day.

So what I've learnt from that:
1. Prepare better including brushing and chalking.
2. Fight a bit harder!
3. When anticipating sequences, give myself some options to consider and execute if needed.
4. Choose my sequence carefully.
5. Keep trying, because I'm pretty damn close to some good flashes.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Carrock Crush.

In reality another Misanthrope Mission, but technically not as I actually invited a couple of homies down but they couldn't make it. I'm just as happy pootling around on my own, it allows me to get more focused too.

I've had a love/hate relationship with Carrock Fell. It's a great venue with plentiful inspiring problems, but I've had a couple of visits where I've seen a cool, breezy forecast, and been fully syked for the rough gabbro circuits, but it's turned out surprisingly muggy (the background of my blog title is taken from a hazy Carrock day) and I've got my arse kicked by the finger-shredding crimpy walls. I've never felt I've got to grips with the boulders, until the other day...

THIS time the conditions would have to be in my favour: Arriving at midday, it's glorious sun slowly slinking off the hillside, -1°C, and a steady South Easterly breeze. Perfect. I stomped up the hillside to the Mile High Wall. Rockfax says to avoid the bracken and "stick to the rocks" which I did. Pretty soon I skidded off icey rock and down into a jagged pit, only being stopped by being wedged between my mats and my shin on a rough boulder. Once at Mile High Wall however, the vibes were spot on. And then things pretty much proceeded as in the video above - I did some great problems although I didn't flash as many as I wanted (more on this later). I also tried a few other things (finger-shredding crimpy walls) and recced some cool problems for another time.

Just a classic bouldering day out :D.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Southside DAWG, keeping it REAL.

Whatever. I've heard American gangsta-speak used in bouldering winds up po-faced miserable Brits, so that's as good a reason as any. Anyway...


New problems on Glen Nevis Southside:

(NB Blogspot might do that shit-awful slideshow thing - to see fullsize map, right click and open in new window).

Described from NE to SW, from the Weir Crossing. New problems in bold, established problems in not-bold.

Tim's Arete
(aka Evening Boulder aka Finch Boulder)
Squirrel Groove V2 5c *** (FA Hazel Robson Nov 2011)
SS tiny corner to crimps, gain slim groove on left and pull onto slab via ripples.
Black Orc V6 6b *** (FA Fiend Feb 2012)
SS tiny corner to crimps, gain bulging nose, palm to apex and barbaric topout.

Bear Island V3 5c
Bear Rib - V3 5c * (FA Fiend Feb 2012)
SS just right of Bear Island, pull up to arete pinch and hidden crimp, gain top on left and rock rightwards.
Finch Arete - V1 5b * (FA Fiend Feb 2012)
Obvious arete L of Finch Attack from a standing start.

Finch Attack V4 6a
Punch And Judy Man V8 6c
Tim's Arete V5 6b
Wee Wall V1 5c (FA Fiend Feb 2012)
On right of high face, link good shelf to good shelf via a crimp, escape R.

unnamed 3b
unnamed 3c
unnamed 3a

The Rocking Stone
Unnamed 5a
Unnamed SS V2 5c (FA Hazel Robson Nov 2011)
SS as below but gain groove instead.
Thousand Year Egg V4 6b ** (FA Fiend Nov 2011)
SS on big sidepull, pull up to distant ripple then to higher seam on faint nose, rock onto ripple (no crimp in groove).

Rocking Stone Slab V2 5c
Squirrel Rib RHS V3 6a (FA Fiend Nov 2011)
SS RHS of arete with RH sidepull, slap up arete and stand delicately up using micro-ripple on slab.
Squirrel Rib LHS V2 6a * (FA Hazel Robson Nov 2011)
LHS of arete using good sidepull for left and slopey arete for right to good finishing holds.

Mole stones:
First Stone
unnamed 4c
The Art Of Shredding V2 6a * (FA Fiend Feb 2012)
SS down and left using arete and crimp, grind up blunt rib.

unnamed 5a
unnamed 5a

Flying Roof / Boothill Roof
(huge roof hidden behind Slug)
Flying Fiend V4 6a ** (FA Fiend Nov 2011)
Left side of roof. SS at obvious flat holds, pull up and use roof crimps to gain lip, swing rightwards to rockover finish.

Flying Roof V5 6c
Sheep Skull V2 5c


A few things to note:

  • The weir crossing (wellies needed) makes it a 5 minute walk. If it is too high then the alternative is 20 mins up from Whale Rock parking.

  • Most landings are flat and very good! A few are boggy but only a couple are rocky.

  • There are LOADS of very easy / trivial problems, all described in Glen Nevis bouldering.

  • The rock is great and super-rough in places. Much more like gabbro than the flakey horrors of Dunkeld.

  • I'm not sure how quick it dries - it doesn't get any sun in winter, but it's quite open and there isn't any drainage.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Misanthrope Mission #6

There's a brief period of amazing winter conditions in Scotland at the moment. It's due to end this weekend, but luckily I managed to get up to Glen Nevis this week. Cold and crisp and sunny the whole way up - even some routes in Glen Coe looked climbable, if cold! Perfect for the rough rock and sinuous slopers of Glen Nevis South Side, perfect for getting back on my new project, and rattling some other things off.

The videos above sum it up I think. Black Orc was the main mission objective, it was a relief to get it done as it's been nagging at me since I first saw it - obvious, natural, good climbing to a barbaric top-out. It felt hard enough to me! The funny thing about this area is that even easy-looking lines mysteriously turn out to be a lot harder when you actually attempt them. One of my easy warm-ups required a few goes working it, another easy warm-up turned into another long-term project. Perhaps it is because the rock is nicely slopey and frictional, so feels good in good conditions, but also quite bulging and rounded, so a surprising amount of power can be needed... Either way it is very good winter bouldering! And as a bonus the weir was curiously low for this time of year - although crossing it at dusk was exciting as the riverside rocks were coated in sheet ice from the spray. Needless to say I survived, but my fingertips and elbows are still recovering from the session.

As for the newness of these problems - it is quite simple, they have not been listed anywhere I can find and show no evidence of being climbed. The Glen Nevis definitive bouldering guide lists hundreds of problems including several around these boulders, but the developers seemed to have no concept of sit-starts nor aretes/prows ;). And Dave Mac....checking his blog and Youtube videos, he is rightly concerned with bigger and harder things. Most of these new lines required cleaning: Squirrel Groove & Black Orc had clumped moss at the start and I snapped off a flake where the RH crimp now is. Bear Rib and Finch Arete had thick moss on crucial holds, compared to Finch Attack and Bear Island (the latter only listed in GNB, but a very nice problem) which had old brushed holds. Flying Fiend had no chalk under the roof (it now has my wee dabs from November despite the storms) compared to Flying Roof to the right. Etc etc. I'll post full details of these soon as there really is a great circuit there now.