Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sea Eagle Omen

Autumn fronts have brought bands of hated rain across the North over the last couple of weeks.  Not so bad for me as I've been sat in front of a computer modelling deer populations while my colleagues have been out in it counting trees.  Less good on the weekends though, when the options at this time of year are dramatically narrowed.

True to form, Am Fasgadh delivered, living up to it's 'outdoor climbing gym' billing.  The problem of course is that normal climbing gyms have routes I can actually do.  Nick had been on The Warm Up a few weeks earlier so was hungry for the tick, I'd not been there since about April so just happy to get the beta for Primo (Curving Crack) back out of the box and blow the dust off.  Neither of us were successful on that first visit, although Nick did all the climbing of Warm Up, just couldn't get a hand off to clip the chain. Gutted.

Next day it was mirky and damp in Inverness and I had to be home to get Sarah from the airport by five but all the Westies kept texting to say it was blue with them.  I couldn't face another day at Am Fasgadh so took the pads up to Ardmair for a look at the stuff under Arapiles Wall.  Bouldering at the crag was still a hole in my North West C.V.  As expected, I wasn't disappointed, getting stuck into the tenuous finger-locks of Lawrence's Crack in the anti-socially warm October sun.  After about 5 goes working out how to climb the crack, another 5 working out how to do the finish and then about 10 doing it all and then blowing the last move, diminishing returns set in and I packed up, keen for a return with fresh arms and new shoes with edges.

Another week of deer numbers passed and Nick and I were forced back to Am Fasgadh.  It rained all day but the crag stayed dry behind it's curtain of drips.  Mustering motivation was hard work in the cold dampness, but having driven all that way we both stuck to our guns.  A sea eagle floated by on the breeze - a good omen.  This time round Nick got The Warm Up sent, despite climbing all the way to chain only to fail on the clip on his first redpoint.  Effort for sticking with it.  Curving Crack started to come together, and I can do it in two halves almost every time now. Getting anything back at the halfway 'jug' is proving a little problematic, but I've refined some foot faffing which makes the next (crux) moves less strenuous.  We'll see.

Nick demonstrating the importance of rest before a redpoint.

Like last week, next day I went back to Ardmair, but this time armed with a pair of box-fresh Megos. After a warm up Lawrence's Crack went down third try. In it's own right it's a really quality line somewhere a bit different; slightly techy, slightly powerful and then a highball  lurch to a jug.  In the big picture it's a really good addition to the ticklist I'll be relying on for positivity for the impending Torridon seiges.

Afterwards, as I waited down by the road for Sarah to come and pick me up after her run, a sea eagle glided past.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Beginning

So, last time round I threw down the gauntlet.  Now it's out there on the web: things are gonna be changing round here.  I'd better stick to my word.

I've had 3 dedicated campus sessions since I wrote that blog, and have found that I can fit them in to non-climbing days at home pretty easily.   I'm terrified of being stupid and injuring myself so being pretty conservative in my sessions.  I'll try to do at least one a week from now on.  I've been working on a few very basic core exercises most evenings for a while now - mainly plank and sit-ups so been keeping them up.  I got some inspiring exercises and tips from Beastmaker Dan so will try to fit them into sessions on Rich's board.

The weather's played ball, giving up three days of early season Torridon action over the last two weekends. It's been nice getting back into the swing of bouldering sessions: trying hard, sore skin, flailing, pulling, fighting. Knowing that it's still early days I've been enjoying floating about, taking it easy, notching up mileage on old and new classics.  I guess I'm trying to build a base of positive momentum for the inevitable roadblocks that a winter of projecting will bring.

Jus' good ol' fashioned fun

Sunday saw a gathering of Scottish trad jedis on the Torridon boulders and it was cool to be reminded that bouldering is sometimes just plain hard.  A cool wind quenched the fears that it would be too warm to bother trying Malc's, so down went the tarp, the pads, the inhibitions.  The first 2 sessions of the season hadn't been great starts - admittedly conditions weren't great, but I'd struggled to reach the slopy shelf  which I'd reach almost every time last year.  Sunday felt good though, and I had a decent couple of goes on the move from the shelf where my fingers were over the lip as my flailing feet pulled be backwards.  A positive start.

Has last winter's Am Fasgadh robin de-camped to Torridon?
Murdo trying Sostenuto the hard way.
Murdo dancing with Poor-man's Mission
Tony and Murdo discuss where they can fiddle in some RPs on Malc's.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Turning Over an Autumn Leaf

The busy life of the A9 commuter means time flies by with barely a nod of recognition.  I was on Pabbay last week.  Wasn't I?  No, it was four months ago.  And what have I got to show since them? Months of hard hill days at work, a couple of days out West, a couple of local sport routes redpointed, a handful of bouldering sessions.  Not much.  Well, that's not quite true, it's been a great summer in real life: weddings, friends, family, holidays in Morocco. There's just not enough time to do it all.

But there's a change in the air.  With October's blustery arrival and Winter lurking on the horizon,  it's time.  Finally there's breathing space in the calender, weeks and weeks with no plans or distractions.

Regular readers will be shocked and stunned to hear that priority number 1 for this winter is to climb Malcolm Smith's Arete on the Ship Boulder, Torridon.  During last year's emotional rollercoaster of attempts I got fairly close, sticking the last hard move for a millisecond before gravity prevailed.  Over the 6 months since I last tried it I've been doing some soul searching and come to the conclusion that if I'm ever going to do it things have to change, and now is the perfect opportunity to start.

When it comes to training and prioritising I've always had a scattergun approach, hoping rather then knowing that if I do a bit of everything it can't hurt - routes: do some circuits, bouldering: do some deadhangs, go for the odd run, do the odd core exercise.  However, I've never really had a structure or kept a record of progress, and never stuck at something long enough to make any real gains, other than psychological ones perhaps.  So, here we go.  It's a few months yet until the really good conditions of winter, now is the time to start something that could and should make this the year of success.

  • Prioritising - I've already shown myself that Malc's is hard.  Damn hard.  If I really want to do it I'll have to make some sacrifices.  I expect this winter there'll be some lovely days when everyone else is off to Am Fasgadh, having a fun, sociable time, but on those days I'll have to ask myself what I want more?  Similarly, when I've only got a small amount of time, I'll have to decide whether I want a nice session on local boulders, or a punishing session on Rich's board.
  • Contact strength - I've hit the top of Malc's loads of times, but just can't hold on. I've done very little campus boarding and think that this should help.  Over the years I think I've neglected working on raw finger strength but I'm realising that it could make a big difference.  Fortunately the wall at Inverness Leisure Centre have just had a board built.  Divine providence?
  • Core - Specifically, keeping a toe on for the big move seems unlikely with my body shape, but the stronger the back and core the more I'll be able to dig my toes in for the jump, or keep my toes on if a miracle happens.  More generally, bouldering is brutal so the stronger the body, the less chance of mischief. 
Rich and I were out in the Glen yesterday for a pre-season friendly, pottering about on a circuit of brilliant easier problems.  With the imminent release of Ian and Rich's guide to the area there's been lots of checking of old classics and discovering hidden gems, so we had an explore.  Morning Wall warm ups, Celtic Knot, Conundrum, Chris Houston's new thing (fail by me), Slopey Ripples (classic!), Squelch, Tetra Pak, Bertram Dickson (team fail), Spaceship Right, Spaceship Left, Indian Winter (classic, but a team fail for the sitter).  It's good to be back.

Rich on Indian Winter