Thursday, July 31, 2008

Graffiti World

Travellling the world looking for climbing and bouldering leads you to some fine cities which are always colourful stopovers on the way to the mountains. I've got plenty of pictures of high mountains, remote boulders and wildlife, but we've seen all that and sometimes the city provides a jungle of different hues and colours. Here are some shots of my favourite Graffiti art I've come across, inspired by a rather surprised return to Dumbarton Rock which has had something of an upgrade in terms of the usual graffiti! I consider Graffiti any human mark on the landscape, something that just says 'I wuz here' in some form...sometimes it's elegant, sometimes spiritual, sometimes plain ugly, and sometimes a little too clever for its own good (cairn-kickers unite!), whatever or wherever, it springs from the same human desire to scribble something down...

Graffiti World

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Scottish Rock Vol. 1 by Gary Latter

I must admit that, as a publisher, when the complimentary copy of Scottish Rock Vol. 1 dropped through my letterbox I had to reappraise my ideas as to what a guidebook should be... the quality of the production is immediately stunning, the layout is colourful and clear with apt and well-chosen photography, along with excellent photo-topos of the crags and simple clear maps. What's more, the 480 pages make this an incredible value-for-money book (£23.00) and shame a lot of other publishers as to what can be packed into a pound of publishing (myself included!).

The glossy cover shot of a bronzed, sunglassed Julian Lines soloing on Erraid's pink granite above peppermint seas might make you think this a Peleponnesian guide, but in reality we do get days like this in Scotland and it is a mouth-watering advert for the remote pleasure of climbing in Highland Scotland and what lies within the guide.

And this is what this first volume of two is designed to represent - the best of the climbing in Highland Scotland, from the Highland Boundary fault all the way to the Islands. From a first read-through, the represented routes cross all the grades and seem fairly chosen. Gary Latter (the author) is an experienced climber in Scotland and knows his stuff, also being responsible for a lot of the routes, so if you see his name often, that's not hubris, it's just he put up most of the remote extreme routes in Scotland in the last thirty years! Arran, for example, gets a complete spread of grades from Souwester Slabs (V Diff) through to the modern The Sleeping Crack (E6), with excellent photo-topos showing the lines of the face as you would see it on approach.

I guess my only trouble was with the strict geological demarcation of the book's area. I know the Highland Boundary fault is the starting point for the Highlands, but it seems unfair to have left out the great beacon of Scottish climbing which lights up what is ahead of you... Dumbarton Rock. It may be a scruffy place and I understand why aesthetically it might be left out, but it is so close to the area concerned, and is passed on all journeys up the west coast - its tremendous natural lines illustrate the Scottish Ethic perfectly and what one can expect from climbing in a style sense in Scotland (exposure, exhilaration, fight). Anyway, it's a small gripe, but maybe a couple of pages could have covered Dumbarton and it does have a toehold on the Great Fault! But editing such a book demands sacrifices, so I shouldn't go on about this.

The most attractive sections of the book were the new crags and the remote delights of Mull, which will become a little busier I guess. The hidden gems of deep-water solos, bouldering and hard single-pitches on glorious granite can be found in the pages on Erraid, Scoor, Garbh Eilean and Iona... this is given an overdue focus as these areas are some of the finest places to be, let alone climb! The photographs will do the rest.

Glen Nevis gets a deserved wad of pages, as does the Ben itself, with a tardis-like compression of the amount of quality climbing up there. Ardnamurchan and Ardgour have some awe-inspiring lines and get a good section devoted to them. Other classic areas are given due quality representation: the Coe , the Cairngorms and Arrochar (some great pics in all).

I can only congratulate Gary on a well-written and informative (if not exhaustive) representation of Southern Highland climbing. The research and time he has poured into this is simply mighty, and I know how big a country this is to cover! The history sections and the introduction are all absorbing and the weather chapter was amusing ('in the Outer Hebrides, gales are recored on over 40 days of the year'), the Geology chapter summarised our deep time very clearly and there was some sport climbing and bouldering represented within the guide as well which I was glad to see.

Lastly, I'd just have to say well done to Pesda Press for the immaculate production of this guide, the clean and attractive design and the value for money. It is not cheap producing such quality and I salute their bravery.
This is a must-have guide for the dedicated Scottish climber or simply the visiting climber.

It's the first Scottish guidebook I'll reach for when Heather points to medallions on the evening forecast...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bouldering in Scotland Summer Report 1

Farr Side Facet

Despite the weather breaking down somewhat into heavy showers typical of July now, some folk have managed to get out bouldering, with some cool NE winds in May and June providing better conditions for pebble-wrestling.

Jamie Murray showed Richie Betts and Mike Lee the 'Jamie' boulder near Farr in Inverness, which is a clean gneiss boulder revealed from the cleared forest with plenty of mid-grade lines on it. The big face project was completed by Mike before he has to start something called 'work'!

Farr Side Facet (sit start) Font 7c
'I was close to doing it the other week but my foot popped at the crucial moment and then my skin wore out. Couldn't get a lift out and I'm starting a job ne
xt week so decided to cycle out. I'm telling you it's not fun with a boulder pad, so many hills, so many funny looks. I felt like having a snooze rather than climbing when I got there... I'd like to say It was really hard, but compared to cycling in it was a piece of cake!'

I visited Dave and Claire MacLeod in Fortwilliam and listened in awe to tales of working a possible E12 on Ben Nevis, the photographing of which looked as epic as working it... check Claire's blog (buy a hamper while you're there!) Dave managed to link the Echo Wall roofs before heading to the States on lecture duties. How does he get the stamina?

Beatleback pinch crux

Well, I found out. We went up to Sky Pilot crag for a bouldering session, I thought I'd get back into bouldering after a three month lay-off and was beaten up by the power and technique required for the crux of the superb Beatleback. Now bear in mind this is a long Font 7c traverse with a desperate drop-down sequence. At the end of this ten metre traverse, Dave added on Burning the Candle, a power 7b+. Not only that, he linked it into Tinderbox (7a) on the left, with a bat-hang rest and sloper sequence to join Beatleback. Not only that, but it starts at the far left of the main crag. About forty metres, all told, an 8c+ route or thereabouts... anyway, he's close to the link, but no cigar yet.

If Dave's hair touches down, does this count as aid?!

Dave has also added new problems to the Pine Alps boulders on the other side and will be doing a topo for the bouldering hopefully.

Spirit Crack Font 7b
The twin crack on the Waterfall boulder, sit start and a crux slap
to a small crack sloper. High finish.

Bear Trap Prow Font 8a+
The Skeleton boulder lies to the left of the Waterfall boulder. Climb the right prow of the cave all the way direct.

Frontal System Font 8a
The full left to right traverse of the front face of the Skeleton boulder, reversing Sylvestris (7a ish) to a desperate sequence over the plinth boulders to the fa
r right.

Frontal System 8a Glen Nevis

Russell Birkett visited Weem and added a couple of long pumpy traverses:

Getting the Chop

Getting the Chop. Font 7a+**
Sit start at the right arĂȘte and follow Getting Lippy (6c+) to the left arĂȘte, drop down to flat holds and move left to below The Chop (7a). Finish up this.

Too Hard Too Far. Font 7a***
Sit start at low flat holds right of The Chop. Reverse Getting Lippy (6c+) to holds below the groove of Too Hard Too High (6c+). Finish up this and do battle with it's rounded topout!

Magnus Johnson has been developing the mossy schist boulders near Kinlochleven at GR 149609, reoprting that there are a lot of blank roofs and some fun problems in a 'Lord of the Rings' atmosphere. Here's a pic of one he calls Sloper Joe.

Kinlochleven Boulders - Sloper Joe

Pete Murray kindly gave me a trailer of an interview he did with me in the Lost Valley, which discusses the new Bouldering Guide and has some footage which appeared in his film Elements. Remember, if you want to buy the 3 for 2 offer, Stone Play + Bouldering in Scotland + Elements, (for only £40) the offer is on the main site on the books page.