Thursday, 15 May 2008

The News In Brief

Man. So much good weather, so little time. Since last posting (only four days ago) I've been out and about in the hills again, topping up the tan and deepening my love affair with Scottish trad climbing. Talking of which, exciting times on the Scottish scene, made all the more exciting by the blog revolution. The Fort's own Dave Macleod has been up on the Ben, day in day out, shovelling snow from the top of his Echo Wall project, and regularly updates his blog to illustrate his bottomless psyche levels. Meanwhile, Sonnie Trotter has come across from his resident Canada to try Macleod's Rhapsody at Dumbarton, check oot (as he might say) his thoughts here. I'm a particular fan of his turn of phrase.

In our own way us Fort William layabouts have been getting our share of fear, pain and beauty. I've still been getting up between 3.00 and 4.00 am every day, but I've been squeezing in a few hours of sleep on my return from grouse watch. It's been such a good job, allowing me to explore nooks and crannies of Lochaber that I would never otherwise go to, watching the sun rise, and all finished in time to get out climbing during the day. Tomorrow is my last day on this contract, so I've got a week off before I move over to Abernethy for a few months to start my new RSPB contract. More Black Grouse!

Monday afternoon was a cheeky wee boulder session at the Skeleton Boulders up the Glen. Danny, Blair and me, seven pads and a handful of big lines. Now these are what I call boulders. The kind you see in America, tall, steep and sick 'ard. I didn't get up much but had a nice time none the less, and I'll challenge anyone to find a more scenic, good bouldering spot anywhere in Britain, maybe even the world. Danny made a wee film of our endeavors on his blog. Note the ratio of falling to topping out, and if you're wondering what I'm doing with that banana. the director asked me to eat it in a contemplative manner. Look out Cannes.

Unknown climber on Lady Jane (E2 5c***)

Tuesday was a day in Glen Coe. Blair and I briefly met Sam and Kiwi Steve before going our separate ways, them to The Big Top (E1 5a***) on the West Face of Aonach Dubh, us to the East Face. I wanted to look at Lady Jane (E2 5c***), and did just that, look! It's a steep, sustained 25m pitch of steady wall climbing, with good, if a touch spaced, gear. Note the word 'steep', i.e. not my forte. I started up, but after only a few metres I decided to down climb. My excuse? Well the main one was just good old fashioned fear. I was bricking it! The other was that in the full glare of the late morning sun the rock was extremely hot and greasy. I felt pretty insecure, despite being on good incuts. Another E2 failure! Blair got on the lead, and admitted himself that it felt pretty hard for E2 in it's current nick. I seconded up, and immediately felt justified in bailing. I didn't fall off or owt', but was pretty glad of the top-rope. Definately the best route that I've seconded so I'm stoked to get back on it one day. It's definately a level up for me at present. Harrumph. In an attempt to massage my ego I climbed Spider (HVS 5a**) on Weeping Walls, and that was really good fun; 45 metres of juggy slab, with the odd delicate and bold bit here and there for good measure.

Aonach Dubh's East Face

We then crossed to Yosemite Wall on the West Face of Gearr Aonach, where Blair was up for trying Boiling Point (E4 6a**) . It's an awesome looking line on an awesome bit of rock (see page 145 in the Glen Coe guide for a picture), but after a bit of trying, Blair decided that today wasn't the day. With marginal gear making a ground-fall pretty certain if he blew the entry to the steep groove, he climbed back down. To salvage the day, we headed up the Glen on arrival back in the Fort, and Blair climbed Tomag (E3 5c**) on Pandora's Buttress. Sandbag or what?! He huffed and puffed his way across the overhanging twin crack traverse, and I bricked it because I knew I would fall off while seconding and take a swing. Naturally that happened, so Blair abbed down to clean the pitch.

Blair eying up Boiling Point (E4 6a**)

Wednesday: my last day of climbing for a while as I'm off home to Somerset on saturday, so I called the shots. I wanted to climb Plague of Blazes (E2 5b***) on Gorge Crag, and did just that. I really enjoyed the slabby cracks, the delicate and bold traverse and the steep jug haul to the top. One of the best routes I've done in the Glen, deservedly popular and a fitting end to two weeks of pretty solid climbing. Blair then set to work on Stolen (F8b) on Steall Hut Crag, making progress despite the fact that it's clearly hard as nails.

Me atop Plague of Blazes (E2 5b***)

Lets just hope I can get something done down on the internationally famous and popular Somerset limestone. I'll miss you Glen Nevis.

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