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Monday, 31 May 2010

Monaliath, Nevis gorge & Polldubh Sandbags

On Friday Arno and I met in the 'Tipsy Laird' in Kingussie while waiting for Mike and John, two Oxford-based Munro-aspirants. We had to wait for a few hours which meant a couple of 'Cats' plus some Whisky's. 'All Mike's and John's fault, officer!'. We started Saturday with a hearty full Scottish and filled to the brink with cholesterol, we walked down the glen to do three of the Monaliath Munros first in sunshine...

... before the weather started to change. Here is Mike above the hidden loch...

... and here is team Oxford & co resting near a patch of snow.

A good walk despite the rain and great to catch up with Mike and to meet John. On Sunday morning Adam met us and because the forecast was better for the west we drove into Glen Nevis. However, it was wet there and so we decided to do the gorge walk to see the falls of Steall...

... and to try the wire bridge which is far more entertaining now that one of the wires had snapped. When we returned it was much drier and we went to Pinnacle buttress to do two sandbags, Clapham Junction and Severe Crack. The climbs are graded VS, steep and polished Sassenach traps...

I left the gear in Severe Crack so Adam could try his luck with preplaced gear. However, it is like climbing teflon and Adam ended up aiding it like the nose on El Cap. Maybe the overdue edition of the next Highland Outcrops will see a correction or the grades are left so that the locals can have a chuckle watching visitors collecting airmiles.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Blue Max E1

Creag an Dubh Loch is probably the finest cliff in Britain and every British climber should make the pilgrimage at least once. Living in the area enables climbers to move in when the conditions are right (and the exit ticket is award) to do one of the longest routes in Britain. In winter Labyrinth Direct was the highlight of the season and this Saturday Robbie Miller, Arno Alpi (an Austrian alpinist working in the Dundonian life sciences Empire) and myself committed to the long walk in from Glen Clova to try 'The Blue Max' at E1 5b**. The line is a variation on Cyclops but the three extra pitches on the lower pitch make the climbing significantly harder and arguably better. Ten metres into the climb is a first wake up call: An overlap which seems tricky for 5a at that stage because it needs time to get used to get used to the good friction...

Robbie led the second pitch which ends with a protection and holdless traverse over to Cyclops. I found it harder than anything on Hammer on the Etive slabs. Then in a great position some easy moves through the main overlap at 4c...

Now the 5b pitch: A diagonal traverse to a block with an obvious crack to climb the main overlap in two steps...

If you think it's all over then think again. Two more challenging moves and the last overlap seems more like a Boulder problem and it takes some time to find the right sequence. These 40 m are action packed! An easier pitch to the terrace and then up to the large V-groove above the boulders with the old slings. Robbie led the remaining 4c pitches. The big, airy V-groove was excellent climbing and it was a bit wet and seemed hard for 4c, particularly the move near the peg. Here is Robbie bridging for glory...

Robbie climbed straight up although it probably would have been better to escape onto the arete on the left earlier. After that the 4c pitch of Cyclops which was good climbing up the corner and then onto another arete. Finally a grassy and then scrambly pitch onto the plateau and then the painful slide through a snow filled central gully to reach the bottom:

Change shoes and then the long way back over Broad Cairn to the car park in Glen Clova. 'The Blue Max' is harder than 'The Needle' and 'Minus One Direct' with a lot of varied climbing. The climbing is better than Cyclops but it is unfortunately not the direct line. Many of the photos were taken by Arno. Finally a video of the thin 5a slab, a 5 b move, the V groove and then the descent through Central Gully with a climber that was soon surfing the Cougar.


Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Treble E1 at the Pass of Ballater

For once in a long time a warm evening was forecast and so Adam and I went to the Pass of Ballater to do some E1s. First Stinker: easy to the roof, place gear as high as possible, down to a rest and then go for glory. Second Black Custard: Easy enough climbing to the roof, place plenty of gear, again down for a rest and here we go. Finally Blutered: Thin traverse with a dodgy microcam (unless you want lots of ropedrag), place lots of gear and then jam for glory. Unfortunately I had placed so much gear that the rope became tangled and I had to unclip and reclip three pieces of gear before carrying on and reaching the finishing jug with not much left in the tank. A bit more 'go for it' and we'll be ready for the mountains.

Adam is also climbing better than last year as a result of climbing E1s almost everytime we went out.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Good use of ticket: Robs Reed

Arno, Robbie and I all obtained an exit ticket for a few hours on Sunday. The forecast was for heavy rain showers after 13 h and so we went to Robs Reed for some quick sport climbing. After a warm up we went for 'High Voltage' F6b+ with crimpy sandstone followed by a conglomerate crack. We then went for 'grasping the Nettle' F6c which seems doable and then entertained ourselves with 'Welcome To The Big Pocket' at F6b+. Various Etchachan members (don't mention the exit ticket) walked past murmuring 'sandbag of the crag'. Dynoing to the pocket was tricky enough but getting from the pocket to the roof was like wrestling a wild boar covered in vaseline:

Here is Arno going for the final pump...

... and here is the view from Robs Reed towards bonny Kirriemuir.


Thursday, 13 May 2010

Unforgiving Newtonhill

Another rain forecast and we could just not stomach another night climbing indoors. So Adam and I went for Newtonhill because if it was wet there we could at least do traverses at Dykes cliff. The North facing cliff was relatively dry and I started on Acapulco, a pumpy, juggy, overhanging E1. It went well to the crux but there I could just not get my foot high enough, got pumped and had to rest. Disappointing but there you go. It rained at the top but Red Baron HVS as a second climb was more or less fine and it didn't go too badly.

Newtonhill is for the light & fit folk among us and not for fatties such as Adam and myself. But failing is part of the game and it beats indoors after a long winter spent climbing plastic.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Zombie right-hand during a rainy night

Having recovered from a tummy bug I was keen to do some vertical mileage. Adam could come as well, the forecast seemed fine and so we were heading for Long Slough in order to do a couple of HVSs and VSs there. However, it drizzled when I arrived, the rock was damp and we only managed to climb Zombie right hand HVS 5b before there was a heavy downpour. Difficult moves for HVS even during a repeat ascent:

PS. The gear at the start had been placed while waiting for Adam.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Bang for buck training: Legaston

One major benefit of joining the Etchachan club seems to be that members receive a permanent weekend exit ticket, usually spent cranking rock or ice (see Neil Morrison's excellent photos on Flickr: In contrast, non-members are usually on relationship, children or DIY duty and can usually, if at all, only climb 2-3 hours every other weekend.

So how to avoid falling too far behind? As I am at Dundee most weekends I am very lucky that the Angus venues Kirrie hill, Legaston and Robs Reed offer some very good sport climbing which is 30 min from Dundee with plenty of routes in the F6 grades. On Sunday, a cold 2nd of May, Arno and I went to Legaston Quarry for the first time this season to do a few routes being back home at lunchtime. Good for fitness and technique and good for climbing a lot in a few hours. The best route for the F6 weaklings is probably the 'Flight of the Mad Magician F6b' with a memorable crux move. Here is a video of another route, 'Bomber' at 6a+: