Saturday, 23 June 2007

#7: Success and rain

Yes! At long last. Its been over a year of looking for jobs or PhDs, and finally I have one! I've managed to wangle may way to getting the graduate placement at Lochaber Native Woodlands.

I got the train up to the Fort (again) on thursday night and yesterday (friday) went out with Gary Servant to visit a timber extraction demo by the Northern Sunart Woodland Owners Group. The Sunart oakwoods are a large area of very interesting (and now relatively rare) Atlantic oak woodland. This type of habitat is only found on the Atlantic coast and is very rich in rare 'lower' plants (mosses, lichens etc.). During the 1950's much of the woodland was underplanted with conifers, namely Sitka Spruce, creating plantations for timber production. However, now there is much interest and activity attempting to reverse the changes and revert the woods back to their semi-natural state. This has been done by engaging and involving local communities in practical woodland management and local use of the woodland products (not just physical products, but other services like recreation and education). The demo we visited showed the low-impact equipment the communities have bought for the small scale clearing and thinning they will do.

Gary also drove me round parts of Ardnamurchan, Ardgour, Glen Uig and Moidart, to illustrate some of the projects and local area that he has been involved in. I had never been round these bits of the West coast before and it was beautiful, and dutifully accompanied with sporadic rain followed by blue skies and sun. "Such fair and foul weather I have not seen", or something like that.

I also spied a few sweet looking boulders and a crag that you would have to canoe across a wee loch to reach. Hmm, projects me thinks....

Anyway, on to climbing. Chris and I had planned to do something today (Saturday), but since it hasn't stopped raining all morning we are going to get out tomorrow. We hope..... I'm definately super-psyched after checking out the Hot Aches Productions blog.

They are just back from Pabbay with lots of tales of cranking. Its good to see young Dan McManus getting coverage. He's a super strong lad from North Wales who's at uni in Edinburgh. I was president of the uni Mountaineering Club when he turned up as a fresher and got to know him that way. Infact, on day one of freshers week (before any of the freshers events had taken place) he found my number and contacted me about meeting up for some activity. I was busy so ended up just meeting him at the Crags. At that stage he was solid at E4 and said he was breaking into E5, now he seems to be solid at E6, with a number of badass E7s under his belt. He's only 20 and has climbed the Eiger Nordwand (with Tony Stone, another name to look out for), and his second winter route was Intruder in Stob Coire nan Lochan (VI 7)! He now stays in Lutton Place, my old home for three years,which is now a hardcore climbers flat. Good to hear.

Dan Mcmanus: Concentration itself. Slack lining over the cold Atlanic on Pabbay, June 2006.

About this time last year I went out to Pabbay and Mingulay with a team from Edinburgh plus some other veterans. It was an amazing week of what I think is called 'adventure climbing'. Big abseils, big seas, big cliffs. I climbed with Rik Higham and we had a great week, doing The Preist (E1/2) and Spring Squill (E1), among others, on Pabbay, and a suspected new route and an attempt at the subterranean traverse of Ghursey Beag on Mingulay.

The Priest (E1/2): Me starting the crux with the roof of the Great Arch to the right.

Looking pleased after the crux pitch of The Preist

We managed to do what we think is a new route on Mingulay, having abbed into what appeared to be the wrong bit of the crag, we followed a line of corners to the top at around HVS. Whether a first ascent or otherwise it was climbed in classic "where the fuck are we and how do we escape?" style and we felt justifiably proud. We called it Fulmars for Effort in honour of all the punning that had occured all week, and the fact that my shoe vomited on by said beast.

Fulmars For Effort: Looking down pitch 2 of our (new?) route.

And so, with psyche high I guess I'd better stop writing and hang from the bar for a bit. What else is there to do in such shite weather? Fingers crossed for lots of sun tommorrow.

All photos by Rik Higham.

No comments: