Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hocus Pocus Video

Magic in the Trossachs

'Hocus Pocus' at the Ben A'an Boulders

Acutely aware of the fragility of our weather, I took the opportunity to give myself a little time off from books and films to disappear into the Trossachs at a remote and silent venue away from the crowds... the unlikely bouldering venue of Ben A'an. A fine enough venue for trad climbing and soloing the excellent tiers of schist (now a little polished!), it was a surprise to come across an excellent boulder in a sunny cluster under the lowest crags. The bracken was crisp and flattened, the air was cool and the sun warmed my back... the blue sky rang like a bell... you don't let these days escape if you can help it!

I had done a few problems on the boulders here before, including a nice 6c through the Magic Tree boulder's roof, but this was really an escape from a line I was too weak to hold last visit. This time I felt a little stronger and attacked it quickly before the sun warmed the quartzy crimps and slopers too much and before my skin deteriorated. The direct went a little quicker than I expected and a little easier than I imagined. It's basically a sit start to a shelfed overhang, using a strong heel hook to gain a poor lip pinch, then it twists and crosses through on excellent crimps and slopers to a crux sequence on toe smears to gain the finishing rockover sequence... all in all a magical problem and worth the walk up the hill. Hocus Pocus Font 7a is by far the best problem here, I added a super direct at maybe 7b but the original method proved the more aesthetically satisfying (something you can muck about with in bouldering that maybe you can't on a route). The boulder is located down the hill 200 metres at the first burn once you clear the forest, before the hike up to the summit of Ben A'an, well below the trad crags. There are a dozen or so problems, mostly in the Font 5 to 6b range.

The weather is about to turn, it's been a good couple of weeks for the bouldering community... lots of new problems for everyone. We got some great film footage, 'Elements' will be here soon!

Craigmaddie Alchemy

Craigmaddie grit bouldering (Pic of Farmer's Trust Font 7a+ Peter Roy)

Ben Litster is in unstoppable form at the minute and no projects are safe! We had shown him the new gritstone venue of Craigmaddie and he ignored pretty much everything and bee-lined for the unclimbed direct on the Sheep Pen roof. This was the direct challenge from the pocket of the classic 'Abracadabra' and he named it 'Alchemy' (Font 7c), continuing the ambient theme of magic. He took a few visits to work out the new counter-intuitive sequence through slopers and crimps to make a satisfying slap for the top, all captured in rasping sound detail by Pete Murray for 'Elelments'. We'll be showing this film at a launch in late March, along with other stunning first ascents in the Lost Valley, Glen Nevis and the North East... plus the new guide will cover all these new areas!

At Brin, Jamie Murray and friends have been cleaning up new lines higher up the hill and the place just keeps giving, the lads climbed a new V7 called Gold Dust on the aptly named 'Dusty' Boulder. Details and pics on Jamie's blog http://jamiemurrayclimbing.blogspot.com/

Monday, February 18, 2008

Purple Patches in Nevis and Aberdeen

Saturn Crack 7c (FA Dave MacLeod Feb 2008,)

I used to see Dave MacLeod all the time at Dumby, if I was out for an hour at this time of year, he'd be under some dark roof, beavering away at a new sequence on another new line. It was odd to be walking through the gorge at Glen Nevis last Friday, on my way to the remote Meanach bothy for a night with 5kg coal and some city-dissolving spirit when I spied Dave hunkering under a boulder in the gorge, tripod on the path to film another first ascent of a classic bouldering line! Claire was wrapped in duvet, busy being photographer and Dave had just climbed the oft-spied crack line on the large boulder blocking the top of the gorge by the Meadows. A superb-looking layback sequence on this smooth rock gains the blank scoop on the front face where the crack dies out, from here tenuous slopers and blind feet proved the crux above a landing of precariously-balanced pads. Dave thought it a superb Font 7c and one for the connoisseurs of European-style boulder problems. He named it 'Saturn Crack'.

Optimus Prime SS, Pic courtesy Neil Morrison

Meanwhile, in the north east, at Cammachmore, Tim Rankin upped the bar significantly by adding a sit start to his recent prow problem Optimus Prime, as well as adding a good technical line on the wall to the left of it. Tim says:

'Thought you would like to know I sent the sitting start to Optimus Prime today... I can only say it is a good bit harder than the standing and linking it once I could do all the moves proved a lot harder than I expected! What I would say though is it's the finest bouldering feature I have climbed anywhere in Scotland with quality climbing to match! I also did the SDS to the very high ball wall just left of it which I did the standing to the week before last. Megatron is bigger then Optimus Prime but not as hard and probably worth E5 without a spotter!'

Megatron V5 (6c+)
The undercut wall left of 'Optimus Prime ' started with right hand on arete and left on a high good crimp. Use good hidden crimp to gain obvious hand rail then edge of little hanging groove to gain the top, higher than it is hard an excellent problem. SDS V7 (7a+) as Optimus Prime but swing left around the arete to gain the standing start crimp.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Filming 'Elements' in Glencoe

Ben Litster on Diesel Canary SS Font 7b+

We had a perfect day in the Lost Valley filming for 'Elements', the new Bouldering in Scotland movie from Pete Murray, accompanied by a psyched and impressed Ben Litster. We thought he would appreciate the alpine feel of the place, with the snow runnels and cornices on the Bidian massif and the tranquil solitude of the Lost Valley itself. We were filming the 'Fire' element, which involved carrying a sack of wood up to the valley along with the cameras, which once lit with a box of firelighters warmed our numb toes in between problems and provided a gentle crackling accompaniment to the power yells! Ben managed the sit start to Diesel Canary at about Font 7b+, the last move of the stand-up proving to be the redpoint crux, infuriatingly it proved for Watson.

Video of the classic 'Helipad' on the Leaning Bloc:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stone Country Bouldering Movies and Topos

I'm just updating the main website www.stonecountry.co.uk with new material, including lots of topos that didn't make the new guide (eg. The Whangie is downloadable in Pdf A4 format on the Clyde page), as well as lots of recent new movie clips of classic problems. I'll continue to add more material to the site to complement and update the Stone Country Guide to Bouldering in Scotland, which is just about to be published and can be advance ordered from the Books page or the Paypal link on the sidebar - you benefit from Freepost if you order now!

There'll also be a launch for the new guide in Glasgow at the end of March, along with a preview of the new Bouldering in Scotland movie by Pete Murray -'Elements' - which will feature some of the best venues and hardest problems in the country, as well as some insightful exploration into the various 'elements' which all go into making bouldering adventurous, magical and meaningful in Scotland.

The Whangie Bouldering - Fingaripper Font 6a

So the weather has become spring-like and perfect for bouldering, a time to get to your favourite places if you can escape work! The Whangie is a beautiful place to hang out when the weather is like this, yesterday I had a full cloud inversion with only the distant peaks of Ben Lomond, Ben Vorlich etc. joining me in the clear blue air above the mist. I did the circuit of the best problems here, which I've topo'd for the curious on the main site, with about 14 quality independent problems up to font 6c+. Attached is a wee video of the excellent new problem 'Rune Wall'.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

New Glencoe Testpiece

Dave MacLeod has climbed the project roof of the Aonach Eagach boulder above the Stob Coire car park. This lone boulder has an excellent steep roof, the right side of which gives 'Bittersweet' Font 7b+. To access the lone boulder, walk 5 mins above the car park for Stob Coire, diagonally uphill on the Aonach Eagach, but heading down the glen. Take a rising traverse arcoss a big scree fan until you come across this single hidden boulder. Dave has a video from his blog site www.davemacleodblogspot.com

Friday, February 01, 2008

Optimus in his Prime

Tim Rankin has shown a fresh burst of energy and strength early in the season to claim the North East's first major boulder problem of the year - Optimus Prime - with an ascent of the dramatic and highball prow at Cammachmore south of Portlethen. This oft-spied line was thought to have an impassable blank section, but Tim managed to find a solving sequence on brushed edges, arete clamps and poor slopers... he says it goes at about V9 but Tim is unsure of the grade as the climbing is so unusual and specific, just expect it to be well hard! Tom Kirkpatrick filmed the first ascent. Named after his son's skills with the daddy Transformer, which leave most adult visitors gobsmacked, same as the problems!