Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Hepburn in the County

Despite being a very Keen Bean, Sarah is good at civilised starts (unlike Caroline!). We eventually left Edinburgh around 11am the Saturday before last and tootled down the A1, three of us and three mats in a Metro. The car alone reminded me of school days and putting £2.50 worth of petrol in the car because that's all you could afford! Fantastic!

Hepburn, for those who haven't been, is right on the top of a hill. There is plenty of Forestry Commission parking, and a well worn path up to the boulders. They're pretty high (and therefore pretty scary) with some very not-so-great landings, but the quality of the rock is very good. It needs some more traffic though; many of the problems were a bit dirty. We had copies of both the new and the old Northumberland Bouldering Guides and having the new one made all the difference. The old guide was laughable in comparison, but I guess these things serve a purpose at the time.

Having only just started to recover from some lurgey I picked up on the bus I had low expectations of the day, hoping that just some fresh air and natural light would make me feel better. It did, but then I managed a couple of problems too which was a big bonus! The grading seemed pretty stiff to me, and Rob and Sarah agreed. Having said that, Rob had forgotten one of his shoes, and still, in one shoe, managed to make very light work of things I found very hard!

Rob in one shoe....

Rather than picking particular problems, I took to following Sarah around, on the basis that I couldn't be bothered to read the guidebook, and Sarah is usually pretty good at picking interesting things to try. I can also be fairly certain that whatever she chooses will keep me busy for a while, even if it takes her 5 seconds!

This problem was graded 6a, but it was pretty tough at that; Rob did it in one shoe! I don't know whether it just took me a while to warm up, but for ages I couldn't even do the first move. Probably bored with my flailing around, Rob and Sarah went back to a highball 7a on the Orthopaedic Boulder, and left me to my own devices. After a bit more flailing I managed to get off the ground, reach across with my right hand to hang awkwardly on the sloper while I worked my feet up enough to reach the little ear-like scoop with my right and swing for the jug with my left. After that it's all over (almost!) but the jug looks a very long way away from where I was hanging off a sloper and a crimpy sidepull!

Another 6a arete with a mean start...

We took a wander along the edge of the wood to the Roof boulder, which was pretty impressive. Even Sarah didn't have a pop at it! We also found some other very gnarly looking problems on the two boulders next to this one; some very crimpy starts with nothing-ness sidepulls higher up; some very blank looking vertical walls; some postage stamp landings - small and with crinkly edges. I couldn't get off the ground on the harder ones (6b, 6c maybe?) so I spent a while trying a 6a arete. You know how you can have days where things just don't make sense until someone spoon feeds you the answer? Well, I was having one of those days. I could not, for love nor money, work out how to get off the ground on this one, until Sarah showed me. The solution was some weird inverted upside down twisted hand positions, manageable for just long enough to slap for the Sarah's long-limbed, Inspector-Gadget-arms world. I had to bounce my left hand via a non-pocket to be able to reach the jug. Welcome to my short-limbed, Little Miss Short Arms world!

Sarah on a stretchy highball 7a - if she couldn't reach, there wasn't much point in me trying!

We then followed Sarah's nose through dense pine woodland (think Wild Wood and sharp sticks - interesting with a bouldering mat strapped to your back) for what seemed like hours until we found a very Font-esque boulder with a mossy 7a slab on it. Sarah was the only one with enough energy and enough shoes(!) to have a shot. She made good progress, but it needed a bit of a clean and probably needed to be cooler and drier for her to succeed.

We were being eaten not just by midges but by bigger things which looked suspiciously like mosquitos, so we tootled home. I didn't think they had managed to creep this far north, but maybe they have. Nasty things. I have a bite which is still itchy 2 weeks later. As the weather cools a little and the bugs go back into hibernation, Hepburn is definitely somewhere to go back to.....with a stiff brush and lots of mats and lots more spotters!

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