Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Salvage Operation

It's been a sleepless week. I'd been building up to getting on Pallor E7/8 6b again so on Saturday morning Conor, Cameron, Luis and myself headed up the steep hill to the crag. Too warm to think about a lead I simply practised moves and got a good dose of sunburn.

Typical scene on Saturday, Conor, Cameron and Luis chilling out

With no belayers I'd trust on such a route free on Sunday I had to spend a nervous day waiting to head up the next morning with Dave , Sean and Steve. A 4.30am start saw us up there in cool conditions. I did the route no bother first go on top rope then second go I just went to bits and my focus wouldn't play ball at all. I guess I've been out of practice from the mind control necessary for this kind of thing for a while now and need to play the game more to retrain my brain.

Attempting Pallor, stunning but dangerous climbing

Realising it wouldn't happen without some serious mental prep and some easier but still bold routes in the bag I decided to check out the upper part of Caldera. I abbed a line that didn't really need any cleaning, found some very marginal gear about a third of the way up the slab and decided to go for it. Steve belayed as Sean took pics and I set off over the initial thin traverse, I duffed the sequence a bit but sorted it no problem and climbed to the gear break where I dropped a runner, not ideal but dealt with calmly which was good for my head. The rest of the route went smoothly and was really enjoyable. 

 On first ascent of Arrakis Taught, E3/4 5c

I called the route 'Arrakis Taught' after a bit in Mark Twights book described a part in a novel, Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife — chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: "Now it’s complete because it’s ended here."
Sean and Steve before making the descent

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I was back at the project today to try find a way past the utterly blank lower section.I rigged myself to my shunt and I made some moves that may be linkable to the real guts of the climbing. I may be able to place a skyhook midway on the runout section but I'd need to carry it in my teeth already clipped to the rope then bump it into place with my chin,hmmmm!! I hit the upper crux at the last few feet of the route where a deck out and serious injury (at least) is inevitable and spent a while battling trying to find any purchase for my left hand, nothing. I smeared it onto a 'hold' and pulled up and my feet both went into spasms of agonising pain, enough that I fell off, not what you want on this route! I let frustration get the better of me and started swearing at myself, who knows what the Steall falls tourists thought of me. I lowered off in too much pain to continue pissed off with my disabilities/injuries. Hobbling back to the car I felt like just giving up but I know that wont happen.

Cant be pissed off with views like this

Not happy at myself  getting frustrated with my hand for the first time in years and considering quitting I came home and beasted myself training on the bike and a few hundred sit ups to punish myself for being so weak!

Monday, 31 March 2014

Scarier than thought....

After the news of the loss of a good friend last night I didn't feel much like climbing today but decided it was best to just get out regardless, life really is too short to waste time. I picked Joe up and we headed back up the Glen, both of us working on cleaning and trying projects. 

Joe inspecting a potential line

Trying to find any kind of weakness

I belayed Joe for a bit after my first attempt ended in brutal foot pain, like if they were being crushed in a vice, the temptation to request amputation becoming ever more tempting. I tried again and managed to figure out most of the moves but also found that a skyhook placement at a vital point (now a 10m run out) is out of reach for me to place making the route an even more dangerous proposition. I've never tried a route as technically difficult as this and with such high risk.

Sunday, 30 March 2014


The past few weeks have been a time of re-focusing my disappointment of no more mountaineering for the foreseeable future and trying to use that negative energy to produce a positive. I've found that outlet in seeking out new routes. I've always found new routes far more rewarding than repeats, not just in the climbing of the routes but in finding, cleaning and trying them. Spring has begun to sneak its way into Lochaber and we've made the best of it, on Wednesday myself and Dave headed up the Glen for some routes before he goes on MIA training. It was warm enough to climb in t-shirts which made us think it was time for a BBQ.

Dave sorting gear at the base of Pine Wall

Scottish BBQ, down jackets a necessity 

On Thursday Matt, Dot and myself headed up the Glen again to check out some new routes after me telling them how good the weather had been the previous day I think we were all surprised to end up rigging in howling wind, rain and snow, you got to love Scotland. I managed to figure out the very sparse protection for the route but it was too wet to start cleaning. 

 Myself scoping possibilities

Today I walked up to Steall falls with my Mum and Dad who were visiting and then I left them to begin the process of cleaning one of the projects. Lots of work and fear to come.....

Maw & Paw at Steall

Spring cleaning

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

One small step

Today I headed to the Quadrocks at Largs with Gerry. Warming up on damp routes I hadn't done in a long long time was good fun. I noticed more today in a trad environment just how much difference the fused ankle is making, having to move a bit differently. We did a few routes then milled about to let a group clear from next to where I needed to set up a belay for my project. I've been trying this line on and off for around 7 years now, it's definitely E7/8. Today I made progress in that I discovered a placement just big enough to get about 10mm of a slightly modified skyhook in, bomber :) Quite a social wee day up there and good to be making progress on rock after the lows of last week.

On The Traverse

I love the outlook from this great wee crag. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Tough Choices

This morning I headed to SCNL with Dave, Joe and Nadir to work on a filming project. We were making good steady time up the hill when my ankle and knee began to hurt immensely and I knew a tough choice was coming. I've been fighting this injury for over four years now and I dont mind the damage I inflict on myself but today I felt I was becoming a potential burden/risk to my mates. I stopped and told the guys I was bailing, they left for the route and I slumped down on my pack and popped more painkillers. It took me a long time to descend, sweating, near vomiting, trying not to lose it listening to stupid questions from folk. I had to wait a while for a lift in Glencoe and sitting there on such a beautiful day I began to take in the fact that Scottish winter climbing maybe over for me, who knows though. I guess if junkies can replace smack with super lager then I can maybe find a replacement..........

Sunday, 2 February 2014

CMD & Aberlour

On Thursday myself, Dave, James and Joe headed for a round of the CMD and the Ben. It was pretty full on mountaineering conditions and certainly the most interesting day I've had on it. So much snow up there at the moment.

Ahh hot aches-Pic-James Seaman

Joe and James on the CMD

Joe,me, James and Dave. Thats the summit shelter behind us totally encrusted!

Beginning the descent out the cloud. My ankle not looking healthy there!

Stunning views on the descent

Dave made a wee video of the day here .

Yesterday Andy, James, Rich and myself headed over to the opening of the new Speyside Climbing wall . Gareth Wignall has been on a mission to get everything together to have this wall built and Scott Muir and his team have done a great job. It was a great turn out and a lot of folk even hung around to hear me do a wee talk.