Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Ogle Sessions

Summer 1997, Glen Ogle.
“Bloody hell, these aren’t holds. Just really, really bad footholds!”
My first ever experience of what an 8b looked and felt liked, at a time when I could just about climb 7b. Digital Quartz at the Diamond, in it’s first 5 metres contained a miserable selection of match-stick edges and tips-only slopey pockets, how could anyone hang onto these let alone move up them?

Cut to summer 2006 and a short play later I discovered I could now hang these same holds but couldn’t figure out how to move between them, unfortunately any further play was curtailed by the arrival of the midges. Yesterday, after two days of dogging and two days of redpoint efforts, I finally clipped the chain. A route that’s taken me 11 years to climb and it's 3rd ascent in 14 years.

Digital Quartz 8b

I’ve got a soft spot for Glen Ogle; all of the 8s that I have climbed here have meant something in some little way or other to me. Off The Beaten Track was my 2nd 8a, Ceasefire became my first ever 8a+, Solitaire is probably the only route of MacLeod’s that I’ll ever get to downgrade (going from 8b to 8a+) and Spiral Tribe 8a is just fantastic which I always seem to recommend it as a good first 8 for those in the central belt.

But judging from some of the reactions, including Sam Clarke snootily informing me he was going to climb “somewhere good”, you would think Glen Ogle was some back-water, wet, chossy, badly bolted midge infested venue…eeerrrr. Anyway, all the aforementioned 8 deserve more attention : they are all on good rock, well bolted, a tendency to crimpiness (but not sharpness), ten minutes from the road and an hour and half from either Glasgow or Edinburgh. Come on guys, we live in Scotland not Yorkshire or Catalunya: just climb on what’s available and stop bitching about how crap Scottish sport climbing is…(it is, but that’s not the point).

Many thanks to Tony Waite for holding a desperate man's rope, probably the UK’s most famous belayer at present. Glad I didn’t break his reputation by failing on this lowly 8b. What next Tony?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Stolen Pleasures

Nipped up to Glen Nevis at the end of last week, in between some bad weather and after picking up Dan who had just been ill, suffering from exam-fever. We made a beeline straight for Steall Hut Crag: Dan went for Leopold 8a+ and I got stuck into Stolen 8b. Since this last route was put up last year by McLeod, I had been hearing great things about it especially from Mr Tweedley, who made the 2nd ascent a few weeks ago-fantastic effort and thanks for the beta!

Moving along post-crux on Stolen 8b

Anyway, the route didn't disappoint with surprisingly good holds for an 8b but with some funkily powerful body positions and a real sting in the tail thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, the crux and final section was wet on the first day but by Saturday afternoon the whole route was bone dry and we were joined by Alan Cassidy. Two redpoints efforts and the route was in the bag for me and I have to say this is probably the best grade 8 I have done so far in the UK. However, Alan had to use a different method on the crux due to being a fat fingered freak and was too tired to complete the route that day, so returned to complete Stolen on Sunday before the rain.

Alan clipping before the crux on Stolen

A few years ago, I had an accident; a ground fall from 10 metres in Ardnamurchan which put me out of action for 2 months with a broken ankle. As part of my rehab after this accident, I decided to focus on sport climbing the following year in order to put a reasonable amount of time and distance between my accident and resuming trad climbing. In that year, I learned the benefit of focusing solely on one aspect of climbing as I nudged my redpoint standard up to 8b with Huecool at Gordale. By aiming myself at sport routes that I knew I could not onsight and would therefore have to work on, I learned a whole new set of skills that I hadn't really developed before. From figuring out moves and finding the most efficient position to clip from to remembering the sequences (and in particular, the foot sequences...), I suddenly understood the point of redpointing: the perfect ascent of a level that I had previously thought too hard.

So now, with a great start to the summer, I am looking foward to learning more and getting stuck into more hard sport routes...