Thursday, 23 February 2012

Sealing the Deal

Friday morning.  Sheltering from the drizzle whipped by on the wind, trying to keep warm between tries on another new thing at Laggan, a text arrives from Rich.
"I've just had a mad idea to go to Northumberland.  Forecast looks mint."
A few minutes later, another beep and buzz.
"As in double fucking mint."

Laggan projecting.  Ignore the wonky skyline!

I check the forecast back at home, it agrees with Rich's mint scale.  That's that then. Pack the car and head south, the A9 passing in a blur, to Sarah's in Edinburgh, to be joined later by Rich all the way from a day at work in Inverness.

Saturday morning. The A1 to a coffee stop at Berwick then on into the sun to the County, that hallowed land of gentle rolling green speckled with breaking waves of golden sandstone.  The cold wind blows but excitement and an enthusiastic reccomendation send us to check out hilltop Ravensheugh.  Possibly not the best choice on this of all days,  but we stay long enough for Rich to do Debbie McGee.  I can do all but the last move and keep trying until icy toes bring diminishing returns and we bail.  Boulder pad sails in the gail wrestle and ragdoll us, throwing us both to the ground in literal gales of laughter.

Back at the car, back on the road.  To Hepburn, in the hope that some trees will abate the cutting Westerly.  They do, just, so we step to.  Rich points the way up the Fontainbleau-esque arete of Titanic, then it's sit-start.  I spend an hour flailing on it, my hips refusing to point where I want them, eventually giving up for some easy consolation prizes below A Northern Soul, which Rich makes light work of.  I start to get that low feeling, all this driving and still no decent ticks, so with a wing and a prayer leg it up to Rheumatology, a low-tech 7A, and scrape through the topout as the sun starts to sink.  In seconds I'm transformed from serious and sad  to happy-elated-bestever. It's pathetic.

Sunday morning.  The A1 again.  Coffees again.  More big blue skies but the wind from Cumbria keeps coming so we opt for shelter at Kyloe-in-the-Woods.  I've not been here for a good few years, since I lived in Edinburgh, so it's nice to warm up on the problems I previously had to work.  Rich flashes Playing Rudies, I try Jocks and Geordies.  It climbs brilliantly but I struggle with the long last reach and end up climbing the whole thing about 15 times and still don't make the bump from crimp to final hold.  With a bruised ego, I give up and we head to Bowden Doors to meet a strong team and use the last of the weekend's skin and muscle.

Rich flashing Playing Rudies, Kyloe-In
Re-warming on familiar solos I eventually pluck up the courage and stick the pads below The Trial, the classic blend between route and highball.  After years of wanting, it goes down with out a fight and all the morning's woes float away.  Later, after a prolonged but eventually fruitful battle with Cave Righthand and a traditional sunset ascent of Russet Groove we try Dog Eat Dog, which Rich does quickly and I climb to the sloping topout about 5 times without any success.  I blame it on my empty arms, but am starting to see a trend in failing to seal the deal when it matters.  I've got to start asking myself, what would Varian do?

Saturday, 4 February 2012


I spent much of the week obsessing about The Seer.  Trying to remember the intricate foot sequences around the crux,  the direction to clip at each bolt, where I might be able to squeeze out a rest.

Friday's forecast looked amazing so I went round the houses to find a belayer.  Admin and faff threatened to intervene, but eventually the stars aligned, and I found myself heading up through the wasteland of ex-forest once again.  A clear blue sky and crisp February air, hard frost in the shade, golden warmed rock in the sun.  It's was on.
Moy Rock in perfect winter conditions.
Knowing it might be a while until weather allowed a re-match, I wrote down the crux sequence after my first try of The Seer.  Luckliy it didn't take as long as feared, and as sad as it may be, it worked.  

Seeing off The Seer.  One project down, three to go.