Throwing myself into Climbing

  1. A lot has changed for me since the turn of 2013 and at one point I thought that climbing may have to take a back seat for a while whilst I finished this little ride on life’s roller-coaster. Thankfully this has not been the case and for other reasons too, the opposite has actually happily happened!

    Whilst psyche was low in January at the beginning of the fall out from recent changes, I am happy to admit I made no attempts to push the idea of winter climbing. There were probably (definitely) some weather windows so that is not as viable an excuse as normal, it was more that I feared as with many of my winter trips, there was still an element of risking putting a lot of effort in only to end in failure; failure to start the trip (usually weather related or partners bailing), failure to succeed on a chosen route, failure to feel like I had improved and definitely a small chance that I might not enjoy myself through unfruitful efforts.

    I needed a safer bet at this time that any spare energy I had could be put into something I could gain maximum good feeling from. Lucky I had laid out my emergency stash of cash on a sweet hard-tail in October then wasn’t it!

    I hit the trails a few times in January which proved to be just the fun:effort ratio I needed when I could only devote short days away from part 3 studies and the weather certainly wasn’t for rock climbing. Glentress with Laura and Erin hosted my first outing and a great day bashing our way along an improvised route through the campsie gave Nicola and I a great wee adventure. If ever I had doubted my investment in my baby Genesis, even these couple of days proved it was a wise purchase.

    When I felt my rollercoaster had passed through the double loop-de-loop and was nearing the home straight I booked flights to Kalymnos for two weeks of (hopefully!) sunny sport climbing in April. Though slightly still on a whim, having just lost my job and having no certainty of finances, it seemed like just the thing I needed to give me something to look forward to and a reason to keep psyched for training through the winter.

    So for this reason and because the weather is getting (slightly) warmer and better, oh and yeah, because I became and Architect and all and that means no more studying (contained screams of relief) I am so totally digging rock climbing at the moment.

    I am desperate to get out to the crag at any opportunity in the anticipation of bagging some more great british trad before jetting of over the pond and when the weather isn’t so co-operative the drive of getting in shape for Kalymnos is keeping me psyched for indoor bouldering, circuits, fingerboard work-outs, fall practice, endurance leads and more.

    To celebrate the last of my time off in between jobs and finishing Part 3 stuff Fraz and I had planned a weekend, starting on Thursday night, of cragging wherever the weather deemed possible. Luckily the dry spell continued so the trip would be possible but as we were only just leaving Feb the temps were still pretty low. I suggested the Galloway sea cliffs for some low altitude, south facing cragging on, what was for me, new territory.

    We drove down Thursday night from Edinburgh and thanks to a heads up from another blog found a nice secluded spot to pitch the tent. There is apparently wild camping allowed everywhere within Galloway forest but this spot, just off the track, 20m or so beyond the parking spot for Bruce’s stone near to Loch Trool was ideal.

    From Newton Stuart follow the A714 North until a sign for the national forest and head North east on a B-road, past a lovely pub called the House O’hill. Then take another right following signs to the visitor centre and from here keep following signs to Bruces stone. If you zoom in on Loch Trool on google maps you’ll see a wee road headed up the north side, when you put the street view man on this road the bivy/camping spot is 50 yards back from where the street view ends. The visitor centre ( a couple of miles back down toward the main road) makes for a good breakfast/dinner spot too with its picnic tables and wee river.

    We awoke feeling relatively fresh after a decent first nights sleep in the tent to glorious sunshine masking the low temps. After breakfasting at the visitor centre we drove to Meikle Ross to hit up the sea cliffs of little zawn and red slabs.

    Unfortunately this is where my low phone battery was to be kept for essential calls to find out if I had passed my part 3 and no more photos were taken. Its a shame because the weather was spectacular and with the sun to our backs we were kept nice and toasty as we took our pick of Meikle Ross’ high starred classics. I lead Mellow yellow and Pinking Shear at little zawn, both spectacular little routes and the challenging couple of moves on Pinking shear gave me something to be pleased about as my first trad since September. Fraz cruised Bloody crack and then Too scared to Dance on Red slab which required some thought regarding runners and route finding.

    (topo courtesy of John Biggar climbing)

    As the sun set on the end of the day we headed back, careful not to repeat Fraz’s unlucky error of falling knee deep in cow shit on the way in! We stopped via a cooking spot at the fishing bay just across from the Meikle Ross parking (highly recommended, great views, a perfect place to get the pasta on the stove!) and even had time for a cheeky beer in the House O’Hill before collapsing in the tent.

    The next day we awoke to a less glorious day but it was non the less still dry and Corwar provided us with a perfect inland, sheltered crag for the Saturday. This place only has a small selection of worthwhile routes between HVS and E2 but is enough for a good full day or two easy days perhaps. The quality of the rock and the cool lines make this a real hidden gem but it needs more travel to keep the moss at bay and the pine needles away. Since the angle of the rock lends itself to friction smearing and the protection, although good, can be sparse and hard to find, the abundance of slippy moss can make for quite a stressful or intimidating lead. Both these factors contributed to my excuse for backing off Ruta Aurelio which otherwise would be a spectacular line. I still manged to tick Corwar wall which I was happy was among the pick of the crop and Fraz lead Plum line which was a fantastic line too with a mid height challenging mantle above three dubious pegs.He also lead the E1 direct start to ‘Aplamayo no more’ which although not super classic provided a challenging start and a fun route all in all.

    The crag is definately recommended for a visit but as a new-comer a handy tip would be to print of John Biggars topo as it is much more succesful at describing the start of the routes than the Lowland outcrops guide.

    So in summary Galloway provided the perfect early trad trip of the season which has only wetted my appetite for more of the same as soon as possible. Meanwhile I am keeping up the training for Kalymnos and starting to edge toward my life long goal of climbing the nose by reading this book on my new daily commute.

    Psyched just does not explain it and once again throwing myself into climbing has helped ground myself in a reasonably rocky (pardon the pun!) time in my life.

    Bring on more!

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