Wednesday, 27 August 2008

3 star classic, this time Dunkeld.

Dave, Ellis and I headed upto Dunkeld on Sunday for another day of interesting climbing and banter, with the promise of Neil and Phil making an appearance sometime later in the day.

First thing first, get Dave on to Hard Severe ground, this time in the form of Beech Wall. He moved up through the first section with no real problems, then got to the crux, a 2.5m high 90 degree corner with a perfect example of a vertical layback crack up its centre line (think El cap in miniature...). The problem being is that someone has wedged a small cam in the only (obvious) handhold, causing the move to feel off balance slightly risky. Add to this, the damp nature of the climb, hidden so effectively from the sun and wind by it's namesake tree, and the crux move is a bit of a mental struggle, relying on trust in your feet, and the presence of good holds at the top of the move.

Dave worked through the problem, and disappeared from sight, moving up and left to the large flake belay at the end of pitch one of Kestrel crack. From here, he progressed up (now in the sunshine!) on to thin ground, with small but useful holds moving through the grassy bay and up to the final 5m of the climb (or so we thought...).

All the while, he was out of sight, and ear shot, so he was relying on the quick view of the guidebook he got down at the belay. Ellis and i began to wonder what was happening, so i moved out to see if i could see him, but his comical big red helmet was nowhere to be seen. After a few more minutes, i decided to make my way to the top to see if things were ok. After a slimy squirm up the descent gully, i made my way up to the belay ledge, only to see no Dave, but his ropes continuing up the hillside for another 10m or so, where i spotted Dave in a comfy little alcove, ready to belay. In his enthusiasm, he had overshot the belay, but made an extension to a nice route, and got a safe belay, so he brought Ellis up. Oh how we all laughed.

Now it was Ellis's turn, with his eyes turning to Carpetbeater, an HVS 5a at the east end of the crag. Once the gear was sorted and we had some grub, Ellis set off, working has way through the grotty start, then onto the airy traverse section, placing gear at regular gaps to ensure the safety of the 2nd (me AND dave this time). Once through the traverse, he worked up to the crux, felt around for the best foot and hand holds, then moved up and placed a stonking size 3.5 cam just a the lip of the crux move. FEW!!! it really is a confidence boost to have that there.

Moving up to check out the holds, and secure the sequence in his head Ellis was concentrating hard, and i grabbed his camera to get a few pics of him pushing through the crux section, with some of them coming out well. A final dusting of the fingers, and Ellis attacked the crux, moving through it with confidence before settling on the slab above the crux. Despite facing away from us, Dave i both knew Ellis would be grinning like the proverbial cheshire cat (and rightly so). From there, the climb degenerates into a vegetated scramble, before reaching a stonking tree belay.

Before we knew it, it was our turn to climb, with Dave going up first, finding the traverse interesting, but with little to trouble him at the crux. Then it was me. I knew the sequence (having done it before), so the traverse posed no real problem apart from retrieving the gear. One climb up to examine the holds and the sequence, then i was up over the crux and scrambling through the brambles to the top.

After some more food and a move along the crag, i felt i needed to crack another 3 star classic, this time 'The Groove', a VS 5a. It looks intimidating, but is a well balanced and interesting climb. Once at the first overhang, it's a bit of a challenging and intimidating move up and over to the in situ peg, before heading up the crackline to a patch of grass. From here i progressed left on small hand holds, but reasuring foot holds for 5m, all the while with out any serious means of protecting a fall.

From a position of comfort, i was forced upwards and even further from protection to the next decent nut placement. Few... moving up and right, the move seems off balance, and with a questionable right hand crimp, i forced my feet to stick to the rock, allowing me to reach out right for a lovely but distant flake. Few, again...

From this point, the climb changes completely, relying on discrete but secure flake pockets, presenting comfortable and highly enjoyable climbing right to the top, before a long stretch to the final hold, a dreaded sloper, fortunately accompanied by a nice ledge to the side. WOW, what an interesting climb!

Once the belay was up and running, Ellis zoomed up it, having lead it clean onsight a few months ago. I tied him off on the edge of the cliff so he could get some pics with his papparazzi-esque telephoto lense. Dave started up the climb, moving up through the first overhang, with Ellis ready to catch the moment he appeared, only to witness his camera die the death of a low battery. Dam it!!! Poor Dave would have no photos of him on the best route of the crag. I felt a bit guilty as i had taken loads of photos of Ellis on Carpetbeater, hence the wasted battery....

No matter, Dave made his way up and was at the top in no time, only to be greeted by two crazed and smiling wooly jumper wearing trad monsters. Poor guy, he has to deal with me and Ellis's obsession with 'real' climbing, but it's all in the best possible of taste :o)

We caught up with Neil and his mate Dave, and found out Neil had bagged an HVS called Poison Ivy. He really is a dark horse!

Off to the pub for a drink, where we were enjoying a pint of our summer tipple (Five pints of tuborg Barkeep!), before the quiet was ruined by a loud crash. It was only a bloody road accident, 15yds from our table!!! A young lad had jumped out into the road on his bike in front of a touring van. Thankfully the driver had sharp reflexes, and slammed on the breaks, only hitting the rear end of the bike, but with enough force to throw the boy onto the bonnet then to the ground.

Despite this, he got straight up and was ok, just a few grazes. We went back to our beers and hoped he realised how lucky he was!

Neil and Dave (his mate) left to go home, and me and Ellis and Dave P got a chippy and sat spinning the shit on the banks of the silvery tay for half an hour before going home. All in all, a really great day, one that i will remember for a while.

cheers guys!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

3 star Cairngorm classic!

Sat 16th Aug 2008:

Cairngorm Classic!!!!!

I'm just in from a big day in the cairngorms, and am knackered but felt i should write this whilst the memory is still sharp.

Neil picked me up this morning at 0700hrs, and we headed up the A9 to the Northern corries for a day out, with the intention for the day being to tackle the 3 star cairngorm classic, Savage Slit (Sev). Only me an Neil made it, with others calling off, heading down south for better weather, or family commitments, but despite this, i was keen to give it a go.

The weather forecast promised clear skies by the afternoon, improving as the day went on, and with the weather at the ski car park upon our arrival, i was hopeful for an accurate forecast, as the clouds were low, and the wind gusting.

Despite that, we made our way into Coire an Lochain, and followed the well worn path along to the locahns in the bottom of the corrie, all the way in, watched over by the imposing and seemingly overhanging cliffs, guarding the south end of the corrie.
The imposing cliffs of coire an Lochain.

It was at this time, that Neil was having second thoughts about letting me drag him 100 miles up the country for what seemed a crazy and committing climb on some serious territory. He did well not to let me know what he was thinking, but internally i was having doubts about the climb as well, possibly a mix of the imposing nature of the climb, and the less than ideal weather (gusting up to 50mph at that point of the approach).

Despite this, we made our way past the lochs, and sat down in a sheltered spot to have lunch and recce the rest of the corrie, our noses buried in the guide book. After lunch, we decided that as we had already come this far, we might as well head up the hill and look the climb straight in the eye.

Once at the bottom of Savage slit, it is an imposing, but highly attractive natural line up the slightly less than vertical east facing wall of No 4 buttress. At this point, we were joined by two other keen climbers with the same route in mind.

Savage Slit follows the dark crack on the left of the corner line.

I lead up first, with cold and stiff hands, not entirely convinced about the less than brilliant hand holds, but impressed by the high friction of the rough pink granite. I continued up, finding nice ledges for feet, but little good holds for hands (that were frozen by then!), and at one point got a rather alarming case of the hot aches as i shook my hands out and blew warm air onto them. Never a good thing on a route with amazing exposure. At this point, i was seriously asking what i had got myself into. I was only 20 m up the 100 or so metres of the route, and i was already having second thoughts. The only thing that drove me on was the sight of the belay stance (a lovely large ledge). Easy climbing lead up to it, and before he knew it, Neil was on belay and i was shouting for him to climb.
My belay after first pitch, with 2nd pitch behind me (eeek!)

Little did he tell me, but at this point he was starting to ask him self what I had got him into (seems to be a recurring theme with my climbing buds!)

Neil just of ground on pitch 1, thinking "what am i doing here?!!!"

After 10 mins, neil was up at the belay and my well laid out stance helped us to transfer the gear and switch belay in record time. Upwards and onwards, through the chimney, then back onto the face, with slightly more confidence, and some better hand holds, i was beginning to revel in the exposure, and soaked up the experience. The sun made a welcome appearance, boosting my confidence as the wind dropped and the clouds parted to give an awe inspiring view down the corrie and off to Glenmore and Loch Morlich.

Soon enough i was at the end of pitch two, and with some sadness realised that the best of the climbing was over, with only a crappy scramble to the top. Neil came up with relative ease, and posed at the large ledge for an amazing photo op. Well done that man!Neil topping out on pitch 2 (with No 3 buttress behind)

We sat for 5 minutes and enjoyed the views, seeing cairngorm, the ptarmigan, the fiaccl ridge, the ski centre, and loch morlich surrounded by glenmore forest, and recalled our favourite bits of the climb. What an experience!

All that was left was to head up to the summit and bring Neil up through the grotty and lose gulley. Not a fitting end to such an amazing climb!

We stood on the summit and soaked in the views, and watched the patchy clouds scud past only feet above our heads. After a few stops to enjoy the views, we made our way down the fiaccl ridge, and rejoined the path in t'sneachda before racing down to the car, making it in record time.

The view from the top.

The short ride into Glenmore Lodge was a welcome stop for a pint, then off to Aviemore for some food. All in all an amazing day, and both of us freely admit that we went way outside of our relative comfort zones, but we both dealt with the pressure and the exposure well, and came out of it better for the experience.

Thanks Neil, it's a day i know i wont forget in a while, hope you won't either...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Katie and Morag, nice pair!

With the sun out, i felt i was obliged to climb today, what with the very intermittent nature of sunshine in our part of the country this summer, so i met Mel at Dunkeld for an afternoons climbing. The weather was glorious, so i wanted to do an on sight of something new.

As a warm up, Mel and I did the classic Twisted rib (V diff), with Mel leading pitch one, and me the airy traverse, then slab up to the belay. It was lovely in the sun, and i was glad to be out with a good friend in great surroundings and with the sun on my back!

We had a wee bite to eat, then i lead the first pitch of Katie Morag's First steps (MildVS). It is a lovely route that runs to the right of Kestrel crack, and has a few airy steps at the crux, but plenty of gear. We split it in two so mel could lead the 2nd half, and i belayed from the flake next to the belay point halfway up Kestrel Crack. Mel came up with ease, then moved onto the 2nd pitch. It was a bit of an anticlimax from the first pitch, but Mel did bloody well on some really scrappy ground, and made her way through small trees, bushes and ferns, to emerge victorious at the top of the crag before bringing me up.

All in all a nice day in wonderful settings.

Going back up Tuesday night with Dave to get him leading a wee bit harder. Results later...

Extreme adventures!

Sunday 3rd August 2008.

After a week of unsettled weather, and pissed off climbers, i was looking forward to heading outdoors with Amanda and Mel on Sunday. Despite my optimism at the proposed good weather, the grey clouds and light rain showers that watched our progress to Boltsheugh were ominous at best. A quick stop at Amanda's gaff, then up North we headed, not sure of what the day would have in store.

I really enjoy heading up to Aberdeen to climb with Amanda, as her local knowledge is really opening a whole host of opportunities (some of the missed in the past)
to me (and my other climbing buds). So it was with some excitement that made our way to boltsheugh, an area i hadn't yet had the pleasure to climb on. It's a bit of a strange venue, with trad and sport routes side by side, thanks to the varying quality of rock and possible protection. Despite this, it is a really interesting venue with some challenging routes, and some smaller classics.

We worked our way round the coast to an area known as Boltsheugh Lower South, which has a lovely view out on to the North Sea and is occasionally tidal (check the tides). Amanda had brought two bouldering pads, so we set about trying some interesting problems, but i was immediately feeling the strain of a late night, and too many beers the night before. My arms were pumped after only a few moves, so i thought i wasn't up for much.

Amanda was having none of it, and pointed me in the direction of an overhanging wall of rock, telling me it was called 'Blowout' and was graded E1 5b, and that i should give it a go. I was less than committed, but her enthusiasm encouraged me, and i set about looking at it from the ground, trying to figure out what i was about to let myself in for. From the ground, it doesn't seem that bad, and i could see a few obvious cam placements, so i was just going to have to overcome the moves to and past the protection, which were essentially a sequence of boulder problems.

I worked at the first set of moves, bouldering up and placing a large cam, then climbing down and figuring out the next move and how to link it together with the first. It's only looking back, that i realise i relish these sort of challenges, looking at how i can analyse and overcome the problem. I continued the sequence and got a 2nd cam in high and to my left, moved up and looked at the next move, realised what i had to do, then climbed down and looked at the whole climb again, finalising the sequence in my head. All this time, Mel and Amanda were great, offering welcome encouragement.
Me on 'Blowout' (E1 5b) Boltsheugh
(copyright Mel Hayes)

Back on, and i made the moves to the last cam with a degree of fluidity, and decided that i was happy with the placement, and that i could do the final section in one go, so i continued up then right, out to the the arete and on to a welcome projection of rock, before scrambling up to the top to set up the belay.

Wow, i had done it, an E1, my first E1!!!

I was well chuffed, but felt it wasn't the time to make a spectacle. Mel tied on and came up on second, which i reckon was actually a harder task than leading, as the tension on the ropes made it really hard to remove the cams, and were acting to pull her off and out of the overhang, so she did really well.

I've said it to a few of my friends who have congratulated me, that i know fine well that they could and will lead it no problem. It really is a nice route, and will work well for those who enjoy well protected, but pumpy and powerful climbing.

Ellis, Dave, Iain, Mel, the climb awaits you!