Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Scotland v. North Wales

Very strangely, my first proper posting is not directly going to be about climbing in Scotland but North Wales as I was there only last week, a result of being washed out of the North West. So with Dan McManus, Nick Bullock and Blair Fyffe our team evened out into two Welsh and two Scots guys. I was thankful to have the local knowledge about as we went to Gogarth for the three days that I was down: no faffing about trying to find the right cliff, no convincing yourself that when the guide says "obvious abseil belay" that it means the three rps you found in the corner of a boulder jutting out of the hillside and no abbing into the wrong shale lined cliff and having to prussic out.

Dan and myself on the first day, ambitiously made a beeline for Conan the Librarian E6 6b at Wen Zawn, the stepped corner directly opposite the Hard Rock Classic, Dream of White Horses. Unfortunately the corner itself is hidden from the belayer and as I reached it precariously aware of the poor gear and the spume below my feet, it felt suspiciously cold compared to first part of the route. Some good gear later with much frantic palming and attempted bridging my suspicions were confirmed as I jackknifed headfirst into the corner: it was wet. I backed off leaving a krab and somehow losing a quickdraw and a microcam to the sea. Gogarth-1 Niall- minus 2 (for losing gear).

Conan The Librarian E6 6b (photo "borrowed" from Gogarth Wiki)

Revenge was not short in coming as we retreated to the Upper Tier and I jumped on Barbarossa, a particularly cruxy E6, managing to drop half my nuts after the crux, what a punter- a year of sport climbing had evidently turned me soft. Over the next two days I got my act together with regards to dropping gear and ticked more classic E6s: on Yellow Wall, I pumped up the respective multipitched, muddy grooves of Ludwig and Me; whilst at North Stack Wall ,wobbling high above gear was the name of the game on the crimptastic Wreath of Deadly Nightshade and The Cad.

The thing that struck me about climbing with some of the N.Wales locals (well, Dan and Nick really), was the fact that climbing E6 in this part of the country seemed commonplace- they reckoned that there are at least 20 locals regularly onsighting at this level. It's not hard to understand why; there are loads of steep cliffs that are fast drying within an hour's drive of each other, for example Gogarth, Tremadoc, the Pass etc. The routes seem to lend themselves to onsighting, certainly at Gogarth and Lord of the Flies at the Cromlech is another famous one. Compare this relatively small geographical area to the whole of Scotland and it's difficult not to despair about the state of Scottish trad in the harder grades: the number of folks onsighting at this level in Scotland is very low- perhaps only a handful? I haven't taken an official poll so I really have no idea how many E6 leaders there are hiding in the woodwork, but it is probably pitifully small.

Gearing up for Lord of The Flies, Dinas Cromlech, 2002! (Redpath Coll.)

In Scotland, E6 is at least 28 years old with Dave Cuthbertson's Wild Country on The Cobbler. Since then we've had sport climbing, climbing walls and bouldering to increase our technical standards and fitness; so why not an expected increase in the number of people climbing at this level? Probably for those aforementioned factors that have increased our standards have also led to a greater choice in how we choose to climb. I think most young people starting climbing cannot be bothered with all the faff associated with trad climbing especially when compared to the quick fixes of sport climbing and bouldering. Furthermore, I have noticed a trend of opinion that associates E5 plus routes with danger. Yes, there are death-on-a-stick E5s and E6s, just as there are throughout all the grades: look at Bollard Buttress, a Diff at Polney crag that has about 3 bits of gear in it's 35m length. But equally there are loads of harder routes that are safe as houses.

Anyway, at 27 I am not yet ready to start sounding like a grumpy old man and it would be hypocritical of me to start tagging sport climbing and bouldering as the Anti-Christs of tradding when I love them equally. Apologies for the lack of current photos at the moment: I didn't have my camera with me last week and in fact I just dug it out yesterday. A digital camera that I bought four years ago, it appears obese in comparison to today's anorexic models (cameras that is, not skinny women who are paid to look good/ill).

Monday, 28 May 2007

Jumping On The Bandwagon

Something Steep and Sexy at Gorge du Tarn, France (Planet Groove 7c+) (Richardson Coll.)

Hello Folks and welcome to my Blog. Yes, it's finally happened, I caved in to the power of a fad, to pressure from my friends and family and to the desire not to be staring into the dusty distance as the wagon disappears over the horizon although I may only have caught the rear axle and I am being forced to hold on for dear life... thus I enter the Scottish Climbing Blog Community.

So who am I? I hear some of you ask, why should I feel the need to share with the public my adventures? My innermost thoughts? And my deepest, no forget about that last one. Well, I have been climbing for 12 years, mostly Trad in Scotland, but also enjoy Sport and Bouldering when I get the chance. I have done new routes across Scotland and I am always trying to push my grade, onsight stylee (sic), especially abroad on lovely bolted limestone. I love reading and talking about climbing so much that I decided it was time to bore everyone even more by writing about it on a regular basis.

In this blog I hope to enthrall you with my latest climbing adventure; stimulate your imagination on climbing and possibly spark debate with my opinions on climbing in Scotland. This will probably be done with a smattering of geek-boy-science-fiction references, which anyone who has shared a car journey with me can testify to. So I will now away and mediate on what my first proper blog posting is to be...

Something Steep and Mingin' at Dumbarton (King Kong fb8a) (Hot Aches Images)