The weather and work-life balance has been rubbish of late but I still have managed to get out and grab a few personal firsts (and some lasts).
The last time I blogged for the 5.10 Community website it was spring; and you know Scotland, the weather is nothing if it is not erratic, it was super hot. The conditions were beyond what you would want for hard sending but it was fabulous to get the warmth after a long cold winter spent indoors working my socks off at TCA Glasgow.
I had expected that the weather would cool down and I could start working my long list of 8c/8c+ routes that I have it in mind to try here in the UK. Instead I have found myself trapped. Saturdays and Sundays are almost always wet. Monday to Friday is often dry and warm but, being a working man, these days are not climbing days. It is frustrating reading the climbing news, knowing that you could do these amazing things out there given half a chance. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and get your head down to some training. I have been channeling my motivation entirely into getting stronger fingers. Hours of dead-hangs over the last few weeks have seen the PB's falling. Whether you can hang on a small piece of wood for 10 seconds is not real currency in the climbing world apart from among the pale and spotty training geeks. So here is a resumé of a few noteworthy "firsts" I have achieved recently.
I have started coaching the Youth Climbing Squad at TCA which means that in spite of the longer nights midweek the likelihood of having a free, dry night is slimmer than ever. I can't grumble though as the guys and gals on the squad have a come on great guns. Some of the squad have only been climbing for 6 months and are already cranking hard. Scottish youth climbing has never been so strong thanks mostly to amazing work by the MCofS and the world class facilities at Ratho and now TCA Glasgow. I was psyched to be part of the setting team at the Scottish Youth Bouldering Championships. One of our squad is an über-wad at the age of 9 and was standing proudly on the podium that day as Scottish Champion. In fact his natural movement and style lead me to change my fridge magnets from their previous "what would Dani do" (as in Andrada) to the arrangement pictured!
I have managed to steal a few evening sessions away however and paid my first visit to the Kennedy Boulder in Glen Croe, about an hour north west of Glasgow. Although I had already done the classics of the other side of the Glen, the amazing Precious 7C and Turbinal Nose 7B+, I see this as the first time I have truly embraced Scottish Bouldering away from Dumbarton. I must say I really got into it and fought midges, humidity until I had cleared up the best of the hard ticks; Hotline 7C+, The Nuclear Button 7C+ and Thermostatic 7C. All of which come recommended despite not being on the best boulder in the world. I found a tactical shoe switch to the Quantum was what it took to make the send both the 7C+'s. The power of the down turned toe coupled with the extra stiffness is really powerful on Schist and I think I have a new go to shoe for hard Scottish sport and bouldering. You can read more about my thoughts on Glen Croe on my blog.
Having been brought up on trad climbing and having been on-sighting at 8a for a number of years now, one glaringly obvious gap in my resume was E7 onsight. I finally got in at the deep end and embraced the challenge by going for the iconic Scottish classic Dalriada. This route forms the edge of an impressive rocky peak on the summit of the Cobbler and is a line that can literally be seen from miles away. Climbing Dalraida on-sight was a truly massive moment for my climbing. There are certain routes that we build up in our minds, perhaps giving them too much respect. Dalriada was one such route yet didn't really deserve to be. My first E7 onsight has not injected me with boldness though. Less than a week later I was backing off another E7, Jodicus Direct, despite having pre-practiced the moves on a gri-gri. I was pretty cut up about that and thankfully was able to get back on the horse the next day with a very enjoyable on-sight of Phoenix in Obsidian E6/7 at Iron Crag in the Lake District. I wrote about the trad headspace on my blog after these experiences which was very positively received by those who read it.
My final two firsts happened whilst on my stag-do of all places. Prior to the first alcoholic beverage being consumed I did my first V11 in a day and first away from my local are of Dumbarton Rock. Cave Life in Parisella's Cave in Wales is more of a route than a boulder problem so I guess I was playing to my strengths, maybe 8b/+ is a fairer grade. The final first was pure hilarity; my first E2 in an Elvis Costume while wearing a blonde wig!