Friday, 31 July 2009

WEE ROCK STAR! - 27th to 31st July '09

RB exceeded all expectations over the past few days!
She'd been at me for the past year to let her do some proper trad lead climbing, without a safety rope or without someone soloing or shunting up beside her. I'd always been far too nervous of the prospect however, she's far too young, it's too hard, what if her gear is crap, what if she hurts herself???
All these thoughts and fears were still present, but having had a year to think it over I could see no harm in letting her try a few Mods or Diffs on lead. We'd need to find a cliff that had billions of good and easy to place gear. A place with a reasonable approach and descent. A place where she could get well back from the edge of the cliff after leading, get herself safe and where I could go round to the top easily and check her belay anchors were solid.
Reiff seemed like a good bet.
So we'd planned 5 days away and prayed for weeks that the weather would be kind. For the past 2 summers, the North West of Scotland has seen wonderful sunshine whilst the rest of the country has been drowning in rain! But unfortunately this trend wasn't to continue. The original plan of Applecross/Reiff/Torridon with a stay in the Ling Hut had to get scrapped. Gutting because I was eager to show Reiff to RB, think she'd love it there!
Instead, Mon was spent driving up to Logie Head on the Moray Coast with an uncertain forecast. Well, the forecast was for showers but I thought we'd risk it as the showers often fall well inland there. Not that day though!
We stopped off at Portsoy for some of their famous homemade icecream, just in time for the heavens to open! Rats! Carried on regardless, just a passing shower, the cliff will be dry. Walking in to the crag was minging! Never seen Logie like that before. The path was like mud and the bracken by the path had us soaked in seconds and RB covered in mud after slipping on the path. Not off to a good start! We persevered however and RB spent the first half hour to an hour messing about with the rack and placing as many bits of gear as she could along the bottom of the cliff. While she was doing that, I went up to the top and set up a belay, checking all her gear when I got back down. The descent scramble was pretty slippy so I decided I'd just lower RB off the routes rather than risk her slip.
Her gear was all good, she seems to have a good grasp on how it all works, so I could see no reason for me to delay her any longer. We hung about waiting for another shower to pass and the rock seemed dry enough for her to give it a go, so she started off up Sea Link, a V.Diff. I've never seen so much gear go in that route before! I'm quite impressed that she managed to find so many placements! All in all, she managed to place all of her 9 quickdraws! All good gear placing practise. And she had to suffer a heavy rain shower as she was nearing the top! She got herself safe and I came round to the top, only to realise that I'd set up the belay for her in completely the wrong place! So, I got her to move well back and had to shift things around a bit, get her back on the belay anchors and comfy, explaining the whole process to her, get myself back down to the bottom of the cliff and climb the damn thing!
Gah though! My arm is damn sore! It's hurting quite badly after my day at Hawkcraig. I'm unsure whether I've got a dose of Tennis Elbow, or damaged by biceps, or whether the pain is coming from my Triceps. But I'm kidding myself I reckon, I know it's my neck. There is definite elbow pain at the epicondyle but the pain around it is that weird kind of nerve pain where I poke at the muscle body only to find the pain has moved! There are darts of pain down my forearm and into my fingers and after driving, because my elbow has been bent, I can barely straighten my arm out, it feels so weak and ineffective. So, that's that! This is exactly the same thing that happened to my other arm last year, that the Doc, Physio and Chiro all said was coming from my neck and certainly with all the bouts of neck pain I've been having, particularly the falling off the slackline incident, it seems the most likely reason for my arm pain now. My muscles seem more susceptable to damage because of the nervy stuff going on, bugger!
Anyway, I lowered RB off the route after and the rain was getting heavier and it was getting pretty cold so we decided to pack it in for the day. Only one route done, but better than expected considering the rain!

The forecast for Tuesday wasn't great again, and the Moray Coast had the best again, so we headed off to Cummingston for the day. I wasn't too sure about this being a great place for RB to learn to lead as the gear can be hard and fiddly to place, but it turned out to be an excellent venue for her! She absolutely loved it! And again, she seems to have a good nose for hunting out gear placements and I was amazed by the bits of gear she found where I looked up and thought she'd struggle! She started off on the Diff on the Stack called Flying Buttress, Right Side, finding it tricky for a Diff (it is!) but still finding loads of good gear, then doing an abseil protected with a prussic. She then liked the look of the Diff called Snotty Nose and protected that very well too! This route hurt my arm! Very frustrating to be unable to climb even Diffs without pain! It's Northumbria all over again! She then had a go on Blockbuster, the V.Diff that goes up to the wee roof on jugs and thought that was fun, followed by the Severe next door, Doddle Diedre. I was nervous of her leading this one, as I find it awkward to climb and the gear placements not brilliant at all. The guide has it as well protected but everyone I know who has done it, find the gear a bit dubious. RB's gear was ok, bar the cams which weren't hot! But as best as anyone could get I think. She certainly wasn't in any danger anyway. And she was calm and collected when climbing and didn't find the route troublesome at all, apart from the sand! That was us for the day, I'd necked some painkillers to help me be able to climb, and Andy had toprope soloed some HVS and E1 a billion times!

Wed, I was gagging to get up the hills! The forecast hadn't been great the day before, with showers forecast, but I thought if the showers were much like they were on Monday, then it should be okay to go into Sneachda and do something like Pygmy Ridge. The forecast said much the same the following morning, even if the weather out the window said different! It was pretty windy and more of a constant drizzle at the car park, rather than a passing shower! RB was still keen however, thinking she'd be happy enough if the rain stayed light and showery.
The showers came and went on the approach, but after leaving the 1st aid box, the rain became more persistent. I really didn't have my hill head screwed on at all that morning and had forgotten waterproof trousers for both RB and I, and we had no hat or gloves to keep warm either! By the time we were nearing the scramble up, I could see that RB was wet and cold and not that happy. She keeps things to herself though. I can tell when she's unhappy and I like her to be able to feel she can say she doesn't want to do something, without feeling like she is letting anyone else down or feeling pressurised by group pressure into doing something she doesn't want to do. This can happen only too easily and though I was happy for her to carry on if she was really keen, I could see quite plainly she wasn't happy, and I know Andy would be raring to go and dismissive of any thoughts of not carrying on. I wasn't having that however! I'll not have her pressurised full stop! Especially not by some Diff, that Andy has probably done a billion times and that I know for a fact she would enjoy much, much more on a dry day! I've no interest in that carry on regardless attitude. The route will be there for us to do any time and her comfort and enjoyment is my main concern. Oh boy, was Andy pissed off though! I discussed with RB the possibility of either going to Huntly's or going to Aviemore Wall, but Andy wasn't up for discussion and stomped off in a huff. We didn't speak to him, nor see him until we got back to the car. I could feel my temper simmering on the surface, if he just dares to mention one word about turning back or make me feel like shit for my decision, word will be spoken! And words were spoken! I'd had enough! It was like having to cater for another child!!! And I felt guilty and torn because I have to be the bad one in the middle that makes a decision that's going to make someone unhappy whatever way I decide. But fact is, RB is a child and she comes first.
That temper was still simmering and you could have cut the tension in the car with a knife on the way back! I was ready to pack our bags and bugger off to Reiff for the rest of the week, not having this carry on ruin the rest of RB's holiday. Dunno what Andy was thinking, but he seemed to switch off his huff and become happy again and want to go to Huntly's. This settled my mood and we were all good again.
RB enjoyed Huntly's, particularly the free hanging abseil! Ugh! I was nervous as hell for her doing the abseil, but she loved it! Where I'm birling round feeling sick and not enjoying it, she's going, 'haha, this is fun!' Worry for nothing!
RB led a V.Diff called Right Hand Groove, which I found a total sandbag for V.Diff! Really strenuous and mega reachy at the top! There is a tree above a chimney and neither of us could reach it to use it as a hold. Andy had to put a sling round it for RB to use as a runner, so she was well protected as she figured a way to reach. And I was squeaking at Andy to help RB with the dead end of the rope when she was belaying me up, so convinced I was going to fall off! Think I need to get RB to take my weight on the rope when she's belaying from above, to ascertain that she can hold a fall that way, or take my weight at least. I'd had enough. Tired, arm sore, more painkillers and a flat feeling that feels oh so familiar!
Andy finished off the day by leading RB up Cave Route at HS and then Diagonal at VS, both of which she flew up and enjoyed!

Thursday, I'd hoped the forecast would be good enough for Reiff, but last minute changes showed showers in the west again, with Moray as usual getting the only good weather. Back to Cummingston! RB was happy and planning the days routes before we even got there! First off she wanted to do one of the routes on the Cornflake Wall that she couldn't do the other day due to groups toproping. Then she wanted to do the V.Diff on the Stack, then she wanted to do another Severe. She got her 1st route, Shredded Wheat at V.Diff. Very aptly named! The route was one of the sandiest I've done at Cummingston! RB found it rather disgusting. Andy was leading today and did Coach Bolt Crack on the stack, named so because of a big rusty old peg thing in the crack from way back when. RB found this a bit awkward but seconded it cleanly. She then decided against leading the V.Diff on the Stack, wanting to jump on a Severe straight away. She liked the look of Staircase Crack, but the showers had left it a bit streaky with wet, so she led Doubtless Wall instead. I was nervous of her doing this one as I recalled it being steep, with not much gear. Andy showed her a different way of starting the route and pointed out a bomber hex placement (so obvious when you see it!) and again my fears were unfounded as she totaly cruised it, and said it was her most enjoyable route yet!
We then went over to the Prophet Walls and Andy led Right at HVS 5b, which RB cruised on second, just lingering a moment to figure out the crux. The wee monkey then decided she wanted to try Centre. In most guides this is down as MVS 4b, but recently downgraded to HS 4b. Andy reckoned it would be MVS in the SMC guide, if they did that grade. Aaaaaarg, more nerves!!!! I'm worried she won't be able to reach the nose, or if she does reach it, she'll get stuck by being unable to reach the next holds! She's going far too wall for that though! And she's loving it! Finding it easy enough to hang off the nose and pose for the camera! She's so calm and collected, her emotions never once betraying her. At the top, she admitted to feeling a bit scared on the 1st corner above the nose, because she had to do a really high step and she said it felt really committing. This is now her favourite route and she was bubbling with enthusiasm for it!
John and Ryan appeared as RB was leading Centre, having been rained off down in Wales and both commented on how at ease she seemed up there. High compliments from the lads! These guys are going really well just now, both of them having led their 1st E3's.
Andy and RB then toproped The Prophet at E2 5c, and I Ching at E3 5c. RB cruised up these!!! Bloody hell!! She's so strong for her height and weight, flexible and she just really, really knows how to shift her body weight and position to really get the moves. It seems to come naturally to her, wish I could get some of that!

Fri, the weather is still crap up North and too far to drive up there and back home in a day anyway! Back to Logie Head again. A good choice as the weather was gorgeous there today. RB started off on the Severe, Bladderwrack, not having any difficulty with the trickier start at all. Then she seconded Cullenary Delight at VS 5a, no problemo! She then led Sea Urchin at HS 4b where I thought she might struggle with a fiddly bit of gear in the roof. Posed no problems at all, and she wondered what I was on about when I said the gear was awkward to place there! Andy then led Sunnyside Up at HVS 5a and RB seconded this cleanly again.
Andy and I had discussed the possibility of RB trying Poacher on lead, the night before. I was very hesitant though. Andy was convinced she would manage but I was a bit freaked at the thought of her pushing herself too much too soon! What if her gear wasn't good enough? The gear on Poacher's is excellent, none of the moves too hard or strenuous, but the route is very sustained with no opportunity to rest! We didn't mentioned it to her though. She looked at the route and asked herself what it was and seemed quite surprised when Andy suggested she could lead it if I would let her. Aaaaaaaaarg!!! She was keen to give it a go, and we'd seen that her gear was all good, bar a couple of iffy cam placements, but poachers can be protected with nuts and hexes. And 75% of her cam placements had been good enough. I agreed she could give it a go. I didn't want to belay though. Far, far too nervous! Half of me wants to belay so I can be there for her, but I'm so full off the things that could go wrong, don't want to affect her with my worry and negative vibes. After getting nervous about some passing grey cloud, convinced she's going to get rained on and get into an epic, I shut my mouth and let them get on with it! I'm not happy until she's well off the ground and placed her first few bits of gear, knowing now that if she falls she's well protected. She's cruising it though!! That's my wee girl up there, looking quite the climber!! She's calm, she moves well and thoughtfully as ever, always in total control, nothing phasing her! I meet her at the top to make sure her belay is good and we discuss the route. She found it different to Centre she said. With the routes at Cummingston, you have to think about the moves. On Poacher, she said, the moves were all easy and obvious but she kept thinking, oh my arms are tired, next move, oh my arms are tired. I laugh at her perfect description of a sustained route!
More comments from other climbers about how in control and confident she is, and I'm beaming with pride and RB is bubbling with happiness, saying this has been a fab climbing holiday!
To finish the week, Andy leads 2x HVS's on the Pinnacle, Material Advantage and Hanging Pawn. Pumpy, pumpy! RB cruised the first route and shouts, aaaaaaaarg my arms are falling off on the 2nd! They both then toprope Mating Net (E1 5c as they started right at the bottom of the crack) This is a jamming crack and Andy laughs that it will sort out RB! And sort her out it does! She's not done any jamming before, bar the odd foot jam and she struggles with it, the crack spitting her off again and again, before sheer determination makes her figure the moves and get to the top.
That was fun she says!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Hawkcraig spanking! - 25th July '09

Finally made it to Hawkcraig! There are loads of VS's for me here, but the tides have never been right.
Home earlier this evening with my tail firmly between my legs after finding the 2 VS's that I tried really difficult, using a quickdraw as a hold on the 1st one and backing off the 2nd one! And neither of them were the VS's I'd set out to do, which are supposed to be harder (although I think Pain Pillar looks straight forward, just sustained, but I remember all the holds being good)
Once I'd warmed up enough and plucked up the courage for Asinine, Pain Pillar and Rebel's Groove the bloomin tide was coming in fast!
Anyway, started off the day on The Lilly, a Severe. I'd seconded this back in 2005 when I first started climbing and remember enjoying it. Tricky wee Severe! Found the rock quite hard to read, as in so many holds and ripples and grooves and knobbly bits you have to hunt a bit to find the best combination.
Dave that I was climbing with today then led Flake and Wall and flew up it, placing one bit of gear! When seconding it, I can see why he scampered up so quickly, the route is a doddle! One tiny move off the flake and onto the wall that needs a bit of thought, and the rest of the route feels like a Diff!
Then I had a look at Saracen at VS 4c (wanted an easy VS to get me going first) but didn't like the look of it, so tried Diptera instead. The start is very easy and then you get to a overhang/roofy bit. Good gear but very thin for the feet. Ugh, I hate these smeary type foot holds! There was a small ledge for my left foot, out to the left and I bridged across to that, but it kept pushing me over left away from the good hand holds! So, I had to use an awkward foot hold inside the crack under the roof which made me feel a bit off balance, trust my other foot on smears and move rightwards instead. Took me ages to figure out the move and I was climbing up and down loads, always pushed out left instead of right! Until climbing back down in annoyance, I ended up grabbing hold of the quickdraw of a nut I'd placed. Bother! There goes the onsight!
Dave led Destiny's Groove next and had a wee bit of a moment on it, don't think he was too keen on the smeary moves on that route either!
This was my 2nd ever Severe lead a few years back and I remember finding it really difficult! I did it completely differently from what I remember, finding a juggy flake and managing to lay back (oh I do like to layback!)
The tide was coming in fast, so bang went Pain Pillar and we sat and had something to eat instead, me deciding what to do next. Thought about starting up on the high ledge and doing Cranium Crack at VS 4c as I'd seconded that 2nd pitch before and remember it being steep but juggy. Changed my mind though and decided to quickly (aye right!) nip up the 1st pitch as well.
Didn't happen though! Got to the crux chimney, seriously pumpy!! You have to use an undercling in the first chockstone in the chimney, which totally pushes you out into serious overhanging body position! Then bung in as much bomber gear as you dare, before getting far too pumped and climbing back down a move to rest. Back up, place more gear, back down and rest. Right, going for it now! Pah! Undercling, incut hold above, non positive rounded lay off above, bridged out wide onto wincy foot holds! God damn, can't reach the top of the fecking chockstone!!! Move feet up higher on smeary foot holds, unbalanced position now, uuggh, wish I was taller! Still can't bloody reach! Climb down annoyed! Try again, nope, can't commit to more smeary moves while holding that horrible rounded thing and getting more precarious. Really annoyed with myself though! It's just a couple of off balance moves and I can see the jug that I need to get, taunting me from above! Gear is bomber, but just can't commit! Climb back down dejected! Cam out, nut out, another nut out, climb back down to the ground (good down climbing skills though!_
Dave decides to give it a go, but he's up and down like a yoyo too! And also backs off. We'll both go cruise that route another day!
A German couple try the route after us, a woman leading it (taller than me, skinnier and stronger than me, bet she cruises it!!) She doesn't though. She manages to do it (not fair! she can just step up and reach above that 2nd chockstone, ggrrrr!!) But, it looks like the fun isn't over even once you do manage to get that jug! She looks like she's finding it awkward and has to do some shifty foot and hand work and swapping, to get more in balance. Hmmmmm.
I have found me a nemesis route!
No piccies today.

Monday, 20 July 2009

HOLIDAYING IN THE PYRENEES - 7th to 18th July '09

Tues 7th - Arrived in Reus, Spain and am sitting writing this (in a notebook!) as Andy queues for our hire car. Just had a welcome text from Vodaphone, welcoming me to Spain, texts 19ppm blah blah blah.
Plane ride was fun at take off as always and saw some mountains peaking through the clouds as we passed over the Pyrenees.
It's a balmy 23 degrees C at arrivals, RB will probably be boarding her flight to Germany at the moment (I'm going to miss her! Longest we've ever been apart!)
Can see some hills from the airport, Costa De Dariada (climbing there)

Wed 8th - Arrived in Huesca around midnight and slept well after a fitful start (too hot!) Gone for a wander around the town while the guys get packed (I'm ready!) Don't want to wander too far and get hopelessly lost but have managed to find a park in the centre of town. A fair bit of vandalism about (Stop the gran scala. Protest about some sort of casino area they are wanting to build) More trivial graffiti, kids are the same everywhere you go! Today, we are driving to El Bubon and La Grarella to climb, and then booking into our apartment around t-time.

Arrive at El Bubon around midday. Felt awful, absolutely awful! Thumping headache and feeling sick. Painkillers help to take the edge off so I can at least try and climb! I'd have preferred to go to the easiest area first but am outvoted seen as the harder crag is nearer. I can't lead anyway just now cos of my head.
Andy starts off on a 5+ called Neurona Loca which has a tricky middle section and nice slabby top. The rock is a bit polished but I really enjoy the climbing on sharp holds, flakes and pockets. Alf and I do the route on toprope and Andy leads Guille at 6a which isn't much harder, but is more sustained. There is a 6a+ called Ara and Andy tries to toprope it but can't get past the crux due to the polish. I have a go and come off several times at the same spot as Andy, but I'm determined to get up the damn thing and persevere!
Both Alf and I are keen to lead something now, so we head along to the easier crag, called La Grarella, which was only 5minutes away in the end!
We both lead 2x 4+'s, which are pleasant enough, then Alf goes to lead Rupal with an overhanging start. My headache is back with a vengeance, feel spaced out and really sick! More painkillers, lie down and snooze in the shade, too wasted to climb anymore!
Andy leads Luna Llena at 6a+, then we drive over the Pass Portalet at 1794m over into France.
I'm sitting in the back of the car so I don't have to endure Andy's driving on the narrow roads, but the clouds are lower in France so no views of the Pic De Midi D'Ossaou.
Animals seen today were a wee green lizard on the crag, loads of vultures, eagles, kites and a herd of sheep trotting up the road and a herd of cows complete with cow bells! Clouds parting a little, must stop writing and look at all the mountains!
There were gorgeous views up to Telera Pena earlier today, which is a Spanish Pyrenees ice climbing venue, looks gorgeous!

Thurs 9th - Woken up by cloud and wet in Eaux Bonnes! At the moment we are driving up to Gourette to see if the cloud will clear. Our apartment is a bit duff. Smells of fustiness and the bed linen is damp, so had a cold night in an uncomfy bed! We can't figure out the heating and it took about half an hour this morning to sort out the gas for cooking. I wandered off to the hotel for some matches and came back successful but Alf had gone to the empty and unlocked apartment upstairs and found some. Neck is sore this morning and can still feel that headache lingering.
Just passed the local Via Feratta but I'm outvoted again and looks like we may drive back into Spain (ugh more of Andy's driving!) He's used to an automatic car and seems to forget about changing up gears so the car revs like crazy and he's far too jerky with the steering and brakes! I've sat in the back again so it feels less like a roller coaster!

Change of plan! The guy who owns our apartment also owns the local campsite in Eaux Bonnes and we stopped off there for topos, discovering that there are two local crags nearby, one at Laruns and the other at Arudi.
We stop off at Laruns first and HOLY SHIT!!! There's an extremely exposed via ferratta type affair that goes on for about 500m, which is the only way to approach the routes!! You have to hold onto the crag, rope and knots and clip in and out of the rope as you pass by. Andy didn't want me screwing up my screwgates as it's time consuming and he was behind me, being impatient as usual and was starting to get grumpy with me! Of course, this got my temper up, so much so that I cursed at him and decided ENOUGH!!! I won't be bossed about! I wanted to stomp off back to the car but was persuaded to stay.
The via feratta was scary! But before long we were at our section of the crag. Andy led a 5+ called Tes Sangles Longues N'y Pourront Rien Changer (bit of a mouthful!!) which was brutal and steep and pumpy and then another 5+ called Le Pole Desespoir which wasn't as steep but had a huge, reachy start which I couldn't do. After a wee pull I got up eventually! Then Andy led a superb 6a called A Cheval Mesdames and I had my first ever Tufa experience! Afterwards, Alfie found a wire bridge over the gorge. You had to walk across one wire and use the one above for a handrail. Alf wanted some pics of him on it and Andy decided to cross over too, but no way was I going across! Had a think about it, decided that if Andy, with his dodgy balance could do it, then it couldn't be too wibbly and I'd be okay on it.
What a buzz! Then it got a bit scary in the middle as it was more wobbly! Alf then sniffed out another bridge going back across and though this one was shorter it was much scarier! You had to lean right forward to keep the wires tensioned and yourself in balance and it was mega wibbly! Couldn't believe I was crossing it! We then had to via ferratta it back to the car but it seemed less scary on the way back.

Later in the afternoon (after tea and coffee!) we go to Arudi, which the bloke at the campsite called Gloc and we assumed this meant polish as the 1st route we did was horribly polished! A 5a called La Sirene, and the polish was like glass! There was a direct version at 6a which Alf tried on toprope but was too horrible, Andy managed to lead it, but agreed it was minging!
We were about to go when I suggested we have a quick nosey at the next sector along and thankfully I wasn't outvoted this time as this crag was nicer!
I spotted a 5b that looked lovely, Voive Du Soleil. It was Alf's turn to lead so he did it first then pulled the rope through so I could do it too. It was lovely! My favourite route yet, up a wall, then a steep, pocketed slab and then up an overhang, delightful! Andy toproped it up to that point and then led the 6a above called Mercure.
Now 8pm and we've missed the supermarket, so nothing for breakfast unless there is a shop open back in Laruns!
Off there to eat out for tea again. We manage to catch the Transhumance Festival, when the cattle are herded through the town and up into the hills. It's quite a local event, with the locals all out, boozing and music playing.

Fri 10th - Ooooooh fantastique!! My 1st Pyrenean peak! Pene Sarriere at just over 1900m, up into the mountains at last! There was a bit of mist about but the weather station at Gourette reckoned the cloud would clear as the day went on.
We followed a ski tow up and then branched off left and around to the East face, where the whole of the valley D'Uzious opens up like some lush, hidden gem, truly beautiful, with the wispy bits of mist drifting in and out, glowing pure white in the beaming sun!
It takes a while to find the start of our route, The Cara Este Clasica, a D+ with 6 pitches of climbing. The 1st pitch is horrible and I'm not enamoured if this is to be the way of things! Polished, awkward, off balance and reachy!!! The 2nd pitch is scrambling and a bit chossy but I enjoy it more than the first. Alf leads pitches 3 and 4. 3 has some really hard slabby moves on it, with big slabby reaches and rock overs and I find it very hard! The next pitch however is amazing! Superb, flowing climbing on little but positive holds and flakes. I want to lead the next pitch but it looks really slabby so I pass it to Andy, regretting it after as it's not slabby in the friction sense at all! This takes us to a Col and the view to the West opens up so we can see the Pic De Ger and the Pene Medaa, the largest peaks in the Gourette area at 25oom and 26oom.
The last pitch is the steepest and most overhanging III+ I've ever done, it's fantastic, totally jugtastic! Then up a funky wee chimney and that's us at the top.
Oh my, the top is exposed! I'm not really feeling relaxed at all! And as we sit at the edge and eat, I keep feeling a dragging sensation, like I'm going to fall off the edge of the cliff and it makes me feel quite sick! As soon as I've eaten, I decide to cross a slabby narrowing, shuffling down on my bum, where Alfie and Andy walk across quite the thing! Funny how I can walk along that steep wire, but not this! Once across I relax immediately, then follows a scrambly descent, which is nothing like I thought it would be, not hard at all! We then join up with the G10 route, a walk that goes from the Atlantic to the Med and takes 46 days!! Back at Gourette the sun is beaming and it's coke and ice cream time, then shop for gifts!
Forecast for tomorrow and the weekend is more sun, sun, sun, hurrah!

Sat 11th - A day of lows and of highs (2600m to be precise!) Woke up to blue, blue skies in the morning and a 3hr walk in, seen as the ski lifts weren't running! Started walking at 8.30am and set off up the pistes. Ugh, it was brutal, steep and unpleasant, but it did get us high fast! The higher we got the more we saw of the mountains and faced with the Pic De Ger I stopped to take a photo, only to find out I'd left my camera at one of the lift stations! Aaaaaaaarg, you stupid cow!!!!! Bollocks!!!!! I had to dump my sack and run back down for it. Problem was, it wasn't there and that's when I remembered that I'd taken it off at the middle station lower down, just before the steep bit of the piste. I'd taken it off, laid it on top of a pipe and gone for the toilet. So I stomped back up to where Andy was waiting with my sack, torn and utterly gutted! I'd have to go back down for it but there was no way I could go back down and then come back up, it was just too far. I told Andy I'd have to go down and boy he wasn't happy! Then I got even more annoyed! He could still easily catch up with the others and climb, I was the one that was going to miss out, not him! He then had the cheek to say that he'd paid for my holiday so it would be mean of me to go back down!!! I couldn't believe my ears!! I was livid, utterly livid! How dare he try and make me feel guilty when I was feeling crap enough as it was for leaving my camera. I can tell you, he got the sharp end of my tongue for that one!!
I was torn though! It was a camera worth near enough £100 and I havn't even finished paying for it yet! Yet, this was the day where I was going to go the highest of the holiday. Aaaaargggggggg, what to do, what to do, what to do!!!???
I'd walk up a bit, then stop.......unsure..........In the end I carried on, knowing I'd be utterly fed up if I went back down and had to spend the day down in Gourette on my own, knowing the others were up high climbing!
I decided that as soon as I turned an approaching corner I was going to forget about it and enjoy my day. I could rant about it later if it wasn't there anymore on the way down, and I might be lucky! There didn't seem to be much folk about so maybe nobody would notice it sitting there.
Another low - After trying to catch up with Alfie and Gilliermo (young spannish dude, friend of friend of Alfs) we came to a junction in paths. No sign of them ahead and we called out with no success. Took a while to decide which fork to choose and sods law we chose the wrong one! We'd gone up around 100m when we spotted them across the other side of the Coire we'd circled round, going up to a different Col than them, RATS!! Andy's turn to get grumpy now and get all pessimistic that we won't be able to do the route. He suggested we cut across the col, or over the top of the peak between cols to get to the other side, but no way am I taking one of his horrible 'short cuts!' Can anything get worse? Thankfully not!
We end up catching up with Alf and co at the top of the correct col, after huffing and puffing up a horrible scree slope. Now over 2000m and I've lost my stride due to all the upping and downing, and probably starting to be affected a little by the altitude.
Anyway, rest of the day was fab! A wee scramble down to our route and Alf leads up first, Gilliermo following. Andy is straining at the bit to get going as usual, and I'm feeling annoyed that he never has the patience to just chill out and wait, but it's not in his nature to wait! Sometimes I feel guilty at getting annoyed at him, as apart from his bouts of selfishness as regards climbing, he's the most gentlest and kindest man I've ever known and I get torn between annoyance and tenderness towards him (bloomin relationships!) But I'm crazy about the auld loon, even if my temper gets the better of me from time to time!
Moving on........first pitch is pretty awkward and reachy (limestone can be a reachy rocktype at times!) 2nd pitch I want to lead (my first lead on a Pyrenean peak, hurrah!) It's easy enough, up slabs (nice ones though!) which have holds! Hardly any gear though! The route is VERY sparsly bolted with one bolt and peg per belay and only one bolt and rusty peg in my whole pitch which was pretty much a rope length (think I placed one nut as well!)
Andy leads the crux pitch over a bulge on weird, downward pointing undercuts, then up a steep slab. Then I lead another F5 pitch above, 2 pegs about 5m above the belay, one bolt half way up the pitch and that's it for the 50m pitch! Next it's just a scramble up to the top and that's it, The West Ridge at D/D+ of the Amoulet, in the bag.
Ok, next it's time for me to be utterly, utterly crapping myself! We have to descend a short way, down a narrow ridge about 3foot wide to a cairn where we hope there will be a belay. Is there a belay? Nope!!! Fear sets in big time, aaaaarrrrgggggg!!! Are we going to be stuck up here?! I have visions of having to be rescued by helicopter but should have known that Andy and Alf would save the day!
We then have to descend the next part of the ridge, about a foot wide this time!!! It's bum shuffle time! But hurrah! At the bottom they've found the ab station, oh me of little faith! But first, the bum shuffle awaits, then I have to face in and downclimb 2 steps, both a foot wide, death drops either side, f*cking crapping myself!! 2 'abs down of ropes tied together, a scramble of half the distance, a fantastic scree run down the horrendous scree slope we came up, then a plod down the pistes until,
That really makes my day! So, so happy that it's still there!
Walk round the corner and a Marmotte pokes his head up, 1st I've ever seen! A perfect finish to the day. Oooooooh, must remember to mention all the beautiful flowers I've seen, Gentains, Hellebores, Rock Roses, Vanilla Orchids, Valerian, Meadowsweet, Alpine Avens and loads, loads more, so green and lush here!

Fri - A horror of a day! We'd planned a harder route and decided on a 4 pitch, bolted route on Pene Sarriere. A much easier walk than yesterday and we knew the area from climbing there the day before. On approach, we saw there were already 2 parties at the bottom of the route, RATS!
One had done our route before and said the pitches were 5+/5+/5+ stroke 6a/6a, but having done the route a few times he thought the whole route was 6a.
I thought about leading the 1st pitch but changed my mind after seeing the leader before really having to stretch for the moves, and she was taller than me! Andy ended up leading it all! The 1st pitch *was* reachy, as well as off balance and slabby! Everything I hate about a route, rolled into one! The 2nd pitch was easier (it actually had holds! And was steep!) Unfortunately, it was also very short! The 3rd pitch started off nicely, but before long it went slabby again and very sustained, definitely 6a! Alf and Gilliermo were on a rope behind us, but Alf backed off, Gilliermo lead, pulling on every bolt!
The top pitch was DESPERATE!!! The hardest thing I've ever climbed! Again, it was very reachy and off balance and worse, was slabby friction climbing and a total sandbag at 6a! Definitely top end 6a+ in my opinion! I had to pull on several quickdraws and was then faced with a traverse! Alf had asked me to drag a rope up behind me so he could be toproped up and at the traverse I had to clip a rope into the quickdraws. I was in a horribly precarious position, with no footholds, relying on friction alone (and the rock was slippy!)
For my hand there was a rounded crimp. I had Alf below me shouting something up and Andy above me shouting something down! So, of course, I didn't have a clue what either of them were saying to me! I lost it then, and snapped at both of them to be quiet and leave me to concentrate! I was terrified, absolutely terrified! There were no footholds, just friction! And just rounded crimps again and the ground was just off vertical! It all got too much, and after snapping I could feel myself fill up with tears! Oh no, this is all I need! I hate crying! Can't remember the last time I actually cried, it was so long ago! I'm usually very happy go lucky, I do get emotional and temperemental but I rarely feel like crying (apart from when there is horrible things involving children in the news) I had to fight really hard to keep it together and not start sobbing! Some tears came out, but I managed to bosh my head off the rock (helmeted of course!), much deep breathing and then pull myself together enough to complete the route! I was so embarrassed to cry en route, felt like a complete wimp and idiot, not a hardened climber at all! But I made it, just one more bulge, then the top, and I could relax a bit more.
All I wanted now was to be off the cliff but there were 2 full length abs ahead instead. The 1st ab took me over a huge roof of the 6b next door, so was free hanging and I ended up with my arm caught between the rope and the rock, bloody hurt! Then I dangled round and round and round until the angle eased enough for me to get back into the rock. I became immensely paranoid because the edge of the roof had sharp edges and I was worried about them cutting the rope. Don't think about it, don't think about it!!! The next ab was easier angled but Gilliermo had started on the ab above and was knocking off some loose stuff (hard not too!) and so I got paranoid again about a rock hitting the rope and cutting it! I ab'd down as fast as I dare, burning my hand in the process! With rocks wooshing down left, right and centre! Andy was well out the way, happily munching on his sarnie, grin on his face, daft bugger! I was so impressed by his lead!!! I could tell he was finding it hard but I'm always impressed by how he can keep himself so under control when things get tough. Wish I could be less volatile in nature at times!
We had thought a front was coming in tomorrow but the hill forecast looks like another stonker of a day to come! Alf is keen to do the traverse of the Pene Sarriere, a total knife edge, at AD+ I'm curious but think I'll find any downhill climbing bits utterly terrifying!

Mon - Well, we went for the knife edge! It's been the shortest hill day so far and the most nervous for me! We walked up via the West Face of the Pene Sarriere and approaching the Col where you ascend up to the ridge, the pinnacles on the traverse appeared, a real knife edge!! OH MY GOD!!!!! I don't think I can do it! I walk up to the start of the ridge though to have a look, NO WAY!!! I just can't do it! The 1st pinnacle is so narrow it's unbelievable! There is a section that is only as narrow as my hand! And that's followed by a section about 20m long that is about half a foot wide. I'm extremely anxious! I remember that sensation the other day, like something is pulling me over the edge and I feel I'm going to get utterly gripped! I just can't do it! Andy starts to strop again, if he has one more strop cos I don't want to do something, I'm going to be furious! He takes things like that far too personally! I put my stuff away, torn between fear and wanting to prove to myself that *I can* do it! But so scared that I'll freeze with fear half way across, burst into tears and make a complete tit of myself! Oh F*ck it!! Andy has done stuff like this before and knows what he's doing, so I get my stuff together again and we walk to the base of the first pinnacle where there is a belay.
There's a bit of faff sorting out where I'm going to be and I can't believe it when Andy takes me off the bloomin belay! That's the 3rd time he's done that this week and it's left me untied to anything, and I'm finding it unacceptable!!! Esp, when he knows I'm terrified as it is! My heart sinks, if Andy is going to lose patience with me and do stuff like this before we're even on the ridge proper, what will happen when we are on the damn thing! I want to go back again, I really really want to go back! So, so, so, so scared! Never been so scared in my life before! I switch off from it all, gotta let myself just get on with it and take it as it comes.
That 1st bit is a climb up to the start of the knife edge, then comes the bit that's a hand width wide! How the hell are you supposed to climb it!? You use it as a handrail, feet below on the main face, near enough 2000m of air below your feet! Then once it goes to a foot wide, you move up and swing your legs over, so you're straddling the ridge like a horse (known as Au Cheval) You then grip as hard or as gentle with your feet, knees and thighs depending on how scared you are and just shuffle your bum along as slow or as fast as you like. There are small vertical steps, where you have to squeeze with you legs and stand up so you can move your bum onto the higher bit, and these bits are totally mental!! I stop half way along, look down and just get a sense of how utterly ridiculous this was!! Here I am, nearly 2000m up, on a ridge about a foot wide, legs dangling over each side, and I just relax into it completely. This is amazing, totally and utterly amazing, I f*cking love it!!! It's so exhilarating! And it's absolutely hilarious! I start laughing,
'this is f*cking mental, woohooooo!'
I'm loving it now! Andy is nearby incase I get stuck, but I'm managing it fine now. After the knife edge is a belay, then a section of V.Diff/Sev type climbing to get to the top. To get down there is a steep slab with a knotted rope in place. It doesn't go right down though and there is a wee downclimb left at the bottom. This is bloody scary! But I manage it. Then a walk down to the 2nd pinnacle. More climbing here and really awkward step down and across to climb a chimney. Then a slab which is just at the angle you can walk down and just stick too.
The route meets up with the last pitch of the 1st route we did here and I want to lead it. It's the hardest bit technically but the least exposed and I remember the top overhanging jugs being ace!
3 French girls are on the route so we stop and have a bite to eat while we wait. Alf decided to solo up so he can chat and flirt with the French girls!
I lead up to the overhang and bring Andy up once the French girls have moved on (they've let Alfie pass) Then I lead up the top pitch. It's ace! Overhang on jugs, then a funky bridging chimney and we're at the top.
I'm so, so glad to have done the route, my 1st proper Alpine style ridge and Andy reckons that I'd be fine on anything the Skye Ridge can throw at me if I managed that 20m knife edge, hurrah!

Tues - Driving to Oloron at the moment to see if the crags at Arguibelle are dry. Cloud is down low in the hills and it's rained through the night. Feeling knackered, battered and bruised and a bit on the hormonal side! Don't know what we will do if the crag is wet. It's Bastille day in France so many places are shut.
Cancel that! There is actually quite a lot open in Oloron and I managed to buy stamps and post my postcards to my folks and to RB. We then sat outside in a cafe and drank tea and croissants proper French stylee! Well, the guys had coffee and I had tea! I did try a mouthfull of Andy's coffee but it was far too strong for me, yuck! The Croissants however, ooooooohhhhhhh god, they are divine!!! Totaly fresh and warm out the oven, gooey pastry and simply orgasmic! My mouth still waters thinking about them!
Also bought 'une pain du chocolate' for lunch, just had to buy a proper French one!

The crag at Arguibelle was lovely but the ascent up was horrible! It's the most disgusting approach I've ever done! A path of pure clay mud to be exact, which clogged up your boots and made it extremely slippery! I had to hold onto clumps of grass to stop myself skiting about and falling into cow shit, nettles or brambles! By the time we got to the top we were soaked and covered in mud!
The climbing made up for it though! No rest for the wicked and straight onto an easy 4a, Les Mousquetons, with just one thoughtfull move. Then was a 5b route called Blairdeaux which was straightforward and we were informed there was a snake near the lower off! It was gone by the time I led it though, however there were lizards skuttling about. After that we did a 2 pitch 5c called Les Kikis. Alf led the 1st pitch and Andy led the second, which was really nice, but quite reachy. It went up a really steep wall and groove, then a layback, then right over a bulge. Good holds though! The routes just got better and better!
I led a superb 5c (never found out the name of it though) which was superb! Over a bulge where I had to do my first dyno on lead!! Then came slabby climbing, but with good flaky holds and pockets and just one friction move, followed by an overlap. This was steep and bulgy but was jugtastic! Each move very powerful but never impossible!
Then Andy led a 6a, again I didn't catch the name and Alf and I toproped it. I didn't enjoy the start that much, but the crux was excellent! Laybacks on fingery flakes but very positive. Smeary for the feet though so very committing!
Watch one of the French girls on the 6a, willing her to do the crux but she didn't make it!
Descent of doom now! More mud, slips and curses! Big welcoming sign at the bottom tells you that the local council paid for the crag to be equiped for climbers. Amazing! No way you'd see that at home!

Wed - Just left the apartment. Feels quite sad to be leaving! It's been so amazing being in France, there is such a blend of old and new here and I love the pace of life, so relaxed! I love the traditions and I love the fact that there is no convience food, frozen meal type things in the shops! Everything is fresh and good. RB would love the little vans on the roads selling local cheese, much like we have vans selling greasy burgers and hotdogs at home!
It's cloudy in France as we leave, the higher hills shrouded in cloud again, with just slithers of blue peeking through.
We're going back to Spain to climb at Forronies.
Passing over into Spain, we stop over a high pass where the clouds have cleared and you can see the impressive Pic De Midi D'ossau and the Pena Foredada, I'd love to climb both of these! I have developed a fascination, rather than a fear now of all these sharp, pointy peaks!

And how I wish I were on a sharp, pointy peak, rather than at Forronies! The route we did is called Capricorn and is supposed to go at 4/5/5+/6a but it's an utter sandbag! The 1st pitch is a slab with tiny finger holds and no foot holds bar the odd tiny thing and it's steep and exactly the sort of climbing I detest! It feels more like 5+ to me and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th pitch all feel like 6a/6a+ to me!
The 2nd goes up a slab to a roof. Start of roof is okay and I'm thinking I like it, but then does it not get ruined by being too bloody reachy!!
'Hand jam' says Andy!
Aye right! My whole arm fits into that crack, too wide for me to jam it!
'Fist jam!' says Andy!
'Don't know how to fist jam!' Aarrrggghhhh!! Get arm in as best I can, still can't bloody reach! and have to be hauled up! F5 aye right!
Next pitch is worse! A back and footing chimney. Ist move ok, 2nd move dubious, 3rd move no way! Haul on a quickdraw, rope tight and I'm hauled up the pitch again! Really not enjoying this one little bit! This is the worst route I've ever done! I wanted to get lowered off after the 1st pitch but Andy did his usual huff when I say I don't want to do it. Well, next time he can just strop all day long, cos I'm damned if I'm suffering the idignity of being hauled up another route!
Of course, I have to suffer the last pitch first! Both Alf and Andy thnk it looks ok, but I know better! It looks hard!! A finger crack up an overhanging wall, where I can't reach the jams higher up, surprise, bloody surprise! Even the ab off is evil! Over a huge roof and Andy is pulling on the rope below (I asked him to hold the ropes for me) too tight so it's hard for me to move. Am birling round again, don't like this, don't like this! At the ab station Andy tips back a little bit and for a brief second I thought he was falling off the cliff! Try my hardest, but it's all too much again and I'm crying AGAIN, uuggghhh! More of a half cry, half nervous,
'don't bloody do that again!' kind of laugh!
Shoulders are killing me, hands are numb, but thankfully the last ab is straight forward but so sore and tired. Even Alf is annoying me! He forgot his water so I said he could drink from my water bottle and asked him 2x to lock the bottle seal afterwards. But twice he through it down into the dirt, totally unlocked, grrrrr!!!
I'm feeling hot, hormonal and grumpy and not enjoying the climbing (there's one route I do like the look of, but am outvoted (again!) and I start to feel like a total winging cow, but this *has* been a crap day on what's been a superb holiday and the 8th day in a row of climbing and unless any routes inspire me, I've now had enough! I need a rest from it! And I've ripped the arse out of one of my new pairs of climbing trousers!

Sitting afterwards in a gorgeous little Spannish village called Panitcosa and I'm much more relaxed. Have a nosey at the local church, forgot my camera which was a shame cos it was a beautiful building with typical garish catholic ornamentation inside. The town itself is delightful! Sat on a hill, with old stone buildings, narrow winding streets and a canal bubbling through.

Thurs - Too hot, too hot, too hot! The temp in Spain has been 37 at the highest, but mostly 35 degrees, for the past 2 days, too hot to function! Sleep was hard to come by last night and Andy and I were up early to avoid the afternoon heat and climb in the shade at Riglos.
Beating the afternoon wasn't to be however! Arriving at the carpark we found 4x army trucks and approaching the Aguja Roja the were the army folk out on our route amongst others! RATS!
They were knocking down stones left, right and centre and one fist sized bit bounced off the ground, flew across and smacked off the bottom of my leg, ouch!! Andy led the 1st pitch of the Normal Route, a 4* classic at 4c, up a chimney. We then had to wait at the belay for what felt like a lifetime whilst some army dudes ab'd down the pitch and another guy to lead the upper pitch. Took about half an hour and all the time I was getting more and more worried about the climbers above, raining stones down while I wanted to lead and knocking either me off, or worse, cutting the rope!
The upper pitch seemed cleaner thankfully and soon it was my turn to set off. The 1st move off the belay ledge was making me nervous (having had too much time to think!) but it was fine in the end, nice steady and thoughtful climbing. The rock here is weird! Conglomerate, limestone rocks, boulders and pebbles in a sandstoney type matrix. Basically looks like a giant pile of rubble all cemented together and left to set!
The 3rd pitch went up another chimney and it was nice, you could bridge all the way up and the last pitch at 4b, that I led was a wee roof/bulge, then a scramble to the top. There was a fair bit of scree and loose stuff at the top and I reckon this was where the rockfall was coming from. At the top I was met with about 10 army dudes all waiting for us to finish the route, which of course meant it was our turn to wait while they all abseiled off! This was going to take forever as they were all beginners with just 2 instructors!
But luck was at hand! 2 Spannish blokes had just climbed a 6b+ on the other side of the tower and they hung around for a while waiting to ab, but decided to ab down the other side and invited us to share their ropes. I was dubious, but then though, 'bugger it!' we'd be waiting here all day in the baking heat otherwise! And we'd not taken up any water or food!
The 1st ab went smoothly, the 2nd ab was steep and it was really hard to keep into the rock, but the 3rd was the hairiest ab I've ever done! Totally free hanging with me moving down, birling round in circles, squeeling like a girly and one of the Spannish dudes having to grab my leg to help pull me in, whilst I tried to swing in to the rock and clip in to the belay bolts! Then I had to hang on the ab while spannish guys did the last ab, which was straight forward in comparison. And boy it was so good to be back on the ground again!!
Another cafe and more coke (don't normally drink the stuff but it's so refreshing out here!) Views of the biggest spires with routes like the famous Fiesta Del a Biceps. That is 7a, and there was a pisstake of it at the crag we were at yesterday, Siesta Del a Biceps at 4b,lol!

Fri - Climbing at Rodellar today. Wow, what a stunning place! Only thing is, it's utterly crap from the low grade climber! But if you were able to climb 6c/7a or above then you'd be in heaven! Steep walls, caves and overhangs abound, all down in a beautiful gorge with a bubbling and sparkly clear river running through. Much gawking was done at all the hard climbers! One thing I've noticed about the Spannish women is that they are all very slim and some positively skinny! I wish I could be like that, and just as strong!
As it was, Andy and I started off on an IV called Mecaguen los Pinchos, which was utterly minging! If they are going to bother bolting low grade stuff, then please atleast make them enjoyable routes! Next Andy led a V+ but as he started he said he remembered climbing it last year. There is a move that is horrendously polished and utterly desperate and it was just as Andy remembered it, so he traversed across and finished up on the V called Ta Fiole con Tonica, which I did on toprope. It was better than the IV, but still badly polished and also very reachy! Andy tried a 6a next but backed off due to polish, then he did another 6a called Siglo XXI which was a total sandbag and felt more like 6a+ to me! The 6a+ next door called Bolskan was toproped by Andy and he thought it more like 6b, bloody spannish grades!
I led an IV+ called Espolon Izquierdo which was a pleasant route but again spoilt by polish then Andy finished off on a V called Grenoulille and yup, you guessed it, it was polished! Below 6a here is like glass! 6a - 6c is marginally better and it's a shame as it really spoils what is otherwise a gorgious venue!
Andy remembered a via feratta from the last time he was here so we finished off the day by doing that. Fun and nicer than the polished sandbags! It goes up a 265m wall and ridge and is equiped with rungs and chains but is pretty steep, some bits even overhanging! At the top sits an old monastrie and lovely views of the gorge below. Then it's a walk back to the car, more cola and then the teriffying road back to the main road!

Sat - Last day in Spain and flight later this evening, hurrah, can't wait to see RB! Have been really, really missing her the past few days! I got quite anxious as Laura had phoned my mobile but I couldn't get to it in time, and they never called back even though I texted them to do so (I didn't have enough credit left to call!) It was silly because if it was something important/an emergency they would have kept trying me, but I couldn't stop worrying regardless and it was always on the back of my mind!
Our flight wasn't until 9.30pm so went for a 3hr walk around the lakes and cliffs at Vadiello. It was nice and chilled and really pretty and again, so damn hot! (even though temp had dropped to high 20's!) We spotted this amazing looking trad route up a rib/arete and then on to a fantastic looking scrambly ridge above. We were amazed to see a couple actually climbing on it just 5mins after spotting it as we hadn't realised it was an established route. Some guy was out running in this heat, they must be used to it! Picked bunches of wild Rosemary, smells delicious! Munching oreos on the way to the airport, feeling crap cos Period started. Belly sore, and feel quite out of it. Stop of at Mont Blanc for tea and catch a bit of some local music festival.
Bet is on, will it be raining in Glasgow or dry? I say rain, Andy says dry and I have to buy him choccy if I lose, he has to buy me crisps. It was dry! We stopped off at a garage outside garage for a drink and I bought him his choccy. 5 mins later it was pissing it down, lol!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ben Vorlich and Stuic a' Chroin

What fun we've had the past couple of days on what has had to have been the hottest days of the year!
RB got a slackline for her birthday and we played with it Wed (her birthday,) Thursday and Friday!
Wednesday, we were both pretty awful, wibbling and wobbling all over the shop, Thursday was much better though.
I've been getting a whole new kitchen put in and the electricity and water was off for a while and what with the glorious weather, we ended up spending most of the day outdoors in the sun.
The slackline was up first thing and we managed to get it a bit tighter, but discovered courtesy of UKC's slackliners, that the line is supposed to be a bit wibbly, hence the slack bit! We also got tips of knee bending and looking forward to help with balance.
So, by the end of day 2, RB was managing to take 7 steps unaided and I was managing 5 steps unaided. Even one of the workmen was joining in the fun! Some dude who used to do Circus skills in Dundee including tightrope walking and unicycling, but even he couldn't master the slackline! The rest of day 2 was spent swimming in the local river, jumping off rope swing into river and blasting down the rapids.
By the end of day 3, RB was walking the whole length of the line unaided.
So, there is a point to all this....................
I was supposed to be climbing today, but thanks to the slackline I've hurt my neck! Sometimes falling off the line can be a little graceless, especially if you catch your foot on the line, tumble forwards and land awkwardly on your shoulder. If you've been reading my blog, then you'll have probably heard me wittering on about having a twingy neck/sore shoulders/sore elbows/numb fingers from time to time?
Well, around 15 minutes after falling off, something went bad in my neck (it's a disc, I know it! Just know that feeling!) Oh the pain was horrible! I couldn't move my neck at all to the right and I couldn't move it downwards either, it was just locked and really sore. 2x Codeine and 2x Robaxin (muscle relaxant for sprains and strains) later, a light massage with Wintergreen oil (anti-inflammatory) it felt a tad looser and less painful. We decided that going to the river would help with a dip in the icy cold water, followed by an ice pack at home.
Aaaaaarg, how annoying!!! So, I was supposed to be climbing today (Sat) but what do I do. Do I wait until the next day (injury was Thurs) to decide, so if it's still sore, then I rest it. Or do I just climb regardless and risk making it worse and buggering up my holiday. Aaaaarg, I hate these decisions! But it's really not worth risking not being unable to climb while I'm away!
Next day it's much better pain wise and my ROM is much better, but I still can't twist my neck properly to the right and it's still sore to try and do so and as the day goes on it gets stiffer and sorer (though still not as bad) It's definitely one of the discs, but I feel it's a minor 'twang' compared to before as the pain has settled so quickly. It's just going to take time to loosen off fully (back to doing neck and shoulder stretches for me!) and I'm going to have to be careful as regards falling onto my shoulders/neck or back!! (so, I didn't bother with any slacklining on the Friday as tempting as it was!) And no climbing over the weekend either, although once it's eased off more I actually think the stretching etc involved in climbing will help (though the heavy rucksacks probably won't!)
So, decided to go hillwalking today instead, although I'm not sure if walking downhill over rough ground is the best thing for a dodgy disc problem! But hey ho, I just had to go out and do something!
RB wanted to do an easy scramble as well and I was trying to rack my brains of places that weren't mega far to drive and had a mega easy scramble that we could do without rope. Then I remembered Stuic a'Chroin that I hadn't bagged yet. Munro book mentions a scramble that can be avoided, or take the buttress but not for the inexperienced. Sounded just the thing and not too far to drive!
Up at 6.30 am (yawn!) and off to St Fillans and down to South Loch Earn. Now, took a while to find the correct starting point as it's not actually on the map that I have for the area. Arrived at the back of ten, but it was 10.45 by the time we actually set off! RB was huffing and puffing, too tired, too hot and it was hot!! Forecast had been for sunny intervals and light rain showers but the rain never materialised and it varied between hot and muggy and blazing sunshine all day long.
It took about 3/4 of the way up Ben Vorlich for RB to get into her stride and start enjoying the day (after a game to take her mind of the effort!) You have to imagine that money is no object whatsoever, then go though the letters of the alphabet and say what you would want to buy, beginning with A, then B and so forth. Finally at the top and we could see the scramble on the Bealach an Dubh Choirein ahead of us. Some yucky and loose downhill first, along a flat and then up to the scrambly bit. RB and I had a bet as to how many groups of folk would tackle the scramble directly up the NE buttress or how many would skirt around it, taking the steep but easier option to the right. RB thought only the group in front of us would go for the harder option but I guessed that only we would. At first it seemed that the blokes in front were going to go for it, but they veered off to the right and went up the easy way! Not RB and I though, we went left and sniffed out the funnest way, scrambling over big blocks and up steeper walls, with a committing and thin step fairly near the top that was a bit damp and scary with big boots on! RB thoroughly enjoyed it and before long we were on the final leg to bagging Stuc a' Chroin, RB's 10th munro and my 95th.
Then began the long, long descent back down to the car, across the mighty bog of doom (!) around Coire Buidhe (the estate said they'd marked a path with poles where they wanted you to go, but we couldn't see them so just followed a not too eroded path (maybe the sign at the estate gate is old?) The descent down off Stuc a Chroin was steep and loose and yucky, then traversing around underneath the Bealach an Dubh Choirean was the bog of doom! There would be a very short section of okayish path, then a huge section of bog where we'd have to go back up hill to avoid wet feet and then back down again. And the traverse carried on in this fashion for a lifetime! Then after meeting up with the Vorlich path, the going was much better but seemed to take a life time.
But finally back to the car, with sunburnt leggies (didn't put sun cream on calves!) and tired feet. Only a 6 and 1/2 hour day but I must be out of hill condition cos my legs were feeling it!