Tuesday 26 February 2013

Recent adventures on rock

During the past three weeks, life has been progressively more manic, as is normal in Lochaber at this time of year. Usually in February, the weather gets amazing for almost all types of climbing, and this season has been especially good. Trying to get anything else done apart from new routes is quite a challenge and usually involves late nights and early starts. Maybe the rain will return by March and I’ll take a rest day?!

When I got home from Spain, I was pretty keen to get into the hills. I started off with a day on the Ben with Kev and could hardly walk the next morning. However, my ankle seemed to continue to adapt and I went back up a couple more times. Since both of us were only really able to walk short distances with big packs, we opted for the CIC hut cascades. Kev cruised the icefall.

Next up I went to a ridiculous boulder roof in the glen. It’s quite low to the ground and fully horizontal. An acquired taste maybe - a bit like a darker version of the darkness cave in Magic Wood. There’s 25 feet of horizontal climbing on brutal crimps in there, with three logical starts. The shortest link will be Font 8aish and the full trip looks like solid Font 8b+. I couldn’t imagine doing it at the moment, but I did do about half the moves on my first session.

I’ve also been trying a bit of running with mixed results. I did some trail and hill runs up to 12 miles and was getting on fine. Then one evening I did some short fast sections since it was already getting dark after the climbing. I misjudged the angle of a boulder on the trail and hit the ‘no go zone’ in my ankle hard and let out a yelp. It’s been worse ever since, which is rather depressing. I can’t really do much except hope I’ve not done more damage. Not good.

Ardverikie deer forest. Here be boulders...

 The next day I was getting pain even walking which put a downer on an otherwise great day out in Ardverikie Forest returning to a boulder I’d found on a run two years ago. I went to look at a roof that I’d estimated about Font 8b. But to actually try, it felt way harder. I pretty much gave up, although to be fair I wasn't in the most positive frame of mind, and the easterly was biting cold. It was a series of savage first joint undercuts in a roof with microscopic granite crystals level with your head for feet. A bit like doing harder versions of the Hubble undercuts crux about 5 times in a row. Maybe I’ll make a model on my board and try it once more in the spring.

The solid river Nevis today, near Steall.

Dan cleaning new problems, new boulder in Glen Nevis today.

Today saw some great new problems get done after a monster cleaning. I'll take some pictures of them next time. I did the problems almost in the dark since we were brushing for a lot of the afternoon. The boulder has probably 15 problems to do from Font 5 to 8A+ on the usual lovely honeycomb Glen Nevis schist. I hope my arms aren't too tired for tomorrows session back on the Ben. Off to sleep!


  1. Dave with the Snotter - does a continental grade not make more sense i.e. M7 or 8, WI 5? rather than Scottish VIII? I think there's a good possibility some might get confused looking at these routes about what are acceptable conditions for Scottish winter, using the M grade as you have done for White Noise gives a better idea what to expect.

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    1. The Snotter looks an amazing winter climb - creative, inspiring, great line, climbing which you couldn't do anywhere but on that feature. It certainly seems to justify a Scottish winter grade to me. Ian - you have just come back from Norway where there are lots of this style of route with M/WI grades, so it would seem more relevant than usually perhaps?

      White Noise looks good fun too but it could be anywhere. It may as well be in a quarry at sea level.

      I don't think White Noise warrants a Scottish winter-grade - but isn't that only ukc playing their usual stupid hyperbole games by suggesting grade XII - or are you actually suggesting that grade as well Dave? You don't make it clear. I think you do have at least some responsibility to say what you think.

      I don't think White Noise should be graded with the Scottish system because:
      - It could be anywhere, a low-level crag or a quarry wall; it makes no difference to the style of the route; you don't need this to be on a mountain in winter to climb this style of route.
      - It doesn't climb to a hanging ice feature, it's a pure drytool route on an unrimed little wall. Nothing wrong with drytooling, but call it what it is.
      - It was abseil inspected (you don't mention if you pre placed any gear Dave? - you should make that point clear). An M-grade is far more appropriate for pre-inspected climbs of this style. The most similar comparison to this is probably my route mammoths - which was at least attempted in an ok style and ended up climbing on pre-placed gear from my dogged attempt, far from perfect but justifiable as a winter graded route because it climbs to a big ice feature and was attempted/dogged ground up and then led.

      There are lots of people fully capable of abseiling/practicing steep dry-tooling walls like this and then climbing them, it isn't significant or especially difficult to do for a half decent dry-tooler. Doing it ground up reduces that number of people somewhat. Waiting years for an ice feature to form (as in the case of Woolly Mammoths, self-promotion alert, or The Snotter) reduces that number even more. This is part of what makes winter climbing special - the patience required for certain special routes. The reason people don't bother walking halfway up the Ben to do a little dry-tooling route is they (certainly I) feel it probably isn't worth the effort, it isn't winter climbing - which is what the Ben in winter is all about, it isn't significant (for those to whom significance matters, many leading climbers I'd guess).
      Most of all, you publicizing White Noise sends a strong message to idiots, and there are lots of them, who think if this is worthy of gushing praise in climbing media (ukc - 'well done Dave!') then why not head out to Millstone/Tremadog/The Cromlech/ or any piece of steep rock and dry tool up it? There's no such thing as bad publicity is there.

      It does also seem very ironic to see this done after having just spent the last two days looking at but not starting up various amazing new winter routes in Wales because we couldn't justify doing them in dry conditions.

      Pete Harrison.

  3. Good to hear that you are out and about again!