Sunday, 19 February 2012

Ratho Quarry

 It was nice and sunny and still today and as it was a weekend I had the day off so Joanna and I headed along to Ratho Quarry in the afternoon. I was wanting to try something hard so as my first objective looked abit wet I headed over to Artho (E4 6a/b) and geared up. Artho takes a steep corner with two thin cracks at either side in the back wall of the quarry. The start is the same as Petes Wall (E2 5c) until a hanging block where Petes Wall heads left and artho continues up the corner. I got to this point and really didn't want to continue up Artho so I bailed onto Petes Wall. This was however by no means easy as after an off balanced traverse there were some quite thin moves, for the feet atleast, up the corner. I hung around here for a while, which felt abit silly as the gear was pretty good and I could pratically reach the safety of a big ledge. After abit of huffing and puffing I did get up the route.
The traverse out of Artho (Photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
The scary crux of Petes Wall (Photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
While belaying Joanna on Petes Wall I noticed that the bottom of the quarry is made up of nice clean cracks while the top has lots of rounded breaks, like grit stone or cairngorms granite. This got me wondering about how it was formed. The Dolerite which the quarry is composed of will have been intruded in the past, probably around the same time as Arthurs Seat was an active volcano, as a sill. The change in texture of the rock could imply that the crack shows a cross section through two overlying sills, with the top one being intruded earlier and at a great depth, so that once the overlying sediments have been eroded away it could expand so producing the rounded seems which it shows. Although it does seem quite unlikley that two rocks of very similar composition will have formed at significantly different periods in exaclty the same place with no other strata between them what I do think is likely is my explanation for the formation of the seams. Please note that any explanations of rock formation which I give in my blog are just my random musings and should not be taken as correct, or anything like that really. 
It was Joannas lead next and she climbed Fledge (VS 5a) which takes a corner crack just left of the climbing arena's fire escape. It was getting dark and as it's a weeked ratho closes early, and when ratho closes they close the gate to the car park, we made a move and went home.
Things seem to be looking promising for a good trad season, I'd usually only be ticking E2's once I've properly warmed up on lots of easier things.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Kyloe in the woods

This weekend was supposed to be the EUMC trip to Lochnagar but the weather didn't look very good so Marsh, Catherine, Mary, James, Craig, Lizzie, Chris and I decided to go to the county. We set off at 8.30am on saturday morning and headed down the A1 to Bowden Doors. I had neglected to look at how strong the wind was going to be and Bowden isn't very sheltered. The wind turned out to be pretty strong so after a quick boulder and a couple of routes we packed up and headed to Kyloe in the woods. Being in the woods we figured it would be out of the wind, and luckily it was, pretty much. Everyone else seemed to have had the same idea as us so the crag was pretty mobbed. We met Tom, Robert, Fiona, Fergus and others there.
I warmed up abit by soloing a couple of routes; Badfinger (E2, 5c) and Bad Company (E2, 5c). After these I moved abit further down the crag and tried Monty Python Direct (font 6c+), which I managed to flash. This was my first font 6c+ flash so Im pretty happy about it.
Other routes I did today were Marmoset (font 4), Red Rum (font 6b), The Elf Direct (font 6a), Elf Arete (font 6b) and Badfinger sit start (font 6b).

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

North Berwick

Today the weather was far too good to justify climbing inside, like we usually do on a wednesday, so I headed off to North Berwick Law in East Lothian where I met up with Tom Eadington, Morgan Trigg, Ted Angus, Rob Askew and Chris Prescott.
I arrived early so I warmed up by having a blast at the first few move son Law of Gravity before putting the quick draws up on Fogtwon (7a+) once the others arrived. I had been trying Fogtown in the summer. I was finding it quite hard and didn't see myself leading it. Today, after initially forgetting the sequence, I managed to get it clean up to the last move 3 times on lead. The last moves is a big span/small dyno to a small but good crimp. It takes a lot of commitment to make the move, which is something I seem to be lacking when on lead. It was feeling good though so should hopefully be ticked before long.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Northern Tooling Series

Joanna and I decided to miss winter climbing for the weekend and head down to Sunderland for the Northern Tooling Series, organised by Roxcool and Schmoolz. On friday night we drove back down to my house in East Yorkshire, the car recorded -14 degrees, which is 259.15 kelvin, just outside of Driffield. It was still -12 degrees when we set off on Saturday morning to drive back north to Sunderland. I had never been to Sunderland wall and wasn't quite sure what to expect. It is in a big warehouse on an Industrial estate and I was abit confused as the only way in seemed to be through a small metal door, which looked more like it was a fire escape. The wall itself is quite good, with a large barrel shaped lead wall and a small bouldering section, of varying steepness.
When we arrived the schmoolz competition was still running, climbing using simulation ice axes, so we warmed up abit on the boulder wall then played cards.
Climber enjoying the days dry tooling
Our competition started after the schmoolz final had finished. There were 10 routes which had a maximum of 10 points on the short routes or 16 points on the long routes, although there were marked holds on the routes which gave you points, if you fell off before the end.
I felt that I started quite well, managing to top out my first 5 routes. Then I moved onto the chain route. This didn't look too hard as its a chain, so all the axe holds are good and you could fig four. I turned out to be wrong and I only managed to get 6 points on that route, out of a maximum 16. After this I decided I had to relax a bit more and probably thanks to this I managed to top out the remaining routes, giving me a grand total of 114 points out of 124.
The finalists were announced and I was glad to hear that both Joanna and I had made it to the finals, Joanna qualifying in first place and myself in joint first place with 2 others.
The final route took a series of logs, chains, tyres and bolt on holds up the long, steep barrel wall. Joanna was last to go attempt the route in her category, adult female. I tried to give her encouragment by shouting "go on Joanna" from around the wall blocking the finalists insolation from the people climbing the route.
Straddling the starting log
I was second out in my category, adult male. I could tell the guy before me, Pete Holder, had done quite well as he had taken a long time and there was a large cheer at the end. I started well getting up the log and onto the tyre with minimal fuss. I however rushed it from here and instead of sitting in the tyre like everyone else went straight for the chain. This meant that I now had to catch a swinging tyre with my feet and try and stand up. It proved difficult and I tried and tried again but to no avail. My fingers were starting to uncurl from my axes and I fell off. I wasn't best please with my perdormance at the time. It turned out it wasn't too bad as I managed to pick up second place. Joanna on the other had finished in first!
Reaching my high point

Thanks to Schmoolz and Roxcool for organising a great event and I hope there will be another one next year.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Welcome to the cruise

I headed to Ratho today after lectures. I've been getting abit bored of climbing indoors recently so I took down my rack and grabbed a belay from Craig Holden, after asking around abit to start with, to head outside into the Quarry. Craig is fondly known in th EUMC as short shorts, as he always seems to wear short shorts, although he kept them on to belay as it was cold. I was wanting to try some thing hard, like Artho, but I figured I should warm up first, so I went for Welcome to the cruise. The guide book gives it E1 5b, although it did say it was reclimbed at E2 5c. Lots of routes have had to be reclimbed in Ratho quarry thanks to the blasting for the M8, which runs next to it, damaging the rock and making some routes unstable.
The route takes a series of gooves, split by ledges. It started off pretty easy up until a large slopping ledge where I had to get a high foot, palm off and reach up to a large jug, which took quite abit of working out. The top was a steep corner with a crack in it, which luckily provided some good gear, as the gear below this felt a long way away. I didn't find this as hard as the previous crux section, although it was still quite tricky. Craig seconded it in style, his first E grade second. It was starting to get dark, as I took a long time and the days are still pretty short, so we went inside to sample some of the classic Ratho stamina pieces and some pretty good bouldering.
I didn't get any pictures today but this is something that Joanna drew...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Coire an Lochain conditions 5.2.2012

This weekend was the second EUMC meet of the year and about 30 of us headed off to the Cairngorms, hopeful that MWIS had lied and actually the weather was going to be quite good.
Joanna Lisowiec, Ondrej Mandalu, James Lismore and I headed off into Coire an Lochain on saturday morning. Joanna and I climbed Fallout Corner (VI 7) while Ondrej and James climbed Hoarmaster (VI 6) and Fallout Corner.
Myself leading the main corner pitch of Fallout Corner (Photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
Ondrej on Fallout Corner (Photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
I lead the whole of Fallout Corner, and took my time on it, there was quite alot of snow to clear. In my opnion it was in reasonable mixed condition with enough white stuff to make it look nice and wintry and even abit of ice in crack to help me off the first belay, but not enough to make finding gear too hard. Abit like Cutlass ,which I did the week before, I could have a reasonable, non-strenous, rest every few moves thanks to a large foot ledge, where I could excevate foot placements. We climbed it in three pitches. The first went to just past the small roof, which felt quite large on lead. The second to the large ledge at the top of the main corner and the third to the top. I did intend on doing it in two pitches but the ropes got into a tangle on the belay, apparently, which meant I didn't have any slack. We abbed down Savage Slit, thanks to the guys topping out across the coire for pointing out were it was. Unfortunatley the ropes didn't pull, despite Ondrej, James and I all hanging on the end of it halfway across the coire. It was starting to get late, and I had people to take back to Kingussie, so Joanna and I decided to leave them and come back and try and retrieve them on Sunday.
Despite it being quite a windy day the route was quite sheltered. We heard an avalanche in the twin burns area on the west of the coire and in breaks in the cloud you could see that there was some debris on the lochan.
Most of the rest of the group headed to Coire an t'Schneada where The Runnel (II), The Seam (IV 5) and Hidden Chimney (III), amongst others, were climbed.
Sunday saw Joanna and I walk into the coire. We were the first at the bottom of Savage Slit so I decided to start prussicking up. I only managed to reach the bottom of the slit before a team from St. Andrews University came along and said they wanted to climb it and would rescue my ropes for me.
St. Andrews team on Savage Slit
Coire an Lochain on sunday
As they climbed Joanna and I dug a large bucket seat/snow hole, it turned into more of a snowfa, took some pictures and played around on some ice in the bottom of the coire. We could see loads of people climbing, there must have been atleast 12 seperate teams in the coire. Once the ropes had been freed we soloed up Y Gully Right Branch (II), which had a pretty sketchy topout thanks to some really poor unconsolidated snow, and walked out down the goat track. We talked to a few teams who had climbed Central Crack route (IV 5) and Y Gully Right Branch (IV 4), both complained about lots of fresh powder making the going quite tough.
The EUMC group managed to climb Invernookie (III 4), Alladins Mirror Direct (IV 4), Sticil Face (V 6), Fiacaill Ridge (II) and Marsh even got some ski touring in.
We had the give the house a quick clean before locking up and heading home.
How many students does it take to work a hoover?

Thursday, 2 February 2012


Yesterday Joanna and I decided to make the most of the nice sunny weather, favourable tides and an afternoon off uni, to go to Aberdour, or Hawkcraig as it is sometimes known. This is a tidal sea cliff on the north side of the Firth of Forth, so it faces south, and is composed of dolerite. There are lots of crystals in the rocks which would have percipitated out of the cooling magma into bubbles of air. From what I can tell this dolerite is intruded, but I can't be too sure.
I had the first lead and climbed Saki (VS 4c). Half way up I realised that I did the route last time I was here (does this count as a retro beta flash?).
Myself on Saki (Photo Credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
Joanna climbed Pain Pillar (VS 4c), the classic of the crag and one of the best routes of its grade in the area. It was a very good lead, being I think her second VS.
Joanna committing to the crux on Pain Pillar
We arrived abit too late so this was all we managed to do but it was nice to get out side, I'm getting bored of pulling on plastic now!