Sunday, October 02, 2005

Leisure Pursuits

You bump into Malcolm Smith and Andy Earl at the Ibrox wall. Andy tells you that Malc has finally sent the project they have both been working on. Malc gives you a comprehensive description of the moves, saying it was a bit tricky, and calls Andy 'a weak Geordie git'.

You are messing about on the Dumby boulders, and Dave MacLeod asks if you would mind spotting him for five minutes. After he sends the prob, a sweet 7c+, you ask what he's been up to, and he tells you about an XI, 11 route he has just done in the Northern Corries.


You read a post by Si O'Conor on a web forum. He reports that he has just done Britain's first E17 on a previously unknown crag on the Isle of Skye. The route is 110 metres long with multiple V13 cruxes, and a V16 crux right at the top. Si hadn't planned to solo onsight the first ascent of this new route, but was forced to, as he was being pursued by an elite squad from the Special Boat Service.

The SBS were pursuing him because Si had just been involved in a violent fight with a group of hill shepherds and tractor men in the Isles Bar. Unknown to Si, the shepherds and tractor drivers were actually undercover special services agents. Despite their extensive combat training, and martial arts skills, they were no match for Si who had put them all on the waiting list at the Portree Cottage Hospital A + E department.

The avenging SBS squad pursued Si out of Portree, heading northwards along the A855. He tried to confuse his pursuers by talking very loudly to himself in Swedish, and generally pretending to be from Sweden. Unfortunately this gambit only enraged his pursuers further, and they were gaining on him at every step.

Fortunately for Si, Scott Muir was driving past in his pretendy 4x4 and offered Si a potentially life saving lift. Unluckily for Si, and luckily for Scott, Si refused the lift in a fit of pique and went bounding off across the Bealach Mor. The SBS, sensing their quarry was proving too fast and furious for them, called in air support in the form of a Royal Marines Sea King, a pair of Sea Harriers and a passing Nimrod.

Si knew the odds of him escaping were lengthening now, and had the genius idea of putting his beloved 5.10 Moccasyms on to the back paws of his equally beloved collie, and commanding it to head off across the moor, walking on its hind legs. The SBS pursuit squad followed what they thought were Si’s footprints, and were surprised and dismayed to apprehend a collie wearing rock slippers, a flat cap and smoking a roll up.

Opportunely for the SBS, one of the Sea Harriers had managed to acquire the fleeing and now bare footed Si, using its experimental infra red target acquisition pod. The Nimrod swooped low across the moor, and air dropped a selection of SAS specification trials bikes to his pursuers. The squad tore the parachutes from the motorbikes as they landed, and roared off after Si. The chase was on again!

Uncharacteristically, Si began to panic, as he realised that his only escape route was looming malevolently in front of him. It was a massive black cliff, incredibly overhanging, and unusually for a sizeable rock formation, it had no holds whatsoever.

Although the light was fading now, Si vaguely remembered the cliff, having ridden by it once on the pillion of Birkett's Africa Twin. Sadly, he had been temporarily blinded back then by the light reflecting off Gaskins head as he cycled past on a Raleigh Chopper, and so had no clear recollection of the crag topography.

Any ascent would have to be a first sight onsight solo. Just his style. The approaching cacophony of screaming two stroke engines and intermittent small arms fire brought his attention back into the present. There was nothing else for it; he would have to scale the cliff. He would have to do it barefoot though, having given his Moccasyms to his dog.

He would have to do it drunk as well, because he had consumed the entire case of Talisker that he had won in the air guitar competition that evening in the bar. That was why the fight had broken out with the bogus agricultural workers in the first place, when one of the fake tractor drivers had suggested that Angus Young looked stupid in a primary school uniform.

It got even nastier when an incognito Marine declared Brian Johnson was way better than Bon Scott. Si had stretched a few necks in the bar tonight. He craned his neck upwards and surveyed his route to freedom. It was a real death or glory job this one. It was going to be even harder than the sit down start to Ama Dablam that he had done last week.

He pulled himself, footless, on to the first matchstick slopers, and floated up the positive sharp crimps on a soaring arete. He then took a jolly out left across the main wall steeply to a course of gnarly slopers. Then a bit of balance ballet up the left arete to a mantel. He was getting into his rhythm now, using poor low holds on to an undercut and using dynamics to get onto the poor edges left, and then the large gripless sloping ledge into the centre of the face.

He used every dynamic trick he knew, dancing across tiny undercut slopers, deftly dodging the laser guided bombs from the Sea Harriers and the arcing tracers from the Sea King door gunner. He flashed across a line of toe smears and a small rail of two finger undercuts leading to a scalloped hold and made a huge lunge, locking off this to make a leap for some tiny quartz thimble pockets.

Pausing briefly to rescue a small girl wrapped in a duvet, he used a hard dyno to get into the rail of high undercut edges and set out along these to make an extremely hard drop down move catching the fingertip sidepulls and toe smears simultaneously to trend rightward along these where the holds ran out.

He spanned the void and gained the high shallow mono finger pockets at full stretch then followed the awesome desperate seam right to razor finishing pockets on the areted corner. As he leapt triumphantly on to the top of the cliff, the full moon slid out from behind a bank of cloud and illuminated the route of his unbelievable ascent.

The Sea King swooped towards his lofty perch, and Si, alert as ever, even after twelve bottles of Talisker, leapt cat-like into a convenient crevice. However, as he looked out from his lair, he could see that the door gunner had swapped his belt fed machine gun for a megaphone.

Si heard the words echo out across the coire 'We don't know who you are, but your incredible climbing skills have amazed us all. Sir, on the rock we salute you!' Si looked down into the coire. The SBS squad were saluting and cheering, and as he looked back up at the helicopter hovering in front of him, the Sea Harriers victory rolled around it, the pilots faces beaming with admiration. Even the Nimrod did a fly past, with everyone waving from the windows. At least it looked like they were waving.

Si felt a sudden twinge of disappointment. None of his regular documentary team had seen his greatest climb ever. His usual entourage of itinerant trawlermen, decorated war veterans, and bewildered girlfriends who routinely photographed and videoed his every move on the rock hadn't captured his most amazing ascent for posterity.

Aha! Si had a sudden thought. He shouted to the crewman in the Sea King doorway. 'Did you get any pictures?' The crewman replied through the megaphone. 'We recorded the entire episode in the utmost detail in both ultra high definition still and video photography across the electromagnetic spectrum from infra red to ultraviolet. We will of course archive all this material, but I'm afraid no member of the public will ever be allowed access to it. Official secrets, sir, I'm sure you'll understand. As far as we are concerned now, amazing though your climb was, officially it never happened.'

The Sea King wheeled away into the Hebridean night, the downwash from its rotor blades beating against the impossible steepness of the cliff. Si couldn't believe it. No one would believe him. It was beyond belief. Maybe he could knock something up in Photoshop.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

╪ Hebrides, Bailey...westerly or sou'westerly..Thunderdome force 8 to 9 ╪

The best guarded secret on the island is almost ready. New sport routes & some gobsmackingly thin trad at an awesome crag in the Northern reaches, fashioned in solid black sandstone looming high above the North tip of the Raasay Sound, it now contains sport from f7a to f8c, a stack of E numbers & even some winter gullies, but not much bouldering. It's all going into the SMC journal & the new guide book which Mark Hudson is beavering away at this year, so no topo worries either. Yep, I did say another f8c in Scotland & without any shadow of a doubt. Any gaps in the bolting is due to being low on funds but this should be rectified by November at the latest. It's 4-5 miles North of Portree high above the loch & sits in an obvious curved amphitheatre of surrounding trad walls. The nearest road is 3-4 miles away & there are no paths leading to the crags over the mountain tops. The terrain is somewhat serious & very steep on the central approach. On the right hand walls there are some gnarly short sport lines, the hardest being around 8b but in effect, they are extended boulder problems, 3 of which I've soloed. The trad possibilites on the upper tier are shocking though. E9? E10? Although they could be bolted I think it would be criminal without somebody first attempting them in a balls out fashion. The epic f8c line goes directly up through the twin roofs without deviation from the stance on the 2nd patio [a f7a in itself to reach] & if your'e going to attempt it on a shunt, take a 60mtr rope. On the outlaying walls there is further sport, to which I've added belay posts, cunningly fashioned from scaffold poles, since they are short outings & just as accepting of a top-rope ascent as a lead ascent..more later, much more...I'm pooped & ma fingers are mashed. Get yer chops round that Davey old son. There are a few access issues to be ironed out yet also, as there was with Kilta, due to sheep being inexplicably poisoned. [suspected mountain burn polution but unconfirmed] So, unless you are Scott Muir & think that, despite being told not to, you are immune from observing any cross-infection rules due to the size of yer egotistical pish, try not to stomp aimlessly across the mountain here, without at least contacting me for the best agreed route through, until the situation is resolved.

Main Thunderdome
1] Counter Punch. f8c. 20mtrs. From the 2nd patio climb the dark streak directly to the 1st roof. Tackle this & continue up the 2nd headwall & 2nd roof. Chain. ** O'Conor, MacGill-Fhinnein belayed. Domhnall Murchadh smoked. Tr. Shunt practise.
2] Threat Analysis. f8b. 30 mtrs. Climb to the 2nd bolt of Thermal Pulse, then left with difficulty until a huge hanging break is gained, [good rest] & attack the headwall direct through the roof. Chain. * O'Conor, MacGill-Fhinnein belayed. Domhnall Murchadh absent with hangover. Tr. Shunt practise.
4]project.
5]Thermal Pulse. closed project. An extremely impossible short wall, 10-12 mtrs.
6] Coup de Main. E7,6c. f8a. 20mtrs The centre slab of the main Thunderdome rh area. O'Conor, MacGill-Fhinnein belayed.

7] trad project maybe E9, 7b?...where did I put my hardened steel testicals...

Thunderwalls lower rh
8]Brevity Code. f8a+. Climb the vertical wall on 3 bolts. Post belay at top. *** Tr practise. soloed. Domhnall Murchadh swore at sheep & whislted some tunes.
9]Squib. f7b. The steep pocketed wall 10mtrs immediatly right of Brevity Code. Belay post at top. Brilliant mono hueco climbing! *** Tr. soloed.
10] Killing Zone. f7b. The wierd free standing flake thing has 3 hammered pegs in it. Tr. soloed

11] Slow Motion Fat Torpedo f7a+. tr. soloed. Named after the Vanguard class NAS [nuclear attack sub] with 3 million quids worth of navagational equipment on board, that they managed to sandbank while parking at the Raasay Z berth beside the submarinal X-berth, which deosn't exist. Plonkas...
12] f6a.

Hebrides, Bailey...westerly or sou'westerly...4 or 5...occasionally 6 at first, backing southerly or sou'westerly...5 to 7 in nor'west later. Showers then rain...Good..Occasionaly moderate later...Fair Isle, East Faeroes...west or sou'west...5 to 6...becoming variable...3 to 4...

This is the miasmic cradle of words I fell asleep to last night, waking to rain on my face through a slightly open window this morning. Today is about walking back to the Thunderdome through wet grass & simply just sitting under the overhangs with the dog, catching drips in my mouth & trying to further map the other 300mtrs of untouched rock sprawling North & South. This is Rab Anderson country & Dave MacLeod reckons I should do a talk one day on climbing & bouldering...yikes! Add that Im barred from The Isles bar along with Hoogie, for fighting hill shepherds, there were only 3 of them for gods sake and in my defence...we only damaged them, not the furniture...it all seems a bit harsh. I guess I should do something constructive on the mainland for a bit as well...The Anvil maybe, at least it can probably punch back harder. Feckin pussies. Anyways, Mark is on a trip to Skye again next weekend & some routing at Stiffin [aka Staffin] is on the cards...lets see if I can belay the smc guide writer without killin him aye. Oh dear, I fear we may end up in the bar again, playing air guitar to ac/dc riffs...

╪The Thunderdome & Thunder Walls right╪

nb: I did stick the lines on 8a.nu briefly but I've thought about it, & last time a big number got put on there, all hell broke loose, so not wanting to have to deal with the immature idiots of our otherwise superb & peaceful climbing world, I've removed them for now, or until such a time as DaveMacLeod or John belays me on the line or a repeat goes down. Like it or not, it's still a murderous f8c

The 4 mile yomp home is a doozy as well to try in under 15