Sunday, 29 January 2012

Too many!

In my first post of 2012 I stated my aims for the winter projecting season - Malc's Arete for bouldering, Primo for sport climbing.  Both on the West coast, both beyond my current limit*, and both having easily brushed off all my previous puny attempts.  I'm pretty sure though, that with some dedication and attention they are both attainable.

*or my inaccurate perception of my limit.

Of course, within a week of writing this, bad weather in the West meant I had to make do with a weekend of playing in the East, and low and behold, without even meaning to, I managed to recruit myself two more projects - The Seer at Moy and a new thing at Laggan 2.  Both hard and both inspiring in their own ways.  While The Seer may not be an outstanding line, it's attraction lies in it's sustained thin moves, it's technicality and the surprise and joy of fiddling around with movements and feeling them come together.  The pull of the Laggan 2 project is more basic - it's hard, linking far apart poor holds on a leaning face, small enough to be safe, tall enough to be exciting, and, call me vain, it's never been done before.

I guess it's cool to have projects in the West and projects in the East -  games for all weathers.  But I reckon it increases the likelihood of never really buckling down to any of them.  I've got to prioritise.

With this in mind I tried to recruit Murdo to give me a catch at Moy, thinking that on the routes front, The Seer could be the quickest to dispatch.  Fresh from a week of hard mixed in the hills and about to leave his beloved Highlands for nine months at the Brenin, Murdo was keen to go West, so I agreed to go to Am Fasgadh instead.  No Seer for me this time, but at least another chance to get on Primo.

Trying to think tactically, I made the target of the day to find a new way of doing the last hard moves rightwards into the crack.  Previous attempts have always used other's beta; a backhanded stab into the crack, then falling rightwards across it to catch it with the left hand, a process that has always seen me hanging off the nearest bolt soon afterwards.  A mix of Murdo's Am Fasgadh knowledge and numerous earthward plummets eventually provided me with the sequence I was after, and a modest success to take home.  I envisage a long road ahead before any real success on the route, but i'll take solace from a small step on the way.

In a bid to keep the Eastside on the burner I bargained with Jones to allow a quick Seer session the next morning, in exchange for an afternoon spotting dolphins off the Black Isle.  With my excuses in early - it was a proper cold morning and the arms still felt fatigued from Am Fasgadh - I didn't know what to expect.  In the end I came away empty handed but invigorated.  The crux span didn't seem as far as last time, and on my first and best redpoint I fell at the penultimate bolt, boxed and cold.  With Jones starting to shiver on the belay I felt like a quick rest and try again was the fairest thing to do, but having scraped through the crux again I popped off one move earlier than the first go.  Time to pack up.

Jones wrapped up for cold belay duty

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Winter Sunshine

At last, a weekend with some good weather.

A quick hit at Laggan allowed time to see off one of the glaring omissions on the Gale Force block - a tricky sit start to the undercut slabby arete - and called it Fiercely Mild, inspired by a Dylan Moran stand up rant.  It's probably somewhere around Font 6b/+, but I don't really know - I still fail on 5s and then do 7as.
Fiercely Mild on a frosty January morning.

I managed to cajole Sarah to go up to Moy for some sunny winter sport action yesterday and decided to open an account on The Seer.  As a local 7b it's something I felt I should really be trying, so had at it, especially as it's a short steep slab.  Really enjoyable moves, tricky and sustained and makes use of a couple of teeny-tiny edges, which is always satisfying. Got to the stage of attempting to redpoint but failed on the crux span, then succumbed to the cold and the gloom.  With fresh fingers and a bit more familiarity it felt pretty do-able, so a return next weekend with the beta fresh in my memory is required.

Enjoying the process on The Seer
(Photo: Steve Crawford)
Or will it be time to head west for the projects out there?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Soft Rock Review: 2011

As everyone blinks through their hangovers on the first morning of this new oh-so exciting Olympic year here are my thoughts on the year that was - purely from a personal climbing perspective you see. Insiteful comment on the apocolyptic-financial-meltdown-revelations-endoftheworld-diseaseridden-economiccrisis-starvation-wartorn world we find ourselves cowering in is best left to men in suits.

Overall I guess I'm pretty happy with the climbing year - a few more E3s, a couple of soft-touch E4 slabs, plenty of good E1s and E2s, several Font and French 7as. Trips to the grit, Pembroke, North Wales and Catalunya and a fair few raids to the North West, although I never climbed at Reiff in 2011 (How?). A few routes I'd coveted for a while finally succombed - Wings of Unreason, Mactalla, Comes the Dervish - and one or two unexpected gems - Deranged at Saint Govan's and Strongbow at Laggan 1. A couple of hitherto unreached numbers - Font 7a+ and onsighting French 7a. Finding the Laggan boulders in late 2010 has been great for my sanity in Strathspey, providing many days of discovery and a good local fallback when the weather elsewhere is crap, and there are still a few fruits to be plucked.

Dave Macleod on Strongbow
Of course, it's not all rosy. I'm still far from being the climber I want to be. There have been plenty of failures, falling off, backing off, and worse; not trying in the first place. I still haven't done Malc's Arete, I still haven't done Steeple, I still haven't done The Hill, I still haven't done Primo. The mind and belief in my own ability still hold me back. Like most people, my trad grades remain lower than sport and bouldering suggest they could be. The same old problem: confidence comes with momentum, momentum comes with the holy trinity of time off, psyched partners and weather.
During the Mactalla battle
There's no-doubt that living in the Highlands - Strathspey in particular - does put me on the back foot for rock climbing. The weather's often crap, there aren't many psyched climbers, there's nowhere to train, there's not that much decent rock close to home, it's midgy (when I write all that I marvel that I get anything done). Of course, the flipside is that I do live relatively near some of the best trad, sport and bouldering in Scotland (possibly Britain?), that when the weather is good, it's really good, that it's quiet, unspoilt, and in some of the most beautiful landscapes there are, and that although small in number, there are a handful of keen folk out there.

All in all, sounds like I should pull my socks up. Train hard, make use of my opportunities, go on a few trips, get into battle with my projects.  Come on 2012, I'm ready...

Priority Number 1 for 2012 bouldering (pic: Murdo Jamieson)