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Saturday, 28 February 2009

The Tyrant Dominates

Paul put the idea of heading to Murdoch head earlier in the week. Iooking at the guide book, it sounds like the perfect crag, steep compact granite. Though it is birded through the summer the winter storms should have cleared any mess left behind. After some exploration we decided to see what the routes on the round tower were like. The tower below.

A short abseil down a crumbly dirty corner didn't inspire us much but luckily good rock was found around on the south wall. Paul descending below.

John and I climbed the steep wall of high voltage HVS 5a*. this route would get more stars, the climbing is a little scrappy low down but with a steep head wall high up and a tricky top out it has plenty of character. John on the crux below.

Paul wasted no time getting suck in to a fine steep hanging arete called The Life of Brian E1**. Paul led this in good style with a few whoops on the crux moves. Below Paul near the top.

Chris not being the sort of man to turn down a good climb quickly followed Paul and was clearly happy at the big moves required in the exposed position. Chris in the final corner below.

Tyrant crack E2 5c*** , is the classic of the crag on the tower. Paul was keen, keener than me!, to test his E2 ability and fancied giving it a pop. The crack climbs the center of the the South face below.
Steep crack climbing was on the menu and the route was giving up more resistance that it would appear.
Paul found the crack too much thus wisely backed off, putting it down to his crack climbing ability. It was a good effort though.

After this we had a good look at the warlord cliff. But on closer inspection there appeared to be very little in the way off good protection for belays. So we called it a day and headed home. It was another day of nothing ventured nothing gained.

Stone Me What A Life

Taking full advantage of the fine settled weather and with the evenings getting long John and I took the short trip down to Portlethen for a post work bouldering session.

We warmed up on the Highball slab, though the moss was slightly damp. John showing me how it's done above.
The left edge of the slab offers a couple of steeper problems, a helmet would be good for some of these!I'd tried the Pedie prow direct in the summer and hadn't got the sequence so i was keen to try it again. After a couple of failed attempts John showed me the way (through my errors!) above is him going for the sloper.

Next in line was the overhanging arete on the Barrel, it looked good but proved to put a good fight both of us struggling to get the first moves nailed but one to come back to. On crimpy holds above and John slapping for the sloper below.
With darkness creeping in we headed over to the pit boulder for one last go before home. The back wall was damp but that didn't stop us trying the Pendulum. This proved way to hard for us in these conditions and we called it a day at that. A good way to end the week.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Jesus on a bike or death on a stick?

With the weather being far too mild over the week, for winter climbing, I suggested to John that we go cragging on one of the Aberdeen coast finest/scariest cliffs, Earnsheugh (above) to try Death Cap, E1 5a***. John was keen as he'd never been before and was surprised by the height and steepness of the crag.
With an abseil in to the base of the cliff, most of it free, there's no going back. John abbing in above.
The first pitch consists of a big open corner, most of this was wet today, with small roofs and bulges giving some interesting climbing and funky moves. Followed by a gear-less traverse out then back to the belay. John making his way to the belay above.
Once John joined me on the ledge i had the pleasure of telling him where the next pitch went, a very exposed traverse out under a roof to the head wall. John climbed this in good style above.
With much of the crag being damp to say the least, we headed a mile up the road to the far more relaxing Clashrodney. First up we climbed Gorgon VS 5a** above.
John on Chester VS 4c. Both routes were fun a but a tad easy so we headed over to Cairnrobin piont for something with a bit more spice.
The routes here are shorter but harder. Above is me leading a tricky E2 5c called Streetwise. both John and i lead this. John getting the head point on sight.
Walking over i spotted a line and had a good look at it before getting on it. I was slightly nervous/worried as there didn't look like there was much gear to be had. A very tenuous traverse with no gear led me the slab where i placed a sold nut and moved on (above). There wasn't nothing after that to the top (6m). This was a very bold but good E2 6a* with serious ground fall potential.
Last but not least Yellow Peril E1 5b*, above is john tackling the crux roof of this strenuous little route. Not bad for someone who was still in his pyjamas!

All in all a good day was had, and hopefully a good start to a fantastic rock season...though winter's not over yet!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

A weekend of two halves.

A while ago we had come up with a plan to spend a long weekend winter climbing in Torridon. With the dates set, it wasn’t long before Ryan had used his connections to book beds in the Ling Hut. Everything was looking great until I went for a boulder on Thursday night and strained my neck. The next day, I sat at home swallowing painkillers and self pity with the prospect of not being able to climb. By afternoon, things , including my head, were looking up and this was enough to get me to the hut that night.

At the hut we were met by familiar faces from the Leeds Mc, a club I had been a member of a few years ago. They had been in Torridon for few days and were not optimistic about conditions. With the motto ‘Nothing ventured, Nothing gained’ we decided we would have a look anyway and agreed on going to East Buttress IV/5*** on Beinn Eighe.
We woke at 5.30 in the morning and headed out into a very mild morning. The walk around to the crag was pleasant enough with no gruelling uphills or gale force winds to contend with. After a few hours, we came to the loch and looked up in disappointment at the ‘lean’ conditions. There was the odd strip of ice, and some snow lay on the terraces but the rock looked bare. We decided that having made it this far we would go up in any condition, and in the back of our minds hoped we might find a pitch ‘in nick’ further up.
The traverse to the foot of the climb included a very exposed step but we were soon kitted up and ready to go. Leaving the ice axes in the bag, Ryan led off with crampons. It proved to be good Diff climbing but with loose rocks waiting to be kicked off by the careless climber.
We led through four pitches and saw only snowy ledges and the odd iced up crack. After this we roped up to together and scrambled out the top pitches.
The climb, although not a winter route, was good practise in climbing with crampons. We quickly headed down the south side, glissading the snow and surfing the scree. We got back into the hut as the sun set and the rain began to fall.
Torridon was off, so we decided that we would find out the conditions and head east. The next morning we woke at 5 from a very comfortable night in the warm and cosy hut and headed off to the Cairngorms. After following a slow convoy of cars up the ski road, we met up with Henning and Adam who were going over to Coire an Lochain. We decided to go the other way and head up into the Coire an t-Sneatchta.
After overtaking a myriad of parties heading our same way, we kit up at the rescue box. Looking up it was obvious that Patey’s route was in condition with the Alton Towers length queue. On my list was Fluted Butress Direct IV/5***. Fortunately this was free so we slogged up the slope and took a belay below the chimney.
Nerves were playing in my mind as I set off and wasn’t helped by chossy ice and illusive gear placements. Coming to what looked like a particularly choosy and protection less section, I spent an age cursing and faffing around finding gear. At one point shouting “I’m not going with out any gear” which was bluntly replied with “Well there isn’t any!” Unperturbed, I eventually hacked away and found a bomber nut and a good foothold. Confidence restored, I shot up the rest of the pitch.

Ryan’s patience was rewarded with cold feet and hot aches but he joined me in no time at the thread belay. Ryan headed off up the next pitch to be met by more chossy ice and even less protection. He kept his cool, not one expletive heard, and worked his way to the crest. This was followed by a protection less, tricky rock step which I, on second, almost came off.

After suffering the hot aches myself, I set off on the next pitch which was an enjoyable scramble over boulders that brought us quickly to just below the top. Ryan came up and we walked off to the plateau to be met by the madding crowd. A total contrast from yesterday, were even the lone deer, on Beinn Eighe, seemed glad of the company.

After de-kitting and taking off crampons we headed down the goat track with a good bum slide. At the rescue box we were met by four members of the Moray MC club ( Sarah, Dan, John and Illona) which Ryan was a member of. All six of us walked down and went into Aviemore for choclate chaud (Very good from SKI DOO cafĂ©) and butties (They didn’t sell cake!). A good weekend, lets hope it begins to freeze over soon.

By John Forester.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Adam's stag do

Adam and Vicky are getting married next weekend near Bristol and as the groom Adam needed a stag do. Being creative, we did not go for the traditional piss up with a waitress that can't afford clothing but went for the budget option which was a climb in the Norries. Fearing that married life would rob him of his climbing ability Adam was also keen to go for a (last?) hard route. We managed to plod through deep snow (by the way I was gliding through the snow using my rediscovered mini touring skis; 'Vorsprung durch Technik!') to reach Coire an Lochain and looked up the Hoarmaster V,6 inspired by other teams on Aqualung VI,7 (Dave, Steve and Kenny) Savage slit V,6 and Fallout corner VI,7. Here is a Dave Kerr just below the intial overhang on Aqualung...
... and here the Irish pro racing up Fallout corner. He did it in one pitch!

On closer inspection we saw that the cracks in the Hoarmaster chimney were choked with ice. With the prospect of little gear on a pumpy climb and the need for good belays I quickly chickened out and we went downhill to go for Ewan buttress direct start which is IV,6 in most books while Alan Fyffe gives it a very generous V,6. By the time we arrived at the start the Irish pro was nearly half up Fallout corner and the other teams were making good progress on Aqualung and Savage slit. You can just about spot them on the picture below showing Adam traversing down to the start of Ewan buttress direct.

The climbing on Ewan buttress direct was OK until a bulge required a move onto a rib on the left which meant rope drag. The best line then went right and left and the few pieces of gear were right and left and the rope went right and left and the result was the mother of all rope drags on a poorly protected stretch of balancy climbing with no belay in sight. I reached the end of the 60 m rope and found after a lengthy excavation (I should have taken a shovel) a large block which was ideal for a sling belay. Adam took his time seconding but managed not to load the rope which was a very good effort.

The second pitch was on good neve and ice with a good in situ sling at the crux and an easy neve gully to the top of the buttress. Adam led the last pitch which was a walk over a wee ridge to the mini cornice and onto the plateau.

By the time we reached the top French Erick & co had disappeared. My cunning plan was to glide on my mini skis back to the car park but unfortunately the reality was a little different. I ended up producing probably close to 50 craters on the way down. Skiing with mini skis on slushy snow is no fun because the tips easily get stuck in snow and then Newton's law kicks in and the skier lands head first in the snow. The heavy rucksack on my back pushed the rest of the body down and then the following procedure started:
1) I rolled over onto my back;
2) I started a series of clumsy movements which could be called 'turtle tactics'.
As a result of repeating this procedure over and over again I now have much more sympathy with all the pet turtles that have been put on their back by naughty little boys and failed to see the funny side. It was nearly as difficult as for a turtle for me to get back onto my skis in order to slide towards the next burial. At the end I arrived more tired and at the same time than Adam at the car park.
Anyway, next weekend I'll be off and am looking forward to attend Vicky's and Adam's wedding down South. They are a great couple and I hope that it all goes well for them!

Monday, 9 February 2009

All's Not Lost on Clach na Beinn

With the road to Lochnagar blocked on Sunday morning it was time for plan b. I suggested we head over to Clach na Beinn. A small hill, that over looks mid-Deeside, it's more popular with hillwalkers than climbers, but provides some short winter routes. We made our way up through the forest and untouched snow (above) then out o to the common path and the open moore were the hill comes in to view (below).
We reached the crag in good time. I quickly pointed out a line to Stuart that might be of interest, a short chimney graded v diff in the summer called Square Chimney. It looked good and Stu was keen to get in to it. Classic chimney moves followed with back and footing, stemming and bridging. Below is Stuart in the chimney.
After this we decided to try one more route then call it a day. I fancied Platform Climb iii/5. A nice looking route with short steep sections led to a slab at the top with some interesting moves to gain the top of the tor. It wasn't what we set out to do but all wasn't lost on Clach na Beinn.

Friday Night

The monthly bouldering competition's that my local wall put on during the winter had it's final stage on Friday night so i decided to head down, not really for the competition but to try and get some good shots. Above is the mantle from hell.
Tom Russel on the slopers.
Mark Chambers pulling some funny faces, but trying extremely hard.
Making light work of the slopers.
Cutting loose.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Born Again

With my heart set on the classic Route major on Carn Etchachan, and john being 'well up for it' we set off at pace up the path and on to the high plateau to be met with high winds and clag (above), not good for climbing on the massive cliff of Carn Etchachan!

With that plan out the window we decided that Deep Cut Chimney iv/5****, a classic Patey route, and 'good value' in Hennings words. After some easy soloing on grade ii ice (right) the chimney takes form and splits the cliff in half, and gets deeper with hight. Some ice, most of it useless, was encountered on the first pitch (belwo). This led to a steep step in the gully with a fine ice pitch of about grade iv. Above this some easyer climbing with the odd chokestone thrown in here and there till the gully narrows and the way ahead becomes blocked. John was surprised when i suggested that we have to climb out to some blocked boulders in the chimney. But this was the only way out!

Some interesting back and footing followed then a couple of good but nervy hooks. The boulders were almost within reach but getting a good footing wasn't as easy as one would like, with icey verglass on one side. After a short while i figured out the move. With a good hook on the boulder i was on the top and clear of the chimney. John was impressed and soon followed to meet me on the top with a big grin on his face. His first cold climb, my second.