Monday, 28 April 2014

My Climbing Spleen

Dear Diary,

As well as providing somewhere to vent my climbing spleen, one of the good things about writing a blog is that it gives an opportunity for reflection.  In climbing, and life in general, it's so easy to get carried along with the tide, going where the weather's good or where your mates are, and before you know it time has flown by and you've not actually achieved any of the goals you were originally aiming for.  Sitting down to write gives me a chance to take a step back and be a bit more objective about where I've been, and where I'm trying to go.

As I alluded to in a post last summer, I sometimes find this time of  year tricky.  I switch from being a winter boulderer with very specific aims (e.g. get stronger, go to Torridon, do Malc's Arete) to being a route climber, in which my aims are more general and opportunistic (e.g. go where the sun is shining and do the good routes there, do more E3s, redpoint more 7bs).  Basically, after the rigidity of the bouldering season I feel a bit like a headless chicken when the route season starts.

It's been over a month since my wee trip to Siurana with Murdo, and in that time we've been pretty lucky with the weather.  I've enjoyed fun times on the boulders, sport and trad crags and am just loving being out and riding the waves of glorious spring in the Highlands: willow warblers and fluorescent bud burst, hanging on and getting pumped, squeaking oyster catchers and redshank, laughing with friends.  It's not all doom and gloom.

After getting back from Spain I got myself down to the Tom Riach (aka Nick Carter) Boulder quite a few times to try to keep some fitness in the arms.  The South West face traverse is a sustained 20ish move sideways shuffle that makes for a good local there-and-back pump-fest.  It's been a while since I was last there, but I've been busy:

The first trad foray of the year was a morning at Jetty Crag at Gruinard with Murdo where I belayed him on a respectably smooth ascent of the thin and rarely repeated E5 Gogmagog before doing Gaffer's Wall, an early season gift at soft-touch E3.  We topped the day off at Goat Crag where I nearly did Mactalla (which I've still not repeated since first doing it on Royal Wedding Day in 2011, oops).  Next day out was shower-dodging at Moy with Tess, of which the highlight was almost falling off the top of the warm up Little Teaser and then almost being sick due to monumental hot aches.  The 7a Silver Fox was a pleasing addition to the ticklist too, as it's one of the few there that I'd still not done.

Next day it was nice sunny but super windy oot East so I joined the Betts/Bronwen team for a Cummingston boulder session.  A few of the old classics, a good new classic (KinkyBitch 6C), a few embarrassing failures.  The usual.  In the week I was working down in Galloway and crept out one sunny evening to find the Rankin Boulder and had a lovely hour or so on it's rough granite.  At first I got all excited by doing Retroclaim 7A+ really quickly, but then when I made it back to the land of the internet I watched Roddy Mackenzie and Fiend do it and I'd used a hold they'd missed. 7A+? 7A? 6C? Who cares.

Rich on a new thing (?) at Cummingston
Next weekend my old mate Luke, who I very first started climbing with 10 years ago was up visiting, so we did some bouldering at Ruthven (surprisingly close to doing White Russian aka Mike's Problem) and went out to explore some of the wee sport crags near Poolewe.  A sunny day was spent on the beginner friendly Clown Slabs and easier routes on Kuhjo crag, and I squeezed out a redpoint of the hidden gem Wicked and Wierd, a 3 star 7a+ lurking in the trees.  Despite climbing up here for a while, I'd never heard anyone mention this route and was surprised by quite how good it was, and how much of a punch it packed!

Luke on Don't Kick the Bolt 6a, Kuhjo Crag

Right up to date, I had a cold day at Ardmair with Nick in the wind and cloud and threatening drizzle and only came away with a brace of HVSs, bloody hands and a bruised ego.  To reverse the misery I got back on the horse at the friendly Road Crag in Gruinard Bay yesterday and did the remaining E2 Trojan and E3 Mongo that I'd not done there, before lying in the sun on the beach.

So, as an exercise in reflection and planning ahead, all I'd say is: more please!