Monday, 13 June 2016

Spring 2016

A typical Highland day in June. The sweet damp greens of summer unfurled; leaves and flowers and fronds uncurling. Brilliant yellow broom, bluebell blue; swallows and swifts and martens race each other through the drizzle.

Months have passed without a word. You've probably forgotten the cobwebbed pages of Soft Rock.  I know I have.  I think I left the last installment with a vague promise that bouldering would cease and ropes would be used. I've tried to keep my word, but on quite a few occasions in the last months I've had to resort to the easy default of the loner; bumping pads and brushes and cleaning paraphernalia to the big blocks, scrubbing new climbing into existence and resurrecting unloved old gems.

Ian pointed me to the Bus Boulder, an Inchbae erratic perched by the Blackwater river, 10 seconds from the road.  It's too far from Ullapool to be in his patch and only 20 minutes from home for me so he gifted the development duties (it's got nothing to do with acres of West coast quality he's still got to unearth). Leafy summer dank has now postponed activities until the Autumn cool returns, but before the midge ended play I'd squeezed out a couple of good lowball 6Cs. Hopefully there'll be more to come later this year.

Bus Boulder

As Spring wore on I managed a few trips to the likely sport crags Am Fasgadh and Zed Buttress, fluking my way up the crimpy 7b Little Minx at the latter and power shrieking my way up Super Warm Up (7b+) at the former and kidding myself into believing that I was getting fitter. A later date at Goat on a high humidity day took me back to earth with a bump when I barely got up Ian's new Sun Rays (7a) second go and then ungraciously failed on the 6c+ Bamboozle.  Arse.

Trying Little Minx at Zed last Spring (Photo: Ian Taylor)

Tradding? Once my raison d'etre, now a rare treat.  I've done so little these last years and with so little consistency that I think I've gone backwards.  I listened to a podcast with Stevie Haston the other day and he talked about the hardcore traddies of the 80s having 'head skills'.  That's definitely something missing from my repertoire.  For me, I don't think there's a way of short-cutting the path to confident trad climbing, you've just got to put in the hours. Faffing with ropes, weedling in wires, running it out. The odd day here and there just doesn't do it.  After bleeding my way up Town Without Pity (E2) at Ardmair I started to feel happy with my jamming abilities, but then last week I followed Murdo up the top pitch of Mid-flight Crisis (E4) on Stac Pollaidh and realised that I am still really shit at it. Failing on Seal Song at Reiff yesterday confirms my belief.  Maybe I need to try something that isn't a steep sandstone crack.

So, the odd bit of roped climbing lately but, depressingly for this time of year, my biggest tick has been a boulder problem.  A high gravity morning at Brin sent me and Murdo down the hill to Richie's long-forgotten cracker The Scientist 7B.  It's a proper good line, and when Rich first showed it to me years ago I was pretty inspired to try it.  I think I had one quick session and gave up without linking any moves. Roll forward 6 years and somehow I managed to do it in two sessions, with an interim visit in the rain to clean up the top-out.  Thoroughly recommended and big respect to those early pioneers back in the day...