Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Surgery's eve

Alan Cassidy on the big Dumbarton project

I was lucky enough to be able to climb recently despite my pending ankle surgery yesterday. For my last day before the appointment with the knife collection, I decided to team up with Alan Cassidy to go on a very inspiring project.

The wall right of Rhapsody at Dumbarton was bolted in the early nineties by the ever optimistic Andy Gallagher. Various very strong people had tried it and noone had made much impression on it. That’s a shame since it’s one of the best lines at an amazing crag, with superb rock and moves. I had a brief play one cold day around 8 years ago. I felt it was just possible but might be upwards of 9a+ minimum. I was getting kind of ‘full’ of climbing at Dumbarton at the time and left it for a life in the highlands.

Just as well Alan took an interest and looked at it again, giving it a proper clean for the first time. A couple of tiny, but useful holds appeared from under the lichen, that maybe tip it in the direction of possible, although the grade might still start with 9… 

I had a play and was most heartened to be able to do most of the individual moves. It’s clear that it goes and it’s pretty inspiring. I found it kind of ridiculous to be back there after several years, working on the line I’d left behind, thinking that some youth will come along and do it. That will probably still happen, but it’s surprising to me that it hasn't already. There are plenty of folk with the finger strength. All it would take is the attitude. Anyway, it left me with a nice feeling of inspiration with which to enter surgery rehab mode the next day.

I didn’t have to be in hospital until 2.30pm, so at the last minute I jumped out the door first thing and was at Lennoxtown for 8am to look at the other arete project Alex had told me about. I found it (at least I presume it’s the same line?) and it looked amazing! I settled into figuring out it’s exquisite moves for around 30 minutes and realised I was quite close to getting it. Unfortunately it was raining heavily and the sloping topout was running water. I linked it from the start to the topout three times but wasn’t able to pull over on the soggy slopers. Unfortunate, but I’ll still enjoy it when I next get the chance to get on it.

Lennox Castle arete project

After that it was back to reality and a sober drive to hospital to get cut up. The surgeon and staff did a great job and everything went well for me. I was quite terrified of what the surgeon would find in my ankle joint. But it ended up not being as bad as I feared. He pulled several large osteophytes (i.e. Loose chunks of bone) out of the joint and gave a couple of them to me afterwards. I’m not totally sure if they all broke off when I fell off Hold True the other week, or some time before that. Either way, I’m glad to see them out.

No wonder my ankle hurt

Right now, on day one of recovery, I’m totally psyched to get started on a return to fitness. It’s always refreshing to start with a clean slate and reassess all aspects of your game - What climbs do I want to do? What physical weaknesses should I take time to address? There’s plenty to be getting on with.


  1. A full and speedy recovery to you my friend

  2. Hi Dave the project Alex cleaned up (Lennoxtown West) on that boulder is usually called The Dark Side by Craigmaddie locals - the easiest way up we did was from the sit start on the right to the hole, then using the foot-ramp on right to twist up through those slopey sidepulls to a lovely central top-out (when dry!). It was about 7a, but the direct of the arête and the direct of the wall on right were desperate - let us know if you get back on it, would love some photos of an FA, as it's going in the new guide next year, I think Alex is away now, so maybe Alan C. is interested? - all the best on your ankle recovery, John