Saturday, 28 April 2007


Today we beat the masses across the Bridge and headed to Rockdust in Perthshire. Just outside Pitlochry, these small crags are in the most beautiful location, with views to the Cairnwell to the east and something with a little bit of snow on it to the west. Sunny, warm and cloudless, it was a fabulous day for some sport climbing. There aren't many bolts in Scotland (there are many threads on the arguments for and against this if you check Scottish Climbs), so it was a bit odd to be hanging off bolts in the cool Scottish air surrounded by greenery, sheep and teeny tiny lambs.

What a view, in spite of the phone mast.

Having over-stretched my shoulder last weekend, I was taking it a bit easier, so no hard climbing of note for me today. It was just nice to be outside and hang out with friends.

Post-climbing chill in the sunshine...

The lower crag

Tuesday, 24 April 2007


This is Pippin. I saw him yesterday, and he's very funny, very soft and a very nice kitty to have around.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Jocks and Geordies

Saturday dawned with a mild headache from a couple (yes, literally!) of glasses of wine the night before, so I packed my book as well as my climbing shoes, thinking that while the others would be climbing hard stuff, I would find a comfortable corner for a snooze and a read. We headed for Kyloe In, reasoning that if it were to rain (which was looking distinctly possible, and then became an actuality) we and the rock would be mostly dry under the trees.

Kyloe-in-the-Woods. Can you see the fairies?

In the end, the light drizzle didn't last very long. Nor did my ideas of curling up with my book. With Jerome's encouragement I had a shot at Jocks and Geordies (Font 6c/V5). The sit-start was ruled out immediately given that I can haul myself up, but can't then let go to make the move! But from standing, it seemed like a different proposition. After a couple of attempts, I found myself standing on tippytoes, right hand on the undercut, and left hand reaching up, apparently as far as it would go but still about a foot away from the top hold. So I fell off.
Still about a foot away... oh to be taller.

Feeling very pleased with myself at that alone, I wandered off to have another shot at Red Rum (Font 6b/V3 6a), but that wasn't happening. I tootled along to the other end and took a bit of time to remind myself of all the delicate, crimpy (and sharp!) moves on the Crucifix Traverse (V3 6a). Having done it right to left, I looked at the guide to find it's graded left to right. And that was much harder! So I did the Undercut Traverse (V4 6a) next to it instead.

Not satisfied with my earlier attempts, I went back to Jocks and Geordies, with greater but not complete success. The best attempt reached the tiny crimp below the lip, but I didn't manage to hold it long enough to slap my right hand up. Then I ran out of skin. Again.
How close? It's about 3mm above my left hand...

My right hand is aiming for the chalked up ledge

No more skin, so we went home. I'm hoping for good weather next weekend and practising the moves in my sleep to make sure I don't forget them...

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Sunny Cairngorms

Having seen the weather forecast, I was intent on some climbing this weekend. So all my gear went with me, but when we got to the Coire Cas carpark we decided there was still too much snow and that Hell's Lum was probably either covered in snow or at very best running with snowmelt. Judging by he size of the cornices, we were right!

Instead of Auld Nick, we decided to head for Braeriach....and then to the Angel's Peak (with the unspellable, unpronounceable Gaelic name)....and Cairn Toul.... then down to the Corrour Bothy, and home through the Lairig Ghru.... 21 miles and 12 1/2 hours later...!! It was a beautiful day, but there were moments when I wondered whether we'd had ideas above our station in taking on such an epic walk. The Lairig Ghru alone is 6 1/2 miles long, and that was only part of the long walk back to the car. We managed without the one headtorch for all but the last 200 yards or so, but by 21.50hrs it was too dark to cross the river without it.

It wasn't a great day for photographs, since the air was very hazy. This was my first trek through the Lairig Ghru; it wasn't quite as I expected, but certainly a desolate, lonely, eerie and impressive place. I was glad we were through it before it was really dark.

The Lairig Ghru

The northern end of the Lairig Ghru at about 7pm

Looking into the Lairig Ghru from the Braeriach plateau

The Chalamain gap was freaky enough in the dusk... imaginings of goblins and elves and Jacobite rebels were running through my head while I tried to concentrate on not tripping over my very tired feet. Despite being very close to the lights of Aviemore, there is something very wild about being out on the hill in the dark. But then again, I still have to run down the corridor at home in the dark, convinced that there are monsters chasing me....
Chalamain Gap earlier in the day...the northern corries of Braeriach just visible through the Gap; an exciting view of the day's prospects.

I found some interesting lichens on the plateau. It's easy to see why the area is so heavily protected.

We got back to Mill Cottage at about 10.30pm, feeling somewhat hysterical with exhaustion. Driving back from Coire Cas in the dark was almost trippy. It felt as though we were whizzing through space, and the lights on the bridge at Kincraig (spaced about every 10 feet down the length of one side of the parapet) made for a vision akin to the trippy scenes in The Big Lebowski!

Needless to say, Sunday wasn't good for much. I felt as though everything below my knees had been beaten with a cricket bat. So I drove to Inverness and spent a lovely day in the garden with friends. On Monday I headed home, via Cairngorm again, this time with Emily (20 months), Gordon (3 1/2) and Mummy, for a short walk towards the Ptarmigan Restaurant. We had lunch behind a shed and Gordon learned how difficult it is to walk up spring snow slopes. Quite an adventure for a little person, as was walking across heather.

Further down the road I stopped north of Dalwhinnie at a place called Glen Truim.
There was a short but lovely walk along the river and back past a couple of beautiful highland cottages, one new, one old, both well kept and very welcoming (from the outside, at least).
Further down the river I saw a Dipper. It seems like a long time since I saw one of those. Amazingly, one couldn't hear the traffic from the A9, despite the road being only about 100 yards away. As I drove the rest of the way home it struck me how beautiful Scotland is at this time of year, with the last of the snow outlining the hills and the sun streaming between dark clouds. Why would I want to live anywhere else?

Monday, 9 April 2007

Two days in The County

Easter Weekend has been very productive! We spent Sunday at Bowden Doors and Monday at Kyloe-in-the-Woods. Bowden was windy and a bit chilly, but we managed a few problems, despite lacking a guidebook for most of the day. When we did manage a peek at a guidebook, we mis-identified our location and convinced ourselves we'd climbed Dog Eat Dog and the unnamed 6c next to it.
Caroline on the supposed "6b" problem

Ha ha. I thought it was a bit too straightforward for 6b. It turns out that we climbed two unnamed problems which come in at about 5b/5c. That'll teach us to a) read the guidebook properly and b) not to be so cocky!

Unfortunately, we have no idea which problems we did. No guidebook. We probably would have mis-read it anyway. Here is Caroline on another good mantle problem with a heel hook and a huge rock over:

Unfortunately, two days on sandstone doesn't come without war wounds. This was the result of a sharp crimpy problem that wouldn't have happened if I'd been tall enough to reach the big jug that was about 4 inches above my very best stretch.

Here are the two crimpy problems. The one on the right has my blood on it!

We did find some fabulous rocks though.

Monday at Kyloe-in was fabulous. Out of the wind, in the sunshine, we had the whole crag pretty much to ourselves. Badfinger (5c) took a bit of effort, and is (I think) much harder than Bad Company next to it (also 5c). I made some progress on Red Rum (6a), but still can't hold the top pocket, despite getting my fingers right in it. Next time...I just ran out of skin. Tonight, my fingers are very sore. I sense more yoga, more cake and less climbing this week...

Friday, 6 April 2007

Thought for today

Happiness is the difference between what you have and what you want. The trick, therefore, is to want what you have...

Good Friday or Bad Friday?

I don't know if you can see the sunshine in this picture, but it is there. Definitely. And I'm stuck in the office...

It was my choice to work today, and make use of the new rules my employer has adopted on the flexibility of faith holidays. I am transport-less today, so it seemed to make sense to work today and take the holiday when I am not transport-less and when it suits me, rather than when it suits my employer and/or God/Allah/Bhudda/Yoda. I'm utterly convinced that everyone else (except the four of us in here and the lovely mechanics who are getting my car through it's MOT) is outside enjoying a day off in the sunshine.

I am actually catching up on some work (believe it or not!) and getting through a lot of tea. But I'd still rather be out climbing....