Wednesday 25 May 2011

Wetter AND wilder!

Just spent a couple of days on Sky with returning client Mark. We drove up from Edinburgh on Monday past 3 overturned lorries and a lane of the M90 blocked by downed trees... not a great start.
Tuesday and it's bright and showery and we can see patches of hail lying on the ridge. We headed up through the coire to An Dorus along with Mike (always encouraging when a local has the same idea). The hail showers were heavy and wild but short lived and at least we had a view in between them. It's a short hop to the summit of Sgurr a' Mhadaidh from the deep gash of An Dorus. We retraced our steps and headed for the summit of Sgurr a' Grheadaidh next. We decided to take a look at the route to Sgurr Thormaid and pressed on along the excellent scrambling of the knife edge ridge. We had passed the hardest and most interesting ground when we began dropping down from the South top but here the wind got seriously strong. Standing up was hard and our faces were vibrating and wobbling like jelly in the severe gales and it was time to retrace our steps over both tops of Ghreadaidh and head for a well earned shower and a meal. The forecast for today was heavy rain but appeared to show the wind holding off until late in the day. This tempted us onto the W Ridge of Sgurr Dearg heading for the Inaccessible Pinnacle. The rain flew like bullets into our faces and as we crested the ridge the gales got seriously strong. By the time we hit the 750m contour Mark had been knocked down 3 times and we were both struggling to make any upwards progress. We beat a retreat leaving the Inn Pin for another day in the increasing rain. I think we'll call that a 1 all draw, Mark and Al 1, Skye 1.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Wet n wild

Out with the team from SAC Auchincruive again for the last 3 days. We were watching the rainfall radar carefully but with mixed results. On Friday we took the team to Traprain Law, a delightful if unfortunately polished crag near Edinburgh that is having a few access issues. The team coped well with a cold wind and it stayed dry for us as they got to grips with leading VDiffs and Severes. Yesterday we were at Cummingston sharing the crag with Pete Hill and Graeme Morrison running an SPA Training course. Again the group were on the sharp end learning on a very different rock type from Traprain. Finally today was a bit of a gamble and after watching the forecast we decided to skip multi-pitching at Dunkeld (which was very wet first thing) and salvage what we could at Kingussie Crag. The showers were heavy and cold but blowing mostly over the crag. This allowed us some dry rock and they guys were up to the challenge leading routes from (very wet) Diff to Hard Severe with pretty numb fingers! I was working with Neil and Ian for The Glasgow Climbing Centre this weekend. Got an interesting course at Ratho tomorrow and then off to Skye for a few days to do battle with the weather!!

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Working Bodies and Lakeland links

Kern Knotts and the stat of the Climber's Traverse
Cold and windy on the Needle
The Sphinx
Sourmilk Ghyll

Anyone who followed the blog over the winter will probably remember that I tore my achilles back in February. Toss in the broken ankle 18 months ago and various other old injuries and I’ve been walking like a 60 year old rather than a 40 year old. A friend recommended I speak to her mother- Sue Read of Working Bodies in Keswick. Sue is a sports massage specialist, practising and teaching it to others and I booked an appointment with her. She duly went to work probing and kneading at my lower limbs. She was soon identifying knots and lumps of scar tissue that reminded me of incidents and injuires I’d forgotten going back to achilles injuries from running on soft sand as a 9 year old! An hours workover served to begin to break down some of the scar tissue (although apparently things are a real mess and there is not much healthy stuff down there).

On my current trip to the Lakes Sue invited me to bring Jane along so that she could learn to help identify and treat my leg issues. Great…. Now whenever I’ve annoyed Jane she can just flex her knuckles and tell me its massage time… given that we are aiming for 7-8 on a pain scale of 10 its not an entirely pleasant process!

The proof is in the pudding though. After Jane and Sue loosened off my calves, quads and IT bands yesterday I went for a wee 12k run over Latrigg and felt stiff and slow but given that a couple of weeks ago my achilles were screaming at the thought of me jogging that’s an improvement.

Today I went a little further: I was dropped with the bike at Seathwaite and went on foot up to Styhead Tarn, round the Climber’s Traverse to the Napes and threaded the Needle. There was a cold wind and the rock was very greasey as a climber on the Needle posed for a photographer in between blowing on his fingers and waving his arms to stave off the hot aches. I climbed Arrowhead Ridge and carried on over Westmoreland Crags to the top of Great Cable, then it was down to the col and up Green Gable and onwards to drop down beneath Gillercombe Buttress and down the Sourmilk Ghyll path.

I recovered the bike and headed for Seatoller and the dreaded pull up the first part of Honnister Pass. The reward is the great single track around and down into Grange. Had a first here as I broke my chain. TCL Training came in useful as I whipped out my chain tool and spare links and was on my way in 15 mins. I carried on up the west side of Derwentwater on the undulating bridleways forming part of the coast to coast route and round into Keswick 5 hours from being dropped off. Safe to say the legs are working better than they were. Cheers Sue!

If anyone wants her contact details just drop me an email. If you need advice on prevention, treatment or rehabilitation of a muscular or skeletal injury you wouldn’t regret it.

Monday 16 May 2011


Showers over Kingussie
Will in The Groove
Dry rock!
Evidence of Drytoolers and Cramponing :-(
Been up and down the roads a bit recently. I spent 3 days biking in the Lakes with friends; we were on the Borrowdale bash, hopped across Windermere on the Hawkshead ferry to ride around Claive Heights and then I cycled back to Kendal after a meeting in Ambleside. I’m leading a Bolivian Peaks expedition for Adventure Peaks in July/Aug this year.
Back in Scotland I was directing an SPA Assessment at the weekend. On Saturday we dodged most of the showers and found some dry rock at Kingussie Crag and then on Sunday spent some time at the Ice Factor before heading to Glen Nevis. We weren’t the only ones out on the rock on a day of heavy showers. We shared part of the crag with the UKCG Fast Track instructors training course.
Back in the Lakes for a few days now.

Monday 9 May 2011

Weekend work in the Lakes

I have just spent 4 days working with students from The Scottish Agricultural College, Auchincruive on an introduction to outdoor climbing course. With a mixed forecast we took them to the north Lakes to see what the rock would let us get done.
On the first afternoon having driven down from Ayr the team put up their massive family tent at a site near Keswick and we headed to the recently reopend sandstone crag of Scratchmere Scar. A very friendly farmer gave us permission to access then crag through his land and a short walk took us the base of the routes.. We spent a little time bottom roping to get the feel of climbing on the sandstone and then started introducing the team to replacing and removing protection and building belays. We were lucky to get a fine dry afternoon as that night the heavens opened and it was thunder and lightning overhead.
Day 2 and we headed to the easy angled Seathwaite slabs at the top of Sourmilk Gill. The easy angled rock and the groups’ previous indoor experience meant that we quickly had them undertaking their first leads. Rain halted play and we fled back down to the valley.
Day 3 and it was a wet start so we went to Keswick Climbing Centre where we had a very friendly reception. We looked at belay building in the dry as well as working on some movement skills with the team in the morning. Despite ongoing showers we decided to believe the weather and headed out to Shepherds Crag. Brown slabs started very slimey but soon the rock out of the trees dried out to give more pleasant climbing. Those who still had some energy (Kate and Pauline) followed Neil and I up the first 2 pitches of Little Chamonix but soon we came up behind a father and son team. The lad (about 12) had done great to lead the crux pitch but was now out of site terrified and their rope work was a little bizzare to say the least (they both seemed to untie from the rope at each stance??). We gave them a little space to extricate themselves which somehow they achieved without mishap. By now huge black clouds were building and Neil decided to bail before the heavens opened. Kate and I stepped it up a gear and topped out and just got back to our bags when the thunderstorm hit us. We got a good soaking running back to the bus.
A final morning of activity and Neil and Pauline took Todd along with them to their unfinished business on Little Chamonix. I was back with the other 4 at Brown Slabs enjoying the long single pitches of dry exposed rock and letting them have a last bash at removing gear and trying something a little harder before the journey home. Another long weekend with the same team in a couple of weeks- should be fun, they are the first students who I’ve worked with in a long time who are always punctual and well organised!
After a quick boulder back in Glasgow that afternoon I’m on the train back to the Lakes for a coupe of days play and a work meeting on Thursday morning. Then it will be back to Fort William for an SPA Assessment at the weekend.
Someone was taking the mickey today about me not doing days off but having just reached the ripe old age of 40 I reckon its even more important to make every day count now. I enjoy my work and my playtime almost equally- and I can rest when the body falls apart completely in years to come!

Friday 6 May 2011


Spring in Scotland….

What’s not to like? Since cragging in Reiff I’ve had a day looking after Sandy; I took him gorgewalking in the stream above my house. This was followed by a stunning day out at the Ring Crags on Ardnamurchan with Davy and Alan. After warming up with Beth’s Route in 4 pitches we climbed Volcane, Pyroclast, Greta Gabbro and An Deiridh to give them some 4b/4c mileage.
Since then I’ve been in seclusion (no internet or phone signal- sorry for those who were trying to reach me) in Applecross. I say seclusion but with 7 other couples and 4 more children it was a great chance to unwind, recover and catch up with friends…. And eat seafood, mountainbike and climb!
I had a day taking Jill up the Cioch Nose whilst Dave soloed it alongside us. This has to be one of the best mountain Severes (no… it’s not VDiff) in Britain. Starting from a ledge 500ft above the valley floor you have a first pitch with a couple of moves to stop you and make you think, an awkward chimney on the second pitch and a fantastic level of exposure on the third. A couple more pitches maroon you on the Cioch itself; a knobbly perch high above the coires. It’s not over yet though as a 150m of scrambling takes you to another sandstone tier and another pitch of Severe and some more easier climbing. Now you are faced with a rollercoaster of more mountaineering…. A mini Aonach Eagach with a couple of tricky downward steps. This deposits you at the mast where you dropped into the coire to start and a few hundred metres from the car park atop the Bealach na Ba at over 700m. This was the 5th time I’ve done this route and it’s always great value. Meanwhile Sandy and Jane were climbing at Camusteel Crags.
Another day was spent with a morning climbing on Sgurr a Chaorachainn. We had both done Sword of Gideon and after an abortive look at one of the E1s nearby we decided to take it easy with Anduril (VS 5a). Hmmm lichenous poorly protected 5a at that with some very loose rock in the top groove- so much for taking it easy (should have gone for clean 5b with gear!). In the afternoon I biked out to the coral beach where the families had been sea kayaking (Sandy can cope with carbon fibre paddles- he's not even 3), bouldering and exploring. The wee man was keen to show me his bouldering exploits and leap over and crawl through various tunnels.
I had a great 30k ride on the Bike up the glen from Applecross bay and left at the fork in the paths. A steep climb then takes you up onto a rolling plateau-like col with numerous lochans and some fantastic single track before the view opened up to Torridon labouring under the fires. Then about face and back up to the col and return to Applecross for one of the best rides I have done. I got back in time to join Jane and Sandy in a trip to the popular Sands Beach before we drove home stopping only to look at the helicopters waterbombing the Glen Shiel fires at the end of the 5 Sisters Ridge.
Back home and wednesday was spent doing some staff training for The Ice Factor looking at elements of the SPA syllabus and today was another sunny day in Glen Nevis working for UHI West Highland College. I was assessing some students on their rock climbing and we climbed Tiptoe Direct into the upper section of Pinnacle Ridge, 3 Pines, Flying Dutchman with its Direct finish, Damnation and SW Diagonal to give 8 good pitches.
Looks like the weather is due to change and I’m off to the Lakes for a week working, climbing and biking…it's all go!