Sunday, 17 January 2016

Inside the Bubble

It's hilarious when you look in from the outside.  What a preposterous way to spend a weekend.  The coldest weekend this winter too, with a clear forecast saying that the weather would be better in the east.  But I'm inside the bubble, and I don't care.

I've been seduced into another project on the sandstone of the West.  This time I'm in Applecross, or more accurately, Kishorn; trapped on the slope tumbling down from the chicanery of Bealach na Ba where a handful of boulders are strewn across the heathy hillside.  A blunt arete, Dave Macleod's 7B Changed Days, points towards the leaden sky above as I lie back on the pads and apply another layer of tape and superglue to my bloody fingers, then, shivering, hat, scarf, gloves, gilet and downie are pulled close.  I can hear the burn pouring from Coire nan Arr and a distant car on the Lochcarron road, perhaps on their way to a cosy cafe or a log fire and pub lunch. My flask will do for now. They're outside the bubble, I'm inside.

Slapping and scraping, a guttural oath pierces the air as I hit the pads again.

It's hard to explain what drives the motivation.  Right now I'm cold, I'm uncomfortable, my ripped fingers sting, my bloodless toes are crying out for release and I'm trapped on my dry island of pads in a sea of snowy heather.  I've driven for over an hour to be here and already I know that today isn't the day of success.  Yet, I can justify it all to myself so easily - this is where I want to be.  Inside the bubble.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Home for Christmas

For the first time ever, we spent the festive season at home rather than traipsing the length of the UK to visit parents and friends.  It's been bliss.  I don't think I'd realised just how much I needed a break; 2015 really has been a busy year.  We had family here for Christmas and then friends for New Year, but amongst all the eating and socialising I've managed to get a good few days out bouldering, a couple of runs (first in ages, ouch) and even a session scrubbing new problems.

So far, I'm really happy with the way my bouldering has gone this winter.  It feels pretty rare that I'm satisfied with my climbing, but this year I'm content with my little haul.  After doing my long-term nemesis of Malc's Arete in November I've been free to explore elsewhere and have slowly been ticking through some of the other Wester Ross classics that had been shoved to the back of the queue.  Below are some of the highlights from the last couple of months.  Hunt them out!

The Crack 7A+, Reiff in the Woods
The day after doing Malc's I managed to pull this out of the bag having failed on it on three sessions last season.  An innocuous looking thing but surprisingly burly.

Ian's Problem 7A, Ardmair Crag
A long throw to a hidden hold. Lawrence's Crack is by far and away the better problem here, but this is still pretty good.  I couldn't do it when I tried it in the summer, so it was nice to see it off. Helpfully, this whole wall is almost perma-dry.

The Prow 7A, Balgy Boulder
Year's ago I tried this and got absolutely no-where.  This time it was the salvation of a freezing wet day in Torridon when almost everything else had a veneer of verglass.

McBonzai 7A?, Torridon
Having failed on both my objectives for the day I wondered over for a look and managed to trick my way up it pretty quickly.  I found a kneebar that I can only assume Dan Varian and subsequent repeaters hadn't, because it aint 7B this way!  7A is my guess, but regardless it's a great little problem.

Sparrow Legs Wall 6C+/7A Reiff in the Woods
This always gets overlooked by it's (admittedly better) neighbour Haven, but this also epitomises the style of technical Torridonian sandstone walls - crimpy, balancy and high enough to have a hint of spice.  I tried it last year and couldn't get off the ground but the New Year easterly gales had it in cracking nick this time.

Clach-mheallan 7A, Reiff in the Woods
When I saw Ian trying this a few weeks ago I wrote it off as the start looked absolutely desperate - a teeny crimp, a sloper and a heel impossibly close to the groin.  However, inquisitiveness got the better of me and I had a few goes, and with Ian's handy beta and a very welcome spot it came together nicely.

Romancing the Stone 7A, Reiff
I'd never bouldered at Reiff before but Ian gave me a tip off that this was a handy venue in an easterly gale so I fled there on the last day of the festive holidays.  Another techy sandstone wall, a good height and lovely to be down by the sea.

I captured a few of these ascents along with one or two others for posterity:

Here's hoping 2016 continues in a similar vein.  Happy New Year!