Monday, 27 October 2008

Winter is here - 1st and 2nd Nov '08

Last week saw the 1st big dump of snow up the hills and a good few routes were being done, the usual early season ascents of Pygmy Ridge etc in the Northern Corries and a few new routes done also in the North West.

I was itching to get out and wake up my axes from their summery sleep and get out and play in the snow, and my wishes were fullfulled as the settled weather remained and the snow stayed put.
Both myself and Andy had a couple of places we wanted to visit with the view of doing some new routing but in the end Andy had to go get himself a new car and I was driving duty for the Sunday, so we decided to stay fairly local.
Saturday, Andy had hoped to go into Sputan Dearg and he did think later that he could have got his ski's organised, but with me never having skied in my life before, I was highly dubious! In the end we decided to go into Lurcher's Crag as Andy hadn't done one of the gradeIII ridges there and I wanted to do something easy for my 1st route of the season. It was a bit of a slog to get there, the path as far as Lochain was ok, with a trail already broken but from there onwards we were wading through knee deep snow, with me falling into a thigh deep hole at one point, hurrah for winter, I love it!
We arrived at the top of Central Gully and as I peered over and down, it looked just fine as a decent route until Andy suggested we bumslide down.'s a grade I gully, it will be too fast, it will be too dodgy/scary etc! 'It'll be fine,' says Andy, 'just brake like this if you need to,' he says as he goes zooming off. oooooooooohkay, Sit myself down, give a wee push and off I go. I'm going slowly at first, but as I carry on I'm getting more confident that I'm not gonna break my neck and I go faster, yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehah! We're down at the bottom in seconds and begin the traverse along to the route we wanted to do. There is a smaller Rib which hasn't been climbed on, on the way to the gradeIII route, and as it's hard work in the deep snow, it doesn't take either of us much persuasion to go for doing a new route instead, even if it is shorter. Turns out it was longer than expected anyway, and we both ran out a ropes length each. We're calling it Skittles, cos at the bottom I had said that it looked short and sweet.
Andy led the 1st pitch up a thuggy groove, over some blocks and up a technical steep step above. Then I led another groove and a couple of snowy ramps above. A lot of digging in the snow was involved for gear and for some axe placements too! It was a braw wee route, with tools being used torqued in cracks quite alot, rather than in turf and I thoroughly enjoyed it and was bouncing about in happiness at the top, hurrah!
Sunday I woke up with a goddamn awful headache and was worried it wouldn't go that day and I wouldn't be able to climb, but thankfully when I took some painkillers and went back to bed it settled back down again. We went in my car down to Lochnagar and we were both feeling quite tired from yesterday so just trundled up the hill on autopilot. When we got to the Col, Andy suggested traversing around, rather than dropping into the Coire and then having to go back up. We had to cross through a big boulder field on a slope and Andy was fine with his sturdy and confident hill legs but I was wibbling and wobbling all over the place and not enjoying it one little bit. I detest boulder fields! I seem to lose all sense of balance and proprioception and am simply not sturdy footed at all! And to make matters worse, my bad arm was beginning to ache like mad, making me even grumpier. Think Andy was feeling the effects of yesterday's long wade and todays walk in (on top of a day in the Cairngorms on Tues, followed by a wall session on Wed, followed by a days new routing up NW, phew!) and was getting grumpy too at the pace of things, but once through the boulders I speeded up, Andy's keen eye spotted a good route and we were both happy again.
We got to the bottom of Triangle Buttress and spotted 2 ramps which either could have been the route Triangle Buttress, which follows a left trending ramp across the main face and onto the crest of the ridge. It said it started from the foot of the Red Spout, but we thought a route further down than that was a much more natural line and followed the ridge/buttress much more directly. We decided to do both routes and that way, one of them would be the correct route in the guide and the other would be a possible new route. The first one we did, followed a ramp directly upwards and then cut across rightwards. It was very reachy but the turf was good enough, so it wasn't too difficult. The step right was a bitty awkward but ok and then it was just steps to the top. I was utterly, utterly boiling though! I had put my Montane on, as per usual in winter, but it was a still, warm winter's day and just far too hot for thermals, fleeces and massive, furry pile and pertex smocks! I had to get Andy to lead it all, as the heat was really getting to me and once I got the top, I stripped of my jkt and hat and we went down the Red Spout to do the other route, me just climbing in my windstopper this time.
The other route, went up a more slabby ramp and there was quite a thin wee step on it, but again the turf was good. Then followed a few more ramps to a belay and I led off easily to the top. Both routes were easy grade II's, the 2nd one being just a tiny wee bitty harder than the 1st I found, but perhaps just more different in style really.
Other than arm pain and achiness during the walk in, my arm really behaved itself. Have been really worried that I wouldn't be able to climb as swinging my axe always seemed to hurt. But swinging it into turf as opposed to thin air seems to make a difference and not affect my arm at all. It did feel quite weak on the 1st route at Lochnagar but I'm not sure if that was more the heat effecting me than anything else. If I have to take painkillers to cope with the climbing, then that's fine, just as long as it doesn't get worse then I'm eagerly looking forward to many more quality days on the hill, oh yes!

Bouldering comp and Bynack More - 24th/26th Oct '08

Friday night was Dundee's local wall's, Avertical World, 1st round of the winter series of friendly bouldering competitions and RB had been waiting eagerly for it for some time. I was committed to taking her, though really wanting to zoom off up to Aviemore to see Andy and play in the hills.
The comp started later than expected with Iain the manager waffling on about rules and safety, blah blah, and I impatiently watched the clock ticking on. Finally though! RB rushed through the 1st easier problems as per usual and got as far as no9 (out of 20) before coming unstuck at the Dyno problem (urgh!) Dyno problem was set as no9 this year instead of the usual no 10 and RB's fingers were brushing the bottom of the hold, which is an improvement on her usual dyno's!
Time was pushing on and I was just about to drag her off to her Dad's as I'd planned to leave at 8 and it was now 8.15, but she wanted to try one more problem that she'd tried earlier which involved having to get established on a big round blob with out using any foot holds. Determination saw her through and up she got, 2nd try, and much tension later managed the final stretch over to the finishing hold, was sure she was coming off at one point, but she held it together really well! And she managed to get 2nd place in the Junior Females section, well done wee girl!
That was it, off to her Dad's, me quickly nipping into my Mum's for some new CD's she'd ordered for me, Laura Marling's 'Alas I cannot Swim,' and Rodrigo y Gabriella. Both I'd heard from John's MP3 player/Ipod thingymabober on the way down to Northumbria the other week.
2hrs later and I'm pulling up in BofG.
Saturday, Andy and I had a lazy morning and then drove across to Cummingston as the Morray coast looked driest. There were a couple of showers and the rock was a little greasy but still ok to climb. Not for me though, tried a Severe on 2nd but arm just too sore to like it. Did a Diff, and my arm wasn't too fussed about that one, but just belayed Andy on a few routes nonetheless and urged him to climb each route 3x! So that was 3x VS, 3x HVS and 3x E2's, lol!
A cozy evening of wine and Belgian Choccies and many discussions of routes, hills, cliffs, followed by decisions about what to do on Sunday. I'd brought up all my winter climbing stuff in the hope of climbing but we decided that with all the rain in the hills that day, and because it wasn't due to snow till later on that even though something might be climbable it would be pretty minging. So, we thought about a hill walk. Andy only has 30 munros to do for his 4th round but they were all pretty far for a day trip so we eventually decided on Bynack More which I hadn't done but which he'd done a billion times! But was happy to do again.
We left the car (in rain) around 9.30 but the shower soon passed and we were well on our way past the Green Loch and turning off before Ryvoan Bothy to head up the Lairig an Laoigh, cutting off the path to head across and up to Bynack More. There was sleet lower down, turning to snow at around 800m and the wind was more ferocious than forecast. We had bumped into a couple making there way to the Shelterstone for the night and didn't envy them, they looked like they were struggling with their heavy sacks a little in the strong wind. It had been forecast for 30mph with gusts of 50, but was more like gusts of 60mph, and we decided to head off the path and around the East side of the North ridge to avoid the gusts. We had overtaken a group of walkers on the path up to the ridge and decided that if we still beat them onto the summit after traipsing up steep heather then we'd made the right choice and if they beat us then we should have stuck to the path. Of course, we were faster and arrived first. The wind was gusting and blowing spindrift into our faces, rather nippy and it was hard getting summit photos!
We didn't hang about for long and passed the group on the way down, some of whom looked rather miserable! We sheltered in a wee chimney on one of the wee tors down from the ridge and ate our sarnie's. I felt quite content and cozy tucked up in the granite chimney, apart from boshing my elbow on the rock when I first got in! But it was time to head down and the walk down seemed to take longer than the walk up! And did it not start pouring with horrid frosty rain when we were just 5mins from the car and couldn't be bothered to stop and put on waterproofs again!

Munro no 86 done, 100 here we come.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Oct Hols - Sat 11th-Thurs 16th Oct '08

Chris and I had organised this week away for some time with the inclusion of another of his partners, John, when I thought I was unable to make it because of the Tennis Elbow. So, with 3 of us climbing it was a perfect oppurtunity to (try) and get some more interesting climbing photos. We had no firm destinations in mind, more of a follow the sunshine kind of plan which is always the best kind of plan (unless it's winter of course!)
Forecast looked better East for the first few days and as we were leaving Aberdeen at the late hour of 1pm we decided to stop of at Limekilns for a few routes on the way down to Northumbria. Hurrah, been wanting to climb at Limekilns for the past couple of months now to bag a couple of the VS's there. It was now or never time for my next VS!
Chris's wife is studying Hypnotherapy at the moment and I eagerly offered to be a guinea pig in my quest to get a better head for pushing myself on lead. It was wonderful and the imagery that Sue helped me to create was very powerful and had me feeling confident and keen to get these VS's I wanted to do. Limekilns is a very steep Limestone outcrop in Fife, next to the Forth Road Bridge but it's very out of the way and sheltered in some woods and is quite lovely. It's also quite hard with nothing apart from one chossy Severe, that goes under VS. John started the holiday with a good lead of DT's and Chris followed by an equally good lead of White Ensign. Both these routes utterly killed my weak arm and I was hesitant to try my VS after that, in the fear it was going to be too pumpy. But Chris reassured me that Red Flag wasn't as strenuous as the other VS's and you could see by looking up that there were more rest points than the other routes. Took me a good few tries to get it cracked though. I was up and down like a yoyo at first, just quite unable to suss the starting moves! Chris told me to jam my foot in the crack but that seemed to send me off balance. After several attempts and lots of cursing, I took out my bit of gear and climbed down in disgust! Chris then showed me how he meant to do it, and I realised that I had been trying to jam the wrong foot in! One more go then, and holey moley I got it! YES! Up to what I thought was going to be a rest point but is really a quite awkward position and faffed with getting a semi blind placement before moving on and the rest of the route was straight forward enough.

That was it, tea time and time to go. A couple of hours saw us down at a braw campsite called The Beachcomber, just South of Berwick. Was a pretty nippy night and we were up early to check out Kyloe (Out) What a superb wee crag! We all fell in love with the place immediately, even me who got the traditional Northumbrian sandbagging on a slabby V.Diff (had chosen this for the reason it was a slab because my arm was still really sore from the day before) Hah! The gear is awful, apart from one nut placement in the crack and the top of the slab is run out on a couple of 4b ish type moves, not what I wanted for a warm up! John did a route called Wilfred Pickles and Chris did the 2nd best HS ever (the best one being Cave Route at Huntlys of course) called Deception Crack, a real *** classic, awkward and udgy HS. This killed my elbow on second and I had to give up climbing for the rest of the day and went of photo duty instead. John led Slab and Groove and Chris led Slab and Wall, both VS's and both going up a totally run out slab and up to a steep, pumpy wall above. John then led an HVS called Gargarin's Groove and Chris led Chris's Arete (well he had too) and got a sandbagging! I finished off on a delightful wee Diff with a pretty steep and holdless jamming crack to finish off the day and we headed back to camp for muchos wine and ale.

Next day we checked out Bowden Doors and WOW! What an intimidating wee crag! The routes are steep as get oot! I was ahead of John and Chris and was noseying at a crack line thinking hmmm that's probs around HS/VS when they came up with the guide and turns out it was a V.Diff!!!!!! 'Kin hell! Chris started off on this one and right enough it wasn't as hard as it looked with lovely positive holds the whole way. Still just steep enough to hurt my arm though and I dejectedly decided no more climbing for me for the rest of the trip. I felt half gutted, half determined to rest my arm so it was fit for winter and I continued to feel this way to varying degrees in each direction for the rest of the holiday. It was very hard watching Chris and John climb and enjoy their routes and some routes they did looked just fab and I was in mental turmoil a lot of the time. I didn't really want to hang about getting down about it, so went for a long run instead.

Northumbria is a lovely part of the countryside, with rolling hills, bridal paths, rights of way all bounded together by ambling, hedgerowed, country roads. And along these rights of way, and paths I ran until I found myself at Cuthbert's Cave. The story behind this cave is that St Cuthbert, the Bishop of Lindisfarne who was associated with the Celtic Christian Lindisfarne Gospels and in the conversion of Lindisfarne from Celtic Christianity to Roman Christianity, seeked solitude as a Hermit in this same cave.
After running for around 5k I came across the cave and had a wee nosy. Folk have obviously made some kind of pilgrimage here and there are crosses made from tree branches, twigs and vine adorning the cave ledges. There is also alot of graffiti which is a shame but sign of the times I guess. I was wondering more about the bouldering potential of the cave than any spiritual matters, lol! Maybe I should have left an offering and prayed for healing for my arm, oh well hindsight and all that.
Back at Bowden, John was preparing for a lead of Tiger Wall, a scary VS when this older dude came over wondering if we were anyone from Aberdeen that he knew. He seemed to know some Aberdonian 'names' and I'm sure he said he was Simon Richardson, though I might have just made that up, certainly John thought he wouldn't be as old as this guy. Anyway, we named him Doctor Gloom as he was happily chatting away about folk falling and breaking their ankles at the crag, just as John was in earshot and going for the crux moves! Cheeky auld deil, sure he did that purposely!

The evening saw Chris drive us down to the North Lees campsite under Stanage. I swear I will never camp here again, it's an awful campsite! Muddy, on a hill and filled with billions upon billions of outdoor groups (yes, I'm an unsociable cow at times, but I like company when I choose it and not when it's forced on me) but guess that's campsites for you. Next day we took a walk up to High Neb area and Stanage End area and Chris started off the day on a Severe called......................, which I seconded with twinges. I was in a foul mood at the start of the day, stressing about my arm. I'm getting numbness in my good hand and twinges in the forearm too and thinking it must be coming from my neck, rather than being Tennis Elbow, yet the pain in my elbow and the movements that bring it on are classic Epicondylitis signs! Electric shock tingles down the back of my hand too and shoulders and neck achy. I'm stressing that it's getting worse and what that might mean, I'm worried that if I apply to Uni with neck problems ontop of my iffy back, that I will get refused a place. To compound things, my water bottle took the oppurtunity that morning to empty itself in my rucksack and soak my climbing shoes, harness and jacket and then my harness got all twisted and my arms ached trying to undo the mess. I threw the harness down in disgust and had to slope off for a private moment of dispair before pulling myself together. I decided to wander off along the crag in search of a suitable line that avoided Grit thuggery, laybacking and chimneying, not an easy thing at lowely grades! All the lines that appealed to me seemed to be VS and harder and my arm cringed at the thought. Eventually I found one called Kelly's Crack that seemed to fit the bill. A ** V.Diff up a corner where I could bridge my way up and use bucket handholds and ledgy footholds. It was a lovely wee Diff and my arm coped just fine with it, infact belaying at the top was more painful! And I climbed it just as it started to rain, so the timing was not the best, but ok.

The rain didn't stop all evening and Chris and I retired for tea and cake in the Outdoor shop in Hathersage whilst John went for a run. It rained and rained all evening and we went to the pub later on, the Fox Inn I think it was? I had a glass of red, John had 3 pints and Chris was driving so had the non alcoholic option. By the time we left the rain had stopped to a wee drizzle but still the next morning dawned grey and dank. This is not my idea of nice rock climbing weather but the boys are determined to get some more grit action in. Chris is loving the Grit and ecstatically said if he weren't already married he would marry this rock! Later on he wanted a divorce after getting a good sandbagging on a HS, lol! I think he even swore which was unlike him as he is usually very polite. I missed his foul language however as I had decided to go for another run from Stanage Popular where we were that day, right along the top edge, to High Neb area and up to the Trig point. Dunno how long a run it was but it was nice going and Chris had redeemed himself on another HS and John had led an HVS.
Much deliberation ensued later that afternoon and several plans were formed, with a final forecast making us decide to head back up to Northumbria and Kyloe. I was glad to escape North Lees and determined that no matter how painful my arm was the next day, that a full dose of painkillers was in order as I just needed to climb something! That evening I was having foolish fantasies of a VS called Trinity, whose guide description states, 'the top layback over the bulge spits of many an aspiring leader!' Probably not the best idea when even V.Diffs are hurting and getting you pumped! One can dream though, it is a lovely looking line and when I'm better it will be mine, oh yes!
Chris started off our last day on a Severe called Twin Cracks and had a bit of a 'mare on it, but took it well. Then John led something hard, I'd lost count of what he was doing as it was all too hard for my arm to second. Chris led a VS called The Glade which was nice and one I'd feel comfy leading. The bottom moves going over the overhang are ace, though the slab above feels a bit sketchy! And this is followed by good use of an oak tree to get up the final wall. I wanted to lead something and had chosen a V.Diff called Fakir's Crack and it was a right Fakir!! I ended up backing off as the gear placement was awkward, the holds were pinch grips and my arm was seriously hurting. Did a much more pleasant V.Diff called Meeny instead and did it with a different finish. Chris led the VS Direct Finish to the Diff called Xmas Tree Arete which meant we had all had a go at leading the steep Diff (aye) jamming crack at the bottom, John when he did the HVS next door. The VS variation is fab and takes you laybacking on stupendous jugs up and over an overhang, amazing and one I'll defo lead next time. John cruised up an E1, and then did another E1 which pumped him out a bit and that was us for the day.

Kyloe is a gorgeous crag, lovely rock, lovely lines, lovely situation, just lovely (can you tell I like it :o) And thus began the long drive home.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Luath's Stones - Sunday 5th Oct '08

Decisions, decisions! RB's dad and stepmum's wedding anniversary this weekend, so RB was at home with me which meant no trips away for the weekend and being dragged out ice skating on Saturday. Enjoyable spending a weekend with her for a change, but gutting to miss out on the 1st winter routes done in the hills on Saturday.
Sunday, I was craving the hills and snow but RB preferred to go rock climbing, and then mentioned she'd like to go bouldering. Aaarrrrrrg, bouldering when I could be out in the snowy hills, what is the world coming too! Actually, bouldering sounded quite nice and chilled and the forecast for Sunday was milder anyway, and A had mentioned conditions disappearing (as quickly as they had appeared) anyway, so decided to take RB up to Luath's stones to boulder as it's a lovely, friendly venue with billions of easy problems to play about on.
Chris was quite happy with a chilled day of bouldering too so we drove up to his and then jumped in his car and off we went. Was pretty damn windy out, and not as warm as I had thought it would be and I was bundled up in buff, down jacket and woolly hat to keep cozy!

We all had a lovely afternoon, starting off on the Wee Wall which has loads of 4a and 4b problems and one 5a, we did them all, and Chris managed to do a 6a traverse. I tried it but found it too hard. Next, we went up to the Arch Boulder where I've previously done problems on but found them mostly too hard now. Managed the 4b (which is tough for that grade!) but fingers just not strong enough for the 5a, annoying cos I used to be able to do that one no problem. On the Sherman, slabby boulder we did the 2 5a slabby problems and I was quite chuffed with that as I tried and couldn't do them when I had injured my back and not climbed for a while. Poor RB couldn't get up one of them, though she gave it a damn fine effort! On the edge of the slab there is an undercut lip with a mantelshelf problem where you're not allowed to use any hold for your feet, other than to mantle. I've never been able to do this before, but managed it this time and we all had fun trying the sitting start up the right hand arete.
Up to the Prow next where we did all the easy stuff and I got nervous spotting RB on Jo's arete as it's quite high and above a bouldery landing. Finally, up to my favourite boulder there, the Mouse Boulder where there is a offwidth crack, complete with chockstone, breaking the boulder in two. The offwidth goes at 4a and is a fun wee problem, and I managed to do the 5a problem to the right of it, using the right-edge of the offwidth. Goes at 5c without, and is nails! Had a look at Rungs 5b, but I always look at that and think, 'how the hell can that be 5b, tis steep and nothing positive to hold! Round the corner for a 5a, which is one of my favourite problems on the hill and that's us for the day.

Have a wee dander over to Luath's Stone itself. It's a standing stone, said to be where Cuchullin tied up his huge dog (Celtic Mythology), enjoyed the views around Don and Deeside and the peaceful nature of the place.