Sunday, 28 June 2009

Long overdue visit to Dunkeld - 28th June '09

No climbing on Saturday.
It is RB's birthday on Wednesday and she'd taken 3 of her friends down to Knockhill for a go on the (50mph) gokarts, the adults getting a go as well!
It nearly got cancelled due to the mist, but went ahead thankfully.
RB was loving it, and overtook me and then kept cutting me off at the corners! Both her and her Dad crashed though, haha! They still both managed to get faster times than me though!
We sat afterwards, eating bacon butties (num!) and drinking tea, watching the proper cars zoom round the fast track. I hadn't realised that you could take your own car on, for a shot of the track. Some of the cars were going mega fast!
I also hadn't realised that my Dad's cousin-in-law was the World Motorbike and sidecar racing champion, before he had a crash and died and now has a memorial race every year at Knockhill, the Jock Taylor Memorial Race.
Then followed an hour of table tennis and off to Bekah's Gran and Grandad's house in Monifieth for a barbeque. I went out for a quick 3mile run, knackered! And then got absolutely stuffed on barbequed chicken wings, kebabs, pork sausage things, salads and pasta
RB and friends went to her Dad's to sta
y over and I went back to my folks to collapse into bed for a much needed early night!
Sunday, I met up with Mel in Coupar Angus and we car shared (with Mel driving, I never get to drive!), arriving at Dunkeld around 10.30ish.
It's been ages since I've climbed at Dunkeld. Last time was with Jonathon last summer, shortly after climbing there with Adam a while before. I've always found the routes there quite intimidating, and lacking in enough gear to feel wholly comfortable. So, I was feeling quite nervous but curious to see if my improved climbing confidence and ability woul
d transfer itself to the routes at Dunkeld.
Mel started off (as per agreed last time, seen as she didn't get to lead much at Clova) on Beech Wall. I said the crux
was tricky but I didn't mention to her that I had to aid it the last time I was there with Jonathon as I didn't want to put her off. It's weird though, the very first time I did the route, I managed the crux clean. Anyway, Mel did it no bother, after a wee pause and good think about how she was going to tackle it. I ended up falling off the damn thing! Was VERY annoyed! Definitely one of those routes where it's easier to be tall, both Mel and I have to make a couple of moves to reach over the crux crack, involving jamming, smeary laybacks and foot jamming. Unfortunately, I got my hand jam muddled up, slipped off and took a pendulum swing about 2m away from the crux! Woooooooohooooooooooo! What a rush! Had to get my weight off the rope pretty, quick smart though as the rope was digging in a bit to Mel's leg (well held lass!) Then I couldn't get back across so just made a move up the wall to the left of the crux and joined Mel at the belay, miffed at myself for being such a numpty!
Mel led the 2nd pitch as well and because we'd forgotten to check the guide, wasn't sure exactly where the pitch went, but managed to sniff it out in the end. Top bit was nice, but the middle bit was a bit scrambly and vegetated.
I wanted to lead Cuticle Crack next, for an easy warm up lead. And I was curious about the route as I'd seconded it way back in 2005 when I first started climbing and fell off the starting moves (crux) so was interested to see how hard I found it now. It was quite fiddly placing in gear, and took me a wee moment to figure out the moves, but I eventually made upward progress, steep but on humungous jugs! Really, quite a lovely wee route! And I found a no 8 (I think)
Wallnut as booty so was chuffed to find my 3rd ever piece of crag swag. Came out with just 3 knocks with the nutkey, really some people will abandon gear far too easily! There is also a cam burried deep into the crack, but Mel tried to get it out, but just couldn't reach far enough into the crack.
After ab'ing down Hairy Gully and having a bite to eat, we decided to do Terminal Buttress at HS 4c. 2 pitches, 1 pitch each. There w
ere a couple of guys doing the route called The End, which shares a belay ledge with our route and by the time Mel had cruised her way up the 1st pitch, the guys were still there. And by the time I'd gotten up, the 2nd was still hanging about waiting for his leader to get over the upper overlap. The belayer had initially tried the crux pitch, but after falling off back onto the belay ledge a couple of times had swapped over leads. So, we waited for him to move off, so I could get his belay placements to back up our belay and serve as a runner.
Just as I was getting myself organised, another person came onto the ledge having done the 1st pitch of The End. I had place one no4 nut, but wanted one in a bit higher, but sod's law the placement would only take another no 4 nut and I only took up one set with me!

The guy who just came up, lent me one of his no4's though, what a gent!
The guide book is confusing as to where the 2nd pitch of Terminal Buttress goes. The description for
The End is to climb the bulge via a right facing groove, and the description for Terminal Buttress is to climb through the bulge itself, just to the left of The End. But both routes seem to share the much the same holds, so seems a bit odd!
Anyway, I managed it just fine, just a little committing, but the holds are all good and it's just a one hard move really.
Next is an unprotected slab up to a ledge, and then a step right to a crack in the overlap, which you surmount by a couple of really lovely moves, and then up the slab above.
It was a lovely route!
By the time I'd brought up Mel, we'd dismantled the belay, coiled the ropes, scrambled back down, organised our gear and had a bite to eat, the guys who were behind us on the crux of The End, were still struggling with that move of the ledge!! We both felt quite smug that we'd cruised it, where as both the team of guys before and after us had real trouble with it! I think it's one of those rarer moves where it's actually a real advantage to be short, as you do need to get your feet up quite high, near (ish) to your hands.
By that point it was 4pm and I had to pick up RB and her mates from her Dad's at 5.30, so after a half hearted bit of deliberation as to whether I should bomb up Bollard Buttress at Diff (V.Diff?) we decided against it and called it a day.
A short but fine day's climbing it was, and I've warmed more to Dunkeld after today. Would quite like to get back at some point and sample one of the many VS's there.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Fed up with Kirrie! - 24th June '09

As the title says!
Went to our usual midweek haunt of Kirrie Hill for a spot of bolt clipping and had a really crap evening.
I normally enjoy sport climbing midweek, the ability to squeeze in as many routes as possible in an evening and I normally love the style of climbing at Kirrie. Er, crumbly, dusty, mucky sandstone at it's best. But I like the style, the moves, ledges and blocks, big sandstone rounded horrors of holds, roofs and bulges, little flaky edges and side pulls, it's all good!
I guess I've just not been for ages (compared to last summer anyway, when I was there pretty much every week, pushing myself and enjoying it) I came to find that all the midweek sport was really helping to improve my confidence on trad at the weekend. I knew I could make moves above gear, and I think it was just all that extra mileage that is possible with sport that improved my 'leading head.'
Still, I do have a tendency to find bolted climbing *more* scary than trad climbing. Silly I know, especially seen as Kirrie has got to be the most friendliest bolted crag in Scotland! With trad there may be long run outs, but generally the more cruxy moves are always well protected, with the run outs on easier sections that you don't mind so much. There's nothing quite so satisfying and absorbing and finding that right bit of gear to place, fiddling it in, possibly another piece or 2, or 3 or more if the crux feels really balsy and you're not getting pumped silly for being such a wimp as to want in so much gear!
Anyway, you just don't get that satisfaction with bolts, and because there's nothing to focus on other than the moves, I find 'the fear' creeps in more and it's hard to relax and just enjoy the climbing, instead I'm always thinking,
'gotta reach the next bolt, gotta reach the next bolt!'
But normally I enjoy it nonetheless.
I was probably just having a bad day anyway.
Let's see,
It was cold, not like cold, cold, but the Haar was in from the North Sea and extending far inland, so it was that muggy, damp kind of cold. That kind of cold that seeps into your bones and joints and doesn't seem to leave.
God, was I stiff! I couldn't seem to warm up at all. Didn't seem to help that we were climbing as a 3 (RB, Jonathon and I) so too much hanging around waiting. Especially as RB was really pushing herself this evening on toprope, so taking longer to climb routes.
RB was climbing well! So was Jon. I was struggling to make big moves to try anything harder. My legs wouldn't stretch for high steps and I couldn't get my weight over my feet for rock overs, every time I was stretching for a hold my calf (still tight from the nerve damage 2yrs ago now!!!) would go into cramps (always does that now if it's not warmed up sufficiently)
I seemed to be lacking strength and finding even the 5+'s a struggle and was getting pumped on one move in particular. Jon and RB had led this route first to warm up on (we couldn't warm up on our usual 4+ as someone else was on it. Faffing even more than I do! Think they were fresh out of the wall. Dead funny to see! And it's funny to think that I used to back of 4's like they were doing, everything taking so long. And it's funny how you can tell that folk are complete beginners. All good though! We all get there in the end (mostly!))
So, this move. RB had found it reachy and taken a while over it. Jonathon, of course, had managed to just stand on a ledge and reach a jug over the lip of a bulge. RB and I had to use a rounded side pinch on an arete to the left, use a 2 finger pebble for the right hand (who ever heard of having to use 2 fingers on a 5!!) Then we had to use a smear for the right foot, just leave the left foot dangling and step up on the smear for the juggy ledge above. It was a really committing move with the bolt below (well, obviously not miles below as the bolts at Kirrie never are! But enough to know you were gonna have a wee fall if you came off) When it came to my turn to try it, it took ages to commit. Every time I tried to use the smear, my knee was pushing against the rocky bulge above the smear, meaning it felt like I couldn't trust my feet. And I didn't think I had the strength to hold either the side pinch or the pebble whilst I stood up. All the while I'm getting more and more pumped, and my shoulders are beginning to ache so bad it's painful. I'm doing all my usual groaning and grunting, and finally I know I have to commit or take the swing and rest on the god damn bolt! I refuse to rest, and just go for it, with the usual, 'watch me!'
And it's not easy above either! The next few moves are big moves, and you're always having to keep your body tensioned to keep into the rock. My arms are so tired now, but I just have to keep moving, trusting the friction on the rounded holds will be enough. Until at last I get to a point where I can rest in balance and let my arms recover. I sink into the rock, letting my head rest gently on it, breathing rate and heart rate lowering. Thank god! That was tough for 5+!!! One of those hard for the short routes I think. Both RB and I agreed that the 6a along to the right was easier.
I never really recovered after that. Tried a 6a+ on toprope. One that I'd wanted to lead as my 1st 6a+ onsight. Hah! Glad I didn't! I would have fallen off before even making the first clip! VERY strenuous! Just no strength in this stiff and cold body today! Finally half pull over the roof, but can't get fully over and slump onto the rope in disgust. Too hard, pissed off, lower off. Had enough!
Jon leads a different 6a+ and RB battles her way up it, working out the moves on toprope. I give it a half hearted attempt, a strenuous mantle type move where the rock is steep and slightly bulging, just too much for my protesting wrists! Everything just hurts today, damn damp and cold!
I retreat, tail between my legs, feeling thoroughly miserable now.
I miss the hills, I miss the west coast crags, I miss Andy. Really wishing he was about just now.
Oh well, live for a better day!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Short day cragging at Clova - 20th June '09

It's my Dad's 60th Birthday on Sunday and we're all going for a family meal so I didn't go away for the weekend, but was still desperate to climb locally on the Saturday.
I'd been worried it would rain, or that I wouldn't have a partner to climb with and I'm stressing because I can't get away for any weekends for the next few weeks. Of course, I keep forgetting that I'm going to the Pyrenees to climb for 11days, in a couple of weeks time and will be able to climb loads! But that doesn't make the desperation to climb NOW lessen any, such is the addiction.
I wasn't entirely sure who I'd climb with today. Mel had said she was up for getting out cragging, but I was worried she'd be too tired to go cragging, after spending a couple of days shadowing the guys at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven, for her Single Pitch Award (SPA.)
So, to make sure I would definitely get out, I also emailed someone called Robbie from UKC, who had put a post up a while ago looking for climbing partners in Dundee. And just in case Robbie turned out to be unreliable, I also put a post up myself on UKC looking for partners, and it turned out that Henning was also looking to get out.
Shameless of me, but I did say I was desperate!
All good though and it meant there were 4 of us out climbing in the end, even numbers are always good.
Robbie turned out to be reliable Robbie, and very keen, Mel was home from her work and keen, and Henning..........well Henning was just up for it and even though he said he was off form, having not climbed much, was still as fit as ever!
I picked Robbie up from Dundee at 8.30am and we met Henning up at Clova and walked up so I could lead Monster's Crack for my warm up.
This would be my hardest warm up to date, normally preferring Severe's now to warm up on. But I hate the severe's at Clova, and reckoned I'd do ok warming up on HS. I do remember Chris saying it was pretty tough for HS and not great as a warm up, but I pushed those thoughts away as I thought it looked a really nice line and that's always a good motivation.
Just 2 moves off the ground though and I'm in an awkward position trying to place some gear, the route is harder than it looks! I'm close to bottling it, a part of me wants to climb back down to the ground and say,
'I can't do it.'
But, I'm getting better at ignoring this negative aspect of my personality when it comes to my climbing and as soon as I dismiss the thought, it doesn't come back again.
The route isn't easy though! I end up laybacking with good hand holds in the crack, but pretty smeary for the feet, and it feels quite committing with gear below me now. Until I reach a wee ledge and can bung in more gear, another committing move and the 1st crack is over and it's just a bit of scrambling to the top section of the route.
You can either scramble off to the left (though why you'd want to I don't know! But for those who bottle out of completing the route, there is this option as an escape) The route doesn't get any stars in the guide book and I guess because it's escapable, it's less of a good line, and the scrambling section spoils it some what too. Nonetheless, I think it worthy of one star, as the climbing is just superb.
The top crack is tough, but very well protected, and didn't it just choose to start raining at the crux! By the time I'd sussed the moves, made them and got the top holds, they were pretty damp, making things just that bit more spicy!
Damn good value for a warm up!
I brought up Robbie and then Henning, and could see Mel arriving in her car, down at the bottom of the cliffs.
Henning was trying to persuade me to lead Cauldron Crack, but nah, not today. It looks an amazing route, and one I really want to keep for the onsight. But I'd need a full day to attempt it, and would have to be well warmed up first.
Robbie started gearing up for Witches' Tooth at E1 5b instead, and Henning belayed whilst I went back to my sack, and to meet Mel who was walking up to the cliffs by this point.
Looked like Robbie was having a bit of a battle, and in the end the Witch won. He was pretty disappointed, which I can totally understand, but he didn't let it ruin his day and I think it was dead keen of him to give it a bash as it's meant to be a right test piece. And he seems to be a quietly confident climber and I think it's nice to see someone try hard stuff (even if they don't manage) as it inspires me very much indeed, to think that there's hope that one day I might be brave enough to be sat on that rope (not on the Witches' Tooth though! It's not a route that sings out to me)
I told Mel I was happy to second Monster's Crack even though I'd just led it. I was happy enough to second her on the Severe's also even though I don't like that horrible chimney at the start of one of them, but she seemed keen to do the HS, and I enjoyed it enough to do it again.
Mel climbed it much better than I did. She seemed to fly up that first crack and did it completely differently to me, using holds on the right wall for her feet and hands, and jamming her foot in the crack. Made it look less of a struggle than laybacking the crack.
When it came to my turn, I tried it the way she did it, and yeuch! Doing it that way wasn't the way for me at all! It felt quite off balance to me, and harder than laybacking, which although was committing and more strenuous, felt more in balance, just the way I like it.
Mel had been really bold on the top section, braver than me! I put in 3 bits of gear, all in different bits of the crack! Mel thought the top out harder than the top out on Lucky Strike, but I didn't think it was that hard when I was leading it, think I was just so focused on lead and desperate to escape the rain! On second, it felt much harder!
Henning and Robbie had gone up to the higher crag and had kindly taken our sacks up with them, so we didn't have to go back down for them, then back up again, as I wanted to lead Alder at VS4c.
I wanted to lead the whole route as one pitch, but Mel's rope is only 50m, and with the route being 40m long, and not knowing how far back the belays were, it was a bit risky. So we just did it in 2 pitches and Mel kindly let me lead both pitches, as I wanted the crux pitch, but that was only 10m, so I'd miss out on leading the beef of the pitch.
What a fab route it is!
I struggled with the 1st pitch, and Mel was slagging me off for placing 5 bits of gear in about a couple of metres. But it looked tough, and I wasn't sure exactly how to do the moves, and I wasn't finding it pumpy so was okay with placing loads of gear, apart from finding my body positions just a bit awkward! Mel said I seemed a bit stressed, and I was, so I remember what she said about breathing to keep calm and together and it really seemed to help! I still found it hard, and still bunged in loads of gear, but the deep breaths helped to keep me focused on the task of getting all that gear in until I was happy enough to commit to figuring out the moves.
With a helpful word from Mel about a ledge for my foot high on the right, and a nod from her that I'd found it okay, as I was placing my foot blindly, I finally made the move. In the end, that one move was dead easy because as soon as you make it, you can reach a brilliant jug!
Mel also said that I missed out a brilliant undercut hold which would have made myself more in balance whilst placing all the gear, ho hum!
Up onto a ledge and peg belay (backed up with a bomber cam as the peg is looking a tad worn!) I brought up Mel, sorted my gear, and Mel ran through the rope so i could lead the 2nd pitch.
Oh the second pitch is amazing! The climbing feels about Diff/V.Diff standard with humongous jugs! Until an overhanging section, which feels about 4a, making the 2nd pitch feel about Severe standard overall.
but it's jug city all the way and the positions and exposure is beautiful!
I'm so glad Mel was happy for me to lead the whole thing, as it wouldn't have been as nice just leading one bit.
Henning and Robbie were just finishing an E2 (which I don't know the name of and forgot to ask) and Mel and I scrambled back down (there's one scary section on the down scramble and I got Mel to guide my foot down from below) whilst Robbie ab'd down to successfully retrieve a cam that had gotten jammed on their route. Mel buried into the undergrowth to find a krab that had fallen from my harness at the top of the route, narrowly missing wacking her whilst I got my shoes off and sorted my gear.
Mel had wanted to go and lead Central Crack, but upon checking the time, it was 2.45pm and Robbie had to be back in Dundee at 4.30 at the latest for work, so we had to call it a day.
I felt pretty guilty for hogging all the lead on Alder after that, and Mel looked disappointed that she wasn't going to get any more leading done and insisted she get the 1st lead when we go out next time.
So, I'll just have to put my nerves aside and go for seconding first for a change. Maybe it will be a good thing anyway, to stop myself being reliant on having that first lead, and to see if it effects my confidence and if I can still get my head into the right place.

First 2 photos courtesy and copyright of Henning.
Rest are mine.

Friday, 12 June 2009

TIME TO COLLAPSE! - Fri 12th June '09

So, so, so, so tired. I'm sitting writing this and half concentrating on what I'm writing and the other half of me is already snuggled under the duvet with a warm cuppa, reading a good thriller!
So, my week has gone something like this;

Mon - 2 and half hour long exam, 4 mile run followed by a fingerboard session.

Tue - 3 mile run in 21 minutes, followed by gym ball exercises.

Wed - 3 mile run, with faster intervals back and forth (probably making it 4miles) Followed by 4 hours climbing at the wall. Several 6b's and 6b+'s
Thurs - 6 mile run, last mile was hard going!

Then today, Friday I went up to Ballater with Mel, to meet George from Glenmore Lodge and Andy decided to come down too, which was ace cos I didn't think we'd see each other this weekend and it meant we were an even number, so more climbing!
The clouds were a bit grey on driving up, and several idiots on the road later we finally made it there, where the clouds blew over and the sun shone. Nice, but the rock was a bit sweaty in places and regardless of slapping on some of Mel's sun block, I still got sun burnt! Can't find my factor 40 anywhere!
Andy appeared just as I was gearing up to warm up. I hadn't been sure what to do for a warm up. Razor's crack at VS seemed a bit too strenuous to start on and I'm sick of Ping Pong now, so Mel persuaded me to warm up on a 'Severe' called After Shave. I'd normally stayed away from this route, hearing tales of how awkward and hard it was for Severe, but Mel convinced me it was okay. 'S only Severe right? Can't be hard!
The starting moves are a bit awkward but on trying to place a bit of gear, I found myself in a horrible and out of balance position, unable to hold on *and* place gear. Hmmm, this one was going to need a rethink!
Andy asked if I wanted him to lead it for the warm up, but no way! If I gave over the lead now, on a Severe, it would be a bad knock to my confidence and I'd not want to lead anything else that day. I had to figure it out!
It just took a wee committing shuffle upwards of the feet, then I felt more in balance, gear in, high step on smeary hold and up for a jug, nae bother!
The top is a bit tricky too though, certainly not plain sailing and I can see why folk think this route is under graded at Severe. Feels more like HS, but I'm unsure if that's cos I'm not warmed up sufficiently.
George was leading Brut at VS 5a whilst I did After Shave and as he'd finished, Andy decided to have a go. He flew up it, with just a little pause at the crux, then it was my go. God it's hard! The holds are horribly polished and crimpy and it all feels really insecure, esp in the heat! Don't think I'll be leading that one any time soon.
Next it was time for Razor's Crack and boy did I faff! Managed to get a cam in from the ground but failed to reach high enough to get in a good hex to protect the crux moves. And then struggled to get down from the move I'd made up. I was up and down like a yoyo trying to place that damn bit of gear, getting more and more flustered all the while! But I finally managed to get it in, and move up. Very strenuous though, and I'd gotten a bit of tunnel vision regarding my foot until Mel, coming back round from leading Ping Pong pointed out that I needed my left foot higher, and had I not forgotten about a big massive foot ledge on the left, doh! Climbed it completely differently from the last time, and had a wee 'moment' trusting myself to get over the top of the bulge, but finally made it, phew! Heart going like the clappers I needed just a wee minute to gather myself before climbing the easy slab above.
Mel and George had moved onto the middle sector, and Andy wanted to do Cowardie Custard. I was keen to second this, as Mel had led it previously as her first HVS lead and had found it enjoyable so I wanted to see what it was like. Over a roof which was good, but the holds looked small to me! Andy took a bit of time figuring the crux and when it was my go, I did it completely differently to him, initially getting my foot too high and not managing to get over the roof, before finding a lower and better hold. I'd like to lead this one day, but not any time too soon!
I wasn't in the mood for Lucky Strike, just didn't feel at my best today. Felt very unfocused and almost like I was reverting back to my days of not feeling confident and bottling things and I seem to be getting easily flustered and forgetting to pack things into my sack when we were moving about.
I'm too harsh on myself though! I can't expect every day to be a good day, and my shoulder was giving me quite a bit of grief, with stabbing pains occurring at the back of my shoulder blade and into the top of my back, and my hands had been numb all morning and weren't showing any signs of clearing up. In the end I decided I'd go for leading Left Hand Crack at VS 4c. Not one that I was dying to do, but it would be an onsight for me, one of the few VS's left at Ballater that are there for the onsight.
Got my first bit of gear in, then climbed back down and gave it a damn good tug to make sure it wasn't going anywhere as it was a pretty crucial runner! Then it's a really good undercut, a high step and a big reach to a good hold, then up to a rounded hold. Eeeeeeek, this didn't feel nice to place gear from! I shuffled my weight more to the right, getting my fingers round a crimpy side pull in a crack and that felt more in balance and more secure, but hell it was PUMPY!!!
C'mon gear, get in, get in! Gear is in, but feck me, what do I do now? Looks a bitty blank for my feet! Can't remember what the hell I did, but sure it involved some trickery, before finally moving up to the most glorious jug ever, followed by a sinker of a nut! OH YEAH!
The next moves were easier and nice climbing, then up a groove/chimney-esque thing to the top. Now that was a nice lead :o)
George had just finished Pink Wall and I got some photos of Mel on her nemesis and then belayed Andy on Flibbertygibbet. It's a fab route! I really wish I'd saved it for the onsight as it's exactly the sort of thing I love. Steep and juggy crux, nice!
I was getting quite knackered by this point and gave over the next lead to Andy, who decided on Black Custard at E1 5b. It looked steep and hard! But the holds looked good. Mel was leading Original Route by this point so after I taking some more photos I went to belay Andy, trying to watch carefully how he did the moves. The start is easier than I thought it would be, need to trust your feet! But the hand holds are good, and they take you into a narrow and precarious groove, where you really feel like you're going to be spat out any minute! I managed to hold myself in though and eventually you can move out of the groove and into overhanging ground above with really good holds. The top is hard though! VERY strenuous, really teeth gritting and gurning stuff! I thought I wasn't going to make it, and came very close to shouting, 'taaaaaaake!' but I was determined to climb it cleanly. What an amazing route!
Time is getting on, so Andy and I went down for me to do Medium Cool, whilst George led Flibbertigibbet. Back down at the Western Sector it seemed to take ages for me to get my gear sorted, then I couldn't find my small cams, then I got the cams Andy had lent me for the route, muddled with his other cams and before I knew it, it was 3.40 and I knew I couldn't lead Medium Cool and be back in time for RB. Annoyed at myself for giving up my earlier lead, but can't be helped! Strip all my gear off and grab Andy's rack to take over to the base of the route where he's sorting the ropes. Andy is going to do Silent Spring at E1 5a instead, eeeeeek E1 slabs!!!
The start follows the same route as Medium Cool and I find it easier and the traverse less scary than first time round, and the overlap just as hard! Then it's up to the tree and up a curving line on utterly blank slabs above. Pure friction climbing, and the foot 'holds' are just clear enough of the black lichen that covers the slabs and I can just make out little nodules and nubbins to use as hand holds. Very tenuous, as only slabs can be, with a couple of reachy rock overs and then I'm up! Ugh, horrid!
Mel zooms me back down the road in time for RB. Quick bite to eat then RB and I head off to AVW in Dundee.
Can I boulder after a day's climbing, no way! So tired! I do try though. Traverse the whole wall, holding holds on each move for 6-7 seconds, holds getting smaller and smaller. Then RB and I have our, add on a hold traverse and we do it a bit differently than normal, adding on fun things like climbing backwards up corners etc. The game terminates with RB on the arch over the roof, doing a figure of four. Hah! I cannae do that! And off I fall!
Next we do an easy 4x4 on 2 VB's and 2 V0's. Pick 4 boulder problems and climb then one after the other, rest for 30 seconds and do it all again, repeating 4x. I'm finding it tiring cos I've been out all day, but know when I'm fresh we'll have to make it a bit harder! Maybe 2 V0's and 2 V1's. That's me knackered now. RB gets in about some volumes, with much wedging and so on but I can't get off the ground.
Tomorrow, I'm going for another run, then out shopping to buy summery clothes for a trip to the Gourette area in the French Pyrenees (watch this space!) and I'm looking forward to having a lazy lie in, sweet!

Monday, 8 June 2009

THE SWORD OF GIDEON - 6/7th June '09

Having thought this weekend was going to be a washout, imagine my delight to find yet again that the NW of Scotland was going to be dry and possibly even sunny! Andy and I had planned a day on Beinn Eighe followed by a day down in Applecross to let me lead my dream VS, Sword of Gideon on Sgurr a' Chaorachain. Unfortunately, the forecast for the higher hills was a bit on the cold side so Beinn Eighe was out, but we decided to bet on Applecross, and it didn't fail to disappoint!
I was more nervous that usual, because I was so psyched to do this route.
'What if it was too hard and I couldn't do it though?'
'What if it didn't look as nice as I thought it would?'
'What if I bottled it?'
Pressure or what!?
The drive across to Applecross is stunning, over the Bealach na Ba, the highest road in Scotland, hairpin bends on an extremely narrow road, surrounded by stunning scenery.
We were there, and there was the buttress, just a 10 minute walk from the car!
I'd asked Andy if he minded if I led the crux pitch and he insisted that I lead the whole route and I wasn't going to refuse! The 1st pitch is a bit scrappy and you can leave it out and traverse along a terrace to start on the route proper above, but I wanted to do every single pitch on the route so we started off right at the bottom.
I'd heard that the 1st pitch was about Severe, but don't know where I heard that from as it certainly wasn't severe, more like scrambling! One bit of gear in the whole thing saw me reach the Terrace and there was the crux pitch.
It's steeper than I had thought it would be! And there's no gear in the initial moves off the ground, 'double gulp!'
There is however a fantastic jug, and though it's a tad on the wobbly side I decide it's good enough to pull up on, and that's it, I'm committed.
It's harder climbing that I thought it would be, a couple of tricky sections, with moves which feel quite committing and gear under my feet. But I'm finally at the top of the groove and faced with a gearless traverse across a slab. There's nothing juggy here! And it's quite committing again, with typical rounded sandstone holds but excellent friction, and there I'm at the belay ledge!
The next pitch is utterly delightful! Laybacking on steep jugs, excellent climbing and the sort of stuff I could climb all day long, so nice! But before long it's all over with just an easy scramble to the top and that's it, my dream route done! I feel wonderful, but as always after doing a route I've dreamed of, I feel a touch of sadness that I can no longer have it to look forward to. Forever onwards onto the next route, the next dream! The thirst is never quenched!
Andy's mate John, had climbed at Applecross a couple of days before and had done amongst other things a VS called Anduril, but they'd abandoned ship after the 3rd pitch and Andy couldn't remember why, but decided to have a look at the route. I can see why the bailed! The first pitch was wet! The 2nd pitch was covered with black lichen and the 3rd pitch was completely and utterly artificial and pointless. In fact, all bottom 3 pitches were a waste of time!
However, the route made up for it, by presenting a quite excellent 4th and 5th pitch. I'd recommend anyone doing this route to traverse along the Terrace and not bother with the pitches 1,2 and 3 as the real and good climbing lies above. Really sustained VS climbing, move after move of it, and I found it really tough!
Back to the sacks and I took some photos of some other climbers on Sword. We were in good time in the morning, as there were 2 other parties that climbed it after us. I didn't feel pressurised though as the party after us was much slower.
We decided to call it a day after that and after finding a spot to camp, on a roadside beach just the other side of Applecross, we went for a meal in the Applecross Hotel, which was lovely. Back to the beach where we drank wine in the setting sun, with views across to Skye and no midgies!
We didn't escape the midgies the next morning though. I wasn't finding them too bad, but Andy was getting bothered by them so we moved quickly. We drove right round the peninsula and across to Torridon to climb at Diabaig. I'd never climbed here before, nothing much worth doing below VS, and the best of the routes at HVS and above has always meant it was a venue too hard for me. But Andy was keen to show me it and said there was a VS I could lead there called Boab's Corner.
I was dubious about the top pitch, as the guide mentioned 'hard for the short'
But Andy couldn't remember it being that reachy so we went to have a look. I really didn't like the look of it! The bottom corner was a bit mucky and then above looked suspiciously like a nasty blank slab to me! AAAARRRRRGGGGGGG!!!! Why does he keep recommending slabs to me, when he knows fine well I don't like slab climbing! I gave the lead to Andy, no way I'm doing that for a warm up, didn't like the look of it one bit.
The start was easy, but the slab above was tenuous, reachy rock overs and tenuous climbing, yuck! I don't' mind slabs so much if there are small flakes and cracks I can hold on to, and if the moves are small, but there seemed to be some big reaches and big, slabby moves and I never once felt secure and was forever struggling to keep in balance.
The top pitch looked even blanker, so I said, 'no thanks!'
And the crux was awfully reachy! There is a big block that you have to surmount and there are jugs on the arete of the block that you can work your hands up, then you have to bridge across and just heave over. Problem though, Andy seemed to think that the reachy move was reaching over the block, but that was actually easy! The reachy bit was actually grabbing the arete as when I was as high as I could possibly get below the block, with nothing left to hold onto, no cracks or nubbins, the arete was still about a foot away from me! I ended up being hauled up so I could reach the arete, then I managed to get the jugs and brutally get myself over the block.
Not a route I enjoyed one little bit!
The descent was horrible too. Scrambling down moderate ground and then down a steep, muddy slope, followed by wading through chest high bracken!
I wasn't happy. This isn't a venue for the VS and below leader. All the really nice looking routes here are really hard and all the easier things are slabby. There is a gorgeous looking VS however that goes up over steep ground,with cracks and overhangs that looks just superb! But unfortunately it starts by having to scramble up a horrible slime covered wall and there's no way to get to the base of the route without getting your feet wet. And I wasn't in the mood for leading anyway. Felt too tired and just not psyched by the place and baffled why Andy keeps trying to get me to lead stuff that I insist I don't like and trying to put me off stuff that I think looks amazing by saying it's really hard! We just seem to get on better with different styles of climbing and I think Andy just assumes, like most people, that because I'm a woman that I will like slabs better because they're not steep. But I like steep! I don't like all this precarious, teetering about and relying wholly on balance that you seem to do with slabs, find it too unnerving.
I was all for giving up for the day and just belaying Andy on something, but I knew Andy was disappointed that I didn't like the previous route, and was getting stroppy, so I made an effort and said I'd try Route 2 to give the place a chance. And I'm glad I did! The first pitch of Route 2 is lovely! (marred by one reachy move, but if I'd made more of an effort I'd have found a good sequence to get the jug before the crack) It's steep, the holds are good and even though sometimes there isn't much for your feet, the hand holds are always good enough to feel that you're not teetering and you can jam your feet in the crack a plenty.
The top pitch is different though, harder! Lots of jamming which was ok, but sometimes you have to jam with one foot, smear with the other, whilst having a hand in the crack on holds which feel polished and rounded and not that positive at all. Very sustained and I found the climbing right at my limit and very strenuous, didn't enjoy it as much as the first pitch.
A couple of blokes that Andy knows turned up and did Route 1 which Andy thinks I might be able to lead. The start certainly looks ok (with flakes!) and the crux is a roof/overlap by a holly bush which looks interesting! But I'm not sure about the next section. I might give it a go if I'm feeling brave enough and there is ok gear as once you hit that slabbier bit, it's not far to the belay ledge. We'll see!
I belayed Andy on an E1 5c called Black Streak, but decided not to bother seconding it as I find 5b a struggle enough and couldn't be bothered with having to fight and dog my way up a route.
We called it a day after that so I could get home a bit earlier than normal.
Final exam today, then free for the summer, hurrah!