Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Black Knight


The Wainstones swirls in ancient horrors on the sandstone blood alter. Chieftains slain, classics climbed; Tony Marr hanging from Ali Baba. One line pierces insurmountable above all others. A 'proper' E5 6c, tackling the chin of the Sphinx through contortions in the wild.

A thousand shimmering crystals sweat the hot sun. The beads of moisture crumble to rubbing skin; and the fingers pain. I'm hanging under the Sphinx face, blindly pushing micro tricams into deep flared pockets. "That feels about right". Three tricams. I come down for a long rest, trying to tell myself it's getting a little cooler. "Best to go home". "But I want to do it today!" Against my better judgement, I go for it.

I'm up the groove, climbing poorly, thinking about the order of my hands and not knocking the gear out. I don't feel committed yet, but am quickly past the tricams and I know I'm not coming back down. "If I jump off now, I'll be testing the cams anyway". Onto the crux and I'm fingerlocking. "Why am I climbing a greasy crack?!"I fumble positions and slap onto the arete.

"Whaaa! I'm really here now - the most outrageous position at the Wainstones. Yes!" Feet move endlessly, hands make increments. I get my high right pinch and left crimp. "Eeee, that don't feel too good".

"I have to get this foot on first time, or my hands are going to slip off". My foot is thrown, apparently by my own body, towards the hold. It misses. "Damn". My hands slip a little further. The sun burns my back. Second go; it misses again. Time for the grovel - knees and feet; finally it goes on. "My core was too wrecked to do this today!"

I'm now on the lip of the arete, The tricams aren't that far away, but are a haunting presence at the back of the roof. I match the left crimp with my foot. "ahhhhh! Slipping!" My left toe curls like a banana and appears to be the only thing keeping me on. "Come on!" Latch! The hips are back in and suddenly I'm at the break. "Might have been a little close that".

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Torridon


I've just got back from Torridon. Primarily this was a relax and a seafood trip, but there was inevitably some climbing. I have a bit of an ambition to climb at more Scottish crags and I've always been drawn to the north west coast. Of course being a sandstone man, Glen Torridon has always been a bit of a point of interest.


The trip was all a bit last minute and we ended up nearly without a guidebook at all, which would have been a bit rubbish. We camped in a massive midgey bog on the first night, which was fairly horrid. The sun brought warmth and fewer midges and we made our way up to Seana Mheallan.  We had a lovely day doing the classic extremes there. Nice big routes, traditional moves, loads of gear.

From the selective guide we had, there was an obvious gap, which I had an ab down and decided against trying. After a bit of a look on the internet, this appears to be Dave Macleod's Present Tense. Could be wrong on that one. It's a really decent line. Quite a big feel to it, steep and the protection looks pretty spaced. Quite a strange route in a way, as it is like E3 rock architecture, but devoid of footholds. Good effort to Mr. Macleod if that is it - top line.

After various swims in rivers and seas, we went to Daibaig and climbed on the slabs there. Again, world class lines that are beyond criticism. There were even some bats on route.

The unclimbed line situation in a place like Torridon is very interesting. There is unclimbed stuff everywhere and there is stuff not worth doing that people would be falling over each other to climb in basically anywhere in England. There were lines at Daibaig in particular that would easily be 3 stars in the peak, but seem kind of out of kilter with the whole ethos of Torridon. With such a massive drive required to get there, there's a decent argument that any climbing there needs to be fairly fundamentally different to climbing elsewhere, but I suppose if a route is decent and a good challenge then why not? This was my justification for climbing what is probably the worst route in Torridon,

The weather gradually got hotter and hotter, until we elected for a beach and cragging day on an undocumented crag near the campsite. A bit like a mini Reecastle. Some might say our new offering was a bit short for Torridon. Perhaps! Very handy if you have a spare hour in Shieldaig though.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Nearing The End.....Maybe....

It's so good being able to climb all the time. Since I've been on holiday, I've been getting out stacks. I'm fitter, stronger, lighter and I'm getting a lot more hours on the rock. A considerable part of this time has been spent in the Moors, which has been class for trying old projects and trying new things. It's interesting to see that Dave is also starting to try some of the harder things more seriously, which I think he's actually feeling more solid on than me. 

Additionally to Dave, there's obviously been the Randall, Rankine and Furniss hits, which are producing meaty pitches and new testpieces all over the shop. Everyone agrees that the best climber in the Moors is still Matt Ferrier though and we all await his moment of genius that becruddens us all. 

But yes, my attentions (although not always physically) have mostly been on the Sandy arete still. I've not blogged about it for a while now, as progress had been so infinitesimally gradual. It still moves on very slowly; I can link it now about half the time,  perhaps more if I full on go for it. The problem lies in the nature of the climbing, which is just sketchy as hell. On all the crux moves, you have to latch the holds just perfectly in order to stand a chance on the next one. If you fudge a slap, then you stand little chance of repositioning and the next move is guaranteed to be an all-out screamer. If I manage to climb the route, it will have to be a moment of utter sequence perfection.

On top of the physical and mental sides of the route, there is all the logistics. I've managed to ratchet down the hook, which makes it quite bomber. The only problem then lies in placing it and whether it's just going to snap if I fall 10 metres onto it. I did consider not using a hook for protection of the rock, but the placement is really good and I really don't think it will break. Pretty sure the hooks will though!

So, definitely closer and feeling like it's not that far away. Often at this point things go very quickly and you're on the lead before you know it, but I think with a line of this magnitude, which poses a couple of challenges I've not encountered before, I need to take a little bit of time. Someone else has been on it recently, so we'll see if I do it first!