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)