Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Thou Shalt Not Climb - Part II

There are lots of Other Things happening at the moment, so climbing has (regretfully) taken a lower priority recently. Having promised myself I would have one day of the weekend climbing, and in keeping with this year's theme of exploring new places, we headed for Arbroath and the sea cliffs there. Cunningly, we had checked the forecast this time, and it looked good for Saturday almost everywhere. We thought we couldn't go wrong this time, especially after last week's fiasco.

Wrong! (think funny duck noise from terrible TV game shows) Imagine our disbelief and exasperation as the sunshine faded and we drove into the haar in Arbroath. Every immortal power which might conceivably control the weather, is conspiring against us to deny us sunshine, never mind climbing as well. What did we do? Did we inadvertently tread on a spider? Is it St Swithin's Miserable Cousin's Day? On the positive side, it wasn't cold, not really, although there were definite waves of cold and warmth, which I suppose is a "feature" of the haar. We had ice cream anyway, and headed off along the cliff path.

Bong and Caroline sorting gear in the car park

So to cut to the chase, after a little bit of a muddle, we identified The Platform, and prepared to ab in. Caroline doesn't like abbing in; she is freaked by the possibility that she won't be able to get out again. We had two ropes with us and since there appeared to be nobody else around (everyone else was somewhere else in the sunshine) we agreed to leave the abseil rope up.

Having reached the platform, we promptly slipped about on the green stuff and found ourselves being dive-bombed by a herring gull, which clearly wasn't happy at our presence. Maybe this is why nobody else was here....

I've never seen limpet circles like this before!

Shoes on, chalked up, tied on, Bong set off up the warm-up route, a 5+. Within seconds the blue language started. Somewhere in the tirade we identified the words "ball bearings", "sandpit" and "nasty". Not encouraging. All three of us trotted up the route, and agreed that we didn't really want to climb any more Arbroath sea cliffs.

The Platform - looks pretty cool from a distance. But close up....

Verdict? An awesome setting, with interesting (looking) routes but Nasty rock. Really nasty! It was horrible: sandy, crumbly, nasty, nasty stuff. Uninviting and uninspiring. I'm sure that there are others who love this kind of thing, but it ain't for me. Or Bong. Or Caroline. How can this be fun?? Despite the fact that this is sport climbing, it was more scary than the scariest trad I've ever done. Granted, the friction is pretty good if you find a less crumbly spot to hold on to. Maybe we just tried the wrong route, maybe we should have persevered and climbed something harder, which might have been less sandy. But Bong ventured into Seagull Territory and made a closer inspection of some of the routes to the left of the picture above, and concluded that the others weren't any better. Then I read the guidebook - it mentioned something about this definitely being adventure sport climbing, and climbers needing to have enough experience to assess the integrity of bolts. Now, while I think I have enough experience to make such an assessment, I wasn't especially comfortable with climbing nasty rock, on bolts that might be unreliable, with no means of backing them up (we didn't lug the trad gear down the cliff with us). We hatched an escape plan.

Bong's grumpy face as he tops out

Having left the ab rope up, I prussicked up it (apparently being the most keen, or maybe just the most stupid, of the three of us). HotAches would be proud of my rope-climbing skills with my improvised rig. I now have some appreciation of how much hard work it is to jumar the height of Dumbarton Rock, never mind carrying the weight of camera gear too. It seemed only fair for me to take the risk, since it was me who had set up the abseil point at the top! Having topped out, I belayed the others up, and hauled my sack up too. Bong's face as he topped out said it all really. But we had a fun time fiddling about with ropes, working on the logistics and all that kind of faff. That's what climbing is about, no? Faff? Sometimes, I think...

Sandy shoes

Bumbleybee enjoying some clifftop saxifrage juice

Having had our wee adventure in finding the place, abbing in, deciding it was rubbish and climbing out again, we had completely lost our psyche to climb. My finger was sore and the sun still wasn't out. So we bought some Arbroath Smokies and headed for the beach at Elie in sunny Fife.

Arbroath Smokies

The smokies were pretty good actually. If you eat fish and you've never had them, you should try them. The smoky taste is (er...obviously!) very pronounced. It might have been better with toast or crackers, but just fish, on a beach, in the sunshine was pretty cool. They also came wrapped in newspaper; nice to see things the way they should be. We had a squiz at Dundee house prices at the same time. Very interesting.

From Elie towards St Monans. Sunshine at last!

It was a lovely day in the end, but still no climbing. Nor is there prospect of any climbing at least until next weekend :-(

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