Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Some Glencoe Trad and Stuff

As Summer has gone, Autumn a Covid shit show, and bike hire closed because we don't want to risk folk bringing the virus into our community, not much else to do but Blog. The two local walls are open but being old gits we have to pick our time when we go, and be extra careful. I am quite strong from training and a fairly good summer working my way through the 7a Max book list of top routes as the goal. Its given me a good progression, but mostly harder routes left, I know I can project some 7a and send on sight most but not all 6c's but the odd 7b indoor and out is past it seems as I just don't have the power or maybe they were just easy for the grade. Another year older next year, so even more training just to stand still as it gets harder each year. 

We are lucky with two quite different but equally good local walls. I like the social at 3WM and bouldering and the new training room is superb, but more college students use it and a smaller space makes us circumspect about when we go. Ice Factor, I particularly like the harder routes as projects or just because its nearer to climbing hard sport outside. 

7A Max ***
No Respect for your Elders" 6c+ and "High Voltage" 6b+ Robs Reed, a cracking route and venue with boulder fingery starts.

The training pays off more leading routes at Ice Factor, a  bit like Ratho does for Kalymnos but shorter and punchy so needs power. Training the "pump out" is the easy bit if your a lifelong trad climber and Ratho does this by route length so a 6b might just be a long 6a. Anyone can crush a dozen or more leads in the 6a/b - but for me I like the IF route setting (its particularly good at the moment) that uses my training and pushes my "power out" so better for harder routes. It's what I like about hard sport. I have done my share of A/E time with injuries some quite debilitating, and I suffer from a long term chronic illness that's a bugger but doesn't stop me trying - at least until it hits hard most often when tired and the bugs invade. Gone is the gallus youth, so sport offers achievable goals, technical challenge and relative safety. Crushing hard is satisfying, and even some easier routes catch you unawares as they need thought out. A long winter is ahead so these walls to me are an important part of my mental health management, and probably to some of the folk reading this. It's not like it was pre Covid, but it can be ok if we follow the rules.

Clachaig Gully 1973  16 years old. Single Rope, hardly any gear, big boots and the then ubiquitous "Compton Climber" Helmet. More like a motor bike helmet!  Niave and ended up rescued in November off the N. Face Aonach Dubh by the cave when rope ran out, denims froze to legs and in a blizzard. Hypothermia, but walked off after Walter, Hamish and Wull came up and sorted us out.

Polldubh 1978 (guess the route - later went back and FA climbed the awfully named "Dying Crutchman" up over the middle of the overlap to join it. At least some gear, but it wasn't great. Whillans ball wrecker harness that caused some serious injuries to the groin. The MOACS however were brilliant. EB's and Levi or Wrangler flares were the thing then ......

Dunkeld 1976. The Needle in the early doors, 4 pints in Newtonmore then a wee solo of Ivy Crack in big boots before heading down to Wales for a week to meet Fell and Rock climbers in the pass at Ynys Ettws Hut. Bonkers - soloing and after beer. Soloing a mugs game as  eventually you die on something easy.

1980's sticky rubber - not! Chouinard "Canyons" and the original Friends from Wild Country. On "Cayman Grooves E15a/b. An excellent first pitch but the top up the side of the chimney a bit run out although easy. For two great pitches "Walk with Destiny" E2 5b/c is one of the best evening routes in the Glen.  Watch out in spring as there is often a Peregrine Falcon nesting behind the tree that can be used to abseil. Its good fun to do the first pitch of Piranah VS, Cayman and Walk with Destiny and rap off for an evening hit. 

Carnivore pitch 1. One of Glencoe's classic routes when combined with the "Villains Finish" an airy pull out right above the Whillans peg and then  a runout up steep ground to the top. A 500ft route on a 150ft crag.

Line Up pitch 1
On "Line Up" about 1983. (Pictures Alan Thompson). One of the best HVS routes on BEM and Glencoe, F.A local Ian Nicholson. Rannoch Wall delivers a mountain feel in spades, there are no duff routes (well maybe route 1 but its good in winter). The left side higher up the gully is a bit neglected as its a bit steeper and shorter. Give "Wappenshaw Wall" a go, its steep with lots of thank god holds, and "Peasants Passage" is amazing and quite technical for a VS. Spare a thought for the guys who ran them out on the F.A's way back. Imagine Ogilvy & Speakman in plimsoles pre WW2 putting up "Red Slab" with the quite intimidating crux on pitch 2. To enjoy many of these locations its worth knowing a bit of the history. Ken Crockets "A History of Scottish Mountaineering" is a good place to start.

Line Up pitch 2

As Tom Patey remarked about the Scottish climber: "How does he climb, solo and briskly, on 20 fags a day and Scotlands good malt whisky".  "big Ian" having a tipple on an ascent of Valkyrie E2 Etive slabs. Picture scan from slide taken on an OM1 by Fiona Gunn 

Finishing up "Wappenshaw Wall" VS  Then I was climbing on twin 9mm ropes but they were 45m (150ft) long a far cry from todays ropes and often pulled up short if used to build a belay.

Andy Macdonald on "Bludgers/Revelation" HVS, a classic outing skirting the left edge of slime wall. We did "Shibboleth" E2 that day then Bludgers Revelation the next weekend which was late September and unusually hot and dry. "Bloody Crack"  is IMHO (as well as "Pontoon" pitch 2) the best crack lines in Glencoe. Bloody Crack has good pro but its a fight to the finish as thuggy. Patsy Walsh was a strong man! As good as Shibboleth is "Apparition" E2 and Lechers/Superstition is tremendous. "Ravens Edge" is a well worthwhile adventure with unique situations. Great Gully buttress upper and lower can be climbed after doing a slime wall route. All the upper routes are tremendous with Yam, Yamay and May cracks particularly good. June and July cracks are the better of the lower buttress routes, and "The Whip" is a sandbag and quite serious. August crack isn't a patch on the others IMHO

Not to forget the lower Glen which is another post. "Rainmaker" is a fantastic VS mountain route with a bit of an adventure to get to but well worth it. climber Dave Hannah with a big smile on a fine route that for once was dry. Going over the top get the excellent and not so often climbed "Nirvana Wall" in on the way down.

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