Sat in the passenger seat of Tony’s car, I asked him the geeky question of what was his favourite route of the trip. He then bounced the same question back… I took a moment to think. I’m not sure there was a specific route, but more the fact I was able to trad climb again and trust my ability to climb and place gear.
|Iain mixed climbing with a found bulldog.|
I’ve been very poor with writing a blog this year. For the first time, ‘life’ has caught up with me. I bought a house. The keys were collected on the 4th July and my climbing turned upside down. Oh what a disaster, poor me, life is so unfair and so on. It was a kick in the balls. The best and driest summer in my climbing life and I opted to dig holes, lay insulation, install a wood burner and shit like that rather than cash in. Short term pain, long term gain.
|Ben Nevis in the late evening light|
In reflection, the summer hasn’t been that crap. After almost killing myself and Iain on The Ben back in June, climbing was a bit of a stop start. I was physically fine and capable, but I guess I’m only admitting it now, 4 months later that I was pretty mentally affected by the experience. Ripping an entire pitch of gear out is probably one of the worst experiences a climber can go through. Lucky for me, I was high in the hills with just space below me.
4 days free at the end of June, I had planned to climb with Iain. He sent me a messages saying that even climbing on Comb Buttress was too hot! So with mixed emotion, I opted for doing ‘The Bat E2’. It was a nice re introduction to trad climbing. Hats off to Robin Smith.
|Iain on pitch 2 or 3 of 'The Bat'|
Iain, told me about his and Dave Macleods new E7 ‘Mr Fahrenheit’ on the Comb. It was an easy sale. Having walked past that buttress many times, its always covered in snow and ice so it was a novelty to spend 2 days up there in shorts and t shirt. The starting slab was issued with a health warning and so I opted to check it out as no one wants to hurt themselves. To gain access to the top, you do the traverse of ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’. That was rather exposed warm up. I can only imagine at the moment how exciting that would be with tools and crampons.
|'Don't Die of Ignorance' traverse.|
|Me shunting the slab on the lower half of 'Mr Fahrenheit'|
|Iain on the first ascent of 'Don't stop me now E6 6b'|
Despite the amazing summer, there was the odd thunderstorms forecast. Unfortunately these were falling on the days I had arranged with Iain for a visit to the Central Slabs. But sitting here thinking about it, I’m not sure how well I would have fared up on those long run outs with a bruised mind.
As many folk know, Caff is on a rampage to finish ticking the iconic Extreme Rock book. So, I had the pleasure of a day out with him and Cubby on Church Door Buttress in Glencoe. This crag has the reputation for being slow to dry. So, we cashed in and ticked Kingpin E3, Lost Ark E4 and Temple of Doom E3. Lost Ark felt rather testing in places, not helped by Cubby shouting up comments about his ascent of it which was before I was born! Legend.
|Church Door Buttress|
|Caff following Pitch 1 of 'Lost Ark'|
Andy Inglis and I had a week booked for a UK rock trip. North Wales provided the obvious choice with a mixed forecast. The highlights from the week were, Andy testing the bolt stub and thread on ‘The Cad E6’, me pulling a hold off (after shaking out for 5 min on it!) on ‘Shittlegurber E5’, feeling ridiculously week and shit climbing at LPT and just been in North Wales. Oh, and realising that buying a house in the Highlands may not have been the correct move. But I always think that when I visit. I looked at ‘The Clown’, but I mentally couldn’t bring myself to get on it. Not enough trad climbing in the bank this year for that nonsense. Next spring. Thanks to Peter Herd and Dave Evans for providing a floor at the start and end of the trip.
A trip to the Dolimites had been planned for the first 2 weeks of September with Tony Stone. On my arrival in Sheffield, the long range forecast looked rather mixed and unsettled. For once the southern half of the UK looked good. I had never been to the South West before so we took the opportunity to faff around there for our holiday.
|Tony starting the trip out with 'II Duce'|
|Sunset at Sharpnose|
Lundy was suggested so we spent 5 days there. On our arrival, Tony sent me up ‘Supernova E5 6b’ as a warm up. He said it was a bit tricky to get started. Dam right it was. However, I eventually got established and made steady progress. The sun came out, walls were a bit green, my feet were exploding and my mouth was dry…. Just get the excuses out. The guide mentions a peg…. A stub remains. I stupidly thought the crux was low down and all I had to do was just steady my way to the top. The crack slants right, it widens and nothing remains for the feet. I’ll spare you the details, I sagged onto some gear. I topped out in a mess. Dry mouthed, lathered in sweat along with bleeding toes from swelling. Not an enjoyable experience.
|Tony re climbing 'Controlled Burning' after part of it falling down.|
I was impressed with the South West. A corner of Britain which I’ve been aware of but never made the effort to get to. I thought that Bosigran was top quality. Although it was a bit too hot for a pair of Scots at times so there was obviously some grumbling. Visiting the crags around Lands End, I couldn’t help but think about all these people who walk, cycle, crawl, hop their way up North to John O Groats. It’s a long way and I’m not inspired to do it.
Back home, I was back to house faff under the watchful eye of my pal Donnie. My DIY skills have gone from absolutely shit to just shit so that’s something to be proud of. Adding insulation, flooring the attic, digging out a slope in the garden, looking at curtains, I’m learning a few things. But my motivation is beginning to slow down which is great and I can regain my climbing psyche again.
Its autumn now. Last week there was some snow and everyone was jumping up and down with excitement. Even I was. Lots of pictures of folk ledge shuffling and spraying all over the internet. I can’t wait to see it in a few months time. Meanwhile, the friction in Torridon last Friday was Velcro and I managed to open the bouldering season with ‘Wee Baws 7B’. Not exactly the best training for a looming sport climbing trip to El Chorro but hey ho.
|Gaz on 'Potential 7'|