Sunday, 16 February 2014

Soggy socks

Most of the time, it's hard to see the wood for the trees.

On a few occasions lately I've come away from a climbing session feeling pretty despondent.  Despite upping the training effort this year I don't really feel any different.  I've not broken into any new grades and, most frustratingly, my long-term projects are still long-term projects.  But then, every now and then something happens that makes the grind seem more worthwhile.  Today was one of those days.

There's a problem of Rich's over the back of Duntelchaig called The Dagger.  It's a bugger.  The approach is a pain in the arse, over a fence and then a stomp through swampy bog, heather and bracken.  The landing consists of a load of boulders jammed together over a stream.   It's OK with a couple of pads, but there's a pointy block right below the final stretched out mantel moves, and big holes just waiting for your brush, keys and phone.  The rock's good, solid steep gneiss, but as is the way with most of the stuff round Inverness, it's sharp and off the beaten track is pretty dirty.  Rich showed me The Dagger a few years ago, introducing it as something I might be able to flash.  Great, a soft touch.  Game on.  Except, of course, I failed on the flash attempt, and failed on every other attempt from then on.  I don't know how many times I've done that horrible trudge over there, and despite sorting most of the moves pretty quickly - crossing through a line of perfect edges on a mega leaning wall and then a big burly throw to the lip - I never once managed to top it out.  In the end I told myself I just wasn't tall enough to make the massive lurch over the top of the final slab and binned it, relieved never to have to go there again.

The first session of too many... (Photo: Richie Betts)
But today I went back.  It's not somewhere I'd normally think of going, but after bailing from Ruthven due to icy top-outs, and warming up nicely at Farr, it seemed like a good idea.  It must be at least a year since I last tried it, so if nothing else it would be a good measure of my current standing.  Getting there hasn't got any better, but after ringing out my socks and arranging the pads over the Jenga-pile landing I got involved and finally saw it off.  I think maybe I'm a bit stronger than previously so can put a bit more oomph into the final lurching slap.  Or perhaps it was a combination of conditions, rest, skin and confidence.  Whatever it was, I'm mainly happy that I don't ever have to do that walk in again.