Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Brilliant Brin, Funky Fleet.

Brin Done Before!

Over 3 years later I've finally got back to Brin with a bouldering partner (my first time out this season with a friend, too!), and finally done Brin Done Before (what a crap name for an amazing problem). It's not hard but it's high and committing and totally brilliant and I had to dismount into the tree a couple of times before working out the finish, just as the sleet came in and soaked everything.

From sleet to Fleet and the next day in glorious sunshine we drove up to Loch Fleet and trekked up to Creag An Amalaidh, a new crag in the 7aMax guide. This was developed by the guide authors so obviously all slightly overgraded and slightly overrated, but still a good early season venue, on interesting conglomerate that's more like Sarclett than Moy. 6 routes with shirt off and beanie on and hard to believe this was February in Northern Scotland.

Routes season open then!!

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Gathering problems at Garheugh Point.

Big Growly Thing V5 * , Garheugh Point
The hanging "bear's arse" at the left end of the prominent Barrel Roof in the roadside bay just N of the wee stream. Start sitting from a L sloper and R sidepull crimp, and gain the arete via a variety of shenanigans. Pull onto the slab finish and a short drop off. Slightly flakey rock around but fun climbing, decent landing, and a sheltered spot.

fiend big1

Tried this last spring I think, it took a while to work out a sequence, including pulling off a hanging fang where the roof undercling now is, and it was too warm for the upper sloper. Went back the other month and it was seeping. Went back recently and it was all good. There are many possible sequences, and it took me another hour of working before I remembered the kneebar. Overall it is a funky problem with the ground usefully rising up beneath you, so you get a decent amount of climbing for it's low height.

The funny thing about Scotland is there are so many decent-good new lines to do, some of them aren't even that epic, that distant, or require that much excavating, just putting a bit of effort in. But I tend to prefer new problems that will actually get climbed (definitely not guaranteed in Scottish bouldering), either a whole new circuit, or something truly classic, or useful additions to a current circuit. I've got a couple of other such lines up my sleeve but then again it's starting to get towards routes season soon and my 7aMax guide needs some testing...

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Good cranking at Glen Clova

Rad roofism.

Not much more to say except it really was that warm, even hanging out between attempts, but the rock was still cool and the problem was brilliant, another unsung gem that every Scottish boulderer should do as part of a Clova visit.

Skin is still tender tho.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Inverness Incursion.

Raaargh Ruthven boulder.

The attack:

After the retreat (see below), I returned to the ever-reliable Ruthven (even more so now some sensible person has cleared some heather off the top). As always this gave a good micro-session of proper powerful bouldering on great rock above great landings, with the shady side providing essential respite from the shocking 10'c temps around Inverness. The Dude I hadn't really considered until a previous session in which a fellow boulderer pointed out if was actually quite reasonable. Which it was, but excellent of course. Slippery Sloper bollox problem had taken enough skin off on both visits for me to firmly decide it was indeed a bollox graunch of a problem and I didn't like it as much as it didn't like me. I'm not sure what happened this time as despite the relative above-zero warmth, I got the move sorted and actually enjoyed it. The Big Lebowski was wet at the end so there's still something to come back for.

The retreat:

Brin Done Before was the first truly inspiring problem I saw in Scotland (outside of Dumby which I'd already got slightly jaded with even before I moved up), and over three years later it is still mesmerising: A jaunty prow jutting precariously a long way above a decent landing, all funky angles and massive steepness leading to a wildly high finish. It's been on my mind since I spied it in the depths of winter, and I've been pondering how to deal with the highball nature without a spotter or half-decent pads. My memory must have been poor as I was envisaging a weird slopey terracey landing, and had planned to warm up by extensively patioing this with local tree debris. But it isn't like that, the landing is "okay", just gently undulating with a few minor rocks. The problem is - apart from the steepness and height - the weird angles of the roof and the weird off balance slaps along a finger seam to get through it. Each move your body could fly off in a different direction, without even getting to the finish. On my own I think I'd need FOUR pads (at least two good ones), with a spotter probably just three. So I will be rallying the troops for a return visit - hopefully it's very-top-end-of-three-stars classic nature, easy access, lovely location, and good circuit options will be enticing to someone.

The surrender:

The next day I went to Glen Nevis to try to mop up more new problems on the Southside. To cut a boring day short, the main problem I wanted to do was in theory a mini-classic - a short steep prow with a good landing, clean line, great starting holds for a natural sitter, nice slopey finish....the only problem the rock is so outrageously rough it is like fridgehugging up a giant cheesegrater that's been sculpted out of gravel. Despite baltic conditions, I don't think I have the skin for it, nor the inclination to keep wasting layers trying. After many attempts and just as much puzzlement I felt a bit too tender and battered and sacked it off. On the plus side the Polldubh crags are getting loads of sun now so it could be trad action soon YEAH.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Carrock Flail and Etive Excretions.

Carrock... A sketchy wee problem above a sketchy wee terrace and long slope....If I missed the final move I would end up back down at the car!!

Monkey Trunk standing start.

The best winter friction bouldering in Scotland is....Carrock Fell?? Sure there are contenders around Wester Ross and Inverness and maybe Glen Nevis, but most of these still involve cranking hard or reaching hard. Carrock seems to have a fair amount of proper friction bouldering i.e. rough burly sloper problems I can just cheat my way up in sub-zero temperatures, which would otherwise be impossible for a fat weak puntersaurus outside of winter. Ignoring some arbitrary eliminates and sticking to the strong lines, it's rather good really.

So this was supposed to be another (link) day of awesomely crisp sending conditions, yet somehow I managed to noob it up... Warmed up, rock looked dank and dark but felt good, fingers went nicely numb and firm-skinned. Trotted uphill to recce other problems with gloves on waiting for the hot aches for the next round. Took gloves off and my left hand had gone totally soft and soggy WTFingF?? Pulled on to Terrace Wall, felt shit, had many goes on Kit's Grooved Arete interspersed with lying down waving my bare hands in the breeze, felt shit and failed on what is pretty much a descent route. Squeezing micro-drops of sweat out of my fingers, despite it being cold enough to freeze them... Eventually they dried up enough, I tantrumed my way through working Monkey Trunk, tore the same bloody micro-flapper on the same scar-line ridge on my finger I did last session, went down to Old Spice, worked out a possible sequence just in time for me to have to leave ASAP, and twinged my shoulder putting the mats on my back. PUNTER. Also fuck those stupid gloves, I've ripped the thinsulate inners out and not making that mistake again.


Prior to this, last week's semi-aborted mission was to the Glen Etive boulders, again trying to maximise the icy temps by dabbling in some off-piste granite. Suffice to say that the Etive boulders combine possibly the most beautiful bouldering situation in Scotland - on the sun-dappled shores of a stream-fed sea-loch in tranquil and expansive glen, with the "extreme walking" of the Etive Slabs sitting entirely unappealingly above - with some of the most mediocre bouldering. For context: When TCA first opened in Glasgow, one of my few but valid complaints, aside from the hideous Holdz holds, was the few problems that spoiled the otherwise good setting by having ugly and unenjoyable sit-start crux graunches on pointlessly poor holds leading to easier proper climbing above. Thankfully these tedious aberrations have mostly been weeded out - indoor climbing is always training for outdoor climbing, and if you were faced with such a shit start outside, you wouldn't waste time on a shit problem, so why was time training for it?? The main Etive boulder proved exactly this, with most "problems" being horrendous butt-clenching cranks off miserable holds to gain proper holds and one more move to top out. A non-move wonder with a crap sit-start doesn't make a boulder problem it just makes a worse non-move wonder. Suffice to say it was actually a relief when I'd tried enough that it was time to go.

In between these two mighty expeditions, I had a mild stomach bug that wiped me out for a day and another day recovering and actually eating, a fairly dire TCA session where it seems all of my technique has been shat out of my arse along with any remaining vestiges of strength, another decent GCC session where it felt quite nice just pulling on holds, and a shockingly bad lack of motivation for the gym, hence feeling heavy and sluggish. Hmph. Still there is enough winter left and hopefully enough syke!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Long Game at Laggan.

Day 1 - Grey and breezy. Went to Laggan 1, had a ruckus with the farmer (thankfully resolved), drove to Laggan 2 but so disillusioned I didn't even walk in.

Day 2 - Bright and snowy. Got to the bloc, the top was covered in snow and I couldn't even get up the downclimb to clean it. Worked out all the moves, got on the upper arete but hands to numb to hang on.

Day 3 - Grey and still. Got to the bloc, got on top of the bloc, cleaned the upper arete. Kinda claggy day and greased off top arete twice. Not wise.

Day 4 - Forecast breezy and sunny. Drove to Dalwhinnie. Breezy and....heavy cloud and horizontal sleet.

Day 5 - Bright and crisp. Tore tiny flapper in left finger and large blood blister in right thumb. But discovered that it's a lot easier to climb on clean dry rock that's not covered in snow or condensation....

But THIS was worth the effort:

One of the best problems in the UK...

Remember what I was saying about:

"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??"
Well that's what I was talking about :).

As a bonus, here's the flipside of Scottish bouldering: Dodgy eliminate with arbitrary positions and boring grade debate. But hey it was a fun problem in it's own right:

Chop chop.