Monday, January 20, 2014

The Floating Boulder

Dumby Sea Bloc
The Scottish winter is a long dreamtime. Especially in such wet, dark, dank weeks which visit us between old years and new. The Scottish climber probably spends more time dreaming about climbing than actually doing any. A lot of stones and boulders float round ambitious dreamscapes in drifting vistas of cool skies and sun-washed rock. The reality is just about waiting out the weather systems. A Sunday visit to Dumbarton rock found it, not unsurprisingly, green, dripping. One problem was dry. High tides are floating the Sea Boulder again and it's time to take stock, or just bite the bullet and get down the training wall ...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

January 6th-12th - a settling

...not Scotland, as was promised!
Towards the end of the week, the weather has settled a little and some clear skies and frosts set in. A massive coronal mass ejection (CME or solar storm) was predicted to hit the atmosphere on Thursday, but it was weaker than predicted and evening jaunts to the higher ground round Glasgow were fruitless. Iceland and Norway stole the show, seen live on Skygazing live on the BBC, or the 'lucky-bastards show' as it should be called. Hopefully an active sun will continue to have colourful hissy fits this winter...

The clearer skies finally combined with a weekend, so on Saturday 11th, with the east of the country draped with medallions on the forecast, Colin and myself headed to Glen Lednock. Treacherous black ice on the pass over to Comrie (with a buckled jeep in a ditch behind a scribble of swerve-lines on the road) led to a slow approach but we made it up to Invergeldie Farm and stomped the locked-gate approach to the dam for the first enjoyable bouldering session of the year.

The rock was still a little green and the top-outs coated in spindrift snow, but some stiff-fingered bouldering could still be enjoyed. A fine outlook and good venue, with Creag Iochdair on the east flank looking like it should really be developed more. Good to see another party arrive and brave the icy conditions - if the access to the dam car-parks were resurrected, this would be a popular venue, but an unenlightened and regressive landowning approach seems to be a thorn-in-the-side here. But Scottish law and access rights will prevail...

Glen Lednock bouldering

Stone Country New Year 2014

Welcome to 2014, Arran 3rd January
 January 1st arrived with mild and stormy weather interspersed by long periods of continuing rain on saturated ground. After a grim December, optimism for the New Year is on hold in terms of the weather - an unsettled and wobbly jet-stream seems to have set in motion an endless stream of southwesterly water-baths.

On the 3rd January a perfect storm of sorts blew in, combining with spring tides to flood most of the Clyde basin. Exposed shoreline areas saw roads ripped apart and covered in marine debris, Ardrossan and Arran hit hard.

Arran 3rd January storms
We were staying in Corrie in the sheltered north harbour 'Wee Zephyr' cottage (a rather ironic name), accompanied by an unconcerned otter fishing the harbour bay, but still found both north and south roads impassable for a while at Sannox and Maol Donn shores.

New Year companion

Walks were the order of the day to shake off the alcoholic lethargy of New Year, up to the waterfalls at North Glen Sannox (golden eagle territory, the Hutton 'intrusion') and the iron age forts in North Sannox.
Hutton's intrusive proof of vulcanism
Higher ground remained wind-blown and swathed in impenetrable cloud, so we left this for longer summer days.

Pete and Sarah in sodden North Glen Sannox
I managed one sunny afternoon bouldering on Arran in between the fronts, at The Mushroom in Merkland Wood, part of the National Trust's grounds. The newly-cleaned rock of 2013 was remarkably dry for such a dousing, thought the slabby top-outs are still green, not surprisingly. It will take a concerted dry spell for the finishes to come into nick Still, it's a fine venue amongst the tall, swaying Scots Pines and to be noted are some hard project lines tucked in the left cave on the south face if it dries out enough to work.

Merkland Wood
Delayed ferries were the order of the week, Calmac diverting to Gourock to avoid the windswept Ardrossan, the Clansman boat was called in and many frustrated passengers, including Lord Jack McConnell of Glencorrodale, were getting red around the chops with Calmac's backlogs. The Arran Banner was incandescent with editorial rage, and rightly so, for island businesses taking the hit of an inadequately-appointed ferry fleet around the busiest time of year, though the Scottish weather is top trumps in this affair. To add insult to injury, Calmac delayed boarding on a sodden Saturday 4th to perform a fire-drill. Cue a rolling of eyes.

Corrie end of 2013