Berns quality workmanship:
The trusty 5 1/2 in action.
All cut up and ready for jointing
First worktop gluing up.
Underneath of arch
Cairngorms in a weekend? Totally possible. We left Bridgend at 4pm on Friday and arrived in the ski car park at about 1am. Sleep for 5 hours and then up at 6am, starting the walk in at 7am. Up the Fiacaill Ridge, back down the goat track and then a bit more crampon work on the goat track. We also had a good look at the Goat Track Gully. The following day we got up at 6am, were at the car park by 7am, then up the route by 12:30, in the corrie by 1pm, at the car by 2pm and home by 11pm or so.
Generally both days went really well. The avalanche forecast was good. The weather, while it was a bit windy was reasonable. Conditions were good, the snow was solid and the gullies were full. We got up there safely, did two routes and got back home in time. We definitely could have been faster on the second route. Which was Goat Track gully. We did it in two 40 or so meter pitches and one short 15 meter pitch. All things considered we could have been a lot quicker on that route, but most of that was due to my descision to trail the ropes up the slope to the bottom of the route.
On the first day we went up the Fiacaill ridge. Joe got pretty cold on the belay. It was quite exposed to the wind and he got rather cold. This meant that he struggled with seconding the route.
1 – Don’t trail ropes up snow slopes. It doesn’t work. The ropes are to heavy and prone to getting tangled.
2 – Belay jackets aren’t optional.
Now for a few photos from the weekend.
Joe at the start of the Fiacaill Ridge:
Blurry selfie for the win:
Joe standing under Aladdins butress.
So last year I thought I really ought to get off my arse and try to do something hard. I sorta did I guess. I got a bit better at trad and finally got up into HVS, just about. But there wasn’t much effort there really. I didn’t focus much on any specific improvement. I did a load more core exercises and started fingerboarding. Also I spent quite a bit of time on my running doing a couple of ultras and I did up my house. The ultras ate into valuable climbing time, so they’re out. The fingerboarding was a start, but it’s not really very planned out, it’s pretty random. So that’ll change. The core exercises simply aren’t enough, I need to put more effort in there. A couple of years ago I read an article in a mag which had a quote from Stevie Haston, which was:
“Train hard, rest, don’t eat. It’s a power to weight thing. In fact it’s a weight to powerful fingers thing. It’s not rocket science. Laurence went from F6a to F8a+. Any man or woman can climb F8a within a year in my opinion. All they have to do is everything in their power to do that and not get injured.” Stevie Haston on climber.co.uk
Obviously to plenty of climbers, 8a is a fairy tale grade, something that most people will never actually climb. Being of a rather stupid disposition, this has stuck in my mind. Now I don’t seriously think that I’ll get to 8a in a year. However what I do plan to do is focus on improving my climbing as much as possible.
Over the next few more posts I’m going to lay out a slightly more detailed plan, but here’s it in a few simple steps:
Lochnagar – North East Corrie
Southern Sector – 950m, 1000m,North West facing –
Main Sector – 900m – North East and North West facing
Good mix of routes at most grades
Coire lochan Na Feadaige – 900m – North East facing
Two III and a V
The Stuic & Whacky Butress – 1000m – North East and North West
Good mix of I – V
The Dubh Loch Crags
Spittal of Glenmuick or Glen Clova approach
Creag An Dubh Loch – 730m NE to E
Not loads of winter routes. Mainly rock routes.
Winter Corrie – 650m NE
Good mix of routes
Corrie Fee – South Wall – 550 North East
Good mix of routes I – V
Corrie Fee – North Wall – 550 – South East facing
Small handful of routes III to IV
Craig Maud – 600m North East facing
Pinnacle Ridge II
Jaunjorge – 550m South facing
Not many routes at II – V
Coire an t-Sneachda
Coire an Lochan
Loch Avon Basin
Stacan Dubha – 850m – North West facing
Carn Etchachan – 900m – North facing
Shelter Stone Crag – 850m – North East facing
Hell’s Lum Crag – 930m – East facing
Stag Rocks – 900m – South facing
Stac an Fharaidh – 900m – South East
Northern Lairig Ghru
Lurchers Crag – 780m West South West
Good selection of I – IV
Sron na Lairige – 850m East North East
I – IV
Sgoran Dubh Mor
Selection of butresses around 700-750m, mostly East, East South East.
Mix of butresses 750 – 850m mostly facing East South East.
Lower buttress 650m and Upper butress 750m
An Garbh Choire
Corrie of the Chokestone 1100m, North facing
Good mix of I – III/IV
Garbh Choire Mor – 1130m East
Garbh Choire Dhaidh – 1100m South
Coire Bhrochain – 1150m South
Good mix to I – IV
Northern Corries of Braeriach
Coire an Lochain – 1100m North
Southern Lairig Ghru
Coire Cath nam Fionn – 950m North West facing
Good mix of I – III
Ben Macdui Massif
Coire Sputan Dearg – 1309 South East
Misc butresses I – IV
Creagan A Choire Etchachan – 850 – 900 East facing
Multiple butresses, lots of routes
Stob Coire Etchachan – 900m South South East
Lochside Crag – 1000m East South East
III and IV
Beinn A Bhuird
Approach from Braemar.
Coire Na Ciche – 1000m East
II to IV
Coire An Dubh Lochain – 950m North East
Mainly I – III and some VI/VII.
Coire Nan Clach – 1100m South facing
Garbh Choire – 950m North West to North
II to IV/V
So about 4 years after starting climbing and about 3 years after doing my first VS, I got round to getting on a HVS the other day at Pembroke. I’d done a fair bit of guidebook reading and checking out the comments on UKC and Bludgeon at Stennis Head had a number of positive comments on it. The route goes up a large groove on the South Side of the crag. I’m a fan of big grooves, you generally get to do lots of nice bridging moves (for the non climbers, where you stand in a wide position, with one foot on one side of the wall and the other on the other side, it’s a stable position, which doesn’t use much energy). Joe and I went round to the main face of Stennis Head and Joe led a VDiff, North Corner as the warm up route. As HVS isn’t a massive physical challenge for me, I decided that the warmup on the VDiff would be enough for me and that we should try and find the route and just get it done. It was about 1200 by this time. So we headed round the otherside of Stennis Head looking for the big grassy ramp to get to the base of the climb. The guidebook mentions some scrambling along sea level ledges to get to the base of the route.
Warning, there will be serious beta on how to do the route from here on in. So if you want the onsight, click away now!
It all starts off quite easily. Hop down a few ledges and you’re on your way. I wasn’t 100% as to where the route was, but thought that 15-20 meters of traversing should see us in the right place. It was at this point that we saw another team retreating from the ‘scrambling’ or as most people would call it Diff/VDiff traversing. So out came the ropes and I went about 8 meters over. So that Joe and I could talk, I bought him down to the belay then. Bit more disscussion and I set off. I ended up going upwards to a bit of a dead end and realised that I should be lower. So I had to downclimb about 4a moves (as I’d started up the bottom of an E1/HVS, depending on which way I’d went) stripping the gear. Went across and down. Till I eventually thought ‘maybe this big obvious groove is the route?’. So I checked the guidebook again and sure enough ‘Bludgeon is the first big groove on the way in’. After looking at the photo topo I was able to match up the features to the picture and I was basically about 3 meters up the route. I tried to convince Joe to head down to the very bottom of the route, but he wasn’t having it. This wasn’t ideal as it would make rope drag worse for me. But Joe wasn’t keen on moving. So we sorted out a belay (mental note, take more gear when climbing at Stennis to setup a belay), shared one of Joe’s sandwiches, wished I’d bought some water down with us and I got going. Pretty committing start to my first HVS really. Can’t imagine many folk daft enough to do something like that. Oh well.
I was a little below the traverse on the route, so I headed across and up to that. First couple of bits of gear in at the start of the traverse and at the end. Then on good holds for hands and feet up onto the route. More gear and more steady climbing, till I got to the first crappy hold. It was a small hold, which wasn’t very positive and a bit polished. A bit of faffing here, moving around, trying to decide what to do, up and down two or three times. Eventually I went up on the good hold to my left and the small crap hold. Feet were pretty good but the good hold was now slightly behind me and under my armpit. To get a good hold on it I ended up in a pretty awkward position. Cast out to the right and there were no good holds. Arse. Began to get slightly worried. Tried the left side of the groove. There was a crack I could get my hand in. Game on. At this point my body took over. I started walking my feet up the good footholds. Got the other hand above the first hand. Moved feet again. Moved the other hand upwards. Bent legs up, pulled arms and got a bit more height. Gear well below my feet now. Not sure how far, but it was probably further than I would have liked. Reached out to the right to what looked like a jug. Thank god, it was. Right foot was good. Looked left and there was a lovely foot hold on the outside of the corner. On it. Now I was in the bridge, I could look for gear. And there is was, right in my face on the left. Perfect nut placement. Leg started shaking a bit, till the gear went in and was clipped. While I could have waited around there, I thought, well you’ve got to climb it, it’s going well, so move again. More bridging and good holds and I was under a small bulge/overhang. Got three nuts and a cam in around here. Think the nuts went in a bit lower down, two one above the other. Then one on the right and a cam a bit above the nuts. Kept on moving up and there was a good hold on the left and a niceish crozzy pocked just over the overhang. Got a good high left foot and pulled. Then over right to the big flake on the back of the overhang. Move feet and get one foot into the wide crack, which was part of the groove. Then standup, foot on the crozzy pocket and as is always the way, when you’ve got great feet and can standup, no real handholds. Just some big open handed holds on the left.
Done. In the bag. I let out a big yell and a whoop and waved down to Joe. I think he got that I was happy and I got a well done. He’d been good at yelling encouragement. The rope drag had been a bit of a pain. And the rope management could have been better. I think the rope had been a bit tight on one or two points as I really had to drag the rope up to clip. I hadn’t sworn too much and hadn’t really got my arse in a twist as I sometimes do.
After this is was nice easy ledge stepping with one last ‘protect the top-out’ nut. One loose block to be dodged. There was a poor hold, loose jug lower down the route, but as there was a jug next to it, it wasn’t a major hardship. Got up the ledges, built the belay and yelled Joe to come up. He romped up it, despite saying he couldn’t have led it.
By this point it was 3pm, so we wandered over to get our gear, get the shoes (which we’d left at the start of the traverse), sort out the gear and get back to the car. Then into Bosherton for a cream tea.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article about buying your first climbing rack. As I’ve actually been climbing a few years now I’m a bit more qualified to make suggestions. So with out too much further ado, here they are. Again this is a starter rack aimed at folk climbing mainly on limestone, so no cams. They’re easy to get wrong and on easier climbs you’ll find plenty of good nut placements. Generally. You’ve got a good choice for krabs. Generally I personally prefer DMM kit. They’re a great company and do excellent gear.
For nuts the choice is simple. DMM Wallnuts, the full 1 – 11. You can often get deals that come with a racking krab. If not, oval wiregates make good racking karabiners.
Hexes, the choice is equally straight forward, DMM Torque nuts 1 – 4. These should be racked individually on colour coded DMM Spectres. You could go for a full set of Wild Country Hexes on wire, but they’re more expensive and the extendable slings on the Torque nuts means you need less quickdraws.
The choice gets a bit trickier at the quickdraw level. However generally I’d go for the standard DMM Spectres. But if you want the no snag nose of the Alphas, then they’re worth the extra money. Also the Alphas fit into your hand really nicely. Lengthwise you need a mix of 18cm and 25cm. 12cm is simply too short for 90% of trad climbing. If you’re thinking, well I can use them for sport climbing, don’t, it’s best to have a set of cheap draws made of solid gate krabs with nylon slings for sport.
However one thing you do need lots of is slingdraws. There’s a good article about slingdraws at Planet Fear. Basically they’re excellent for extending gear that’s a bit far off the line or on a traverese.
So you’ll need a few locking karabiners for belays. Again I think it’s fairly simple, a DMM Boa to create a central point on your belay and about 2 or 3 DMM Phantoms for the gear on the belay.
If you’re trad climbing, you want half ropes. 8.5mm to 9.0mm would be ideal. Thinner is only good if you are planning on doing Scottish winter stuff. Basically something that’s thickish, as it’ll mean the rope is less likely to tangle like hell on the belay. Cause it will. Trust me.
Finally you’ll need some slings. Not loads, just a couple of 120 cm slings and a large one for boulders. I have a 400 cm cordlette from Wild Country. But you can grab a 240 cm sling instead.