Wednesday, 24 October 2012

A dogs life

The highlands have definitely been showing off over the last few days.  Blue skies, sunshine, clear nights, morning temperature inversions...  it's been a beautiful place to live and play.
Berry enjoying Glen Nevis
After a weekend spent catching up with friends in Glasgow, I felt the need for some exercise and healthier living.  I've managed a couple of days bouldering on Heather Hat, repeating some problems and trying a new font 7b which I'm still not quite strong enough for.  I love the movement on it though with some crafty heel hooking, deep lock-offs, egyptians, full on body tension moves and finishes with a big dollop of fear.  If i get it sent it'll be one my favourite boulder problems on this stunning bit of rock.

Berry spotting me on Heather Hat
The rough rock in Glen Nevis isn't always the most friendly on the skin so to not waste the good weather I spent the rest of the day playing on a slackline with Loch Eil in the background until the sun set just beyond the Loch.

Berry spotting me on the slackline
It was back to a bit of work today with the students from Lochaber college.  The aim of the day was to look at technical rope work, so we went up and down Ledge route looking at different belaying techniques, confidence roping and where and when to use the rope.

Descending Ledge route with Lochaber College Students

As I'm about to head off to Spain in a week it is a real privilege to spend the last few days experiencing what makes this part of the world so special.  With snow forecast over the weekend on the higher summits we will again see the area transform and again offer new opportunity to enjoy playing in these wild places.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

End of Frustration

At the start of the year I set myself a couple of climbing goals related to grades I wanted to climb.  After a long trip to El Chorro clipping bolts, I felt in a good position to push things further this year and started my training with a solid foundation.
But, as with all plans, there are always a few hurdles along the way that slow or stop progress.  Although, I've had a much busier year due to venturing into the world of freelancing as well as continuing with a full time job, it is the various little tweaks and injuries that have proven the biggest hurdles to over come and the most frustrating.  This has led me to climb very little this year with next to no routes/bouldering throughout the summer and a significant affect on performance.

Frustration over.  Lonely skyhook far, far away.
With a few weeks of regular training and a healed broken hand I finally managed to get out on some dry rock on Sunday with Kev and Scott.  We headed out to a beautiful slab out by Lochailort with the intention of trying Frustration E5,6a and also to look at getting the 2nd ascent of Kev's route Rebellion E6,6b.
After a couple of top-ropes on frustration I felt happy to get on the sharp end.  The route is protected by a solitary sky-hook about a third of the way up the climb.  Having selected not to tie it down it basically became an aesthetically pleasing piece of kit and would not stop a ground fall from higher up the route.
I felt very comfortable on the route and therefore wasn't too bothered about the gear.  The route has a lovely flow to it and I felt that my moves matched the this flow and the boldness became much less significant.  It's been a long time since I've found this feeling of fun and freedom on the rock and has definitely ended a feeling of frustration I have become far too aware of.

Scott toproping Frustration
I managed to send Frustration and had a top rope on  Rebellion.  Kev was able to talk me through the route move by move.  Quite impressive since it has been several months since he climbed it.  The crux is the very last move and proved a sticking point for me.  I decided to leave it for another day as I didn't fancy the potential fall onto gear at half height.  I am constantly amazes at Kev's ability and technique when it comes to these routes.  It's easy to see why companies are willing to sponsor him.  He is a very accomplished athlete!

Kev looking for a new route
I have another couple of weeks before I head out to El Chorro for my annual escape to sunshine and I'm starting to feel more and more positive of where I am now in regards to my climbing.  Although, I am not yet as strong as I was I am enjoying playing on the rock a lot more and I'm starting to feel less rigid and am making strides towards climbing the way I like to climb.
The goals might not be realised this year but the playful nature of climbing and the feeling I seek from it have re-established themselves.  You often hear it said, "the best climber is the one having the most fun", which make me pretty damn good again!!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Native schooling

I spent the last week working for Outward Bound with the Glasgow Gaelic school.  It was  a great opportunity to get to grips with the pronunciation of local place names and their meanings.  A beautiful start to the week made for stunning views down Loch Eil (shimmering loch) to Ben Nevis (poison mountain) and the Mammores.

Canoeing on Loch Eil
 The course included an overnight expedition which we spent up by Stob Ban (white peak) and made an evening ascent of Sgurr an lubhair (peak of the Yew) hoping to see the northern lights.  Unfortunately no northern lights but we did manage to catch a very striking sunset.

Stob Ban sunset
With only a couple of weeks left in Scotland for the year it's these views and settings that make this a very special place.  All those days spent cursing the midges, rain, ticks, more rain and even more midges are easily forgotten when you see just how beautiful the place can be.

Stob Ban

Students on Sgurr an lubhair

Monday, 8 October 2012

Canyons & Crags

Inchree Canyon
After a week working at my full time job at Outward Bound I got a call from Vertical Descents to guide a couple of canyon trips at Inchree.  Having recently passed the Canyon Guide level 1 assessment, it was a great opportunity to put it to good use.  
Canyoning is probably my favourite activity to undertake with groups, as it turns the outdoors into a giant playground where you just have a great laugh and scare yourself a wee bit with some of the bigger jumps around. Inchree is a fantastic canyon with very little rope work which means very little waiting around and a great flow to the day.  There are some excellent slides, jumps, zip wire and it all culminates with an 8.5m jump into a deep pool.  Fantastic fun!!
For more info on canyon trips contact me via email.

Black Jack F6b, pic Dorota Bankowska
Sunday was a bit more chilled with a trip out to Black Crag by Lochailort.  This crag was bolted a few years ago by Tom Bollard and and is a nice wee day out with grades from F5+ - F7b+.  The crag is situated by the sea so discretion/common sense is advised regarding the bolts and lower offs.
The setting far exceeds the climbing in my opinion but the setting is so stunning on a beautiful day that it makes the trip worthwhile.  You can extend your stay with a night in the Fisherman's bothy a little further along the coast.  Up there with one of my favourite places that I've ever stayed.
The day was spent with Karen, Sarah, Dot and Berry.  Beautiful setting, beautiful weather, beautiful company and a wee bit of bolt clipping thrown in.  A great finish to the week.

Berry chilling in the sun