Sunday, 23 June 2013

More steps...

Ratho #1 - Went along with suitably low expectations and came away with surprisingly high reassurance. The ulterior motive was falling practice of course, and I was sweating in the car on the drive over about the prospect of dropping off! I decided to start small and work up, and ended up taking a few decent falls and doing a few decent routes. Fiend 1 - Punterage 0.

Falcon Crag - I've started to revise the Lake District guides and realise that I still have plenty of easy mileage to do there, not stuff that really fires me up but plenty of choice at least. Falcon Crag is a prime example as it's butt-ugly with weird rock and weirder lines, but there's loads of mid-grade routes to go at and the adventurous terrain, spaced protection and inevitable massive rope drag make for good trad practice. I did fine on a couple of easier routes, and enjoyed them despite the crag aesthetics (or lack thereof).

Castle Rock - More revision, this time of the quite frankly excellent Eastern Crags guide which not only covers a lot of climbing closest to Scotland, but has the best photo-topos I've seen for the rambling mashed up Lakes crags. The main wall topo at Castle Rock look like viewing a tube map on acid, but they do actually make sense of the features. Another couple of easy-ish routes, one of which took a wee bit of effort and I put that wee bit in and again it went fine. Rigor Mortis, actually a brilliant route, more enjoyment, more positive steps.

Ratho #2 - Slightly higher expectations, slightly better performance. I'm actually climbing closer to my normal Ratho average despite still punting along outside. More pumpy routes, more fun falls. Well not too many falls, with Robert D on the end of the rope with his super-stiff lock-off plate, I got a bit bored of the 6 Gs of deceleration at the end of each fall nearly snapping me in half. I need to go there with more skinny oiks and wee lasses I think ;).

I'm starting to feel like a crap climber climbing easy routes well, rather than a crap climber climbing easy routes badly. That is another step... I'm also enjoying the easy routes, which gives me the correct positive motivation to try things a bit harder....maybe....

Monday, 17 June 2013

Baby Steps...

Day in the Lakes, at Swirl Crag. Unlike last time in the Lakes, I didn't wreck a tyre on a fallen rock, didn't waste 3 hours and £170 getting it sorted out, and didn't wreck my sanity by failing on an easy warm-up route and doing fuck all else. Okay, this time I did fail on the easy warm-up route, well it was a bit tricky but as usual I was a bit fucking rubbish, got sloppy with my feet, and pinged off the sort of move that is normally utterly familiar to me. So starting the day with the usual bollox. But I managed to salvage something by getting up a couple of other easy warm-up routes for mileage (pretty much the sort of routes I wouldn't have even bothered getting on two months ago).

Crap climber does easy routes - not noteworthy in itself, BUT for a change I actually enjoyed them. They were good climbs - a steep powerful thin crack on one, a bold balancy thin crack on the other (above) with good climbing, on a new-to-me crag that I'd fancied visiting, and I was a bit more focused on trying to do them well. Focus that I wouldn't normally need, but focus that got me involved in appreciating the routes and hinting at the possibilty of progressing slowly by using and pushing that focus. A small step for punterkind....

Friday, 14 June 2013

When 5c is no longer easy, and 5b isn't a rest any more...

Glen Nevis, another zone of usual comfort and maximum inspiration. Another easy mileage day where the easy felt hard and the hard felt incomprehensible despite my colossal personal desire to tackle it. Every time I think about, read about, see one of the challenging routes that inspires me, I want to do them with such a pure passion, but at the same time they just seem incompatible with my current state. It's like not being myself, living as someone else, and being unable to reconcile a true view and a distorted view.

This comes out when I am doing mileage routes - I feel it is something I need to do, should do (see....wrong terms for climbing desire already!) to get back to progressing, but that does not feel right for me. Gym training is horrible BUT it is a means to an end. Indoor wall training is just training but it is fun and means to an end. Climbing is not a means to an end, climbing is the end, an all-encompassing action and activity in it's own right, where the path to progression has as much value as the progression. Thus routes-as-training is valuable only if those routes are intrisically valuable irrespective of the end goal of doing them.

Certainly the few climbs I did were good, one even classic, but not being true inspirations, it felt odd doing them - going through the motions, but not my motions. The motions of a shadow-self - a shadow-self who finds smearing unnerving and discomforting, so definitely related to my normal self!! This was perhaps the best learning of the day, how out of touch I am with different rock types. Too much break-to-break-slam-in-cams of Reiff and Ardmair and not enough hunting for RPs at Creag Dubh nor laybacking up rounded ramps at Polldubh. Viewed in this was, I did get important value out of the day, and a lesson learnt.


Concurrently with the above realisations, I was wondering what is best for me during a low period. One thing that is really helpful is having positive and encouraging friends and partners around me. People who have plenty of syke, people who will include me in their plans, people who will happily get me out there and get me involved, people who will recognise when climbing feels difficult and be supportive and understanding, people who will be part of a general good atmosphere of sociability and climbing enthusiasm.

Alas in Scotland this still feels a long way away. Two of my better friends are now parents and very restricted with time. Other friends make very positive noises about getting out climbing but then always seem to be vague to me and then arrange things with other partners. For the day I ended up at Glen Nevis, I had specifically arranged to climb with a regular friend, who had texted me the evening before to acknowledge the plan and suggest somewhere in the Central Highlands, and then texted me shortly after to say he was climbing in the Cairngorms instead - no explanation, no reason to let me down, and no reply to txts nor a phone call asking what was going on. This is hardly a good atmosphere of sociability and climbing enthusiasm!! Thankfully I found someone new at the last minute, but it does show how external odds can be stacked against me, and I'm not sure what I can do about that. Keep banging my head against the wall of txt/msg silence, and keep finding strangers rather than friends to climb with?? And keep fighting my low climbing ebb on my own, I guess...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Deal With The Matter.

God I am boring at the moment. No celebratory tales, no semi-amusing anecdotes, no entirely-serious ethical ranting, no photos, no videos, not even any animals. Sorry. It's fairly representative though. I suppose I should have got a photo of the chunky hardback-sized quartz jug I pulled off The Hill, but I forgot and I didn't even take an exciting whipper.

So in the absence of amusing, I have been musing. And the conclusion is that I need to deal with the matter - the matter that matters being regaining the pleasure, and application of inspiration, in my climbing, preferably by doing it well and regaining my confidence and climbing energy.

An obvious choice to regain confidence but there is a slight technical hitch that I am not inspired for mileage (which can tread perilously close to the anathema that is "climbing for the sake of it"), compared to my passion for specific challenges. So I need to acknowledge what is available and try to get syked for it. The more I can do, the more diverse rock types I can keep my hand in on, the better...

Stone Valley
Diabeg Peninsula
Glen Nevis
Glen Coe Roadside
Aberdeen Area (Black Dyke, Newtonmore, Little O, etc)
Glen Clova Doonies
Glen Lednock
Glen Ogle
Souter / Fast Castle

Northumberland / Northern Lakes:
Bowdens (just)
Jack Rock
Swirl Crag
Falcon Crags
Shepherd's Crag

Whilst pondering of the powerlessness I felt on Saturday, I had the minor epiphany that although I have kept up with the training to maintain the season's previously great start, I haven't been doing it nearly hard nor comprehensively enough. For example, I felt pretty good and strong bouldering over winter, and my first few trips out on a rope, I was finding the moves pretty steady - which makes sense. It also makes sense that having only trained circuits and the occasional route session since then, I have lost a lot of strength and power. I suspect it's similar with falling practice - I've made the mistake of once it's started working where it matters (i.e. outdoor trad), I've stopped training it. But even more than strength, I am always so far behind with that aspect of climbing I need to keep training it even when it seems to be working. So:

Strength / power:
Keep at it. It might not be Scottish Winter Bouldering Season any more, but I still need some for the routes I'm inspired by. Mix up my indoor stamina sessions with indoor strength sessions. Take a brush, liquid chalk, anti-hydral, to stop my skin getting too sore and allow me to keep pulling hard, and have short regular sessions if skin gets too sore. Accept failure and current weakness as a need / path for improvement. Only go for "gentle" sessions if I'm wrecked or definitely have a big day out the next day.

Stamina / endurance:
Keep up with the circuits / indoor routes, and try to focus on doing them slower and calmer with deliberate recovery and shaking out where possible.

Mind / confidence:
Falling practice. I just had to look up which out of practice/practise was correct, so I better fucking do it.

Keep up with gym / running and not shy away from walk-ins. I've done okay with walk-ins recently, I'm certainly no worse than usual (although never going to get any better), so that's some reassurance.

Enough said. I've had low periods before and worked through them. This will be the same.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013


I had a weekend at Creag Dubh, a crag I'm usually both surprisingly comfortable with and unsurprisingly inspired by. The latter hadn't changed at all for this trip, but I found little comfort in my climbing.

Acapulco - I had seconded Wet Dreams to warm up, and felt pretty confident and happy about getting on this route. At the roof I stalled due to the lack of good holds / protection, and had a few times climbing back down and back up from the rest. The last time I felt slippy on a finger jam, checked my pink damp fingers, somehow decided not to chalk (?!), and slipped out of the jam onto the gear, and thus failed before even getting involved with either the crux or the quality meat of the route.

Bratach Uaine - Despite the above infuriating cessation of climbing a quality route, I also approached BU with a lot of positivity, not least because the reasonable protection and general situation is evident from Wet Dreams. I ended up going up and down to the crux roof - 2 times to sort out protection, and 4 times to try the crux. Somehow I neither had the strength to pull the crux move nor the confidence to trust my weakness anyway. Eventually I cleanly downclimbed and backed off.

The second day I stuck to easier routes to get some mileage (which I did) and regain some confidence (...) and they felt consistently hard, although manageable.

Yesterday I tried to get any local climber to go out somewhere in/near the Central Belt on a lovely sunny, breezy and bone dry evening before rain during the rest of this week. No-one seemed to want to get out, so I went to Ratho bouldering to train strength. I started off fine, feeling fairly energetic, but soon felt weak and my skin got so sore I couldn't pull properly on it.

Today I wanted to train again but my new shoes created such a painful bunion at Ratho (I'd successfully taped my toes over the weekend) that I can't even look at rock shoes. The forecast is now bad for the foreseeable future so I will have plenty of time to train though.


This few days, in conjunction with the last few weeks, has confirmed that I am consistently climbing at a lower standard than usual and a much lower standard than a couple of months ago. From feeling as good as I've ever felt on bouldering, then sport, then trad over the spring, I have kept training, kept getting out, and watched without comprehension as my climbing has consistently deteriorated. I'm not climbing "bad" (although it sometimes feel that way, as I don't enjoy having the climbing I love marred by doing it badly), but the current low period is definitely lower than before and lower than I feel comfortable with, and I need to work out ways to deal with this period and progress out of it.

Friday, 7 June 2013

A week of extreme punting.

Battering Ram, Shepherd's Crag - did the first pitch with some effort, climbed to the crux of the second pitch, blocked a crucial fingerlock with a cam, tried to reverse, slipped onto the cam and FAILED.

Overdrive, Goat's Crag - cranked through the start, placed one cam, underclung right a move, felt out of balance and very sweaty, sat on cam and FAILED.

Spandau Ballet, Birnham Quarry - did the hard 5c start, did various 5b moves up the crack, did a hard 5c move onto one lone foothold below the crux, committed to the hard 6a layback crux, only managed to find slopers above, foot slipped off and FAILED.

How can one experienced and dedicated trad climber who is pretty familiar with such a moderate level of mid-grade challenge be so utterly punterly?? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE??


En route to Shepherds, I drove from Glasgow, battled traffic and the hordes in Keswick to try to buy rock shoes, slowly drove into Borrowdale, hit a rock fallen from a dry stone wall, tore a 3" hole in my tyre, took a chunk out of the rim, had a 3 hour delay and £170 bill getting towed back to Keswick to get two new tyres fitted, by which time it was well warm enough to climb topless and then I just made a stupid mistake blocking the obvious hold even when I knew I would. Total bellend approach but maybe some other factors putting me off.

At Goat's Crag I'd warmed up punting around at Bowden, re-warmed up on steeper bouldering at Goat's itself, and got on the route which is pretty brutal off the deck. Again conditions were weirdly cool AND muggy at the same time and I just lost all confidence pulling hard in steep ground. I didn't chalk enough, I didn't battle enough, I simply didn't focus enough. Not acceptable.

Birnham was an end of the afternoon one route quick hit type job. The line is obvious and confidence was high, even the hard moves to start and higher up didn't put me off, and I just got on with it and went for it on the crux only to discover it was a total sandbag. Simple foot slip, I should have been more careful, but also I was going for obvious "holds" that would fit with the 5c move the grade implied, if I'd known it was a full grade harder I would have tried the move differently.

So some mitigating circumstances and some downright punterism.

I'm trying to tackle the latter by getting some mileage in, training at the wall and gym, keeping aware of conditions, buying new shoes in a proper size and hopefully just trying HARDER in general, god knows I need to!!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Greatest Gabber free compilation CD

A specific compilation of 15 tracks from the "golden era" of gabber, approx 1995-2000. I've tried to go for a good spectrum progressing from almost hard house at the start to speedcore at the end, but with an slight emphasis on more uplifting, well crafted tracks, rather than just a load of swearing and cheesy samples over a kick drum (although there is a bit of that of course ;)). If you want a CD, simply email/PM me your address and I will send one -

This is something I've been wanting to do for a decade. I genuinely believe that some gabber has as much musical merit as any other dance/electronic music, and I wanted to try to show that with this compilation. This is a personal choice, mostly from CDs I owned, and is only partially representative of what would be played in a hardcore club at the time. For a wider selection, getting hold of the Helter Skelter Technodrome Annual would be essential:

1. Technohead - The Passion
A nice, haunting, chilled out and well produced track from Technohead who wrote a hardcore column for DJ, mixed compilations for React records and had a minor hit with "Who Wants To Be A Hippy" before Lee Newman sadly passed away.

2. Strychnine - Utopia Project
An unusually uplifting track on Industrial Strength Records, with typically ravey gabber mutating into a lovely finish. I wanted this as an intro track but it's really an outro...

3. Nordcore GMBH - Holle
Taking things a bit darker with a typically atmospheric track from this German collective - epic cyberpunk soundtrack gabber!

4. R.Wagner - Listen Carefully
A mega-anthem that was absolutely brilliant in a rave and just as good to listen to. Sheer hardcore euphoria.

5. Chosen Few - Name Of The DJ
Another classic anthem, straight up happy ravey gabber.

6. The Original Gabber - Headbanger
The starting track of the legendary Terrrordrome compilation series. Unsubtle but fun and varied headbanging track

7. The Original Gabber - ADDA
Another banging but varied track, with cool melodies and some great acid touches, sadly underused in gabber.

8. Fazer 5 - Innocent Trip
A relentlessly ravey track that captures the atmosphere of being in a gabber rave - bounce bounce bounce.

9. Nordcore GMBH - Robocop
The best gabber track ever made?? I could have filled the CD with 15 copies of this, it's that good. Dark, atmospheric, europhic, and exceptionally well-crafted - the way this track builds up is as good as ANY dance music gets.

10. Liza n Eliaz - White Line
Hard and harsh but an unusually funky bassline, if you don't pogo around to this then check your pulse. The second track in this compilation from a sadly deceased top female producer.

11. The Shaftmen - Shaftman
Silly, vulgar, noisy and great fun. If the sampled intro doesn't earworm you senseless, you get your money back.

12 - Gabba Front Berlin - Halo
Actually a more recent track but one that shows the best in uplifting gabber - pretty much 220+bpm trance, packed full of melodies and madness.

13 - Disciples Of Annihilation - New York City Speedcore
Another mega-anthem, this time on a much harder tip - a simple stomper with a classic riff sample.

14 - DJ VibeRaider - Make The Floor Burn
"Doesn't that mean it goes terrifically fast??" A moshpit monster.

15. The Bezerker - The Final Sacrifice
The ultimate....nothing more to be said!!