Sunday, 26 April 2009

RB One, Mum nil, take two! - Sat/Sun 25th/26th April '09

A great weekend for Rebekah saw us drive through to Alien Rock in Edinburgh for the 3rd and final round of this year's Youth Climbing Series. RB was determined to do well and had been training hard on the overhanging lead walls and bouldering walls at AVW.
It was a great final round and the boulder problems in particular looked well 'ard! So hard (and reachy!) in fact, that nobody whatsoever managed to touch the final hold on the 2nd problem and nobody whatsoever managed to touch the 4th hold on the last problem.
By the time it came to the last and hardest route Eleanor, Rachael, Sophie, Bekah and Lyndsey were all tying for 1st place. But an overhanging 7a on tiny holds was sure to sort them out! RB did fantastically! This is just the sort of route that really suits her and the kind she trains on quite regularly and she won her very 1st placing at the YCS of 3rd place, I was so happy for her as she's put in a lot of hard work and it's been really hard to get her to the wall to train with it being so far away and with her being at her Dad's most weekends so unable to train then.
We had one quite disappointing moment however. We hadn't been aware of how the scoring was done over the 3 rounds and just assumed that they would take the scores from all the boulder problems and all of the routes over the 3rounds and add them all up to get the best 3 scores for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. So, with RB doing so well on that last route and being in 3rd position as regards points we thought that meant she would be going down to London for the finals. But it wasn't to be :o(
Had I payed closer attention to the scoring system, I would have realised that they get ranking points, so 1st place gets 100points, 2nd place gets 80 points, 3rd place gets 65 points and 4th place gets 55 points, etc etc etc. So, because RB got 4th place on the previous rounds she had a lower overall ranking score even though her final route/boulder score was really high. It was really close though with her being about 5 points in to 3rd place, but 10 ranking points lower for 3rd place. So, when the awards took place and someone told us how it all worked, RB was quite gutted after being so sure she was in 3rd place and I felt awful for not realising and paying attention to how it all worked! But she's still got her place for the Scottish Championships so she's looking forward to that.
Andy came round on Saturday evening once we were home from the comp and boy I just wasn't in the mood for climbing. Hell knows why as I've been dying to get out, but I was utterly knackered. I've been up late at night studying for a Maths exam and getting stressed about it, one minute thinking it's all going fine, then getting worried I'm going to mess it up. Add to that, getting up really early to be in Edinburgh for 9am, then volunteering to judge for the comp and having to look up nearly all day and concentrate, I was pretty gubbed. Slept like a log on Saturday night though, but was still feeling pretty flat on Sunday morning but dragged myself out as Andy had made the effort to come down for the day and was eager to climb Wandered at Clova and RB wanted to have her 1st rock session of the year too.
It was pretty cold up there and threatening rain all morning, with a little drizzle here and there. We warmed up on Parapet Route, a Severe I hadn't done (and wish I hadn't bothered!) Didn't enjoy the 1st pitch at all (that's all the routes on that wall I haven't liked the 1st pitches of!) The start was ok, until you got to an awkward and steep chimney, which I figured eventually but the next bit was a really undefined line with a few awkward moves. RB figured things out though and climbing with a minimum amount of fuss, unlike her mum who really struggled up the chimney! The top pitch looked nicer though, straight up arete/rib with nice big holds. I decided it looked easy enough to lead, a bit bold near the top but huge holds so I never once felt wibbly.
Andy was keen to get straight on Wandered, I wasn't as keen, not being warmed up enough to jump on HVS but couldn't be bothered 'discussing' it! It was starting to rain just a little as Andy was gearing up, but he decided to go for it anyway, saying he could lower RB off if it got too slippy and then ab for the gear. RB was keen to try it and Andy was going to belay up on the ledge of Beanstalk to keep an eye on her. As it turns out RB flew up the route like a wee rocket! The steep and strenuous nature of the crux posed not a single problem for her at all and she looked really cool headed up there, not like a wall rat at all but like a proper wee climber!
Not so for me though. It was stupid of me to jump on something strenuous like that without being warmed up as when it got to the steep ground my shoulders were killing me. That's the most painful they've ever been when climbing, I was nearly crying at one point from the pain, but refused to give up! Every time there was a rest point I had to let go and just let my arm hang down to release the pain. Pulling up over the crux wasn't too bad as it seemed to stretch them out, but I was bent right over with one leg flagging out into space and couldn't seem to make contact with the rock at all and flailed up a bit ungracefully!
Up on to the belay ledge and the rain started proper. Andy wasn't sure about the proper finish, thinking it might be best to go up Beanstalk finish at 4b seen as the rock was going to be soaked. I persuaded him that the holds were juggy on the 4c arete so he changed his mind and went up that way. But, he didn't go out onto the arete and climbed up the corner and crack above, before going round the arete, placing a bit of gear high up, which meant that I then had to go up that way too! And the way he went was far, far harder than going round the arete! You just need to take one step up, reach around and it's off balance, but there's a massive jug and big ledges for your feet! I ended having to try and climb up for this damn bit of gear, hold on to a high up finger jam to move up higher, but my arms were having none of it and I had to sit on the rope to get the gear out. The rest was easy enough, just needing to stop and hang my arms again to relieve my shoulders and then I was up.
On the way down, I noticed a jammed nut in Witches Tooth and I could see Andy eyeing it up. He didn't say anything as it was raining again but I said he should ab down and get it, if he wanted it. So, RB and I went and got ourselves sorted whilst he went for the booty.
So, I didn't lead much exciting this weekend, but still want to lead Alder and Proud Corner and I think Monster Crack looks really nice too. RB loved the look of Witches Tooth so Andy might give it a bash next time and see if RB can't climb her 1st E1.
A wee looky at the howf then back home for my home made pizza :o)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Cummingston and The Ben - Easter weekend '09

Just back home from Andy's. It is 2 o'clock in the morning and I'm too wired to sleep until I've sat for a while, had a cuppy and chilled. It's been a tiring weekend, but a fantastic one!
I didn't really have any plans in mind when I drove up on Friday evening after a bouldering sesh at AVW, but we decided to go to the Ben on Sunday due to it being forecast for frost Sat night/Sun morning and the weather was really better for cragging on the Moray Coast on Saturday.
I'd been talking about leading 'Centre' for quite some time and I also really fancied leading 'Left' which is a tad harder, HS4b (or MVS) for Centre and VS5a for Left. I was also taken with the route Stegosaurus. All fine and well talking about it, but in the morning I was getting so nervous, the butterflies in my stomach were making me feel sick! I don't understand why I get so nervous and work myself up into such a tizzy, but having climbed for 5yrs now I've just come to accept that I need a few grades in hand at the start of the day to get into the swing of things and get my head in the right place.
We started off with me leading Doddle Deidre (Sev) and I didn't half wobble my way up it. I had to give myself a stern talking to about half way up for being such a wimp and thoughts of, 'pah, you're struggling on a severe, you can forget about VS today!' were on my mind.
Andy led (well, soloed and dragged a rope up for me!) a Severe called Bombproof which was a lovely wee route up a steep wall on humongous jugs, oh jugs are fab! And that was it, time for Centre. I remember 2nding Chris on it last summer and finding it a struggle to reach the nose that juts out the corner, but then finding a hold that allowed me to reach and then struggling to get across and finally shaking my way up the rest of the route, so I was a bitty nervous about leading it. But I knew the gear was good and Andy convinced me that you could fling a sling around the big nose, though I was dubious and thought that once you were holding the nose you were kind of committed and wouldn't have time to faff.
But it was fine! And as it was, I managed to fling a sling round the nose before making the move and once you grab the nose, if you bridge out and lean right out, well you could hang there all day! Dunno why I struggled so on it last year as it really was a doddle! And once you're across you can bridge up the final corner in balance all the way and bung loads of gear in.
Andy then led Right, HVS5b. I wasn't sure I'd get up it as it had wee cracks that looked minuscule to me! But I didn't have anything to worry about and although it was strenuous, my fingers can fit into those small cracks quite nicely and even though the route is steep and the holds small, everything is very positive and the friction on the rock is superb, god I love sandstone!
Right, I'm gonna do it! I'd been staring at Left for ages, working out where I was going to place gear and remembering that when I top roped this route with Chris last summer I totally flew up it without a care in the world. It's a tad harder on lead though! Bung in a couple of bits of gear lower down and then move up to the bottom of the crack and you can grab a handle jug (oh yes!) at the bottom of the crack, bridge your foot out on the nose of Centre and fling a bit of gear in the bottom of the crack. Aaaarg, that bit's not fitting! Shite! I've clipped that cam onto my krab with the nuts on it, I need those nuts NOW!!! Sort my faffing out and my arms are feeling it! Gear in, move back down, shake out. Oh no, dunno if I've got the energy for this now! C'mon! You were laybacking a 6b+ at the wall just on Wed, surely you can manage a couple of similar 5a moves on rock, with bomber gear at your waist? I go for it, layback one move, back step with the left foot reach up the crack, sink my fingers in nice and deep, bridge out, reach up again for a jug, bridge up higher, and that's it done! Woooooohooooooo! The rest is easy, easy enough to pose for the camera. Chuffed as hell! Feeling really good about my climbing at the moment. Only my 3rd trad day of the year and I've already led my hardest route ever, happy happy!
We set up a top rope next on The Prophet and have a go on that. Andy gets it on his second go, but I just can't get over the roof and am falling off all over the shop! Jeez, how can folk be good enough to lead this kind of thing?! But after seeing how Andy got it clean, I will know if we ever try it again. Tide is going back out now, but I want to leave Stegosaurus for another day (good to have something to go back for, and after only managing around 5hrs sleep last night, I'm knackered.)

Sunday. Andy suggested going up to the Ben. I knew if I wanted to winter climb then the Ben was pretty much the only option for tomorrow. The though of crowds was making me feel grumpy, but what the hell, I decided to try and be chilled out about it, and just put up with other people being on all the routes (I knew there was no hope in hell of getting Andy to agree to a mega early start! And the forecast looked to be better in the afternoon anyway) It was a lovely drive over. I was tired, having had another bad night's sleep, waking in fits and starts and my mind was in pondering mode. The light shining over and reflecting into Loch Laggan was calming and again I fall in love with our beautiful country. It just doesn't matter the things that go in, in day to day life, simple moments of reflection and beauty will always take my breath away and make me feel so lucky to be able to experience our lovely hills.

We figured that if we actually had a late start, then folks would be well on there way up the routes. And Andy didn't think it would be all that busy, convinced that the majority of folk have given up on the winter.
And he was right. Compared to the last time I was up the Ben 3 years ago, it was deserted! I was assuming there would be queues upon queues for any of the more popular routes, but there wasn't that many teams out at all.
Andy wanted to see if Indicator Wall was in nick. I was highly dubious! Me on grade V ice, yer having a laugh right?! I've seen photos of Indicator Wall and in my mind it's a steep cliff with vertical ice from head to toe! Driving up, and yet again I'm feeling sick with 'the fear'
Forgotten what a slog it is up to the Ben, but we can have a stoppy in the CIC hut for drink, a bite eat, get more clothes on etc before we go on our merry way. I was also pretty excited about the prospect of Indicator Wall and trying a gradeV and was questioning nervously about just how safe it was for me to be there. Belays, good enough if I fall off or need to sit on the rope (not that I'd dare! Can't seem to bring that wall mentality to winter! It's a good thing though I think?) And it's another slog up Observatory Gully. There are 2 teams on Point 5 Gully and the gully looks to be in good condition from what I can see of it. Further up, there is a team on Tower Scoop, a team on Smiths and a team going up Gardyloo Gully, and quite a few folk on Tower Ridge. We can't quite see Indicator Wall until we are in line with the bottom of Tower Scoop, and rats once we can see, there is already someone on it! But, it's not a gully and I'm not too fussed about climbing under someone. It looks amazing and not as steep as I thought it would be (though still steep looking!) so no way do I want to go to our fall back plan of Good Friday Climb. Looking across, there is someone on that already! So, our plan of folk being a long way up stuff if we had a late start, didn't quite work out as planned. But we figured that, by the time we'd geared up and gone up and traversed across to the base of the cliff, the teams would have moved on. Didn't happen though. The team in front were taking a bit of a while and the lower team had to wait for them to move up. Andy, in a rush as ever set off though and joined the 2nd of the lower team at the 1st belay before you could shake a stick! Turns out it was somebody he knew, so it was all very sociable. And secretly, I didn't mind in the slightest! It was quite nice nattering away to folk while your climbing, though I wasn't as keen on the shower of ice that fell down my neck when I was climbing pitch 1, and the bloke above pitch 2. Still, I tucked my head down and thought it could be worse if it was all windy and spindrifty!
The 1st pitch is nice, steep in places but with plenty of gaps between and the ice was so thick that you could often get your foot sideways to rest the calf's.
The 2nd pitch I found hard though! The crux was the steepest ice I have ever climbed! I was convinced it was vertical, but Andy tries to convince me that gradeV ice isn't vertical and the crux was only about 80 degrees. But but but it was super dooper steep and bulgy! Nothing technical though, and I come to realise that there is nothing to this ice climbing other than brute strength and stamina but I'm rather lacking in the strength department and I'm grunting a bit by the time I reach Andy at the second belay.
We don't have enough rope to reach the summit in one more pitch, so Andy leads out 15/20m of easy snow slope (bout grade II angle) and takes a belay there, as I've taken a fancy to leading the last ice pitch. It's nowhere near as steep as the crux and it's much shorter than the 1st pitch. It looked about grade II again from below, but approaching it I can see it's steeper than that! Still, if I can get up gradeV ice, then I can get up this step and hah! there is a perfect nut slot and insitu peg just below the step. Placed a couple of nuts and clipped the peg and the rest was fine and dandy, just pay attention to where you put your feet, the axe placements I don't worry about, they just sink into the ice it's so good! Then it's up a steep snow slope, skirt around the cornice and traversing underneath it on soft and wettish snow is pretty freaky, but take it slowly, making sure each foot step is solid. Snow gives a little and my heart jump out my throat for just a second! But then I'm there, poking my head up and onto the summit. Man it's surreal as anything! There LOADS of people up there! Walkers and tourists and other climbers all milling about taking pics. So weird, being on steep ice one minute and then thrown into public the next!
We decided to traverse around and down to Coire Leis, there was ice all the way up Moon Walk but I can't testify to it's quality! It probably wasn't the best of ideas going down that way as it seemed to take forever. Andy bumslid right down to the Col but I wasn't as brave, what with rocks peeking through (and me remembering the rock incident on Beinn Dearg at New Year!) and a drop down to the left! The snow was quite slippy and slushy and it's that kind of ground that I find horrible descending. Dunno why it is, but my legs can handle normal downhill, or gradeI downhill, but any kind of in between steepness and my legs don't seem to like it! It's like my hips and core/centre goes all weak and taking a step downhill feels all wobbly, and it's only been like that since my back got knackered a couple of years ago. Anyway, I got down to the col eventually where Andy was waiting with a rope.
'It's steeper than I remember it,' he says
I peer down, not too steep, but I'll take the rope for the top bit cos my wee leggies are tired by this point, and going down, my arms hurt as usual from the repetitive motion of plunging my axe in. It doesn't take long to get to the less steep ground again and Andy is off in shot on his backside again! (no wonder he's wearing a hole in the seat of his troosers!) I decide to try and bumslide too, but only do it in fits and starts. Find myself careening down out of control, try to break, can't get enough pressure on my axe so lean over it, which of course twists me round into full on axe breaking position! So, I half walk, half slide down and once past the snowline I tell Andy to carry on as I'm utterly boiling and need to strip off some layers. Off with my trousers (with leggings on underneath! Not running round the Ben naked, honest!) jacket and fleece, bite to eat and drink and a call of nature, find a wee track through the boulders and down to the CIC hut where Andy has made me a cup of tea (perfect boyfriend material :oD Can take me up grade V's *and* make me a cup of tea at the end of a long day!) and is chatting with Simon Richardson (the real one! That dude that Chris, John and I met down in Northumbria (see Northumbria holiday posts) last year wasn't SR as he isn't about 80 looking and is still def much climbing!) and Robin Clothier about this and that. I'm too knackered to chat much and sit feeling a bit drained, nursing my tea. Down in the car park, we are approached by a couple of folk, one guy who was on Tower Ridge, saying he had photos of us and another guy who was out on his own doing Ledge Route.
Stop off at Roy Bridge for a bar meal (and we're utterly stuffed!) then it's a long drive home for me over the Lecht, trying to dodge all the local wildlife who seem bent on suicidal missions this evening!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

2nd round YCS and Clova - Sat 28th March/Sun 5th April '09

Last weekend saw the 2nd round of the YCS, this time held at our local wall Avertical World, in Dundee. The 1st and 2nd route and boulder problem posed no problems for RB but everyone was struggling with the last boulder problem (even the guy who set it!) and the last route was a killer, but fantastic spectator sport!
RB climbed really well considering she had fractured her toe just 4 days before! The nurse advised that if she wanted to climb her comp, then she should take a couple of days off school so she could totally rest her foot, keep it elevated, iced etc. And the bad toe was buddy taped to one of the others to give it some support and it didn't seem to give her too much grief.
JaimeD demo'd the 11-13 final route and found it really tough, about 7b reckoned!! Only one girl managed to complete it, one girl getting the 2nd last hold, the girl in 3rd position touching the hold over the 1st big roof and that put RB in 4th position again. It was a great round, and nice that it was local.
RB and I drove down to Edinburgh the next day to check out Alien Rock where the final round is being held in a few weeks time, but we were both quite tired. Led a couple of 6a's and RB did her 1st lead belay (belaying me up an F5) and she toproped a few 6b's and 6b+'s, finding them pretty tough though.

Having car problems just now so a day on the Ben this weekend was cancelled, gutted, was looking forward to yet another winter's day after being convinced I wouldn't get another! Still, Andy came down to mine and due to crap weather on Saturday we ended up at the wall, doing lot's of leading.

Sunday saw some much needed sunshine at last, hurrah! We drove up to Clova at the late hour of 11am and set off for Flake Route to warm up on. After trying to lead this with Chris last summer and having a 'mare on it, and feeling hormonal/out of it/crampy belly'd blah blah blah, I was keen for Andy to lead up to the Flake, where the guide said you could take a possible belay. I recall the top bit being a bit run out but the climbing being easy enough, and so it was. The start was just as horrible as I remember it, with me being convinced I was going to fall off that off balance, thuggy, udgy, squirmy, yucky chimney at the start, and this made me feel shaky and less confident the whole way up to Andy. Came very close to getting Andy just to lead the whole route, but no, stop thinking too much and just get on with it!! And I was fine, a bit slow to get going, really having to think about each move and convince myself that my feet were going to stick but I got there eventually, happy that I'd made the effort as if I'd bottled it, it would have ruined the whole day for me I think.
Andy wanted to lead Proud Corner next, a bold VS, one that has a reputation for spanking those who aren't confident at the grade! And of course, this made me nervous as hell! Andy seemed to cruise up it though which made it seem not so bad and before long it was my go. WHAT A ROUTE!!! This simply has to be the best VS I've done ever! Move after glorious move on really small but positive holds, steep and sustained but never overhanging. Every move felt good and in balance and the situations were just mind blowing! Beautiful! A climb I will remember for a long time and one that is now firmly embedded on my tick list!
Was feeling good, feeling confident, sun was shining, good memories of The Beanstalk from last year, so I decided I wanted to lead it. Now, there are a choice of 3 finishes at VS4b, VS4c or HVS5a. I sure wasn't doing the HVS finish and I knew there was one reachy move on the 4c that I just couldn't quite get, so I wanted to do the 4b finish, but was unsure where it went. We decided that I would go as far as the big ledge where the route splits after doing the crux and set up a belay there, then Andy would lead the top pitch. It was fun! Up a chimney, with a couple of steep moves near the bottom (gosh, I didn't remember it being this steep!) Then up to a tree and up a giant flake, steep but you can wrap your hands right round the flakes and the climbing just superb. At the top of the flake comes the crux, a huge and committing step leftwards and a massive rock across, all above your gear, I was buzzing! Set up a belay and we were unsure which way to go next. The 4b finish looked pretty dubious at the grade and Andy thought going direct looked more plausible. I was sure the 4b finish must look harder than it actually is, considering I'd already done the crux, but these things are deceptive! Still, the gear looked good going direct. It was steep though, and quite awkward in places, def not 4b that's for sure! Turns out it was the HVS 5a finish.
And speaking of HVS, Andy then wanted to do Wander, an HVS 5a. It looked hard!
'I'm not sure I'll manage this!'
And I didn't.
Andy found it tough and shouted down that the crux was reachy. Great!!! He belayed on a tree so I could have the rope above me on the hard bit and not take a swing if I fell off. I didn't fall off in the end but I needed a god damn tight rope and ended up hauling on a piece of gear as I just couldn't reach a big jug at the top of the overhang, oh to be 5-6 inches taller! And there's no way in hell I could use intermediate pinches and slopers, not with the bulge pushing me outwards.
The tree belay was horrible too, I was feeling pumped, annoyed for aiding, and annoyed at the route full stop! But we got ourselves untangled and it wasn't far for Andy to lead to the top. I got a bit gripped, unsure of how to move across and away from the tree as there didn't seem to be much to hold on to. Ended up stepping down onto a ledge and moving across that way and eventually finding a 'thank god' hold to move up on. The rest of the moves were steep but positive, still reachy, but do-able.
Never want to do that route again though, utterly horrid!
Not horrid enough to spoil what was a fantastic day though. Feeling good about my climbing at the moment. That's 3 trad routes I've led so far this season, a Severe, a Hard Severe and a Very Severe and looking forward to a summer filled with many more :o)
No photos this weekend.