Monday, 9 February 2009

Scotland and the cold winter

Well folks, this seems to be a very cold winter. I was supposed to enjoy the last weekend in Fair City but my flight was canceled due to snowy conditions in Dublin airport and I will have to re-schedule although I do not know when or how.... One thing is for sure though, Scotland is quite cold too! I kind of knew that already but I was hoping that colder = better conditions. I emailed John Watson when I first arrived and he told me that I had missed the best weather system (those same great conditions we got in Wicklow in December) but the conditions were changing and the best thing to do was to stay east for the moment. That I did and was even forced to stay indoor for the first couple of weeks thanks to some rather wet conditions. It was a good opportunity to shape up and I enjoyed a few sessions at Alien Rock 2 where I met young Felix Davey from the Belfast mafia. Yep it never takes too long to come across some Irish connection...

Felix has moved to Edinburgh back in September, and although the guy is keen to explore the outdoor, he did not get much opportunity as the Edinburgh crowd seems to be more interested in staying indoor. Well, that was not going to stop us from going and checking the “closest” venues. The most interesting places on the east side are Glen Clova and Glen Lednock judging by the info from the bouldering in Scotland guidebook. So we decided to go and check the first one on a nice Sunday afternoon: although the road was pretty sunny, we hit clouds and mist as soon as we approached the Grampian Mountains. We then decided to check Wolfcrag on the way back, only to get more rain. Disguted we finished the day in Ratho, which is meant to be the largest indoor climbing centre in Europe. Not so bad actually.

The following week a couple of dry days made me hope for better conditions. So this time I decided I would check Glen Lednock, and nothing would stop me from putting my hands on that schist. Nice drive, lovely landscape, and a good opportunity to see Scotland in the winter: 20cm of some bloody white cold powdery stuff was laying on top of my rocks.... Two days later I heard some news on the radio about 3 people killed in an avalanche in Glencoe mountain and that chilled a bit my enthusiasm.

The weather being what it was, I had to stay away from the west for a while so I went to check Wolfcrag and Ravenscraig. Wolfcrag is not exactly the best venue available, but at least it is closer, less affected by the weather and it was better than staying in some dusty indoor wall (ah the good old smell of feet and the flashy colours of resin holds....). Ravenscraig is a nice little sandstone roof on the sea shore. The lines there are good but very sandy and there is not many of them. So these two and Agassiz rock in Edinburgh were my outdoor destinations for a couple of weeks but eventually the conditions got better on the western front and the last two weekends I have finally enjoyed the gigantic basalt boulders of Dumbarton.

There I met Niall, a strong lad (well here, it seems everyone is strong) that I had already seen a few times at the Alien wall. The guy was quite psyched after having seen Underdeveloped and he is going to Ireland in April to visit Fair head and the Burren. So if you are about to send some project, you have been warned....

Niall is a nice dude anyway and he gave me a tour of Dumby showing me some of the classic lines, including Slap Happy, Pongo, Gorilla, Mestizo and the tricky but really addictive Toto... Although the place seems to stay in the shadow most of the day in winter, there was no wind and the conditions were really good. It was not as busy as I expected but there was a few people and it looks like there is always a good buzz. One of the lads was trying a cool dyno on the Pongo boulder which seemed to be an undone project. So it looks like Mr Smith and Dave Mc Legend have not sent all the lines yet. Here is Will's video:

The rock is a bit polished in some places, but it is very hard and sound and the small grain makes it quite enjoyable to climb. There is an enormous amount of rubbish around and some of the boulders are awfully tagged. Not that I cannot appreciate this form of expression (normally here the term “urban culture” should also be mentioned) but in some places the paint is actually filling the grain of the rock, making footwork much less enjoyable.... But as the locals put it “after a while you don’t even see it anymore”. Still they must be a bit annoyed as they have organised a clean-up day next week.

By the way, Dave Flanagan says the Irish bouldering meet should happen on the 13/14/15 March. I will have to give it a miss unfortunately given the fact that my baby is due around that time, so I hope you all enjoy yourselves and I wish the best conditions and plenty of new ascents!


Kevin Griffin said...

congrats on the new arrival you've been keeping it quiet??????
try not to raise him on the dreaded crimp.....

Pierre Fuentes said...

Cheers Kev!
He's lready got climbing shoes, and that wasn't me!