Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Sport

Chilly day at Creag nan Cuillean - Cammy Bell climbing

Adrian Crofton on an early redpoint of Marlena

It's been a chilly, windy and often wet spring on the west coast and central belt, so we've been chasing moments of blustery sport to wind up the fitness - tag-teaming routes to keep warm, redpointing with cold pumps and numb fingers, huddling under permadry crags sucking the smoky warmth out of a roll-up. Maybe it would have been better for bouldering, but trying to climb seasonally in Scotland means sometimes having to fight the unseasonable!

Colin Lambton redpointing Beef Monster, Cammy Bell checking footy scores

I was chuffed to see Adrian Crofton bagging Marlena after a dedicated battle and endless unfolding screams from the last move. Nic Duboust impressed with a near flash of Marlena and old-skooler Guy Robertson dug out his engrams for another repeat, while flying visits from Stewart Brown and Will Atkinson saw flash ascents of Hamish Teds, which seems to be the benchmark flash tick for the Facebook generation.

Nic Duboust on Marlena

Onsighting sports routes is good mental and physical training for any trad as it requires a little improvisation under pressure, which is the hallmark of trad climbing. I managed a few onsight 7a's, the most amusing of which was Fogtown at North Berwick, a route that had faded completely from my memory and on which I got stupidly cross-handed at the top, improvising a desperate cross-through and slap, nose against an unclipped bolt... then the pleasure of lying on the short turf plucking at grass, belayers' gri-gris clicking away, it seemed like summer had deigned to show its face at last...

Up the sweaty crimps of Law of Gravity

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Glencoe Unclimbed and Unclaimed

Last of the Snows

Took a jaunt up to the Coe to do a little trad and check the mountain walls. Not surprisingly Slime Wall was still pretty slimy and catching weeps from snow melt, but all the south faces were drying nicely and the Rannoch Wall was reliable as ever, despite the high winds. Angus Murray tried 'Line Up' but went off route on a new variation 'Wind Up' which meanders right from the first belay, which was fun despite the perishing wind.

'Wind Up' HVS Rannoch Wall - Angus Murray climbing

Despite the fine weather there was only one other party on the wall - where have all the climbers gone? The Kingy is also a sad shadow of its former glory - the climbers' bar is just a museum of old grizzled heroes on black and white ice, or 80's rock stars in lycra. The 'golden era' is long gone I know but the Glen is surely worth a renaissance from gym-fit rock monsters who onsight 8a - there are plenty of wild new lines in the Coe for those young, fit and brave enough...

Awesome 60 m unclimbed overhanging wall in Glencoe

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lost Islands and Rumour Stones

Gigha Beaches

Torrential late April rains finally have given way to some blazing blue skies in the west. I've been out on foot in the Highlands and Islands for the last wee while due to a clutchless car but finally motoring again and visiting some corners of Scotland for the Book of Lost Stones, as well as bolting some new lines on our local crag at Dunglass, removing the rusted tat of old and adding a few shiny new bolts.

The New: new bolts for Beef Monsters

The Old: Political Legacy lower off

Keeping up the sport climbing as the weather settles into summer mode will hopefully mean a strong start on the trad climbing over the summer, with some big walls tagged for photography and Guy Robertson's magnum opus on sharp-end Scottish climbs. I'm also keen to get my backside onto some long-desired climbs such as Ling Dynasty, Titan's Wall, Expecting to Fly, New Testament and Clearances...hopefully we'll get the summer for good strong photography as well as some actual climbing!

Gigha Rock

The Island of Gigha is one of those forgotten Scottish islands, a short ferry journey from Kintyre and completely community-owned. We see the same salty faces each year and the locals are all either chasing lost dogs, fish-farming, hunting gulls' eggs or standing at the hotel bar talking about boats. Over two days we walked its 20 mile coastline in search of serendipity and a little climbing. I always thought the island might have steep rock and so it proved, with a super highball central wall below the little Trig point summit of Creag Bhan (101 feet!). This is one to return to, as is the boulder strewn Garbh Eilean in the north. The island of Cara off the south end has some trad and bouldering possibilities, but requires a boat or a friendly fisherman's favour. The wee north peninsula connected by the Eilean Garbh 'twin beaches' has a terrific steep crag and large boulders on its south side.

Eilean Garbh - the Raven Stone

Rumours of some 7c boulder problems around Tarbert were mentioned to me by Iain Blades, but no clues as yet, are you out there Iain? The crags above the harbour look like they may have some steep lines, but we drove past. I'm sure there is scope for a lot more in this area and down Kintyre, but how much is rumour and how much reality?

Seaweed Painting