Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Kevin Howett has updated his Glen Lednock guide and we've done a new PDF 16 page booklet at Stone Country. The guide includes around 100 problems at this picturesque venue in Perthshire. Stacks of good circuit problems, perfect for the kids, plus some testpieces up to 7b for the strong.
A superb little venue, it's perfect on a fine winter's day. The rock is an excellent rough schist and the problems are enjoyably technical. You can download the guide for a nominal £3.50 via Paypal below.
Friday, December 04, 2009
The most excellent new Dumbarton website has gone live, featuring the bouldering at Dumby. Created by Jonathan Bean, it has some terrific images and very clear topo photos. The site can be accessed here, see what you think... I think it's a long overdue addition to the climbing scene in Scotland.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Paul Whitworth has started up a new blog following his exploration of Shetland Bouldering. New bouldering has been found just south of Lerwick on the Ness of Sound and it looks impressive. Paul informs me that they are currently working to compete a full climbing guide for Shetland by the end of 2010. The blog will be regularly updated to showcase Shetland's hidden gems.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Marie Rose at Cuvier was the first '6a', climbed in 1946. However, it comes with a caveat. It should not be compared with more recent and numerous other 6a's as this was a watershed at its time. There is an interesting 'biological' theory called morphic resonance which reeks a little of the X-Files but basically says that once something has occurred repetition occurs more frequently and independently, allowing the same to happen elsewhere with more ease. It certainly 'appears' to happen, a bit like a magician's illusion, but just might be a statistical oddity. It might be an obvious statement, but until 6a was climbed, 6a was never climbed...
'Marie Rose' is certainly a hard problem and feels about British 6b in modern money, but it's best to compare it to the famous 5+ nearby of L'Angle Allain to understand it. L'Angle Allain is easier with sticky shoes but at its time it was the hardest benchmarker (1934) and is more to do with foot friction and technique rather than finger strength and power.
The first 7a is still debated, with most opting for Abattoir at Cuvier, climbed by Michel Libert in 1960. This is certainly a real step up in technique, power and commitment, easily a new breed of problem, but my money goes on the more elusive and earlier La Joker, just round the corner from Marie Rose, climbed in 1953 by Robert Paragot. This technical and frustrating wall is exactly what a Font 7a should feel like. If you are climbing 7b at home, it will still kick your backside and scold you for any weak fingers. All classic grade-busters should feel 'value for money' and La Joker has crept to the fore as one of the forest's real classics.
Who knows where it will stop. 9a is currently the Fontainebleau dream and a few are getting close, such as Dave Graham's 'The Island' at Coquibus, though the problem of link-up grading is rearing its head... is there a true 9a straight-up in the forest. If so, who has the keys to unlock it?
Modern 7a's are certainly easier money, go after the older ones for the true Font experience (Mur de la Fosse aux Ours etc). Here's a wee vid of my favourite 7a. Some say 7a+, but these modern roof style problems seem to bag the 7a grade too easily. A result of too much morphic resonance! Anyway, I always go back to this one, as it's a combination of power, fingers, technique and good balance. It' s not the Joker though...
Sunday, November 08, 2009
The next three days are checked for the best conditions and great debates ensue as to the surest strategy. The heavy cloud and rain symbol means a rest day or exploration, or recovering from a beer and wine tasting. A sun symbol means get out there and crank hard! I had three heavy rain symbols in a row. No matter how many times we looked at that page, the symbols didn't morph into sunny intervals. This was just RAIN. Only one thing for it...
On the fourth day I pulled my tendons apart as the breeze lifted the clouds and sunny skies dried out the boulders to a crisp rasping friction that made everything feel easy for a while. But this magical time does not last long, the muscles lose power and the skin grows pink and sore. Time for the 400 meg pink smarties, a slice of saucisson in stale sandy bread, then blank chew-staring until the drugs kick in. Then you climb like Jehovah for a while until the pain returns again.
There is only one thing worse than a rainy day in Font - a good day when you're too trashed to climb. Doing a few easier circuits is the sagest philosophy when things are sore, just don't choose the harder red circuits such as the 'Guichot shredder' or the long finger-manglers of Cuvier and Sabots. Blue circuits like Sabots, Cul du Chien or J A Martin are the best for loosening those tired calves and biceps.
Or you could put on some fine dandy clothes, powder your ass and straddle a horse like you're Napoleon of the goddamn forest. The only reasonable thing to do dressed like this is obviously to go shooting the very creatures who own the place...
Still, we managed a few good walks through the forest, with the Elephant plateau providing the best light of the week. One new problem fell - the Elephant Man - which is a great 7a sloper problem not at Elephant, oddly enough, that's a complete red herring (yes, that's helpful). I'll keep it till next visit until the desperate direct is done... one good day is all it takes. Some vids below...
A fine roof 7a+ at Rocher Fin. The right exit is 7b.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Having been beavering away at autumn projects at Craigmore, we thought we'd produce a guide to the bouldering here which will be available soon, but I was shocked at the amount of problems which have vanished under the moss. Have a look at the two pictures below, the first is of Cammy Bell on Leech Direct, a photo which famously graced the 90's edition of the SMC's Lowland Outcrops, while the second is the same wall today...
I've started a mini campaign to clean up some classics here, starting with Wide Eyed Wall. Hopefully by next spring we'll have rersurrected some neglected classics at this magical little venue.
Possibly the growth of trees is shading more of the crag and global warming wetness has maybe encouraged the moss. The blocs in the forest are being left well alone as it's environmentally more important than climbing, but some of the classic crag walls could do with some attention: White Hope, Sunday Wall, Spinal Wall, Preliminary Exercise, Autobahn area (yikes, what happened to that?!), Sunshine Arete, Wopitee Wall etc
On a plus note, the leg-breaking excavations which occurred under Jamie's Overhang have been filled in with turf/pine leaves and the landing is now flat and bouncy... if anyone fancies a go at Surprise Attack 7b which is a superb dyno sloper problem.
Also, anyone with any historical notes or memories/photos, please get in touch, as we're trying to bring together some history for this neglected local crag. Email John Watson.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
We are also keen for articles or topos on climbing or bouldering in Europe, so please send anything you'd like published to the edtior John Watson. We can design, price and host your pdf guidebooks, ebooks or articles on our site, so don't hesitate to send us any of those old topos you worked on years ago and we'll give them a facelift.
Recent new features are: Glen Lednock, Cowal & Arrochar Blocsport, Monkey See Monkey Do DVD and lots more...
Monday, October 19, 2009
The production levels of the book are tremendous, with full colour photography and illustrations on every page. It's the absolute bible on our biggest mountain and weighs in at a hefty but soild hardback of 416 pages.
The book delves deep into the details of misty history and introduces us to an almost-lost character list of rum characters who have climbed on this mountain over the years. Early travellers and mappers are given due introduction and the early Raeburn years are given due credit for their technique and boldness.
The book is divided into chapters just like the 'eras' of devlopment on the mountain: the Ben seems to go through fashions and modes like a shape shifter. It had its tweed era, its alpen-stocked brigade, it has had a step-cutting era, a rock era in the 70's and 80's and more latterly a hard mixed winter era... each chapter delves into the people who have coloured the mountain with their climbs. It ends suitably with Dave MacLeod's epic Echo Wall ascent, and it seems apt to a resilient Celtic nation to harbour the hardest logistical and technical rock climb on the planet.
There are also welcome chapters on Geology, Industrial & Social Heritage, Mapping and Natural History which bring a more holistic touch to the book. It really is an essential buy for anyone interested in our highest and most dominating mountain and is a superbly produced tome that will reward with years of return reading. The photographs are inspiring and the stories are well researched and colourfully written.
I'm selling copies on the main Stone Country site for £25.00.
The art of a good climbing film, especially in this saturated media age, is to tell a good story. Any film-maker should keep this truism close to heart and Hotaches don't disappoint: the 2009 film 'Monkey See Monkey Do' is a collection of fantastic climbing tales, focusing closely on character and motivation. Every shot is saturated with the emotion of the climber, committed to telling the inner story as much as the wobbling, sickening 'real' world of the climbing. Some sequences in this film had me frozen in disbelief, particularly in the highlight of the four films: Single Handed.
The first film is entitled Slate Monkeys and follows three very different climbers to the slate quarries of Wales. Matt Segal, Hazel Findlay and Johnny Dawes attack a classic slate route with a heady mixture of youth, canniness, experience and sheer improvisation. It is no accident that there are echoes of Stone Monkey and some of the sequences of Johnny 20 years on, smearing up a slaty chimney, palming and warping himself into the rock are nostalgic and timely. Talented American climber Matt Segal bubbles with awestruck enthusiasm over his hero 'Janny' while Hazel climbs with a boldness and suppleness inspired by the original film. It is an engaging piece and some great close-up footage of marginal smearing and Elvis shuddering on this most notorious of rock forms.
Film 2 'Single Handed' is the tour de force of this DVD and features Scottish climber Kev Shields and his struggles to overcome a hand disability to push his climbing limits. Not only does Kev have to work round a one-digit hand, but he has had to overcome the darker disabilities of epilepsy and depression. It is enlightening to hear Kev explain climbing as a way out of these restrictions and it is encouraging that he found the strength to make committing decisions despite emotional and physical compromises in his life. Kev refuses to accept the restrictions of being a 'disabled climber' and he sees in it the opportunity for highly creative climbing. This is what makes his climbing so inspiring - it's his creativity on hard routes in Glen Nevis and the Peak as he adapts and improvises to overcome what some would state as impossible. His technique and balance is a delight to see on film and his commitment goes beyond most climbers' ideas of rational limits. The sequence as he commits to a Glen Nevis solo is a truly brave step as we realaise for Kev climbing is an irreversible decision.
Film 3 changes focus and pans out a little onto 'Little Big Walling' in Madagascar. The impressive granite cliffs of this island paradise are scampered on by lemurs and some entertainingly bonkers Englishmen including James McHaffie, Dave Pickford and Jack Geldard. The blank granite walls are overcome with good technique, persistence and the highlight is the route 'Yellow Fever' which is the only multi-pitch in the world with the route description: climb the vine in the blank corner. The landscape is the highlight of this movie and the routes filmed make you feel like phoning freinds to see if they are up for a BIG adventure...
The final feature is a short delight as we follow Sonnie Trotter and his dedicated belayer Cory Richards in Squamish. The hot summer frustrates Sonnie's attempts on a hard granite trad route, but in steps Cory with his entertaining philosophy of belaying as an art in itself. Sniffing the rope like a fine wine, choosing his belay device as though from a selection of weapons and 'warming-up' to belaying with his unique rope exercises ('The Archer' etc) finish this fine DVD with suitable humour and diversion. The best line in the movie is left to the end, as Sonnie completes his route and the camera zooms into Cory, who shrugs and says: 'If you're not belaying, you're just climbing.'
Well done to Paul Diffley on the production of another superb Hotaches movie. Great editing, soundtracks and bountiful extras - including the superb Firestone E7 solo by Kev Shields, which will make your eyes sweat!!
The film is available now on Pal DVD on our main Stone Country site (BUY HERE). It's inspiring stuff and guaranteed to make you wish you'd done more over the summer! If a climbing film is judged by what it inspires, then this one lights the flame within.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Ambience: picnic with the family
Rock: compact schist – rough as gabbro
Season: spring and autumn, exposed
Gear: mats, wire brushes, skin cream
Grades: good easy blocs for kids, testpieces 6a to 7b
GR: NN 727 286
Approach: From the A9 Perth-Stirling road, take the exit signed to Braco along the A822. Just after Braco, take a left onto the B827 signed to Comrie. Once in Comrie turn left at a T-Junction after the river. Drive round a sharp bend and at the next bend turn right uphill into the forest. Continue to open country and into Glen Lednock proper. Drive to the Invergeldie farm steadings and head uphill past the Sput Rolla waterfall. Close all gates behind you and park just before the dam at a U-bend. The blocs are obvious in clusters on grassy alps across the wee wooden bridge under the dam on the flanks of Creag nan Eun. 5 minutes walk at most.
The slabby low bloc on the first little plateau amongst the ‘Kids’ Blocks’. SS at the obvious layaway at wee cave and use slopers up left to get onto the slab. Looks easy, doesn’t it? Tim Carruthers 2003.
Feathering the Penthouse 6a+
Twin blocs above path: ‘The Eiffel Blocs’. This climbs the super hanging thin vertical crack above the track. SS on jams in the deep crack. Up into the thin crack and pull up and right to the top. Kev Howett 2003.
Best in Toon 6b+
The flat-faced boulder right of the Eiffel blocs: ‘The Lamp Bloc’. SS on the flat hold in centre left, up and right passing a good hold and then into the vertical crack which may need a good brush. Kev Howett 2003.
Red 22 6a
Reiver’s Bloc. SS glen face at obvious ledge. Snatch up to layaways right of the diagonal crack, gain a crimp up and left, then go again for a poor LH sloper, heel hook on the face and reach a sloper at the apex, pull over.
Sneak By Night 6a+
Reiver’s Bloc. The slabby right arête itself. Start on a good flat hold at head height in the steeper side wall to the right. Direct up the right side of the arête on small holds, take the edge of the slab to the top.
Reiver’s Logic 7a+
Reiver’s Bloc. SS from the obvious shelf at the base of the arête up to the good flat hold of Sneak by Night. Reach diagonally right via desperate crimping to a good hold in the centre of the wall, back left to the arête.
Breaking Wave 7a
Dam Blocs. A superb problem direct through the centre of the ‘wave’ feature wall. SS in the centre of the diagonal crack and pull direct through the wave, reach right onto the glacis above on dimples. Kev Howett 2003
Manic Stupor 7b
Dam Blocs overhang. Crouching start at two central crimps in the big curving shelf which runs through the roof. Power dynamically upwards to the lip with a sneaky heel-toe, traverse left to rockover. Tim Palmer 2003.
Rock Around The Block 7a
Real Estate Blocs lowest downhill from the Reiver’s Bloc towards the glen. A good hard girdle traverse of the east and north walls. The crux is turning the arête between the two walls. Lawrence Hughes 2004.
Keep it Unreal 7a+
The Real Estate Blocs’ west wall. This hard problem takes the blunt reddish arête SS then layback up the right hand side. Sloping holds. Tim Carruthers 2003.
The Elegant’s Stool 6a
The Upright Bloc left of Real Estate blocs. Climbs the scoop in the arête SS on the right side of the arête at a thin horizontal ledge. Pull into the base of the scoop & top out on the arête. Kev Howett 2003.
Upright bloc slabby face. The main slab via two horizontal cracks. SS on a thin flake and gain the first break, then climb delicately to the second. Reach for jugs at top. Font 5 from standing left. Kev Howett 2003.
'Red 22' - a fab 6a with subtle technique required on rough slopers. On the glen side of the big Reiver's Bloc. Named after the Fontainebleau tendency to sandbag this particular red circuit number... all red 22's in the forest are desperate and secretive!
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'd never been to the top of Ben Macdui, shame on me, but once on the Cairngorm plateau it really doesn't look like a mountain top, more of a bowl of piled gravel so I'd never got beyond the Ben Avon basin. This remote paradise is far more spectacular and alpine in its dramatic sweep of rock and water than the plateau, so it tends to suck the climber downhill amongst the waterfalled crags into the heart of its monolithic geology.
The weather was settled with high pressure stamping out any hint of summit winds, so I took the excellent path up into Sneachda by the bubbling burn and over the goat track down into Shelterstone. Adrian Crofton and Graham Tyldsley were steadily inching their way up Cupid's Bow, so I took a break to boulder around the blocs, chased by unusually potent midges. I was lured into the big gully to the left of Sheltertstone by the bubbling sound of two Ring Ouzels boulder hopping. I'd never seen these birds before, though I knew this rocky talus and scree was their perfect habitat. Bouldering birds: you hear their chirpy hollers before you see them.
The gully was a deathtrap, surfing large mobile blocs as they shifted upon each other, but I regained the summit and walked up to Carn Etchachan summit. The basin below was resplendently still, Loch Avon a verdi-gris mirror pocked with trout rings. I looked about and saw the distant 'summit' of Ben Macdui and thought I should climb it as it is our second Scottish mountain, albeit with a rather bald dome. I thought I'd explore the plateau first and get to know this unusual habitat, taking some photos of whatever grabbed my attention: shattered quartz blocks that look like they've fallen from the skies; tufts of autumn-auburn grass like punks buried up to their foreheads; fluorescent green lichens on pink granite... this habitat has its own unique charms.
After an absorbed meander across the normally hostile plateau I'd rock-hopped to the the little trig-point and stone fort of the 'Grey Man'. Breariach swept its curtains of rock across the west beyond the Lairig Ghru and the air was still and echoey. The atmosphere was impressive, like an oxygenated bubble on the moon and your breath felt rarefied and precious. Someone arrived at the summit with iphone earplugs welded in, the little white leads banging around. He ran up the little stone fort without a word and tapped the summit trig like a chess clock...
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Thursday, September 03, 2009
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
You never know who your heroes are going to be in the climbing world. They end up being people entirely different from the abstracted heroes you started with in the climbing mags - the ones photographed doing crazy solos and hand-stands against the cliff faces. If you are lucky enough, they are people you climb with for a few years. They often disappear from the climbing world into real life and don't come back, which only makes their legend stronger. For me, Craig Parnaby was one of these vanishing legends.
Craig was inimitable and his ability on rock was terrifying. I first met him at the Bowderstone in the early 90's, a 'beginner' doing laps on the classic 6a crack. He was a youth from Coniston in the Lakes, with Gecko hands and lithe forearms, reminding me instantly of Ron Fawcett's build - you could just tell he had the genetics. Even as a beginner he moved on the rock like a bent bow, always tensioned, never loose and arse-out-the-window like the rest of us. He came to Glasgow, ostensibly to study medicine, but he set about dismantling reputations in his own casual and unassuming manner. Over his few years of climbing he onsighted some of Britain's hardest rock climbs, never once pre-inspecting or seeking beta, he just got on with it. One weekend he went down to Wales and onsighted The Bells, The Bells, saying it was 'rather easy', in the manner of a gifted schoolboy rolling his eyes at simplistic homework.
In 1996 I had my first experience of the 'Parnaby Day'. A Parnaby 'evening' would go something like this: drive to Cambusbarron in his beat-up Panda, do Grace Under Pressure, Big Country Dreams, Purr Blind Doomster, Quantum Grunt & The Crowd, go home, eat a spoonful of pasta, sleep, get up, phone someone and ask if they fancied the Coe. I said I did, but I would drive. On reaching the Coe I asked if he had enough lunch for two, I'd forgotten mine. 'Yes, I have plenty of food, John...' He saw the Tunnel Wall and said 'that looks rather good, we could climb there this morning'. He 'warmed up' by onsighting Uncertain Emotions, Fated Path and Admission, at one point down-climbing a crux because he 'hadn't done it right'. Then it was off to the Freak-Out wall to despatch Crocodile, Jimmy Blacksmith and Supernova before I wilted as a second and dragged him away to the pub. Craig hated the pub, it was missing good climbing time and he sat there flicking through guide-books 'oohing' at E7 6a's. Oh, and the food he brought that day? Two packs of Sunmaid raisins (the wee kids' boxes) and four Ryvita...
Despite his meagre appetite, Craig ate up the climbing grades like a mumbly-mouthed Pacman eating dots. He began to travel and climb widely, doing big repeats, taking the odd legendary fall, getting back on, doing the E6 or whatever, always persistent, always onsight, taking his time. His favourite trick was to arrive at climbing wall bouldering comps, climb to the crux, mutter a little, downclimb to the starting jug, shake-out and repeat this until he had solved the problem or the bored queue behind him moved on. He was barred from future boulder comps.
None of us could keep up with Craig's stamina and hunger. He was not afraid to take a fall or two either. One time at Auchinstarry, after a warm-up on Nijinski, he fell off the direct start to Blade Runner, landing on his head on the plinth below. He rubbed his head a little, inexplicably said sorry to the belayer and despatched the route with one piece of gear in disdain. He continued to motor through the bigger British extremes until his parents took away his ropes and gear and insisted he concentrate on his studies. He dutifully packed away climbing like a worn pair of boots and moved on with his career. But hell, he was a good climber...
Friday, August 07, 2009
Monday, August 03, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
One of my favourite places on the planet for climbing, boulder hunting and being... the gneiss territory around the road from Rhiconich to Sheigra and the territory beyond. I noticed recently that Google maps have upped their resolution for this area amongst others and it's great fun exploring steep shadows with an eagle's-eye view... I've put a Google map together of the best places to boulder here I know of so far, plerase email me if you know of any others nearby.
View Sheigra Area Bouldering in a larger map
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
News from Simon Fildes on their new film 'Crux' - go see it at the Beautiful Game exhibition if you're passing through Dundee - in the Hannah McClure Centre.
The Beautiful Game
Hannah Maclure Centre
3 August – 30 October 2009
Opening reception 31 July 6pm – 9pm Simon Fildes and Katrina McPherson
The exhibition The Beautiful Game will seek to explore the relational aesthetics of sport, athletics, art and game play, along with its theory and psychology, mark making and movement, modes of athletic performance, temporal and spatial dissonance. By employing a wide variety of artistic practice The Beautiful Game brings sports into a visual arts context exposing the active aesthetic.
Hannah Maclure Centre
University of Abertay Dundee
Top Floor Student Centre
1 - 3 Bell Street
Dundee, DD1 1HP
Sunday, July 26, 2009
View Clochodrick Stone in a larger map
There is not too much to get excited about, but the straight-up problems are all fun from sit starts and perhaps the greatest mystery is the nature of the mythical 'Traverse'. I had heard Paul Laughlan used this stone for training before doing the Tunnel Wall routes, so I'm sure he worked out this traverse and used it as training. It goes about F7c, though nothing more technical than Font 7a.
Stewart Brown repeated the traverse for the camera, which we'll upload soon and will illustrate the best method. Basically sit start the south arete and turn the bulge and continue as low as possible round the north arete, low as possible across the crux north wall via crimps and a crux reach to a pinch, then drop down to the west roof and finish along this. It's a long outing and extremely pumpy, good for summer evenings if you're bored of Dumby. there's a F8a (Font 7b+) version finishing along the west wall sloper eliminate - hard to describe but you'll see it when you're there.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
It's an updated edition which is now 16 pages and includes Sport Climbing routes as well as complete bouldering and recent new problems. I've corrected some mistakes and rejigged the look and feel of the guide so it is more information- rich with lots more photo-topos to help unlock the problems and routes!
This will form part of the Clyde Valley Blocsport guide but it is a useful document to have on its own with over 200 problems and routes described.
To buy a copy, click on the Buy Now button through Paypal and follow the simple download instructions. If you recently bought the first edition of the guide, I'm happy to issue a 2.50 refund (so you get the new guide for only £1) - just include an email stating your name in the Paypal process and I can check through my records and make a refund!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Currently we are developing the Stone Country Bloc Sport website to include a new series of area guides in pdf format, reworking Dumby and other Glasgow-radius crags with sport climbing included (so we'll have the new sports crags at Lomond and elsewhere...details to come!). These topos will also be available from the exciting new Betaguides website (due to launch in the next month or so - a complete database of bouldering in Britain).
For the new Bloc Sport webiste I've been embroiled in all things Joomla, which is frying my head, so can't promise anything too soon, so I'll put the topos up on the blog as soon as we get them. Here's an example topo from the guides, which we will be producing in guidebook format next year - it's the Dunglass sport wall:
Dunglass has been a saviour for me over the early summer, acting as a good training ground to get some basic fitness back. We have fully bolted the West Wall (though the trad routes remain untouched, so no chopping - the existing bolted routes have been refitted and some other routes squeezed in between Steel Finger and Wall of Horrors, the two main trad lines). There are now around 15 sport routes in various combinations between 6a and 7b+.
The girdle project fell late last night in cool conditions to John Watson, which is now the biggest challenge on this crag at a Wagnerian 25 metres! It's called The Ring Cycle and goes at about 7b+, though I'd say a Dunglass 7b (with apologies to Cammy!).
Now for some trad action hopefully!