Monday, 20 May 2013

Fall of the Wild

Is it wet? Or is it my own sweat? Chalk. Chalk. Chalk.  Nervousness. Dry mouth.
Is the cam I shoved in above the stuck Friend over-cammed?  More gear.  Need more gear.

Move from the rest back up into the land of confusion.  Sideways holds.  Fight, wires in teeth, grating a bloodied knuckle, jerking and tugging, two happy wires sit firm.  Bubbles of security.  Back at the rest, I look down at Murdo, surprised how far I have to arch my neck to see him.  This has to be the steepest trad route I've been on for a long time.  No wonder I'm fatigued.  No wonder I'm scared.  Whipping around in the maelstrom of my buzzing mind is what I've recently found out about this route.  Folk I know failed on it, where it steepens, right at the last.  All good climbers.

I can see a crack, surely Friend 2 width.  And maybe slightly smaller just above.  I make another pass into the confusion, seeing more with each tentative foray.  The Friend goes in, I struggle to clip it, groaning.  Down to the rest again. Next time, I'll go for it.  The kit's good.  You're just tiring yourself.  Get up there and move right. The top of that black boss. It's a jug.

This time I'm passed the Friend, don't ask me how.  Thinking back, I can't remember what I did.  Reaching right to the flange I can bridge out and stuff another cam into the higher crack.  Clip and move.  Rightwards.  The top of that black boss.  It's a jug.  And it is. Swimming with the steepness, paste feet right and step in to rock up and rock round.  Rounded.  Rounded.  So, this is what the guide meant about laybacking rounded holds.  Feet up again, right toes on a sloping ramp.  Sloping down and down.  But it's too far right.  Trying to pull up, and in.  Slap the left hand.  Rounded.  Slap again.  Rounded.  The right hand is under my chest and I try to bring my weight into the niche.  Face pressed on rock.  Off balance.  Ragged breathing. The terror.  Becoming deafening.  Deafening.

And I'm off.

My first visit to Lochan Dubh Crag proved a memorable one.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Slow Beginnings

It's been a mixed few months up here.  I booked a couple of weeks off work in late April and early May, hoping to cash in on one of those amazing Springtime high pressures we sometimes get in the Highlands - warm air, blue skies, the glens infused with the sweet scent of birch sap as fluorescent buds unfurl, a cacophony of cuckoos and willow warblers making house, home after their long journeys.  Nature yawning and blinking into a new season.

I'd hoped that by the end of my time off I'd have a decent list of battles under my belt and scars on my hands and I'd be starting to feel fit and confident. I'd have dusted off the winter of boulders and sport climbs, re-acquainted myself with wires and cams, fear and commitment.  Like nature's new arrivals; ready for the new season. I'd be lying to say I've done nothing, but it's definitely not been the festival of spring psyche I'd been dreaming of.  The stable weather we've enjoyed for the last couple of springs is yet to show itself and I've been dodging between soaking showers and tempting sunshine.  I live in hope.

A day at soggy Ardmair was salvaged by doing a damp E1 on Arapiles Wall and bettered the next day with my inaugural visit to Inbherpollaidh Rock Gym.  By the end of the day I started to feel the trad head returning - that strange cocktail of fear, intrigue and confidence that comes from pushing into the unknown.  Prior to this I spent a cold afternoon at the Camel and a showery day having good redpoint goes on Primo at Am Fasgadh (still no joy, and surely the season has closed by now?).

I've had a few bouldering sessions too.  After the Am Fasgadh day I had time to kill in Ullapool so spent a sunny hour at Ardmair Beach, the waves gently lapping at the pebbles as I spent the last of my strength and skin.  I finally got round to visiting Tom Riach, the Culloden conglomerate boulder, ticking everything but the traverse before rain stopped play.  I returned a week later for that one. This week I had a session back at Ruthven and decided to try White Russian, aka Mike's Problem.  It's a bit eliminate but is the only other 7A+ after Barry Manilow so worth a punt.  I managed all the moves in that session so looking forward to returning.  Strangely, I think it might be one of those problems that you don't want it to bee too cold for, otherwise slapping for the sharp holds would just be too painful.  A good summer project?
2 long held ambitions finally achieved - Suilven and Lochinver's famous pies on the same day.

Badbea Clearance Village in Caithness, not a happy place.
Blair in traditional Highland dress.

Blair on Tyrantic, E4 6a, Inbherpollaidh Rock Gym.

After Rich crocked himself on his road bike (look at this pic) I took Bronwen off to look for potential new crags, only to find someone else's old anchor round this rather insubstantial rock!