Monday, 10 November 2008


We made another less than ideal call on the weather last weekend, having other stuff to do on Saturday and opting to climb on Sunday. Ah well, such is life. As we drove down the A1 towards Northumberland the sun was shining and we could see miles out to sea. Caroline commented that she'd always wondered what that coastal view looked like! But as we turned off the A1 it started to rain, and we realised that above the road we were driving along was a line - cloud on the left, sunshine on the right. We were turning left.

Sam had sent Sarah a text message saying that it was pouring at Kyloe so they'd headed to the shelter of Back Bowden. We ploughed on to Kyloe thinking , how bad can it be in the trees.

It stopped raining by the time we got there, but the ground was pretty soggy. Some problems had dribbles of water down them, and some holds were damp but a lot was climbable, and pretty ok actually! Cold and dry.....the elusive "great conditions"!! Wow....this could be exciting ;-)

Then is started raining again. But it was so good to be back on real rock. It felt like ages and ages since I was in Spain, and somehow warm Spanish limestone isn't quite as satisfying as cold, sticky County sandstone. Now why is that?? Am I just strange?

So, amidst lots of sitting about under Cubby's Lip, Sarah managed a proper pop at the sit start to Monty Python's. It was so dark that it took ages to get this photo of her. Eventually I took it about a full second before she moved, which just about gave my cold little camera time to think, charge and flash at the right moment!

For the first time I managed to complete that mammoth traverse from the easy way down leftwards. Caroline too managed it, which surprised her (but not me!) since she's not been climbing for a wee while.

Watching Sarah from the shelter of the Jocks sit start

While the rain was splashing away we thought it might be a good excuse to try the sit start to Jocks and Geordies. It's so hard (for us) that we wouldn't seriously give it a go without a sound reason to do so, probably preferring to concentrate on the standing start (first things first, walk before you run, and all...) But in the rain, it seemed sensible to lie on our backs, feet on the back wall, and just pull hard directly upwards, and from there work out which hand would hold longest if we let go with the other one.

I have to say, that these sorts of sit starts are not my forte. We came up with lots of options, none of which were successful, or even promising. Then someone showed us The Way. It helped, in that we then had something to aim for, but still wasn't enormously successful! I'm just not strong enough yet...
Early attempts in April 2007

When it stopped raining, we crawled out from under the rock and attempted the standing start. I had a go at this in April 2007 and was a long way from reaching the top left hand crimp. To my surprise, this time I managed to get both feet much higher, and wriggled my fingers over the edge of it. Pheewwwwweeeeeee! How exciting was that?! Having done that, I would have gone home quite happily then. To top that, next pop I managed to slap for the top sloper. Big slap. I couldn't hold it, partly because it was a bit.....what's the word? spoogee!, and partly because I didn't hit it quite right.

Looking back at the pictures from April 07 I realised that this time round, I was back-stepping with my left foot rather than twisting my knee in. Maybe that explains the height gain this time round. Ah, the wonders of technique!

So I went home with sore fingers and a smile on my face, psyched to come back and try again.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

New beginnings

It is probably not as long as it seems since we were basking in southern Spanish sunshine, too hot to climb (for me at least) but fantastic to be on holiday. In many ways it felt as though our trip as doomed from the start what with the booking, re-booking, missing and re-re-booking of flights, change of climbing buddies etc etc. For this reason I think (for me) it was the most expensive climbing trip ever. But that was entirely my own fault. The Ryanair chap at the desk said "I've seen people a day late for their flight, but never a week late....."

Remembering my last visit to the Costa Blanca and the snow we'd seen on the Puig Campana, I had packed my duvet jacket and my thermals. I was delighted not to need any of them (most of the time). It was 30 degrees easily, and way too hot for even me to climb.

Our previous expedition to Forada was aborted on the basis that a) there was no way my little car was going to make it up the rest of that dreadful track and still get us back to Scotland and b) it was December, blowing a hoolie and freezing cold despite the sunshine. So this time, with a hire car and it being too hot to climb in the sun, Jonni and I figured Forada was a good bet. We hoofed up there (yes, Jonni was driving) and did a couple of routes on the sunny side before heading to the Dark Side and the Superheros wall. The sunny side was sharp. Proper sharp. Ouch. The Dark Side was Dark. And cold. And suddenly I was glad of my duvet jacket.

The Sunny Side at Forada

Jonni on Starman

Jonni made short work of Starman. I had a burn on top rope, but it really isn't my kinda thing. For one thing, I didn't have the stamina or the strength having not been climbing nearly enough recently. For another thing, I don't find these kind of overhanging, thuggy, juggy routes particularly entertaining. There's a lot of strength involved, but nothing that feels interesting, or intricate; there isn't much to work out. It's all pretty straightforward. Just hard.

When the girls arrived three days later, the sun was still shining. I had no idea what they were expecting. They'd never been climbing on real rock (bar one day at Pembroke in the pouring rain).

The first morning was spent on the balcony, with make believe chains, bolts and everyone tied into an end of rope somewhere. It seemed like a bit of a muddle looking back on it, but at the time it made perfect sense. We went over it, over and over and over again. How to clip in with a cow's tail, which knot to untie and when. Time and time and time again. It was time well spent.

Our first afternoon at Sector Final, Sella, went swimmingly, until Dina decided she was comfortable enough to lead "something harder". How about that 5+ there? For those of you who know Sella well, "that 5+ there" was Speedy Gonzales - fairly sraightforward once you're past the third bolt. Getting there is a little more tricky, as Dina discovered with her first epic. Good on her, she sat back after the first freak, regained her composure, and carried on. The second freak was a little less easily contained. The nervous laughter from below wasn't helping. First there was the panicked voice, then the shouting, then the hysterical screams, and amongst all the I can't reaches and I can't hold ons, was the desperate cry "WHERE AM I?"


Dina, post-trauma

The gang at Toix TV

Tamsyn seemed to have a knack for picking routes with caves in them....she spent a lot of time crawling into them head first. While the back of the cave would be treated to the pleasant view of her pretty face, the rest of us had a rather different view from below and behind!!

Tamsyn at Pego

We managed to climb in various places during the week before the weather turned foul on us. We had an expedition to Pego (great place, pretty stern on the grades but a bit of a nightmare to find), and another one to Echo Playa, where I tried one pitch. The rope drag was so bad I messed up the finishing wall, which was a shame, because it's the best bit of climbing on the route; the rest of it is a bit of a vegetated scrabble. I could hardly pull the rope up standing with two feet on a flat bit and using both hands. It was impossible to pull through to clip whilst hanging off fairly small holds with one hand and the rope with the other. Ho hum. Oh, and there is a massive loose block at the very top, which was quite worrying.

Lisa leading at Toix TV.....doing superbly well for someone who had never led anything at all 2 days previously.

Another day we went to Toix TV, which was very hot, but made bearable, even pleasant, by the sea breeze. I repeated a few things I'd done there last December, some of which seemed easier and others harder. So much of it is dependent on frame of mind.... Tamsyn decided she would top rope 6a, so she picked the reachiest one there, and the one that couldn't be done without smearing.....when she had almost no rubber left on one shoe. I turned round to dig out the BabyBel thinking she'd be down in a minute and the next thing I know she's 3/4 of the way up!! Must be all that Super Red Juice she drinks.... ;-)

In between the climbing, we had some entertaining evenings. I couldn't resist posting this one. Maybe it was just funny because we'd emptied the bottle, let alone the glass.... There are other more embarrassing pictures, but I won't risk putting Dina, Lisa and Tamsyn off climbing altogether by posting them here. I don't want them to think that all the dodgy antics of a climbing holiday are posted on the web by default!!

Jonni beasting it up some mega 6c thing at Pego, surrounded by dozy wasps....

I had completely forgotten how much one gets beaten up by the rock when one starts out. These are some pretty impressive bruises. I guess that with experience, practice, a bit of strength and maybe some technique thrown in, I've managed to avoid this kind of damage over the last couple of years. I know chicks dig scars. Do guys dig bruises?? Not sure about that one.....

Me threading the rope at Echo Playa

While this was more of a holiday than a climbing trip for me it was very interesting, and very good for me, to take a step back and remember what it was like learning to climb for the first time. I really enjoyed passing on what knowledge and experience I have, and I hoped I managed to pass on a little bit of the magic that for me comes with climbing. It's a wonderful feeling to see someone else, particularly someone I've known for so long, as excited by my little climbing world as I am. Fingers crossed we can climb together again very soon. I think they're keen to climb again......