Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Glen Lyon - 25th/26th Sept

D and I went munro bagging this weekend as I was in desperate need to get out into the hills having not been near a hill since our trip up Tower Ridge with RB.  Too much wall climbing and cragging is no good for the soul.  Besides, I need to start getting hill fit again as winter will shortly be upon us, hurrah, yipee, woohoo!  I'm getting excited about snowy hills and frozen turf and crunchy, crispy snow sparkling in the winter sun.  Mmm mmm mmm!

Anyway, back to the weekend!  It was the AVW bouldering comp on Friday evening.  It was really busy and their were lots of new faces around which was good and not many regulars which was good too as it means I came in 3rd in the Women's Easy category.  RB was a star as usual and came 1st place in Juniors Girls.  She did the hard comp this year, without using any junior holds, bar on her first problem, before Ian, AVW's manager, reckoned she should do it without the junior holds.  I was a bit miffed at this to start off with, as she maybe a good climber, but there are some things that are impossible if you just can't reach.  But she did amazingly anyway, coming in first place still and beating the Hard Women (although the usual hard women regulars weren't competing!)
I met up with D afterwards and we drove up Glen Lyon way and parked up in the Schiehallion carpark for the night.  We were up bright and early, drove down to Inverar only to be met with a closed gate and 'Stalking taking place today' signs everywhere.  I was miffed!  I'd gone to do these hills before and had to bail because of crap weather as the guy I was with at the time didn't want to do them in the rain.  The notice board said to take alternative routes as suggested, but I didn't notice any suggested alternative routes.  We both came to the conclusion that the stalking sign is probably put up at the start of September and just left there all the time, and there probably wasn't even stalking taking place on the 4hills we wanted to go up, as the argocats had been taken in the opposite direction!  We decided that we would go up the hills regardless, me a bitty nervous of meeting some irate stalkers with guns, but my rebelllious nature out in force regardless.
As it was, there wasn't a stalker in sight so it was doubly annoying that there were signs up saying not to go up the hills.  And having closed gates and signs verges on a breach on the access code as far as I'm concerned if there isn't any stalking taking place.  But the estate is notorious for such nonsense!
I wasn't going that well up these hills.  My legs felt heavy and weak and my lower back was aching, muscles spasming every so often, sending wee nervy feelings reminiscant of sciatica into my legs.  Bloomin neck!  I could feel the muscles around my neck tightning up and knew it was a touch of the arthritis kicking in.  I ploughed on regardless.  I won't let this stop my enjoying the hills, even though it makes it hard work at times.
Think my most prominent memory of these hills is going a stupid way down off the 3rd hill, ploughing straight down from the summit, down a very steep boulder field.  My knee didn't appreciate that in the slightest and was all swollen by the time I got to the bottom.
We were out for around 6 and half hours and then drove along to the dam at the head of Lochan Daimh for the night. It was freezing through the night and we woke to a sheet of ice on the front windscreen which had me hoping that I might see a wincy snow flurry or two.  But it wasn't to be, it was much milder on the hill than the previous day, though there were still pockets of ice in puddles.  We left the landrover track to head up Meall Buidhe and sheesh it was boggy!  We'd reach a bit of a dryer bit and I'd hope that was the bog finished and then it would get worse.  I wasn't going well again today, worse than the day before if that's possible!  Felt really tired and heavy legged again and a bit woozy.  I was getting hot flushes and ended up taking several layers off, it was so warm in the sunshine.
Seemed to go better nearer the top, although the last leg is a broad and flattish ridge so there wasn't really any uphill to speak of.  We didn't hang around the summit for too long and it felt weird going back down, like it had seemed pointless going up, just to sit for a minute and not go back down.  I'm too used to doing several hills at once and dying to get off the hill at the end of a long day.

Driving home, we came into mobile reception and I received some really gutting news that my Grandfather had passed away that afternoon, probably around the time I was up on the summit. My earliest memory of my Grandfather is of him pottering away in his greenhouse and me being allowed to help repot some plants for him and help him plant seeds into small pots.  I can vividly remember him showing me how to compress the soil down into the pots before adding more soil, but  not to compress it down too tightly.  I can still picture the feeling of the soil between my fingers as a young child and how it made a great impression on me.  I am sure that my great love of the outdoors and nature stemmed from such simple pleasures and for that I am eternally grateful.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Logie Head - 12 Sept

I met up with Andy at Logie Head at 10.30 am on Sunday morning for our first climb together in ages.  It had rained on the way there but on a westerly, so the crag was still dry and I was actually climbing in a T-shirt it was so warm!
The tide was out when we arrived so we didn't want to hang about for too long in the non tidal area, but I wanted to warm up on something before heading across.  I decided to go up the line of the HS and if I didn't feel like it, then I could scoot across to the easier line on the left.  I'd forgotten how fiddly some of the cracks can be at Logie for placing gear and it seemed to take me ages to get good placements, so much so that I really felt the lead on my arms.  Thankfully the holds are big so I didn't get too pumped!  The HS is pretty soft and I managed it okay before we scooted across to the tidal area.
The tide was coming in and we had to traverse across, timing it right so as not to get our feet wet!  There is a VS there called Moray Eel that I hadn't done before but on looking at it, I thought it looked quite hard and Andy said it involved jamming.  That immediately put me off so I let him lead it, not bothered at all about the onsight, just happy to be out climbing.  I was glad I didn't lead it in the end as it's horrible!  It felt really hard at VS, probably the hardest VS I've ever been on.  Horrible insecure jams that my hands didn't seem to fit into and on top of that it was really reachy.  There is no way in hell that I could have led that so I'm glad I didn't even try.  I'd already led the other VS there and I wanted to warm up mentally a bit more before leading a proper VS, so I just got Andy to lead that one too.  It's funny, because he reckons that Fallen Star is harder than Moray Eel and he certainly made ME look really easy!  But I find Fallen Star quite nice and easy enough, nice incut holds and no jamming!
We scooted back to the non tidal area after that and I led Fisherman's Tail.  I love this HS, it's really nice climbing and it's far better than the other HS, so I can't understand why it doesn't get a star but I think Andy had said he never used to like it.  Andy then led Sunnyside Up at HVS.  I couldn't remember whether I'd climbed this before but it turns out that I'd seconded it a few years ago and had to rest on the rope.  Managed it cleanly this time but it felt right at my limit, very sustained climbing.  I decided to lead Poacher next and it took me a while to actually get off the ground on it!  I got a bit of gear really low down, for confidence but I wanted a higher bit and I just couldn't suss out how to get up there.  There is a side pull to the right and an undercling to the left, then a thin diagonal crack on the left, running rightwards.  I was up and down like a yoyo trying different combinations until I finally got my hand higher in the left/right crack, got my feet higher and was then able to reach up very easily to the top of the crack on the right and a big jug.  I then got more gear in and was committed.  The next move up was easy but left me on rounded holds, so I moved up again to more incut holds, though smaller.  I was getting so pumped placing gear, much more so than last time I led it.  But I was quite surprised by how long I managed to hang around for and place all the 8 bits of gear that I did!  8 bits of gear on a 10metre route, no wonder I was pumped!
After a break for something to eat, Andy then led Dave's Dilemma with a bit of a struggle, think it's the only E1 he's led this year.  I found it utterly desperate and had to aid up the damn thing with a very tight rope!  The very start is a wee scramble but that takes you up to a horribly polished crack.  The crack is very small, the crux hold faces the wrong way, so you can lunge over for a hold on the left instead.  But then the crack above becomes even more polished and not helped by the greasy rock and I just couldn't hold on without the help of the rope.  Once past the crux moves, the rest of the route was easier enough, but I found the climbing dull.
I'd been looking at Spread the Donkey to lead at VS 4c, but after getting so pumped on Poacher and seeing how thin the other VS looked in the middle, I just didn't think I'd have the stamina to hold on and place gear.  It's really frustrating, because I find the moves very easy, I just get pumped so quickly because my arms are so tight due to my neck.  And it doesn't help that I'm not getting out climbing enough either and am finding my gear placements slower to make.
I gave over my lead to Andy as my arms were knackered and he led On the Beach at HVS 5a.  This was a struggle!  It looked easy enough with big holds everywhere, but my arms were so tired and my fingers so weak that I found it quite brutal!  Managed it cleanly though, just!  Andy led Spread the Donkey next so I could see what it was like.  I just don't think I could have done it just now, but maybe it would have felt easier if I'd been fresher.  9 routes in one day is the most climbing I've done all year!  And the hardest climbing I've done all year.  I need more of it!

Monday, 6 September 2010

HAWKCRAIG - Tues 21st Aug

I went out climbing with Mel last Tuesday, finally we made it down to Hawkcraig where we both had loads of things we wanted to do.  At last the tide was agreeable and the weather was playing ball.  Typically though, my head just wasn't in the right space at all for leading and I ended up taking one look at the rock and thinking,
'I can't lead today.'
Mel however was as keen as ever and was happy to do all the leading that day.  Just hoped my head was up for even seconding and I wasn't going to be wibbling all over the place.  She started off on what we thought was a HS called Torment.  We hadn't looked at the guide description properly, how hard could it be, a HS?  Bloody hard is the answer!  Mel just onsighted an E1 the other day and shouldn't have had trouble with a HS, so she was pretty puzzled that the holds seem to run out, or the route really unbalanced.  Turns out we were off route and should have been much further right.
Mel decided to go left onto the HS called Brutus instead, but because we weren't in the right place for that either, it would seem that we climbed something that wasn't in the guide (and IMO was a much nicer line anyway if not a great deal harder!)  We reckoned Mel's Brutal variation went at about HVS.  You had to pull out through the roof, onto a slab which was very technical (but lovely climbing (on second atleast with the rope above me!)) and then it all seemed rounded, bulgy and desperate after that.  An amazing lead by Mel as it was seriously bold.  I remember praying that she wouldn't come off after the roof as it would have been a total swing and wipper!  She got in a hex, placed semi blindly and the 2 okay (ish) nuts in an awkward position after that, none of which could have been brilliantly confidence inspiring on lead.
I came really close to wanting Mel to ab down for the gear as I'd never seen her worried on a route before, knew it was gonna be hard and was bricking it.  But I did it cleanly and felt quite chuffed.
I had a look at a Severe called Gunga Din after that, bouldered out the 1st couple of moves but still bottled it.  It just seemed steep and I was having really negative thoughts.  Was stupid as the route was a real doddle.  Massive holds everywhere and I don't know where the guide description about big spaces between holds came from as it wasn't reachy at all.  Gear was good too and I'd have cruised it.  Ho hum.  Really nice wee severe.  Much nicer than The Lilly I thought.
Mel wanted to lead Pain Pillar after that and went for the HVS Direct start version.  It's pretty damn bold to start off with and I was a bit worried that she hadn't put gear in after her 1st bit, she'd deck if she came out and it wasn't like Mel at all not to be putting in gear.  When it came to my go, I realised why!  You just don't get into a position to place gear until a good jug appears higher up.
Mel cruised PP, making it look a doddle (esp in comparison to the horror she'd led earlier!)  Everything went pear shaped when I got higher up.  I got to a cam wedged deep in a crack.  Pulled the lever but the cams wouldn't budge at all.  Hmmm,  yanked the lever some.  Got my nut key in behind the lever and pulled and the cams still wouldn't move.  Seemed a bit over cammed to me.  Got my nut key in each wire individually, the cams moved a little but then everytime I went back to pull the lever, it just wouldn't budge.  I spent ages on the rope trying to get the damn thing out.  Thankfully there was a jug to hold onto, so I just had to keep swapping hands.  It was no good though, I just couldn't move it.  I called up to Mel that she could ab down and get it.  She said there was nothing to ab from and in retrospect it probably would have been much easier for her to have abbed off the perfectly adequate belay rather than the faff that ensued.
I shouted up for Mel to lower me, and I'd come up to the top and belay her up and she could get the cam out.  It was a bit of a struggle as it's really hard to hear because of the sea.  Mel was getting sore feet due to a loose toenail and I was pissed off about not being to get the cam out and spoiling the route.  So by the time Mel got up to the top having easily got the cam out first go and then making a wee sarcy comment, I was seeing red and my temper flared.  Now things got silly.  Mel has a very similar personality to me in the respect that she's not one to back down, she's stubborn and opinionated, so we had a bit of a clash.  Which resulted in my childishly stomping off in a huff, steaming at the ears.  By the time I came down to the bottom of the cliff I'd calmed down enough, apologised to Mel for being a narky cow and got all upset and emotional, hate arguing with folk!  So, we were totally cool thankfully and have a laugh about how daft it was.
It's funny, Pain Pillar is nothing like I remember it.  I fell of the Direct Start last time I did it (1st year of climbing) and it didn't seem so bad now.  I'll happily lead PP now next time I go (if my head isn't in hormonal raging cow mode!) but I'll just do the normal variant I think as I'm not sure I like the boldness of the direct start even though it's a far more pleasing  and logical line.

Not been out climbing since then and to be honest I'm starting to pine a little for winter.  I've been having dreams and thoughts of snow and turf and the reassuring thwack of an axe and the beauty of our Scottish hills in winter.  I'm trully a lover of snow and winter rather than a rock goddess.