Thursday, 27 May 2010

The Investment

Iain Small on Pitch 1 of Cosmopoliton (E5 6a,6b). The top pitch has yet to be onsighted, and when I left Blair was making ready for the attempt, How did he do?

After all last weeks grumbling and groaning about not getting any better at climbing I had a pleasant reminder that all's not totally crap yesterday.

On the way East from a few days working in Ardnamurchan I popped into Glen Nevis to see if I could catch a quick route with Blair and Iain. They were embroiled in E5 missions and I didn't have much time to play with, so instead I slipped off to the Heather Hat for a quiet boulder.

Longer followers of Soft Rock might cast their minds back to the Autumn and Winter of 2007-2008, when I used to live in Fort William and I got a bit obsessed with a boulder problem on the Heather Hat called Midnight in a Perfect World. I spent hours up on that lump of Nevis schist, trying, failing, resting, trying again. And when I finally finished it off on that February afternoon I promptly got obsessed with it's nextdoor neighbour, a problem called Killer Instinct. This eventually succombed to my similarly stubborn efforts. At the time they were both really hard for me, and when I first took up the Midnight challenge it was definately to be a long term project.

I've been back to this boulder a few times in the intervening years, and despite a few tries have never been able to repeat either problem again: they seemed to belong to that winter season in Fort William when all my efforts were focused on that perfect stone. Of all the routes and boulder problems I've tried before and since in my seven years as a climber, the hundreds of thousands of holds and moves, these ones still have the deepest stamp on my memory.

So, back to last night and there I was again; swinging from the roof beneath the ancient peaks of the Mamores, silently watching my every move; expectant. And before long I was back there, back to that season, that success-hungry hunt.

Except, this time it was different. Were the holds bigger or the problems shorter? Had the heel-toe jam become more secure? Maybe my new shoes allowed more precision? But, no, of course not. All that's happened is my investment has started to pay off and I am, perhaps, getting a bit better.

The bouldering wall on Sanna beach, Ardnamurchan, perfect post-work fun.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

No Cigar

After rain intervened with our plans Blair took Richie and I to Dave's Cave near Arisaig. It's hard.

I'm in a bit of a quandry.

After the small gains I made to my sport climbing and bouldering over the winter I've got it into my head that I should be able to up my trad game too. The problem is that I had forgotten that trad climbing is a much more complex beast; the gains don't come in such a linear fashion. It's not just a case of being able to hold on longer or pull down harder, you've got to be prepared to do it in a situation where the consequences are bigger. Training the mind is taking longer than training the fingers.

Over the last few weeks a theme seems to have formed; after warming up on an easier route I've got on something a bit harder and invariably been shut down. I've taken two sizeable lobs from the top of Too Farr for the Bear, the E4 crack at Farrletter, and downclimbed or backed off a succession of other E3s around the Highlands. What's going on?

Fighting on Too Farr for the Bear, prior to the big ride.

In my defence, all the routes I've gloriously failed on have been pretty steep, and either super sustained, bold, or with fiddly gear, so perhaps I'm just trying the wrong routes? As we all know, I'm a slab pervert at heart, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that all this steepness is doing me in. But what am I to do? Should I keep on trying routes in the hope that one day something will click and I'll start sailing up E3s, leaving behind a trail of blown onsights, or should I keep consolidating at E2 until I think I've improved enough? Oh, it's just so hard being me!

Racing the pump on the brilliant The Executioner, Seal Song area, Reiff. (Photo: Steve Crawford)

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Waterfall Boulder, Aviemore's new venue

Fourtet and Walking on the Waterfall Boulder

It's a sad time for climbers in Aviemore. The powers of commerce have forced Extreme Dream, our local wall, to close it's doors. Obviously, this is a real shame for the many people that have invested time and money in the business and have turned the wall into a top quality training venue, but it's also a shame for us climbers who've become so used to having somewhere to hang out and train. Hopefully since it's May, there'll be plenty of dry rock for us to get on over the summer so we won't need to miss it, but as I'm typing it's snowing outside, so I wouldn't hold my breath.

However, when the sun does come out again, we'll all be in search of some real rock, so prepare to be amazed with the details of Aviemore's new boulder:

The Waterfall Boulder

The Dream is Over

OK, OK. So it's not a new Fontainbleau, in fact, it's not a new Ruthven, so don't get too excited, but it's a worthwhile addition to the local venues (and let's face it, we need them). It's not huge, and there are only a couple of good problems, but it's a bloody nice place to hang about on a sunny evening. I'd reccomend taking a brush to continue the ongoing cleaning, and a pad lessens the potential for landing in the stream.

The easiest description of where it is is about 750m straight up the hill from Burnside Crag, near the waterfall on the forest edge, but the best approach is through the forest from the Higher Burnside housing estate. The boulder is obviously seen squatting over the burn in a small valley, on the far side of a green deer fence. GR: NH877 129ish


1. Fourtet and Walking Font 6c: A left to right traverse of the lip on the downhill face, starting from sitting and finishing up the arete. (See video below for the beta).
2. The Dream is Over Font 6a: A right to left traverse of the uphill facing lip.

There's scope for variations and eliminates on these problems, plus a couple of easier things to do too. So, have fun.

Fourtet and Walking (unedited)