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: