Not too much of interest to report on the climbing front. My partner has been ill so I can't get out and lead midweek at Kirrie, so took RB out instead and thought that she would toprope me on the stuff that she led. She started off on the easy 4 on the Mound but I didn't feel 100% at all. I hate climbing when I feel hormonal and I've finally put it down to the fact that I get pretty anaemic at that time of the month so lack in energy and mental focus. I tried some natural iron supplements (Spatone) but it didn't make any difference. I might have to try some other kind and if that fails then a visit to the GP might be in order.
She had been eyeing up a 6b+ however, that goes up a really sharp and defined arete and had decided that she was going to try and lead it, after Ken had mentioned that the arete was the hardest part of the route.
Well, RB had no problems on the arete whatsoever, so she thought the rest of the route was going to be easy. Not so! She really struggled once she got up to the big roof near the top. It didn't seem to matter how high she got her feet, she just couldn't seem to get over the roof at all. She was up and downing like a yoyo trying to figure it and ended up escaping off onto the route next door, thinking that the top of that one looked easier. But that took her to another roof which looked blank to her above. By now, because she'd clipped into 2 routes, there was drag on the rope and she was getting frustrated. I was starting to worry that she wouldn't get up at all and I'd have to talk her through escaping the route, leaving a krab in the process as I've no mallions (must invest in some!) She eventually sneaked around the side of the roof though, made it to the top and then declared it a horrible route!
The next day I had arranged to go to Dunkeld with Mel, who is back from her travels to Australia. Half of me had felt like cancelling, after I didn't feel like climbing at Kirrie, but half of me was desperate to be out trad climbing again. It ended up being a fantastic day and even though I still havn't got my trad head back yet, I really enjoyed seconding Mel on a couple of VS's. I only led Recess Route at V.Diff, though it felt hard for a V.Diff and the gear was abysmal in the lower half of the route, not really one to get your leading head back on, but I managed it fine. Mel then cruised up the classic VS of the crag called The Groove. What a route! Along with Charlie's Corner at Jetty Buttress near Gruinard and Proud Corner at Glen Clova, this VS has to be a contender for my favourite single pitch. I simply HAVE to get my trad self back so I can go and lead it!
The start is the crux (though Mel thought it harder higher up on lead) It's a very comitting move and is extremely polished. There is so much polish that it does ruin the route somewhat and it's a damn shame, but it's such a glorious route nonetheless.
Climbing that VS makes me wish I could get back out climbing regularly, I felt really down for a day afterwards knowing that I'll never get out with the regularity I normally do, not for some time to come anyway. I had a look at the VS called The End as there seemed to be a 4b variation on the 1st pitch, but it looked a bit bold going that way and the 4c way looked a bit blank and weird looking from below. It wasn't one to inspire me anyway and I decided to give my lead to Mel so I could get up another VS and start getting my confidence and movement back.
Mel decided on The Chute, another VS 5a. You have to scramble up some yucky green stuff to the start of the route and the first moves are horribly off balance. I had to get Mel to shout down to me how she did the moves and it took a bit of gibbering to get myself going. The next section was easy enough, but then I fell off the crux, stupid! I had to get my foot really high and do a massive rock over but I didn't rock over enough and was flapping with my hand blindly, searching for a handhold which didn't materialise, resulting in my pinging off! Got it second go though and ended up using some horrible hold somewhere and then grabbing a tree on a grassy ledge. Really enjoyed the traverse and moves after, but the top out was a bit minging too. Another good lead from Mel, but I didn't enjoy this route so much.
Dunno what it is about Dunkeld, but the routes there alway intimidate me somewhat to look at, but once you actually get on them, the moves are really nice, just wish the gear was a bit more accomodating at times.
Didn't get any photos at Dunkeld but did get some of RB on her 6c and 6+ at Kirrie.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
We met up with Jon at Kirrie Hill, our weekday venue, around 4.30 and after a bite to eat for tea, I wanted to start of on the 3+. Very, very easy but I wanted to get my head back into gear and get myself used to being back on rock again. I didn't feel wobbly at all which was ace and really, both RB and I should be warming up on the 4's now, not the 3's! Jon led the 6a called Spent and then RB and I both led La Plage, at 4. Now, this is a route, that even though it's an F4, I've never been able to get cleanly 1st go. It's got a really reachy move at the start and I have to do it differently to most folk, but I can never seem to remember the sequence that I have to use! Well this time round I seem to find it easy! My technique is either improving or my head is just improving with the ability to just 'go for it,' maybe a bit of both. Anyway, I managed it cleanly 1st go today and was chuffed as hell. I thought that even if I climbed badly for the rest of the evening, then I'd still be happy to have led this cleanly. RB of course found it a doddle, even if she too can't reach the holds at the start and has to use a different technique.
Instead we went over to the mound. I'd planned to do the 4+ there, but there was already someone on it, so I went for Mushroom Heads at 5+ instead as it's a route I like, especially the wee laybacking moves at the top. RB then did the 6a over the roof called Grassy Knoll and totally cruised it. She had one wee difficulty reaching the clip over the roof and was having to really, really stretch up for it, but then realised after that if she had just taken another step or two up, there was a nice juggy hold to clip from. She got her leg up high as she does and flew over the roof like it was a stroll in the park. Onsighting a 6a on her 1st day back, something that took weeks for her to work up to last summer.
Jon then led the 6a called Another Green World and as I needed to go and find a quiet bush somewhere, RB and I swapped goes and she led the 6a+ called Spirits Drifting and I was back in time for her starting it off. She had tried this on toprope last summer but just couldn't do the crux moves at the start. This year it was little trouble for her however and after a few grunts she was past it and over the overlap and up to the top. Next, I led the 5+ called Mound Over Matter which goes over the big roof on jugs. I'd watched a big hold break off it when some other guys were climbing it and when I got up to the roof and saw that the crucial crux jug was loose, then it got quite exciting! Hmmmm. The guys below shouted that they had used the loose hold and it had held fine, but I was dubious. I can't remember how, but I managed to clip over the roof so I could commit to the loose hold without a big fall if it came off. I wobbled the hold up and down a few times and it did seem to be wedged in place so I just went for it. It held fine and I managed to reach the next jug up, was moving quickly, can remember throwing an Egyptian move in there somewhere to get over the roof and I was up and over. Apart from a wee thin move to the lower off, the rest is easy. Felt really chuffed to have led this cleanly though, even though I'd onsighted it last year, it still felt good to do. I was really enjoying being back out climbing again and next time I'll push back onto the 6a's and might even try a 6a+.
It was a fab session for both of us, and I was so happy to be back outside and actually enjoying it again, it makes me dream of mountain routes and warm, sunny rock.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
There was a long wait until the comp began, which was good as it gave her ample oppurtunity to get her legs stretched and arms warmed up. As there were 31 girls in Bekah's age group, they were all split into groups of 2 and RB and her friend went into the same group which was nice and they both went off to do the easy boulder problem first.
It looked nice and easy and everyone in the group managed it fine. They moved onto the 2nd problem, which looked a bit harder. Thankfully RB wasn't first to go, but no matter as she cruised it anyway and my heart could calm down a little. By this point the other group of 14-16 girls were still climbing the 1st route, so the judge decided that the girls would take a break and meet up at the 1st route later.
They were then told that they were doing the hardest route next! This was on the right hand side of the severely overhanging competition wall. I'm not sure what grade the route was, but after an okay start, it looked to get progressively harder and harder. There looked to be a tricky move above a big feature, up to 2 massive round pockets, then it looked juggy, but sequency and getting very overhanging. Then it got even more overhanging, to the point where it looked almost horizontal, but the holds got smaller too and they had volumes to contend with too, until the point where there was a series of holds on a flat panel above, which traversed across to the finish.
Many girls came unstuck before the juggy overhanging bit, and most came unstuck on the bit, too pumped! One girl then managed to get across to the 1st volume on the horizontal section and another girl got to the end of the horizontal bit. Then it was RB's go. Boy, my wee girl climbed like the wind! She flew up the easy section, danced through the 1st hard bit, flagged her way through the overhanging juggy bit and then I think all her roof practise got put to good use as she was heel hooking across the horizontal and even managed a toe hook on the volume. I was cheering her on like crazy! She then came to the point that the leading competitor had got to, held the pocket over the lip of the roof, swung her leg over her head to heel hook over the roof, but her other leg was dangling and I could see her struggle. She jumped for the next hold, but to no evail, she was falling. But what a route! I think that's the best I've ever seen her climb, and loads of folk were cheering her on, it was amazing. She came down looking a bit out of breathe and shaky but pleased with her result. And I was so happy for her, it was just what she needed after the confidence knock of the last boulder problem.Video of RB on final route here
Only one girl managed to complete the final route, an older girl from Wales, who we'd been told was one of the contenders to win the competition. But RB's spectacular performance, boosted her back up into 5th place overall. Of course, the other group had yet to complete the final route, and RB's group still had to do the 2nd route. I'd had a look at the other groups scores for the 2nd route and only 2 of them had managed to complete it, meaning it must be harder than normal. Only one girl in RB's group managed to complete that route and that wasn't even the girl from Wales. RB came unstuck at the point that most were, and as she jumped for a higher point, she smacked her hand off the wall and came down with a nice wee graze and blood to show for her troubles. We then went off to watch the last of the girls complete the final route. Only 3 of them got to RB's high point, and the 2 girls who RB was competing against in the Scottish Finals didn't get anywhere near RB's high point, which she was really chuffed at.
So, she ended up in 8th position overall, which was an amazing acheivement for her. RB was one of the youngest girls in that age group, competing against girls a year older, and many were 2years older, so it really bodes well for her in the coming years.
In the last year alone, RB has gone from leading 6a's, to trying to onsight 7a's but getting them redpoint. She has onsighted 6c with climbing just 2 sessions a week. One session is bouldering and the other is climbing routes. We started to up our climbing hours just before the comp, maybe around a month or so before, but this was too broken up with school trips away. We're now climbing 3x a week and RB mixes this up with having sport at school 4x a week and she goes to the school gym to run and do weights once a week and then does some interval training with me in the evenings too, having the weekends to rest and chill. And we've recently been advised on how to train her lock off strength. Hopefully this extra training will see her climbing to an even higher standard next year. This is her dream anyway.
Sunday, 6 June 2010
RB set off for France on the Sunday night, too late in the evening for D and I think about the long drive up to Skye. A shame because the forecast looked excellent for the Monday. Instead, we decided to drive to Skye via Glencoe, taking in the Aonach Eagach ridge on the way.
So, that was then. But back to now. As you might imagine, I was somewhat nervous of a repeat show on the Aonach Eagach and before now I'd never gone back. The day was perfect for a rematch though, the sun beaming down enough to help warm the rock slightly and hopefully soothe the nerves. And nervous I was! I remember finding the descent off Am Bodach a doddle previously, but on this occasion it seemed the most tricky part of the traverse. As we walked and scrambled along with ease, my nerves grew and grew and I was on continuous lookout for any hint of recognition of the pinnacle where I fell. The ridge is longer than I recall it, and looked somewhat different from my memory, bar certain parts which seemed very familiar. After downclimbing a really easy groove, I turned back and faced the point I'd just come down, realising that this was the point where I'd fallen. I looked down left and shuddered a little at the drop down the mountain but felt faintly embarrassed that I'd struggled so much at this section, thinking what a complete and utter tit James must have thought me at the time to find it so difficult.
And that was it, after another wee scrambly section upwards, it was onto the final munro and a steep descent back to Glencoe and the a slog up the glen and back to the van. Took 7hrs in total from van back to van which is pretty good compared to the epic day up there last time, though the slog back up the glen to the van was a bit tedious. And that was that, a demon faced and a ghost laid to rest.
Wednesday morning dawned a bit dank and cloudy but upon parking at the Youth Hostel we decided to go for an ascent of Thuilm Ridge, followed by bagging Sgurr a Mhadaigh and then onto Sgurr a Ghreadaidh if we had time.
Thurs 3rd - PINNACLE RIDGE OF SGURR NAN GILLEAN
This is what we'd come for and Thursday dawned into a magnificant day of bright sunshine and clear skies. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect on hard scramble/Diff rock climb of this nature so as well as packing a rope for the abseil we knew we'd need to do, I also packed a handful of nuts, a couple of hexes and a few slings. The one thing I stupidly forgot and that I felt quite naked without was my helmet.
After I was down and had coiled up the rope we had a peer down the awkward chimney that we still had to downclimb. It looked a bit dubious to start off with and D had a go first and declared it no problem at all, and it really was much less intimidating than it looked.
Before abb'ing down we'd been watching a party, ahead of the guide and his client, roping up for the final Knights Peak. They were really slow and were knocking down rocks right, left and centre and I felt so conscious of not having my helmet with me! Luckily by the time we'd faffed with the abseil they had gone past the summit of Knights Peak so we were safe from falling rocks!
The beginning of Knight's Peak took you along a short rubbly ledge and past 2 narrowings. I had D go first and he strolled along nonchantly, and could have easily have been strolling along the street with his hands in his pocket. I'd been nervous as 2 of the parties ahead had roped up for this pinnacle, but there was no hard bits at all, although I was hugging the edge a bit more than D was!
The guide had mentioned going right around the base of the 1st tower above Knights Peak, when in fact it was much, much better to go around left and the back of the tower. On the 2nd tower there was a ledge that one could scramble along to get to the base of the final pyramid tower up to the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean. D took a higher ledge and had to downclimb to the lower ledge but I took the lower ledge from the start, finding it much more preferable.
The guide also mentioned a hard step left onto the final pyramid, but the step onto the final wall was actually moving rightwards and not leftwards! And it was hard for the grade, not Diff by any stretch of the imagination! It felt quite Severe to me. The holds were big, but it was a lay off and the 2nd flake was horribly rounded, the move was a huge, reachy rockover with not much for your feet and then once my feet were high, I couldn't reach the next juggy hold and had to use a tiny gabbro nubbing around the size of my finger nail to move up on. I tried it several times but just couldn't commit to doing the move, what with the prospect of a long fall if I messed things up! D went first but of course he has a much longer reach than I do and could reach the big holds. I was frustrated that even on a Diff I was having problems with being 5 foot nothing! My other option was head down rightwards slightly and up an even blanker looking wall and I didn't like the look of that, or to avoid the summit pyramid alltogether by a traverse rightwards, but I wanted to complete the route!
I went back to the hard move, gritted my teeth and committed to it, no bother! But a pretty serious and tough move for a Diff! The summit pyramid was utterly joyous! I really, really enjoyed it, never too hard but always exposed enough to keep you thinking and then up a final basalt dyke and onto the top of the West ridge and then finally the summit. Hurrah, my first serious scramble on Skye and done without pitching any of it either, I was really chuffed with myself!
When I got to the top I was pretty knackered and a bit drained from all the concentration below, that I wasn't sure I wanted to continue down the West Ridge of Gillean as it was graded moderate and I couldn't be bothered with any more excitement. After a breather though and a bite to eat I soon changed my mind and we set off. You have to start by 'threading the needle' which involves clambering down through a hole between perched blocks. I wasn't quite sure I was going to fit through at first but it's bigger than it looks when you get there. The next section was pretty thin for your feet and it took me a while to trust using such small holds and edges with my big boots on, but amazingly they stick well. This took us down to a big ledge where we had to wait some time on 2 guided parties being roped up the ridge. The first guide has to be one of the most unfriendly guides I've ever met on the hills and seemed a bit up himself. Of course he was busy concentrating on his clients but he didn't even thank us for patiently waiting on him and I muttered a quick 'twat' as he left with his group. The 2nd guide was far more courtious thankfully and before long it was our time to set on down. You had to go down a wee groove/chimney and onto another ledge where there was a rope around a block obviously used for groups abseiling down a gully/chimney below. We decided against the chimney and instead stepped across onto a small pinnacle with a ledge below where you had to cross across and round the pinnacle. I was gripping on for dear life at this point, ever conscious of the death plummet below! You then had to take a really wide stride and step across onto the next pinnacle so you were then left with one foot and hand on one pinnacle and the other foot and hand on the other pinnacle, with nothing but air between your feet! It was the most exposed thing I've ever done and was utterly exhilarating in a,
'holy shit!' kinda way!
FRIDAY - I'd been suffering from horrible belly cramps the night before and wasn't feeling great at all later on Friday morning and was tired from an 11hr day on the hill before. Was sorely tempted to forget about going up the hill today but finally forced myself out the van. We'd driven down to Torrin to go up Blaven, keeping our option open to do the Clach Glas to Blaven traverse if we felt like it. D has already done it and even though I'd managed Pinnacle Ridge, the Clach Glas traverse seemed a more serious option and I really didn't feel up to it today. It took all my effort to start off up Blaven and I was having continual stomach cramps on the way up and feeling really quite sick, weak, dizzy and a bit out of it as if I were a bit feverish. We went up into Fionna Choire and by the time we were up there I was feeling so poorly that I just had to sit for a while and try to recuperate. I realised that behind the stomach cramps I was actually feeling really hungry having have not finished my lunch earlier. I scoffed a fair bit to eat, including some chocolate and although the queasiness continued I felt alot better. Until we started to head up the head wall of the corrie that is! I was sweating buckets and feeling all weak again and so many times I wanted to give up and just sit down and head back to the van. But I refused to give up! And I'm sure that whatever was ailing me was eventually sweated out for as we approached the South top of Blaven I started feeling much better.
Route finding on the way down was a bit thoughtfull in places and I reckon would be quite tricky in the mist but the going is never hard and before long we were back down at the foot of Fionna Choire and heading down Coire Uaigneich and the carpark. We then drove around the head of Loch Slapin and spent the night in the van at Camas Malag.
This is a gorgeous spot! It looks down Loch Slappin and out to the sea at one side and then across to Blaven at another side. D and I spent some time on the pebbly shore taking masses of photos of the sunset over Blaven before retreating to the van for the night.
We both fancied an easy day on Saturday before the long drive home so we walked the 3 miles along the coast to Suisnish. Here lie the remains of the crofts dated from the Clearances of the 1850's. The people refused to leave their homes and were violently and forcefully evicted into the snow that lay deep in October. Many elderly folk died of exposure and the Geologist Archibald Geikie was frequenting the area at the time and recounted that,
'A strange wailing sound reached my ears. I could see a long and motley procession winding along the road that led north from Suisnish. There were old men and women, too feeble to walk, who were placed in carts; the younger members of the community on foot were carrying their bundles of clothes while the children, with looks of alarm, walked alongside. A cry of grief went up to heaven, the long plaintive wail, like a funeral coronach. The sound re-echoed through the wide valley of Strath in one prolonged note of desolation.'