Sunday, 22 May 2011

Logie Head - 21st May

At last, these hands of mine touch rock and place gear......yes, I was finally out climbing that didn't involve sandy quarries and bolts.  I've been feeling decidedly glum and down in the dumps over the last week, sitting at home in the rain, bored out my brains, no Uni work to do, waiting for placement time.  I have been out running, bouldering, indoor climbing, had folk round to wet the new bouldering wall in our garage, been to the cinema, but nothing could quench a growing restlessness and disatisfaction.  So I decided to sod the hillwalking or running in the rain, I'm feeling pretty fit at the moment for the Alps and the training will continue, but today I want to climb.  Fortunately the Morray Coast was forecast to be dry and after a little persuasion, Jonathon was keen to come out and climb.

We arrived around 11 ish and wasted no time gearing up as the crag was really busy, with 3 or 4 teams already there, another team behind us and more people arriving throughout the day.  I knew it was going to be busy due to it having a dry forecast, but I've never seen it so busy before!  We had to park our rope at the bottom of the cliff on a couple of occasions to get the routes we wanted.  One group had a bbque going and another group had a little birthday soiree complete with party hats and CAKE!  I had a dry quorn sandwhich and a few cereal bars and the smells of barbequed meat and the look of cake had me rather jealous.

I just started off on the really easy V.Diff, Sea Link, which seemed a bit silly leading, seen as I'd soloed it last time!  First time out trad climbing in ages though and I wanted to see how easy I was finding it to place gear and how scary I was finding things.  No problems though as that route is jug city and gear easy to find and place.  Arms just a little sore from bouldering the day before however.  Jonathon started off on Poacher, VS 4b, finding it a stroll and a little boring he thought.  I was curious to see how I'd find it on second as I'd found it really pumpy last summer when leading it and it had taken me a while to figure out how to get off the ground.  I've seen several people start up a good bit to the right of the route and then have to move back leftwards, this seems easier to start if you are small, but I've figured a way of doing the correct start which involves a wee sneaky hold in a crack but it's just one move up to a jug and then you don't have to bother with a traverse left again.  As it was I found it a little pumpy but not too bad.

I was going to do the Severe next to Sea Link but someone was on it, so I went for the HS Fisherman's Tail instead.  I really love this route and can't understand why it doesn't get any stars as I think it's properly graded and the climbing is really nice.  I recalled this route having a funny move at the start but I just couldn't for the life of me remember it!  I was up and down a couple of times, arranged a couple of bits of gear, sorted my feet, then all was good, just one little move with awkward feet and it's jugs and then into a funky wee chimney at the top.  Jon couldn't make up his mind whether to do Culinary Delight, VS 5a or Sunnyside Up HVS 5a, but went for the HVS in the end.  He cruised it big time, making it seem easy and effortless!  I seconded it cleanly but had to leave a couple of bits of gear hanging on the rope at the crux so I could keep on moving, the holds are so small and it's so pumpy!  It's just a wee sustained section as you move up and traverse rightwards however, then the holds get more positive and the foot holds larger.

I decided to scoot up the other HS, Sea Urchin.  This gets HS 4b in the guide, but really does have to be the easiest HS in the country!  I don't think it's any harder than Severe really as it's jugs all the way.  There is a tiny overlap but there's a massive juggy flake to pull over on and it's really well protected.  I regretted climbing this and not jumping on Poacher as once we'd gotten down the rain came on.  Jon was eyeing up No Hands Crack, an E1 5b.  He thought it looked amazing, but I thought it looked horrible!  Smooth, blank wall at the start and up and thin crack, ugh!  But he went up to have a look at it, and played around on the first couple of moves, with me worrying at the bottom that he was about to scoot up and solo it in his trainers!  He reckoned the start looked easy enough so we hung around for a bit waiting to see if the rain was going to ease off.  It was only spittering, but the spitters were getting heavy enought to wet the rock and everyone else, bar one team who were dogging there way up Poacher, were getting ready to leave.  The rain got heavier so we decided to sack it, disappointing as Jon was so keen to get on his first E1 and I reckon he'd have cruised it and I was keen to lead Poacher again and see if I found it as pumpy to lead as I had last summer.

Never mind, Portsoy ice cream shop was calling, the best  ice cream and sweety shop EVER!  I had a cone and a tea, but managed to refrain from buying cake.  I regretted this however, as we were so busy yapping in the car on the way home, that I missed the turn off onto the A947 and ended up almost in Fraserburgh before seeing a sign that said Aberdeen 40miles, and that was after driving for some time already!  Some cake would have been nice at that point it time.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wind and solitude - 14th May 2011

D and I went walking up Glen Lyon in our quest for fitness for the Alps, but ended up having an extremely short day.  This is just as well, as I was struggling to stay awake on the drive home via Aberfeldy and Dunkeld, windows open and music on from Dunkeld onwards to try and stay awake.  Don't know why I was so tired as our 6am start was no earlier than usual and we only ended up out for 4.5hrs which is an extremely short hill day!

The intended plan was to get one of my 2 munros I've left to do in Glen Lyon/Lochy area and go up a couple of Corbetts at the same time, making for a medium length day.  Cameron MacNeish, in his munro book, mentions Meall Ghaordaidh as being a dull hill.  I found it anything but!  Going up from Glen Lyon and up Creagan an t-Stuichd is quite steep, but one can gaze at the cliffs and wonder about how pretty they would look in winter (and they do!) and it's quick and pretty direct too.

Our originall plan was to go up the Corbett Beinn nan Oighreag first, then scoot across to Ghaordaidh and then trudge across to Meall nan Subh, another Corbett, having the option of descending Ghaordaidh if the weather turned (it was forecast for heavy showers later in the afternoon.)  In the end, we decided just to go up Ghaordaidh first, then Oighreag, saving Subh for another day.  I regretted this as soon as I saw how quickly we were making our ascent and how near by Subh was, but there was no way I felt like going up Oighreagh and then having to back track!  In the end in turned out fine as it started chucking it down once we got back to the car, only having showered very lightly on the hill.  Ben Lawers saw a very light dusting of snow, but Ghaordaidh was just that bit too low unfortunately and we had to make do with a little brief hail.

Ghaordaidh is a SSI and is home to the rare parasitic Alpine Bartsia and many other alpine plants.  It was a shame our day was so short and the wind so cold (30mph Northerlies, brrrrr, big difference from Glen Shiel the other week!)  On descent , D was ahead of me and I shouted that I was about to begin descending down to the col between Ghaordaidh and Oighreag, but he didn't hear my calls.  Shrugging my shoulders, I headed off down anyway, catching his attention once half way down.  We both took different routes up the west slopes of Oighreag, me stopping several times, hat off, jacket off, sort laces which have snapped again (desperately need new boots, lace eyelets falling apart, holes everywhere!)  meeting back up on the SSE ridge and carrying on up to the summit together.

We could see 2 folk heading up from Lochay way and D mentioned he saw someone stop at the col below and ponder the way ahead up Gheordaidh, but other than that, we saw not a single soul all day.  I thought the hill would be busy, but most folk seem to go up it from Lochay side, even though Lyon side is far, far nicer.

No photos today sadly which is annoying as I might have got some atmospheric shots of all the grey and brooding cloud round about.  But Beks has my camera down in London on her school trip at the moment and D left his memory card at home.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Finally, a little time! 5th May 2011

I've not been posting of late regardless of my intentions to keep this blog going, due to exams and life in general and really not much on the climbing front to report!  Well, I did have a trip to the Costa Blanca area of Spain but my climbing was so awful that I'm almost embarrassed to write about it!

Winter is well and truly over now, I'm enjoying the sunshine we've had recently, but hanging up my axes was particularly hard for me this year, I love winter climbing so much!  And onsighting my first grade IV has just given me a taste for more and it's frustrating that I have to wait now.  Only 6months before the first snows of next winter though :oD

So, Spain was dire.........I'd been looking forward to it so much as well, sunny Spannish limestone......yum!  Let's see, sunny Spannish limestone was also so polished in the lower grades that it was hideous to climb on, and it was all that horrible slabby climbing with nothing to hold onto other than polished nothingness and trusting your feet on polish.  Getting the idea?  Of course, I know that Costa Blanca will have areas that arn't so popular and thus less polished but we seemed to go to all the popular areas and I really hated it.   RB didn't like it either, much preferring the overhanging stuff that she is used to.  I've just heard about all RB's peers in the competition climbing scene having an amazing holiday to Suriana and it wasn't so polished there so I'm led to believe and not as hot either!  They had mid 20's where as we had 30's!  Too hot!

We started off at Sella, then Marin, followed by Echo Valley and after a days rest, to Gandia, then back to Sella.  Of all these places, I'd say only Gandia was enjoyable.  And atleast RB had something steep to play on there.  Mel set up a toprope for her on a 6b+ called El Sol, so they could both work on it.  RB decided that she liked the direct variation over the crux at 6c+ and almost got it.  There is clip over the roof but the rope that RB was attached to kept clipping in to the runner that the other bit of rope was attached to, so the toprope was set to run through a quickdraw to the left of the route, and it made it a nightmare to go over and unclip.  She'd have got it cleanly if it wasn't for that.   Anyway, she's now keen to try and redpoint some harder stuff at home, but we need to find a venue where she likes the look of something.  There's a 6c+ at Kirrie she likes and I'm going to take her to Rob's Reed to see what she thinks of it.

I didn't lead much at all on our holiday, just couldn't get to grips with the rock at all, and my head was all over the place.  Even toproping seemed to be freaking me out for some reason and I kept feeling all dizzy and sick.  I've been suffering from pretty rotten sinusitis and I'd like to say that was causing me to feel dizzy and not enjoy the climbing, but I think the simple fact was that I just didn't like it and it messed with my head!
I've been out at Kirrie a couple of times since then though and my head has been much better thankfully so even though I was threatning to give up rock climbing in Spain, I can't see it happening :o)   I managed to redpoint a 6a+ that I'd found desperately hard so I'm pleased with that and want to try working on some 6b's.  Don't think I'll get out trad climbing much this summer as my weekends are going to involve lots of hills, to get fit for the Alps.

Speaking of which, D and I had a day in the Cairngorms bagging Ben Avon, which involved a long cycle, followed by an even longer walk, made longer by the fact that we stupidly followed the wrong spur off the mountain and had to back track to get on the right spur!  What you get for not paying attention!  Last weekend we spent a day up in Glen Shiel doing the South Glen Shiel Ridge, which involves walking over 7 munros and 2 tops.  That was an amazing day!  The sun was blazing with just enough wind to keep cool in places and I was going really well.  We decided to the ridge from West to East rather than the more normal East to West, mainly because D was cycling back to the van and it meant he could cycle down hill at the end of the day rather than uphill.

Getting on to the first munro was a slog however and I was going slow, my calf muscles were so tight, they were causing my feet to go numb!  I've been back running lots again but been lazy with my stretching which I mustn't do due to all the old nerve damage in my legs due to my spine!  I always seem to have a problem with my legs on the up hills these days and if it's not my calves, then it's twinges of sciatic type pains in my sacral area or pains in my neck.  But as soon as I got to the top, it just all seemed to vanish and I had my first hill day in the longest time that I can remember where I felt completely and utterly pain free.  It was amazing!  I've forgotten how good it feels to be without pain, my limbs felt so much lighter and I moved so much faster than I have been of late, it was a joy to feel back to my old self and D was struggling to keep up, which he never is on the up hill!  Although, it transpires that later that evening he ended up with horrible toothache and an abscess forming.  So that stopped us in our tracks for doing any hills the next day as he was feeling pretty rotten so I reckoned we should just head home and I couldn't be bothered going out on my own anyway.

We are hoping to get to Skye soon to try and go for a traverse of the ridge (watch this space) but it won't be a proper, 'pure' traverse as we aren't taking a rope and there's no way in hell I'm climbing things like the TD gap and Naismith's Route on the Am Bastier Tooth without one, so it will be more of a scramble and munro bagging traverse, avoiding Naismith's, TD gap and doing Collie's ledge rather than King's Chimney.  D wants to see if he can still manage to solo up and down the In Pin but I'm not fussed about doing it as I've done it before and I don't think I'd like to solo down it and I can't be bothered taking a rope for 30m of mod climbing and one abseil!  Unfortunately, at this point in time, the forecast doesn't look like it's going to play ball, and neither is D's tooth abscess!  So I may just go off on a jaunt by myself into the Cairngorms if the weather is better.  We have another week free during July, if next week is duff.

Other major plans are our trip to the Alps at the end of July.  We're going for 3 weeks again and will be basing ourselves in Italy to tackle some of the Monte Rosa peaks and I also have my eye on Castor and Pollux.  Andy has taken us out to teach us crevasse rescue techniques as I am insisting that we use a rope for crossing glaciers and I'm determined to get D used to tying knots and using the rope!  Though he's digging his heels in at the moment, but I will get him there, kicking and screaming if need be!

Other news........RB has completed the 3 rounds of the Youth Climbing Series, coming 1st in the 1st round, 2nd in the 2nd round and 1st in the last round, making 1st place overall.  The British Final is at Wolverhampton and is going to be an logistic nightmare!  I will be working at my first clinical placement in Fort William and will have to get from there to Wolverhampton on the Friday evening, but I don't finish work until 5.30pm!  I'm going to see if I can get a day off and fill in my lost hours during the 5week placement somehow as there's no way RB will compete well, if we don't get down there until 2ish in the morning!  The Scottish Finals are also on the 28th May, watch this space.