Monday, 27 July 2009

I Know What You Did Last Month

Where the hell did July go? At this rate I’m gonna to be up to my nose in mid-winter snow in the blink of an eye.

In the meantime, here’s a few snapshots of the people, places and things that July threw my way…

Murdo Jamieson on Death is a Gift (F8a?) at The Camel. I’d never been to this crag before and was very, very impressed by it's long pebble -pulling stamina pitches.

Blair Fyffe working the moves on a Glen Nevis deep water solo project before the send.

Mark Council making a headpoint ascent of The Art of Course Climbing (E5 6a) at Farletter. I finally took the plunge and visited Aviemore’s premier outdoor climbing gym last week. After linking The Art… on toprope I went for the lead and promptly lobbed off onto the twenty year old tied-off peg. It held. To be continued…

Another pleasing tick for the summer: me starting Ground Zero on Wave Buttress in Glen Nevis.

Blair contemplating and executing the onsight of The Singing Ringing Tree on Spreadeagle Buttress, Glen Nevis.

How have I lived in Scotland for seven years and never had a macaroni pie? As I soon found out, they’re a taste sensation, best enjoyed with a chilled can of Tenants after a good day’s climbing.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Scene...

Blair Fyffe deep water soloing in Glen Nevis

I had a brief flashback to the halcyon days of Fort William living this weekend. Tempted west with the promise of sun-kissed schist and beer, it was great to be back in the old fold.

Down the years I’ve heard many legends of the infamous Fort William doss-houses – hovels where skint climbers would cram themselves and their wet and smelly kit for the few hours of the week that they weren’t on the hill or out on the piss. Weird and wonderful stories about bronchial infections from damp buildings, starting fights with Mallaig fishermen, trying to bed local lasses and hiding behind the sofa when their mothers come round to beat them up, and, not infrequently, climbing hard.

Those days have sadly/gladly passed, and it’s now an era of relative health and respectability in the Fort, but the climbing hard continues. The mantle of ‘Crucible of Psyche’ remains at my old residence, 55 Banff Crescent, and despite Tony ‘the savior of Scottish winter climbing’ Stone having now moved out, Blair and newest recruit Kev Shields are keeping the cranking level high, not to mention Dave Macleod stationed in his new training facility just out of town and numerous other strong folk kicking about the hills.

Most of these climbers are very modest and won’t blow their trumpets, and I know climbing hard isn't the be all and end all, but I think it’s worth noting that there’s a fair amount of gnarl going down in the Highlands at the moment. Kev has soloed his first E5 and E6 and is now on the trail of his first E7 (pretty good for someone missing a hand!), Blair made the second ascent (?) of Trojan’s Pillar (E6) on Ben Nevis with Iain Small the day after doing The Clearances (E4) in Glen Coe with Guy Robertson, and among other things, Dave has climbed Profit of Purism (E6), Firestone (E7), and Chiaroscuro (E7), not to mention three new E8s and an E9. Johan headpointed Jahu (E6), and Tony onsight soloed The Steeple (E2) after climbing The Spire (E4) on The Shelterstone with Blair (an easy day because he was ‘weak’ after a month in Alaska). Amongst these routes I’m sure there are loads that I don’t know about, and I find it really heartening to know that even in the quieter areas of the UK climbing scene there’s still a lot going on. Big up Fort Bill!

So, this weekend I managed to drag myself up the brilliant Fang on Cavalry Crack Buttress in Glen Nevis, before we all decided it was far too hot for any more serious climbing and retired to the leafy shade of the River Nevis. Here Blair showed us the local's secret crags, hanging above a beautiful deep sun-dappled pool. The climbing was superb but no-one fell in, so we had to go for a swim afterwards. Life's a bitch.

Here's a short video of Blair cleaning and climbing this fine arete:

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


The smackdown from fluffing my first lead on Firestone left me with a good limp and a fair amount of bruising on my feet. Even after a week of rest, ibuprofen, ice, arnica and deep heat they're quite sore (but definately improving, although a couple of bouldering sessions didn't help). Somewhat hopefully I made it to the Lakes and started the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon on Saturday, but we decided to retire halfway through day 1. No event is worth causing further damage and an even longer lay-off. Sorry Chris!

Dave sent me a load of pics from last weekend's soiree at the Lower Slab. I hate to harp on about the route, but with a buggered foot I've not been up to much lately...

Here's a selection chronicling my ups and downs:

Attempt number 1: just before gravity got involved. (All photos: Dave Macleod)

The spoils of war - you lucky bastard!

Contemplating the inevitable

Attempt number 2: Back in the saddle

The security of the crescent flake

Thank fook for that