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.

No comments: