Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Craigmore Bouldering

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...

Cammy Bell on Leech Direct in cleaner days...

Leech Direct 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

Stone Country New Site

We are developing the main Stone Country site into a book, film and topo resource centre for outdoor activities in Scotland & Europe, with new Topos, DVD's and Books for sale in the shop.

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

Ben Nevis by Ken Crocket and Simon Richardson

The new edition of the SMT publication 'Ben Nevis' has been published and it's a real treasure trove for the Scottish climber! Ken Crocket has done a great job of updating his sections from the older edition and Simon Richardson has added an inspiring and knowledgeable section on modern winter development.

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.

Review of Monkey See Monkey Do

Each autumn brings two seasonal imperatives: Autumnwatch and the new Hotaches film. Unlike Autumnwatch, Hotaches give us adventures without wings.

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.