Thursday, 28 May 2009


Hmmm , not posted anything in almost a year. Too busy.....

Still been climbing though !

Some pics from a recent trip to Mingulay

And here is a video of Erick taking a winger at Stanage last year. To be fair the climb was green & wet and a jam crack....

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fair Head

Ireland - land of Guinness, shamrocks, leprechauns and superb sandbag rock climbs. This was my second visit to Fair Head so I was knew what I was getting myself into – a seriously impressive crag about 5 km long, with climbs ranging from one to three pitches, mostly up really impressive features.

Tony Stone was keen on Wall of Prey (E5 6b) as a warm up route, straight out of the car! and I got the short straw of attempting to second him up this (being 2E grades harder than my best lead ever) This turned out to be not too bad as the only really hard bit was through a wee roof, a rest and some French free (Frigged!) moves got me through the worst of it and back onto ground that I could actually climb. The belay “ledge” is in a superb position out in space above the roof. Tony led the next pitch, although it was “only” 5c we didn’t know if it was E1 5c or E4 5c. Seconding it was a joy, a really nice pitch up a ragged crack come groove line with repeated mantle moves on slopey ledges. I kind of wished I had led it, but would probably have bricked myself and faffed, plus Tony was cold and I had had the hot aches on the crux of pitch one.

Tony Just after the crux on Wall of Prey

After a spot of lunch in the sun it was now my choice of route and I opted for Hell’s Kitchen – a three star HVS. The deal was I would lead both pitches as I had seconded Tony on the last two. Brilliant route, the kind of climbing I really enjoy, with pitch one succumbing to some old school shoulder scuming and technical bridgery. Pitch two is a belter with more bridging and some smearing and crimping through a blanker section. The crux is very finely placed (i.e. right at the top !). We both reckoned this would get E1 5a **** if it was in the Scottish mountains (or even easy 5b). N.B. My enjoyment of this route was in no way reduced by Tony seconding it in trainers – GIT !

The crux pitch of Hells Kitchen - Cheers Tony for the photo

I was dreading Tony’s choice of route which turned out to be Primal Scream (E6 6b) – I politely declined to second this. I may have used the F word followed by Off. I was happy to belay him though as the ledge was palatial and the belay bomber. We rapped into the belay ledge as the climb is essentially a single pitch at the top of a very blank looking wall – the lower wall pitch has been climbed at head pointed E8. Tony was really steady on the lead, getting the gear in and working out the moves. I was happy belaying, eating nuts & cereal bars and taking snaps of the seriously impressive situation. A couple of hours later he topped out – job done.

Primal Scream

Day 2 Tony decided he would chill out so I teamed up with Chris McDaid for Chieftain – a two pitch VS. the were a couple of moves on both pitches that were a bit rude that early in the morning ! The Fair Head VS did not disappoint. At lunch Tony was trying to talk us into Equinox – the classic 2 pitch E2 of the crag – like cenotaph corner but much bigger. He seemed to have intimate knowledge of the route, strange seen as this was his first visit to Fair Head. After some further questioning it turned out he had soloed it while we were on Chieftain – Nutter !

After Lunch we opted for some single pitch stuff in the sun and headed round to the prow which looks really like kilt rock on Skye. Chris was really keen that I did the fence, a VS that he had done the previous day with Iain Millar. I soon found out the art of sandbagging is not dead as I struggled up the HARD VS ! – Really good route though ! I Seconded Jim Hall up The Black Thief (VS – strangely not a sandbag) to finish off the day.

Tony had got the psyche watching Kev Power on Primal Scream and had persuaded Lesley Ann to rap into the hanging belay on The Wall of Prey to have a go on Above And Beyond (E6 6b). This takes a leftward line directly above the big overhangs. We sat around watching while Tony did the business – Smooth and in complete control all the time. Again, another really impressive on sight lead, very good to watch. Some team work in getting the pitch stripped and Tony & Lesley Ann back down got us to the Chinese just in the nick of time. (Thanks Kev for the assistance & lend of the rope) Turns out this was the 7th ascent – not bad for a chill out day.

Mr Stone setting off on Above & Beyond - Lesley Ann on the belay shared with Wall of Prey.

Day 3 and after faffing about I decided not to bother climbing and took photos of Jim, Chris & Lesley Ann on Hells Kitchen. I also pondered on my approach to climbs at Fair Head. Warming up on the VSs doesn’t really do your head any good as I think the difference between VS and E2 is not as big here as it is on other crags. Next year I’ll be treating it like a mountain crag – no warm-up routes, just stretch, strap it on and get in amongst the routes you really like the look of. Equinox here we come …

Chris McDaid about to start the spicy bit of Hells Kitchen

Friday, 23 May 2008

Am Buachaille

Saturday 17th May 2008

I’ve got quite into my sea stack climbing recently. They seem to offer something different to your traditional mountain route, in that there are so many variables to think about. The actual climbing is just a small part of what’s involved in the day. Having now done The Old Man of Stoer & The Old Man of Hoy (& the Souter !) the choice was either The Maiden or Am Buachaille.

I went for Am Buachaille because you don’t need a boat to climb it ! It is however located 4.5 miles from the road in the far North West of Scotland, near to the amazing Sandwood bay. We had chosen to climb it via the route Atlantic Wall (E1 5b **) – this decision was made on the basis that the original route up the stack wasn’t very good and I’d seen a couple of pictures of the route on the net and liked the look of it.

Tides are a bit of a problem on this stack – you can setup a Tyrolean traverse to cross the 8 meter channel at low tide, however the platform that you setup the traverse is underwater at high tide. Effectively this means a window of 4 hours to get across to the stack, climb it, descend it and get back. The first ascentionists of our route got stuck on the stack overnight due to rough seas and missing the tide ! (I did have a head torch with me …..)

The stack and tidal access platforms

The tide was going out as we arrived and we got to work setting up the Tyrolean – I swam across to setup the rope, allowing us to cross in dry clothes. Stretchy climbing ropes aren’t the best for Tyroleans close to the sea, so I did get a wet chalk bag swiftly followed by a wet arse. (Must buy a static rope some time !)

I found the first pitch quite tough – mainly because I don’t like going sideways and the rope drag turned out to be quite bad by the time I pulled onto the belay ledge. Lesley Ann managed to second it well. The second pitch was a overhanging flake crack – nice and exposed but fun climbing with big holds all the way up. Any time I had lost faffing on the first pitch was made up by flying up this.

Pitch One - plenty of sideways action !

The third pitch looked really nice – a straight crack running right up the wall. This was brilliant to climb, gear when you wanted it, nice holds but increasing feeling of exposure behind you the higher you got. I’ve since found out the guide says to climb a thin crack behind the belay block and traverse left into the main crack. However the main crack direct is the obvious line and more in keeping with the other pitches.

Pitch 3 - about to hit the sun on the summit

Sitting on the summit I could see the tide was coming in fast and I willed Lesley Ann on to second the pitch as fast as she could. Abbing off was complicated by the very strong northerly wind and we did our best to do the old Indian rope trick of the second down passing the rope down to the first man – this worked OK until the lob the ropes off the end bit where they got stuck round a flake After some faffing I took a hanging belay off a couple of cams, Lesley Ann came down and freed the rope and went to a ledge below my belay. I then went to the ground on rope stretch.

By this time the Tyrolean we had set up to get across was about 1 foot above sea level. I stripped to my kecks and swam for it, we ferried all the stuff across in dry bags / dropped the tyrolean and Lesley Ann swam for it too. We flung all the stuff in the sacks and pegged it over the tidal boulder field to the decent gully.

Brilliant day out – what sea stacks are all about – adventure by the bucket load!

Saturday, 19 April 2008


Wednesday 16th & Friday 18th April 2008

Was out bouldering at Craigmaddie near Glasgow on Wednesday and ice climbing on the Ben on Friday – total contrast in climbing “genres”. Scotland in spring is great. (when it’s doesn’t rain and there are no midgies)

Chockstoner @ Craigmaddie (Font 5+) - Cheers Davie for the photo !

Climbed Thomson’s Route (IV,4) and Two Step Corner (V,5) with Stuart MacFarlane. The Ben was is in great nick and we practically had it to ourselves – very quite for a Friday. I was quite happy to call it a day after Thomson’s but Stuart was insistent on another route so we abbed from a snow bollard over the cornice in number 3 gully. The wind that had blasted us on Thomson’s route had died down and Two Step turned out to be a great choice of route with fun climbing on all of the pitches.

The north face of Ben Nevis in all it's spring glory !

Abseiling the cornice ...

Postie on Two Step

Monday, 14 April 2008

Wester Ross Trip

11th - 13th April 2008

I’ve not been out climbing much due to these wee fellows below however I have managed to pull on plastic quite a bit in the new bouldering cave….. (Right that’s the request for pup & bouldering cave photos sorted !)

If anyone needs to see a man about a dug – I’m yer man !

The bouldering cave - 35 & 10 Degree wall plus a wee vertical section.

The trip to Fontainebleau had whetted my appetite for some rock climbing so some nice Gneiss in the North West fitted the bill perfectly. A day at Jetty Crag got us back in the rock climbing frame of mind. Anthrax Flake being the star route of the day, a great VS flake climb.

Day two at Inverianvie Crag in Gruinard Bay got us plenty of mileage under our belts up to about E2, with quite possibly the best descent route off a crag ever. I had hoped to get on Diabaig pillar on the Sunday but rain stopped play and forced us into a wee cafĂ© at Gairloch. We headed round to Gruinard again as it looked brighter up that way – our optimism paid off and we had a few hours bagging the routes that were missed the day before.

Some stunning views in the North West just now ....

Early season stitching - the final roof of “The Parting Glass” (E1,5b)

Shades make the ideal eye wear for the cave descent
Seggie Quote “how come I keep hitting my head in here “

The jugs on “Temporary Beauty” (VS 5a) were that nice I thought I’d nip up a second time before the long drive home.

Cheers to Tom, Chris, Graeme, Lesley-Ann, Craig, Theresa & Ian for the first of what will hopefully be many successful trips this summer.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Turning Bleau ?

21st – 24th March 2008

I should change the name of this blog to as I seem to be in the perfect position to fill other peoples trips when someone drops out. The destination this time was Fontainebleau for a spot of bouldering with John & Mike. We also met up with John’s friend Sarah and her mate Richard out there. (and also some other folk that various people knew !)

The whole friction in the cold thing seems to work and we had good fun trying loads of problems of varying hardness until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore. Some of the “easy” slabs are desperate and very crimpy.

The highlight of the trip was “sending”* Moondance, A highball Font 6a classic apparently. * Note I’m only just getting to grips with this bouldering lingo and may have been seen doing a “sit start” with a tea cosy on my head in my anasnazzy velcros!

Font Jugs ....

Mike on a nice (chipped!) Flake at Rocher Fin

John about to Moondance ....

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

StuckIn Corner

Sunday 16th March 2008

Climbed Fallout Corner (VI,7) with Andy Clark on Sunday. We had hoped to go higher up the corrie and climb Head Hunter or The Deviant but the ever deepening slab on the approach to these climbs made us think twice.

Fallout is another one of these amazing lines that I’ve always wanted to climb but had been put off by the grade. Got to say I didn’t find it much harder than Savage Slit. If it is techy 7 it’s certainly the easiest 7 I’ve climbed.

Don’t know what is going on with the weather forecast but this was another day that was forecast to be cold and clear but ended up being not so cold and snowing ?

Belaying Andy was amusing as he managed to bend his pick on the first pitch and then get his axe stuck on the second. I got my boot stuck across Savage Slit for a good 10 minutes on Thursday so I was very careful to gently hook the sticky placement to avoid a repeat.

Andy pulling through the crux roof on the first pitch.