Thursday, 30 April 2015

Remember to charge the battery!

I put together a very rough video compilation of some of this season's local (ish) boulder problems. Naturally, I ran out of battery or forgot to press record when I did some of the year's better problems, so it's a bit of a random assortment.  If anything it's perhaps a showcase of what's lurking out there if you can be bothered to put in the effort.

Highland Boulders: Winter 2014-15 from Gareth Marshall on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Clearing the Decks

My job as Capercaillie Project Officer for RSPB, SNH and Forestry Commission Scotland means that around now things all get a bit hectic.  There aren't too many of these elusive forest grouse left in Scotland, but for those that are still holding on, mid to late April is business time.  Capercaillie breed by their peculiar lekking bahaviour, when all the males in an area get together and have a battle to establish who's the biggest and baddest and gets to pass on his genes while females hang around the sidelines and decide on the winner. It makes for a pretty dramatic spectacle, but in a rather antisocial manner all this happens deep in the woods and within the first hour or two of daylight.  In order to get an idea of capercaillie numbers from year to year, it's part of my job to spend the next two weeks sleeping out in hides, or getting up very early to get into position before dawn and, naturally, they don't have weekends off. The data we get from the famously grueling two weeks of lek counts are the basis for much of the rest of my work, and as this is my first year in the job, I'm pretty excited. 

Still, from a climbing perspective the next two weeks are going to be a sleep-deprived caffeine-fuelled write-off. I've known this was coming for a while, so have been trying to get out as much as possible in the last month or so to make up for it. As luck would have it, there's been some pretty good weather up here lately, as the state of my fingertips bears testimony.

The routes season started with two glorious March Saturdays in a row at Goat Crag, and despite tying-on for the first time since Australia in October I came away with a nice haul of amnesia onsights and a redpoint of Too Old to be Famous, my first of the original Goat 7bs. Next weekend I joined Dr Dave for a guided tour at Zed Buttress at Brin.  This is Andy Wilby's latest sport development crag, with about 15 routes bolted between 6b and brick hard, and home to his piece de resistance and the areas hardest route; The Force, at a possible 8b. Ouch.  As per my first visit to Crag One at Brin, I was well impressed with the work Andy and co. have put into the crag - cleaning, bolting, occasionally reinforcing suspect holds, and generally making it a cool place to be.  I managed not to disgrace myself by onsighting the warm up (phew) and then flashing future area classic The Rockness Monster Returns, a morpho 6c/7a/7a+, depending who you talk to.  It all went downhill shortly afterwards of course, with a failed siege on Little Minx 7b(+?) in the hot sun.  Next time? There's plenty there in the grades I'm approaching, so I'm psyched for a return.

Andy on The Force 8a+/8b (Photo: Murdo Jamieson)

On a sunny evening after work last week I put two long-held boulder ambitions to bed: the high but not too hard Brin Done Before 6Cish, which I had walked under to get to Zed Buttress a few days before and could hear it mocking me: "call yourself an Inverness boulderer? Not without me on your ticklist".  With another hour of daylight I raced over to Ruthven and put paid to White Russian/Mike's Problem 7A+, which I first tried in 2013 but lacked the power.  It's nice to see some things changing.

The olden days on Brin Done Before (Photo: Rich Betts)

Betts doing White Russian.

Nearly up to date: this weekend I made 3 trips across the Dirrie Mor towards Ullapool. It was Reiff in the Woods on Friday afternoon for another battle with The Crack, an unsung 7A+ gem that I still can't do, then Saturday and and Sunday turning left at Braemore Junction and heading to the church of Am Fasgadh with Tess and Murdo respectively (see why I've got no skin?).  I was keen to do Warm Brown Streak, with it's crux of three long powerful moves after a strenuous clip.  I'd been on it late last year, but that was before the shed regime.  On Saturday I was close, but puntered myself by working out better beta late in the day when I was too tired to perform.  I managed to persuade Murdo he wanted to go there on Sunday and eventually got it done by the skin of my teeth on the 3rd go.  I'm not sure about the grade.  If The Warm Up is 7b then Warm Brown is 7b+, but who know's what The Warm Up is? Regardless, it's enough to keep me happy and the FOMO at bay for the next two blurry weeks. 

Right, I'd better get some sleep.