Thursday, 25 December 2014

Reflecting on 2014

Ok, So everyone else have busy writing blog posts about their highlights of this year.  Facebook even do this photo thing as well, very good.   So I thought I would join the trend and write a blog looking back at 2014.  I have selected one highlight from each month.  I have included my partners for the routes.  There are obviously some regular folk, but I want to thank everyone else who I have been out with this year.  There are 2 people not mentioned below who I need to mention.  I think John Orr deserves a trophy for his effort on Beinn Eighe with me.  And Tess Fryer for keeping me alive despite me chucking a block the size of a football at her mid flight!

January – Sundance

Iain on Pitch 3
Me on Pitch 2
With Iain Small
A route that I had been psyched for a couple of years to do.  It was an absolute pleasure to climb.

February – The Citadel

Uisdean Following Pitch 4 I think?
With Uisdean Hawthorn
I had a few highlights on Beinn Eighe this month.  More can be read about that on a UK Climbing article.  However, The Citadel on the Shelterstone crag in the Cairngorms had been on my list for long enough.  I had tried it earlier in the year with Blair but we never got very far due to cruddy snow and unfrozen turf.  Then my ascent with Uisdean was the complete opposite.  Well frozen and consolidated.  The top pitch was similar to a typical VI, 5 icy pitch on Ben Nevis.  Steep consolidated neve which was brilliant to romp up!

March – L’Escarmala

 Me near the top (Johannes Fiedler)
With Gaz Marshall
I did this on the last day of my week at Siurana.  I managed it 2nd go, first red point…. whatever you want to call it.  This weeks sport climbing set me up well for the rest of the year.

April – Old El Pastits

Me After it...feeling wasted
With Uisdean Hawthorn
Regular followers of my Flickr site will know that I have tried this route a few times.  I usually have struggled with the savage finger locks at the bottom.  But this time I managed to succeed. 

May – Death Wolf

Iain enjoying the spring sunshine.
 Me on the steep pitch 2. 
                                                                                                                                                                    With Iain Small
Wild is all I can say about this!  It is no pushover.

June – The Heart of Beyond

Me somewhere high on the route

The view during the walk back to the car.

With Gaz Marshall
Again everyone know’s about my second visit to Carnmore.  But climbing The Heart of Beyond in a way was more significant for me.  Onsighting a route of this grade for the first time.  

July – Trajans Colum

Iain on pitch 2. 
Me on pitch 3

With Iain Small
I tried this with Tony last year and couldn’t commit to the reach into the boot flake.  This time conditions this time around were better: Cooler and hydrated, I managed the move.  Brilliant piece of climbing.  

August – Westgrat of the Salbit

Tony posing.  The 'Scot Machine'. 
Me on the pillar
With Guy Steven and Tony Stone
After getting washed out from Chamonix to the Verdon, we ventured to Switzerland for some mountaineering.  I guess this was my first time doing anything proper in the mountains of an alpine nature and all that.  We did the West Grat on Salbutschijen.  Moving in a seamless manner from start to finish, we completed it in 7 hours. What an experience!

September – I don’t Know…..there was a lot!  Dalriada?

Me on Dalriada
With Iain Small
Dalriada was pretty special.  An iconic line at a new crag for me.

October  - Pallet Knife

With Lawrence Hughes
First day bouldering at Torridon for me this year.  I somehow managed to despatch Pallet Knife in a session.  Conditions were good though so maybe that was cheating?!

November – Matterhorn

The Horn

3 punters on top at 3.30am
With Guy Steven and Tony Stone
Moving together up the Schmit Route for 6 hours in the dark.  I really enjoyed the journey of just moving continuously.  Some people have asked what the point was.  Were you not disappointed not to see anything?  No.  I’m glad as it would have been a ballache seeing how far we had to go.  I saw the lights of Zerrmatt from the top.  That was good enough for me.

December – No Blue Skies

Guy on pitch 1
I’ve been out bouldering at Tom Riach a few times, a day at Am Fasgadh and a few days in the hills, running, climbing and carrying bags ;-).  But No Blue Skies was ace. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, 21 December 2014


It’s December, 8 degrees Celsius with strong winds and passing showers.  I’m not going winter climbing.  That would be just too much suffering for me.  Instead I find myself drying hand and foot holds whilst hopping between islands of dryness, walking on my heals occasionally to keep my precious toes dry.  Another day at Am Fasgadh with Ian.  Morale is low, the ground is wet, seepage down the usual parts, numb fingers, drips from the top of the crag…TIFS!  Spain seems a distant memory in our minds.  But most of the crag is actually dry.  The sun cast some rays for 2 whole minutes that day.  I was lucky enough to be pulling onto Black Sox, the classic of the crag. Clipping the chains for the ‘I don’t know how many times now’ and glancing around, I glowed with satisfaction.  We leave the crag. It’s getting dark, its 3pm, it’s raining, its windy, our arms are hanging.  But safe in the knowledge we were the only people rock climbing that day in Scotland, well maybe just Wester Ross. 
                                                    Ian loving Scotland.        

I get in from work, I phone Dunc to confirm that we are binning our plans for the next day.  Death is written all over the forecast.  But he has read forecast that says An Teallach is frozen solid, there is no more wind or snow forecast and it’s going to be a magic day.  I have my reservations but fine, I’ll go.  The writing was on the wall when it was raining for most of the walk in.  We could barely stand, Dunc fell into a bog, it turned into snow, we couldn’t see anything and we were wallowing in the drifts.  We were back in Inverness at 11.45 am.  TIFS!

                                          Dunc enjoying the ming

Talking shit, gossiping, laughing out loud, Guy and I walk in to Corie An t’ Snechda.  He had been working on a boat for 2 weeks and I was frustrated that I hadn’t done a winter route yet so we both has similar objectives.  To get out, have a short day and do a cool non -stressful route.  Personally I need that at the start of each season as I’m not a natural winter climber.  In fact winter is a complete faff but that’s another rant.  I need to have a day of faffing, rage at my lanyards, moan about the cold and fall down wholes etc.  I have been keen to do No Blue Skies for years now.  I don’t know why so we did that.  Great route and a great day.  I look forward to getting on something steep now.

Guy on Pitch 1 on No Blue Skies

Me grovelling up Pitch 1. 

Since returning from Spain, I have barely managed to get out in the hills or crags.  Days off seem to have coincided with warms days…TIFS!  Never mind.  Training for F8b is going well.

I suspect most of you are wondering what is this TIS I refer to.  Well it originates from Tony Stone.  It means ‘This Is Scotland’.  More commonly the letter F is added to make TIFS.  I’m sure most of you with an imagination can guess what the F represents.  Most of the time there is always something wrong in Scotland.  Midges, humidity, warm and wet, rain, the list goes on, or mine does anyway.   What’s my point?  I actually love it.  Faced with all these challenges for some reason makes things even more satisfying.  Then, you get the perfect day and it blows those frustrating days away.  I’m going to Ben Nevis tomorrow.  It’s been raining all day.  It’s currently +3 on top of Aonach Mor… I can see myself booking a flight to Spain tomorrow night!

Note:  I have added a new sponsor to the list on the right hand side, Craigdon Mountain Sports.  I work in the Inverness shop part time and I am fortunate enough to have a good boss, Colin Lyon.  He has sourced me kit but more importantly, given me time off last minute when the conditions are mint etc which is priceless.  Thanks!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

New Blog

Well, here we go.  I have finally managed to create myself a blog instead of being a 'guest writer'.  I'm sure some of you are aware of my other two posts: One about that Carnmore route which I'm sure everyone is fed up with hearing about and my recent trip to Spain.  I keep a regularly updated Flickr which again, I'm aware that most people who read this will be aware of.  For me, that means more than a blog; the photo's tell the story.  However, I have been encouraged by some friends (Initially Nick Carter many years ago) that it would be funny if I wrote down my rants about the world.  When I mean the world, I mean climbing in North West Scotland.  

The winter climbing season has started.  Everyone is out today climbing today, hopefully enjoying the snow, loose block and stuff.  Instead, I rekindled my 'Graham' bagging and enjoyed a run up Beinn Tharsuinn near my house.  It was a great few hours out experiencing sun, wind and snow.  Here is a picture of the top.

                                                   The summit trig point rimming up. 

If anyone is interested to read on, below is an account of a new route I did with Guy Robertson in July.  I wrote it ages ago but never did anything about it.  The English is probably a bit shonky, but if you can see past that, I hope you enjoy it!

New World Order

Why has no one ever climbed the groove left of Fascist Groove Thang?  I’ve been asking that for a while now.  It’s so obvious!  Surely Storky must have seen it?!  Never mind, its mine now ;-)

Last Monday, (21.7.14) was my first visit into Beinn Eighe this summer.  I had teamed up with Guy Robertson who was psyched to try a new line.  Walking up my favourite slope (I hate it when it ends) was made was quite pleasurable with a damp mist swirling about which kept us cool.  However, the dampness was clinging onto the crag parts of the crag along with some seepage which was a bit of a pain to see on arrival.  I guess it was seeping from the rain fall on Saturday afternoon/evening.  The entry pitch to this new route looked pretty uninviting.  How unfortunate I thought.  I suppose we better try Fascist Groove Thang or this unclimbed groove to the left.  The FGT was damp as well but the new line looked dry so we opted for that. 

                                                    Guy on pitch 1

Guy did pitch one which shares FGT entry pitch.  I arrived at the belay and sorted all the gear bla bla bla.  Looking up the groove, I thought it looked easy, then hard.  That’s pretty much it to be honest.  But I’ll give you a bit more of a story.  Setting off, I was concerned that the crack in the corner was a bit damp for my liking.  At least there was bomber gear which teased me further up.  You get to this overlap where you can get into a wide bridge and sort of shake out.  In fact, a pretty strenuous shake out.  The undercut flake thing that you use was all damp and slimy which wasn't helping.

                                          The shakeout

Ach well, at least the kit is good, I’ll push on.  Some pretty mad layback moves then foot swapping, then a lunge for a slopey crimp on the left wall, I was screaming at Guy that I was off.  But I was somehow still hanging in there. I could see this bomber wire slot in the groove.  Struggling to take a hand off, I somehow got the bunch of wires into my mouth.  Then I got one into the crack.  The next issue was getting the bunch of wires back.  I couldn’t.  I was falling.  But I wasn’t, I’m still on. I managed to clip a rope into the same snapgate with the wires.  Still on….I managed to get a quick draw off my harness, into my mouth, then onto the wire.  I even managed to get the rope into the quickdraw.  I had this thought of carrying on and leaving the wires.  Hmm, I better not. Guy agreed.  That would be a bit stupid.  I tried frantically to get them off.  I couldn’t.  I finally fell.  Oh well.

So I got my wires back, lowered to the belay, pulled the ropes, had a rest then went again.  I got a bit further this time but fell again.  Not making excuses but the crimps on the wall just a bit dirty and greasy.  I guess trying this onsight/ground up, things will be dirty so I gave the holds a good brush for my next attempt.  Same process, down to the belay ledge, ropes pulled, up again.  I got to a semi rest and announced to Guy it looked like an E1 up the roof then easy.  Wrong!  Gaining the underside of the roof was still pretty strenuous.  I had no cams that were the correct size.  The one I used was just a bit under cammed for my liking.  Oh yeh, I remember, there is a tapered slot round the roof.  I placed a wire blindly.  Tugged it.  Bomb proof.  So turning the roof was quite exciting.  The cracks just felt a bit dirty plus not much for your feet.  Passing the roof, my wire popped out of the flared slot.  Great!  Fighting to stay on I managed to regain some composure.  Digging deep, I managed to get two cams in which were ok.  I couldn’t move. I was wrecked.  Physically and mentally drained.  Somehow, I dug even deeper moved my feet and lunged for a slot which my fingers locked into, then another higher for the other hand.  Thank god.  Two more bomber wires, some more stiff pulls, my body was in a wreck.

                                                    Guy following the pitch

The belay consisted of 3 micro wires which was a bit stressful till I found 2 medium wire placements in a slot.  Guy followed the pitch in good style.  It must have been desperate seconding after just belaying for a long time.  We had 2 options for the top pitch.  We hoped our main plan of keeping on the line and turning the roofs on the left would work out and not be too horrific.  Guy set off to have a look.  Boldly scouting out the lip of the roof, the quartzite typically supplied some good holds which encouraged rapid upward progress.  I love it when the climber is out of sight and as a tired belayer, the ropes are constantly needing fed out!  This top pitch was pretty cool.  Intimidating airy climbing on good holds which provided fitting final pitch to the strenuous pitch that lurked below.

                                                    Guy on the top pitch

I’ve spent a lot of time Far East Wall both in summer and winter.   It’s cool to have finally added a new line to this wall.  Especially a line which I’ve been so curious about for years.  Despite falling off and doing the pitch ground up, I’m really happy with the style we approached it in.

New World Order  E6 6b ***
Murdoch Jamieson & Guy Robertson (21.7.14)
This follows the obvious corner which leads to roofs to the left of Fascist Groove Thang.  Strenuous and well protected.  Both first and second ascents thought top end of the grade.
P1. 45m 5b. As for Fascist Groove Thang
P2. 25m 6b.  Climb the corner with increasing difficulty, passing an overlap until it is possible to gain small edges on the left wall.  Make moves up right to reach the base of the crack which leads to a roof.  Turn the roof on its right to gain another crack.  Follow this for a few moves (Sting in the tail!) till its possible to step right and belay on small ledge (Immediately up left of ‘The Fascist Groove’).

P3. 30m 5b Traverse left and up into the corner below the roof.  Make airy moves out left to gain the arĂȘte.  Follow this to the top.

                                                    The Line