Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Sky Handbook

The Sky Handbook has just been published and it's everything to do about the sky above, not Skye the island as some have thought! It's a book from my other life as an author and writer, and if you think you might want to buy one as a gift or for yourself, follow the link below and thankyou in advance!!

This book is ideal for a gift...and anyone interested in the cosmos, the stars and our planet's future. It's perfect for the intelligent child (is that not every child?!) and for any adults who are confused about the stars and climate change etc (that would be most adults)...this book will clear things up!!

It introduces the mysteries of the universe to us, covering: the origins of our universe; the stars, constellations and solar system; astronomers; our atmosphere and weather, phenomena from the Aurora Borealis to tornadoes; flight and space exploration; pollution; climate change and more!

John Watson is an author, publisher, climber and keen stargazer. He is founder of Stone Country Press, an independent Scottish publisher dedicated to books and guides on landscapes and the outdoors. Michael Kerrigan is an author and critic whose previous works include books on history, geography, exploration and the natural world.

You can preview and buy (only £14.99 for 400 pages!) at:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Just Published! - 100 Years Ago

This is a centennial nod to grander times. In a light-hearted note and with top respect for the first generation of climbers (see the pic below, now that's bold), I came across some useful (and not so useful) notes from Claude Benson's superb 'British Mountaineering', published 100 years ago.

It includes a chapter on bouldering no less, though they did call it 'rock gymnastics', as though they were slightly ashamed of the low-ball games of blocage. The book is a delight throughout, capturing the lost nuances of climbing as it was with no little humour and some sage advice. What is most encouraging is that not much has changed - Claude is still obsessed with gear and like a safety-Nazi 'floorwalker' he bores rigidly about techniques (quite rightly, of course, we want to pursue risk safely you know). He does witter on a bit about the 'tweenie maid' (mmm, enough said... ) - reassuringly, however, he suffers the same frustrations we still do today: A new rope is troublesome. It kinks most obstinately. So with fond apologies to Mr. Benson, here are a few of his more poignant obeservations:

"Gaiters - No one who has worn puttees will ever think of gaiters again. Some people use Fox's Spiral Puttees, but, personally, I prefer the coarse Tommy Atkins' puttee as being better fitted for the rough work, as well as cheaper..."
Ah no, Claude, buy cheap, buy twice...!

"I am blest with a basement staircase of stone, and at various points of the day I am to be found hanging by my fingertips to the outside thereof."
Claude, you just invented the campus board: finger-criminal!

"I recommend all who can to imitate me. Let not false shame prevent them. Let them be bold, and brave the suppressed laughter of the tweenie maid."
'Tweenies' now appear on CBeebies, or is it more sinister than that?

"Shirts - Flannel is the best material. Those made to take a detachable collar are the neatest."
Those modern wicking tops just aren't cool...

"Rope - there is only one kind of rope, the very best, the Alpine Club rope. It is to be purchased at Arthur Beale's, 194, Shaftebury Avenue, London, W.C., or at accredited agents."
See if they have one in the stock room, Gus.

"Rucksacks - See that there are separate pockets in the rucksack. It is just as well to keep your lunch, your hair brush, and your slippers apart."
Claude, I'm not sure if you mean rock slippers or rocking-chair slippers?

"Most of the dangers connected with British mountaineering are unjustly debited to rock-climbing. This is a mistake and a mischievous mistake."
BBC reports a 'climber' plunged 600 feet' - some eejit in new crampons in June on a rock ridge: familiar?

"Never despise the smallest foothold. A 'toe-scrape' may make just the difference of getting up or down..."
Ah, you mean 'smearing', don't you Claude?

"As a matter of fact, provided a man can go steadily and safely, I think he may be entrusted with the care of his own legs and feet without printed regulations, and the same is true of the position of his hands on the axe. Sitting glissades are generally deprecated, though there is no form more common amongst beginners except that on the broad of the back..."

''without printed regulations"... well said Claude, you would have hated this century, I think...

Monday, June 08, 2009

Dumby Dyno Done - Mr Tickle 8a

Will Atkinson finally succeeded on the aesthetic and athletic Pongo dyno at 8a which is sure to become a classic testpiece as there are so few dynos at the Rock. Here's the vid... I particularly like the little dancing feet at the end.

Mr Tickle (first ascent) from Willackers on Vimeo.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Arran Bouldering Update

The Arran Roof Boulder -left wall (right now done!)

On an earlier spring visit to Arran in late March, Niall McNair missed the ferry due to it leaving on British Summer Time instead of McNair-time, so he nipped back up the road to the Corrie boulder roof project. Right of Chris Graham's ealier left hand roof problem, this one was despatched before the next ferry. It goes at about Font 7b+ and is the hardest on Arran to date. He named it, rather drily, 'BST'. He also despatched the hanging arete by the fence on the giant Clach Dhruim a Charn at 7a+.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Elements 2

Pete Murray is back making a few more vids of Scottish climbing and bouldering, this time with the mighty HD camera in tow. We'll be producing a spin-off series of 'How To' films that illustrate the techniques to solve Scotland's top 50 or so boulder problems, 'condensing the story of these classic lines into a simple, concise story which reflects the intensity and brevity of the movement itself' (Pete's words). The HD vid of 'Gorilla' at Dumbarton Rock can be viewed on his Vimeo site.

Blue Skyes and Bloody Stones

Angus Murray on Central Wall of the Duck Boulder

Skye Cioch Face - note the huge white scar of rockfall on the Eastern buttress...

On a recce trip to Skye scoping new rock walls and giant stones, we stopped off at the Lagan burn to quench gargantuan thirsts. I stared again at the Duck boulder, trying to squint its erratic-topped form into a duck (failing again - it looks more to me like Tom Weir's hat with a bobbble on it). We meandered up the classic lines - I had forgotten how good these highballers actually are - all possible in the heat due to the rasping friction of the gabbro. Here's a short topo and descriptions for anyone wanting to stop off on the way down from the Cioch Face.

Duck Boulder

This the giant walled boulder with smaller duck-like erratics perched on top. It has a superbly textured high wall over a gravel apron and is accessed via the Lagan burn on the path to the Cioch face. Historical and used as a warm-up wall ever since Naismith and Collie roamed the corries. All problems feel quite highball but ease with height - imagine you are in tweeds and hobnails!

1. Surf’s Up Font 6a

The far left sloping bulges through the small roof at the top on improving holds.

2. Basalt Ladder Font 3+

The excellent basalt seamed groove of the left arête following the feature to the top.

3. Naismith’s Route Font 3

Climbs the ledged rock groove on the left above the gravel apron on polished holds. Blame Willie Naismith for polishing the rock with hobnails in the 1800’s!

4. Central Wall Font 6a

The tricky left central wall has a problem-solving finger-slot left of the thin crack holds in the crux bulge.

5. Collie’s Route Font 5

Pull up into the right hand groove just left of the overhang, finish direct. A classic highballer! Named after Skye pioneer Norman Collie.

6. The Groper Font 7a

Sit start the overhang low left and follow the edges right to lunge to the bra-shaped hold, then finish lengthily through another sloper up right. 6c standing start.

7. Tiggy’s Pinch Font 7a

A couple of metres left of the right arête. Difficult pinching leads to a lip hold, further pinching might gain the big jug. Niall McNair c 2005.

8. Duck Boulder Arête Font 6b+

The right arête. A long stretch to get started, but good holds gain height and a slap for the sloping bulge to the right allows the trucking slab to be gained.

9. Erratic Bloc Font 6b

The ‘duck’ on the top has a flying arête, sit start this with dynamic throws & mantel out the lip.

10. Eiderdown Traverse Font 4

Traverse from Collie’s Route to finish up Naismith’s.

I lost some photos of the Bloody Stone, so if anyone out there has pics of this giant boulder in Harta Corrie, please get in touch!

Dunkeld Bouldering - an Electric Feel

Electric Feel Font 7b+, Dunkeld Cave Crags

For some the purity of a bouldering line and the clean tight power of a short piece of rock motivates more than the sweaty walk-ins, hot belays and meandering thoughts of a mountain route... in this spirit, in the cool Font-like dappled shade of Dunkeld woods, Mike Lee worked out the high voltage positions of his project to give Electric Feel Font 7b+. It is an isolated problem, but maybe all the more focused and classic because of this. It's an attractive scooped wall with lightning bolt features just down the hill rightwards from Marjorie Razorblade buttress at NO 020 438. Well done to Mike for climbing such a tough line in the searing heat we've had the last few days - I can vouch that this is a class modern addition and probably the best boulder problem in the area.