Monday 21 September 2009

The timing is everything

Blair hits the Roaring Forties (E3 5c) on Mucklehouse Wall. The route would also have described the weather conditions at the time despite the sunshine

A nice evening at Rackwick Bothy as we arrived… too late.

Blair struggles to get his gear out of his rucksack without it blowing to Norway at the top of Mucklehouse Wall. The top of the old man of Hoy and most of St John’s Head behind in the cloud.

"Just realising how much of a problem I have staying relaxed a lot of the time. I'm sat here in a beautiful evening in Rackwick with nothing to do except enjoy the moment, but all I can do I worry that tomorrows forecast is bad and how poor our chances are of getting a shot at the longhope route, never mind getting to the top.

People often tell me they think I must be patient after hearing about the extended trials of hard project climbing. But the truth is I'm actually just good at staying impatient for very sustained periods. At times, acute impatience for success or progress is utterly vital to break out of sticking points. It can be the greatest gift. But the timing of it is everything. My major failing has been to stay locked in battle psyche mode when the battle can't be fought today. Missing opportunities to relax, regroup and focus

on nights like tonight is just as bad as getting to the crux move and giving in at the discomfort of the hard effort..."

...I wrote the above words on my phone on while watching that nice sunset after arriving on Hoy with Blair and Cubby. As you can see I’d done a reasonable job of feeling positive despite the forecast telling us everywhere in the UK would be enjoying the September High pressure except us with a windy, drizzly cold front on it’s periphery. Perhaps we could have awoken to decent conditions and a successful day. But as it turned out we woke at 4am to the sound of thundering waves and drizzle.

We managed to squeeze out a couple of routes on Rora Head over two days between the rain. But not without much

chattering of teeth in the cold gale.

As soon as got back onto the Scottish mainland and back underneath the high pressure, we drove past flat calm shores and through warm sunny hills to get back to Lochaber for work. It felt just a bit cruel I must say.

Quick the sun’s out, get a route in! Blair descends Rora head while a grey seal watches from the drink below

So much as I hate to say it, thats probably the lasthope for longhope this year. Sure I could go back armed with more gear to keep us warm and dry on the wall for a forced bigwall style autumn ascent. But my goal from the start has been to climb this route in a single day push. And with the 18th pitch being E10 it’s not going to happen unless we are moving super fast and light.

But sudden freedom to make other moves on rock has been only a temporary downer. Sessions on the two big bouldering projects in Glen Nevis have underlined my wee strength increases from the new training facility. I managed two whole foot moves more than before on the Font 8c project thats featured in the committed II film. I’m even more excited about the bigfoot project which narrowly escaped all it’s individual moves being completed yesterday. I forgot how gratifyingly convenient bouldering is compared to bigwall trad dirty, birdy, turfy, soft, loose E11 sea cliffs in the windiest place on the goddam planet.

A mention goes to Kev for a one handed and helmetless ascent of Firestone E7 the other day. Nutter.


  1. which route is the second pic?
    Neil M

  2. Rosamunds birthday?

    Neil M

  3. How was mucklehouse wall? I've been keen to get up there for a while - looks exciting!