Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Uncle Tom

It's funny how knowledge cascades and fashions form.  Tom Riach, the conglomerate erratic boulder up near Culloden has been the flavour of the season for Inverness locals this summer. I blame Nick Carter, who worked out that he could fit in a good session in the three hour gap he has between dropping and collecting Lily from nursery, so he started going down and getting keen, and then he told someone, and they told someone, and they told someone, and so on.  I've not long started a new job so at long last have free evenings in which to train, rather than fester in strange B&Bs.

As a bouldering boulder it's not really very good, with no real lines and nothing above 6B+, but as a local's training venue to try and get some fitness it's pretty handy.  The traverses of the South West and North West faces are both good problems and contrast nicely in style, with SW being a bit steeper on bigger holds and NW being very thin and fingery.  Being on conglomerate it's pretty friendly on the fingers too, unlike Ruthven which has also become popular among sideways shufflers in recent times.

Another sweaty after-work lap.  Photo: Alpha Mountaineering
Over the last two summers as we've been getting more familiar with the boulder a number of Tom Riach challenges have emerged, so here's a rundown of the current classics.  Grades are complete guesses, but are based on an assumed consensus of the Stone Country and UKC grade of SW Face being Font 6C+. I've done it so many times it feels about 6A, so have no idea:

  • SW Face traverse R-L from a sit start, finishing up arete, aka 'There' - Font 6C+
  • SW Face traverse L-R from a sit start, finishing up arete, aka 'Back' - a bit easier, maybe Font 6C?
  • There & Back (SW face R-L then L-R, sit start) - F7a route grade?
  • There with Butcher Finish (SW face R-L, finishing up Butcher Lefthand, rather than easy arete) - Harder than original, so Font 7A?
  • NW Face Original (R-L, stand start, finish up arete) - Font 7A (route grade F7b?)
  • NW Face Deziree's backwards way (L-R) - Font 7A?  I've not tried it.
  • The Link (sit start SW face R-L into NW face R-L, finish up arete) - F7c route grade.  
  • The Knil (reverse of The Link) - F7b+? I don't think it's been done yet.
I was well impressed when Nick did The Link for the first time back in May, as I was still falling off NW Original.  But as the sessions kept coming I started ticking through the list until The Link was the obvious challenge left.  Murdo tried it when he was tired and reckoned it was hard, but then came back rested and did it quickly, mooting a route grade of about F7c.  For me it's about 45 moves long with a couple of pretty poor rests and the crux right at the end moving past a cool 2-finger edge. Brilliant power endurance training.

Before I go to Australia for a month of climbing I told myself that I had to do Giza Break at The Camel and The Link at Tom Riach.  I nailed the former on my second session in early August, but the latter held out over quite a few sessions in sub-optimal conditions until last night and the first breeze we've had here in weeks.  

Hopefully now I'll be partly ready for the ego-bruising sandbag grades Australia will throw at me.  Or not.    

1 comment:

Nick Carter said...

Nice one Gaz. Hope Oz is treating you well and you're far too busy to check your comments on your blogposts.