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.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Skye Strike.

5th dry weekend in a row, 20 days climbing in the North West this spring (forecast looks to be bolloxing out for a bit so I am really glad I persisted in making the most of the freakishly dry weather), 3rd trip to Skye in those 5 weeks, and the trip in which I finally wrapped up most of my inspirations from Autumn 2010.

Poverty Point, Neist - My ticklist was, in order: Golden Shower (whichever one the rear pillar is in Gary's fucked up ordering), Bad Dream, maybe Fight Club, and just possibly American Vampire. After semi-warming up on various thrutches and generally feeling somewhat knackered, I shocked myself by grinding up the least likely American Vampire, the hardest route I've done since Rat Race last Autumn. The gentle angle of the start gave me enough momentum to "give it a look" and once I was involved the prospect of overhanging hand-jamming was enough reward for me to commit through the route. At the top I had a stitch from the exertion and a lot of grazes :). Golden whatever will have to wait for another time...

Staffin Slip - My aim was mileage and/or giving Jugs Of Deception a go, well I gave it a go but since it was pumpy, blind, committing, relentless and generally a bit fucking hard, I didn't do it but I did the mileage thing instead, 45m each of Gorbachev and Woman Of The Eighties felt like bloody miles especially the latter which was quite an epic battle. Rounded off the day with a couple of shorter jamming delights but unfortunately just missed dinner at the splendid Granary Restaurant in Portree, oh well more tuna pasta heavily seasoned with midges at The Slig.

Suidhe Biorach - My clear desires were Digitalis and Mother's Pride, the former I was pretty confident and relaxed about, the latter I was just plain shitting myself about, remember how I moan about super-steep Scottish trad, will this motherfucker has pride of place in the steep trad stakes. Well it was worth the mental effort of getting on it - the first roof is a battle and probably the crux, the rest niche is plentiful, the second "roof" is a technical delight, and the arcing top wall is as super-juggy as it is super-steep. There's even a perfect jamming rest squatting on a wee knobble, all of this perched well out above the sparkling sea. Just brilliant. Digitalis is equally brilliant, great wall climbing with a spot-on "just enough" crux. A great end to a great trip.


Each day on this trip I faced a good challenge, mental or physical or both. Each day I managed to get fully focused and engrossed in the challenge, and each time I really enjoyed the state of mind and the climbing situation I got into. Now I finally feel that I am climbing a bit more normally, a bit truer to the inspirations and challenges I enjoy. Now it's time to focus on a few other things, but also to try to capitalise on my climbing with additional training (wall, gym), some diversification (sport, bouldering), and quicker but hopefully equally intense fixes of day trips and weekends. This trip has wrapped things up nicely and at the moment I feel in a good state for progression via a flexible focus.

Going along with this, I did learn some useful lessons:

1. Oooomph and determination - I've been worried about the lack of this in my climbing, and thus a lack of confidence to tackle harder routes. I think this is perhaps a chicken and egg situation....I generally haven't been tackling harder routes, so I generally haven't needed much I generally haven't had any! Just getting on some challenging routes this weekend seemed to bring out the required determination by virtue of simply being in that situation and rising to the challenge.

2. Breathing - I seemed to both forget to breathe quite often when seconding and then find things distinctly hard, and also sometimes really focus on my breathing while shaking out during lead climbing battles and then find things distinctly improving. A clear and unsurprising lesson perhaps, but having some awareness of it over consecutive routes highlights it as something useful to focus on.

3. Footwork - Watching my partner Ross, a young hotshot from Ratho (but thankfully skilled and competent on the trad despite a tendency to forget ropes and probably his head if it wasn't attached to his body), I tended to notice how much he focuses on digging his feet into the tiniest of footholds (and therefore gets up routes, including ones I'd struggle with). My technique is good and my footwork fine, but I still could be more confident and trusting with small footholds, so maybe I can take that on board....if one can teach an old dog new tricks, hmmm...

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Rapid Reiff Raid.

Rapid indeed - Saturday morning until Sunday night. For all the traditional Reiff convenience, it has a certain atmosphere at 8pm on a grey, windy Sunday, standing above The Leaning Block facing an hour walk and a 5 hour drive with little chance of a hot dinner. Tiring, but worth it.

So Reiff, somewhere I had belligerently intended to avoid it as it's one of those "essential" cragging places that everyone whitters on about even though it's not quite as good as it's neighbours of Ardmair, Gairloch/Gruinard, Caithness, Sheigra etc. I went for a few days in 2010, the popular Pinnacle area seemed to confirm suspicions of being overrated, but the further one gets away from there, things improve exponentially in proportion to walk-in length - that hour trek to the Peninsula being a landmark for me as the first time I braved the now immensely fashionable shorts and compression stockings look, and was rewarded with the very good sandstone cragging up there.

Saturday was the Stone Pig cliff. It has a stone that looks like a pig by the parking, that is enough for me. The highlight was: Headstrong - after a huge tantrum resting on Sonique (god I really do suck at this super-steep trad bollox), Headstrong went totally smoothly, and despite being a grade over had some great climbing, the moves to, onto, and above the rest ledge being some of the best I've done recently.

Sunday was the Peninsula area, and after a good long warm-up at the delightful and only slightly steep Golden Walls, the highlight was heading over and doing: Headlong - despite only aiming for a mileage day had seen that the Aberdeen old skool gnarlers had done this the other weekend and....well it was chalked up, the tide was out, I was warmed up, I had to try it. Again it went pretty fine after the "kick in the bawbag" starting moves, really nice to do the easiest line up a big sheer face.

Pretty glad I headed up really. I am feeling slightly less like a complete fucking bumbly now. Although this week I've had little chance to maintain momentum, with minor food poisoning, a day in bed and another day doing little. Still it's proper rest for my body....and a bit of weight loss....and encouraging me to eat light healthy stuff for a while....will hopefully hit the ground crags running cranking in a bit...

Monday, 11 June 2012

Lack Of Velociraptors at the Lost Valley

I have put up with many....difficulties....using Bouldering In Scotland. Approach times and maps have been taken with a pinch of salt, grades, lines and descriptions with a shovelful (although surprisingly the descriptions for the Lost Valley are spot on....and the grades are only 2 grades out). Although it's got me to some great locations, it's often taken trial and error and imagination to get on some great problems, and I've put up with that (mostly by whining about it on this blog). But this time my patience has run out...

"When you finally step down into the Lost Valley after a hike through the gorge of Allt Coire Gabhail, you might expect to see Velociratpors running around in packs, such is the hidden mystery of the place."

Well it might be full of hidden mystery, but I didn't see ANY Velociraptors. Not a single one. Nor Brontasaurii, Diplodocii, Stegadons, Triceratops, Tyranosaurs, not even a fucking Pterdaton.




Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shivering at Sheigra.

...well at least it gave time for the sunburn to settle down! This time the temperature halved in a few days, but once again the weather stayed dry enough to have a great trip away. I'm not going to be complaining about Scottish spring and early summer this year - I've had 18 days away in the North West so far!! This trip was more North than West, taking advantage of the 4 day weekend (enough to turn anyone into a royalist) to tackle a Sheigra mission.

And it was some mission to start: We left from Perth in Simon's van, the A9 was closed so we had a grindingly slow detour via Fort William, getting to Inverness so late that we had to crash out in the dogging spot (plenty of COCK FUN on offer apparently - but I didn't see any....who knows what happened in the back of the van though...) just past Garve. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the van's clutch started going at Inchbae. Simon managed to limp it to Ullapool, where of course it turns out the clutch/gearbox work would be hideously expensive and maybe could be started the next Wednesday. Gulp.  Tried to find a hire car in Ullapool - none available. Get a bus back to Inverness - the only buses are timed to coinicide with the Stornoway ferry and arrive just after all the hire companies close. Taxi (!) - £80. Double gulp. we were enquiring in the tourist information office, the lady's partner casually said "Oh yes I'm going to Inverness soon, I'll give you a lift just after I've had me breakfast". What a GENT. We got a nippy little Astra from the airport, cained the fuck out of it back to Ullapool, packed it to the brim with all our kit, and resumed the journey, 5 hours later and one van down. Got to Rhiconich, got to Rhiconich Crag, a nice wee sheet of undulating gneiss, and...


...CALM. Calm and syke and the simplicity of good climbing after all that debacle. Did a few routes, went to the Rhiconich Bloodstone, did a few boulder problems, went to the Scourie campsite (very nice, good value, good vibe), ate a few meatballs (okay a lot of meatballs), had a few hours sleep (okay several, but not enough!). The days then followed a similar pattern: wake in the morning to 4am sunrise and rain showers, grumpily go back to sleep, wake again a few hours later and realise everything was dry, brave the bracing breeze and go climbing on great gneiss, inland or sea-side. Second Geo was as good as usual, The Balcony was a great hidden gem slab, the Akita Boulder was surprisingly where the guide said it was and a great bit of rock somewhat marred by atrocious climber-crushing landings and amusing "Dave Macleod tries to grade V4s" grades, our fingertips couldn't cope anyway, and the First Geo was as fucking STEEP as usual but I managed to scrape up Monkey Man by the skin of my teeth - or more like the skin of my hands....I lost a lot of it in the undercling jam "rest". Having backed off the start of MM on my previous Sheigra trip in 2008 (then with a fucked left elbow rather than a fucked right one), this had been a main goal for the trip (despite not being a very big number, it is clearly adjectivally harder than steady slabs like Unleash The Beast at Ardmair and Big Country Dreams at Cambusbarron!), and I'd been worrying about having enough fitness, determination, and the right rock conditions to get it done. A fitting end to the trip.

Not sure what the weather is doing next....but at least I'm narrowing down my aims for the next 4 months: Week in Lewis (tricky), long weekend on Orkney/Yesnaby (tricky), 3 days on Skye (doable by weekends), 3 days around Reiff (doable by weekends), and the usual Gairloch / Glen Nevis / Creag Dubh / Aberdeen bollox (all weekend or even day trip friendly). So only two logistically difficult trips. Just need to keep organised and keep fit (my climbing is still fairly balls but getting a bit better with the mileage I think).

P.S. No photos as the blogspot photo inclusion thing is so bloody awful, I can't be arsed fighting with it, go here instead:

Friday, 1 June 2012

Scorching on Skye

Second weekend in a row, racking up about 1200 miles total. But it's a miraculous slice of spring / summer / searing sunshine, so it's worth it. This time I assumed that the North East facing sea-cliffs of Trotternish would be a great escape from the sun. This was partly right, apart from Staffin being a great escape from any form of breeze and thus a haven for midges as well as sweaty shade-seekers. So we went swimming off the slipway and for an excellent cafe lunch in the Granary Restaurant in Portree instead and I had a nap and slogged up to the Old Man Of Storr which is the most bizarre and Alien landscape in the UK and Staffin stays on the wishlist along with further days at Neist and Elgol.

This rest day was sandwiched between some highly rewarding crack climbing at: Kilt Rock, which contains one of the 3 so-called "essential" bits of climbing I was belligerently determined to avoid in Scotland, Grey Panther (along with the over-hyped Reiff, which I have been to and enjoyed despite it being obviously inferior to Caithness, Sheigra, Ardmair, Gairloch, Gruinard etc, and Etive Slabs which still have no appeal). In it's defence Grey Panther did look very good when I abseiled down (apart from the shocking amount of crack-avoidance going on, looking at the chalk), so I did Edge Of Beyond and Skyeman instead. Rubha Hunish, the most Northerly point in Skye (Neist is the most Westerly, the Easterly and Southerly don't have any promoted climbing), where I did the intimidating but utterly excellent Whispering Crack, which took some determination to get on but a lot of pleasure once on it, and finally:

An Sgudan (sp!) boulders beneath the Cuillin, where after an epic slog in in my underpants (I now have burnt thighs with a pantline), I flashed the 10m 8m tape-up tapeless hard-as-nails pretty easy 7a V4+ mega-classic Pump Up The Jam. In the end there was very little climbing per day but it was great enough to be worthwhile. I'm feeling a bit less punterly, my elbow feels good in the heat, and I'm taking advantage of the weather.