Tuesday 16 December 2008

Something on the winter scorecard

Nice zebra stripes on Mullach nan Coirean.

After the dry tooling comp in Glen Coe, it was time to get home and swing into action to get ready for some mixed action out in the real world the next morning.

Home, Metallica on, dishes washed, tools resharpened, bag packed, lunch made (a sport climbers hill food day of five biscuits and a wee bag of nuts).

The next morning a bleary eyed stagger into the quiet coires of the Mamores with Malcolm Kent brought us to the foot of a project Donald told me about. Donald, with Mike Pescod and Andy Turner had developed a granite cliff on the ridge of Mullach nan Coirean. It looked great! Nice to climb granite in the west of Scotland, and very different to the big plates and blocks of Cairngorm granite.

Donald had spoken of an overhanging groove with an undercut start that looked hard and bold, with potential for a large grade. It was both. It took me nearly an hour to make 20 feet of progress off the ground, and get two dubious runners in, too low to be of any use. The climbing was harder than the final of the dry tooling comp the night before, but without the luxury of nice bolts and brightly coloured blobs to go for next.

The key getting up Scottish mixed climbs at a high level is largely your ability to be more tenacious than the will to live, but not letting your determination slide into careless frustration. If you’ve been pumped solid for two or three hours and every move feels like your last before you fall or back off, it’s kinda hard not to either just give in, or lose your cool and rush it. But a super cool head is the only thing that will save you from making a rash move and popping off thin hooks.

After nearly three hours, my arms were almost spent, but I found myself wobbling into undercut torques on a block (that moves!), but staring out a big turf ledge right above. It was nice to be back in fully committed land again. It’s been a wee while since I have with all the sport climbing I’ve done this autumn. Not enough energy to reverse, not enough to stay put and think about things, only one option – swallow hard, trust my ability and press on.

So after two failed days so far this season, we got our first top-out, in the wispy pre-dusk light on the Mamore ridge. God knows what grade it was, it’s been ages since I repeated any hard winter routes. Certainly it was similar to, but harder than the Duel in Glen Coe. Malc (with more of a sport-mixed background) rated it M8+. But you would hit the ground from the hardest moves. Ermm.. I’ll give it something for now and work it out later after repeating some more stuff. Malcolm blogged about the day here.

Yo Bro VIII, 9 Dave MacLeod, Malcolm Kent Dec 14th 2008
The overhanging groove right of Himalayan Shuffle. The first 20 metres are very sustained and in the first half, serious.
1. 35m Climb the overhanging groove with little respite to the angle change, continue on easier ground to belay on large ledges.
2. 35m Continue easily on the same line to the ridge.

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