Tuesday 31 July 2007

Traffic jam, Glen Nevis

Trafiic problems on the evening commute down Glen Nevis last night.

Hello pretty, nice hat...

I love living in Lochaber!

The other day we went looking for new crags, and found some! Peter inspects a pristine arete of Gneiss which is now on my list of routes to do asap.

Monday 30 July 2007

New 8b at Steall - Stolen

The air this morning was autumnal – cold, damp and fresh. Michael and I were headed to Steall for the last day of his visit. We were both wasted and happy with good links the previous day, so today was just a day for playing on new projects and doing some intervals. But we comented that it would be a good day for redpointing, if one had been going for it today.

I was going on a superb line right of Lame Beaver that I bolted two weeks ago. Lame Beaver is an E7 6b freed by Cubby in 1987. I remember seeing a cool picture of him on it in Fort William Nevisport when I started visiting the glen in 1997. That year I tried it myself, but it was above my level at the time. So it was interesting to come back and do it last week for the warm-up for the days climbing. Good to have a yardstick to measure ten years of strength and technique gain. By the way, such is the lack of keen climbers in the area right now; Lame Beaver, like many other trad routes I’ve repeated took two full days of hard graft to clean it up again properly. So while it’s clean please all you fit Scottish climbers come and get it done!

Anyway, the new sport route is unlike many a Scottish sport route, being long, exposed and with consistent difficult climbing that wears you down, rather than one brick hard move and then cruising. After my fuel up with Claire’s rather fine baking (gaining legendary status now, as it’s been responsible for over five routes of 8b+ and above!) I dragged my sore muscles into action and worked out the first section up to a quite amazing no hands back and foot rest in a bomb bay. Once in the bomb bay, I pondered that the night before I’d done a long link from here to the last hard move. Really I might as well just make this a redpoint and do the thing now?

A long series of undercuts later, I was clipping the belay at the lip of the overhangs, water pouring all over me from Steall’s permanent (but currently extra dribbly) drip fringe. So it was a good day for redpointing after all.

My I be so bold to suggest it’s the best 8b in Scotland? I’ll post up some photos soon as I get them.

Sunday 29 July 2007

In Summary...

I've been thinking a bit about summarising stuff lately and the beauty of simple messages. It came out of realising how much useless information is thrown at us and we try to absorb with a western lifestyle. Don't worry, I'm not going to go all hippy on your ass, I just got onto thinking about this after getting rid of my TV permenantly after I moved house a month ago, which has been great - thoroughly recommended!!.

Not many people understand the climbing I do, least of all other climbers. They are constantly asking me why I like sport climbing and headpointing and what is wrong with me for not hating everything except onsight traditional climbing. Obviously people will always project their own autobiographies on others, thats their problem. But I do enjoy communicating my inspiration, and if possible, getting better at this.

I climb what I do for lots of reasons, there are many details. What I've observed is that the discussion rarely even gets onto these. It's stuck at the outset because when discussions about comlpicated ideas are centred around details rather than simple principles, people can only navigate using their own paradigms and will rarely understand others.

So here is a summary of why I like to work super hard routes for a long time, instead of onsighting all the time:

'Working out sequences of moves over time and perfecting them to make impossible moves possible is me. It fits with my creativity'

Understand that, and the conversation about the details will be an easy one.

Have you heard any beautiful summaries that helped you to relate to something you previously didn't understand? If so, can you tell me about them in the comments?

Saturday 28 July 2007

Summer of Steall II – a week of hard training

Michael Tweedley ties in to send Leopold his first 8a+

Life has been just the way I like it over the past three weeks – very focused and intense. After the previous Steall marathon, I used the muscular down time to produce a work blitz. Much keyboard pounding later, the ‘urgent’ section of my task list was empty for the first time in over 14 months. I more than quadrupled my workload last year in order to enable a house move. But at times I well and truly lost my way and paralysed myself under a mountain of tasks. Over the last two months I’ve learned a lot about controlling the volume of work and cutting out the vast quantities of wasted time we are programmed to spend on tasks that are, in the bigger picture, meaningless or at least unimportant. What a relief.

As the summer continues to be defined by the volume of water dropping daily out of the sky, Steall has continued to be the venue of choice for rock climbing. Yesterday we climbed blissfully in the dry as usual, watching in awe during belay duty as the Glen Nevis burns turned steadily into roaring torrents and Steall Falls thundered like I’ve never seen it. It’s been a very up and down period for me – I’m trying some very hard projects and finding myself making apparently negative progress for over a week. It is so hard to accept that stressed joints, poor conditions and too many days on are the reason for your retrograde performance. My knee is complaining from a deep Egyptian move (my favourite move too, although I still take a couple of goes to spell it correctly). This perod of barely containable frustration is what Seth Godin calls the dip. The idea is that if you can stand back from the situation and realise that you have what it takes to get over the problems, it can see you through the temptation to get angry, depressed or just give up. Easier said than done. It helps of course if you really want the reward you are pursuing. Thankfully this is not a problem for me on most climbing challenges, as I tend to think a LOT about them in advance and go for the very best ones.

Drying sodden ropes – a daily routine right now.

I must admit, the desire to match the performance level demanded by this project was the main driving force that kept me trying it through this crappy spell. Quite a poor show really as I’ve got plenty of experience at this type of thing. Nevermind – I kept at it and after a rest day, made a big leap forward on the route. Still miles away from doing it, but amazing and uplifting nonetheless. In retrospect the last couple of depressing weeks were nothing compared to the ones I had on Rhapsody – one session I’d feel on the verge of linking the crux, the next I couldn’t pull on the holds. Naturally, conditions and fatique were to blame, with the negative emotions piled on top.

Hopefully yesterday’s good form and progress can carry on for a wee bit at least, before the next dip…

I’m also super fortunate to have someone else sharing my psyche for Steall. Michael was up for the week again, coolly dispatching Leopold (his first 8a+) after having similar frustration earlier in the week.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Three days of hardcore at Steall crag

By the end of today I was physically unable to push a wire brush forwards across a piece of rock. Steall Crag is one of those weird overhanging crags of extremes of wet/dryness. Most of it is perma dry, but the rest is very often wet. Luckily, the wet bits are only limited to the top and the odd wee seep here and there, but those bits get manky.

This place, like The Anvil and Dumbarton are all what I call ultimate hardcore venues. Most of the routes are sick hard or remain unclimbed due to being that extra bit sick hard. There are few easy routes, but they also seem to manage to be sick hard. That is why I like them. There are a bunch of 8a/b routes there and some futuristic projects.

Michael Tweedley was our first visitor at chez MacLeod to come up for a bit of lochaber climbing action. I am glad he brought with him three days of no rain to follow the 21 days of rain that preceded. While he worked hard on one of the 8as I cleaned some old and new routes. The bottom 20 metres of the routes were totally dry and clean but the last ten metres needed a lot of work to shift the super steely scottish moss. So now the routes are ready to be climbed if I am good enough (questionable).

But now I have to go back to sedentary work for a while, deadlines call... Not to worry, my shredded arms need the time away. On monday, the hardcore will begin again, if the rain does not.

Friday 6 July 2007

New Contact Details

New Contact Details

Just noticed I've started a lot of blog posts with "New..." lately. Now I’ve moved here are some new details to get in touch:

Post address: Dave MacLeod, The Cottage, Achintee Road, Fort William PH33 6QL
Landline: 01397 700355
Mobile: still the same 07929 839 329
Email still the same.

Sorry if you’ve tried to get in touch with me over the past week but I’ve not got back to you – I should get through most of my inbox over the next few days.

New Abode

I’ve got my net connection back now finally. I’ve moved to Fort William and been locked into a relentless routine of home improvements for two weeks. But yesterday the tools went back in the cupboard and I can get on with life again and start to venture outside and get to know my new surroundings.

Well, really I know them fairly well already, I’ve been visiting Lochaber to climb since I was 17 and done many new routes in the area already. But there’s still a massive difference between knowing a place and knowing it as a local. So far we’ve found the people living here really nice and friendly, which is fantastic when we are essentially outsiders moving into a smallish community.

The new hoose, cute eh?

The view from my office, could be worse I suppose…

It’s been quite weird switching from working as a writer and coach to doing manual building work for two weeks. This type of work is quite satisfying because the results are instant and predictable.

It’s been quite convenient that all the upheaval of moving co-incided with some impressively crap weather. It’s rained every day since I’ve lived here so far. No worries I just went to the perma-dry crags to train, as usual. It’s been lovely running alone through Steall in the quietude of a rainy evening to get to the crags. Steall is a beautifully moody and overwhelming place. You don’t normally get to see it in late evening, or really bad weather as a visitor – cause you just wouldn’t be there.

I’ve been working hard on my midge tolerance too, which will need to be on top form to survive a climbing life here. The midges are looking radiantly healthy at Steall Hut Crag after repeated nightly feeds on my naked arms and ankles. It’s a little hard going on still nights, but the crag is so good, I forget about them. I’m going to bolt a couple more routes here soon that I cleaned last year. Can’t wait – they look superb. I’m also going to clean up Cubby’s E7 here – Lame Beaver and get that lead. I cleaned the moss off it about 8 years ago, but no ones done it in nearly 15 years so all just grown back again. Maybe If I spend a day brushing it and doing myself at least Niall will come up and do it, and then it can sit for another couple of decades with no interest?? Hopefully not.

Hopefully by the time I’ve done all that, the rain will have stopped and I can get on the mountain crags again???

Leaving Dumbarton

Warm spring evenings on the boulders – something I shall miss

Here is a blog post I started while sitting in a van on the way up the A82 a couple of weeks ago as Claire drove me, the cat and all our stuff to our new house…

It seems we’ve done not bad in trying to live a minimalised lifestyle – All me and Claire’s possessions fitted into a LWB Transit van. Were on the journey north right now, leaving behind our flat in Dumbarton and heading for a new life in Lochaber. Oh my god.

It did of course seem a bit more real when we saw our flat empty and sat for the last time in the Denny Tank caf before heading north, and brought thoughts of the last 3 and half years living in Dumbarton. For me, there are two Dumbartons really – the town and the Rock.

Dumbarton the town

It’s certainly a place changing fast, the distillery and waste ground rapidly being replaced by those carbon copy soulless new-build flats that slowly turns real places into another ‘anytown’. It really needs the inflow of money though. Take a walk down the high street and it’s not hard to see why this area of Scotland has the worst health stats in western Europe. Maybe it’s not PC to talk about it but its depressing to see, especially when it is essentially needless. Unless the society collectively faces its bad habits, there can be nothing but tinkering at the edges of progress. Apparently we Scots are world leaders in developing strategy to encourage people to exercise. But perhaps not in actioning that strategy – there are plenty of unnecessary barriers put in one’s way to accessing sport and it’s facilities. For instance why can you buy two pints of beer and a bag of chips for the same amount of money as a session in the leisure centre gym in one of Scotland’s unhealthiest towns? These things take time I guess.

Dumbarton Rock

I have taken much of what I can from the wealth of excellent moves on offer on the Basalt plug. I feel I’ve have given much back too with new routes. Who knows whether my enthusing has encouraged other climbers to get to grips with the place or even climb things they otherwise might not have? I hope so though. There are still places to go on those rocks – Pressure into Silverback (V15?), More direct through the Sosho roof (V16?) and the walls right and left of the Requiem crack (maybe one of them is as easy as 9a+ or 9b??). Good luck to the inspired soul who can fight these battles and win – they will be fine athletes indeed!

I am jealous of the future teenage Glaswegian climbers who discover the rock and get hooked – they have a good challenge these days to repeat the progression in grades that all the previous generations did. When I started, Consolidated was the hardest problem and now we do laps for the warm-up. They will have to do the same on Sanction! cool. Most young climbers set their sights on or within the present limit of the day. But some look higher from the outset, and decide to make it happen. Andy Gallagher, Cubby and Malcolm Smith all did that. I’ll be well psyched to see the next person who takes it on…

Sometime I’d also love to see everyone who lives in Dumbarton (if not Scotland) know about the value of the cliff and boulders there. The castle on top of the volcano is Dumbarton’s wee claim tae fame. But that will always be something that was only important in the past – the climbing is important in the past, present and future, which is much more valuable.

Three years living in Dumbarton was really fun, had it’s ups and downs to say the least, and me and Claire learnt a lot during the time.

Kirky Church

Many thanks to the minister Mark for letting me climb St Mary's church spire after my talk - it was ace! The initial arch was cool steep piching at 6c+ but those upper pillars were desperate, 7c+ maybe - basically clamping and bear hugging while teetering on minute crumbly toe edges. Maybe it would've been 7c with a warmup?? Lot of people were taking photos - does anyone have some they could send me for the blog? I'd really appreciate it.