Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Some Friends of Mine #2: Alan Cassidy

I have known Alan for almost as long as I have been climbing and he is probably the most "well known under-rated" climber operating in Scotland. I first knew him as my junior rival in the Scottish Leading League and various boulder comps back in the ‘90s. Back then, we shared top spot about 50/50 but as Alan has been a member of the British Climbing Team for three years now and is built like the proverbial brick shit-house, I would struggle to get anywhere near his position these days.

Alan on Anabolica 8a, Siurana (Photo: Hotaches)

It’s no secret that Alan loves his sport climbing and with over 70 sport routes of 8a standard or above, he is the “Mr Mc8a” of Scottish climbing. Personally, I think it’s madness to operate solely as a sport climber in Scotland due to a large number of factors but Alan has worked hard at this discipline despite this and the results speak for themselves.

Favourite climbing area/crag and why?
Ceuse probably - I've had a great time every time I've been there, the routes are great (if sometimes a little similar), great scene, good views and fit climbing birds ;-)

What kind of routes do you prefer climbing
- At the moment I like climbing at my physical limit, pushing myself as hard as I can, so as I am a bit soft, that generally means sport climbing and bouldering. But I have got good trad pedigree too and I have a lot of trad routes I want to go for in a few years time. I love all climbing and hopefully I'll be out on mountain severes in my seventies (though really I'd still like to climb 8a when I'm 70!).
What do you see as your biggest strength?
- My opinion of my own climbing is that I am equally strong/weak in all areas. There isn't really one area of climbing that I excel at over others, I just seem to get by on what Ive got. I'm not the strongest boulderer, but I can hold a level close to my maximum for a reasonable amount of time, so I guess power endurance is my strength.

What do you see as your biggest weakness?
-Strength is my weakness, plus a complete inability to open out my hips. I cannot frog to save myself. Some much so I think I could gain a grade just from being able to do this.
What motivates you to push yourself to climb as hard as possible?
- I just love it pure and simple. I love feeling at my absolute limit, struggling to do things which feel impossible and being so pumped you can't even speak. Its the best feeling.

Getting pumped on an 8a+ at the Baltzola cave, Spain (Cassidy Coll.)

What is the best thing about being based in Scotland?
- For climbing, nothing. I like the Scottish climbing scene though and my mates are here. For my mental well being, being in Scotland is good and I am close to my family. Plus I love Scotland and am proud to be from Scotland. I'd rather be in Europe though. Scottish trad climbing is however brilliant and I really should be out there making the most of that, but for just now it’s just not what I am interested in. I reached a level where I could on-sight E5s no problem, and did a few E6s and technically I can climb much harder than this. I just don't get off on scaring myself on routes which are easy for me and I don't want to die doing routes which are hard but deadly. I guess that is why I enjoyed Requiem E8 as it has the physicality I'm looking for but is safe.

What is the worst thing about being based in Scotland?
- Where do we start? No limestone, no tufas, no sport crags; yes that's right, no sport crags [Oohhh! Controversial Al!...Niall]), no bouldering areas (yes, you heard). In summer; rain, midges, seepage, too hot or too cold. In autumn; seepage, rain, snow, freezing cold. In winter; rain, snow, rain, cold... In spring; rain, seepage, too cold etc etc. Whinge whinge, moan moan...yes I know, I'm too soft.

O.K. so you say there's no "real" sport climbing in Scotland but what's your opinion on the bolt debate that is raging right now and do you think there is place for lower grade sport climbs in Scotland?
-I hate all this ethical high ground bullshit, it seems like if you’re mates with those stripping the crags you can bolt where you like if not then tough. I don't see why there shouldn't be easy sport crags, not that I know of any good venues actually worth bolting. It doesn't really affect me so I have to say I don't really care that much about whether Lower Lednock is stripped or not - it sounds like a shit crag for sport and trad, but if people were getting something out of it then that is good. Now no one will go there, I find it hard to believe Lenny (Gordon Lennox) and Boo Boo (Craig Adams) are really going to go back there to repeat loose E2s when there is so much good trad that they can do elsewhere at their level. It does seem a shame though that people on both sides take unilateral action and are unwilling to accept the consensus of the majority of climbers. It feels like I'm in a time warp to the early 90s when I started climbing, Ken Wilson et al were bemoaning how the bolt would take over and there would be no trad left - things didn't really pan out like that and I don't see that there is such a threat now. I love sport climbing but I don't want to see the trad crags retro-ed and I don't know of anyone who really does. Some people are really reluctant to open climbing up to greater numbers but the evidence on the crags is that so many great routes aren't getting traffic - I don't see the harm in more people being allowed to enjoy Scottish rock-climbing and if they take there first steps on sport climbing crags then that’s fine by me.

In Scotland, do you think there is still an attitude that you are not a "real climber" if you go sport climbing and bouldering? And has this held you back at all?

-Absolutely, I feel like people judge you for preferring to go sport climbing. Generally its people climbing at a lower level than you too. I love trad, but as i said before I'm at the stage where my ability far out strips my boldness and I don't really get a lot out of doing lots of routes that are easy for me - ok, that is fun now and again but I'm into pushing my limit. I'm saving the classic trad for when I'll appreciate it most. I don't expect anyone to understand that, but I'm getting less embarrassed about being a sport climber (though I wouldn't call myself - there is still too much shame). Britain is pretty backward in accepting other forms of climbing as valid (though I bet most if not all the critics have clipped a bolt in Spain/France etc or enjoyed the boulders of Font). Has it held me back? Maybe when I was younger and cared more of what people thought of me. Now I don't really care, I'm close to climbing 8c a level I thought was physically impossible for me when all I did was trad climbing. Now I'm not sure if that is even my true limit.

Alan does climb in Scotland too! On the classic Precious font 7c, Glen Croe (Cassidy Coll.)

Tell us a bit about your first International comp at Kranj, Slovenia last November?
- It was a shock, I really enjoyed it. It was amazing just being in the presence of the best sport climbers in the world, watching them doing there thing and learning from them. It really opens your eyes to what is possible. I also really surprised myself. I got a lot further than I thought i would in the qualifier and fell from miss reading the route - I basically hadn't seen a hold hidden behind a big feature. At that point I'm sure I had 5-6 more moves in me. Had I seen that hold I would probably have made Semi-finals. As it was, I tied with Gaz Parry in 36th, but 10 places equated to getting only 2 holds further! This made me think there was hope for me to still improve to a new level. The main problem is that to get better at comps you need to do lots of comps. The BICC is now a one off event and there are no other lead comps in Britain. What's more the routes and the walls we have in this country are never of the right standard for what you compete on. That is why young Nat (Natalie Berry) is so impressive - I strongly believe she is the best comp climber in Britain at the moment.

What is it like being on the British Team?
- Basically there is no cash. It's so frustrating cause a lot of the time you come away from training really motivated thinking yeah, I'm really psyched to go do lots of internationals and improve etc, but they can't send anyone, so its makes you feel like, what is the point in there even being a team? If I had the money and time I would self fund to go to comps, but I don't and the little cash I do have I'd rather spend on trips to the crag. The only perk is free entry to climbing walls but as we have to fund travel to training meets ourselves, I see that as paying for the free entry.

Since you have repeated a large majority of all the 8s in Scotland, how consistent do you think the grades are at this level?
-I think they are getting a lot better, thanks to more repeats and the graded list on Scottish climbs, unfortunately there is only about 6 of us actually repeating these things so I think it'll be a while yet before the grades completely settle. The other thing with Scottish sport routes is that they are either pretty cruxy or bouldery and this can often leave you confused as to the grades once you do something - this type of climbing tends to feel alright when you finally do them.

You say you are close to climbing 8c, how are you finding the transition to this level of climbing?
-Well I have found it a bit of a shock that I was able to get on these things and make quick progress. It has really inspired me. I think that ticking a couple of 8b+s [Happiness in Slavery, Dumbuck and Body Blow at the Anvil] quickly has helped raise my confidence but I am nowhere near consolidated at that level (nor really at 8b). I believe that next year will be 2008c for me! I think I would have done True North [Classic 8c at Kilnsey, Yorkshire] this year if it hadn't been wet over the summer because I nearly sent it on the day after my 1st year exams at the start of june- my foot popped just as i was going for the last properly hard move and I was feeling like I still had a lot in my arms. Oh well next year! My focus for the winter is to train harder than before on sick power endurance so I can get these super hard routes done quickly. I'd love to climb 8c abroad which requires having a good margin. A lot of people don't like power endurance training because it hurts - I guess I must just be sick!

Making links on True North 8c, Kilnsey (Cassidy Coll.)

You have just completed your first year of medicine, how have you found balancing out all the different demands on your time, training, studying and socialising?
-Its been OK actually. I managed mixing my training and studying fine (though the exam period was quite stressful). I'm not a big social animal (though i need to address this one as it's about time I had a girlfriend) and I must admit my social circle in the last few years has included fewer and fewer non-climbers. When I was living in Perth, all my school friends were about, in Glasgow I only really know climbers well. I might climb hard but I am too shy for my own good! Or maybe its just the climbing chat that scares them away [aye well, talking about cracks and thumb sprags can have that effect…Niall].

Thanks Alan, for taking the time to speak to Deft Moves and best of luck on getting the 8c tick (although I don’t think you really need any!).

"And if you do this with your middle fingers you get the shadow of a rabbit..." (Photo: Hotaches)

Monday, 5 November 2007

Some Friends of Mine #1: Tess Fryer

This is the first of a series of blogs about some of the folks throughout Scotland that I have had the pleasure to climb with. Each person that I chose has been inspirational to me in some way and by interviewing them, I hope to gain some insight into what makes them tick. Plus, it’s a great way of getting someone else to write about 95% of a blog post for you, easy work. First up and with a strong Trad flavour is Tess Fryer.

Tess bouldering at Reiff (photo: I.Taylor)

Shy, retiring, wall-flowery, lackadaisical, middle-of the road: these are all words which I would never dare to use in the same sentence as Tess. I’ve known Tess since I moved to Edinburgh about 9 years ago (Well, 7 actually since I disappeared into clubland for a while when I first defected to the East) and I have to say she is one of the most vivacious and enthusiastic climber that I have met in Scotland with a real appetite for adventure.

The first time I went climbing with Tess was during the Foot and Mouth fiasco back in 2001, we had planned to go to Upper Cave at Dunkeld but due to conflicting signs and general confusion, we ended up bimbling about Polney. The highpoint of the day was a lead of Scram’79 E4 6a which Tess seconded up this with relative ease. I could see immediately that she was capable of climbing and leading much harder than this; there was nothing hurried or unconsidered in her approach and even though she was “only” seconding, she gave the pitch 100% attention and focus, which typically characterises her approach to leading routes.

Since then I’ve been out on trips to Pabbay and Mingulay with Tess and her partner Ian Taylor; stayed in the same apartment whilst in Kalymnos; passed each other in the airports as one group starts a holiday just as another is finishing; caught up with on trips up north and generally bumped into her on a regular basis.

However, since she and Ian moved to Ullapool four years ago, I have seen her standard rise significantly from leading the occasional E3 to jumping onto E5s. My immediate thoughts were that there must be something in the local water! But then, it’s not so surprising given Tess’s drive combined with the unfair amounts of quality rock that there is in the North-West.

So Tess, here’s your Starter for Ten:

How long have you been living in Ullapool & how is the lifestyle different to Edinburgh?
We moved to Ullapool in 2003 for a trial summer. And never looked back. Though there was one winter when it did rain every day for 6 months, which got a bit wearing. But there was still dry rock to be found. On the whole life is predictably more laid back and low key, much less manic than Edinburgh days where I was always trying to fit in lots of different things. Now I’m more west coast, where mañana feels like a rush job. I do miss a few things like getting together with friends or going to the cinema. On the other hand, I probably go and see far more music cos everything is 5mins walk away.

Are you still working as a Social Worker and how is that panning out?
Yes. What more do you want to know? It’s the day job: 4 days/week which is an okay work-life balance. Mind you, I’ve just had 3 months off which was very good for the soul. Back at my desk now and starting to pine….

How long have you been and climbing and how did you get into it?
It feels like all my life, but I suppose I get properly hooked in 1990 after going out a few times with a friend and realizing, this is me, this is in my bones.

Tess engaging in some Modern Thinking E4 6a, Reiff. (photo: I.Taylor)

Why do you climb?
I thought you said no deep questions! There is no why really. It’s not a conscious choice. From the beginning I’ve loved the whole experience: spending time in beautiful places, that involvement with the rock, the whole deep play thing. And the incredible buzz when it all comes together. But most of the time, just because…

How long did it take for you to get to E1? And then E3? And to E5 now?
Probably 3 years till leading E1 (1993). Then a decade to reach E3: E2 is a big place. And there were minor distractions along the way - like getting professional qualifications. I did quite a few E4s last year-and then a couple of soft touch E5s this summer.

What do you like most about climbing?
Same things as why I climb- the scenery, the rock, the company (on a good day), the pleasure of moving on the rock (also on a good day).

What do you hate most?
Litter. Crowds. Over-developed egos.

What kind of routes do you like the most?
Anything I can hang around on for hours to place gear and contemplate the meaning of life. I like butch routes – steep with big holds. But I also like technical balancy things. Either way, long and sustained. [Yeah, me too!-Niall]

What kind of routes do you hate?
Unbalanced, with bouldery crux, especially if it involves big reaches, power, or anything too dynamic. And blank slabs. And Lubyanka.

Favourite Area?
Can I have lots?
Top of the list: Pabbay and Mingulay in good weather-a little piece of paradise.
Sheigra. And I do love local sandstone: Reiff obviously, but also Ardmair - all year round cragging.
North Wales is not bad either.

Tess on the FA of Line Of Beauty E4 5c, Sandray.

Favourite Route?
I have the world’s worst memory so I generally forget something as soon as I’ve climbed it and every route is an on-sight, even if it’s a second attempt... I loved the climbing on the Galleries on Sandray last year. And Second Geo at Sheigra. Ancient Mariner on Pabbay was fantastic even though I failed on it. Shibboleth….I could go on.

What’s the best thing about being based in Scotland?
The beauty; the variety – of rock types, venues; the lack of crowds.

And the Worst?
Probably the fickleness of conditions: even when it’s not raining/too cold/too windy/the rock’s not seeping, you have the dreaded midge to contend with. But heh, the place would be a lot busier if people thought we were having fun.

What for you has made the biggest difference to your climbing ability?
Moving here, because there’s so much good rock within easy reach. Even if it’s too wet to climb, you can almost always find somewhere dry enough to boulder.
I’m also probably putting more energy into my climbing than I was in Edinburgh – less distractions here! Having an equally enthusiastic partner helps too.

Having moved away from a city with a climbing wall, do you miss using the wall at all, and how do you think your climbing has changed from not using the wall?
I do miss the craic that you get at the wall, and hearing what folk have been up to. But my climbing has improved except on plastic, of course. We will go through to Inverness wall for a bit of therapy if we get a really dire spell, but it’s 120mile round trip, and you have to compete with bouncy-castle kids parties, so we have to be really keen or clucking.
I think we could do with a Highland Adventure Centre: maybe a roof over the local quarry? So if anyone has £20 million to spare….

You recently led a few E5s. How did you find them?
Has this been a goal of yours or have you just tried to see how well you could climb at each stage?
I’ve always tried to avoid chasing numbers, and climb what I want to do. But I like doing things that challenge me (but not too much). Stone Pig routes suit me, and I’d done a couple of E4s there, so I was keen to try Miss Moneypenny, and loved it: no desperate moves, just lots of climbing, and plenty of opportunities to shake out.
My friend had seconded Warpath, and assured me I had to do it, and I always do what she tells me. It’s the easiest in the graded list in the new guide: “Some people call it Footpath”, I was told.
Since then, I failed miserably on the crux of Ancient Mariner. Though it was a reachy move (but I keep vowing to stop using that as an excuse, and learn to jump…). It was also 110 deg, which didn’t help.
I also got spanked on local gneiss on Freakshow at Gruinard, which was a bit annoying, as it definitely had my name on it, but I’ve got to stop placing a dozen bits of gear on cruxes, when 6 will do. I returned for a re-match recently, and did it a bit shakily.
Those are my on-sight attempts – 50% success rate to date!

Tess with One for Q E3 6a, Reiff. (photo: J.Reed)

A recent poll on Scottish Climbs found that there were over 50 men leading E5 in Scotland. One would expect to find that there were at least 5 women in Scotland capable of doing the same but there isn’t to the best of my knowledge. Why do you think this is?
How long have you got?!
You could write whole volumes on this: gender and participation in sport and risk taking: sounds like several dissertations to me!
For a start, why would you expect that proportion of women to perform at that level? Do they in Britain as a whole: 100 women leading E5 - I think not!

My starting speculation would be the time/commitment factor: unless you have shed-loads of talent, you need to put in the hours, and be fairly single-minded (and selfish), with no major distractions – like high-powered career, other burning passions, or family commitments. I would hazard a guess that it’s pretty hard to find the necessary time or energy if you have children under school age.

I’m sure there are other important factors – I learnt to climb on gear, and that has always been what I’ve done most of and what I get the most satisfaction from (probably directly related to my lack of prowess in any other area of climbing). Nowadays, it feels like the majority of people start climbing indoors. It’s a big leap from that to getting on trad routes – and probably a frustrating one, when you know that technically you can climb much harder than you are able to lead. Which is maybe why lots of people put their energies into sport or bouldering which hadn’t been invented when I were a youth... But the best way to climb harder trad routes is to climb trad routes and lots of them. I know that this affects men as well as women, but women are generally more cautious about taking risks than men, so that comes into the equation.

Oh and there’s the whole thing about motivation and why/how you got into climbing. From the beginning, I’ve wanted to climb for myself and as an equal. I’ve always lead and generally climbed with people who are operating at a similar level. I’ve never enjoyed being dragged up things.
I would hazard a guess that a fair proportion of women come into climbing through their more experienced partners, which is not generally the best way to build up confidence and skills – or the motivation to get past the indignity of struggling to follow his routes.

Basically if it aint your passion, you aren’t going to stick with it.

Thank you Tess, for taking the time to speak to Deftmoves

Next Friend: “Mr Mac8a”-Alan Cassidy

Friday, 26 October 2007

Return of The Nipper- France

I should perhaps rename this blog “Things Wot I Done a Month Ago and Can’t be Arsed Blogging Until Now”, except it probably wouldn’t fit onto the Scottish Climbs blog aggregator very well and it’s a bit of a mouthful too. Anyway, France; Emma and I took a 19 day trip starting in the Brittany region, passing through Fontainebleau, Orpierre and Nimes before finishing at the Mediterranean village of Cassis east of Marseilles.

Fontainebleau was fun and relaxing despite the absence of a bouldering mat. But to be perfectly honest, you can go bouldering anytime at home and it’s not why I go to France. A seven hour car drive later and we arrived at Orpierre, not far from Sisteron. Having booked a static caravan at the campsite, we were expecting a grotty, cramped box. However, our residence for the next nine days was the complete opposite; a sumptuous and spacious mini-mansion complete with marble effect tiling in the bathroom, the only thing missing was a butler on call.

The Mansion at the Campsite

Usually, when I’ve got a sport climbing trip I train for it by going to Ratho, doing circuits and generally giving my forearms some form of punishment, all in the name of “getting fit”. This time round, I couldn’t be bothered doing all that and did little training, just some regular bouldering down Alien 2. I also felt it would be interesting to see how much difference all the stamina training actually does from its absence for this trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the results by the end of the trip.

I nearly despaired after the first day having struggled up a 7b+ and having to fight to get to the chain on a 7c. But as the week went on, I could feel my head and body getting back into gear for sustained sport routes. Discarding the staccato rhythms of trad climbing and settling into the slick, almost flowing motions required of steep continental limestone.

Sneaking a rest on a 7c (P.Black)

For Emma as well, Orpierre proved to be the best climbing trip she has been on as all the 4s and 5s were proper lines, well bolted and all of good quality. On previous trips to Europe it’s been a struggle to find such routes at crags. Routes at this level seem to be these scrappy little things tucked away to one side (well, the crags we go to anyway…).

A European sport trip is never complete without bumping into someone you know from the UK. Stepping into those shoes were Phil Black and Alison Martindale, of Raindogs fame, who had last seen me about five years ago running about Alien Rock dressed as Luke Skywalker, but that’s another story…Not forgetting some lads from the Lakes who knew the Sheffield Mafia back in the ‘80s and imparted some, err, “unsavoury” tales of a certain gritstone hero from that era (ask me at the wall or the pub; I know my mum reads this blog…).

The 7cs got easier as the week went on; plenty of wine, beer, pain au chocolates and croissants were consumed. We got up late, had lunch then went climbing only 15 minutes from the campsite. The sunsets lit the crag orange, I cruised a 7c+: it was a perfect holiday.

End of a Fantastic Day

And then I nearly cocked it all up.

I locked the only keys inside the hire car one night.

Frantic calls were made to the hire company the following morning and by lunch time a mechanic from somewhere appeared in a battered Peugeot. With a box of coathangers. An hour later almost no progress had been made other getting the driver door open a one inch gap (via some rubber airsacks and a hand pump) due to the design of this new model of a Fiat Punto. Everyone else on the campsite pitched in with ideas until finally the passenger door was opened with a set of tent-poles.

My relief was palpable as I had had visions of the car being towed away. With all our climbing kit still in the boot. Oh, I onsighted Game Over 8a, that evening too, but of course no-one at the camp-site will remember that little detail- I’ll always be the Scottish numpty who locked his keys in the car.

Game Over 8a (P.Black)

A silly schoolboy error saw me slip off an easy move at the second bolt on Bookaro Banzai 8a the next day. But instead of dogging on to the top, I lowered down, untied, retied and lead straight back up, past my highpoint (lowpoint, really) and the next 20 metres to the chain. Banzai has two distinct, powerful cruxes and cruxy routes aren’t my forte, however having already fallen off had relaxed me and removed the pressure. Consequentially, I seemed more willing to throw and slap for poor holds and only had a mild suggestion of a pump at the top. I felt like I could have climbed another 20 metres! Maybe a good tactic for my next sport climbing trip would be to deliberately fall off at the second bolt to ensure that perfect state of mind on hard onsights…

The last few days of the trip ended at Cassis: sun, sand and sea and plenty more wine before heading back to the muted grey skies of autumnal Scotland.

A great holiday, fantastic climbing and some stories to tell but I will not be remembering this trip for all these things. After nearly five years together, Emma and I are now engaged to be married. The girl who tamed me of my reckless climbing approach, who introduced me to whisky (an Englishwoman no less!) and the one that I dressed up as a ned couple is the one that I want to spend the rest of my life with. Many thanks to Caz and Diff for plying us with excessive amounts of alcohol that fateful night many years ago!

The Missus and I with a "pile of stones" in the background

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Return of the Nipper (Part 1)

Since my last post I’ve developed something of a writer’s block regarding my blog…no actually make that plain laziness. Compounding this little niggle was also some kind of motivational come-down after onsighting The Clown. Climbing E7 in this style has been a goal of mine for so long that I didn’t regard what I was going to do afterwards. I know that there are loads of E7s out there still waiting to be onsighted, but even now for me the distance between E6 and E7 still feels like a gap that I will only be able to step across occasionally.

So as it’s been nearly three months since I did The Clown, maybe I should have a quick run through what I’ve been up to:

Deep Water Soloing

Straight after The Clown, on the same trip, Andy and I carried on down the Welsh coast to Pembroke for the Deep Water Soloing Festival. Unfortunately it was pretty “moist” weather, to say the least. But this being Britain, everyone carried on stubbornly in the rain, the speed comp being particularly entertaining as a result. And despite nearly 9 hours of solid rain, the outdoor party continued on late into the night with the same spirit (well, only until the police turned up at 3am…).

A couple of weeks later, the Aberdeen DWS “festival” was on, so keen to get a bit more experience of this great sub sport, Emma and myself headed up. This time I managed to get more routes in before the rain started again, suitably fuelled by the burgers from the barbecue. Highlights of the day included War of Tears 7b with its heel hookery rock over funkiness but the lowpoint has to be getting stuck on the slimy top section of Hell and High Water 7a for 10 minute whilst the drizzle started.

War Without Tears 7b (photo: S.Stronach)

I’d really like to do more of this kind of climbing, as it seems to combine the best of climbing routes but without all the faff of ropes and quickdraws and nuts and cams and all that jazz whilst still retaining that element of boldness high up. So Mr Lines, how about a mass assault on the Red Tower next year?

. Red Meat 7a, DWS Maestro, Julian Lines watching (Photo: S.Stronach)

Developing a New Crag in Arrochar

In between flitting up and down the country to climb up cliffs and lob into the sea, I have also been visiting the Arrochar area with Tom Charles Edward, following up on a tip-off about an undeveloped crag from one of my spies (thanks Ian!). Coilessan Crag on the west bank of Loch Long, as mentioned elsewhere, really is the most glaringly undeveloped crag in the country. It can be seen as the distinctive prow high up on the hillside whilst looking southward from the Cobbler Car park at Arrochar. Less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow and a mere 45 minutes walk in brings you to a steep buttress scored through with many deep cracks just begging to be climbed.

. Coilessan Crag

The first line to fall so far is Ajare which takes the “slabbiest” but equally stunning line on the main crag, the vertical arête of the southern edge of the crag. I have to admit, though, to inspecting the line twice (because I forgot my brush the first time) before the first ascent, a bit of a departure from the whole ground-up onsight ethos that I favour. From my own experience, virgin mica-schist can be very lichenous with loose blocks and plate-like wafers and flakes also have a tendency to snap so a good clean is usually necessary.

. High up on Ajare (Photo: J.Watson)

The “interesting” bit of Ajare is the run out section in the middle; moving from a resting niche onto a wall and then back to the arête where some sequential moves lead to the pod/break; a long way from the last piece of gear with a real danger of smacking off the ledge below.

The first time I climbed this route, I used a small flake high up on the arête which I felt to be br6b, so this combined with the potential nastiness of a fall, it seemed logical to give the route E7 6b. Unfortunately, when Tom followed up afterwards he snapped the flake off but managed to find another sequence up this section- don’t worry potential onsighters, I am not giving anything away!

A week later, I repeated the route for the camera using the new sequence, and it actually felt easier although may possibly be harder to read….hence why I am now confused as to whether the route now warrants E6 or E7, especially considering the fact that I had pre-inspected the line and had full awareness of the terrain ahead. Nevertheless, a 3 star route with a mind-blowing top-out…

. The "interesting" bit of Ajare (photo: J.Watson)

Headpointing routes has never really interested me, but on this crag, I finally discovered the line that will really turn me to the Dark Side…take a 15 metre finger crack, tilt it at 40 degrees, throw a roof in the middle, make the crack flared at it’s steepest section and you’ve got some idea of how impressive (and desperate) this project looks. So far it’s taken me two days to clean it and another day of aiding up it (with about twenty bits of gear) to play with the moves. It’s going to be hard work but I am absolutely smitten. Unfortunately, it’s been a month since I was last on it and the weather is starting to turn so it could be next year before I am back on it.

Next Post: France

Friday, 3 August 2007

Clowning Around

An old doubt raises its head.

“Why am I doing this? This isn’t sensible.”

My left foot creeps onto the edge, hips shifting; I match the pencil width edge and continue to traverse to the left. The ropes are sweeping back a seemingly exponential distance to the roof to my right and the solitary gear. Directly below, the tide is crashing in; Andy is perched on top of a large block patiently holding the ropes as I hesitantly move across the quartzite face.

The Clown E7 6b at Gogarth, not a laughing matter mid-route; looking at the run-out and the foam washed boulders below. Falling is inadvisable from this point 15 metres up. A foothold creaks under my pressure and fleetingly a memory whispers. A memory of a foothold snapping, a silhouette poised in midair before hitting the ground. My body recoils, finding another foothold. Hips adjust once more to accommodate this new position, keeping both feet glued to the wall.

Coldly detached, I reach the flake of The Cad and the first piece of gear for 10 metres and start enjoying life again. More gear is placed; I de-pump my arms and my calves by standing on my heels, constantly shifting position to relax a different part of my body.

Smiling, I allow myself a quick moment of excitement; it’s going well, the lower crux rock-over managed without too much difficulty, the dangerous section negotiated and the top is in sight. A goal that for so long has eluded me, hovering just beyond my fingertips at the top of this lichen encrusted wall.

The wind has picked up and having stopped moving, I start to chill. I try to leave the rest into the continuation and top crux section of The Clown several times but have to climb back down, limbs moving like frozen cogs.

Doubts bubble up again. Stuck on the rest with shivering arms, the next bit looks impossible and the top further away than it should. But I’ve been here before, dealing with these uncertain emotions. I decide the next time I move up, I am not retreating.

Committed past my previous high point now. Precariously out of balance, I high-step a foot high up onto my left hand hold, a flake the size of a postage stamp. Undercuts are reached wrong handed. I fight to adjust my fingers into a better position. A crucial crimp is found higher up. I place an RP quickly behind a wafer thin flake. Moving up, my left arm cramps from placing the gear. My foot skitters on a smear. A flicker at the corner of my vision, the RP has fallen out. The wind sounds louder, roaring through me.

Finally, growing relief as my fingers curls round an incut flake that signals the finishing easier section. A break - bomber nuts and cams - the first gear in the 10 metres since the rest flake. I wave to Andy, a thumb up in response: I reconnect from isolation. Then I am standing on top, my first true E7 onsight.

Happy but cold at the top of The Clown, Gogarth (photo: Andy Hein)

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Helmet's Story

Helmet and his Shiny Blue Coat

This is the sad story of the Petzl Meteor II no. 13,456 Helmet . Helmet was created in the Petzl factory in 2003 and given a wonderful metallic blue coating. It was here that Helmet learned of the privilege of his purpose: he was to protect his owner’s life and ensure his owner could climb with increased safety. Helmet was shown many gruesome images of what could happen to peoples’ heads if a helmet was not worn; Helmet now felt suffused with purpose and meaning, even vowing to make the Ultimate Sacrifice himself, if it meant that his owner would live on.

In the shop, many people tried on Helmet and commented on his nice colouring, but Helmet ignored them. He wasn’t there to make people look nice. Finally a young lad tried him on and Helmet just knew this was going to be his owner. Helmet’s heart lifted when he heard his new owner chatting to the shop assistant “Aye, I am going up to the North West this weekend, and thought it was time to get one of these lightweight jobs. Should be good for the winter stuff too”. A proper climber then! Helmet looked forward to a long and fruitful relationship with his owner. Helmet got worn a few times in the wind and sunshine and even acquired a few dents-the mark of a real climber’s helmet!

Helmet and me, Expecting To Fly E4 6a, Stac Pollaidh

And then the long dark waits in the back of the cupboard started. At first Helmet reassured himself, that not everyone could climb all the time not even this super keen lad. But from time to time, Helmet noticed that the other gear would go missing for days at a time. So, the Lad was climbing without him then! And with the nuts and cams too! Helmet felt betrayed, hadn’t the Lad brought Helmet to protect himself just like all the other gear? Surely not to be stuck on a shelf collecting dust, sinking deeper and deeper into a purposeless depression.

A rare outing for Helmet on Angel, Etive Slabs. Helmet came in very useful on this pitch as I fell off twice getting to this point and slamming into the lower slab... (S.Richardson)

One magical day, Helmet got taken winter climbing and he really showed the Lad what he was made of then as he deflected all the snow and ice that came tumbling down and even once, an axe that popped out of a placement. Helmet was ready to forgive the Lad if it meant more days like this but sadly, he never got taken out onto the white stuff again. One time, Helmet was put in the bag and taken off to a crag where he simply sat on the grass and didn't get worn at all. He even heard the Lad saying to his partner that because the crag was steep and the rock solid, he didn't need to wear a helmet!

Hadn't the Lad learnt that rock is unpredictable stuff and anything could happen like a foot slipping and taking a swinger into a jaggy corner? Or when a flake decides to detach itself onto a belayer? Or what about a backward fall onto spiky boulders?

Helmet got angry at being left on the shelf for longer and longer periods while the other gear went out and had all the fun. Occasionally some of gear didn’t come back, having made the Ultimate Sacrifice for the Lad. Helmet now hates the Lad and wishes that someone who did not climb such "steep and solid rock" had chosen him. Resigned to his fate, Helmet collects dust and dreams of days of feeling the sunshine and wind...

Sad and angry, Helmet sits and waits and collects dust

Thursday, 5 July 2007


Wednesday, the day for our mid-week transfer to Mingulay from Pabbay. I wake up to the sound of heavy rain on the tent. I go back to sleep. Nobody even bothers to check the bay to see if the boatman appears. Everyone seems to be chilling out today, Dan and I don’t feel too bothered about get anything done; down time after the excitement and stress of new-routing the previous day.

Thursday, a much brighter day. The boatman picks us up. I ask how the weather’s been on the mainland as we’ve had it pretty good with three days of solid sunshine: “Floods. England. Rain.” A man of few words but gets his point across without any fuss. We all feel smug, soaking in the sun and the fresh wind whilst knowing the rest of the country is being soaked.

The last time I was on Mingulay three years ago, I had a bit of a mare on the Creag Deargh (the Red Cliff), an immaculate face balanced a 100 meters above the sea and choss. I lost my bottle, to put it bluntly on an E6, and retreated with a bad case of the wobbles. This time I wanted to face an old demon and get on the hardest route on this cliff, Steve Crowe’s The Scream E6/7.

Aren’t belayers wonderful people? Not only do they stand for hours on a small ledge the size of a chocolate bar holding your ropes but they also put up with your repeated down-climbing and resting on ledges whilst you wait for the sun to dry out the rock. And after many aborted attempts at the crux with the ensuing down climb to jugs whilst you try and work it out. And then they have to listen to your Tarzan like yells as you swing out ,high upon the void, hand traversing and kung foo-ing sloppily as your feet regain the rock. Yes, they are fantastic people indeed. Very strangely, Ali couldn’t be bothered leading anything after his three hours of belaying me on The Scream

Another hard route repeated, another down-grade? I felt that The Scream, was hard E6 but did not warrant the original split grade. Yes, there is a run-out bit, but this is on good rock with fantastic gear in a flake and the technical crux is only just above this flake, plus, the entire lower section was wet up to this point…

But, I can’t help but feel that I am turning into a serial down-grader of routes especially with these split grades. Credit to Steve for climbing this route, absolutely amazing effort for the ground-up (shame that hold snapped on the first ascent, eh?), however this is part of the problem when climbing new routes and the subsequent grading.

Contrast following a route description and knowing the difficulty, even knowing exactly where the crux is to climbing into completely unknown territory with knowledge of absolutely nothing ahead of you: no idea if there is gear, no idea how hard the moves are going to be, no idea how good the rock is, no idea where the line really goes and no idea where you are going to end up on the cliff. A whole bag of uncertainty compared to simpler task of just following the guide and pulling hard on some holds.

So, of course it’s going to feel harder when onsighting new routes as you hold on harder and climb more conservatively: this approach gets reflected in the proposed grade. It happened with my own route, Geomancer which Dan repeated only a few days earlier, going from E7 to E6. Basically, repeats of routes first done in this style may not feel as hard on the second and third ascents (or is that a gross generalisation?).

Part of the problem with down-grading routes, though, is that it can be perceived as a personal slight towards the first ascentionist. The down-grader in some cases is seen as saying “I found this easier than you, therefore I am the better climber”. But personally I think I am guilty of the attitude that if I can climb something then it just can’t be that hard, in a kind of inverse modesty, conveniently forgetting the amount of effort that the route required. I am glad grading’s not an exact science because it fuels about half my conversations with other climbers!

Team ascents of the four star Big Kenneth E5 6a on Dun Mingulay were made the following day and the rest of trip passed by in a more relaxed vibe. Everyone myself included seemed a bit climbed out and lacking in psyche by the last two days. Poor Fiona, though had a major fright abbing down after her partners only to discover that the abseil rope had been completely shorn of the sheath 70 metres above the maelstrom (don’t worry, she made it out alive). Whilst staying in Castlebay overnight on the way back, I heard that some very drunk visitors had managed to row out to the Castle and scaled the church roof during the night…tut tut.

(Apologies for lack of photos on this post-Nobody could be bothered taking any pics by the time we got to Mingulay)

Monday, 25 June 2007


This was my fifth visit to the Southern Hebrides Isles of Pabbay and Mingulay since 2002 so it's fair to say that I am an addict. There is something very unique about the islands that is hard to pin down, other than the sheer quality of the climbing: big steep lines on hard, sculpted, funky, crystalline gneiss that feels incomparable to any other rock type in the UK. But there is also the soothing ambiance of these islands: from waking up in the tent next to a white sandy beach; to the walk over the moors to the cliff; to racking up above a glittering sea. Above all though, is the inescapable feeling of isolation: there are no cars and roads to battle with; no Tescos or Morrisons to endure whilst grabbing some crag food; no parking tickets or petrol to pay for. Just you, your mates, the climbing and your beer at the end of a great day.

Racking up above the Sea, Pabbay (Hot Aches)

On the first day on Pabbay, Ali and me made a beeline for Banded Geo. I've had something of an affair with this Geo since my very first visit to the island, the Ship of Fools wall leers out like a galleon in full sail. Long and steep at 45m and 5m in the respective planes it offers fantastic climbing on incuts and scallop-sculpted walls. My attempt at repeating Ship of Fools E6 6b (first put up by the original pioneers of E5+ routes in the Isles, Paul "Stork" Thorburn and Rick Campbell) in 2002 proved problematic as I went horribly off route, cutting through the lower roof with an extremely difficult sequence and then rejoining the original route ten metres below the top. Tim Rankin, a few days later repeated it via the correct line at E5. The following year I returned and added an independent start and finish to my variation, naming it Geomancer E7 6b which turned out to be an optimistically high grade, more on that later...

Ali set off up SoF after I had pinpointed exactly where to climb through the roof dispatching this with ease and then forging into the sea of jugs on the headwall. My intention was to climb a line to the right of SoF, so when I seconded Ali, I was dismayed to see chalk highlighting the holds on this line: someone had beaten me to it! However, the chalk had suddenly veered into SoF at half height, at least I could finish it off with an independent finish. An hour later I sat on the top of this wall, pleasantly surprised at the amenability of the line, a three star E5 6a. The Hot Aches boys who were out filming for their new project, Committed, however were disappointed, they wanted something hard and dramatic, not this stroll in the park. My investigative work since getting back has revealed it was Jonny Clark who had climbed this line thinking it was SoF, thus Jonny Scuttlebutt was born .

Banded Geo, Ali (orange speck) seconding Jonny Scuttlebutt (Hot Aches)

A few days later I stood under the Ship of Fools roof again, waving my arms about and describing to Dan McManus where to go on Geomancer. Dan seemed nervous, muttering about hard boulder problems through the roof but then discovering a slightly easier and more natural solution by traversing left on the lip before cruising the next thirty metres to the top. I followed, surprised and embarrassed at how easy the climbing felt: oops, definitely not E7 then. I had to agree with Dan on a reassessment at E6 but thankfully retaining all of it's three stars.

Dan climbing Geomancer with ease (Hot Aches)

Eyeing up a line at the back of the Geo where there were no existing routes, a dark and gothic cave that severely undercuts at the base, only touching down in a few places for sixty metres. From one of those places, sprang an impressive stepped corner on good rock that led to an obvious rising traverse across the cave and into a choice of corner systems. I had pointed the line out to Ali a few days before who immediately baulked at the thought of doing the rising traverse on the admittedly awful looking rock. Luckily (and with Machiavellian timing), I had persuaded Dan to do Geomancer earlier that day: he was now indebted to me belay-wise...

Stepping off the boulder, the pristine texture of the rock, the sea crashing and roiling, the sun disappearing behind the overhangs; nothing but an inconsequential pinprick on the skin of this cliff. A microbe that has flickered,fleetingly, into it's geological existence. Suddenly, I am bought back to my own time, fighting on matchstick edges, heel hooked high and pulling into the bottom of the corner. The crack is wet! I throw in some gear, rest briefly and continue up the corner which is now leaning out alarmingly. After some hard, piston-like bridging, better gear is reached and then a vertical wall with a thin but positive crack-sheer bliss...The last of the sun hits me on the belay and Dan follows, confirming the difficulties of the first pitch.

Grooving up the first Pitch of Redemption Ark (Hot Aches)

Tentatively Dan starts out the next pitch, we both know it's going to be loose but seem to be choosing not to acknowledge that fact verbally. Dan's body language reveals his anxiety on this pitch: creeping, inching, testing, checking, doubling back, sussing and faltering he made his way along the blocky traverse. A hold rips and I am pulled forward from my hanging belay, Dan is now level with me swinging on the end of the ropes, a clattering below that will become a familiar sound over the next two hours. Curiously, the fall seems to have relaxed Dan and after he climbs back to the ledge, he completes the thirty metre traverse. I contribute further to accelerating the erosion process on the part of the cliff as more lumps rattle down to the back of the Geo.

Dan on the second pitch of Redemption Ark (Hot Aches)

The final pitch. A choice of three loose looking corners. Dan begs me not to take the one above the belay, I note for the first time that we are not wearing helmets, stupid...Stepping to the left and away from Dan, I find lots of gear but I don't trust any of it, the rock is wet and I keep pulling half of it off. Contrasting with the powerful and positive first pitch, this final pitch is draining me with the nervous tension. I keep my hands and feet tautly in position, stretched tight and responsive as another hold crumbles away. Cramp is creeping into my legs. Many options present themselves and then immediately discarded: the flake with my left, nope it moved; the jam with my right, the side of the crack falls off; move my foot onto that edge, it snaps. Really hating this now, why can't I do something nice and safe like watch football on the sofa (no, better make that golf, not as exciting as football) and drink beer and then go to the pub and then watch crap t.v? Finally, better rock is reached, relief washes over at the top. Dan comes up smiling, escaping into the amber light of the sunset.

Redemption Ark E6 6b XS, and where did the name come from? My favourite science fiction book of the same name, suitably dark and gothic: a very well thumbed book on my shelf.

Next Post: Mingulay

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Prelude to the Islands

In Profundum Lacu E5 6a, Pink Walls Pabbay (C. Adam 2005)

Today, I and about ten other like minded souls head out to Pabbay and Mingulay for a week. This is my most favourite climbing area in Britain, I usualy always have a good time here and some of the routes are big and long, hmmmnnnn. The weather's looking a bit squiffy at the moment but hopefully I'll have loads to report when I get back...

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Reflections on the Road

The long drive up from Edinburgh to Sheigra on the far NW corner of Scotland. Five and a half hours behind the wheel. Ali's asleep in the passenger seat, having had a busy night shift as a fireman. The mind starts ticking over. Mine starts grinding over with the sound of rusty cogs...

In 2001, I onsighted my first E6; back then, I had only onsighted one french 7b+ and could occasionally onsight 7b ; redpointed 7c+ and bouldered font 7b "straight up" (7c if you count traverses: i.e. Consolidated). Now, six years later I have onsighted french 8a; redpointed 8b and bouldered font 8a. And in all that time, I have continued to onsight E6es up and down the country, with the occasional failed foray into E7 territory.

The Herbaloner E6 6b, Pabbay. Steve Crowe climbing in the background. (Photo: C. Adams)

So why? Oh why, have I not managed to push my trad onsight grade in a similar manner? Going by the improvements in my sport and bouldering grades, surely I should be onsighting E8 by now?! Well, no. Not really. If we examine the nature in which I climbed those first E6es and analyse my improvements in sport and bouldering then it will be seen that the apparent physical progress in sport and bouldering does not correspond linearly with an increase in trad grades...

Take my first E6, a scruffy little wall by the name of Helmut Schmitt at Stoney Middleton in the Peak. I remember a sketchy blur of slapping hands on the crux and of poorly placed gear, too pumped to place it any better. Not so much throwing caution to the wind as chucking it into a hurricane. This approach pretty much summarised my style at the time and on subsequent E6es over the next year. I was in my early 20s, felt invincible and that I had something to prove. A bad combination for my belayers I am sure. At Gogarth recently, (see earlier post: Scotland vs North Wales), I did a wide variety of E6es: pumpy ones, technical and scary ones, cruxy and run-out ones. And on each of them, I remember placing the gear really well, hunting out the elusive rps; taking a considered, calculating approach; locking off every hold statically and in full control.

The above descriptions sound like two completely different climbers, and they are in a sense. I have definitely changed over the last six years, from the young tyke to a more mature climber (I hate using that word, I sound old!): one who doesn't want to take unnecessary risks; one who wants to climb again next week; one who knows that it isn't worth risking everything just for one route; one who has had an accident but gotten away lightly and one who has settled down with their partner, realising that they don't have the right to put their own lives in such jeopardy again. While my trad grade has stayed the same, I have actually improved and consolidated the skills and fitness required at this level but I am no longer prepared to take the same approach to onsight E7 as I did when I first started onsighting E6es.

Bouldering at Ben Ledi, experimenting with body positions

Looking at my sport and bouldering abilities, at face value they seem to indicate a huge improvement in physical strength and fitness. But on examination, these have only played a small part, the main contribution that influenced my progress was that of skill acquisition in each discipline. For sport onsighting my biggest jump ever came from learning about pacing on routes: learning how to "sprint" up overhanging routes and climbing in a slick, economical manner. For redpointing, it was about remembering all the sequences and in particular the foot sequences on cruxes. In bouldering, I learnt how to experiment with subtles nuances in body positions and to persevere at a given sequence until success.

Rosanna 8a, Ceuse, learning how to sprint

In saying all that, I know that I am stronger and fitter than six years ago, but this is really only a fraction of the overall climbing equation. With over 40 E6es onsighted at this point, I feel I have created a huge base to move forward from, but this is tempered by a more considered and conservative approach than in the past. I hope that I can move into E7 territory without the precariousness that characterised my first E6es.


Sheigra Beach and Campsite. The climbing is just over the hillock.

Ali wakes up as we pass by the convoy coming home from the Rock Ness festival. We talk about Sheigra which we've never been to before and our forthcoming trip out to Pabbay and Mingulay next week. We arrive and set up camp at the beach, the landscape and the location makes us feel like we are on Lewis and when we start climbing on the gneiss later, it further cements that impression of being on a hebridean island.

Gneiss has been absent from my climbing diet for two years but now I remember why I love it so much: solid rock (mostly...), great gear, good friction, steep walls and an abundance of crimps, pockets and incuts. Ali easily dispenses Monkey Man E3 5c and What the Pool said On Midsummer's Day E5 6a. I battle with the now greasy conditions on the classic Here and Now E6 6b, feeling a bit more pumped than usual at the top, so much for having consolidated this level. Steep for Five Minutes E6 6c then succumbs to an easier sequence found one metre to the right of the original crux at E5 6a.

We wait for it to get dark, but even at 11pm it remains light enough to read outside, it's summer Solstice next week and we are very far North. At 12pm it gets a smidgeon darker and we turn in for the night. Ali seems tired in the morning, a cold coming on? But he spends the day leading some amazing E4s including Dolphins and Whales which seems reminiscent of Ceuse, except it was on trad. And above the sea. And in the North West of Scotland. Oh, and without the hour long walk in too.
Ali and me waiting for it to get dark (photo taken at 10.30pm!)

Something Worth Fighting For E6/7 6b doesn't really put up much of a fight for me; maybe I am climbing well today so I turn my attention to Maybe Later E7 6c. A MacLeod creation from last year, it takes a blank but pristine looking wall up a dark streak to undercuts (gotta be good cams in there...) before turning a gentle overhang. The 6c technical grade unsettles me, if Dave has given something 6c, then it will be hard. But could this be the breakthrough that I have been dreaming about? To finally, cleanly onsight an E7? Ten meters up, I get good cams in, move up and gain a shake out at the start of the dark streak.
The Inner and Outer Walls of the 1st Geo at Sheigra

Suddenly my world inverts and my hip violently smacks into the lower wall, the remnants of the hold clattering off the boulders below. The hold had snapped off and I had plummeted head first with the good cams holding my fall easily, leaving Ali and myself, upside down on the ropes, with the bug-eyes.
Why? Oh Why do things like this keep happening to me? I sit down feeling a bit shaken. Two years ago, in Ardnamurchan a foothold snapped on me as I was rocking over onto it. Down I had gone, ripping all the gear out of the bendy flake and fracturing my ankle. The resulting crawl back to the car took an hour and a bit. Emma had taken full control of the situation and spurned me from my weepy episodes of shock with the lure of the bouldering mat as a rest (Joe Simpson, I was not). Five weeks later and I was out of my cast, but the process of getting my head back together took longer and I had vowed not to climb on bad rock and bad gear again. So here on an otherwise solid cliff, a hold had decided to rip off: ambition and caution collide within.

The Inner Walls of Sheigra, the dark streak of Maybe Later is directly above me

I remember then, that on Dave's ascent a hold had also ripped off, funny how and when the conscious mind chooses to acknowledge such things...I climb back up, ostensibly, "to have another look", but I feel heavy this time. When I reach the gear I decide to take it out and climb back down to the ground, feeling like a big jessie. A quick rest later and a flick through the guidebook reveals an E5 6b that had used a high side runner in a neighbouring route: Ape Escape, better take the opportunity to clear up that little indiscretion then.

Twenty minutes later a small part of me is regretting that decision. The fatigue of the five and a half hours driving, the lack of sleep from the twilight night and the previous routes seem to be counteracting with the need to turn the flared crack and reach an incut flake in a very runout position. The ledge below me seems to get bigger even though I am not looking at it. The sanctuary is reached with difficulty however and much gear thrown in after some saturday-night-fever goes through my legs... The top is reached; harder than Here and Now and Something Worth Fighting For? A small consolation after wimping out of the main challenge of the wall.
A quick stop-over at Ardmair the following day and I meet my Nemesis. The (apparently) uber-classic Burning Desire E5 6b. At the initial crux, jamming crack and after much huffing and puffing and hands jabbing in and out like an epileptic raver (and about twenty falls later), I give in and aid up the damn thing. Ali then floats up the crux without too much bother... As I write this, my hands are just starting to scab over in little patches. Mental note: avoid "classic" jamming cracks!