Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Blues

I'd rather be here..

The west coast has bombed spectacularly into boiling humidity and endless depressive rain fronts, I think I've managed out twice in August and have done nothing but stare at climbing through the internet, maybe it's time to get a trip organised to somewhere next summer!

Anyway, to get inspired I surfed around a few sites for new guidebooks produced by computer bound publishers like myself. Here are a few I thought were inspiring. Click on the links to have a look or buy the guides and support your sport...

Lofoten by Rockfax - award winning guidebook to a fantastic set of islands off the coast of Norway.

Ailefroide by Team Les Collets. Bouldering in one of the finest areas of the Alps. brilliant trad and sport as well.

Sardinia One of the best sport islands in Europe with mountains, spires, beach sport and granite bouldering. Love the place.

Sardinia Granite... and sunshine!

Tenerife Climbing - great sport climbing, spires of rock and fab bouldering for the long winters. Arico is the best sport climbing gorge on the island.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Unsponsored Heroes - Craig Parnaby

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...

Ardmair Classics

A flying visit to Ardmair in between the rain, forgot how much fun this roof is!

Friday, August 07, 2009

Rob's Reed

High Voltage 6b+

I must admit, I'm impressed with this crag. I usually hate pebble pulling, I find it as secure as climbing on a stack of giant Minstrels. However, this crag has enough good sandstone flag mixed in with the pebbles, and enough varied angles from roofs to walls, to provide some of the best short sport climbs in Scotland. Around 50 routes provide all sorts of entertaining moves from butch pocket pulling to delicate balance moves. The climbing is still blind and hard to onsight, but if you dog the generous bolts, tick the holds with chalk (take a stick of blackboard chalk), the grades become understandable! Of course, full marks for any onsight... I spent most of my time on 6c's brushing around on high like Rolf Harris - 'can you tell what it is yit?'

The outlook is superb, a pleasant grass runway underneath the routes, and some little stone plinth seats for lunch or contemplating your blasted forearms. The lack of midges and shading trees make it an ideal high summer venue - all the more appealing as the fantastic roofs of Dirty Harry's Cave finally dry out. These have modern-style bouldery roof routes, classic 7b's such as The Enforcer and Climb and Punishment (best route at the crag?). There are projects up to 8a so the venue will become even more attractive. The lower end is maybe not catered for so much with even the 6a's proving hard, especially if you are just breaking into this grade - 'pebble-blindness' gives you no help whatsoever! The best of the grades seem to be between 6b and 7a with technical wall climbs and crack climbs such as Breaking Through on Aggregate (7a) and High Voltage 6b+ proving popular.

Climb and Punishment 7b

If you haven't been, get yourself a topo from Neil Shepherd at Arbroath Sports Climbs. If you tick the whole crag in a day, treat yourself to a Forfar Bridie... you'll need it!


Monday, August 03, 2009

Shelterstone Bouldering Circuit

Some folk have asked about the bouldering around the Shelterstone blocs. This is really a fine venue if an absolute trek with a boulder mat. A few years ago I was researching this for the guidebook and walked in with a boulder mat, full trad kit, tent etc - the full kit bhoona - on the promise of some friends joining me on the weekend for some trad action. Saturday morning came and went and no sign of climbers, so I bouldered around a bit and dug out a nice circuit of problems on the blocs. By Sunday no-one had arrived so I packed up and hauled out, the way back took about 4 hours with all the kit. What was worse was that by the time of printing the guide I had accidentally left out the Shelterstone page (along with Richie's Scatwell topo). Still, I was pretty leg fit for ages after... calves like flower vases.

So to redress the oversight, here's the basic topo. Lots of testpiece aretes and walls aside from this, but if you can carry a Dropzone in you'll probably just end up sleeping on it!

If you want a printable pdf copy, just email me.