Monday, November 28, 2005


The first snows on the southern highlands now have a wider vista behind the the slow dismantling of the old distillery, like time being reversed. All the bricks being removed, taken away, turned back into dust and clay, buried back in the earth... and still we return to Dumbarton, dismantling the old, forging the new.

Winter has come early this November... it's bouldering weather - time to get on the slopers you couldn't hang in summer, time to enjoy the brief thrill of rubber biting into smooth basalt, sticking and allowing the torque to be applied... letting the power surge smoothly without the clutch slipping. Dave MacLeod is very close to the roof link-up under Gorilla, saying he feels way stronger than last year (!) - the body tension in him is locked taut as an Erskine bridge cable, which is the least required to maintain the rigid architecture between fingers and heels.

Dave MacLeod working 'Pressure'

Someone took a chainsaw to the old 2HB sycamore, a rather radical prune, but no doubt it will sprout back, stumpier but perennial (maybe best to get rid of the evidence, boys?). One benefit of this is that it has revealed A Ford Flash - Cubby's testpiece on the front wall of Eagle Boulder. It also allows an unobstructed sit-start to an excellent reverse problem to Dressed for Success, which is well-chalked at the minute and maybe a grade easier than the left to right version (Font 7b for the money). Consolidated is getting the attention of Richard McGhee - see his ridiulously huge span in the photo sequence, though what he makes up for in reach he loses in body tension, possibly making it all harder and a F8a proposition.

Richard McGhee on Consolidated V9

There's a good new eliminate traverse that stays dry even in atrocious weather - Shattered - which follows the lowest line of holds from the Desperado corner to a step-off under the Fever Pitch arete. The rule is simple- use the lowest holds and no high jugs for rests. It gets hard about Longbow, where a drop-down move leads to a hard cruxy sequence past the cave and under the bulge through to the arete. Dave MacLeod thought it a worthy F7c, before John Watson cheekily downgraded it to F7b+ (because he doesn't get that opportunity too often!).

Steve Richardson on 'Shattered'

In this weather, you should be getting on the slopey classics: Gorilla, Slap Happy, Consolidated, Mugsy... it all feels like a bargain at the minute! If you are down at the Rock this winter, bring a binbag or two so that when you're boosted you can collect some cans and rubbish and throw it in the skip by the stadium - there is a party culture in the Gorilla Cave at the minute and discarded Tennent's cans seem to be appearing spontaneously, as though they leave spores. It's your local world-class bouldering venue and needs a little help sometimes, you'll not see a fluorescent council jacket down here, that's for sure...

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

'The Inchbae Intrusion'

Sounds like a bad thriller, jets screaming overhead, somewhere in Scotland, someone on the run across the heather, pursued by guns and dogs, hiding behind boulders...

Ian Taylor had seen them as well, glacial drift and erratics all over the place, in dumpy moraine hillocks and drumlins. Once or twice I almost ended up in Black Bridge craning my neck out the side-window. Then one day I stopped, put the wellies on and went to satisfy the rock-thirst again.

Situated between Garve and Ullapool, these boulders are mostly hidden from view, but a litter of small ones by 'Lubfearn' (the alder loop), under the choked throat of Altguish, were recently attended to by myself and Ian Taylor. Here's what Ian found as description for the area:

'originally a porphyritic granite with abundant orthoclase phenocrysts, but is now a coarse biotite-granite gneiss in which the phenocrysts are largely deformed to augen wrapped round by a steaked out matrix of quartz, biotite, potash felspar and plagioclase'

A code by the sounds of it! The rock is indeed a heady mixture of crystals and codes, teasing body positions and curious resolutions.

A circuit of about twenty good problems now exists, with more chapters to be written...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Border Raid

Shape and movement moulded into one! Okay, it's not Scotland, but while storms rattled chimneys in the far North West, a late autumn sun skidded low over the post-harvest Cheviots and if the Tweed had deigned to meander further south, we'd have a mini-Fontainebleau in Scotland. But the Dovehole boulders rightly remain part of 'the coonty'. Just past Coldstream, the road bends sharply through Milfield and a forest break on the east flanks of these gentle hills reveals a nest of sandstone sculptures... a perfect haven for an autumn afternoon, my only company a few pheasants ratcheting off over the stubble like clockwork-sprung toys.

Some spots are perfect microcosms of movement. The wind-imagined shapes of these sandstone stumps rise like remembered dunes from an ancient land, their original domes and rope-twists smoothed out into half-seen shapes and mythical softness. The movement is quick like half-remembered dreams, you flow through the easy meditations on generous pockets, the feet rasp on rough slopers and it's easy to skip over the brow of awareness.

The wind-smooth belly of a boulder. I layback up the crack, feet on a black ramp, arcing my neck to eye the big chalky jugs out right. I stretch, but they're too far, I come back to the crack, eye two span-shortening crimps at my eyes, a twist of the body allows the right hand to press, the left comes to the better crimp, the span is allowed and then the cut-loose... feet mow the short grass and top a few toadstools, the toes skitter to find solution pockets, the lunge is jacked up and then the shoulder-twisting pinch sets up a right heel-hook instinctively. I think I hear the sound of sand grains biting on rubber, but a neurone fires and an inverted hand snap allows a mantle on the flat jug... the neck crooks up to eye the finishing jug, like a short dream closing it is gained too soon...

I putter back down to the mat. The sun stops on its glide and beats without time and then accelerates and dims as I sit panting, hands tingling and clamped round knees. A bouldering border raid - a raid on time's restless gravity, my consciousness briefly having balanced a ballbearing on a pin...