Monday, 29 September 2008

Sneaking in another Mountain Route - 27th/28th Sept '08

A phone call from Andy midweek, asking if I wanted to climb up Torridon had me madly trying to shuffle prior commitments around so I was free, only to be followed by a change in the forecast showing it to be raining on the West Coast on Saturday, aaaaarg, was utterly dying to fit it another mountain route and was gutted to miss out on what would have been a fitting end to a wonderful summer! Drove up to Andy's anyway and we would decide what to do in the morning having looked out the window. Forecast was for a band of rain to pass over pretty much everywhere but just to be showery and Andy had filled me with intrigue with a vague description of the cave pitch on the classic Hard Severe at Huntly's Cave called Cave Route and I was keen to try and lead it (well in my normal nervous, thinking about it too much kind of way!) Huntly's Cave has steep, overhanging walls with huge roofs running up the wall on some of the routes and this means the rock is kept dry from showers. So, off we went. Andy mentioned he usually ab'd down to stop his rock boots getting wet and dirty on the muddy path down but he failed to mention that the ab was a free hanging one from a tree on the very edge of the cliff!!! Aaaaaarg, noooooooo! The ab we did at Beinn Eighe was a stroll in the park (ish) compared to this and my legs felt like jelly and I had the butterflies in my gut so badly that I felt quite sick. As usual, it wasn't as bad as I thought, though it took until my feet were firmly on the ground for the butterflies to calm down!

No time for faff, Andy is straight up the initial slab before I can get him on belay (he's soloed this route loads!) He's on belay for the crux though and he's through it quick as a shot and then it's my turn. The slab at the start is nice and easy and the crux is pretty damn awkward but moves you into a fabulous position! The belay is in a wee cave underneath this huge roof and immediately I can see just how the roof has to be tackled. I'm not going to go into detail and ruin it for anyone who hasn't done this route, but the climbing over the roof and the position is out of this world, simply wonderful and one of the nicest routes I've done (if only all Hard Severes were like this!) Well worth every one of it's 3 stars! The route was made all the more exciting due to the rain which soaked the crucial hold and once I'd committed to the crux the heavens had opened and it was abs chucking it down! By the time I'd set up a belay and brought Andy up I was soaked right through! Back to Andy's to chill for a bit and wait for the rain to pass. And wait........and wait.............until we decided in the end to drive down to Creag Dubh for a walk up the hill. It's not what I expected, I had thought the lowly Graham would just be a wee heathery lump but I was mistaken and we wound our way under the crags and up and it was bloomin steep! It's a very shapely hill with a conical section just before the top and the views are very picturesque. A tad chilly though and we zoomed off down to miss the next incoming shower of rain!

Back at Andy's there was much discussion of what to do the next day. Either climb at Creag Dubh which would def be dry or chance the hill forecast of scattered, heavy showers, wintry on the highest tops, with freezing level at 1100m. We did contemplate walking in to Sputan Dearg but decided it was too far to risk the weather but I was still desperate for the mountains and Andy didn't take any persuasion! We decided on Stag Rocks in the end and next morning were zooming off up the ski road and up to point 1141 at the top of Fiacail Coire Cas. The wind was up (but not too bad) just pretty cold and as we walked over to the descent down to the Loch Avon Basin the wind blew the cloud up and it started to snow. Just a wee flurry but enough to put a big massive grin on my face. I love those first snowflakes of the year, something so magical about them and makes me feel like a wee kid!

We descended down Diagonal Gully which was steep, chossy and wet but do-able with just one steep, scrambly bit where I had to face in to get down. Soon enough we were at the bottom of the cliff, me abs boiling as I'd put my buff and my thick belay jacket on! There was a bit of discussion as to exactly where the route went as the route description was a bit weird and Andy thought the right hand side of a fault line looked like a nicer place to start than the left side which looked a bit more broken. Next I had a heart sinking moment when I realised I had stupidly forgotten my belay plate, numpty! Andy gave me his and said he would belay me with a hitch. So off he went, only to discover he could only get in 2 runners in the whole pitch! And it wasn't an easy pitch either, but certainly easier than what was to come! We traversed over to the left and below the crux 5a pitch, described as a steep wall with jugs. Unfortunately that was pretty wet so we took the easier option to the left. Easier? I found it pretty desperate! There was a point where you had to move up to a huge roof and them move right to get around the roof and I really struggled with this, so sure I was going to fall off and swing off! And it wasn't a lot easier after that either and I got myself into a bit of a mess when I should have laybacked up a crack but I stayed too far to the right and got myself all unbalanced. Last pitch was up a chimney and that was a bit puzzling but easier than below once I figured it out. There was meant to be a couple of scrambley pitches above to the top of the hill but Andy suggested traversing over to the left, crossing a gully and climbing a 2 pitch HS that one of his mates did the 1st winter ascent of. Amphitheatre Wall is graded HS but we found it to be more VS. The 1st pitch is quite awkward and finicky and there is a steep wall above where I got myself into another mess! There was a steep, grassy section and to get back on to the rock you had to take a wide step to the right and onto a wall and up and onto a ledge. I managed to get onto the wall, get my foot over into a groove and grab a side pull on the ledge. Then my foot slipped and I did a spectacular belly flop onto the ledge and then it took some time to figure out how to get back onto my feet by which point I was feeling a tad trembly! Andy was stood on the wide end of the ledge, quite comfortable with his cheeky wee grin, laughing at me with those sparkly eyes!

Next, a bit of a breather and Andy is off again. The next pitch is steep, very steep! There is a big triangular block that he stands on and manages to get a runner in to the right, then a huge step into a groove on the left, leaves me wondering, 'how the hell am I going to manage that wide step!?' Andy must have read my thoughts though as he mentioned that I probably wouldn't have to do it that way. Hmmmm. There seems to be a bit of hollow rock about and Andy is taking no chances, checking to see if things will hold or whether best left alone. Soon enough it's my turn and Andy was right, I didn't need to do that stretch across the way he did. I went across a bit lower with just a dainty step in comparison! Moved up and then, 'blimey this is hard!' I'm trying to get a cam out but I'm on a tight rope and it won't budge! Taaaaaaaaaaaake! Arse! Gah! I shout up to Andy to give me some slack on pink and he gives me slack on both ropes and I go lower and then can't reach the cam. Andy shouts down that he has me on a waist belay and it's hurting his back, 'oh sh*te!' This scares me! I pull myself back onto the rock and try and get at this cam and Andy gets himself into a better, seated position where he can hold me better if need be. But once my weight is off the rope, the cam comes out freely and I scrabble frantically over to the right for something better to hold on too. And wouldn't you know it, there is a huge jug!!! For god's sake, if I had noticed that earlier, it would have things a lot easier! I move up faster after that and without any more problem until the top. There is a chimney, maybe 15foot high, tiny rounded edges on the outside and not much on the inside. Andy tells me that he back and footed it. Uhuh, I can't back and foot, can I? Oh well, no time like the present to learn how to do it and I wedge myself right into the tightest bit of the chimney and feel quite secure. No back and footing at first though, it's too narrow. It's more of a wormy squirm! Then it gets wider and I have my back against one wall, and my feet pushed against the other on a tiny wee crack in the wall. Oh I can do this! A wee hmmm moment when Andy tells me he was facing the other way when he did it, but I manage to move up some more, get myself bridged across, move up a little more, grab the top of the chimney on a ledge on the outside, swing my foot up and hey presto! That was my favourite bit of both the routes and I'm grinning happily. Climbing is so multifaceted, tis ace! And I think we both felt quite cheeky, managing to fit in a couple of routes on a day where it was windy and snowing on the tops!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Injuries! 25th Sept '08

Well, I'm back climbing, hurrah! I don't have Tennis Elbow but the pain in my arm and the numbness in my fingers has been coming from the C5/6 disc in my neck. Me and my blasted spine!! I've felt reassured though by both my GP and Mark, my Chiro, that it won't be anything like when my lumbar L5/S1 ruptured. Mark thinks I possibily injured my neck in a whiplash type way (???) and my GP thinks it's age and wear and tear. I don't recall any injury and my lower disc is 100% dessicated and the one above on it's way so I can see similar issues with the neck ones. Anyhoo, I'm stretching my neck religiously, still trying to remember to do the arm stretches too and doing some weights also. My neck gets horribly stiff and sore when sitting for too long and my shoulders start burning sometimes too. But GP was right in saying it's nothing like as painful as when my lower back gave me grief. I'm finding the belaying ok as long as I keep stretching my neck out and don't hold it in the same position for too long and I can manage to climb but my arm seems to tire and sore pretty quickly and it seems a bit weaker than normal (least I can have a real excuse for being a feeble weakling now, lol!)

Couple of weeks back I took my Mum up the Glen Shee road and we took a walk down Glen Callater to the Loch and back. Mum suffers from Fibromyalgia and did fantastically to manage a 7mile walk, the best she has done in a good few years :o)

Sat past, Henning and I were supposed to climb at Limekilns where there are a couple of VS's I want to try but the weather wasn't playing ball and we ended up at Dunkeld Upper Cave Crag. The V.Diff there was sopping wet and the Severe was seeping at the bottom and though it seemed dry higher up I wasn't convinced as there were what looked like jamming cracks and the prospect of them being wet inside didn't appeal! Henning led the Severe to warm up on and right enough it was fine higher up and you only needed one move of jamming and after having a good look about, there were good holds a plenty. Next, Henning wanted to try his 1st E3, Marjorie Razorblade, reputedly one of the most failed on E3's! He managed the bottom crack with just a little grunt and was quickly up on the ledge before the crux crack. A steep S shaped crack with blank and smooth side walls. This was going to be interesting and I was prepared for a fall at any moment! It never came though as Henning dogged his way up the crux and onto the next ledge and the upper crack. Had a few problems here too as he was knackered by this point and eventually bailed out on the Severe. Down below I had been thinking that I could give the lower crack a good go, but there was no hope in hell of me getting off the ledge on the crux without aiding and I couldn't be bothered with that and it was much quicker for Henning just to ab down for the gear. It was an interested ab for him with me keeping some tension in the rope below so he didn't swing too far, but he got there in the end. That was it for the day route wise. All that seemed left dry was an E1 but AllyF from UKC had turned up and him and his partner were doing that route. That was a weird one. I'd been in touch with Ally via email about our back/neck injuries but never met him before and I didn't actually realise it was him until Henning mentioned it later on the way home. Small world!

We did a little bouldering after that which involved traversing the lower routes and the sport routes (or me trying to! The sport routes there are bloody steep!) Then Henning suggested a run. Aye, sounded good to me, so we finished the day off with a 7mile run through the woods, around the lochs and up and down the hill.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Climbing over for the summer? Sat 6th Sept '08

It has been a mixed couple of weeks on the climbing front. Bad weather has meant I haven't been able to get outdoors midweek and last weekend saw Chris and I climbing at Clova. Would you believe it, forecast hadn't been too bad but the morning dawned a tad grey and there had obviously been rain. Clova+Me=rain!! Thankfully the rock was dry though (just) as Clova is quite unpleasant when wet. Chris started off on Central Crack and was going quite slowly at the low down crux. It was one of those problems that looked easy from below (don't a lot of them!) and it's so easy to dish out advice when your stood belaying and not on the sharp end. He sussed it though and climbed the rest easily enough and then it was my turn. I quickly found out what the struggle had been about. It's not the nicest of routes (IMO) in fact it's the sort of route I hate where the holds and the rock keeps pushing you out of balance, gggrrr!
Next it was my turn and I decided to try the severe next door, Flake Route. What a faff! Firstly Chris forgot something down at the sacks so had to go back down, then I couldn't get my head into gear for leading whatsoever! I'd get up to the chimney but the chimney kept trying to push me out and again, it's that sort of move I hate and I couldn't commit to doing it. So stupid as I had 2 hexes in I tell you! I kept trying it though and each time the move pushed me out and I would step down. Chris seemed to lose patience with me and pulled on the rope telling me to come down. I snapped! Don't f*cking pull on the rope!! I was annoyed. Sometimes I don't think I'm cut out for climbing. I just wish I could have some consistency. I try not to let it get me down though. I find it really difficult to lead routes that have moves like that in them and seem to be more drawn to climb only the routes that truly inspire me.
Moving on, Chris led Beanstalk. Now there is a route to inspire! The line looks far, far nicer to me than the severe and the HS. Up a lovely flake, and then taking the variation on the arete above. The flake is lovely climbing and here is a VS that inspires me to lead. The move off the top of the flake and onto the ledge above and to the left of it is simply sensational. Only problem is that to get to the arete you have to get into this corner first and I just couldn't seem to suss this bit out. It involves a mantleshelf (at near enough chest height for me!) and there are no holds on the wall above (that I could see/use anyway) I fell off here about 3 or 4 times before finally sussing it. Damned if I can remember how I did it though! And glad I didn't lead it as falling off that move on lead would have meant hitting the ledge below. Once up into the corner, you then move round onto the arete. And what a move!!! Utterly amazing! Totally blind, exposed and committing, fantastic :o) I simply have to get that move into the corner sussed and do this route on lead!
That was us for the day, and it was good timing as the rain came on again!

I'd been at the wall during the week previously and when I'd been trying a corner route, and was palming back (or trying to) I couldn't seem to do it as my wrist was too painful. I've been getting aches/little darts of twingeyness in my forearms for some time but just been ignoring it really. I'd been given stretches to do as Mark, my Chiro reckoned that my Ulnar nerve was a bitty trapped. I'd been doing the stretches when I remembered and any time I'd been getting any numbness in my fingers. Anyhoo, at the start of this week I woke up with a sharp, stabbing pain in my elbow. Oh shite! My first thoughts are of Tennis Elbow or Lateral Epicondylitis as the pain is on the outside. It hurts to pick things up with my palm down and it hurts to try and twist things open. It's now a week later and I have been diligent with stretching, using a Metolious Gripsaver (a squidgy ball, with hoops for your fingers. You squeeze the ball, stretch the fingers and extend the wrist) and using a dumbell (with no weight) for wrist extension exercises. I've been out running and out on the bike for Cardio (improves blood flow to the poorly supplied tendons) No anti-inflammatories as I'm not a believer in them really. I'm sure just a week of doing this, has given some improvement already :o) and it's making me hope that it isn't Tennis Elbow that I have, but just a strain of my Brachioradialis muscle as that will heal alot quicker!

So, I'm laying off the climbing till it's better anyway as there is no way on heaven and earth that I am risking not being able to swing my axes this winter! So, weekends (for the next few weeks anyway) will see me out shamelessly Munro bagging :o) Started off today by driving up to Drumochter Pass and bagging Geal Charn, A'Mharconaich, Beinn Udlamain and Sgairneach Mhor. The forecast was for gusty NE winds, possible shower or two but with cloud lifting. Phah! The cloud lifted for all of a few seconds once in the day to allow a brief glimpse down to Loch Ericht and then it was dreich and gusty for the rest of the day. Good training though :o) And I had to get the old compass out a couple of times. Made a navigational blip just before the 1st top though. Took a bearing from the top of the munro when I wasn't at the top! That was a bit dim! But I quickly realised my error when the lay of the ground wasn't as it should have been and was able to contour round to where I wanted to be. There was 3 other parties out on the hill but I left them behind after the second munro and one party after the 3rd. It was blowing a hoolie on the last top and I had to brace myself walking off. Had wet gloves (reminder not to use those gloves again if there is going to be wind chill factor) and a wet arse from sitting on my wet rucksack. 6hrs to car and back. I had parked my car in a laybye where I was going to come off the hill and walked down the road at the start of the day, to save myself an hour(ish) slog back to car at end of the day and was quite thankfull to get back quickly. Knackered though and it was a struggle keeping awake on the drive home, after a good walk, but with only 5hrs sleep! I really need to get my sleeping habit sorted out, as 5-6hrs each night just isn't proving enough!
No photos this week, dimwit that I am, I forgot my camera. Not that I could have taken any nice photos today anyway.