Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Another nice day out

Last weekend we had another fabulous day in the County. A late start (because I'm lazy and Caroline had been partying!) led us to Raven Crag. The parking for Bowden Doors looked a bit like Picadilly Circus, so we felt very smug when we realised we had the whole of Raven Crag to ourselves. Sure, it doesn't have any hard core, Font 8b, pulley-ripping, tendon-twanging problems (nothing worthy of note on the Scottish Climbs blog aggregator anyway), but we just wanted to be outside, climbing on real rock and enjoying the fresh air and winter sunshine.

One thing we couldn't get over was how cold it was! If the wind stopped, it was bearable. As soon as even the gentlest breeze started, we were frozen. The first problem we looked at was the Raven Traverse. It's not that hard, and Diff and I made fairly short work of it last August. But on this February afternoon we found ourselves unwilling to grip the rock properly for fear that it would hurt our frozen fingers! Are we being especially wussy about this? Cold hands + sharp rock = EXTREME PAIN!

We could not get our fingers warm. Rather than risk injury, we didn't pull too hard on the traverse. Instead we wandered further along to a problem I hadn't remembered seeing last time. Mind you, in August, Raven Crag is hidden under 6 feet of bracken, so I think I can be forgiven for not seeing everything that was on offer!

This problem baffled us for ages. Feet were there, the mono was there (yes, even for our pixie fingers it was pretty much a mono!), and we could just about reach the sloper ledge. But after that, there seemed to be an endless reach northwest for the top edge, with absolutely nothing as an intermediate. Just nothing. As far as we could see, you needed to be a) extremely gangly (Sarah?!), b) very tall, c) positive on the ape index by at least 4 inches or d) Inspector Gadget.

Here is Caroline with her hand on the sloper. The problem was where to go next?! Caroline wore most of her skin off by repeating the one move from the mono to the sloper.

As usual it was footwork that triumphed. Having identified which foot to balance on in order to reach through to an undercut with my left hand, I managed to match on it, then go up for the top edge with my left hand and top out. No doubt I was "off route" by using the undercut and any competent boulderer wouldn't count this as a send. But do I look like I care? Not this time.

I never cease to find reward in the process of repeatedly failing on one move, and then suddenly, for no apparent reason, finding it easy. How does that happen? What changes? Why do I find it almost impossible to identify what is different between failed attempts and successful attempts? The wonder of climbing....this is why I continue to torment myself with repeated failure. Maybe David Henry Thoreau was right: Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.

Pulling on the mono long enough to go up for the slopeynothingness ledge

How did you get up there??

Caroline decided to save the mono problem for another day, so we wandered further along to Meadow Wall, and tootled about on some of the problems there, inventing challenging traverses until the sun was nearly gone and the chill settled in for the night. The wall is reasonably high (we think , anyway) for bouldering, and we laughed til it hurt remembering how Caroline had bottled it on a problem at Bas Cuvier, choosing to jump the 15 feet to the ground rather than top out; her hands were on the top, her body was over the edge, she just needed to get her leg over ;-) !!

So instead of pulling on monos with no skin left on her fingers, Caroline onsighted this scary slab problem. No disco leg, no bottling it, no second attempt necessary. Brilliant. Clearly it was scary enough to warrant a little self-hug of reassurance at the top :-)

We cruised home in a beautiful sunset, pleased that we managed some time outside and looking forward to flexing our egos, promoting ourselves and becoming famous in the Scottish climbing scene by bragging about our world-class climbing achievements on our blogs.

Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Did I miss the Oscars?

I have never had aspirations to being a movie star but sometimes these things just happen. I guess I now have to get used to being chased by paparazzi and must steel myself to comments levelled by the critics. No doubt I can only go out now disguised as Victoria Beckham in a big hat, huge sunglasses and a false moustache.

Diff has put together a wee home movie of my 7b effort, Gurungos, in Siurana. Seeing myself on camera still makes me squirm (why does one say such inane things when the camera is on??) but for me this is a fabulous reminder of a brilliant day. I think as I said at the time, I was higher than 7b will ever get me!

Music by Chris Hall - AKA DJ b-burg

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


On my return to work in early January, my colleagues had decorated my desk with streamers and tinsel for Christmas. In amongst the glittery things, was the most fantastic figure:

SuperRockChick? Ahem! This is a picture of me, apparently, drawn by my colleague's partner, who is a professional illustrator. Maybe this is what they were expecting to see when I returned. I'm afraid I might have disappointed them! However, my first pair of climbing shoes and my first harness bore a striking resemblance to these.

Dovehole Boulders

Saturday was set to be good weather-wise, and for once the forecast was right! It was warm (for February!) and the sun looked promising so Caroline, Andrea and I headed for Northumberland. We all agreed that so often we find climbing in winter so difficult because all three of us get so cold so quickly. Whether this is an unfortunate consequence of our lean, ripped physiques and low body fat, or just because we are girlie wusses, I'll leave you to decide, but Saturday was set to be a perfect temperature for us. Having been to Kyloe so often, Andrea suggested Dovehole.

For some unknown reason I appeared to have removed the road atlas from the car (strange, since we came to rely so heavily on such precious items while we were on the Continent) so we struggled a little with the directions in the Northumberland Bouldering Guide. For those of you who know this wonderful tome, I'm sure you will appreciate the cartographic challenges faced by its valiant authors. More by luck than our expert map reading skills, and maybe because the road atlas was sending us good vibes from it's hiding place under the front seat, we happened upon the Dovehole Boulders peeking out from behind the trees a little way up the hillside. It was a lovely spot, sheltered from most of the wind, and with a lovely view of the Cheviots.

Our first task was to eat. So we sat on the mats and munched our way through various chocoate biscuits, cookies, sardines, coffee, juice and breadsticks, before finding a slightly damp traverse to fall off.

First things first: food!

We started on boulder number one and discovered an interesting and particularly challenging B2 traverse. This was the first time Caroline and I had been bouldering outdoors since September, so it took us a while to work things out.

Following the problems round the boulder in an anti-clockwise direction, the next one was very different from the fingery traverse. A big slappy reach for a rounded lump, followed by a heel hook, turning to a high rockover, and a looooong reach back for some nothingness, left two of us very chuffed to flash it, and one frustrated that she could only do it when nobody was looking!

Caroline getting the heel hook

Depending on which way the boulder was facing, we discovered that some problems were too damp to try. There were some very worn patches too, and we tentatively attempted some of these, our efforts tinged with a mite of guilt at the additional erosion we would undoubtedly be causing just by putting feet on rock.

Our last problem didn't take as long as we thought it would, and our perseverance was rewarded with a proper top out on a Font-height boulder. Wicked! Unfortunately, in our excitement we forgot to take any pictures of it!

We didn't race around and do a huge number of problems; we didn't even do anything especially hard. But just being outside again was fantastic. Circumstances are such that it isn't always possible to spend every day of every weekend outdoors and climbing (although there are many people who seem to achieve that!). For me, the start of the year has been busy, and I have had things other than climbing occupying my time and energy.

Frustrating as this is, I'm not climbing well at the moment anyway so some time out is probably of great benefit. I read with interest extracts from Chris Sharma's journal, written for Climbing magazine. If great climbers like Sharma sometimes feel as though they don't care if they never climb again, maybe it's ok for me to take a wee break from training and pushing my limits while I do other things. Maybe "me and my climbing" have reached the mature stage of our relationship! Climbing indoors is not inspiring me at the moment; I'm finding it hard to muster the enthusiasm to pull hard. Climbing outdoors is currently restricted by office hours and weather, which frequently conspire to limit my opportunities. This weekend's jaunt to the County has most definitely improved my psyche. I hope it will keep me going a bit longer and allow to me focus on other things without going slowly mad.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Trip Photographs

I have already written here about how busy life is now that we are back from our trip. So many things to do, and not enough time to do them all! This explains why it has taken me so long to get around to putting my photographs online. I suspect that most readers won't be particularly interested in seeing my holiday snaps, so this post is specifically aimed at friends and family. Be warned, though. In posting photographs here, you have been spared the tedium of flicking through the 1700-odd photographs we took between us!

Speaking of photographs, I was given the most wonderful present last week: a hardback book containing photographs of our trip and quotations from this blog. I understand that it was produced with the wonders of a Mac Powerbook, and a little piece of software called iPhoto. With the magic of digital cameras, it is so easy to take hundreds of pictures that one might never look at again. But to have them, even just a select few, in a book means that I am much more likely to flick through it to remind myself of time well spent. It struck me the other night, that this would be pretty high on my list of "what to rescue if the house was burning down", and might even be my Luxury on my Desert Island. Thank you!

On the road

Fontainbleau Bouldering



Siurana & Torello
Costa Blanca

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