Monday, 30 August 2010

Today the rock was dry but I am weak...





Still recovering from some nasty bug from Tajikistan and went for my first run since my return this morning knocking a minute off my best time. Then a climb in the sun with Rich this afternoon. He hadn't done Storm (HVS) in years and I haven't led the middle pitch in a long time so we were on for a Polldubh classic. The bright sunshine kept most of the midges off and I could tell the weather has been bad and Rich has been training at the wall. I on the other hand felt weak as a kitten sweating my way up the lovely 4c pitch. As Rich led the last pitch Graham came past soloing up Old Wall (VS4b) in the sun.
Hopefully the next few days of SPA trainings and Assessments based in Glasgow will help me shake the bug and I can get some more quality climbing in before the season ends (although a friend working a Summer ML course woke to find half an inch of snow on his tent a couple of days ago).
Links to the BBC Article and BMC News report on our Afghan trip.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Slippery when wet

Spartan Slab was my first ever VS and is still a real favourite climb of mine. Today Gill and I went to climb it but it wasn't looking its best. Big wet streaks, water trickling over overlaps and the white scar of the big rockfall on the first pitch visible some way off. I led pitch one and traversed across where I usually do towards the scar. Big mistake! I ended up in the groove the rock fell out of, feet pedaling on loose gravel and my last runner about 20ft away horizontally. When Gill came up she managed a higher line (which also has runners). After the first step down and right she climbed up to continue the traverse level with the first belay ledge.

Then Gill led the second pitch despite the first 20ft running with water.

video
The overlap was mine and felt straightforwards but the hand traverse was sopping.
The fourth pitch holds some long reaches (Gills not the tallest) and the last 10m to the belay were again rather wet. I led the last pitch feeling a bit like I was in roller skates as my feet kept slipping on what should be good smears when dry. We were both quite relieved to reach the top and slither down the descent path... a baptism of fire (or should I say water) for my return to rock climbing after almost 6 weeks.
Today doesn't really compare with the superb climbing televised in Scotland live yesterday. Dave MacLeod's and Tim Emmet's first ascent of 'The Usual Suspects' was a great demonstration of skill, determination and commitment. Dave's lead of the crux scond pitch was phenomenal but I was more tense watching Tim lead the traverse and the sopping wet final pitch/ Available on iplayer for those who missed it: http://beta.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00ts470/The_Great_Climb/

Friday, 27 August 2010

Back to work

Today I was at the Ice Factor running some site specific training for 3 of their staff on the teaching of lead climbing on artificial climbing walls- a fun day with plenty of coaching tips and games to enliven sessions teaching these skills.
Yesterday Neal and I were on the radio (Good Morning Scotland) you can hear us here on iplayer at about 2:18: 47 - http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00thm0g . In the evening we were on the BBC Scotland News (Reporting Scotland) but iplayer has already removed that- I was surprised at how well some of the video clips from my little Olympus Mju camera showed up on TV!
Here are a few pics of some of the friends we made on our trip:

The incomparably kind Qachi Beg, guesthouse owner in Sarhad, a true gentleman...
His family made bread for us for several days travel...
Chordelgoy our head Khirghiz horseman. Despite his age he almost floored his horse with a punch to the nose when it misbehaved!
...And his nephew testing the salt levels in the cher-choi
Teh-lor, our horseman, cook and general factotum...
A group of shepherds met on the Daliz pass, exchanging gossip over.... of course... more tea
Hayat Khan, our 18 year old interpreter. Resourceful, loyal and seemingly with a school friend (or one of their parents) in every hut and village along the Wakhan. We couldn't have done it without him (and apologies to his teachers for bringing him back to school a day late...)

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Popular!

Well I've only been home a day and have been interviewed by 3 branches of the BBC (online, TV and Radio), had contact from STV and their online branch, the Daily Record, Scottish Geographical Society and others! We'll be on the radio on Good Morning Scotland after 8am tomorrow and Reporting Scotland tomorrow night for those who are interested. Here are a few more pics:
Vehicle difficulties...

Free at last...
Hiring a horse to carry your loads and then the trail is too muddy so you have to carry it yourself!

Heading for Koh e Iskander...

You can just see me on the rocks left of centre...

On the first of the 'donkey's ears'...

And wishing I'd roped up on the second...

Sunday, 22 August 2010

A few pictures from Afghanistan

I'm staying up late in Dushanbe so I'll sleep better on the flights home... 10pm now, taxi at 2am, flight at 5am, sleeper to Scotland tomorrow. Here are a few pics to whet your appetites of our time in Afghanistan.

This is Koh e Iskander, a little over 5500m high and our first major summit of the trip...
...as seen from the site of this pic. Camp one at the end of a brutal wade up the glacier. It would have been worse without the loan of 2 pairs of snowshoes from the Anglo-American Noshaq trip- cheers guys! Here Neal battles with deep, wet avalanche prone snow on the way up Koh e Alexander below the rock band...
... and me on the summit more than a little concerned about the descent
This is Neal looking for a way through the cornice on 'the Yaks back' on our way to Koh e Khat... Koh e Khat means Peak of the donkey. We called it that because the summit was composed of 2 towers like donkeys' ears. Here Neal steps gingerly down between the first and second towers (naturally we only discovered the second one was higher after we climbed the first)...
And abseiling off of the higher tower...
And here he is on part of the steep 1000m descent to the valley below...
Thoughts of Jane and Sandy at home on Koh e Khat
As an aside those of you who know me may be aware that I don't drink tea or coffee- except when I have to. But on this trip I've consumed about 5000l of cher choi (milk tea) and choi sio (black tea) and not a little choi subzi (green tea) in the last month... and this pictures shows how most of it was brewed- yakpat power!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Back in Tajikistan...

Sitting at possibly the slowest computer in Central Asia battling the flies for control of the keyboard. Well we survived and I'll be back next week with tales of jeeps stuck in the mud and swept away by rivers, the Pakistan weather was just a few mountains away and the mud got so bad that we had to carry the loads for the horses! We drank tea with Kabuli sheep traders in yurts, rode yaks and horses across rivers hundreds of metres wide, watched a buzkashi match (think individual rugby on horseback with no fixed goal and a dead goat instead of a ball)- and almost got run over by the horses, escaped the clutches of a corrupt police chief, lived on rice and nan for 3 weeks, rode more horses to find our jeep after the river had washed away the road and even climbed a couple of new peaks! We also found a safe friendly reception with outstandingly helpful people and humbling hospitality everywhere we went. Yesterday had my first beer in a month.... today had my first shower (priorities don't you know). 16 hours jeep journey back to Dushanbe tomorrow. Back in Fort William by Tuesday.