Sunday, 31 May 2009

Scottish Youth Climbing Championships and Cracks of Magic! 30th/31st May '08

Finally, the weekend of the Scottish Youth Climbing Championships that RB qualified for after coming 4th in the Youth Climbing Series this year. We'd been looking forward to it but both felt a bit dubious as to how well she'd do seen as we'd done hardly any indoor climbing since the last round of the YCS at Alien, and RB had done hardly any rock climbing either midweek due to me having my exams. We'd gone down to the wall a couple of times but only climbed half heartedly, neither of us really wanting to be indoors (with me sighing in relief that RB has been much preferring to climb outside!)
The format of the comp was that there were 15 boulder problems and short routes and RB had to try them all onsight and a judge scoring each problem would mark her score sheet. So, not only were they being tested on their climbing, but also on their ability to read the routes and read which ones were best to go for first and which ones to save until they had warmed up sufficiently. The comp was held at Extreme Dream in Aviemore, which although is a short wall, packs in a hell of a lot and has roofs and overhangs galore!
She got through everything in good time, but had a few slip ups on stuff she would normally fly up! Don't know if she was rushing too much or feeling over confident on stuff she thought looked easy but which was harder than it looked! But on other things which did look hard, she'd do really, really well! We thought it would be 50/50 whether she got through to the semi finals, but get through she did! I was so chuffed for her, and she was absolutely delighted and really put her all into next part of the comp, I think it really boosted her confidence!
The semi final was just one route and everyone who managed to top out would get through to the finals, where they would battle it out for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. The semi final route was up a slab, onto a roof and then crossing the roof to a volume and the finish and they had 2minutes to complete the route or the were out, so the pressure was on! They all managed to complete it and so all got through to the finals and they decided that the only way to make it challenging enough for them was to have them lead across the big roof that the older age category had just done for their semi's.
All 5 of them were put into isolation so they couldn't watch each other climb. RB was really nervous, never having led (or climbed!) a big roof like that. She's climbed over the roof on the bouldering wall at Dundee, but this was longer and was leading too. RB commented that it was today she was going to be taking her 1st leader fall. 'Just do your best,' I said and don't worry about falling, it's totally safe, just a little swing. 'Just keep climbing till you can't hold on. Don't bottle it and come off at the clip, but keep going.' Easy for me to say!
The 2 girls who were battling it out for 1st place nearly managed to complete the route, with the winner Nikki holding the last hold before falling and Rachael in 2nd place not far behind! Dawn who came 3rd reached the 1st volume, RB was one hold behind her and Lyndsey a couple of holds behind RB, so it was all very close! RB's feet cut loose at the 1st tough bit but she managed to get them back up again, make a couple more moves and another clip before her feet swung loose again. She couldn't get them back up this time, but she damn well tried! And off she came taking her 1st leader fall, which she said was actually rather fun! Such a good effort from her, especially as she doesn't get to train or climb half as much as most of them and I was so happy for her!

Sunday, we'd originally planned to go cragging and let RB do her 1st unsupervised trad leads. She's led a few Diffs and V.Diffs before but always with someone beside her and she was keen to do it on her own and I finally relented, now that she's a bit more mature and I know her gear has always been good and she understands how everything works.
But in the end, it was just far too good a day to be cragging and we wanted to be up the hills as it was just so hot a day forecast. So, we were supposed to be doing something easy so RB could possibly lead, but with supervision seen as it was more complicated being multipitch. But Andy somehow managed to wheedle his way into us all doing something hard!! I was a tad annoyed at first, as I wanted the day to be for RB, but she seemed keen to try something harder and was happy to postpone her leading practise so I mellowed to the idea and we all went up to Sneachda to do Magic Crack at HVS 5a. I was still dubious about it as it was HVS and by all intents and purposes it's a slab! Okay, it's a steep slab but it's still a slab and I hate slabs! I've been really getting into my leading of late and don't want to start off a thing where we are always doing stuff that's too hard for me to lead so I don't get the chance, so I was asking a billion questions about the route, pondering on whether I could manage to lead one of the pitches
As it t
urns out though, we had to start up the 1st pitch of the Genie to avoid a snow patch and I wasn't that inspired by it as the bottom was a bit dirty but once we got higher up the climbing was nice and once at the 2nd pitch before I knew what I was saying it just slipped out,
'I'll lead this one,'
Aaaarg, what
are you doing! You hate slabs! Why have you just volunteered yourself to do a 5a slab right at your leading limit! Dafty! But I don't think about it, I just want to do it.
Approaching the slab I gulp, what have I let myself in for! But standing underneath the steep and thin crack that goes up the slab I can pick out little features for my feet and nubbins in the crack for my hands and I can lace it with gear! The start is easy enough and it gets harder the higher up you go, until at the top it gets pretty blank and you have to trust your feet in a couple of dubious looking half jams in the crack with little finger jams and edges at the side of the crack. It's lovely though and for some reason I don't get scared, I'm just purely focused on the climbing! Once past the crux of that pitch it eases off to a ledge and then a corner and flake above which just has one thoughtful move. And that's it! My first lead on an HVS, although my pitch was only really VS, it's still a 5a pitch and probably my best lead to date, if not my hardest.
RB manages it just fine, just getting her feet muddled a little but she's really trusting the rock an
d the friction and she knows what to do with the crack and how to climb it.
The next pitch is a lot more sustained though! The start is easy, then a very thin section which I'd have found pretty scary on lead, then it gets easier again at the top of the magic crack and once past the crack, the top bit is utterly amazing climbing, really beautiful moves across the rock! I could quite happily go and do that route all over again, simply for those top moves, lovely lovely! I was thinking the route was only worth 2 stars as the crack and slab climbing is all a bit samey, samey but that top bit is worth 3 stars alone it was so good! If you get a route that had pitches upon pitches of climbing like that, then god that'd be a billion star route!
Next we have to ab down at the side of the route. RB was a bit nervous about the ab, but once
she set off she did it just fine, with me waiting for her at the top while Andy went down first, then Andy holding the ropes at the bottom, keeping her safe. Andy had shouted up and asked if we wanted to just ab down one ropes length and then climb the crux pitch of another HVS called Damnation. I thought it looked hard as anything, but both Andy and RB were keen to give it a go. I was more keen to get back to the sacks for a drink as it was so hot, but didn't want to spoil the fun! And was also a bit miffed that again, we had been conned into doing another hard route!
But I'm glad we did it in the end as there none of had realised just how much time was ticking on, and we wouldn't have had time to go back down and walk along to Mess of Pottage to have RB
and me lead something easy. The crux on Damnation goes at 5b and it was pretty tricky! Especially as the very thin finger crack was wet and filled with mud!!! You had to jam your fingers and layback your feet up the corner for just a couple of moves, but the moves above and below were sustained and not a push over either! But once up the corner crack, you got to do the brilliant top bit of Magic Crack all over again!
This time we ab'd down to the top of the 1st pitch of Magic Crack, but not quite! I'd been dubious that we'd be able to ab' that far as I was sure the guide had mentioned the last 2 pitches were around 30m each, meaning the 50m ropes weren't long enough but Andy was insistent they were long enough! When it was my turn to ab and
I arrived at the stance, Andy was looking a bit sheepish and admitted that the ropes hadn't been long enough! We were in a safe position though, it was just a 10ft scramble down to the proper ab' point so all was okay. I scrambled down with a body belay from Andy above, RB got lowered down as the down climbing moves were a bit stretchy! And Andy scrambled down after, then we all ab'd down the final pitch, finally back to the sacks and my much longed for water!
Surprisingly it was 4.30, too late to do another route and have RB home in good time for school the next day so we decided to call it a day.
It was a fab day though and RB had a wonderful time and it was ace to see her climbing so well outdoors and feeling confident on multipitch routes, and I'm finally coming round to the idea that slabs arn't so bad

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Pass of Ballater - 24th May '09

Last minute arrangements as usual saw Mel and I with a plan for Ballater, with Mel picking me up at 9am.
'Ah, I'll get a nice lie in I thought.'
Not to be with a text from Chris waking me up at 7am saying he could manage it out climbing today too. We met up at the car park at 10.30, each with a mission in mind! Chris for Medium Groove, Mel for Lucky Strike and me for Original Route.
Started off with my usual Severe warm up which Mel didn't want to do as she'd done it last time she was there. That's the 4th time I've done it now, but there's not much else there to warm up on and it's a good and easy route to get my head in the right place. There was much discussion as to what to do next. Mel didn't want to jump on Lucky Strike straight away and Chris didn't want to jump on Medium Groove straight away either. There is another VS called Razor's Crack, low in the grade, which I wanted to lead too but was happy to give it over for their warm up as I was more keen for Original Route and it would save time with backwarding and forwarding to different parts of the cliff.
So Chris led Razor's and Mel showed my how to do the starting moves with a bit more ease than I remember! The first time I seconded this route was not long after I started climbing and I remember the guy Pete who led it putting in some gear way out to the left, making it really awkward for me to reach, so much so that I had to heel hook to keep in balance. I then just heaved and rocked over and found it all a bit of a struggle! The next time I tried it was when my spine was injured and I had to rest on the rope, finding it difficult in my weakness. This time I was up it in a flash! And it also means I've got something to go back and lead.
Mel went on Lucky Strike next and did a brilliant job of it! She's dead keen and bold and it's been ace climbing with her. I really like having another woman to climb with, especially one that can climb a bit harder than me and can inspire, motivate and encourage me! Lucky Strike is quite bold to start off, but Mel climbed it confidently, giving an 'oh yeah' of delight upon reaching the 1st jug! I moved back to take some photos and before long Chris was on his way and had found a brilliant side pull that he'd never noticed before at the start of the route. Then it was my go! I was really nervous about trying it. Chris had pointed out the better way to start it, avoiding all the polished and horrible crimpy holds and moving straight up right, before heading over left. When I did this route a couple of years ago, again when my back was bad, the guys I'd done it with had gone left too soon, making it LOADS harder! It's just one small crimpy move to the good side pull, then it's one more easy move and you've got the huge jug!
Then the crux is getting onto the 1st ledge which is quite awkward! Then follows a steep layback and we all used knees to get onto a big ledge with a tree. I struggled with the top crack, unable to find anything useful for my feet and try as I might, I can't remember how I got up that bit, but I do remember there was much grunting!
I was feeling nervous as hell about leading Original Route. I wasn't feeling that confidence that I have been feeling of late, and was feeling edgy and hormonal and full of negative thoughts. But I decided just to get on it anyway, telling myself the thoughts would go away once I was on the route, which they did as usual!
Took me 2 attempts to get the starting move, bung in some gear higher up and then I was on the ledge below the crux, twin cracks. This was yet another route that I'd struggled with on second so it took me a while to psych myself up for it! I had 2 good bits of gear, a bomber nut and a good hex. Found a hand jam low down, but then found an even better and utterly solid hand jam higher up. Moved my right foot onto a rounded edge at the bottom of the wall, moved up higher and got my left foot jammed in the left crack. This position was quite awkward, but ok enough to get in another good cam, get my right leg high onto a smaller sloping ledge on the wall and then try to move up. But aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggggg, that foot jam is fecking stuck!!! I can't move!!! This is bloody annoying! My position isn't so bad that I'm in imminent danger of falling, but my right foot is very high and I don't feel I can reverse the move enough to release my jammed foot! I curse some more and then relax my leg enough, taking the weight more onto my arms and other leg, enough to sink my heel low to untwist the foot jam and it finally pops out! Phew, that was getting a bit hairy! Then there's a crimp, another move up and a rounded but good hold at the top. WOOHOO AND YAY! My second VS5a in the bag, hurrah!
Chris's lead next and after some food we all went down to the base of Medium Cool. Hmmmmm, this looks 'interesting!'
It involves a pull up and rock over onto a slab, then a huge hand traverse, pulling over an overlap, then another traverse back rightwards before climbing up an easier but gearless slab! It took some time for Chris to lead, must have been bold as get oot! The traverse is very delicate for the feet and it's not until half way across that you feel fully secure on the hand holds. The crux is quite committing. There is a rounded crack that you have to walk your hands along, whilst getting your feet high enough that you can throw one over the overlap, trust the friction of the rock and then rock over. Then it's slab padding for a couple of moves, then easy to the top. A brilliant lead by Chris and another route I'd love to have a go of leading!
Next, Mel went to have a look at Pink Wall. It's given VS5a in the guide but has been upgraded to HVS5a. Mel thought it looked not too bad with positive holds. I thought the holds looked positive, but thought it looked bloody steep! Mel got a bit of gear in, then moved up but struggled to find anything good for her left hand and felt really off balance. She came off, landing on her feet, and then over onto the bottom of her back! Ouch! In hindsight, we should have spotted her until she got the first positive hold and got higher gear in, but hindsight is a great thing!
She picked herself up and tried again. Putting in more gear, it whipped out and she smacked her elbow off the wall, grimacing in pain! That was her for the day. She was exhausted. A day of fun competition speed climbing and belaying the day before, having the cold and being up late with a hacking cough was making her feel really rough, and she looked in loads of pain where she's smacked her back!
Chris and I had a wander to look at Flibbertigibbet and Left Hand Crack but neither of us felt motivated and I didn't really think it was a good idea anyway for Mel to hang about for much longer as she was obviously suffering, so we were all happy to call it a day. Chris took Mel's rope so she didn't have to carry it and I offered to take her gear, but she wouldn't let me, stubborn mare!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Charlie Says..................16th/17th May '09

Charlie says...............I've just led Charlie's Corner on Jetty Buttress up Gruinard way, woohoo! This is a VS I've been wanting to lead for a good while now, happy happy!
While the rest of Britain was under heavy rain and gale winds, Chris and I were climbing up in the NW of Scotland, sheltered from the wind and in sunshine!
I drove up to Chris' on Friday evening but was running very late due to seeing someone I know, at first seemingly broken down, on the Dual Carriageway just before Dundee. It was pelting it down with rain, so couldn't leave them there without going back and seeing if they needed a lift or help. It took a while to drive back round and up, and as I parked into a garage across the road an ambulance which had thundered by recently was just pulling up and the person I know was getting in. Cross the Dual to find out if he was OK, and had to wait for ages for him to been seen to and questioned by the police (some guy had shunted into the back of him)
In the end he didn't need help or a lift, so that was precious time wasted, though a good deed for the day! Zooming up to Chris' already late, a tree had blown over in the high winds and blocked access to the Fettercairn, Cairn O Mount road, aaaaaaaarg!!! Managed to find a way through though by a sneaky drive through the Fasque estate and was soon at Chris' By this point though, it was 9pm, still lashing it down and we decided to stay at Chris' house and drive up NW early the next morning.
It rained and it rained and it rained all the way up North, so much so that we were wondering if we'd made the right decision, but thankfully it cleared by the time we'd hit the Braemore Junction and we carried on up to Ullapool to go climbing at Reiff. Driving down the Auchaltibui Road, the rain started again and it was still awfully windy so we about turned and drove back to B.Junction to head to Jetty Crags at North Gruinard, where thankfully it was dry! Warm too, sheltered by the wind and felt really mild.
Hurrah, time to climb at last!
I went for the first lead of the day on the imaginative Route 2, a one starred Severe 4a. Climbs a groove and then onto the arete of the groove, crossing over the top of the groove and onto the slab. Getting onto the slab was the crux and felt thin and very bold for the grade! Quite thin moves higher up also, generally not the kind of moves I like, so good to test myself.
Chris led a HS 4a called Lilly The Pink which I thought was a pretty crap route with no distinct features and no distinct line. Chris found the route finding challenging and said that the 1st ascentionist Jim Bell was well known for route finding through featureless faces or rock.
I wanted to get straight on Charlie's Corner as it's a VS I've liked the look of since I very first saw it, and it didn't disappoint! Bridge up a corner to a text book jug and then came what I found to be the crux. There was a good hold up on the left but it was way out of reach, gggggggrrrrr!! Took me ages to figure out how to make the move after much palming and high stepping this way and that way, I finally found a sequence that would work for me and nailed it onto the left ledge. Next followed sensational climbing up an arete onto another ledge, up a steep groove and onto an even more exposed headwall. It was the most delightful route I've led, I was grinning and oooohing and aaaaaaaahing as I was climbing the top wall, just brilliant :oD
Chris wasn't sure what to do next, he didn't like the look of the polish on the classic Anthrax Flake (I think Charlie's Corner looks a far better route anyway!) and one of the other VS's looked okay, but he decided in the end to go for an HVS 5a called Batty that the guide had as being low in the grade.
Low in the grade? Aye right! It was solid HVS climbing and Chris led it brilliantly! I reckon if he can lead stuff like this, there aren't many of the HVS's that I've seconded that he'd struggle with on lead. The bottom was steep and awkward with hold which weren't great and the top moves up an offwidth type gap forming a detached block, and a blank wall were pretty technical, but in a way that was impossible to do with any finesse! But I don't think off widths and finesse really go together! It was a fun route though, and even though I wasn't keen on the bottom section, the top was fab!
Belly's were rumbling by now and it was getting cooler, the hour was getting on. Time to find a spot to camp and eat and drink. Unfortunately, the spot on a flat grassy bit beside a secluded beach had already been taken, but we managed to find another flat spot. No view of the beach here though, but a nice spot nonetheless. I had no gas canister, so tried using these paraffin blocks that had been given to me, but discovered they are utterly crap as a stove so ended up eating my tea cold as I couldn't be bothered to wait for Chris to finish making his tea. It was nice sitting chilling and drinking wine whilst camping, I've really missed it!
I slept quite well and woke up to a lovely sunny day. We had decided the night before to go check out the Thorsdale Crags south of Gairloch. I'd climbed at Raven's Crag a few years ago but the grades there were all easy, so we wanted to go to Fruity Crag and Druid's Rock which had plenty of severe's to warm up on and loads of VS's and a few HVS's. I'd also seconded an HVS on Fruity a few years ago and remember being intimidated by the routes there but I was only leading V.Diff at the time and the crag, even though very short at 10m is pretty damn steep! After a short run on the beach we drove off to the crags.
I started off on a Severe called Banana which looked straightforward enough, but gave me a bit of trouble at the crux, mainly cos I needed to do a high step with my left leg which I can flex at the hip well at all because of my old back injury and the op. (this is what had caused problems on the crux of Charlie's Corner the day before and made me think that I need to start doing some hip flexor stretches to try and improve my flexibility in that leg. I had been told that I would never be able to touch my toes again, and have proved them wrong with that one, so sure I can gain more flexibility in other parts where it shouldn't be possible. Not entirely sure if it is hip flexors or my hamstrings which make me unable to do these moves. Must find out!)
Anyway, Chris breezed up the route, finding it a doddle and then jumped straight onto a tough VS! I was surprised he was going for this one without warming up as it looked hard. It was a superb route and he led it really well, figuring the moves nicely (and saving me the bother of having to figure them on second!) The moves were very sequencey and technical and it felt very much like a boulder problem but on a cliff face. Then there was a nice ledge, followed by some delicate slabby climbing. No stars in the guide but we both thought it worthy of a couple of stars. And more of a 5a grade, than the 4c given!
I was going to lead another Severe on a slab round the side (to try and get myself used to leading slabs) but decided to go for a VS 4b instead that I like the look of. It followed a thin flake up to a ledge and then up a huge detached flake. This route gave me a real battle, and is def my hardest VS lead to date! The crux moves are never 4b!!! Much more like a 4c (even 5a) move above your gear and into an awkward position, before flinging in another bit of dubious gear. I wasn't 100% sure about any of the gear on the route, bar one bit at the start and knew if I fell and the gear ripped I was facing a ground fall! So, it made those crux moves feel very committing! I guess that's why it gets VS 4b, as even though the moves are harder than 4b, it is a bold route, but it's no way near hard enough to get HVS 4c, and VS 4c doesn't convey it's boldness. But I think I'd def go for VS 4c, with a bit about bold climbing in the guide description. Mind you, the guide for this crag is way, way out and the grades aren't correct at all! There is a photo of the guy in the guide, on some E4 and he is the guy who has done many of the 1st ascents. I had commented that he had really girly looking legs and we said we should phone him and say, 'hey mate, you can't grade for shit and you have legs like a girl!' lol! All meant in good humour of course.
Back to the route.......... It took ages and ages for me to commit and I was having a bit of a problem with the ropes. You had to layback for a couple of moves and every time I leaned off the big flake and tried to move up, the knot of the higher rope kept getting caught on the bottom of the flake, preventing me from moving up, so I would have to climb back down again.
Tried a longer quickdraw, didn't work, climb back down.
Tried extending the quickdraw, didn't work, climb back down.
All the while my arms are getting tired from each attempt.
Thank god for that ledge to stand and recover on though!
Finally made the moves by pulling a big bit of slack over the flake so the rope wouldn't catch. Of course, if I fell, I would fall longer as there was more rope out, but that couldn't be helped! I wasn't even sure if these moves would work and once fully committed, there's no way I felt comfortable enough to reverse the top moves if it wasn't right! Thankfully it did work, phew! But now I was wedged in to the flake in a very awkward position. I could see the move I had to make next but wanted more gear, the last bit now below my feet. I bunged in a quick cam, no time to faff, too awkward! Stress, stress, stress and it came to mind something Andy and I had been discussing about cams. and ease of placement. He had told me that when I started leading harder stuff I would place cams more often as I'd be in too strenuous a position to hold on and faff with other gear. And boy he was right! I just bunged that cam in quick as you like and moved up quickly, going, 'oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!' But what was at the top of the flake but a THANK FUCK JUG! Oh yeah! WOO FUCKING HOO! It's not over yet though, calm yourself, calm yourself. Do some deep breathing, chill, move up again, get in a bomber nut and it's scrambling moves to the top. Safe! I told Chris that if he flew up this route, finding it a doddle, I'd never speak to him again and as soon as he stepped onto the rock he said, 'god, this is dead hard!' Haha!
He did find the crux hard though and could see why I'd struggled with it on lead and agreed it wasn't 4b climbing.
Chris was starting to come down with a cold and was starting to feel pretty rotten (he did look pretty wiped out!) But he wanted to do one more route, so we went to find Druid's Rock. It's not obvious at all how to find it and it took a while to locate! It didn't look that appealing on approach, so rather than walk down and have to walk all the way back up if Chris didn't see a route he wanted to do, we just decided to go back to Fruity. Chris had spotted a VS5a there that he thought looked okay, so we just did that.
There was much up and downing as Chris placed gear and figured the moves, but he got up eventually, not as straight forward as it looked, as per the other routes we'd done so far! And the crux was VERY bold, which it shouldn't be at that grade! Mind you, once the gear is below your feet, you have managed to get better holds, but it's still not easy climbing until you are up on a ledge and by then, if you fall you will pretty much deck out unless the belayer is nifty enough to pull in some rope quick enough and throw themself down! Chris managed the top with no problems and then it was my go. God it was hard! I really struggled with the starting moves and if felt much more like HVS climbing to me! The top was easier though and very nice and again we thought it was a route worthy of a star.
That was us for the day, it was 4 o'clock by now. Every route that day had been a struggle and given us damn good value so had taken more time than normal. We stopped for a brew, and I realised that there was no tea bags for me :o(
Gutted! Was really looking forward to a cuppy. Chris had mentioned something about teabags in the morning and I though he'd said not to bother taking any as he had some, but he had been saying to take mine as all he had was his (which are peppermint!) So, I was stuck with Peppermint tea! Nice as it is, it's just not the same as proper tea, though it did go well with the chocolate rice crispy cake that Chris had.
It was nice sitting there chilling and admiring the view across to Torridon and basking in the sun. The silence was only broken by a Cuckoo, which had annoyingly been cukooing away all day!
My neck was hurting on the drive home and I had a fast developing headache which was building up to migraine status. I necked some painkillers but didn't take them quick enough and starting feeling really spaced and sick. Once we were back at Chris' and I could get out the car and move about, it started to ease off a bit, painkillers finally kicking in. Must remember to take sunglasses out when it's sunny like that. I did remember to use sunblock and to drink plenty, but think the sitting in the car and the glare of the sun, set it off. Feel a lot better today, just niggling in the background and also pretty tired!
Was supposed to climb with Mel today, but was feeling far to crappy when I got home so just couldn't think about climbing. Weather is crap now, so don't feel guilty anymore about letting her down. Might go for a run later if I can work up the energy.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Cummingston - 9th May '09

Decisions, decisions!
Andy is away in Sardinia at the moment and Chris and I used the time to catch up for a climb. The plan had hopefully been for a weekend away doing a mountain route, camping, then cragging but the forecast ruled that out!
A last minute decision saw us decide to head up to Cummingston for the day, with the Moray coast getting the best of the Scottish weather as it often does.
John that we went down to Northumbria with at the end of last summer was out too, as was Mel, who I met up in Polldubh a few years ago. We know a few of the same folk and had chatted down at AVW over the years and had swapped emails of late, so it was nice to finally climb together, and also nice to climb with another woman again.
John and Chris partnered up and went over to the Prophet Walls and Mel and I warmed up on some easier stuff on the Cornflake Walls. I've gotten quite into having the 1st lead of the day so I can get my head into the right place straight away and the anticipation doesn't build up too much and have me a nervous wreck! Mel did her SPA training (Single Pitch Award) at Cummingston back in March and was telling me about a nice Severe that goes up a chimney and then over a roof. I'm not entirely sure I did the Severe variation as that seems to go left over the roof, whereas I went right over the roof onto the top of Doddle Deidre which I think is the V.Diff way, but never mind, it was a nice route and a good one to warm up on.
Mel led Doddle Deidre next, cruising up it no problem at all and that was my 3rd time climbing that route, am going to have to warm up on different Severes next time!
The tide had been coming in when Mel was leading and when we got back down it was about 1foot away from the base of the cliff and moving in fast! But I was desperate to lead Stegosaurus, a 2** VS4c as I had spotted photos of it on UKC and it looked nice and my type of route. Mel was dubious about us managing to get it done in time, with the water approaching nearer and nearer. But she was fantastic! She perched up into the chimney of the V.Diff I had done earlier and flaked the ropes over a pedestal inside the chimney, made herself a hanging belay and made herself as comfy as could be. All the while the waves were starting to splash up and I had to climb up onto the bottom of the cliff to keep my feet dry whilst Mel got me on belay! It was all quite exciting!
The initial moves were easy enough and then I did a cliched thing and faffed getting in a bit of gear whilst in a fairly awkward position, only to make one small move after and find a huge jug in complete balance from where I could have placed my gear in a much comfier position!
Climbed up higher and managed to place a small but good nut in a crack and contemplate the crux above. I could see a big juggy pocket, but it was too far away to reach and it took me a minute or two to find a good intermediate hold, work out where to put my feet and then push up for the better hold. Once I had the pocket, it was just a case of moving feet a bit higher, moving up and grabbing a big spiky jug, ooooooooh yes! I faffed a bit trying to get a sling off my shoulder, flung that round the spike and then it was a steep and bulgy, jug pulling fest right to the top, hurrah, give a few whoops and then top out into the sand! Mel zoomed up on second in no time at all, and we agreed it was quite soft for VS4c. Our ropes were dry, our feet were dry and no epics had ensued.
Next we went over to join Chris and John, where John was climbing the awkward and hard E2, The Prophet. He was trying to figure out the crux moves when we got there, and after a few moves up and down he finally sussed it, and grunted his way in good style over the roof. I was impressed that he was managing to hold on for so long, remembering how awkward and strenuous that route is and how I fell off shortly after not being quick enough to suss the crux and not having the strength to try again.
After a bite to eat, Mel led Centre, sussing the move past the nose without any hassles and then we all sat on the beach for more to eat, and sat......and sat............and sat.............
It was most enjoyable just sitting and relaxing and blethering away about this, that and the next thing and we all started to feel just a bit demotivated to climb, just happy to sit and chill. But that was no good at all, these routes weren't gonna climb themselves!
I was feeling nervous about leading Left and I don't know why seen as I'd found it easy last time. I didn't really want to do it, but felt I should do it, simply *because* I didn't want to do it, how daft is that!!!? I should have jumped straight on it after Mel led Centre because I messed up the crux! There is a jug at the bottom of the crack and after placing a bit of gear, I began to doubt that I had the jug with the correct hand, so I moved that hand up to a smaller jug above and used the lower jug with the other hand, then moved my higher hand even higher into the small crack. But that didn't feel right at all, and I started to doubt was I doing was in any way correct, as using the right wall, then back stepping onto the left wall, like I did it before, just didn't feel right this time at all! So, I moved back down, panicked a little when I couldn't find my foothold, but I was getting more and more pumped, from having too long a break and getting cold, so I shouted 'take' and that was that. I rested on gear for the 1st time ever on a route! I tried to feel positive about it and not see it as a failure, negative thinking never being a good thing! I've never had to rest on my gear before, and even though I should have just gone for the moves, it is good to know that my gear placements are good enough for me to hang off and do the job of protecting me (not quite the same as falling on gear, but still enough to make me more confident of my placements)
And it didn't really matter anyway, because I had just cruised up this route a few weeks before and ticked the onsight, me resting on the gear this time round just meant other factors were at play tiring me out, and not that I couldn't do it. Mel flew up and I asked her how she did the crux moves, as everyone seems to do that bit differently! She uses both her feet at the bottom of the crack before bridging, where as I start bridging straight away, lifting my right foot quite high, probably making it more awkward for myself, but it seems to work for me (well, it did the 1st time when things were flowing better!)
We both decided against the HVS, although I've spotted an amazing looking HVS called The Gripper, what an exciting sounding name! The top out goes over a roof with an 'intriguingly awkward finish!' And I think this route looks much nicer than Right, and more my style. I'll see if I can't get Andy to lead it next time we are there. I might toy with leading an HVS once I've got a few more VS's under my belt, but not quite ready for onsighting one yet!
Wandered back over to the Doubt Wall area, Chris was at the crux on Stegosaurus, the tide going back out again (so I could have left it till later, but glad I did it when i had as it made it more spicy!) Then John tried Deidre of Double Doubt on lead at E2, but didn't make it, so finished off on an HVS instead.
Mel decided on Green Crack. I'd kinda hoped she would lead Old Peg Groove so I could get the lead of Green Crack, but it was her go and I didn't want to quibble as she obviously liked the look of Green Crack better too!
Mel thought it looked quite pumpy though and I toyed with pulling the ropes through after she'd led it, so I could lead it too, but said I'd see how she found it first. If Mel found it pumpy, then I'd just second it as she is stronger than me and it was too late in the day for pumpy for me.
I could tell straight away that Mel *was* finding it pumpy, by the way she was shaking out every so often, saying, 'woooooooo, pumpy!' and when I came to second it, was impressed that she'd held on to rounded holds on such steep ground for long enough to place the gear she did, as it certainly wasn't a restful position! It was a nice route, and a good lead. Solid VS, quite high in the grade I think actually and I enjoyed it enough to want to lead next time, good to have things to go back for!
The wind was picking up and there was a horrible threatening cloud moving in from the West, time for one more quick route! I flew up a severe called Staircase Crack which the guide has as being unpleasant, but which I found nice enough. It was starting to spitter by the time I got to the top and by the time Mel was up, it was raining heavily. We quickly got the ropes together, rushed back down, all got our stuff together and called it a day.
Mel was going to Meikle Partans on the Sunday and invited me along, but after thinking about it, I decided against it, finding the sea cliffs there a bit hit or miss as to whether I'm going to have a good day or not and didn't want the other's to see me at my worst when I'm having a shit day because of the sea. It's quite easy now, just to decide not to bother with the Aberdeen coast and do something else instead.
It was too late when I got home and organised to try finding other folk to climb with, and after initially deciding to go hillwalking up Glen Lyon, I changed my mind with low freezing levels in the morning and rain showers in the afternoon as I was really after a sunny hill day! Will go for a run up Glen Dye tomorrow and potter in the garden and do some studying.
Fingers crossed for a decent forecast next weekend so Chris and I can go play in the mountains.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Logie and Creag Death - 2/3rd May '09

After my Friday evening bouldering sesh of trashing my arms on overhanging V3's I drove up to Andy's where he suggested going to do an HVS on Creag Ghlas up in Strathconon. It took a wee bitty of convincing me, what with it being an HVS *and* a slab! I can't understand why Andy keeps picking slabby routes, when I keep insisting that I don't like slabs! But with more chat about it, I started warming to the idea and even suggesting that I lead the 1st pitch!
Come morning time though the radars said it had been raining in that area and was still raining in that area so that plan got binned! A shame as after my initial hesitation, I was quite psyched for going there. So, we went for the fall back plan of Logie Head. I'd not climbed there since last summer and was keen to try out my new found VS leading skills on Poacher and maybe one of the other VS's there and also to do a Hard Severe called Fisherman's Tail which I had backed off from a few years ago.
I was nervous about doing Poacher's as I've always found it really pumpy and was worried I wouldn't have the stamina to hold on, place gear *and* climb the damn thing too!
Warmed up on the Severe to the left, then Andy led Culinary Delight at VS5a, a route I always seem to struggle on with this time not being an exception! Then I led Fisherman's and laid that old ghost to rest. It was a doddle, funny how a few years can make such a big improvement in performance! Andy led an HVS, but I wanted to save my arms for Poacher so he ab'd for the gear whilst I soloed up the V.Diff to the left of Poacher.
Then did it not start to rain! Aaaaaaaarg, not fair! I REALLY wanted to lead Poacher but I REALLY did not want to lead in when wet! I deliberated for ages and the rain got heavier but not pouring down, so I decided to go for it! If it got soaked I could always lower off, not like I was going to get the onsight anyway, having seconded it a few times before. It's nothing like I remembered it, just a tiny little bit pumpy and I managed to stop and place gear no problem at all. Was really chuffed when I got to the top!
We wanted to get across to the tidal area before the tide came right in and blocked off access. As it was, we ended up having to climb up onto the cliff a little bit to traverse across but I managed it without too much drama! The sea was really calm, the rain had gone and the sun was back out again, so it didn't feel intimidating.
Andy led the HVS beside Moray Eel, the name of which escapes me and I seem to left my NE Outcrops guidebook at his place (I hope!) That was really strenuous and I got Andy to lower me off at the top so I could get back down to lead Fallen Star which I thought looked nicer than Moray Eel.
It felt a bit bold to start but the start was dead easy, then what Andy said was the crux felt really easy, and I thought the top was harder. The moves keep pushing you out on nearer and nearer to the left edge and arete of the cliff face and it becomes more and more exposed, great fun! We lowered again and called it a day (me keeping Moray Eel for next time) then soloed up a Diff called the Black Hole which is basically a hole in the cliff face that you squeeze through onto the other side of the cliff face, which is a promontory out to sea. From the other side you can climb up onto the crest and walk back along to the landward side.
Andy wanted to do a quick couple of routes on the Pinnacle further west but I was knackered now, but happy to belay. He started off on the most amazing looking HVS that looked so good I just had to run back up for my rock shoes to give it a go. It's PUMPTASTIC! Overhanging move after move after move, every hold is good but the moves are big too! I had to rest near the top as my hands were just peeling off by this point, but it was fun!
Andy led the next HVS along, ab'd for the gear, then we called it a day (calling in for some ice cream on the way home of course!)

On Sunday we had been planning to go down to Ballater but Andy had been talking a bit about Creag Dubh. I've always been wary of going here as there isn't much below VS and I assumed easier stuff would be vegetated yuck and the cliff has a reputation for bold and intimidating climbing! In fact climbers nick name it 'Creag Don't' instead of Creag Do, and some even call it Creag Death in reference to the fact that the gear is a bit sparse on some of the routes, with potential for massive falls!
Looking through the guidebook it seemed there *were* a good few easier routes I could try and lead but Andy thought the VS's were quite serious and maybe not suitable for one just breaking into VS and I agreed!
There is a starred Severe called TreeHee but Andy reckoned with the recent rainfall and forecast showers it might be too wet, but the steeper routes aren't much affected by the rain (due to them being steep!) Looking at how bold the start to the other starred severe was (Mirador) I bottled leading it and asked Andy to lead it for a warm up. As he was gearing up, I had all my usual mental arguments and came to the conclusion that it was *only* severe, and it was bound to have *some* gear in it, and I had just soloed a V.Diff which is just one grade easier, the day before, so surely I could cope?'
We swapped the gear over. The starting moves are tough for severe, very steep! But juggy holds when you can reach them, I had to get my feet high so I could avoid using horrible slopey holds and move up for the good ones. But where is the gear?
No gear here, no gear there, 'oh shit!'
'Right Sonya, you can't afford to panic here, you are high up enough now to hurt yourself if you lose it and fall off, keep it together!'
I thoughtfully and carefully move up a couple of moves and finally get some gear in, phew! It's not the bomber placement I would have liked but it was better than nothing. Moving onto the arete was committing and scary but once on it the holds are good and all in balance. Again the gear is sparse though and I wibbled my way up the whole route, thinking
'VS, nae chance!'
Andy decided to lead an HVS 4c, seen as it was next door. I was nervous as hell belaying him on this, it a VERY serious route with potential to deck out if you fluff the moves near the top! Thankfully Andy was fine, I had to remind myself that even though it was HVS, the moves were only 4c so well within Andy's capabilities and within mine to second so I wouldn't get too pumped having not warmed up sufficiently, however exciting the severe had been!
It was a lovely route, brilliant climbing and worthy of more than 1 star I think, but many folk probably don't do it as it's so serious! The ab down was hilarious too! You generally ab off all the routes on Creag Dubh as the top pitches are loose and vegetated and there are loads of trees with insitu tat and mallions etc to ab from. To the left of Fiorella (the HVS) there is a huge Ivy bush that spans nearly the length of the whole pitch and when you ab over a roof there is nothing to use for your feet to keep you away from the Ivy, so you have to abseil through the Ivy and I couldn't stop laughing!
We walked along to the Great Wall next, wanting to do King Bee but there were already folk on it. There were folk on Brute too (another good VS) but they were higher up and the second was just tackling the crux. I watched him rest on the rope, unable to make the moves and thought,
'Hmmm, if he can't get up what chance do I have?!' It never crosses my mind to think, that maybe I'm a better climber so will manage just fine!
The first bit is 4c and trickier than it looks and before you know it you are underneath a big roof which takes a moment or too to figure out, but the holds are good. It's a really thrutchy move but with a bit of heaving and grunting I was over and up to Andy, where we ab'd off.
I'd been eyeing up the 1st pitch of King Bee, thinking it looked really, really nice and just my style of climbing and didn't look too scary, so I decided to lead it. Of course, it *is* 4c climbing so it wasn't as simple as it looked!
There is a move above gear where you have to go out left to below a big tree, and it took me ages to figure out this move. Thankfully, even though the gear was a move below my feet at this point, it was in a restful position so you weren't having to hang on getting pumped while you figure it. It was just a matter of reach and balance for me and I sussed it eventually, giving a whoop as I got up to the tree. Next was the crux of the pitch, but I found this easier than below (but just as committing! With potential of a good fall and swing back to the tree if you come off) Again it's a big reach for good holds and I had to use intermediate ones but sussed a way to do it without the bulging roof throwing me off. Another whoop later and I was at the belay ledge.
Andy led the 5a pitch above, where the climbing was delicate and very exposed but the gear much better than below. It took me a while to figure out the crux, which seemed highly unlikely, but fine once you do it and again well protected. We decided to ab off at this point, the first two pitches done being the best ones. Andy just lowered me down, which was more scary than climbing the route! As a lot of it is free hanging, as the ab is down a very steep E2 route and even though Andy promised me there was enough rope for me to reach the bottom, I was a tad scared when the rope stopped moving, with me dangling in the air, still about 20m from the ground! The rope was caught on something and Andy needed to free it, but before long my feet were safely on the ground and I was chatting to some dude who also goes to the wall at Dundee.
We'd also met a guy called Ken that used to climb with my ex Pete, it's a small world!
I was supposed to being going bouldering at Muchall's with Bekah today, but the forecast was a bit iffy and RB's mate had asked her to go to the pictures, so she did that instead. I was thankful as my arms are needing a rest now, and I'm coming down with a sore throat, feel achy and headachy (hope I'm not growing pig ears, lol!)