Saturday, 26 July 2008

Climbers in the mist...

Saturday 26th July 2008

I met Kath and Dylan in Victoria park (Arbroath) around lunch time for an afternoons climbing on the sea cliffs. As seems to be the pattern for the last few days, Angus was covered in a layer of fog, which seemed to trap the heat in, so despite the lack of sun, it was warm and pleasant in the sea breeze.

We headed down to some of the very easy and short routes above warship wall. I set up a few top and bottom ropes, allowing Kath and Dylan to get a few warm up climbs done, and to get used to the rock at Arbroath. working our way along the face, we bagged most of the easy routes, and i decided to test them a wee bit with a few slightly more challenging routes.

Great fun was had attempting some of the problems, with an amazing setting next to a blowhole! Highlight of the day was 3 RAF Tornados screeming overhead as part of the local sea-side spectacular. What a sight!!!

Heidi joined us, and she took part in the fun, trying some of the harder climbs we looked at.

Moving along the coast, we headed to sector cartoon, where there is a lovely 7m cliff face, with easy access from the top and side (with an easy but exposed scramble). Kath and Dylan climbed most of the routes on top rope, gaining more enjoyment from the climbs as the day went on.

As a last challenge, we climbed Fred Flintstone, a challenging boulder problem, peculiarly only graded at F3+!!!

As an end to the day, Heidi and I abseiled into the imposing Mermaids Kirk (A tidal bay) with the hope of cracking one of the bolted routes before the tide blocked our escape. Looking at the two routes, the bolts were high and well spaced, so it was going to take a good climb to get us out the 'proper' way.

Heidi had a look at the start of Dread Knot (F6b), which is a powerful and committing start, but was not 100% comfy with the high (Very!) first bolt, so i tried it, and was starting to feel the pump before reaching the bloody thing! Wow, was it going to be this hard all the way to the top?

Me checking out the first moves of Dread Knot
(Notice the height of 1st bolt, only just visible top right)

Fortunately, i made the next bolt without too much trouble, only to be greeted by the next clip, a good 10-12ft away... Yikes! Working my way up on very occasional crimps and frequent slopers, i was forced to trust my feet all the way, and made the delicate crux move onto the finish ledge to my relief. Wow, what a climb. Nothing too technical or strenuous, just committing and psychologically challenging. I can see a pattern forming...

Heidi came up with ease, and was keen to lead it on another occasion. Just let me know when you want the rematch Heidi, I'll gladly belay. Cheers


Thursday, 24 July 2008

One small step, one giant leap!

Wed 24th July 2008

Dunkeld again on Wednesday, this time just me and Ellis on a mission to bag an HVS.

Arriving at the carpark early, we were surprise to find the crag already busy with 4 other parties of climbers, some of who we knew from AVW.

Ellis started off on Reccess route, an interesting V Diff 10m left of Hairy Gully. After a quick abseil down, we moved over to the far right of the crag to look at carpet beater (HVS 5a). From the belay it looked horrific, so i was in two minds as to if i should try it.

I started up the first few metres only to encounter loose rock and no gear, so moved a metre right, got some gear in then started the interesting traverse left. A delicate traverse using underclings on a flake, with small slabby ledges for feet, it was a challenge just to move towards (and protect!) the crux.

Arriving there, i looked for gear, only to find one size 2 nut placement, which i only had 75% trust in. Not exactly confidence inspiring for the crux section which is an 8 move boulder sequence over fresh air. I worked at it, each time gaining confidence in the holds and my ability to use them accurately and efficiently. However I was still not 100% sure about the gear, so searched for another confidence piece. Thankfully Ellis's watchful eyes had spotted what looked like a decent placement for the biggest cam i had. BINGO!!!

It slotted in just under the crux, giving me much greater confidence. Another practice, and then i was away and through the crux before i realised what had happened, only to be greeted by an un-protectable slab. Still, it was easy climbing from there (apart from the brambles that blocked my way to the belay), so i made my way up, and brought Ellis up.

I think he was more chuffed than i was! We sat for 5 minutes discussing the route and watching the scenery. Dunkeld really is a special crag.

Time for one more route. Ellis lead Cuticle Crack, a lovely Severe, with great flake and crack climbing all the way to the top. As i said to Ellis, all this practice we are getting outdoors is doing both of us the world of good. Ellis's gear placements (and his confidence in them!) get better with every climb. My head certainly seems to be improving with VS being my new comfortable grade, it's only a matter of time till i crack my E1 lead.

We are out off to Glen Clova on Friday to tackle another few HVS's (and to recce a possible E1 lead), so expect some good pics from Ellis.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Dave does trad (Vol 2)

Tuesday 21st July 2008

Ellis and I drove up to Dunkeld in the late afternoon, only to be greeted by one of my irregular climbing partners, Sonya. She had been there most of the afternoon and was just about to tackle Beech tree wall.

Ellis and i decided on an easy start, so i lead Holly tree groove (Vdiff) which has a bold and slightly run out start. Still, a nice climb!

Ellis seconded it, and i got a surprise when our mate Alexi appeared at the end of the rope after him.

Dave and Iain appeared whilst i was belaying, having spent 30minutes thrashing through the trees, trying to find the crag...

Dave decided to lead Holly tree groove, which was a comendable lead considering it was only his 3rd lead climb in ages!!!

Ellis was in great form and felt up for a challenge, so took on the 3 star route called 'The Groove" (VS 5a). He lead it clean, and brought Alexi and me up on the end of his rope. However, i made the mistake of not traversing left, so effectively top-roped the next route, called wriggle (VS 5a). It was a lovely climb, with awesome holds along a long prominent flake in some exposed and reachy positions. Nice climb, would like to lead it soon!

After that, we all decided to head to the pub in Dunkeld, and had a good old chat, and a good old ogle at the local talent (which was out in force!!!)

It was great to see Iain, Alexi and Dave come out for some adventurous climbing, so much so, that Dave's wooly jumper is well and truly coming on, and should be complete if he gets another few trad leads in before the end of the month...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Poncho's return...

Sunday 20th July 2008

Headed North to Souterhead yesterday with Dave and Neil.

Dave has long been 'sceptical' of trad climbing but is finally coming around to our way of thinking as he sees what fun we have on our 'real' rock climbing adventures, so we headed up to Souterhead for some nice easy trad climbing.

Normally sheltered and sunny, Souterhead greeted us with strong winds, grey skies, and a heaving swell. Rainbow inlet was a torrent of white water, but thankfully was not to high up to prevent us getting to the belay stance for rainbow wall.

I lead Puffin wall (V Diff), and brought up Dave and Neil, then showed them how i had set up the belay. Back down to the bottom, and Dave lead the route with ease, and set up his belay only to hear the sound of waves crashing up Rainbow inlet (much to the concern of Neil on the now slightly damp belay stance)

Neil lead the next one, this time Rainbow wall (Diff), with Dave following. Nice short route, but in an a really atmospheric spot, this time with waves surging up the inlet, lapping the bottom of the rope. Everyone clipped into gear this time, just to make sure no one went for a swim in the event of a rogue wave!

After a spot of lunch, we move round to the southerly inlets and had a look at Overhang crack (Sev) which Neil was keen to try out. However, the bottom two metres were wet with spray so it was a no-no. Further to the south (15metres), we looked at 4 Vdiffs , and chose the two furthest from the sea, to prevent any further soakings. Dave lead Charybdis (V Diff), a nice route through a flake and corner up to the top of the outcrop. Neil then lead the route to the left called Scylla (V diff), which followed a flake line 6m up then a grotty chimney for the final 4m. Neil has obviously got his trad head back on, as he made the crux move with little concern, proving that his confidence in his gear is growing. Always a good sign!

We then looked at pobble an HVS further North, but the waves there were even worse than before, with spray and spume (dave!) crashing up the inlet, much to the delight of us three, now reduced to little boys fascinated by the power of the sea.

Black rock gulch (300m North) was in the same state, so we headed back to the car and drove down to Stonehaven for a lovely meal in the Ship Inn. I was pleasantly surprise how nice Stonehaven was, so i will definitely be heading back for some more hospitality in future.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Clova in the rain!


Back to clova for Neil's 40th.

A large crowd made it up to Clova for Neil's 40th, but just as we arrived the heavens opened, so it was straight to the hotel for some food and a drink (pattern emerging?)

All of us had a great night, with some long winded and crude stories told, but all in all a memorable night, just a shame no climbing.

Clova in the Sun!


Ellis, Ewan and i headed up to Clova today for another trad session, and were greeted with a bright blue sky and no wind. Wonderful!

After the short and powerful haul up the hill to the base of proud corner, we decided to start easy and headed over to the south west buttress, where Ellis lead 3 J's Chimney (V dif) and i showed Ewan some rope work. Before long it was Ewans turn to head up the chimney, and when i reached the top he was sporting a large grin. Definitely a trad boy!

Ellis took advantage of the excellent light to get some great pictures of the glen. Ewan and i moved round the buttress to tackle Parapet route direct (Hard Sev), and it was truly a great time to climb. The sun was out, the rock was warm and secure, and i was feeling great about the climb, so managed it with minimal protection, leaving behind my normal pattern of sowing up the route with copious gear!.

Me on Parapet route direct (Hsev)

Ewan came up the route with no probs and we enjoyed the views from the ledge half way up the rockface.

Me in instructor mode...

In the distance we spotted Phil parking up then heading up the hill (complete with black trousers tucked into his white socks...) to join us.

Ellis took the lead, and headed up Parapet route, this time taking the VS variation. Phil and i watched Ewan struggle through the crux, but with perseverence he pushed through and topped out.

Moving back to proud corner, it was time to lead something a bit harder, so i looked at The Beanstalk (don't call me jack!), a VS 4b running in the corner between Wander and Proud corner. After an easy first 10 metres, it starts getting a bit harder with some loose blocks on the crux section, but plenty of protection. Mentally, I was in a good place on the climb, enjoying the testing, but not outrageously hard climbing, with spaced but secure protection where it was needed. Fighting the pump in my arms and shoulders, i slowed my breathing and focussed on the next large ledge, and made my way upwards to the final vertical crack line and found the mother of all jugs waiting for me at the top out. WOW!!! what a climb!

Ewan looked like an ant from the belay and i shouted down encouragements to him before he set off. Making steady progress, he willed himself up, with some power grunting and self-encouraging words, he made it over the top. Awesome!

Whilst we were climbing, Ellis took on Wander (HVS) which has a technical, then exposed crux section, which after 3 weeks off climbing, Ellis was not confident with, so phil took over and showed the benefit of experience of the route, leading it clean.

Time for one more climb, this time i wanted Ewan to lead an easy route, so i took him over to 20minute route and showed him the basics. Sending him off up the severe variation (he leads 6a+ indoors), he made his way upto the first belay and brought me up. Well done that man. All the gear was bomber and just enough to protect the harder moves. Great lead!!! Now to get down. I traversed across the face of the buttress and downwards to a grass ledge, where i belayed Ewan down to the ground, before scrambling down to a baying reception from Phil and Ellis who were gasping for a pint.

Destination, the pub... Some great food, great drink, and stinking chat. Cant beat it!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Logiehead. One step closer to E1.

Saturday 5th July 2008

Up early on Saturday for the long journey to Logiehead on the Moray coast, via Forfar, Drumlithie, Aberdeen, then finally the car park at Portsoy.

Bit of a walk in, but it was a lovely day, with amazing views along the Moray coastline.

Once around the coast, we were surprised to see a familiar face. Sonya (one of my irregular climbing partners) and her friend Chris were already at the base of the cliffs, feeding up after a session on the wall.

I was highly impressed by the quality of the rock face, and it's setting against the moray coastline. The rock looked solid, and there were plenty of natural lines, with an encouraging number of obvious gear placements (always reassuring!)The left side showing bladderwrack and Sea urchin

I started the day with a route called Bladderwrack (Sev 4b), which was a brilliant introduction to the rock, and a great warm up (physically and psychologically!).

Alan lead Sea Urchin (HSev 4b), only a metre to the right of bladderwrack. I chose not to second it as i wanted to bag it clean on lead, which i duly did later in the day. Lovely route!

After some food and belaying others, i watched Amanda lead her first E1 of the year, Dave's Dillema (E1 5b). Mel and I decided to second up the route, both relishing the chance to have a go at an E1. Mel went first, with me brining up the rear. i got the short straw, with the majority of Amanda's gear on my rope. Not normally a problem, but the gear was in all of the important hand holds, so it made for an interesting struggle up. Well done Amanda, great climb!!!

After managing that, i felt i should step up a grade and tackled Poacher (VS 4b). The more i climb VS, the more i realise i can do it with little technical difficulty, instead being limited by my head. Must sort that out!

Slightly nearer the sea, showing Poacher (VS)

Last route of the day was to 2nd Alan up the intriguing 'That is the question' (HVS 5a). With an initial thuggy start, it was a committing route, but with one bomber cam below the overhang, it was reasonably well protected. The crack line above was interesting and made for a challenging climb. Well done Alan!

The more i climb trad, the more i like it.

Dave, the jumper and beard are becoming comfier by the day...

Friday, 4 July 2008


Tuesday 3rd July 2008

Me and Sonya made our way up to dunkeld yesterday for an afternoon of trad.

Both of us had great ideas of trying to crack some of the classic VS's up at Polney, but come the actual climbing, we both felt differently!

Sonya led the first pitch of Kestrel Crack (Sev), with some uncertainty, not being overly confident with the gear or the rock. Despite the initial difficulties, she stormed through the hanging chimney and onto the belay. I made my way up with relative ease (having done the route 3 times in the last 3 weeks), then finished the last pitch.

On to my lead, and unsure what to do, we spent ages in the guidebook trying to decide where we should climb. Bollard buttress direct was my decision, coming in at Hard Severe. A nice climb with some delicate finger cracks but nothing too challenging. That didn't stop me taking about 20minutes to complete the crux, and put in half my rack protection just to reasure my head. Once past that move, i made quick progress up, and brought sonya to the top, before abbing down hairy gully.

It was 8 by that time, so we just called it a day.

Off to Logiehead with Amanda and mel tomorrow. guidebook looks brill, loads of severes and Hard severes, with some 3 star VS's thrown in.

Report and photos on my return!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Humbled at legaston.


Dave, Ewan and I made our way to legaston quarry on tuesday night, with the prospect of some interesting climbs, and a change from Kirrie Hill.

First thing we noticed was the rubbish that has been strategically dumped by the farmer, making the walk into the quarry a bit of a scramble. Not very welcoming!

Anyway, we got geared up and spent 5 minutes deciding what route to start on. Dave chose between the lines (5+)

He lead on up the route, only to get stuck under the prominent overhang. Try and try, but he was unable to get through the crux, his temper fraying by the minute. I took over and made it to the crux, only to realise why it was so hard. After 3 or 4 attempts, i managed to inch my way through the crux and up to the top.

It was only when another climber explained that it wasn't in fact the 5+ route we thought it was, instead being Junk man blues (a hard 6a+). Relief for daves ego... Ewan gave it a go and was impressed with how hard the climbing at leggy actually was (being a legaston virgin!)

The rest of the night was spent trying easier routes, only to realise that Dave's regular attendance at kirrie, and my regular tradding, had dulled our sport climbing abilities, and that once again, Legaston had taught us a salutary lesson.

Don't get comfy, it dulls your ability!