Thursday, 30 May 2013

Gotta stop punting...

» Gotta make plans more pro-actively.
(I still do too much faffing around worrying about weather and the right people and the best plans, I've got to stop doing this and just get organised and go climbing.)

» Gotta get going earlier in the morning.
(Too much time wasted not getting on with it.)

» Gotta stop pestering partners who have their fixed groups.
(Too much time hanging on waiting for people I seem to get on with well but rarely include me in their outdoor climbing.)

» Gotta keep training my fingers.
(Still worried about not being able to last long on small crimpy holds, need to keep focusing on them.)

» Gotta keep doing circuits at TCA.
(Have been recommended it as a way to train crucial endurance, I've finally managed to do the stopper move green circuit, so I feel I can progress with that.)

» Gotta keep doing falling practise, and do it harder.
(Had a good session last time, need to ramp it up with bigger falls AND trying harder routes until I unavoidably come off)

» Gotta pace my wall training so I don't trash my skin.
(One of the main problems I'm having with training....I can get stronger to compensate for being a fucking bloater, but I can't get my skin better, so it grinds off and limits further training. Shorter sessions and stopping before it's trashed.)

» Gotta do my shoulder exercises daily.
(Still tweaky, only due to sleeping not climbing, but it's not getting any stronger by doing nothing)

» Gotta get some more Super Chalk.
(Got Moon Dust that's like rubble and DMM chalk that's like silky talc, fuck that shit my skin is sweaty enough without bad chalk)

» Gotta order some more Anasazis.
(The 7.5s I mail-ordered were more like 8s, comfy enough but I have nothing precise with rubber left on them, why is climbing kit so damn hard to get in Scotland.)

» Gotta keep running.
(I hate it, it sucks, last time was 5 mins warm-up, 10 mins of constant demoralising pain, but it keeps me moving.)

» Gotta keep stretching.
(Too old and fragile not to.)

» Gotta sleep better.
(Getting fed up with going to bed too late and crashing out in the day. Napping != training/climbing)

» Gotta be careful with caffeine.
(Almost certainly the cause of the above, I love coffee but only in moderation, gotta stop abusing it)

» Gotta eat healthier and drink more water.
(Related to above. Had lots of fun junk food in Ullapool but still not detoxed enough from it.)

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Unsuccessful-ish Ullapool.

An odd but good long weekend away, mostly avoiding my main inspirations but still having a good time despite a few setbacks.

Glen Clova:
Didn't do anything, and...

The Wildebeest - tried the start a few times, stupidly dangerous despite no mention of this in the guide. Blind dynamic 6a crimping with a couple of friable looking holds, no gear, and a terrible landing. Incomprehensible.

Clairvoyant Reality - tried this instead, another very dangerous horrorshow. Precarious off-balance shuffling, I committed to a sketchy move to get a tiny fingerflake with possible gear behind, but couldn't take my hand off to place it. 6m up with no gear and little chance of going up or down, absolutely hideous, one of the worst climbing moments I can recall, with a very real prospect of breaking my lower limbs. I somehow managed to slither back down by the skin of my teeth. Ridiculous.

Empire Of The Sun - Had a look and was pretty inspired but still felt sick after the previous route, no chance of going near it.

Did a few good leads that got my head back into climbing after getting totally spooked at Clova - Operation Brumby had a good committing crux, and Aussie Rules was a really nice and fairly committing route. But...

Neart Nan Gaidheal - too still and muggy at the end of the day. Very inspired but needs a fresher day.

Burning Desire - seeping!

Did a couple of pleasant routes and also managed the walk-in both ways with only one small rest each time. Whether it's familiarity or a lighter rucsac, I don't know, but it's good exercise and it's reassuring that I can cope with it. But...

The Gift - far too greasy. Very inspired, I reckon it might be manageable.

The Screamer - far too greasy. Intimidating but I could probably warm up into it.

The Road To Nowhere - too still at the end of the day. Pretty inspired despite the pokiness, but needs a fresher day.

Split Personality - the so-called "well protected" crack on Golden Walls, what utter horseshit. Having comfortably done the other 3 Golden Wall routes, this should have been fine but quite clearly wasn't. Steeper, worse breaks, harder crux, so-so shallow cams below the crux and hard to place adequate gear off bad holds after the crux. Mis-graded and mis-described in Scottish Rock.

Goat Crag:
Did Hydrotherapy after the steady warm-up route. Skin of my teeth battle of blind cruxes, sloping holds, and sweaty hands, and definitely harder than the following F7as: The Ticks Ate All The Midges, Sand In My Pants, Expecting To Fly, Clutching At Straws, Going Through On Aggregate, etc etc, still it was a good value fight, and after 3-4 days my tweaky finger was still feeling okay. But...

Freakshow - another horseshit description in Scottish Rock. No hard climbing but utterly ridiculously steep and pumpy, the so-called "crux" diagonal break was a piece of piss (E3 5c to the down-pointing spike), the so-called easier flake was extra pumpy, and the so-called good holds at the final crack were smooth flat layaways just as I was too exhausted to use them. Obviously I simply wasn't good enough to do the climb, but being accurately mentally prepared for the challenge might have helped enough.


At the end of this weekend, I haven't done anything I planned to do, have hardly tried anything I wanted to do, have failed on things I did try. But... I've got back into the trad, I've got some useful and reassuring mid-range mileage, I've come pretty close to a very challenging route, I've started to feel familiar with the Reiff walk-in, I've had a useful reminder about conditions, I've got some good exercise and I've maintained the syke. I'll try to put into action ASAP.

Monday, 13 May 2013

County Syke.

Along with "May is often the greatest trad month in Scotland", another usually reliable maxim is "If it's wet in the North West, it's dry in Northumberland". Especially when it's definitely westerly bollox weather and the forecast is for dry and breezy from Alnwick to Coldstream....and we're just past Jedburgh and it's wanking it down. So in the end I drove over 200 miles this weekend to second one route I'd soloed before, in the icy wind and sporadic showers at Back Bowden. Wow. Still we gave it a go and I got to recce a couple of routes and I was still fucked with this chest infection (now on anti-biotics, so back to training as soon as they kick in and back to climbing as soon as the weather fucks the fuck off) so couldn't do much anyway and during the drive I managed to work out how to crush the last mission of Heart Of The Swarm (build an entire army of Swarm Hosts, slowly burrow forwards, and use Kerrigan to take out any Ravens and other air units....I think I lost about 5/200 supply of units in the final battle). I also got to ponder more on the County, and came to the conclusion that although I have climbed at loads of crags and done loads of great routes, I haven't done much that's actually challenging, and if the dire weather continues, I might have the opportunity to do some more down there. So far I've done:

Outward Bound @ Back Bowden - easy and fun.
Sir Francis @ The Drake Stone - easy moves but damn bold!
Broken Wing @ Great Wanney - quite tricky and committing
Thin Ice @ Great Wanney - safe and steady, cool climbing.
Shine On @ Howlerhirst - steady but committing, nice.
Stealth @ Linshields 1 - bold and good.
Mirage @ Lineshields 1 - bold and good.
Stella @ South Yardhope - kinda serious but manageable and a cool route.

Also I've backed off / failed on:

The Trial @ Bowden - downclimbed from the upper crux 5 times, reachy and dangerous.
Rice Krispies @ Callerhues - escaped at finish, pretty bold.
The Sabbath @ Kyloe Out - fell off crux onto slider (backed up with 3 bomber cams)
Over The Edge @ Simonside - backed off start, hard and dangerous sandbag.

Generally there is a correlation between success on "bold routes above gear" and failure on "dangerous routes before/without gear". Throw in a bit of confidence and a lot of inspiration for cool lines, and my wishlist starts to look like this:

Back Bowden:
Merlin - steep as fuck but actually has gear in. Might need a partner abseil clean / thread replace. Lots of bouldering to warm-up.
Hard Reign - should be fine.
On The Verge - bold and smeary grit style. Intimidating but with the right sort of bouldering warm-up, could be okay.

The Gauleiter - thin but good gear in break.
Goose Step - not sure about gear situation on this.
Poseidon Adventure - *gulp*, very bold without pads, will need a lot of bouldering training.
The Trial - 6th time lucky??

Twin Hats - should be fine with committment
Ned Kelly -should be fine with committment
Toshiba Receiver - should be fine with some finger training and a lot of faffing with gear.

Goat Crag:
Overdrive - should be fine.
Underpass - should be fine.
Hard Shoulder - bold but I'm usually okay on aretes.

Great Wanney:
Endless Flight - super-inspiring, gotta stick with the falling practise.
East Buttress Direct - as long as it's not too serious to start.
Pratchett's Plunge - should be fine with some cunning.

Kyloe Out:
First Born - probably bloody hard but safe and can try to use bouldering strength.

Master Blaster - inspiring, intimidating, might need a partner abseil clean, but it's gotta be worth a look.
Masterstroke - if I'm too scared for MB but feeling strong enough. I have sliders!

Also got to visit Harehope Canyon, do a few harder things at Jack Rock, more mileage at Callerhues too, but the whole Simonside plateau can fuck off until it's been climbed on enough to be in good condition. Anyway that's enough to be getting on with...

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Direness.

Dire and damp, both outside and inside. Outside the weather is celebrating the onset of Scotland's reliable prime trad month of May by twatting it down, with the forecast in the West being dire for the foreseeable future and the East being not a whole lot better. Inside the damp is coagulating in my lungs, absorbing dust, bonding with defensive mucus, sapping my energy and getting coughed out at 4am as the punter-flu lingers and malingers in a most unwelcome way.

I feel a bit like this:

This is all pretty fucking boring, I want to get out and climb awesome routes or if not I want to train hard and keep fit and strong and focused. As well as the best winter's bouldering ever, this spring has been the best start to a trad season for the challenges tackled: A pre-emptive strike to Morocco, a great Easter weekend, and sporadic days since in which I've felt bouldering strength and regular falling practice have combined into something approaching "confidence" (a rare feeling) and have outweighed the default "punterdom"(usually much less rare). Obviously I want to capitalise THE FUCK out of this and obviously shit weather and a shit cold don't help.

So what I am going to do is be patient (for a couple more days until I stop fucking coughing), order that Devourment CD to get me syked, then get back into the training. Easy mileage at first because I will be SHIT, then build up to circuits and comp wall problems, mix in gym sessions, and all the time get to lead walls for more falling practise - all the fucking time. If the weather keeps being a cock then I might even head South or abroad for climbing. Anyone with me??

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Challenge #4: Downies Syndrome.

As can be seen most of the inspiring climbing - indeed any climbing - I am currently doing is in the Centre and East of Scotland, because in this haphazard showery climate (currently glorious in the West then forecast to piss down), the East has the most reliable weather, although not the most reliable climbing conditions...

This weekend was a planned trip to the Aberdeen sea-cliffs, described during the week as "probably the best condition I've had any north or east facing coast crag", "pretty good nick", and "dry and in excellent condition". It seems we were there on the exact cusp of conditions changing from excellent to appalling, as the wind swung around from WSW to SSW with shocking changes in warmth and moisture. This cusp didn't even happen overnight or during the day, it happened during one ascent... That ascent was Downies Syndrome, and when I started it was starting to feel greasy (although thankfully positive enough not to affect the challenge where it mattered), by the time we were back down it was glistening wet.

So I'd sneaked in in the nick of time and it was well worth the effort as it's a brilliant route with committing cruxes, an all out slap for me, just enough protection, and a whole lot of pump - even the HVS 4c finishing wall felt hard afterwards. It's not the hardest thing I've done this year but it's hard enough, and it's worth noting that the bizarre attempts by locals (possibly the same locals who have tried to christen the amenable Ardmair as "Hardmair"????) to mis-grade this route and it's neighbour Auto Da Fe, are complete horseshit: It is not E3 5c and ADF is not E3 5b. They are great routes with currently fair grades, particularly in the context of Bobalouie (which definitely does need re-grading) and The Paranormal (which is very amenable and another satisfying route to sneak in). On a normal/national scale, some Berrymuir routes are:

Downies Syndrome E4 6a *** - at least a full grade harder than B and TP - harder cruxes, two of them, steepier, pumpier and spaced gear. Modern small gear makes no difference as it's medium cams that are crucial.

Execretor E4 5c ** - solid at this grade, shortlived and reasonable protection but slopey and pokey.

Auto Da Fe E4 5c *** - soft but still a full adjectival grade harder than B and TP. Easy 5c but  very steep, committing, and with possible groundfall if one muffed anything near the break. An off-route side-runner in the block of The Flatulent Alien is just that.

X-Crack E3 5c ** - failed on the ledge in hot conditions but only a couple of moves and clearly a grade easier than DS, Ex, and ADF.

Bobalouie E3 5c ** - my warm-up for ADF, wild but steady, shortlived, and very obvious gear.

The Paranormal E3 5c *** - my warm-up for DS, a couple of bouldery moves off the ground, then easy and safe E2 5b with good rests (both B and TP hard sections are like doing an easier version of half of Downies Syndrome).

Obviously this is nothing to do with ego nor grade-chasing - I have as little to do with that bollox as possible, and with 7 leads of E4 and above this year I have nothing to prove to myself. What it does have to do with is: Firstly SOMEONE IS WRONG IN THE INTERNET so clearly that needs sorting out ;). Secondly as an outsider who has visited the Aberdeen coast A LOT, I think it has plenty of interesting and exciting good climbing, despite it's fickle nature and pokiness, and I think that quality needs to be represented fairly. It's not a good promotion of the coastline to have some routes mis-graded for local benefit rather than accurately graded for everyone's benefit.

At any rate there is little arguing with the quality, when in good condition, and gull-eyed readers might notice that both DS and ADF should be upstarred. Maybe subjective, but they are worth the effort. I remain unconvinced about the X wall though - too slopey.

The next day was fully smegged out, so after recceing Long Slough and Craig Stirling and getting well inspired for drier times, we went to Ballater AGAIN, it was warm and I did very little except one minor fun route as I had a sore throat and now I have punter-flu ARSE BOLLOX ETC.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Best Winter Season Ever?

It's the start of May and definitely into prime spring/summer tradding season: It's cunting it down in Glasgow and the forecast for the whole of the North West is dire. Hopefully it's early days though. In the meantime I feel an urge to retrospect on the Scottish Winter Season aka Fuck All That Pointless And Ludicrous Snow Plodding Shit And Go Bouldering Instead Season, which happened to be bloody good this year - lots of the boulders were in prime "nick", as was my inspiration and choice of blocs.

Thus I think this has been my best bouldering season ever - not necessarily for difficulty, nor overall difficulty, nor quantity, but for sheer diversity and quality of problems, better even than any season I had living in Sheffield. To put it in perspective, here's my ticklists of the most prominent and inspiring Scottish problems over the last 4 seasons:

Monkey Spanking V8
Spanking The Monkey V6
Slap And Tickle V5
The Prow V4

Clash Arete V7
Retroclaim V6
Jawa V4
Tourist Trap V4
The Nose V4
Slipstones Thing V5
The Persuader V4
Outstanding V4
Razor's Edge V6

Powerhouse V6
The Economist V5
Watch Your Back V4
The Nose V4
Black Orc V6
Thousand Year Egg V4
Flying Fiend V4
The Wall V5

Romancing The Stone V6
Squelch V5
Haven V5
A Long Winning Streak V5
The Dude V6
The Slippery Slope V5
Brin Done Before V5
Le Toit Du Col Du Mouton V6
Sheep Pen Groove V4
Gale Force V6
Autumn Arete V6
Pyramid Lip V5
The Bottler V4
Excitement In The Buoys V6
Right Arete SS V4
Forever Unfulfilled V4
Stretch Armstrong V6
Big Growly Thing V5

Summer outliers:
Butterboy V4
Peel Sessions V4
Pump Up The Jam V5
White Matter V6
Bowfinger V6
Diesel Canary V5
Helipad V4
Good Ass V4

As can be seen, although I haven't quite done more awesome problems in this one season than all 3 previous seasons put together, it's pretty close! As well as the diversity and sheer classic quality of many of these problems, there is a wide personal variety for me, from problems that inspired me for years (Brin Done Before, Haven), to problems that only recently inspired me but took some serious effort (Gale Force, Autumn Arete), to problems I never thought I'd get round to (Romancing The Stone, Stretch Armstrong) and problems I hadn't even heard of until recently (the Farr Boulder trio).

The end result: For all the driving and heather-slogging and crappy information and neglect and bog and rain and midges and moss, Scottish bouldering has some bloody great national-class maybe even world-class problems, and I am happy to have explored many of them :).

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Challenge #3 - The Prow.

I managed to sneak up to Cummingston in perfect spring conditions and tackle another cool challenge - the steep, striking, and supposedly serious Prow. I'd had a good look at this before and worked out some cunning gear placements to protect the bulk of it - I knew it would take a lot of faffing, but that should warm me into the steepness nicely and get me ready for the daunting lip shenanigans. And it worked perfectly:

Cummingston Prow the safe way.

As with Smith's Arete, the amount of faff and downclimbing did spoil the purity for me, but also does fit the nature of the route - once all the faff is done, it makes it a slightly-bold-feeling but essentially very fun romp in space, rather than a dangerous solo. A grade easier to lead but maybe a star extra? After this I went to do Aesthetic Ape in a more straightforward way - worked out the start, placed the gear, and got on with it past the very funky and slopey crux. Another rewarding experience.

The slight downside to the visit was muffing what should have been Challenge #4 at Huntly's Cave - Lime Street. I'd warmed up fine on Huntly's Wall, then later got on Lime Street. Right at the start my hands were cold and instead of doing the sensible thing and reversing to either let them warm up or leave it for a warmer day, I pressed on into the steepness and pumpy layback and lack of ability to grip and falling off bollox terrain. Although I'm climbing pretty well this early in the season, it doesn't mean the rock has magically warmed up enough to make perma-shaded pump-fests suitable at this time of year - a good lesson about conditions.

I also had a realisation that I am doing pretty well on climbs where I can blast through a tricky section to an obvious respite / rest / protection, but I reckon I might struggle with long sustained periods of tiring climbing, and I reckon that the circuit boards at TCA might just be the thing for that. As well as more falling practice at the mighty R, of course. Looks like the weather will provide the opportunity for both...