Monday, 25 October 2010

Pygmy Ridge - Sun 24th Oct

It's Saturday and I'm debating whether it's a good idea to try and get out winter climbing.  Forecast isn't great, snow showers and winds of 40mph with gusts to 55-60mph.  I'm exhausted, not sleeping enough and have so much Uni work to do and half of me just can't be bothered going out in crappy weather.
Start packing my sack though and the enthusiasm builds until the lack of motivation goes and I'm feeling really excited!  Winter, snow, spindrift, woohoo, yay!
Drove up to Andy's on Saturday night, we reckoned nowhere much would be snowy other than the Cairngorms, but also that Sneachda might be busy with folk after the dry tooling competition at Glenmore Lodge.  Decided on a late start nonetheless and were up at 7.30am which seemed quite blissful after my 6.15am Uni starts at 5.45am starts for a pre Uni run!
Seemed a bit mildish at first but it's cold in the carpark, some snow low down, clag down though so can't see much.  We walk in pretty quickly and easily and at the boulder field, hear a
It's Mel and Fiona, they were doing the comp yesterday and are quite sore, but keen!  There are some footprints meandering off in the direction of Mess of Pottage area but no sign of anyone else in the corrie that we can make out.  The weather isn't as bad as forecast so all those who wimped out are missing out on cliffs thick with rime and snow, proper winter!
Andy and I are first at Pygmy so we gear up for that and Fiona and Mel gear up for Saturation Point, the harder route to the right.  It looks hard!  Andy is up the first pitch of Pygmy fairly quickly and I can tell he's done it before as he seems to know where all the axe placements are!  I find the first pitch pretty hard.  The chimney has a good flake and chockstone but I can't reach up to either of them!  I have to torque my axe behind a lower flake, edge my feet up and totally wedge myself into the chimney to stop myself falling out and keep in balance while I finally reach up.  Hook that chockstone, then it's thuggy, awkward and strenuous, but just a few moves.  The top bit isn't a push over either!  We had to clear every placement of snow and I was finding things a bit reachy or balancy.
I led the 2nd pitch up a steep chimney/corner.  Better holds in this one but I looked down in dismay to see my sling lift off a flake, followed by a nut which I had been sure was bomber!  Rats!  Hesitate now!  Next move feels even more committing without any gear!  There's a nice ledge to soften my landing if I fall.  Don't think about falling stupid cow!  Get some more gear in!  Scrape about, unburry another flake, a better one, fling another sling round, only one left now!  Try to figure the move.  There is a huge detached flake on the right wall but I can't reach my foot or my knee up to it.  I need a foot in the chimney on a dubious sloping hold to move up.  It goes okay though.  Scrape round for another hold and I'm up onto a terrace.  Mel is there, belaying Fiona, as their route joined ours on the 2nd pitch. 
I'm not sure what to do!  I've already led the meat of my pitch but I wanted to reach the pinnacles and carry on a full ropes length, but feel it would be a bit rude to climb through Mel and Fiona.  Deliberate for a second or two and decide to belay Andy from there and by the time he has come up, Mel has started off, seconding Fiona up the next pitch.  It's blowing a hoolie by this point and the spindrift is blinding!  At one point, a lump of ice flies into my mouth and down my throat and has me chocking!  Above us, Fiona's ropes have blown off route and poor Mel has to climb up an awkward way, but Andy is impatient enough to get out the cold, climb around her and pull the ropes through.  He goes off a different way though, so as not to climb through them and belays me a short way from the top, out of the wind.
I led up a final groove and over some really easy ground, round Mel and Fiona who are packing their sacks away from the plateau and gave Andy a quick body belay up.  We threw everything into our sacks higgeldy piggeldy, then stopped at a sheltered hollow to sort our stuff and take crampons etc off as the snow was still quite soft on top.  Then trudged up to point 1141 and stopped again for food and coffee.  It was fast going down, then with a brief stop at the start of the road to take off some layers, we were soon down.
What an ace day!  Superb getting out and very surprised there wasn't more folk out.  Andy reckons we are in for another good winter and I hope he's right.
For all you snowboarders though ;o)  too many rocks were poking through the snow I'm afraid.
Looks like all the snow will probably melt in this weeks SW's too.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

British Lead Climbing Comp - 9th October '10

RB competed in the BLCC's on Saturday.  She was a bit nervous about it as she hadn't been training as much as she should have, mainly due to me starting Uni and being too knackered in the evenings to get out doing extra with her on non climbing days.  But she'd recently redpointed a 7a+ at AVW which is no easy thing seen as the AVW grades are really stiff due to it being a short wall.  So she wasn't going too badly!
We were up at 6am to get ready for the drive through to Edinburgh and arrived there just after 8, a little tired and bleary eyed.  The qualifying routes looked hard!  A yellow route up the old comp wall to start and then a pink route up the steep comp wall.  When the starting list was put up, RB was disappointed to learn she had to go 2nd, somebody has to go first though.  The girl who went 1st fell off and jumped for a hold before falling and then it was RB's go.  RB got to the hold above that 1st girl and then stopped, unable to move rightwards.  She was at that hold for a good minute, swapping her feet around, trying to get her weight over right.  It all ended when she matched her hands on the hold and then tried to move across and fell off.
The next girl up was in the British Team and was amazing to watch, very small, light and so bendy and fluid at climbing, really something!  She managed the move that RB fell off just fine, by holding the hold below the one RB had, walking her feet up right and then rocking over, made it look so simple.  Unfortunately, now that everybody saw how it was done, it was easy for everyone else to do the same.  I knew this didn't bode well for RB.  As it was 6 girls got past that point, with one topping out and 2 other girls got to exactly the same point as RB.  This made RB in joint 7th place so still in with a chance for the finals if she did well in the 2nd route.
Imagine our shock then, when the scores came through and the judge had put RB into 2nd last place.  WHAT???   We were both extremely puzzled!  How the BLEEP can a judge mistake holding onto a hold for as long as a minute, with holding the hold below it.  I was utterly furious!  We spoke to the head judge, who then spoke to the 2 judges who were watching the route.  Both of them insisted that RB fell off before the girl who went before her.  I was stunned!  Were they f-ing blind!  I ranted at the head judge for ages, what the hell is the point in even having a head judge if he won't do anything about judges who must be utterly blind and can't judge properly!  When the judge in question tried to speak to me later, I couldn't even speak to him, I was so angry.  I had to walk away as I didn't want to start shouting at him and losing it.  I was so annoyed!  RB has worked so hard and is so determined to do well that this was extremely unfair on her.  I know the judges all volunteer to do what they do and it's great, but if you're going to judge, then bloomin well do it properly!  So, they refused to look into it, adamant that they were right and I was wrong.  Unfortunately the BMC hadn't been filming the qualifiers as they said they didn't have enough cameras and even if I had filmed her climbing they wouldn't accept that as proof, which is utterly stupid.  I hadn't filmed it anyway, and had stopped taking photos at this point as I was too busy watching RB on that final hold, which is why I know what hold she was on as she held onto it for ages!
So, RB was listed to do the 2nd route 8th which was good.  She was going to have to climb exceedingly well to get into the final and I feared that with the competition being so stiff she just wouldn't be able to make up for the judges error in putting her into 2nd last place. 
As it was, she damn well climbed like the wind!  She cruised that 2nd route, getting to a really high point, just 2 moves away from the top before falling.  This put her into joint 3rd place with one of the Team members and only 1 girl getting ahead of that, and one girl topping out.  Things were getting exciting!  We watched as everyone fell off below that point, meaning that RB just scraped through to the finals and no more.  As it was, even if the judging had been done efficiently and correctly, RB would still have only got 5th place, possibly getting 4th.  I'm unsure as I can't make head nor tail of how they mark these routes.  The final position is supposed to be the ranking score of route 1 x the ranking score of route 2, and then you take the square root of that number.  But I did that on my calculator and the numbers didn't match up.  I know that if there are folk who draw in ranking position then something else happens to the score, but it's not clear at all to me.
In the end though, she got through to the final, so we were both happy again.
They were in isolation for some time, as the final routes were put up.  RB's final route was the same route as one of the qualifiers for the boys, but holds had been added to the top of the route to take it to the very top of the steep comp wall.  The mid section look hard and the top looked desperate!  RB's age group was in the 2nd category to come and do the final route, and RB was on first, seen as she had been put into 6th position and not 5th like she should have been.  It doesn't really matter in the final as you don't get to watch anyone climb the route before you anyway.
I was so nervous!  RB started off really well, had a wee moment a bit higher where she switched feet a bit to get her balance to clip and I thought she might come off.  But she moved upwards up towards the point where some holds on the edge of the overhang were round an arete.  I was hoping she would remember they were there!  She did, and made some really powerful moves to get them!  She then was back onto the face and had to heel hook onto holds round the arete.  She struggled a little here getting her foot into position.  Her 5.10's are slightly baggy at the heel and not the most sensitive for this kind of move but she managed it (really need to get her new shoes pronto as the ones she has are just ever so slightly too big and they have a masive hole so her big toe is pretty much gaping out now!)
Next came a volume and more hooking and then up to the 2nd volume.  RB needed to take a big swing across to reach a hold on the volume, only got the edge of it, then managed to quickly adjust and get a proper hold of it.  She then swung across and tried to clip, but couldn't.  She shifted her weight, tried to clip again, but then her feet cut loose.  She got her feet back on, tried to clip again, feet cut loose again.  That was it for her.  All the cutting loose just tired her arms too much and she was off, taking a wipper into space!
The next girl on came to exactly the same point as RB and fell off but the next girls got the stalactite above and the winner got past the stalactite and nearly topped out, was quite something!
RB was berating herself a little for not being able to clip, but I thought she did amazingly well in her 1st BLCC!  Because RB was marked wrongly for the 1st route though, it did mean she got 6th place overall, whereas she really was 5th.  Well, we both know she was 5th, so she was happy with that.
And know it's time to get some hard training in for the next comp down in Liverpool on the 27th Nov.