Thursday 24 October 2013

BBC climbs; Handa and the caves DVD available

I’ve just added a new climbing DVD to the webshop. It’s the double DVD of two BBC programmes I shot last year. The first is a re-enactment of one of the first recorded climbs in the UK; a crossing by three men from the Western Isles onto the Great Stac of Handa in 1867. It was quite an experience to recreate their feat of daring and a window into a way of life now long gone. The inspiration to make a film about it came from an essay by Tom Patey in an old SMC journal, where he expressed his amazement at the strength and ingenuity of the Lewismen for rigging up a rope successfully and climbing across the huge gap to the stac. Patey himself had found the crossing desperate. To film it we had to get a 400m rope that was really thick (it weighed 45kgs) and cart it across Handa and then set it up spanning between the headlands on either side of the Stac. It was quite amazing the Lewismen thought to do it that way. 

The second film couldn't be more different. The huge networks of limestone caves underneath the dales of Yorkshire and the Peak District obviously have some fantastic rock features, but they aren’t normally visited by rock climbers! Myself and Alan Cassidy went on a wee mission to see if there was good rock climbing to be had in the caves. What we found was pretty adventurous and definitely out of the ordinary. First off we climbed the a big circular chamber of Jingling Pot in Yorkshire. It went at about E3 although that obviously doesn’t do it much justice since it was running with water and totally dark. But that was just a warm up for the 4-pitch monster 7c+ we climbed in Peak Cavern - the biggest cave opening in the peak, and our route was the first free climb In the whole cave. It was quite a lucky and special experience. Both programmes are 1 hour long.

It’s in the shop here.

Our new 4 pitch 7c+ in Peak Cavern on the Extraordinary Climbs film

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Post surgery; 1 week

Things have gone well for me. Much better than I expected. 48 hours after surgery, I was on the campus board in TCA and doing easy problems foot-off. After my surgery last year, I couldn’t face this for nearly two weeks. By day 4 I was hobbling a little in the house and at day 7 walking quite normally, if still for very short distances.

Of course I’ve had a couple of ‘sore’ days. Yesterday I didn’t feel like doing anything too far from a sofa until it was time for my physio session in the evening. I’ve still not ventured out for anything more than a few minutes walk. But I’m well happy with the progress so far. Now I have my big fat bandage off, I can see that my foot is not so far from a shape that would accept a rockshoe.

The huge difference between this and my much slower progress in last year’s operation on the other ankle might be accounted for because the joint was much less ‘hot’ at the time of surgery. I.e. I was walking around on a partially functioning foot rather than on crutches on a swollen, angry ankle. 

Roll on the progress!

Friday 18 October 2013

Ruthven Traverses

Ivory Coast Font 7c+ from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

On the way home from the Dolomites the other week, I stopped by at the Ruthven Boulder near Inverness for a session. Blair Fyffe had just added a long traverse at Font 7c (or route 8b - it’s 20 or 30 metres long!). Blair wrote a nice blog about it here. There was an obvious extended start to make it a bit more complete and I thought I’d have a look at that. I repeated the traverse from Blair’s start after a suss of the moves (I’d say it’s more like route 8a+) and then did it from the extended start which adds a great section across the roof on the left side of the boulder. This definitely knocks it up a grade to route 8b or Font 7c/+ish. It’s a classic endurance workout and dries very quickly, so I’m sure it will be keeping local climbers fit in the coming years. If you want the beta, check out the video above. Blair's trav starts from the big jug I bat-hang off. 

Thankfully, it isn’t over there. Where the traverse goes up a level at the crux of ‘The Big Lebowski’, there is an obvious low variation dropping down a bit and continuing on tiny crimpers. After two or three sessions, just before I headed to Glasgow for surgery, I almost got it. So I have something to go back to as soon as I can climb again. The crux is quite a lot harder than the high traverse and it’s going to go at around route 8c I think. Can’t wait to return..

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.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Supporting Scottish mountain rescue

A good while ago I wrote some posts about Mountain Rescue and ideas on how they might improve their funding. It’s good to see some new developments there: Scottish Mountain Rescue, who represent and co-ordinate the individual rescue teams across the country have secured some corporate sponsorship from Isle of Skye Whisky

At the moment, rescue gets some funding from the Scottish government, but it’s not nearly enough to keep the teams going in the ever increasing costs of rescuing folk in the Scottish mountains. For those of us who live around Ben Nevis for example, the seemingly nightly buzz of the rescue helicopter through the winter is a reminder of just how hard they have to work and how much the service is pushed these days.

Donating when and where you can really ought to be something all folk who go into the hills should do. So many of us have a friend or relative who has needed a rescue, or will do one day. Odds are it will save that person’s life. So it’s important. You can do it easily here, by the way.

I was asked to go along to the launch day of the campaign that Scottish Mountain Rescue and Isle of Skye Whisky are starting in Glen Nevis to take pictures to publicise the campaign in the papers and speak to Reporting Scotland. The amazing SARDA rescue dog sat stock still for 20 minutes for these pictures. 

As well as encouraging direct donations through their ability to attract a lot of attention as a big company, they are donating 15p per bottle of whisky sold to Scottish Mountain Rescue. I hope it raises enough to keep the teams equipped and able to keep doing such an amazing job. I hope I never need them myself, but I certainly am thankful that they are there.

Lectures and masterclasses coming up

I’ll be talking about the Eiger among other adventures in various lectures this autumn. Photo: Alexandre Buisse

If you fancy coming to hear about my climbing adventures and how I do the climbs I do, come along to some of the lectures I’m doing this autumn. Maybe see you at one of these places:

Oct 26th Dundee: I’m speaking for Tiso and the Dundee Rucksack Club for their 90 anniversary celebration. Tickets and more details on that coming shortly on Tiso’s site.

Nov 3rd: I’m speaking at the Ice Factor’s Festival of Ice and running climbing masterclasses in both rock and mixed climbing. The Festival will be a mega event. You should check out all the things that are going on there. The technique classes will fill up quickly so you should call Claire on 07813060376 to book a place. I’ll be running the rock technique classes 10-noon and 4-6pm, the mixed/dry tooling class 2-4pm and giving a talk at lunchtime.  Cost is £40 for a place on one of my classes. The event is to raise money for Climber’s against cancer.

Nov 4th Aberdeen: I’m speaking at the Aberdeen Tiso store. Tickets available at the store, £5, although you can enquire online about tickets from here by clicking on the start time at the bottom.

Nov 28th London: I’m speaking at the Royal Geographical Society for their annual Porter’s Progress lecture. Tickets here.

Dec 13th Bozeman Ice Festival, USA. I’m speaking at the festival and running ice/mixed technique clinics on Dec 14th.

See you there!

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Esoteric Gems

Gordon Bombay, Font 7c+ from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

Esoteric gems are gems nonetheless. Yesterday I had to be in Edinburgh for a meeting with my Gore-Tex colleagues. On the way back I decided to swing past for a look at a couple of newly developed boulders near Lennoxtown.

Alex Gorham found and developed a handful of problems on lovely sandstone in the woods near the old Lennox Castle mental hospital. He waxed lyrical about the problems to me in TCA recently and had me keen for a look, even before I’d seen the excellent video on Alex and Jen's blog of his first ascent of Gordon Bombay (Font 7c+).

I went and repeated the problem after about an hour of finding the sequence. I thought I was going to get it on my second try, but the wrong sequence of toe hooks near the end seemed to get even more wrong before I figured out a better way. Toe hooks are one of my favourite moves, so I enjoyed it immensely and will be back to explore the area a bit more soon.

The place is only 20 minutes from my mums house, right near my earliest climbing haunts of Dunglas and Craigmore, where I climbed before I even got my first pair of rockshoes. Back then I would have been totally over the moon to come across that roof (and the other excellent problems). I regret not having a stronger exploratory zeal at the time. But as a youngster I just looked in the guidebook for what others had done and didn’t think so independently. It took a few years before I realised there was nothing stopping me from just going out and searching for great new routes that were obviously out there, hiding in the local hills and forests.

Fortunately, as a 35 year old, I still get over the moon to go and seek out and climb such a great problem. Even now it looks like the area will lend at least one more project to give me an excuse to return.

It's well worth checking out the video below of Alex doing it. It's pretty obvious our different shapes (me being a short chap) means we climb it quite differently in places. The other problems, especially Wow Jen (V5) are great too!

Lennoxtown Boulders from Alex Gorham on Vimeo.