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)

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