Saturday, 23 June 2012

A Realisation

Looks like the sun has set on the long spring dry spell in the Highlands.  June showers are here again and it's looking like this will be the first weekend for quite some time that I haven't got at least one route done.  Sad times.  On the bright side, I'm seeing it as an opportunity to pull hard on small holds, to get pumped silly in a controlled environment and a chance to go running and not feel guilty that I'm throwing away the precious few trad opportunities that we Northerner's get offered.

Training for ledge shuffling
I'm feel pretty positive about the way the climbing year has gone so far.  Last August I started a new job that gives me a three day weekend, but means I'm away from home three nights a week. Initially I worried that being away for those three nights would really take a chunk out of the amount I could climb or go to the wall, that I'd start to lose strength (what strength?), fitness (what fitness?) and that I'd generally feel out of the loop.  Instead, by careful (selfish?) use of my longer weekends I think if anything I'm still on the very gradually improving gradient that I've been on since I started climbing in 2004.  When it comes to grades (and I apologise, but it does) the numbers don't say much, but the numbers of the numbers tell me I'm doing more, quicker.

Let's not get carried away,  mind.  E3 is still a big deal.  Redpointing a 7a is still something to be proud of, and bouldering harder than 7A seems nigh-on impossible (mind you, if this chap is to be believed, it appears that I've chosen to take on 'the world's hardest 7A+' in Malc's Arete).  I'm well aware that I'm the height of mediocrity, a fact reinforced by reading about and seeing the exploits of many folk that I know:  Rob, Murdo, Dave, to name a few, not to mention the rumblings of the grade-hungry climbing media.  I sometimes wonder why I take it all so seriously, why I hang from a fingerboard, why I do circuits on Rich's board, why I run, why I read about training, about core strength, about periodisation, about active rest, why I even write all this down.  And then I realise, it's because I love it.  Yes, I want to be a better climber, I want to go to amazing places and to be able to climb inspiring routes, I want to have deep experiences, to learn things about myself that only adventure, fear, hardship can teach.  But, even if those things never happen,  I've realised it's the process of trying to get there that I love.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Battle Stations

I'd booked a week off work a few months back, gambling that it would coincide with some Highland sunshine and finding midweekers to climb with, and by a stroke of luck seem to have hit the jackpot.  Blue skies, dry crags, midge-busting breezes.  10 days off work: 7 days out tradding, 1 day trying to boulder (too warm!), 2 days of domestic bliss (the lawn won't mow itself, or so Sarah tells me).

The Beginning:  a sunny afternoon at Glenmarksie on the way out for a Torridon weekend.  It's a nice wee crag in a lovely spot on the edge of Strathconon but, like so many Highland crags, has a dirty, neglected air.  In the Lakes or Wales it would be spotless and perma-chalked.  A winter of getting good at trusting the scrittly schist/lichen interface at Laggan paid off.  Then Groovin' High on Beinn Eighe on Saturday and getting baked on Routes 3 and at Diabeg on Sunday.  Sunburnt calves....

Steve had the camera while I was climbing and was convinced that if he zoomed in enough he'd see topless women..

Russell having a hard time after I sent him the wrong way on the last pitch of Route 3, Diabeg.  Must pay more attention to the topo in future.

The Middle:  Richie's on leave and prepping for a long weekend at Fairhead so keen to dust off his wires.  Gruinard Crag makes a good dog-friendly option on Tuesday and a chance to do Red John of the Battles, one of the classic North West cragging E2s.  A good route, but surpassed by the more technical Pistolero.  Rich mops up the E4s at the right of the crag.  Next day Reiff beckons and Rich starts with a decent lob off the top of The Mystic onto my little Zero 4 cam...  It holds,  phew.  I somehow battle up Elastic Collision but then have to rest seconding Seal Song next door.  I've got work to do with my crack climbing...  The day ends with a fluttering heart above The Channering Worm.  Starting to feel the trad momentum, this weather can't last...
Rich getting ready for the ride on The Mystic.

The easy finish to The Channering Worm, Reiff.  I remember back in 2005, imagining what it would be like to do this when members of my uni mountaineering club were failing to headpoint it.   It only took me 7 years. Oops.
 (Photo: Rich Betts)


The End:  A late start means it's only a half day at Rhue with Steve, but having never been before it's just nice to soak up the chilled seacliff atmosphere and drink in the view of Ben Mhor Coigach across Ardmair Bay.  The 15 metre Boom Boom Boom packs in an adventure totally out of proportion with it's size - one of the best routes so far this year?  Steve gets the Rhue Corner tick.  Finally, Sunday afternoon Phallatio at Creag Dubh - I'd bargained a single belay from Sarah with the promise of tea and cake at the The Potting Shed afterwards. I really should climb here more...

Friday, 1 June 2012

Laggan Bouldering Guide

A drizzly day in the middle of a week off work has finally provided the time to pull my finger out and put together a PDF guide of the latest Laggan bouldering.  I'm not especially computer-literate so apologies if it's a bit crap.

It's here:  Laggan Bouldering Guide

I'd be keen for any feedback and any details of new problems, and do take the grades with a pinch of salt, I don't know my arse from my elbow!