Tuesday, 31 July 2007

I'm back

Well, long time no write. I've connected to the wireless network in the new house at last!
I’m now safely stationed in the Fort, with genuine Lochaber rain dribbling down my window and genuine Lochaber midge bites on my arms.
I started my job last Monday, and all is going well. Nothing too taxing yet, but I’m learning a fair bit and think I’m being of use to Gary. His wife has just had a bairn so I
can imagine he’s grateful for all the help he can get, what with shifting circadian rhythms and all that.
On the climbing side I’ve been up to a wee bit recently. On the Saturday before moving up here Chris and I had a day on Buachaille Etive Mor. We went for Bludgers Revelation on Slime Wall. I was good and ready for it, having not been on a decent sized route for a while and wasn’t too bothered about the very cold hands and general wetness of the first 5a pitch. Chris however had real issues getting off the belay at the start and after a long time I ended up abbing back down and cleaning all the gear. Bummer! It’s weired really, cos Chris is strong, and in isolation could do 5a moves forever. But on this day it just illustrated that there’s much more to mountain routes than just the moves – it’s the early start, the walk in, the cold, the wet rock, the imposing and exposed situations. It rapidly adds up and can easily sap the psyche. It did that for Chris and he clearly wasn’t up for it.
I was keen to do something so as not to waste the day so we walked round to the East Face of North Buttress and climbed Crows Nest Crack, a VS brilliant with two full 40m pitches and a scramble in between them. The first pitch is sustained 4c and number 2 is sustained 4a, what ever that means. Either way, both pitches are easy, with great gear and great holds, fairly steep rock (for the grade) and their length means you get really absorbed. Another bonus was that the psyche fairy wasn’t with Chris so I got to lead both pitches. Definitely three stars, and I’m surprised it doesn’t have more of a reputation as a class route.

Moving to Fort William is definitely a good thing for my climbing. Glen Nevis is just a 10 minute drive away, with its hundreds of amazing routes and boulder problems. I’ve been down after work four times in the last 7 days up here and am getting close to doing Maisie Gunn on the Heather Hat (V4). I’v never really done much roofy stuff so its cool to get on this. I think I’m gonna have to get stronger though before it slips in the bag.

I had one of those awesome “this is why I climb” moments last Tuesday. It was a glorious evening, wall to wall sunshine with no midges, and just a few clouds over the Ben and Stob Ban. I walked up to Pine Tree Wall and soloed The Gutter, a classic easy Diff. It’s a wide crack that splits an easy angled slab for 45m, then a flake in the slab for 20m, the two pitches being separated by a big ledge with a huge Scots Pine on it – a perfect place to sit down and chill out. It felt like a nice welcome to the Fort.

Now all I have to do is make some belay buddies (and normal buddies!) and it’ll start feeling like home. A couple of my house-mates are outdoor instructors/climbers/polar explorers so I’m thinking there’s a good start there – just got to wait til they’re back from work in Svalbard and the East Coast! The other flatmate is a Nevis Radio DJ, a local celeb! Oh yes.
Sweet, I’ll catch up soon. Apologies for the lack of photos, but the camera is in the car. I'll sort it soon.....

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Back North

Just a few lines to catch up. I'm back up in Edinburgh. Drove up today via the Lakes. I fancied a wee boulder and wanted to go to the Roaches but it was pissing in Staffordshire so I cracked on up the M6. I scanned my memory for alternatives and remembered the Langdale boulders.
Its a nice wee spot and I met some nice guys down there. Climbed shite, but got up enough to make the detour worthwhile.
A week of climbing and chilling in the city is ahead, then its on up to Fort William on the weekend to start the placement. Cool.
Jones, Chris and I are planning on going somewhere tomorrow but the weather aint looking great. The best bet is the County in the arvo. Psyche. Jones is off work on Tuesday too so we should get another day away.
Cannie wait to see Jones in an hour or so.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

#11: SLMM, Bravo!

The Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon this weekend was actually very pleasant. Certainly not a word usually associated with such events. This year's event was in the Eastern Lakes, starting in Patterdale, over High Street to Haweswater, then back again via Martindale. Jones and I managed a respectable 24th in our course, out of 121 starting teams. Pretty good going since it was Jones' first event and she had a stinking cold. We were in the Harter Fell course, which is one of the easiest with about 35km and 1500m of climbing over two days. The weather was pretty good - a bit cloudy and wet on Saturday morning, but otherwise clear, blue and hot, making for fast movement and very little navigation. I have to admit that I was a bastard to Jones. The red mist came down and I wanted to get going fast, so there were a few times when poor Jones was suffering, but I think she has just about forgiven me.

Jones' dad Ian and brother Chris were running in the Carrock Fell course and came in 30th out of 97 starters, so good work to them. Here are the two teams before the start on day 1 (we had a long time until we were off, hence the special boots and general high fashion):
Because our days were short we ended up spending lots of time sunbathing at the overnight camp and then back at the event centre with our Wilfs meal - those of you that have done any of these events will know what that means. Hot dang, that bean stew is the shit. So overall, very pleasant and a good way to keep the mountain marathon skills ticking over for the OMM.

Anyhoo, on to other breaking news, I have a car. A T-reg Fiat Bravo with only 63000 on the clock. Just got back from taxing it. Oh yes. It be mine. That will certainly make living in Fort William easier, especially getting back down to Edinburgh to see the Jones. I think I might have to take it on a wee bouldering trip this arvo.
Well, thats about it for the noo. Keep it real y'all.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

#10: Automobiles

The sun is shining. I mean it. No hint of sarcasm. Not even a cruel joke. It's actually sunny out there. Some of yesterday wasn't too bad either. Good enough to enable a trip to the Toll Road and to climb the boulder problem I was pussying about on last time. It just needed a bit of commitment. Oh, and the use of the hold that I hadn't seen on the first trip. Its actually a good little problem. Not too hard when you know where everything is - isn't that always the way. If I was a real boulderer (i.e. a good boulderer) I'd go back and put a 'sitter' on it for the start, but methinks that is a bit out of my league the noo.

The new problem

I just go back in from another trip down there (spot the guy with no climbing partners). I'm amazed how much stuff its giving up. There is actually a pretty huge amount of climbing, all be it bouldering with the odd 'micro-route' thrown in. You park on the Toll Road and climb down some metal steps to get onto beach-level. Facing out to sea you can turn left from the bottom of the steps and shortly reach a small buttress with a few nice problems, including a big, rhino horn prow that looks scarey and is yet to be climbed (by me at least). Turning right you pass, in turn, the stack, Prowd area, the Cave, then the Ceiling, then the Second Cave. All of which have a few good problems kocking about, and lots of things way too steep/hard for my weekling arms. What with all the rain we've been having there is quite a lot of seepage about, so with a good dry spell the number of possible problems would be much higher than at the moment. I can't help but feel that more people should be getting down there, what with all the climbers in the area that regularly climb at Cheddar and Avon. Maybe no-one has heard of it, though it is briefly mentioned in the Bible: CC's Avon and Cheddar guide book.
Away from my depressingly lonely climbing adventures I've been looking for a car to buy so have spent much of yesterday and today visiting garages and responding to adverts. Nothing amazing yet but enough to be getting along with.
The run on Saturday went well too, about 20km, and very little disomfort from the knee. Things are looking up for the weekend.