Tuesday, 12 May 2009

A Dog's Life

King of the Castle: Harry Hammond
Life is pretty simple really. Do what you love as much as you can, struggle through the rest. Young Harry here is a pretty good role model for this way of life. Eat, sleep, exercise, repeat. He’s been a steady companion ever since moving across to Aviemore. Whether it’s been trotting at my heels when out running, protecting my lunch at the base of the crag or snoozing by the fire after a day in the hills; always the same wag of the tail, the same lolling pink tongue; he’s a happy little camper.

As I write, he’s passed out on his bed. He’s been out on two runs tonight, once with me on the Burnside circuit, once with Steve up to Coire an’t Schneachda. He’ll probably get up in a bit, have a bit of a stretch, go outside for a piss, scratch himself, have some food, then go back to sleep. I’m not sure about you, but that sounds like a bloody good evening to me. Simplicity; is it the route to contentment?
Jules Lines showing off his hidden boulder at Pityulish.
Not long after wandering if he could climb Font 6a, Stevie Hammond ticks The Dude (Font 7a) at Ruthven.

Despite the recent moisture in the Highlands, I managed to maintian my Weekend Warrior status with a couple more days on the rock. Blair, Jenny and I spent Saturday at Dunkeld in Perthshire, sheltering on and under Upper Cave Crag. I just about managed to contort myself up Coffin Corner before the precipitation set in, then spent the rest of the day getting a work out on the perma-dry sport routes. I was very inspired by Hamish Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which weighs in at an honest 7b+. Long, steep and sustained, it’s the perfect route for a trad climber to train for, and I know that if I’m one day fit enough to lead it cleanly I’ll be fit enough to get on most of the routes that inspire me in Scotland. So, I’d better get training.

Talking of training, I think the long evenings down the wall this winter are starting to pay off. A few weeks ago I was chatting to some fellow climbers in the pub and they asked what my aim for this rock climbing season was. My reply was to onsight (cleanly climb with no prior knowledge of the route) a route graded E3. Well, I’d better have a re-think, because we’re only a month or two into the Highland rock season and I’ve already achieved my aim. On Sunday I just about managed to onsight Dracula, a famous E3 at the lochside Duntelchaig crag, South of Inverness. As the wee video below testifies, it was a pretty desperate affair. Pumped, eyes on stalks, I swore and grunted as my feet skated off and I cut loose and slapped my way to the final holds. But, it was simple: I got from the bottom to the top, and for that moment, when I was sat safely at the top, as the adrenaline began to subside and my heart rate began to settle, I felt content.

Fighting on Dracula. It's steeper than it looks!

Off subject a little, but still within the realms of contentment and simplicity, I stumbled across a beautiful show on Radio 1 a few weeks back. Rob da Bank and Friends were having a campfire special, showcasing a load of contemporary British folk artists. The first band on, Mumford and Sons, really took me by surprise, and I instantly downloaded all their EPs and have had them on repeat ever since. Get your ears round them and see what you think.