Wednesday, 25 June 2008


FEW, it's over. I got back last night from my SPA assessment course at Glenmore lodge, with a smile on my face.

I passed the assessment course, and have been given the Single Pitch Award from Mountain Leader Training UK. It means i can work for outdoor centres, and as a self employed climbing instructor teaching people how to climb and organising climbing sessions indoors/outdoors.

My aim for the next few years is to gain a number of other NGB qualifications, namely the Mountain leader award (for hill/mountain walking and scrambling), then the Mountain instructor award (for multipitch climbing and hard scrambling). This should take me at least a couple more years, but hey, it's the journey that's fun, not the destination...

PS, thanks to all those who helped me get there especially Ellis, Amanda, Phil and Dave (my referee) and all of the others.

Wrong day, right place, right route (My first VS 5a)

Friday 20th June 2008: Dunkeld

Bit of an administrative mistake today, so had a free evening to climb. Quick phone call to Dave and Ellis, and climbing for the evening was arranged. Off up to Dunkeld again for a night of Trad.

Picked up Dave and Ellis then straight up the A9 to dunkeld, where Phil was waiting for us. Straight up to the crag and climbing within an hour, phil and I chose a Recess Route, a nice little Vdiff to warm up on. Dave and Ellis started on Holly tree groove, a wandering Vdiff.

With both routes done, we met at the top, and set up an abseil down hairy gully, which gave me a good chance to practice my abseil tuition skills on the obliging guinea pigs Ellis and Dave.
Around this time, the dreaded midges made an appearance, taking the edge of what was shaping upto be a good night.

Phil was in the mood for a bit of a challenge, so suggested a 2pitch VS called 'The End'. What he failed to tell me was that the 2nd pitch was 5a, and that he was going to climb the 'easier' (only according to the guidebook) first pitch at 4c.

As soon as phil left the ground, we were bombarded by cheesy 80's music blasting up the hill from the Dunkeld Hilton Hotel. This made for quite an experience, trying to concentrate on your footwork and gear placements whilst classics including YMCA, and Club tropicanna were blasted out. Despite this, Phil made the hard section look easy, placing just enough gear to keep him comfortable, then disappeared over the edge to the belay.

Working my way through the crux of the first pitch, i was impressed with the relative ease that phil passed through it. Arriving at the belay i could see the next pitch with two imposing overhangs to mount, linked by a seemingly blank slab. Oh boy!

After a quick recce to look for hand holds and gear, i committed up through the first roof, settling in to get a peice of gear, then up the slab for a few metres to a stonking slot, perfect for a rock 5. From the that position of comfort, i eyed up the slab ahead. Not a great deal of hand holds, or foot holds. mmm, ok, think about it, decided where you are going and go for it! Balancing on 1/2inch foot holds, i scrambled up to slot a nut in high above me. Not a great placement but good enough to slow me down...

Moving up and across, i worked up to the right hand of the large crack through the roof and slotted in two bomber nuts, much to my satisfaction. FEW!!! Pushing through the overhang was easy, and i made my way up the remaining easy slabs to the belay with no problem. Bringing Phil up, i was chuffed to bits with my first VS 5a lead, and the opening bars of a whitesnake classic from the disco down the hill brought a large grin to my face.

For us the night was over, but Ellis and Dave had smashed out 'The chute, a single pitch VS 5a, then took on a shorter VS called 'Carpet Beater' in the time me and phil climbed 'the end'. Much to Ellis's surprise, Carpet beater has been upgraded to HVS 5a! Well done that man.

A nice social drink was had in the taybank hotel in Dunkeld before a trawl through perth for a chipper still open at 11.

Many thanks to phil for a good nights climb and well done to dave and ellis for cracking two brilliant routes!


Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Climbed like an arse last night.

As Dave (wise old soul!) said, i need to focus my training much more, so that i can benefit from it instead of waste it.

Going to have a good think about what i need to improve, and how i can improve it over the next few days, then will be back at it next week.

Got my SPA assessment on fri-sun up at glenmore lodge, so that should be an exciting weekend, and hopefully by the time i do my next post, i should be a fully fledged climbing instructor (level 1 SPA as Phil keeps telling me!)

PS, couple of my climbing buds have asked for more mentions in my posts. One way to get on my blog...

Climb hard, climb trad!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

28 down, 12 to go. 5 days to do it.

Well, just in the process of compiling my logbook for my SPA course on friday, and so far i have 28 lead climbs, with numerous other seconds, a few multipitch leads, and a sizeable handful of winter routes (with a scary number being solos!).

I've got 5 days to bag another 12 leads, so will need all the help i can get. I'm looking to my two main trad allies, Ellis and Amanda for most of my routes, as unfortunately Dave is off climbing because of a knee injury, Jodi is heading home, and others are either busy, or don't fancy trad.

Lets smash some out!

Friday, 13 June 2008

Dunkeld basking in the sun

Just in from an amazing day climbing on the cliffs just outside of Dunkeld.

It's amazing how may times i have passed the picturesque crags North of Dunkeld without climbing on them, but Ellis took today off work, and we headed up the A9 for an early start.

Climbing by 10am, we bagged 4 routes in a fantastic day on Polney Crag.

I lead Kestrel Crack (Sev)

Ellis lead, Beech Wall (HSev)

I lead Cuticle Crack (Sev)

Then we split Twisted rib (Vdiff), with Ellis smashing out the first pitch, and me leading the airy traverse then up the slab.

I think i got the best deal on Twisted rib, as poor Ellis was fully exposed to the unexpected squal that blew through whilst i was scrambling up the slab under cover of the trees.

Shit happens... :o)

Oh yeah, some pics from dunkeld trip last friday with Ellis

Me leading kestrel crack (Sev)

Ellis posing for the camera...

Ellis leading Beechwall (HSev)

Undoing the belay.

Pushing hard indoors, stamina and strength improving

Tuesday 10th June 2008

Headed indoors as i arrived back to Dundee late on Tuesday.

Caught up with close friend Jodi, and we decided to lead on the 'Church' wall (steep overhanging).

I was right in the mood, so threw myself at a number of hard routes, and cleaned a 6a+ as a warm up, then a batch of 6b+s, followed by two lovely 6c's.

Arms pumping, i thought the night was almost over, but something drew me to a new route on the overhang, with the route card indicating 7a. What was i thinking?

A quick encouraging word from Jodi, and i was onto the strenuous start. Fighting my way through the 2nd clip, i was realising why it was 7a and not 6c+. Moving up, i bagged the 3rd clip, and continued through to the fourth, but my stamina had abandoned me. Arms pumped, and a technical move forced me off.

With some more resolve (and a few choice words to myself), i worked my way up the remaining 3 clips and was lowered off in a state of euphoria. WOW!!! what an amazing climb.

I will be back, and i know i can clean it!!!

Dylan's first lead!!!

4th June 2008


Awesome News. One of my first 'pupils' managed to lead his first sport route outdoors last night, and i think i was almost as proud as his mother, Kath.

After a few sessions learning the ropes indoors (At AVW), then outdoors (kirriemuir quarry), it was time for Dylan to step up and show us what he had learnt over the last few weeks.

And boy did he not disappoint!

He lead 'Screwless' (f3) a lovely introduction to the soft sandstone at Kirrie.

Congratulations Dylan, onwards and upwards for you. Now all we need is to get Kath to lead it!


Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Pushing hard indoors, need to improve stamina though!

Spent last night at AWV with a big crow of fellow climbers.

Decided i really must concentrate on using my time indoors to REALLY train, and not just maintain my current climbing level, so ignored the top ropes and just bombed straight onto lead climbing for the first 2 hours.

After a few warm up 6a's, i decided to tackle a 6c lead that i dogged last week, and now knowing the crux, sent it clean! What a feeling. After a break, right back onto another 6c (possibly 6c+), where i was defeated on the crux because of a combination of my relatively (relative to an orangutan!) short arms and my poor head game.

Took a couple of minutes to firgure it out and clear my head, then i smashed through it with little problem. Just wish i could do that without faffing around. Really must work on my head!

After another rest, it was onwards and upwards onto the overhanging wall for a shot at a crimpy 6b+. Lovely route, that i usually really enjoy, but the two previous climbs had sucked my arms of most of the their energy, so i came of a couple of times, but i know that i can clean it with fresh arms.

That was the meaningful lead climbing over for the night. My arms were shot, and with no chance of any decent leads, Dave, Ellis and I resorted to some reps, building up that deep burn in our shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers, literally until we could hang on no more.

What a great way to finish a night!

Monday, 2 June 2008

SPA assessment is off, then on again...

Just had new from ClimbMTS my SPA assessment won't be going ahead as there aren't enough people booked on it. I was gutted, as i was relying on the qual to get work this summer. Not time to panic, yet! So i rang around a few companies, and managed to squeeze in on an SPA assessment course at Glenmore lodge.

Slightly more expensive, but it includes board and food, so can't really complain!

Just gives me 7 extra days to bag my 40 climbs. Please help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Sunday, 1 June 2008

First aid trained, sort of...

Just back from my wilderness first aid course in Aberfeldy.

Course was run by Mountain medicine for Stuart Johnston Mountaineering.

I can highly reccomend the course for anyone venturing out into the hills, as it was a great introduction to the priorities of wilderness first aid (very different to the indoors based HSE courses!)

Our Instructor Jim Morning was very helpful and explained all of the important concepts well, focusing on the general themes and priorities rather than overwhelming us with knowledge and techniques. I feel this will help trainees be more flexible than the conventional first aid courses, and allow us to cope in a wide range of circumstances (which you are guaranteed to find in the outdoors!)

Only two weeks till my SPA assessment, so back to the climbing and coaching practice!