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Sunday, 29 March 2009

Active recovery at Meikle Partans

First Ryan and I would let you know that we have now fully thawed after yesterdays winter walk. We were looking for a friendly experience and thus we went to Meikle Partans, one of the friendliest crags in the North East of Scotland. It is about as friendly as an estate agent during the economic downturn. Here is a photo of the bonny piece of immaculate red granite.

I started with Epistrophe which was my first VS. Ryan then did the HVS variation of the bridge which is a traverse to the right and a thin layback move up to the finishing jug. The picture shows him on the traverse.

I experimented with a tripod and remote control which explains the wee black thingy in my left hand. It was a bit nippy and I did a bouldering traverse and then climbed Strawclutchers wall, an E1 on immaculate granite. The moves were flowing, an outstanding route.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

No route day

This picture sums up why we did not get a route done today. Here is what happened:

00:45 h. My mobile phone alarm rings. I hardly slept, have a quick coffee and pick up Ryan at 1.30 h.

02:45 h. We arrive at the car park and soon after we start cycling. The cycling is quite good but after about 1 h there is too much snow on the track and we start walking.

6 h-ish We are now walking for ages it seems and drown in deep powder while the Northerly is battering us. Many times we are on our knees in order to prevent the legs sinking in too deep. At least there is light now.

7 h-ish. We reach the col and the wind is ferocius but as soon as we descent into the the corrie it is less although still strong.

8 h-ish. We reach the bottom of the route. It catches the icy blast badly. We change our base layer and we argue whether we should climb, wait until the afternoon or start the 10 mile walk out. It takes two to climb and we decide to return. The picture below shows me at a time when the winds died down for a few seconds.

10 h-ish. Still gale force winds and some bad whiteouts (see first photo). We have to cross a stream but due to the snow we can't see the banks. When I try to jump the snow collapses and I am up to my thigh in icy water. Ryan does better but still gets wet.

11 h.We finally reach the fairy glen and get a bit out of the wind but in many places there is deep powder. My lens is covered with frost and parts of the pictures are blurred.

12 h. We reach our bikes but now there is in many places a lot of snow on the track so we have to push the bikes at times. Other bits are better and we can cycle. We have to cross two big streams. Where are the blue skies coming from?
13.30 h Finally the car. We drive back to Aberdeen. I need a 'power nap' on the way. We are both knackered.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Bruce & training

After a warm spring Saturday Sunday followed with high winds and clouds over the Angus glens. Ryan and I thus decided not to go to Clova but we went to the warmest crag in the North East, Kirriehill, instead. Here is me climbing a 6c on which I failed on a photo taken by Brian Duthie.

After a while Bruce walked past with his dogs. Bruce is an engraver in Kirriemuire and has among other engraved the monument for Hugh Munro, the man who gave the Munros his name and who is from near Kirriemuir. Bruce had the 'I want to try that' look in his eyes. So we asked 'you want to give it a go?' and before he knew it Bruce was climbing up Kirriehill using Ryans harness...

... while his dogs where waiting nervously.

Brian and Sandy also appeared at Kirriehill but they just climb in a different league at the moment. Ryan and I then decided to head up to Long Slough just South of Aberdeen. We did two HVSs and Leaning Meanie, an E1 which I had never climbed before. Here is Ryan on the short walk to the crag with creatures of Doonies rare breeds farm avoiding Darwinian selection on the meadows below.

Here is me doing the crux of the first HVS, twisted crag.

Zigzag is a HVS that starts with a nasty overhang on relatively small holds followed by pretty tought climbing...

... before jugs appear and it joins ZigZag, the original severe.

Well, good to start the rock season...

... but maybe winter still has a wee bit to give!


Monday, 9 March 2009

Lean Patey's packs a punch

It had been two weeks since I'd climbed in the hills, due to poor weather and thawing, so it was fair to say that John and I were keen to get out. The forecast wasn't looking to promising giving wind speeds gusting 60 to 70 mph. It was a case of travelling over and having a look to see what was possible.

On the walk-in I stupidly thought that the forecasters may have got it wrong, it was windy but not as strong as suggested and the weather looked to be passing to the north (above). Dawn cracked with the Sun throwing some interesting colours over the high clouds in the glens below.

As we progressed it became apparent that the worst of the weather was on it's way. I suggested we climb Patey's route IV/5**, a big gully line that splits the buttress (above). Hoping we'd get some shelter form the now constant wind and snow. I knew John was wanting to do this one and it had stuck out at me a couple of years back when I'd started climbing.

We soloed up to the first bulge only encountering a small ice step on the way. A good belay was found below the bulge but this itself looked very thin holding only a short icicle that didn't even touch the slope below. In hope of finding the route in better condition i hopped on it and found, much to my surprise, that it was pretty hard even if it was short lived.

Easy climbing then led up to another bigger steepening, a slabby corner with a crack in the corner would probably be a doddle when iced up (above). There wasn't much to do but press on and try to reach the good ice above. With tenuous hooks, crampons scratching about on the slab, bridging, very little good gear (apart for the odd rusty peg!) but with no swearing! the 'good' ice was reached only to be disappointingly useless.

John came up and joined Me under the cave out of the now constant spindrift. He stated that this 'is the hardest thing I've climbed' and I'd agreed, harder than Deep cut chimney or the Seam. But the game wasn't up yet. He was surprised (above) to see the way ahead was over a short slab to easier ground. John led this well considering, though he did have a shaky leg that Elvis would be proud of at one stage!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

No rest at the Pass

With not much to do and keen to keep up the good form, John and myself headed to the pass of Ballater, where we were joined by Chris. The Pass is a steep granite cliff etched in the side of a small Vally. The climbing here is some of the best roadside cragging in the area and the routes often feel hard for the grade.

First on the list was Blutered E1 5a***. This tough little route has surprised some strong climbers. A delicate traverse (above) leads to the crux, a pumpy crack line that's hard to protect. John had no problems in this one though. Climbing the crack in true grit form, he jammed his way up it! (below) the first time I've seen this being done, I'm sure i heard him saying 'youth' whilst climbing.

I was keen to give Hangover wall, E2 5c, a go. With some hollow sounding flakes and a little loose rock this route gets no stars though it should. A solid 5c move with two old pegs for runners lead to the hollow flakes and easy(ish) though pupmy ground. I managed to get a good rest on route (below) and thus dispatched another E2!

Strawberry ripple*** is probably one of the best VS climbs here. Though short it's very technical climbing up a cracked slab to where the crack ends leads you to the 5a move a surprise if you don't expect it! Chris on the slab below.

John upped the tempo and got on his first E2 lead on Alcoholics anonymous 5b*. After a shaky start, i thought he was going to test the micro nut he'd placed, he climbed the steep wall above on small holds and crimps.

Last but by no means least was silent spring E1 5a***. I planned to climb a different line but thought, and was right, that Chris would like this one. I've seconded the 2nd pitch but never lead. A steepish slab with the last runner being the belay and with near certain ground fall over the lip, this is an exciting route for the bold climber. Reaching 'good' holds (above) after padding from the belay.

Perhaps next time out i can t tempt John to try Dods dead cat?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Back to the roots: Mayar

I started hillwalking in the UK on the day princess Diana died. I remember the sombre music on the the radio while driving from Preston to the Lakes.

I loved the Lakes but five years later I moved to Scotland, which I never regretted. At that time I was also betting with Roger and Mike that I could do the Munros within three years. And three years later I was lying in my tent behind the Kingshouse after a Munroist celebration with Roger and Mike (I had actually finished on Ben Hope two months earlier).

Early in the round I met an elderly Munroist when walking up Driesh and Mayar and he fueled my 'I want to do the Munro's' fire even more. Living in Dundee meant that Driesh and Mayar were my home Munro's and so I did them again with Byron and Roger and also last year on a beautiful winter's day when Angus seemed Antarctica.

And yesterday we walked up another time to open the 2009 hillwalking season with an ascent of Mayar. I was accompanied by Ana and Celine. It was a good enough day with clouds high and the odd blue spot in the sky. We started just before a large group that arrived in a bus. Here is that group following us through Corrie Fee.

It was easy walking and a nice change from carrying heavy climbing gear. Soon we arrived on the summit of Mayar and there were plenty of artic hares on the Western flank of the hill. To the North East was Lochnagar and I remember the winter ascent of Eagle Ridge with Trias a few weeks back. Much of the snow is now gone but some zebra stripes remain.

We took crampons but most snow was slush and could be avoided and so we didn't need the crampons.

Some clouds from which graupel was falling moved in and we decided not to do Driesh and walked down the Kilbo path.

It felt good to be just walking again.