Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cleaning / Climbing / Calm / Cold / Condensation / Cocaine

I went back to Cambusbarron briefly the other week with both relaxation and inspiration in mind. After Purrblind Doomster there were other challenges, but less pressure. Much less pressure with the time scale too, so I arrived early and did a bit of cleaning. Nothing too exciting but in light of recent talk about looking after Central Belt crags a bit better to avoid accusations of neglect and temptations of retrobolting, I felt like putting a bit of effort in. Litter picking, branch sawing, fern removing and boulder brushing.

I didn't do anything to the routes as most of the good hard ones are in decent nick, or maybe that's just because they're steep enough to stay perma-chalked?? There was one 2 starred route, Economy Drive that I wanted to try and needed a clean, but Geek was happy to scrub that one off for me as I'd rather be climbing it - that's part of the reason I don't get round to cleaning routes I'm still genuinely interested in climbing, because I'm genuinely interested in the onsight journey.

The journey on this particular route turned out to be a fairly interesting one. Freshly cleaned, it looked "reasonable", Geek said it should be "reasonable" (yeah, I should know by now!!), so I treated it as reasonable....initially. Hard moves off the deck leading into more hard moves above those leading into a rest ledge and adequate gear before more hard moves to a pod. So far so good. Then I got to the hard bit.... Standing in the pod and progressing upwards was looking considerably less likely than getting shut down by a total sandbag. Feeling around on slippery sidepulls and fiddly footholds, I looked failure in the face and, unusually, calmly accepted it - I wasn't going to get up this route, so with fine protection, I might as well fail going upwards rather than downwards. Each move I planned to fall off, and when I somehow didn't, I applied the same resignation to the following move, until, bizarrely, I was near the top. The final moves had been heavily cleaned and I was warned "just take care with the rock, but you'll be fine, it's about Hard Severe here". One more final powerful crux had me lunging for blocks and hauling myself into surprised success. After that I couldn't face any more dolerite sidepulls so left any other routes for another time and had a blast repeating Spanking The Monkey with much slithering and laughing all round.

Throughout the recent weeks, I've been aided and abetted by good conditions (as well as syked trad partners). The weather has cooled down nicely and although I'm still busting out the gut, it's less essential and more about stacking every odd in my favour. But of course it's going to get cooler....and colder. With many inspirations still to go and the season ticking away, I am a bit concerned how to deal with the cold, not whilst climbing but just at the crag. I'm usually reasonably prepared but I think I need to optimise things better....maybe more fleecey layers....over-trousers....hip-flask?? I certainly needed something at the weekend. Down with PJ at Scimitar Ridge, doing a pair of funky bold slabs that took a lot of time and a lot of fiddling in RPs and C3s. It was still and muggy on the walk-in and I thought down at the crag, a windsmock, beanie and snood would be enough. It wasn't. 4 hours later in a hot shower I defrosted. Brrrr. Two nice routes though.

Despite a cold, grey, gloomy day, with intermittent spots of rain and the ubiqituous sea-spray, conditions at Scimitar Ridge were surprisingly good, once past a slightly greasy start the smooth granite was in fine nick. So obviously the next day at Rosehearty, with clear skies, dry warm air, glorious sunshine and a brisk westerly raking on the crag, it was going to be mint conditions all day, right?? WRONG. Once again the North East coast is as contrary and fickle as it can be, and a quick recce of the sea walls saw them dripping in condensation. How. Why. WTF. I had a mini-sulk solely because I could see the Rosey season coming to an imminent end as the sun-drying hours were rapidly diminishing. But as a Rosey virgin, Brad was still optimistic and also had the stylish slabs to try, so we got on those at least, and he ninjaed his way up a couple of fine routes. Lo and behold, back on the sea walls with a few hours left, the sun was working it's magic, transforming dark grey rock into silver, damp smudges into enticing chalk....

(aka Challenge #8) Even dry, the sea walls are steep, as steep as the slabs are slabby, as steep as a really fucking steep thing. I was prepared for that and battled through a fair good warm-up. Brad almost battled through his route but some sustained slab numbers had taken their toll and he wanted to show me how a proper sulk was done. Once the dust had settled, I had enough time to try a bit of Cocaine, the closest I'll come to any drug but who needs it when you have climbing this good...! Thankfully as the warm sun was getting lower, I had managed to hit a sweet spot with the rock fully dry but the late afternoon cooling down, and did the route with reasonable confidence and little drama. In fact it would have been pretty boring to watch me squatted on the overhung rest ledge for ages, but hell it worked and it's nice to feel "okay" on such terrain. Hopefully I'll have another few weeks to put that into action...

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