Wednesday 22 August 2012

Overpopulated land.

I enjoy being based in the Highlands of Scotland.  I love the space and the solitude that you can find here, but you can't (or I certainly never have) found elsewhere in Britain. To me the rest of the country feels overpopulated, with people, towns, roads and cars all squeezed in like sardines. Even mountainous areas like North Wales, seems crammed in and crowded. (When talking about the landscape, The John Muir Trust are trying to raise some money to repair the Steal Gorge path, a path used by many a climber, see for more details).

However, August in the Scottish Highlands does seem to have some disadvantages, it is often warm, damp and midgey, and getting any climbing done feels like hard work. Therefore it seemed a good time escape South to see what overpopulated land had to offer. The plan was for a week of swimming, climbing and perhaps a bit of deep water soloing in sunny Pembroke.

Some big seas, to get an idea of scale people can just be made out on skyline

However, things didn't exactly turn out like that.  After a day and a half of nice weather at the start of the week, when I managed to Barabella, a meaty E5 crack line (not quite a flash as I had seconded back in about 2006), the weather turned. After that it was either very wet, very windy or both, and we only managed one (rather damp) E2 in the final four days of the trip. However, such is the way of things sometimes, and as shown in the pictures, there were some impressive seas to watch.

Not ideal for swimming, climbing or deep water soloing.

The scene inland a bit. Good for kayaker freaks, not good for climbers.

The sun finally came out for us to get stuck in a traffic jam around Birmingham when on the way back up the road. However, it did remind me why I don't live down there.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Skye weekend

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.

Pink Floyd, Wish you were here.

 Heading out to the arete on Helen. From where I am the route moves left to the arete and climbs this, or the wall just to the right, in a great position.

Last weekend I had a good couple of days in Skye with Nona. On Saturday we headed up the the Vulcan Wall area in Coire Laggan. I was keen to do a route Enigma, mainly due to some good pictures I had seen of it. There were a few wet patches about, and other than forcing me to dodge about on the rather rambling second pitch,  didn't seem to affect the climbing. After that it was down the hill a little bit to the lovely arete of Helen. I remember first seeing this arete from the Cioch in May 1998, and had always fancied climbing it. There is some very nice climbing on it, with a smeary but well protected crux.

The new route at Neist. It climbs to the roof above Nona's head, then undercuts left into the groove. It climbs this for a few moves, then makes a tricky move left to pull through the roof at the notch to follow the flake crack above. 

Sunday dawned damp and cloudy in the Cullin, so we headed up to Neist where, a few weeks ago, I had spotted a new line a bit to the right of the classic E2/3 crack line Wish you were Here. 
Conditions were quite cold and damp, and having abbed down the line to clean it on a previous occasion knew it was going to be quite tricky. I decided to have a wee play on a top rope to get warmed up and see if I could do the moves. The way I had envisioned doing the crux moves leftwards across the groove when I had abseiled down and cleaned the line didn't work at all.
 However, I soon worked out a alternative method, stepping left lower down and laybacking up a rib.

On the first ascent of Cold Comfort for Change, E5 6b at the crux move left.

With the bit of knowledge the lead went pretty smoothly. Maybe not the most ethical of ascents, but I certainly didn't top rope it to death first, and with various other trips away planned, and not being sure when I will next make it back to Skye, I was glad to get it done.

We then went looking for a cam that I had lost at Poverty Point on our last trip to Neist, but didn't find it. Oh well, you can't win them all.

Monday 6 August 2012

Ceuse and Gorge Du Tarn

I am recently (last week) back from a quick sports climbing hit to the South of France with Tony Stone. We flew to Geneva where we got a pretty good upgrade on the hire car. We had booked a Ford Ka, but instead got some pimped up BMW thing. Result!

So from there it was down to Ceuse.  I have been to Ceuse a few times, but enjoy the atmosphere of the place.  Also being not exactly a small crag, there was still plenty of routes I had not been on before. We did four days there, the first three were really successful, on-sighting and flashing lots of routes. Day four was a bit of a disaster, with me feeling weary form the previous three days I failed to get up anything.

 Ceuse, not a bad crag. A climber on the classic 8a Bourinator.

Tony chilling out in the campsite before heading up to the crag.

Next we headed over the Gorge du Tarn. Neither of us had been here before, so were not sure what to expect.  Again the climbing was great, and there was a lovely rive to swim in after climbing. On the other hand it was quite busy and touristy.  There has been a fair bit of re-bolting goin on there recently, and over the past year or so various sectors have been closed. However, we were pleased to find almost all the crags open, with just a couple of very monir small ones still closed.  Again we did four days on, but paced ourselves a bit better so we could still get up at least some routes on the last day.

 The river Tarn, not a bad place to have a swim after a days climbing. Tony (on the rock on the left) entertains the French ladies with some deep water soloing antics.

 Tony going for the onsight on a long 7c+. The chain is just over the skyline. Unfortunalty Tony got to just below the skyline. It was a bit of a faff to get off, I had to second up to a mid way lower off as tony lowered down, and even then (with a 70m rope), he only just had enough rope to make it.

A man from Bristol (James I think his name was) on a rather steep 7b that we did. I was rather pumped at this point, but managed to struggle on and onsight the route.