Wednesday, 26 May 2010

WASH OUT - 24th/25th May '10

Bekah had a long weekend off school and I decided to take her out climbing seen as we don't get out together very often.  The weather wasn't playing ball at all though.  The forecast had been so changeable, unable to make it's mind up as to whether it was going to be rainy or sunny.  At the start of the week it said that the forecast for Sat 22nd was going to be showery up in the NW, so finally I decided that as RB wanted a day at Ratho to practise on the comp wall that we would go then.  We were committed to going as I'd already arranged for her to spend time with her Dad afterwards, so when the forecast changed again and it looked liked Saturday was going to be a scorcher of day, it was too late to change plans.  As it was, the Sat/Sun would have been absolutely stunning for climbing but we sweated and huffed and puffed away at Ratho, RB leading a few 7's on the comp wall, a first for her as she normally only tries one hard route a day.  Sunday was a rest day, and unfortunately, by that time the weather was looking a bit crap for Monday!
We drove up to Kirstin's on Sunday night, and it was lovely to catch up with an old friend, then Monday morning we met up with Andy at Cummingston.
It was cold and it was windy and we weren't there for long at all when it started to rain.  RB managed to squeeze in a lead of a Diff beforehand and Andy a VS.  I was feeling all hormonal and hadn't slept well the night before due to back pain so wasn't feeling great at all and shook and wobbled my way up the Diff, feeling awfully exposed and shaky, not enjoying it at all!  I decided not to climb anything else and pootled about bouldering and taking photos.
Andy was slow to warm up too because of the cold and found the VS difficult.  RB said she found getting the gear out quite awkward but other than that it posed no problems for her.  After the heavy shower stopped, the rain had pretty much soaked the rock, so we headed over to the Prophet Wall area to see if the routes under the roofs were any drier, which they were.   Andy ran up and set a toprope up on the E2 5c called The Prophet.  RB had toproped this a couple of times last summer and had talked about wanting to lead it.  She toproped it again a couple of times and flew up it gracefully and stylishly, but although she can do the moves and reckons she could be in balance to place gear, she didn't want to lead it in the end.  I think she made the right decision as it's a big jump from leading a few VS's to leading an E2.   But that route is there waiting for her once she has more experience of leading and still wants to do it.
Andy then ran back around to set a toprope up on what he thought was another E2, but the rope ended up in the wrong place and on an E4 6a called Aesthetic Ape.  Andy thought he might manage to toprope the HVS to the left called Gripper, atleast up to the crux, but whilst he got his shoes on, RB decided to have a bash at the 6a.
She found it fingery as hell and it took her several goes to get up to the crux.  Once at the crux, she found it just too crimpy and was unsure where to go and what to do so came back down.  She studied the route from the bottom and we read the guidebook, realising that she'd tried to go the wrong way at the crux, no wonder it was so hard for her!  Not that 6a is easy of course!  But instead of trying to climb the rib, she'd gone too far left and was trying to get up a blank corner!  The rib looked steep and hard, but do-able as atleast it had actual holds.
Inbetween climbs, RB and I had a play on the boulder beside Left, Right and Centre.  There are some problems on this boulder but I don't know what they are called.  I only did one easy one and RB did a few.  Then Andy toproped the HVS and we decided to call it a day as we were all getting cold again.
On Tuesday, the forecast looked okay for the NW but I couldn't be bothered driving up there, and then having to drive home the same night.  The forecast also looked okay for the Aberdeen coast and RB and I were keen to try out our new bouldering mat, so we took a trip up to Portlethen.
I'd been there a few times several years ago, but this time, on my own and with nobody to show me where the problems are, I couldn't make head nor tail of the guide book!  We spent most of our time there trying to figure out where all the boulders were.  I found the Pit fine, and the Sea Pig, Pedie Prow and the Scallop.  We stopped off at the Scallop but I remember finding the 4c there hard a few years ago, so I certainly wouldn't be able to do it now, and RB was put off by all the sea beasties jumping out the cracks.  We headed over to the Sea Pig instead where I remembered an excellent and fun problem called the Ramp.  I tried it a few times, but I'm just so weak now that I couldn't barely get off the ground on it.  RB had a go after my first feelbe attempt and cruised it first go, even finding the hidden top out hold with no problem whatsoever.  Once I knew what to do with my feet, I fared a little better next time, getting to the end of the ramp, but I just didn't have the strength or oomph to push up for the top and gave up feebly.  RB then had a look at the Prow, but declared it impossible by look alone, then had a a bash at Crack of Dawn.  She found the starting holds too difficult, got one move up and then fell off.  Bouldering out is much harder than bouldering in.
I think if she watches better folk doing these problems she might be able to flash them, and if not she can certainly get them after a few goes.  We tried to figure out where the Ramp Extension went, but it mentions finishing at a jug to the right of The Groove, only problem was there was a couple of grooves and we wern't sure which was the right one!
By this point it had started raining and we slithered about trying to find the other boulders.  I was trying to find the Broccoli Garden and found where it should have been according to the guide.  But it was on about side pulls, undercuts and breaks, only problem was there were undercuts everywhere and breaks everywhere too!  So it was impossible to tell which problem went where, and the rock looked pretty lichenous.  I looked at photos of the problems later and it turned out that I couldn't have been at the right boulder at all, as the one I saw in the pics looked completely different!  Now the rain was on full force, my shoes were soaked and we were getting wet and more to the point, the rock was getting damp and rain splattered.  Getting back to our sacks was a task of slipping and slithering about where we called it a day and went to the wall in Aberdeen intstead.
I hate driving in Aberdeen!  The road signs are awful and they have you switching lanes all over the shop!  There are no signs whatsover for the climbing centre which is a damn nuisance for the first time visitor who's not sure of the area.  Getting into the wall is a hassle of masses of paper work and we were disappointed to hear that Aberdeen Wall does nothing to support the Scottish Climbing Team in their training.  We had a play about on the boulders which was fun.  The bouldering area is really quite small, but it does pack a lot in.  I managed all the V1's without difficulty and a couple of the V2', and a couple of ungraded things which looked easy.  The V3's were beyond me though.  RB onsighted a V3/4 and got up a V4/5 without too much work.
We then borrowed a rope off Ryan and RB led a few routes, a 6a and an overgraded 6b.  She tried a 7a but was all out of steam by then and didn't get very far.
After a complete and utter panic of losing my car keys, we called it a day.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Today was the day of the competition between the finalists of the YCS Scottish South team and the Scottish North team, to find out the competitors ranking position in Scotland.
RB wasn't sure if she was going to make it or not as she'd had a school trip down to Alton Towers that had been arranged previous to the date of the comp being known.   She decided that even though she knew she'd be knackered, that she'd like to head down to Ratho wall anyway to take part.
On the Thursday evening, RB's bus set off from Brechin High School at midnight, to travel down to Alton Towers, where RB and her classmates spent the day before journeying back up to Brechin on Friday evening.  The bus was supposed to arrive at the school at 12.30am but due to an episode of sickness on the 2nd bus, they didn't arrive home until 2am.  By the time RB got home and off to bed, it was 2.30am, giving us 4.5 hours of sleep before we had to get up for the comp at 7am.
Bleary eyed we drove down to Edinburgh, where we made it just in time for registering and RB to have a brief warm up.  Unfortunately, RB didn't get a chance to warm up properly.  They get the kids running about and doing star jumps etc etc for around 5minutes, but it's not really enough to warm up sufficiently to try anything hard.  The 14-16 girls did all their boulder problems first.  RB doesn't like that order, much prefering to do an easy boulder problem, followed by an easy route to warm up.
When it came to them doing their 2nd boulder problem, she was just too tired and stiff and barely just caught the first crux hold before struggling to find the ooomph to push up for the next move.  She fell off on that move on all of her 3 goes, disheartened I think after falling the first time and realising just how tired she was.  4 of the girls managed to complete the problem, so that put RB 11 points behind and in 5th place.  She was gutted!  Especially after coming joint 2nd on the hardest boulder problem, finally warmed and more awake, going back to try the 2nd boulder problem and totally cruising it without any hesitation.
They were supposed to start their 1st route 10mins later, but had a wait of nearly an hour, cooling down again.  No problem, RB was awake now and the 1st route was easy and cruised by most of the girls.  RB still in 5th place.
The 2nd route was a good bit harder and only the one girl from the British Team, RB and another girl who climbed amazingly well managed to complete the route, most of RB's other competition falling off on the final hold.  RB was now 2 points to making 4th place but a large 9 points to making 3rd place.  Could she do it?
The final route was held on the new competition wall which is a hinged wall, allowing it to lean back to ridiculously overhanging!  The final route looked nails!  Only the girl from the British Team managed to complete it.  RB beat the girl who was in 2nd place but only by 2points, and she drew with the girl in 3rd place.  She managed to overtake her friend in 4th place, and gain 4th for herself, but didn't make up the points to get any further.
She was so disappointed.  She climbed those routes so well and if she hadn't been so tired first thing, she would have got 2nd place and into the super final.  The top 3 are put into isolation and have to climb an even harder route up the steep wall.  It wasn't to be though, but I think she did amazingly well under the circumstances!  Only 4.5 hrs sleep, still climbing hard on her routes and beating girls older than her.   She shouldn't have that problem during the British Finals though and has learnt what she needs to do to warm up effectively though.

Monday, 10 May 2010

ARDGOUR - 8th/9th May '10

I have always wanted to visit the Ardgour peninsula and climb on Garbh Beinn and go cragging in Ardnamurchan and this weekend the weather looked decent enough over on the West coast and D was keen to go scrambling.  I've always had an inkling to climb the Great Ridge, with Direct Start at Severe, on Garbh Beinn but that would involve ropes and gear and therefore wasn't an option for this weekend.  So we settled on doing Pinnacle Ridge which is another route that took my fancy and one that both of us would be happy to scramble up without ropes.
We set off from Dundee around 7.30 ish after RB and I had been training at the wall and drove over to Onich via Glencoe.  We slept in the van at the Coran Ferry terminal and caught the ferry the next morning, arriving at the parking spot for Ardgour around 9ish and setting off at 9.30am.
The walk into Garbh Beinn is nice and easy, flat all the way, if not a bit boggy.  But my legs wern't playing ball today at all.  They felt sluggish and weak and I still can't decide whether it's to do with the myelopathy or not.  In any case it feels akin to walking through mud, like I'm fighting resistance every step of the way.  Got there in the end though!  The first glimpses of Pinnacle Ridge you are seeing it face on and it looks steep and intimidating!
'Can that really go at Moderate?'
But as you approach and the angle changes, then the incline changes to a more favourable prospect and I'm much less intimidated.  The views over to The Great Ridge are superb!  Now that looks just as I thought it would, utterly utterly superb!  A steep tower of wonder, clean rock that just begs to be climbed.  But not today though.
The first pinnacle on the ridge is artificial.  You can either tug your way up steep grassy rakes and slopes, choosing to avoid the rock, or you can scramble your way up the rocky sections, nothing ever difficult, hopping from grass to rock as you go.  The first section reminded me of the buttress on Stuic a'Chroin in the Southern Highlands.  Once above the first pinnacle, the fun begins!  You are met with a sharp, knife edge arete, followed by a hugely sharp pinnacle.  I'm dubious about the pinnacle, it's very exposed and I'm thinking I'm more happy to clamber around it.  D thinks it looks okay though, so I give it a go and it poses no problems at all and is good fun!  You have to climb up a steep groove in the pinnacle with not much for your feet, bar jamming them into the crack that runs up the groove.  I've never done foot jamming with big boots on before and I'm a bit hesitant but my big boots wedge into the crack quite nicely and upward progress is made easy.
Above the pinnacle is a steep tower where the guidebook says to follow an arete on the right hand side.  Umm, what arete!?  We can't see an arete anywhere on the right.  On the right there is a ledged wall, which leads up to a corner and slab and this seems like the line of least resistance so we pick our way up the ledges to the bottom of the slab.  D goes a different way to me choosing to ignore the slab and come in from the right above it.  I prefer the look of the slab as it's easy angled.  Now me and slabs don't usually mix but this one, although deviod of massive holds, has plenty of knobbles and bumps and the friction is superb.  There are a couple of thin moves and I'm faced with a short chimney.  Hmmm, adrenaline is pumping a bit now!  I'm not going to kill myself if I fall off but I'm high up enough that it's gonna hurt!  There is a massive hold at the top of the chimney but short ass me can't bloomin' well reach it!  There is a small block wedged into the chimney and I have to lean off that to get my foot up high, onto a small ledge on the outside of the chimney.  I can then rock over onto that foot and grab the big hold.  Done!  Phew!  Then there is a steep corner to top out but the holds are plentiful and the moves are easy.  That's it, Pinnacle Ridge in the bag, wonderful!  I don't want the scrambling to end.  I love this sort of route, a fine line between hard scrambling and easy rock climbing, no rope and just the sheer freedom of movement with a little excitment added in!
We head up to the summit of Garbh Beinn and begin the walk back down the spur, stopping to take photos of the South Wall of the Great Ridge, home to Butterknife, a VS route that I'd love to do soon.  We stop for a doze in the sun half way down as it's baking hot and far too enjoyable to end the day so soon.  As the day cools we head back to the van and move to a different spot for a well deserved bottle of wine.

The next day we went hillwalking to bag the one Corbett in the area that D hadn't done, Beinn na h-Uamha.  Now, at 761m, this hill only just makes Corbett status but don't be deceived by it's lack of height as it's a monster of a hill!  Ardgour is very reminiscant of Knoydart, ie it's rough and hard going!   There is a good track for around 3miles, but one must leave the track and cross rivers and bogs (which were thankfully dry!) to come to the SE spur.  Glen Gour is beautiful, I love it here, so peaceful and serene and the sunshine helps.  I can hear the buzzing of crickets and have heard my 1st Cuckoo of the year.  Late this year, but finally heralding the start of spring!  There is no easy way up this hill and no path to speak of.  Just rough grass and heather and steep, grassy rakes, unrelenting!  Once above the first knobble, there is another steepening and poles have to be put away and hands put to use as it's quite rocky.  I had thought that this steeping would lead to the top of the hill but I groaned when D checked his altemeter and we were only just over half way up!  It was a steep slog all the way and I was really gritting my teeth and enduring the calf and thigh burn in my push up to the summit.
We decided on a different approach for the way down as neither of us was keen to reverse the scrambling we'd done on the lower steep section.  The map showed steep, grassy slopes on the South side of the hill and this would take us back into Glen Gour and finally back to the track.  The going was really tough and my quads were feeling the strain but we'd zoomed down 500m in around 40minutes so progress was quick!  So quick infact that we had time to stop at the river for a paddle and a bit to eat.  I stripped off for a swim, but getting thigh deep had a change of heart when I realised how icy the water still was, giving me a dose of the hot aches when the blood rushed back into my legs!
We were back in Dundee for 9pm to pick up RB who'd been doing a training session with Neil Gresham in preparation for the Scottish and British Youth Climbing finals.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Saturday the 1st of May saw the final round of the Youth Climbing Series.  Bekah and another girl have been neck and neck on points, and ranking scores, with the other girl just slightly ahead due to completing her boulder problems with less goes than RB.  So, this last round was going to be the decider as to who came in 1st and 2nd.
We arrived at AVW around 9.30am to register and the kids went for a warm up around 10am, then the comp kicked off.  The boulder problems this year looked really, really hard, the 1st 2 routes not too bad and the final route looked pretty evil.  It went over the roofs on the Rocket Wall, but had massive reaches right down at the start.  I felt really bad for RB and wished that route setters would set routes that were more technical as opposed to having big reaches in them. 
The 14-16yr olds started on their boulder problems 1st.  The 1st problem was a tan one, going up the 35degree overhang.  Normally the 1st boulder problem is pretty easy, to give everybody a chance, but this time, the 1st one looked pretty hard!  It took RB her 3rd go to complete it, and RB's main competition getting it first go.  The 2nd problem went underneath the arch on crimps, with a balancy move to gain holds on the upper slab, then some overhanging heel hooking and a slap for the final hold.  RB got this one 1st go.
They did their 1st 2 routes next, with no problems.  Then it was time for the final boulder problem.  This was on the 45degree overhang and looked really difficult!  Each time RB tried it, I thought she was going to come off on the 1st move, which was a really balancy move using a big sloper.  Nobody in the age group managed to complete the problem and RB and her main competition both got to the same point. 
Still neck and neck, with Bekah's friend slightly ahead, still on less goes to complete her boulder problems, it was time for the final route.  The girls that went before RB and her friend really gave it their all and I felt really bad for them as they just couldn't make that 1st reach move.  2 boys managed the reaches and held holds over the 1st big roof, slapping for the hold under the 2nd roof.  The rest of the boys fell off at the initial reachy move.  Then it was RB's go.  I'd been so sure that the route would be too reachy for her.  I'd forgotten that she really enjoys corner routes and this route started up an overhanging corner, to reach underneath the roofs. 
Well, RB managed to match her foot onto a handhold that she was using at shoulder height!  Wow, super flexible!  She then palmed up slowly for the next handhold, moved her right foot up again, then did another high match on the left handhold.   Then it was a case of balancing to make a clip.  Grabbing the big sloping undercling underneath the big roof, clipping again, holding a tiny crimp above the roof and onto another crimp.  RB then completely cut loose with her feet and swung under the roof for a foothold out left!  She then dynoed for the crimp above the other small holds, catching it with 3 fingers to the amazement of the cheering crowds, then dynoed again for the hold underneath the 2nd roof.  Unfortunately she didn't catch that one, but she did touch it, putting her well into the lead, and equal with the older boys on that route.
That was it in the bag for RB.  She had stormed ahead into the lead and gained 1st place overall for the Scotland South region of the YCS.  I was so over the moon for her.  She loves doing these comps and the competition has been fierce over the years with many of the girls in her age group, so skillful that they've been chosen to be part of the British Team.  She'll more than likely have to compete against these girls, and girls a couple of years older than her in the British finals at Ratho, but it will be a really good experience for her.

So that's the climbing champs day out the way and as for me, I wasn't doing so well.  I'd originally thought to go to Aberdour for the day, followed by Limekilns if we had time.  But I'd not been feeling too great the past couple of days.  I'd been really hormonal and probably pretty anaemic, felt flat, lacking in energy and generally pretty unmotivated.  We decided to go to Kirrie, to play it safe as it's so familiar there and I was interested in checking out the new routes that have been put up.
Well, the new easier routes are all minging.  One of the 4's has a bolt missing, the 3+ has got to be the most dull, pointless route ever and the other 4 goes up a really dirty  and loose corner.   That routes needs ALOT more trundling and cleaning and I ended up climbing down as there was no way I was climbing it with all the big, loose blocks around.
Jonathon warmed up on one of the new 5's and didn't find it that inspiring.  It was too reachy for me and I couldn't even get off the ground on it!  I was feeling really stiff and inflexible however and simply unable to lock off on a layaway to get more reach as my wrists were feeling really painful being bent at an angle.
Jonathon then tried a new 6a, but found the roof really difficult and got annoyed at it.
We scampered off to the Mound area, to get on routes more familiar, and more clean and enjoyable!  I led the easy 4 and Jon did a 6a+ but it was so cold and showery that neither of us was enjoying it that much, so we sacked it and went home.
It's not been a great start to the rock season so far!