Sunday, 22 March 2009

Kirrie Hill, flashing V4, Ardverikie Wall and The Runnel - 22nd March '09

Not all on the same weekend though!
Weekend previously one of my 3 cats had torn his paw open. He likes to lie on top of my computer monitor and sook up the heat but on this occasion his 'thumb' claw got caught on one of the vents and ripped his paw open as he tried to get free. So, bloody cat, bloody computer and bloody walls where he had shaked his paw once free! And me £55 down, with instructions from the vet to keep him indoors for 2-3 days. Bang goes my weekend out on the hill!
Wasn't looking the best weekend for winter climbing anyway with strong winds, so Andy came down to mine and we headed over to Kirrie Hill for the season's 1st cragging session (though Andy had been to Cummingston to solo a few days previously) We were going well, I was nervous about being back on rock after the winter but it didn't feel stiff and unnatural and I was managing to climb 6a so that was good. The next day we picked up RB for a day indoors as she had missed her Wed training session as I had a Uni interview (finger's crossed!) RB decided to boulder mostly whilst Andy and I climbed, me managing a 6b clean that I've struggled on previously and RB flashing her 1st V4!!! And that was followed by cleanly climbing a 6b+, wee monkey!
Made it back out on the hill this weekend thankfully. We'd semi planned on a day out on Braeriach, perhaps to climb Vulcan, a V4, (winter route though, not boulder problem!) but Andy had a call from a mate of his the day before, who was standing above the Coire saying it looked guff, too warm and thawed and with hideous cornices and they were walking back out having not climbed. That was that plan down the drain, so I guess it was a day on a crowded Ben Nevis I had to look forward to. Still, sure Andy could find us something obscure to climb away from the hordes.
Andy had slightly different plans however! I'd mentioned on a previous email that if Braeriach was a no goer, then we could go do an easy mountain rock climb (aka a Diff or something) but that got Andy thinking about Ardverikie Wall on Binnean Shaus, low down, South facing and supposedly a good early rock option. Hmmmmm. I was dubious, had heard it was horrible when wet,
'It won't be wet,' Andy says, 'it's been dry for days.'
I'd heard stories of easier pitches but terribly run out, but sod it I thought, let's do it!
We got up around 7ish and arrived at the carpark maybe about 9ish, to be met with quite a few cars parked, some of which were definitely other climbers, we were going to have company. Still, someone had put a post up on UKC about the route a few days previously so it was inevitable that other folk would find there way there.
It was dank and cloudy on the walk in, with the cloud level getting lower and lower, accompanied by a thin drizzling of rain, great! And it wasn't warm. I hate rock climbing in the cold, the cold is for winter not for rock. Andy reminded me of the cold's great friction on the rock, and I reminded him of numb hands unable to feel anything of the rock. And so it was! What should have been enjoyment of a sunny classic route, was far from. We had to hang about waiting for a wee while in the clag and cold as 2 parties were up above us, but the lower ones weren't too long in moving up and off we set. Andy was to lead the harder pitches and me the easier ones but it didn't quite work out like that. My hands were completely frozen, numb and unable to feel the rock, most off putting and I wasn't enjoying it that much and couldn't really see up ahead or enjoy the surroundings. And the route was all slabby, I don't like slabs! I can climb them really well, but they always feel precarious to me. Still, the 3rd pitch *was* fantastic! Quite involved and very nice climbing indeed, so much so that I forgot about the cold and clag and once I got to Andy, the clag had parted and the sun was starting to peek out. Damn it! Why couldn't it have come out at the bottom of the route! We should have stayed in bed for an hour longer to get the best of the day. As it was the folk who had arrived after us, were catching us up but the sun was out now and I decided to lead the last pitch which was a bit run out in order of the day, but OK enough.
We then zoomed down and as it was early enough, decided to do Kubla Khan also, a ** Hard Severe. Oooooooooh, I did like the look of the 1st pitch! Much steeper than Ardverikie, but much, much more my style of route. It's funny the way some routes just scream out to you to be climbed and others not so much. Up a steep wall with nice little ledges and then up an even steeper wall above, with massive jugs to pull on. Shoved in a hex and a cam and then laybacked 2 steep moves onto another ledge and up another wee bit onto a big ledge to bring up Andy. The top pitch looked nice too. Slabby again, but steeper slab and the rock here is just so clean and the friction just superb. We were up in no time, but next was a dreaded abseil down.
I think Andy had forgotten just how much I hate abseiling, so when I was questioning the anchors, questioning whether the ropes would reach the bottom and then questioned about clipping my prussic into my leg loop (I normally clip it onto my belay loop) he lost his temper with me a bit, which of course fired up my temper as I simply won't be shouted at. I was livid! I ab'd down the route in a fury and still had steam coming out my ears by the time Andy came down.
'Am I forgiven?' There's that cheeky wee smile and sparkling eyes, and god damn, dinnae do that, yer making me laugh and I'm trying so hard to be a stroppy mare here and can't possibly be annoyed when you look at me like that! All forgiven, I can rant on about what a brilliant route that was and Andy points out some of the harder stuff on the crag, one route of which is a mental looking crack up a steep arete and wall, hideous!
The wind is picking up and it's a cold walk out, but the wind is exhilarating and I decide to run the last wee bit back to the car, can't go fast though as the sack weighs me down, but I dump my sack at the car, run back to Andy and then run back to the car again! I'm in the mood for running, all this tread milling at the gym is fine for keeping fit, but I need a run in the hills and soon! I think it is the wind that does it to me, it's fresh and makes me feel so vibrant and alive, that I want to run for the pleasure of feeling free.

Sunday, rock climb? The Ben? Quick day up Sneachda, maybe up the Runnel? Sandy Allan did it the other day with some folk off some Radio show and said there was still ice. Andy preferred to go rock climbing, but I was desperate for just another winter route as I'm not convinced I'll get anything else done this winter. The Runnel it was, neither of us could be bothered with an early start, drive and long walk up to a crowded Ben and the forecast looked better East anyway.
Up at 7am, and gawd I'm tired! Drag myself out of bed and ready, drag myself up to the coire, the wind is picking up and it's spittering rain and graupal. We solo up the start of The Runnel and my poor wee calfs, as usual, just hate this kind of ground. Funny, I can run uphill, I can run with a heavy sack full of climbing gear, I can walk for miles and miles and just keep going, but I can't walk up grade I ground without my lower legs screaming at me. The route was okay, very short lived though! Andy later said it was around 140m but it didn't feel as long as that. It was pleasant though and nice to get my axes into something, though I've decided for definite that I don't like the Grivel Clipper leashes, what a faff they are!
There were steps all the way up the gully and all the way up the ice in the chimney. I placed 2 token bits of gear in the chimney, which we roped up for, which were hard to clip as the wind was battering up the chimney and blowing my quickdraw all over the place! The ice had water running over the top of it and was dirty and cruddy at the top, but solid apart from that.

Rather windy on top! And getting windier, we decided to go down the Goat Track rather than get constantly blown over by going round the top. I was pretty damn nervous though, getting blown off down the Goat Track wasn't my idea of a good day out! I crouched down onto my knees at the top as the wind was relentless and popping over the top came a couple of blokes with a dog. Oh well, if the dog can do it...........
It was slow going at first until I felt more confident that the wind wasn't going to blow me off balance, but speeding up, my shoulder started protesting and protesting some more! Protesting more and more until it was a knot full of burning pain and my arm felt floppy, my hand weak on my axe. So hard to keep hold of it, I lean into the slope and just let my arm hang relaxed for a minute, before carrying on until the pain builds up to unbearable again.
This is infuriating! I wish someone could tell me what the heck is wrong with my shoulder. I think it's some sort of rotator cuff tendinitis but 'they' keep telling me it's from my neck. But my neck feels fine until they get me to do the stupid neck stretches which make my neck feel stiff and sore, not stretched and relaxed in the slightest. Stop the stretches and hey presto my neck is back to feeling normal again, funny that!
Anyway, down off the steepest part of the Goat Track and I can walk down, the wind has calmed just enough that I can keep my balance. It's raining though and Andy's not enjoying the wind and rain, but I feel refreshed and happy to have got out just one more time. I've yet to meet another person who enjoys the hills in the driving wind and rain, surely it's not just me?

We're back at the car for 12.30, not bad for a day's work!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Bekah - 2points, Mother - nil! 8th March '09

Not much to report on the winter climbing front, in fact nothing of interest at all!
Busy on Mum duty at the 1st round of the YCS at Ratho on Saturday, so no climbing. But Sat night I drove (slowly and tiredly) up to Andy's to go climbing on Sunday. Forecast wasn't inspiring, snow showers, blizzard conditions, gusts of 80mph. Nice! But out we went, at least wanting a short day. We could have gone into Sneachda or Lochain but as always new routes lured us over to Lurcher's instead. We had thought about the longer walk in from Rothiemurchus, but decided to risk going over the top as it was a quicker approach for where we wanted to be. Bad choice in the end. The walk in was fine at the start. At 9am the wind was ok, and just little drizzly snow showers, but it was picking up by the time we were walking up and past Lochain.
I got blown over a couple times approaching the cliff top and was finding it very difficult to get my crampons on as I didn't have any thin gloves with me, and find it impossible to do up crampons with thick gloves on. Gloves were off for 10seconds tops before hands became painful, so gloves back on! And it took a while of this on/off process to get the crampons on. Gearing up was going to be a nightmare! Add to that, my duff goggles that I'd gotten which in my few years of winter climbing I'd never yet had to use, managing to grin and bear any previous wind and spindrift episodes.
But, walking directly into the wind, with a front just coming in and with the spindrift howling up the cliff and over the top and right into our faces was too much for my wee eyes, and my eyelids kept threatening to freeze together which wasn't helping matters!
Getting down South Gully was going to be impossible for me, I just wouldn't be able to see! I just couldn't decide what to do though, I've only ever backed off from doing a route once because of crap weather, and I don't like it! I hate the way it makes me feel, torn between wanting to climb and not wanting to have to put up with crap weather, especially when I've had so many wonderful days. Andy decided for me though, and said, 'let's go down,' and I was grateful for him for making it easy for me to choose to go back. I was disappointed though, and spend a lot of the walk out thinking about it, and thinking I should have kept on regardless, esp when we passed other people walking in and knew other folk would be climbing regardless! But they would have sheltered points to gear up, where as we didn't! (although, in retrospect, Andy did later think we might have got shelter at a certain spot on the cliff top, and could have descended down the far end of the cliff, rather than down South Gully. Ho hum, we will remember that next time!)
So, that's that, no climbing for another week. And by next weekend I will be tearing my hair out to get out again! Early indications are that it will be a bit stormy again, hoping that won't be true!

RB has had a much better time of things the past week or two.
The last Friday saw the final round of Avertical World's winter bouldering series and we both took part this time. I wasn't climbing the next day, so felt ok about tiring myself out and my elbow wasn't giving me too much grief either. I did ok, much the same as I normally do, probably a little better on some problems, but crap on others!
Out of all the rounds, RB won 1st place for Junior Girls and won herself £30, she was really chuffed and is putting the money towards getting herself a new pair of climbing shoes as the ones she has are getting a bit tight.

The weekend after saw the 1st round of the YCS at Ratho. 3 boulder problems (with 3 attempts) and 3 routes. There were loads more kids there than last year, which was nice and it was nice for RB to catch up with some of the girls she had met last year.
The first route was really easy for all of them and the first boulder problem too. All the 11-13 girls made it up the 2nd route too but the 2nd boulder problem was causing a few problems for some of them, with only half of them making it first go, and 3rd go! The second route, a 6b, didn't seem to cause any problems for any of them
and they all flew up with ease.
The final boulder problem was tough! An easy start, then onto a horrible rounded and slopery pocket to reach up for a thick horizontal type pinchy thing (and this is where most had trouble) Next it was a big stretch across for a sloper and a struggle to get feet higher and reach up for the next sloper. Most folk came off here (including RB) and only the 2 taller girls completed the problem.
Poor RB though, she was first to go on the hardest route of the day, which she was hoping to avoid, but that's just bad luck.
She flew up the start of the route, making it look like a doddle, the tiny holds posing no problems for her small but strong fingers! She got to the crux but couldn't reach the next hold. I think she just had her 'stretch' for it head on, and in her struggle forgot to think about her feet. I was shouting up, 'fffeeeeeeeeet!' but she didn't hear. There was a hold out to the right and I'm sure if she twisted round, got her foot high on that, she might have been able to reach back and up for it. But so easy for me to say, down on the ground!
All the other girls were struggling at an earlier awkward section and one after one they peeled off, until 2 of the stronger, more technical (and taller!) girls flew past the awkward section and reached through the crux without a thought! Nice to watch! So, RB was 3rd on the hardest route, but one of the other girls had bested her on the hardest boulder problem so RB came 4th overall, missing 3rd place by one point!
Next round on Saturday 28th March at AVW in Dundee.