Monday, 31 May 2010

2 Days on Skye, home to Glen Nevis

Kev and I went to Skye to deal with some unfinished business he had with the south end of the ridge. Saturday started damp but improved. We made good time into Coir a' Ghrunnda and on to Sgurr nan Eag. From there we did the Dubhs but on the way back to Sgurr Dubh na da Bheinn something disagreed with Kev's stomach wildly and his breakfast made a spectacular return. He decided to go and sleep it off at the campsite so after walking him down into the Coire I headed round to Coire Lagan to visit the Cioch in improving weather. I went up by Collies Ledge chatting with a party of 3 on the way and abseiled down the gully.
Day 2 and Kevin finally got to do the Innaccessible Pinnacle. We walked up the west Ridge of Sgurr Dearg with David and his dad Sam who were headed the same way. Another damp start gave way to clearing weather as he left the belay half way up- I think his eyes almost popped as he took in exactly where he was! We abseiled off of the short side and after a chat with the other parties heading up we went down the An Stac screes to Coire Lagan. After some serious sunbathing we returned to Glen Brittle via some of the excellent path side gabbro bouldering.

Came home this morning to sunshine so arranged a quick cragging trip this afternoon with Graham. I wanted to get on to Rubberface and since Dundee buttress was on the way it was the ideal opportunity for G to hop on his first HVS lead with Dundee Weaver which he dispatched quickly. Unlike me on my route...... The trouble with slabs is that you can stand around contemplating how crap that smear looks and how few handholds there are (and trying to avoid thinking about where the next/last/only runner is). Anyway the guidebook says bold E1 5b and I'd agree, adding delicate and technical. The sun reflecting off of the schist made it feel very warm once I made it through the awkward first bold (I still don't remember how, once I started climbing I just kept going until I found a ledge to stand on and some gea to place). I felt like a sunbather holding one of those reflectors to their face as I tried to find a better sequence than the poor smear and worse handholds half way up.... until I strapped one on and committed to the move. A few midges in the trees todays but the bright sunlight was keeping them at bay- back to Skye tomorrow!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A video from the Lakes and feedback from the movement coaching day

I've uploaded a video of the climbing course in the Lakes from the weekend below.
Also I had a nice e-mail from Jens and Hannah with feedback on the half day session I did yesterday on climbing movement for them: "Thanks very much for yesterday, we both enjoyed it a lot and learned even more.. ..I climbed that blue 5 again and it worked out fine from bottom to top using all the techniques we learned and then I went on to redpoint a 6a that I´ve failed at before, and managed to get that one linked up within 15 minutes or so.
We both feel it was well worth the money and time invested and hope that we could perhaps arrange for another session in a few months to follow up and improve on our technique."

Cheers guys I've plenty of ideas on what we can work on next!

Another quick Glen Nevis hit

A mundane opticians appointment this afternoon left time for a quick route at Polldubh this morning. We went to After Crag, one of the less commonly climbed on crags just above the more populat Dundee Buttress. I jumped on to Kraut (E1) a steep strenuous route with good gear..... if you are strong enough to hold on and place it. I climbed up to the gear, back down to a rest and then pushed on to the top. Rich wanted the same experience so I abseiled for my gear and then he flashed it too. We just had time to brush our way our way up the dirty but worthwhile Afterthought (HS) before we left. The only downside was the first few midge bites of the year :-(

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Climbing Movement

After 4 days in the sun in the Lakes, today I was working indoors at Glasgow Climbing Centre. Jens and Hannah are self taught climbers but had hit a bit of a plateau on the grades. I watched them climb a bit and then introduced them to some simple concepts of climbing movement to help them improve. We did a lot of bouldering an looked at some drills. Finally Jens managed to climb one route he'd never made it past the second clip on with a little coaching- hopefully both will continue to improve and enjoy their climbing in the future.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Back to Scotland...

...Via the shadey sandstone crags of Armathwaite. Here the team bouldered and I led some of them up a sandy but interesting HS. Then most of the team cooled off in the river before the drive home. A great four days with the team from Auchincruive College.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Raven Crag...

... in Combe Ghyll. Day 3 of the Auchincruive College Rock trip and we were back to the same valley but this time heading further in. The team were operating in pairs and all climbed the classic Corvus (Diff) and/or Raven Crag Buttress (Vdiff). I soloed Corvus as Callum and Rachael led it and then we popped down for Cal to second me up both Slug Thug (short lived HVS5a) and Wrinkle (VS 5a). A sociable day as we sunbathed and chatted with other folk on the crag. After last nights bouldering until after 9pm we headed back to the campsite a little earlier and I worked through some climbing problem solving ropework with Neil in preparation for his upcoming MIA Assessment. Another stunning day!

Saturday, 22 May 2010

More leading in the Lakes

Second day of our lead climbing course with the students from Auchincruive and we went to the Glaciated slabs in Combe Ghyll. Here the team were all leading and seconding a range of slabby Diff and V Diff routes. Some pairs also did the multi-pitch Intake Ridge and a wee MVS which I led on the end of the buttress. Scorching weather! A qucik stop for dinner and we are off bouldering this evening...

Friday, 21 May 2010

Rock climbing in the North Lakes

Today Neil and I were workingh with 8 students from the Outdoor Pursuits Management
Course at Auchincruive College in Ayr. We are on a long weekend rock climbing residential in the Keswick area and after driving down this morning went to Seathwaite slabs to start with some very easy climbing and belay building for the team. It is extremely humid here at the moment and the walk up Sourmilk Gill had a few people wilting but there was a bit of a breeze to go with the rough rock and the great view from the slabs this evening.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Leadership in the outdoors with UHI

Today I was working on an assessment for first years on UHI's Adventure Tourism Management Degree course. We were looking at party leadership in the outdoors and went for a walk up Glen Nevis to Steall around Meall Cumhann and back to the car park. On the way we discussed party management and issues such as rough terrain, slower members of the group, hazards such as the wire bridge and how to deal with minor incidents. We also looked at 'coaching' walking on rough ground and the importance of knowledge of the environment the leader is working in. A pleasant day out, cloudy but no rain that amounted to anything.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Air miles

Another paperwork day and a drizzly start. I've been using an Accapi support on the ankle I broke last year and since I got it 2 weeks ago my ankle has improved enough to let me run again so I went for a 9km trot to Annat and up Corpach hill..... don't care whether its placebo effect or not I've missed that (and ordered one for my knee too).
Gray but dry weather this afternoon and thoughts turned to climbing. Blair came round to pick up some bouldering mats on his way out to boulder in tahe cave, near Arisaig and recommended an E1 on Gorge Crag in Glen Nevis to me. So Graham and I headed out there this afternoon. Access is easy; 2 minutes above the Steall path. The route, 'All Our Yesterdays' is a steep corner crack with a long reach to a slopey pull out left at the top and excellent gear. I placed all of my new Dragons in the crack bridging my way up but got thrown by wet holds at the long reach. Finally making the slopers I blew it at the rockover (despite taking a mouthful of heather to try to pull myself over the top - oops) and took a 5m fall. Oh well, a few minutes quality rest and off I went again nailing it with a much better sequence at the crux. It was spitting as we abseiled off (replced the tat and recovered your sling if you're reading Blair) but the route was steep enough to shelter beneath as we de kitted at the base. Grand route.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Slaying Dragons

Do you have a route that is a real nemesis? One that you know you can climb but which the idea of trying just fills you with unpleasant feelings?
Storm in Glen Nevis is one of the real area classics. Many, many years ago I was dragged up it by a friend, the start was awkward, the second pitch airy and scarey and the top had me pulling on gear sweating and cursing after a hanging belay that had turned my knees to jelly. So ever since then I've avoided it. I've always wanted to go and do it but always found an excuse not to.

Last night I decided it was no more excuses time and I sent out texts looking for a partner. This morning Stuzz and I cycled out to Polldubh on a day that was finally fine and warm after the apparently endless cold weather we have been having. The excuses were trying to come back...... Stuzz hasn't led enough to take the second pitch...... its west facing and will be in the shadow this morning...... is that a damp streak I can see up on the crux? Get on it Al.

First pitch is as deceptively awkward as I remember it.... its 4b but feels more difficult than it should be... I know some really good climbers who've fallen off this... sort it out this is the easy bit.
Second pitch, this might be Stuzz's first 4c lead but he seems really psyched. Cruises it. I've got to follow- this should be my kind of climbing; steep but positive.... so why am I over reaching, overgripping and getting my feet in a tangle?
Then that hanging belay on the tree- sorted. Stuzz in the right spot and I hang just below and to one side as we swap the gear. Now pull up and stand between the pine and the rock- good. Too good, I don't want to leave..... and..... bugger I was right it is wet! Get on it. Think positive. You've led far harder than this! Plan the first few moves and the gear from this ledge. Off we go..bridge..nut- get in... up (breathe you twit)... yuck that's wet (keep going)... another nut, up and another, holds are small, wide bridge on a dirty hold and a wet one... twist fingers in the crack- cam, wrong size-sod it, turn it round, further up the crack, legs too tense- wide bridge, breathe! - Better... up 'yes, yes. yes'- think positive... Biiiiiig ledge, love it. Nut, great. Phew...
As ever its rarely as bad as you think. Its a great route and I'll do it again. In fact..... now I've got to go back for the E1 Drect Finish.
Move over St. George- I've slain my dragon too.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Tower Ridge

Today I took Andy to Tower Ridge; he had originally expected a summer scramble but with current conditions on Ben Nevis I'd warned him to bring an axe and crampons. The day started badly when I got run over standing on the pavement on the phone near the BP garage. Having been knocked flying and given a rather dead leg I was surprised to be questioned as to 'Where were you standing?' and told 'There is never anyone there' by a driver who was quite defensive and almost as shocked as me! No real ham done but I was happy to get off the road and onto the hill!
We had some good bright weather between snow showers and stopped to put crampons on above the little tower. There is plenty of soft snow retreating on the ridge to expose firm grey ice on easier ground. The steeper rocky sections are, however, largely bare. We made good time to a snowy plateau where cloud came and went as we visited the summit and made our descent by the Red Burn. Winter lives on Ben Nevis and Point 5 looks complete as is Tower Scoop and Good Friday and all the easier gullys.