Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Another little milestone

Waiting for the breeze to come back at the base of Bark at the Moon E8 6c, Glen Clova. Photos by Masa Sakano.

Last week I went for a wee wander about Glen Clova. I hadn’t been there before and checked out a couple of routes I’d heard about. One was Tim Rankin’s E8 6c Bark at the Moon, a great looking line up a big steep prow. I felt it would be a good milestone to build a bit of confidence in my trad climbing. I worked out the moves quickly and was desperate to get back with a partner and give it a try.

So yesterday I returned with Masa to try and do it. Masa started with an impressive tussle with Empire of the Sun and it was great to watch him top out after really going for it. I seconded and didn’t feel I was moving very well. But it was just the strong sunshine I think. We abbed into the start of Bark at the Moon and conditions felt much better.

On the headwall of Bark at the Moon.

After a quick wait for the sun to go behind a cloud, I headed upwards. The route is pretty bouldery so you have to move quickly. Before I knew it I’d moved solidly through the crux and noticed myself letting out a deep breath to relax a bit and enjoy the pumpy upper headwall. 

Although I felt strong and solid on the crux, I’m aware that I am still feeling rather self-conscious in my movement - I am still climbing up the rock thinking about my ankle rather than about nothing. I can see it will take a little while yet to lose this feeling and be able to enter a decent state of concentration on the rock.

Although I wasn’t totally relaxed, I was still very pleased overall to have made another little milestone of progress. I feel I should probably do another few E8s before progressing back to E9 again.

Finishing off with Sunset Song E5 6b

Masa going for it on Empire of the Sun E4 6a

Ab rope stuck in a crack. Got there eventually.

The midges we waiting for us to decide to do one more route. We thought better of it.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Warming up the climbing a bit more

Transition Film Preview - Toast E7 6c 1st Ascent from Hot Aches Productions on Vimeo.

Last week I visited Suidhe Biorach on Skye for the first time, on a cold and windy day with Natalie. There are still plenty of great cliffs around the highlands that I’ve never visited, and I always have the hope of discovering good hard new routes to climb on them.

Climbing the excellent Mother's Pride, E4, Suidhe Biorach. Photos: Chris Prescott/Hot Aches Productions

That day we climbed Mother’s Pride, the big classic E4. Mega steep, mega jugs. At mid height I couldn’t help noticing the massive horizontal roof to it’s right. At the right end of this, Hovis (E6) crosses the roof at a narrower section with good flakes. But I could also see the odd ripple in the expanse of roof in between. 

At the end of the day I abbed down to have a look. At first it looked like there weren’t enough holds, but then I found one section of roof with just enough holds. I had to come straight back for this amazing line!

A couple of days later we were back. I abbed down again, giving the pitch a clean and checking out the gear and holds. It looked like it would go, but one move to spin round and toe hook the lip while holding a slopey press in the roof looked tough and was hard to try off the rope since the roof was totally horizontal.

It was gently raining although none of it was really bothering the route. So after a bit of hanging around we just abbed down and got on with it. You can see how we got on in the video above. The line was one of the best I’ve done in a long time. A great boulder problem in the roof, followed by a chilled out dangle about on the lip on big jugs and then a fun pumpy headwall with bomber gear. It’s obviously going to take me a little while to build up trad stamina after so long doing pure strength work while I was off my feet. This pitch was basically perfect for me right now.

After we had finished it was mid evening and had been raining most of the day and getting steadily wetter. I asked the team what we should do now. There was a suggestion of going for some food. I was keen as mustard to be out climbing and suggested we go down for another E6. After a brief pause I said “Only joking”. Diff said “Oh good” and we headed off. I wasn’t really joking, I wanted to CLIMB!

This week I’ve been staying in Blair Atholl with my family and trying to get out and run as many laps on Silk Purse down at Dunkeld as I can. That is definitely having some effect on the endurance. Hopefully enough to take another wee step up next week.

The fantastic pumpy headwall on Toast, E7, Suidhe Biorach.