Monday, 5 March 2012

Utter pessimism?

Regular readers (you poor fools) might notice that I occasionally pass comment and critical analysis on the weather, and given I'm living in Scotland and trying to climb good trad in great areas, such comment tends to be contempt and such analysis tends to be justifiably extremely critical. This moaning and whining and ranting is quite simply a natural reaction to an often ridiculous state of affairs, and whilst it might not make good reading, it does make necessary writing.

It also seems to attract bizarre and outrageous accusations ranging from the spurious ("You chose to move to Scotland") to the obscene ("It's just the weather why moan about it") and downright defamatory ("You are totally wrong about last year's washout"). I'm not sure how people can get away with such....libel but at least I can set the record straight.

To set the setting straight, let's be clear on what "good" weather necessarily entails in the context of Scottish climbing. Given the whole point of Scottish climbing is trad climbing (cragging in my case) in the Highlands and Islands, taking in the approximate Elipse Of Extreme Excitement from Glasgow to Mull to Ardnamurchan to Skye to Lewis to Sheigra to Ardmair to Creag Dubh to Glasgow, naturally enclosing the areas of utmost importance like Glen Nevis, Torridon and Gairloch.

Good weather doesn't require months of amazing conditions, long summers of hot dry weather, or any other spurious nonsense that fools might accuse me of expecting. It DOES entail having two or more consecutive dry days in that area, when the rock is dry enough to climb and the season is warm enough for trad. NOT long periods of sunshine and showers where you might just sneak in a route per day when the rain stops. NOT single days interspersed with rain which is fine if you're a local but plain unfeasible for a 4 hour journey. NOT an amazing spell in December when it's dry but below 0'c. NOT good weather along the East coast as while there is good climbing there it is a wet weather escape and often dry in the East is wet in the West.

Look! Scotland in the sunshine! Isn't it pretty! But in a climbing context... This is the start of March, still too cold for normal trad - that doesn't make it a good year. This is after a day of heavy showers and light snow, not a sustained period of dryness - that doesn't make it a good year. This is down near Stranraer, notoriously escaping the wetness that blights the most important Scottish climbing areas - that doesn't make it a good year.

So, two or more consecutive dry days with dry rock. Preferably three or more for Skye, or a short week for Lewis. Quite a low standard so even more ridiculous when Scotland fails to meet it. In that context let's look at the last couple of years and the climbing days I got out during the spring/summer/autumn period, in the Eclipse Of Excellence, on 2+ day trips:

April: 2
May: 3
June: 4 + 2
July: 0
August: 0
September: 6 + 3
October: 3

= 21 North West 2+ day trip days.

Bear in mind there was plenty of shit showery weather throughout the summer. By English standards this was fairly mediocre. By Scottish standards it was probably normal, and actually tolerable. Also bear in mind I spent all of August pissing around at Dumby so might have missed weather windows then.

April: 4 + 4
May: 0
June: 0
July: 2
August: 0
September: 0
October: 0

= 10 North West 2+ day trip days.

Bear in mind that this year I had more keen climbing partners and more determination to explore areas, as can be seen from taking advantage of the single month of summer in April. However I did miss a short dry period in early July, though that would have hardly caught up much.

Hmmm. Even I hadn't realised how low this was! Nor the difference. Suffice to say that when I say last year was bollox I am....totally right.

Despite my utter pessimism I will still keep my fingers crossed for this year, of course. Because despite it all, Scotland is ace and Scottish cragging is ace :).

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