Saturday, 30 June 2007

Unfinished Business

It struck me last night, whilst dithering over a decision to climb or not given the dubious weather forecast for today, that I've started lots of projects this year, but have left several uncompleted. Of these, I've come tantalisingly close to completing Friendly Fire (F7a, the Anvil), Jocks and Geordies (Font 6c, Kyloe In) and Red Rum (Font 6b+, Kyloe In). I've had a good shot at Dog Eat Dog (Font 7a, Bowden Doors), Green Traverse (Font 7a+, Stanage Plantation) and Shadowlands (F7c, the Anvil).

While it's good to have some things to work on, it's also frustrating to not be able to invest the time it takes to complete them. But life is full of Other Things, like Bad Weather, Jobs, Non-climbing Friends and Sleep, which at different times each take precedence over climbing. Even bad weather is necessary, to fill our reservoirs, water our crops, wash my car, remind us that good weather is good....

Other Things...

The good weather seems to have been and gone; it's frustrating that the long days should be rendered useless by rain. I'm looking at it sheeting down now and hoping that it rains itself out by tomorrow. Having done so much bouldering and sport climbing so far this year, I thought it was about time I put my helmet on and got back to some trad. In my usual fashion, I will start with the easy stuff so as not to scare myself silly. Tomorrow may end up feeling like a huge anticlimax if all I can manage is a VS, but I am sure that longer term it will pay off not to jump straight on E2!

Fortunately, Nigella's Dark Chocolate Loaf Cake is just out of the oven, so whatever happens tomorrow Everything Will Be OK.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Cocktails and Climbing

What with birthday celebrations (and consquent morning-after lethargy), bad weather, shopping and visitors, there hasn't been much climbing this weekend. So this post is about My Other Life! Yes, I do have one. It was my birthday last week, which turned out to be completely wicked - much better than I had expected it to be! It being summer, I insist on having strawberries on my birthday. This year's strawberries took the form of a crush, mixed with... umm... something stronger. Whatever was in it, it was called Pretty in Pink, and was very nice. So I had four of them... And some other things without strawberries...

Time for a picture. Look what I got for my birthday... my very first Camalot!

It was strange being "out on the town" - not something I usually do, but maybe that's why I enjoyed it. People-watching is a captivating sport. When I am too old to climb anymore, I think I will take up people-watching. One group seemed to be buying rounds comprising bottles of Veuve-Cliquot champagne at about 100 quid each. It was unfortunate that they didn't look like people who would be persuaded to part with similar amounts of cash for a set of cams (to add to my collection of one)...

Anyway, we spent Saturday walking on the beach and visiting Butterfly World, where we saw a python whose middle was bigger than my thighs, and met a man who puts cockroaches in his mouth!! Ewwwww!

Newly "hatched" butterfly. No idea what colour it was on top!

Just to illustrate the sort of weather we were competing with this weekend, and prove that climbing wasn't a sensible option, here is the blackness of the sky from the beach at Gullane. The last time I was here, I spent a while fiddling around on the sandy remains of cliffs high up the beach. It looked as though there might have been some good problems if the rock wasn't disintegrating at a supersonic rate. My other excuse (not that I needed another one) was that I didn't have my shoes on.

Tamsyn on the beach

OK, I admit it; I can't go a whole weekend without climbing. Indoors was the order of the day because of the inclement weather. Caroline and I, both feeling a little lethargic from midsummer celebrations, decided we wouldn't climb very much, but that doing something would be better than doing nothing. We started on 5's, got spanked by a 6a and ended up cruising 7a!

Climbing indoors is undoubtedly not the same as climbing outdoors, and if I had to choose between them, I would always choose outdoors. I love being outside. But indoor climbing can be just as rewarding albeit in different ways. We struggled to start with; it seemed to take ages for us to warm up, to get heads in gear, to remember the right type of movement. Having decided we didn't have leading heads on, I felt pretty ashamed of what I couldn't manage even on a top rope. But time and practice are always beneficial, and after one trial run I managed a fairly technical 7a. After that, things improved hugely. Something in my head clicked, and I started moving better, feeling stronger, and finding my rhythm again. Either that or I used up the last of the tequila in my system falling off easy stuff. Clearly, cocktails and climbing don't do each other, or me, many favours.....ho hum.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A sight for sore eyes

There are some things I never thought I'd see, and a Spaniard climbing in the kilt was one of them. I think we agreed it suited Jose rather well, and it didn't seem to impede his climbing ability one iota!

Bit racey, flashing all that leg, don't you think??!

We had a fun evening. I hope Jose will take his new-found fashion back to Spain and treat the ladies there to it. I'm sure they will be thrilled! Shame we can't continue to have the pleasure of his company here too, but we wish him well for the future and hope to see him again soon.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Part 3: Filming Epics

At last, a week late, I find time to write up the final episode of the North Wales filming trip. In fact, I was browsing through the photographs and realised there were more I wanted to flaunt across the Interwebnet, so I will need to be creative with the threads of a story to weave them together. Bear with me...

So the Big Film Day arrived. It seemed that Dave had been lining up appointments with climbers nicely (by now I was starting to understand his talent for logistics!) and we had fixtures with Jude Spanken first, onsighting Lord of the Flies, followed closely (but on the hillside opposite) by Dave Macleod on Trauma.

For Jude's onsight I was stationed at the belay - a lovely wee spot in the sun for a while, where I got a good view of underneath of both climber and camera crew.
Looking up the length of Cenotaph Corner

In order to rig this, Diff led Cenotaph Corner, and I seconded (actually, maybe this was on our recce mission the day before...). What a great route! I feel as though I cocked it up a little bit by being a bit freaked by the exposure, and letting my usual fear of corners get in the way of enjoying it. The top section felt very sketchy until I realised what I needed to do (i.e. put my head in a box and switch my brain off for about 30 seconds). I need to do it again, once I've given myself a good talking to.

During the 80 minutes or so that Jude hung on to Lord of the Flies (yes, 80 minutes. Now there is some stamina to aspire to!) I took a couple of pictures of the rock, since I was tethered to it, and it wasn't far from my nose. Fascinating stuff, Rhyolite. I've never come across it before. As you can tell from the first picture above, there looks to be nothing whatsoever to hold on to. But once you get a horizontal, close-up view, there's plenty...albeit sometimes small!

Little holly tree in a pocket. Future belay point?

Very bizarre rock, Rhyolite

After Jude's roaring success we legged it down the hill, via the car for some warm water and a minor re-pack, and up the other side to Trauma. There was certainly trauma for me when I got walloped by a small rock hurtling down the gully. It missed my head by about 2 inches and bounced off my forearm. Ouch.

Anyway, this was where things got exciting for me. I was stationed at the top of the route, on abseil, with the small camera (it's got some smart name, but I can't remember it. Let's call it handycam for the moment!) to capture Dave's rapturous and relieved face as he topped out. What a moment! I gather I missed all the exciting climbing lower down (because I couldn't see far enough over the edge) but I still think I got the best bit. One hand... then the other hand....and then a face, serene with concentration, appearing as if from the Great Beyond. Magic.
Dave and Diff, in postition on Trauma, waiting for their cue

It was a fabulous day, and by the end of it I fully understood how much hard work it is filming out and about.

When I got home, I then had this mess to deal with:

My (emptied) bags at home....

Having said that filming climbers was hard, today I was tasked with filming Gordon's 4th Birthday Party. Fifteen 4 year olds, a 2 year old and a bouncy castle. Did you know that children this age just RUN? Everywhere. Randomly. It's like some kind of human Brownian Motion. Filming them was a nightmare. Give me an abseil any day! Maybe I was just distracted by the fact that the bouncy castle and said 4 year olds were in Inverness Leisure Centre.... in the very same room as the climbing wall. And I wasn't allowed to play (and I don't mean on the bouncy castle) :-( It was yukky weather so I had a perfect excuse for climbing indoors. Feeling buoyed by a good session at Alien 2 on Saturday, a new wall looked like a good challenge. But it wasn't to be....

Sorry - story-telling skills are sapped tonight after timeout with tiny tots!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Part 2: On Location

Tuesday brought Reality. In summary, we packed ENORMOUS sacks of ropes, film gear, food and thermals, took the train (phew!) half way up Snowdon and walked to the bottom of the Clogwyn slabs. It is truly a spectacular spot to be "on location" (ooh, how cool does that sound?!)

Shanks' pony wasn't working today so we took the train....

Dave Macleod was here to check out Indian Face. If you want all the gory details on this, check the HotAches blog and Dave's blog. From my novice perspective, the whole two days stationed at the bottom of Cloggy was fascinating. The Indian Face is a vast expanse of nothingness, Dave's climbing is impressive to say the least, and the film guys go to unimaginable lengths to produce film which keeps the rest of us entertained, breathless and on the edge of our seats.

Can you see what he's standing on? I couldn't, and I was there!

While I knew that there was lots of rigging required to film climbing, I don't think I had any real comprehension of how much effort this entailed. Having carried the 100m static rope to the bottom of various crags in Llanberis Pass, I have a greater appreciation of exactly what it takes to film climbers. And I managed to escape the 50m jumar!

Being in the right place at the right time, and ready to roll when the climber is ready to climb is a logistical challenge when "on location" means being 2500 feet above sea level, on a 100ft high rock face, at the top of a 40 degree slope. Over the last week I have been increasingly impressed by the energy and professionalism displayed by the Hot Aches team. Jude Spanken put it very well when she told us she was quite worried about being filmed when onsighting Lord of the Flies. She doesn't like people watching when she climbs, but she came down from the route saying that she had totally forgotten the cameras were there.

There is certainly blood and sweat, and probably tears (but they're men, so they'd never admit to it!) spilt in the making of HotAches films. As far as I can see they deserve an award for just trying. It was a privilege to be allowed to help out.

Hanging out at the bottom of Cloggy

As I had been warned, there was a lot of hanging around, which didn't bother me in the slightest. Rather hang out there than be sat at my desk. On Wednesday when Dave was toproping the route, I took the opportunity to head to the top of the mountain. Whiling away the hours I also had time to reflect exactly how busy Snowdon is. It has to be the busiest mountain in the world!! Trains every 30 mins, grinding their way up the hill, whistles blowing, the smell of coal smoke and sulphur drifting across on the wind, helicopters buzzing around (I'm sure they were just having a nosy at doings on Indian Face!), tourists chattering, the clink of gear from other climbers, sheep.....and that was before I got to the top:

The summit of Snowdon

It was like Oxford Circus on the last shopping day before Christmas while a new gas main is being laid! But warmer. I'm very glad I didn't expend more effort than necessary to get to the top. I don't ever want to go back, unless it's in beautiful snow conditions and there are no people. It was horrific. And they're building a new train station there.

I found it bizarre that amongst the JCB diggers, reinforced steel joists, portacabins and fluorescent jackets, sat a small, antiquated steam engine. Tried and tested technology (or maybe not.... isn't technology something that doesn't work yet?). I was reminded of Ivor the Engine.

More on the epics of filming two routes in one day later.... but one statement to close. We had 6 WHOLE DAYS of glorious sunshine. In Wales. I kid you not.

Part 1: Change of lifestyle

What a week! Time away from my desk is always a pleasure, but this was a "holiday" with a difference. I've spent the last week carrying kit for HotAches as they ventured forth to film some more epic climbing. I even got to film too! It's always interesting to watch other people at work; the grass is always greener, as they say, and true to this, a HotAches job seems infinitely more exciting and rewarding than mine. Having said that, it's much harder work.... as I found out first hand.

We headed to the Peak District first. After a morning cruising around this pre-historic landscape, I was starting to think this filming lark was pretty good. Beautiful weather, some good company, the prospect of food and beer while chilling in the evening sunshine really sold it to me. Yeah, I could do this, I thought blithely.

Men at Work....?

Filming....feet firmly on the ground

Making friends with the locals

We spent the afternoon bouldering at Stanage Plantation. This was only my second experience of scraping my skin to the bone on grit. I had forgotten how hot England can be, although I'm sure that with my southern blood I ought to be able to withstand greater temperatures than we had on Saturday.

Now I know what all the fuss is about when I hear hardcore climbers talking about it being "too warm for grit". It's true. You just slide off, shaving off the last remnants of your fingerprints as you go. Since we didn't have a guidebook, I've no idea what I climbed: some easy stuff that I could do, some hard stuff I fell off, lots of heel hooks (and consequently a scraped ankle), a scary arete and some interesting leaps from the ground to a high sidepull that only a bit of "French-style assistance" (is that what you call it, Dave?) would overcome - a doubled over bouldering mat (well, I'm just ickle!). (Photos soon I hope...)

The Green Traverse was interesting. Tough, but interesting. If I'd had any skin left I might have made more progress, but my fingertips were redder than they've ever been (see previous posts!). Tired, sweaty, scraped and sore but very happy, we headed off in the sunset. Lovely.

Looking back at Stanage Edge
On Sunday afternoon we headed for Llanberis in north Wales, leaving glorious sunshine for an ever-blackening cloud. At the time I started to think that maybe England was the place to be, after all! Right enough, it rained heavily on the way, and it was raining (ok, just a teeny bit) when we got to Llanberis. But hey, this film crew lifestyle was still working for me. The first thing we did was stop at the Cromlech Boulders (in the rain) and find out what roadside polish was all about.

Cromlech Boulders
Continuing the theme of "filming is fun", we then realised we had Monday off! So we went climbing. This was another new experience for me: climbing on quarried slate. We started at Bustop Quarry. Given that I (still) had no skin on my fingertips, even the smoothness of slate was challenging the pain barrier. Monday was another scorcher (in Wales?? Yes!!), so my fingertips were visibly sweating. Does this happen to others or am I weird?? I got totally spanked by a 6c, which Diff and Dave both waltzed up with great aplomb. Sarah was working a slab of 7c blankness, so we had a shot at Geordie War Cry at F7a+. Dave led, boldly rushing in where angels were watching him carefully.

Of many possible excuses one might have needed on such a route, the fact that it was in full hot sun was definitely a big factor. I had a pop at it on toprope and just kept sliding off. No amount of chalk could counteract the sweatiness of my thin-skinned fingers and the heat of the day. But then, I'm not yet competent enough to climb 7a+ on rock I've never attempted to climb before. Having said that, it was an interesting route with some interesting and very bold moves on it. Definitely one to come back to.

Another tired but happy day. Maybe I was deliberately being lulled into a false sense of tranquillity....