Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Day I Would Have Decomposed

Turns out I’m meant to be a trad climber. No joke; the universe has spoken and resistance is futile. The last time I was contacted by the Universe (Wednesday past) I found a Jack Wills(posh designer social science student alpha-yah shop) hat and met John (fat politician from big brother) in the two days running up to my being accepted into a Sociology and Politics degree. Freaky. In a similar vein, this week I’ve acquired a free rack of nuts and found a newish wild country cam (complete with helium biner). The cards have been dealt, the ball is rolling and the poetic justice of cause and effect (not God) is destined to carry me up E12.
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Meanwhile as fate reared it’s ugly head, I was debating to myself the merits of sport climbing over bouldering±. I’ve heard all the arguments for and against. “If you’re into difficulty, why not just go bouldering? It’s more convenient”. “Routes look cooler”. “Get strong bouldering and you’ll get to look good down the wall”. I always liked Alan Cassidy’s idea that it was down to the amount of perceived effort upon topping out. You can try a 2 move boulder problem a thousand times but when you finally stick the hold, your muscles can instantly relax and you’re left wondering why on earth you fell off so many times. It felt easy when you did it. Compare this with a burn at your limit on a route. When you come off you’re so pumped that you’re incapacitated for the rest of the day. So instead of 10 seconds of maximum effort and 2minutes of recovery time you put in 1000 seconds of maximum effort and need a day or more to recover from it. I agree completely but in the wider scheme of things than just climbing the difference between a good and a great experience is not just down to perceived levels of muscle fatigue. I think amazing experiences (as opposed to good ones) are about turning a traumatic episode into a positive one. Losing my virginity was pretty traumatic as was redpointing my hardest sport route.
Enlightened, now knowing that to have an amazing experience I must first have a traumatic one it makes sense to go trad climbing in search of that supremely traumatic moment to escape from. Luckily this won’t be hard or dangerous as I’m afraid of heights and gear placements.
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For these reasons, I found myself getting up at 5am on Saturday to head to the Cairngorms. Geoff reckoned that the shelterstone would be too cold and suggested we check out Lochnagar to do Eagle Ridge... a severe! Pah I thought. It had better be cold else we might decompose on route. When we get there I’ll persuade him to do Black Spout Wall instead I thought to myself.
The two hour walk in was pleasant if a tad chilly and the crag looked amazing; a super atmospheric snow choked juggernaut playing shy in the clouds. On reaching the snow slopes we were relieved to find them soft enough to kick steps in with our trainers. Climbing on all fours we made quick progress up the slope before the hot aches kicked in really badly. The English language isn’t complete enough to describe how bad they were as pain like that isn’t normally experienced in the west and when it is it usually isn’t talked about¥. I really couldn’t imagine myself making it through. I wanted to curl up and die, quickly. What was I thinking with this search for trauma. Trauma is unpleasant. It’s not fun. Surely there’s enough trauma to be found training in the psychedelic asphyxiation chamber that is Alien Rock 2. I’m just not looking hard enough. What about the hall of mirrors freak show that is the weights gym? It didn’t matter. No matter how hard I tried I was stuck in the only reality the then present moment could offer-a freezing, dripping Bergschrund prison, my hands being fed to piranhas as my mind became infested with misery. We wanted off the mountain. So off we went, escaping up the severe, leaving my icy grave behind.
We topped out chilly but alive having excelled at route finding (found the true line- a better route than that pesky guidebook suggests). Arriving back at the car was lovely as was our well deserved chippy. Team Girl arrived back several hours later. I’m certain death would have set in if I’d had to spend another 3 hours on that route. Well done not dying Clare, Helena and Steve. Now that I’m home looking back on my day out it wasn’t really that bad although next time I think i’ll look for trauma somewhere warmer.




±People often ask me why I walk everywhere instead of catching the bus. The truth is I ponder these hugely consequential questions which, to most, appear inane. Some call it day dreaming (thinking outlawed by state education) and walking on my own is often the only time I get to wallow in my favourite past time without fear of punishment. Incidentally this is why I lost interest in going to Art College. Having always seen Art as a physical manifestation of my day dreaming it was depressing to discover that it was no different from anything else under capitalist education. Graded for how close you could get your work to a tried and tested idea so unoriginal it might just be commercial. For similar reasons the apparent academic cream of the crop are suckered into studying things like medicine where they are taught not to think and are manufactured into automated response robots who support the free market. And why? To protect a. The minds of a fearful hypochondriac nation and b. capitalist society from dangerous thoughts.
p.s. I do not support a violent revolution.

¥Clearly the English language needs a new word. How about- Kruntchsknorve /crunt-sh-norve/ > noun The worstest pain in the world. Previously indescribable-any other word for pain merely describes a lethargic, barely recognisable, relative of kruntchsknorve.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pumped: Still recovering a month later.

I got back from bolt clipping in Spain about a month ago but couldn’t really be bothered blogging for a number of reasons.
A. The ScottishClimbs.com blog aggregator had a pigeon in the turbine and what’s the point in writing something nobody would read?
B. I was actually pretty busy. Hard to believe I know. My days have been spent reforming society and my evenings writing about it.
C. I didn’t really climb that well in Spain... Well I didn’t really climb that badly it just seemed to be a holiday of near misses rather than big successes.
I do find it hard to deal with this. I like doing things when and where I’ve planned. I’m a worse person for this and I’m trying to deal with it but I don’t think the blame lies with me but societies illogical connection between progress and the linear of time. In practice things are rarely a steady progression; we get finger injuries.
Anyway Spain was a rollercoaster of emotions. Passion, tears, highs, lows. The lowest of the low for me was Margalef with it’s razor-pocket-whirling-bloodbath-choss-piles. Footholds snapping with fingers jammed in pockets. I know I maybe have a bit of a bad reputation for snapping holds but here some routes were actually vertical mud (warm ups left of laboritori for example). On the second day we went to the best crag I saw there (can’t remember name) and watched el makino Patxi Usobiaga have a hissy fit trying to onsite an 8b+. First try he pulled on, did a move and both footholds snapped. He lowered off pulled straight back on and the same thing happened. After a quick huff he channelled his monstrous super human rage, pulled back on and campused the first four or five bolts clipping as he went! But that was the highlight of margalef; getting star-struck. How sad?
After a few days we’d had enough of Margalef and Club Leon (its’ social hub) so we decided to go to a proper crag. Teradettes is awesome. The most fun funky climbing I’ve come across. I did the amazing line of the crag El Latido del Miedo (f8a) 3rd try (should have been second go but I slipped off). Actually if you look at it another way I didn’t really deserve to get it on the redpoint that I did. I got through the crux sort of okay and then drew a blank over the remaining 15 or so remaining metres of tufa labyrinth I had ahead. At one point I was laybacking a flared tufa, my grip failing as I desperately tried to find the jugs I remembered being there, when my foot popped, slipped about 6inches down the collonette and stopped on another nubbin, this caused me to barn door and by some miracle I caught a jug i’d been searching for. I got to the rest before the sting in the tail final crux and shouted down to tell Ross how pumped I felt which made my voice squeek. Somehow I manned up and finished it off. Thank god.
Another highlight for me was coming super close to flashing my first 7c+. I feel like I got through all the hard climbing then wilted reaching for the hold that ends it all. Orient is the other line of the crag and probably my favourite route of the trip. I didn’t feel pissed off when I fell because I’d had so much fun trying. I was actually on a total high. Finally getting my endorphin hit after all the poxy routes at Margalef; I was very pumped.
Also of note was meeting borderline anorexic, international pimp, lord of the insult, Italian stallion Dario. Very shortly after meeting me he told me I was a “fat pig...too fat to climb 6b let alone 7b”. I have since begun yo-yo dieting. Despite this he somehow got away with his regular insults and was accepted into the group. There was never a dull moment with Dario about.


Any fitness I had for Spain has since evaporated with writing essays and work placement. I wasn’t climbing very well last week and I’ve just spent 5 days in Glen Etive working not climbing. The weather was amazing which was good and bad. Kind of frustrating but I did do a lot of running in an amazing location scoping out bouldering and routes and although I didn’t find a Mandala or a Biographie I did find some bits and pieces.