Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Today Lizzie Jenkins, Tasmin Fletcher, Joanna Lisowiec and I went to Wolfcrag, above Bridge of Allan, in Stirlingshire for a spot of bouldering. There are routes here but the majority of the crag is bouldering so I only took a pad. I managed to work the low traverse of the main block (F7a). This gets a sport grade as it is quite long and not really a bouldery sort of climb. I also managed Experiments in Incest (font 6b) and Pod Central (font 5+). Lizzie, Tasmin and Joanna climbed things, although im not sure exactly what.
Whilst resting bettween attempts on the traverse I had a look at the rocks which make up the crag. The crag is a hard sandstone, which is very rough on the skin! There appeared to be some turbidites and pinching laminae, im not sure of the exact name. There were no signs of bioturbation, and I couldn't make out much layering. The grain size was also generally very small, except within the trubidites. This makes me think that it was of a deep sea origin, possibly a pro delta environment. Generally sediment laid down would be very fine grained muds, but occasionally a turbidity current would bring large grained material. The deep sea setting would mean that there is little chance of bioturbation.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Back in time for tea

The weather was looking good everywhere this weekend so after much umming and arrring I decided to drive down to the Peak district with James Lismore, Mark Olsthroon, Joanna Lisowiec and Joseph Stearn. We all stayed at James's house near Chesterfield.
On saturday we awoke to some quite foggy conditions but went to our crag of choice, Millstone, anyway. Millstone was once a quarry. The rock quarried here was used to make millstones, amongst other things. I started by climbing Embankment 3 (E1 5b), which is a steep slab with a finger width crack up it. I found it hard going to begin with as I had never really finger jammed before, but once I got used to it I found it abit easier. Joanna seconded in good style until she reached the top cruck, which is climbed on lots of small pinches. She did it in the end and we moved further along the ledge which the first pitch finishes on to do the second pitch of the route. I had never done a multi pitch grit route before, and I usually wuss out of doing multi pitch trad routes, but the huge belay ledge made it all alot more friendly. The top pitch was over pretty quickly and we met Joe and Mark on the top, who had just climbed Great North Road (HVS 5b).
Joanna seconding Embankment 3
We all returned to the ground and I belayed Mark on Embankment 3. He unfortunatly fell, after getting pumped whilst trying to place an extra piece for gear, but did it fine after that.
It was my turn again and I decided to have a go at Time For Tea (E3 5c). The route takes a thin finger crack till about 2/3rds height where it runs out and you have to traverse off to the left using some small crimps. The guide says "place enough gear, then some more, and make scary moves to the top of Embankment 3". I tried to jam some gear into the top of the crack but I had placed what I needed lower down so decided to make do with an "OK" wire and a dubious micro wire. After quite alot of hesitation and chalking up I made it across the traverse and brought Joanna and Mark up after me. From the top I watched James fall off Embankment 4 (E1 5b) a number of times.
Time For Tea (Photo: Joanna Lisowiec)
It was Joannas turn to lead something next so I pointed her towards a number of nice looking VS's, although they all looked quite poorly protected. In the end I convinced her to give Embankment 2 (VS 4c) a go. After a few failed attempts she addmited defeat and let me climb it instead.
I was happy to see an old face when we returned to the base of the crag. Clare Muir, a university friend who had graduated last year, had just turned up with a group of her Sheffield based friends. It was nice to catch up and find out what she had been doing, alot of travelling it turned out. Joanna and I joined her and Malcolm Scott, the brother of Frances Scott, who is currently at edinburgh, for a boulder. With some helpful beta from Malcolm I managed Technical Master (font 6b), a lay back arete problem.
I finished the day by leading Embankment 4, which I found quite hard.
We all returned to James's house for food, we cooked bolognese together, and merinque with strawberries and cream.
On sunday we climbed at Stanage. We parked on the road side outside of the plantation parking, to avoid paying. Joanna and I headed up to The Strangler area and Joanna began by climbing Pizza Slab (S 4a). I then tied into the bottom of The Strangler (E4 5c), and attempted to make the precarious lay back moves up the arete. I couldn't find a way through it so I down climbed, removing gear, and decided to save it for later in the day when it was abit cooler. I instead climbed Tower Face Direct (E2 5b), which had a tricky move standing on a pebble, but was over quite quickly. Afterwards I climbed Fairy Steps (VS 4a) and followed Joanna up Hot Spur (HS 4b). Joanna and I decided to go down to Hathersage to try on shoes and have a drink, and head back up when it was a bit cooler.
The Strangler (Photo: Joanna Lisowiec)
Tower Face Direct (Photo: Joanna Lisowiec)
Joanna on Hot Spur
For the walk back up to the strangler I only took what I needed which were 3 cams, 2 slings, a harness, shoes, helmet, chalk and 2 quickdraws. I didn't really need the draws I just like having them. Joanna was very nice and carried the rope. I tied back in and set off up to the crux arete of The Stangler. I worked out the moves for a while, trying to decide on the best foot sequence. I had to really convince myself to go for it. I knew the gear was good and the moves aren't too hard. I made a couple of decent attempts which I reversed back to the good break. After composing myself I made my final attempt. This one was going to be all or nothing. I worked my feet up the blank slab and my left hand up the arete. "I can make it. If I just reach out my right hand. Oh no my feet..... TAKE". I came off and took a large head first fall off the slab ending up underneath a small roof. Joanna did a good job taking in the slack, as I could have fallen much further.
It was starting to get late so after some food in Sheffield we made the long drive back up to Edinburgh, returning at about 2am. All in all a good weekend!

And thanks to James's mum for providing us with beds to sleep in, tea to drink and food, which I really wasn't expecting :)

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


The weather was so nice in Edinburgh today that it would be silly to climb indoors so Mark Olsthoorn, Lizzie Jenkins, Sarah Lund, James Lismore and I went to Cambusbarron, near Stirling. Sarah injured herself juggling last night so she just came to take pictures and just generally be outside.
I started on Gobi's Roof (E2 5c). One of my flat mates fell off it last year and since then ive wanted to try it, not to show off though ofcourse. The route climbs up a short corner then a hard pull round a small roof and then some easier climbing to the top. I hung around for a while at the roof but once I committed it wasn't too bad.
Myself on Gobis Roof (Photo: Sarah Lund)
Next I belayed James on The Doogie Brothers (E1 5b) which featured some hard jamming/lay backing. Once he worked out the moves it didn't seem to give him much trouble.
James on The Doogie Brothers (Photo: Sarah Lund)
I then decided to try and climb Chisel (E4 6a), which takes a finger crack to about half way where it runs out and crimps lead to the top. I tried the crack, then got stuck, hung around for a while, then down climbed. After a break I got back on and climbed the crack and did the move I couldn't before. Then I was on the good crimps until a tricky move at the top then the top out. I did the tricky move, I found it quite tricky. You have to go from two side pulls to another one above you head on some poor feet. I managed to place a good came in the crack which the side pull was in and move up abit further. After mantiling onto a large break I placed a cam at my feet and tried to work out the top couple of moves. I found some hold and move up. My feet were now above my final piece of gear. I saw a large hold on a rounded arete. It was good. "OK then I can just haul off this then flop over the top", where my thoughts. I would finally be able to celebrate my first E4 lead, and its onsight aswell. The hard climbing wall well over so this should be easy. I pulled on the hold but it came off in my hand and I was sent flying, along with rocks, down the crack. All my gear held, which was lucky as I thought the last cam was rubbish. Deflated I pulled back up the ropes and topped out. Just like on The Ivy League on sunday I'm glad I committed and took the fall, but I wish I had got this clean. Never mind, theres always next time.
High up on Chisel (Photo: Sarah Lund)
The crack on Chisel (Photo: Sarah Lund)
 Today Mark and Lizzie climbed Gobis Roof, Not Easy Contract (E1 5b) and Easy Contarct (HVS 5b). Mark led them all.
Mark on Not Easy Contract (Photo: Sarah Lund)
Mark on Gobis Roof (Photo: Sarah Lund)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Fossils, freshers and falling

Today Joanna, Mary Leese, Nina Hersher and I went to Limekilns, again. Im not complaining I actually quite limekilns. There are lots of interesting fossils to look at, the climbing is good, the crag has a nice setting and I never feel like my stuff is going to get stollen when its sitting at the bottom.
Nina is new to the club this semester, she is on exchange from Boston, and Mary is a fresher, studying medicine.
I began by warming up on the Gellet Block Traverse (font 6b). This route traverse around all of the faces of the Gellet block, starting on the West face and finishing on the East face, with each face harder than the previous one.
Next I soloed bouldered slots (font 5+) and then lead White Ensign (VS 4c), which Nina seconded. Next I moved onto do Grasp The Nettle (E2 5b), which Joanna seconded very smoothly. The only gear on Grasp The Nettle are two pegs, which are apparently very big deep.
Nina on White Ensign
Joanna seconding up Grasp The Nettle (Photo: Nina Hersher)
My last route of the day was Ivy League (E4 6a). I had attempted this route a while ago on top rope but today I thought I should tied into the sharp end and go for the lead. I managed to get to the big crack, which gives the first proper gear, and placed some gear. I hung around here trying to work out how to get higher. I finally worked it out and abit higher. I couldn't really rest in this position so I had to try and find a way through to the next ledge. I tried, but failed, and took a small fall. It felt good to takes this, as it was safe. I got back on and did the moved but failed to get any higher, as I didn't really trust the nut I placed, and I remembered finding it hard when I tried it before. I lowered to the ground then went to the top, abbed for the gear, then tried it on top rope, and did it easily.
On the lead on The Ivy League (Photo: Joanna Lisowiec)

Today Joanna also managed to lead DTs (VS 4c) and Mary did White Ensign (VS 4c), as her first trad lead, and Red Flag (HS 4c).
Joanna on DTs
While Mary was climbing Red Flag I busied myself by looking at the fossils at the bottom of the crag. I noticed what looked like a large band of corals and some bivalve shells. There were even what looked like some load casts within the bay splitting the South wall, although I'm not too sure about these. Maybe the paleoenvironment which the Limekilns limestone formed in wasn't as much of a mono culture as I first thought.

Oh look a moustache

Saturday was looking promising for the return of winter conditons so Joanna, Ondrej Mandalu and left on friday night for Ben Nevis. We were kindly given some floor space at Liam Ingram and Fergus Cuthill's flat in Torlundy.
After a 5am wake up we were heading up to the ben. This was really very early for this time of year but we had big plans. Liam was to climb with Ondrej. They intended to do the big 4 ridge in a day, those being; Castle Ridge (III), Tower Ridge (IV,3), Oberveratory Ridge (V,4) and North East Buttress (IV 4). Joanna and I were intending to climb Sioux Wall (VIII, 8). I thought this might be in as it is quite high up and sits back a little so should hold snow well on holds.
Once at the CIC hut I could tell that sioux wall was very unlikely to be "in", but we decided to go up into the Number 3 gully area anyway for a look. We were going to go "Euli Steck" style on number 3 gully, this means moving really quickly on easy terrain, but Joanna was struggling to front point, as she had a blister on her heel. After abit of thought we decided it was best to head back down to Fort William and go for a walk.
After a quick coffee we drove down Glen Nevis to Steall Hut Falls. On the walk along the path we saw lots of interesting rocks. I noticed that the rock type changed along the walkin bettween metamorphic rocks, with lots of kinks and deformation, to more uniform igneous looking rocks. There were also alot of rocks with shiny tints to them, no it wasn't water. I suspect that this was a sheety silicate of some sort, possibly muscovite. There were also a few quartz inclusion, inculding this intersting looking one.

We kept on walking along the gorge which leads from Glen Nevis to the Steall Hut falls. After the gorge the valley open up to a nice meandering river, with big rocky banks, and a large flood plain. The falls sit at the other side.
We found lots of nice rocks around the river. The following one looks like it could have really big feldspar crystals which have been altered on the outside giving it them the two-tone texture. It is more likely that they are infact small lithic fragments, as they would be very large for single minerals. 
 There were also some nice, large scale, features higher up in the glen. The rocks to the left of the falls showed some nice bedding and on the oposite side of the glen there was a large fold. It is not a very big picture so I shall describe it. One limb of the fold runs from almost vertically up to the top of the obvious ridge and then bend to the right on the summit behind this.
Liam and Ondrej only managed to climb one ridge, Observatory ridge, although Ondrej did go onto solo Tower Ridge, while Liam went back.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


The weather wasn't looking too bad on for wednesday, and as I had handed in an essay that morning, Joanna, Ted Angus, Lizzie Jenkins and I all went to Limekilns for the afternoon. It was abit colder and windier than I'd have liked but it was nice to get out all the same.
Limekilns is a curious small out crop of limestone in Fife. It is curious at there isn't any more of the stuff within atleast a 3 mile drive of edinburgh. The limestone used to be in the shape of a hill, but quarrying has turned this into two small buttresses, one of which used to support the flag pole for the near by Rosyth Dockyards. The blocks are shallowly tilting in a roughly North East direction, and show some nice signs of bioturbation. These include some algal matting and what I think may be Echinoderm fossils. I expect that the sediments would have been laid down in a very shallow warm ocean, probably when Scotland was around the equator. 
Joanna and I warmed up on the East Face traverse (font 6a+), while Ted and Lizzie climbed Red Flag (HS 4c). I also managed to climb Link Arete at font 5+.
Lizze seconding Red Flag
It was my lead next and I went for Forbidden Colours (HVS 5a). I had intended to do the direct finish, at E1 5c, but I hung around too long where the two route diverge, which meant I couldn't feel my fingers as it was so cold.
It was Joanna turn to tie into the sharp end next. She decided to go for White Ensign (VS 4c). Despite some hesitation at about half height, which she over came with abit of gentle encouragement from myself, she seemed to not find it too bad. I think this is only her second VS lead.
Because it was getting quite windy, and the wind was a southerly, I suggested we move to the other block, which is more sheltered, and I wanted to try a route on the sheltered north face of it.
My route of choice was Velvet Glove (E4 6a). Velvet Glove is one of the classic climbs in the Edinburgh area and features some well protected hand jamming up greasy, polished hand sized cracks. I attached my headtorch to my helmet, in anticipation of it getting dark whilst climbing. The route can be split into two sections. A starting, roughly E1, corner  leads to a short traverse out right into the hand jamming crack. I managed the E1 bit without too much drama but I hung around on the traverse abit too long, making the holds all nice and sweaty. When I'd figured out how to make the move out right, and then made it, my feet popped. I held this mini fall but got my head stuck underneath a small overlap on the traverse, which meant I couldn't see to replace my feet, and so slumped onto the gear. A few more futile attempts later and I decided I should leave it for another day, and so abbed to get the gear back.
I am abit disapointed that I wont be able to get the onsight tick on such a classic route, but I really need to start getting on hard things if I'm going to improve. I will definitley be back for this one.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Newtyle Quarry

Joanna and I met up with Greg Boswell, Adam Russell, and his brother Dougie and dog Holly, at Newtyle quarry today. Joanna led Bonzai and Grooviliscious (both M4) and I climbed Pullviliscious (M6). I had to work out a new sequence as alot of holds seemed to have disappeared since last time I tryed it and I pulled the top flakey hold off on my first attempt. This meant that I had to do a balancy move up using the arete and mantling onto my axe.
After this we went inside where we watched Adam climb Too Fast Too Furious (M11+), then Greg try his new project, which looks really hard. I seemed to get pumped whilst watching them, then loose the pump as they shook out.
Adam Too Fast Too Furious (photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
It was my turn next so I tied into the bottom of my new project, Torchlite (M11). The first section went quite well and I was soon onto new ground, I tried it once before but didn't get very far. I made it to the top on my first attempt, despite abit of huffing and puffing.
Myself cutting loose on Torchlite (photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
Adam was back on next and decided to try to extend DTS spirit (M12) to the chains on Too Fast Too Furious. Im not sure how seriously he was taking it to begin with, as he was already tired, but after crusing up DTS he went for it. A few minutes later he was at the top with the chains clipped and a new route in the bag. He has named it French Connection UK, in homage to the french guys that bolted DTS. He has proposed a grade of M12+, although he isn't too sure on the grade.
Adam looking happy lowering off after the first ascent of F.C.U.K. (photo credit: Joanna Lisowiec)
I had another go on Torchlite after that, and managed it with only 3 rests this time.
I have decided I quite like the unexpected falls you get drytooling. I took two from Torchlite and quite a few more from Pullviliscious whilst trying to work out what hooks I could use.

Saturday, 3 March 2012


Joanna and I headed to North Berwick Law todain the hope of some nice sunny weather, although this ended up being quite broken up by cloud. Joanna started by repeating Darkness Falling (f6a+). I put the clips in Fogtown (f7a+) and almost did it clean on this attempt, but I fell off from the last move again. Joanna then had a go at Law and Disorder (f6a+), although she couldn't do the final move.
My turn next and I went back to Fogtown and fell off low down on my first attempt. I pulled the ropes and managed to do it clean, despite messing up the sequence in the middle abit.
We then decided to play around on a few of the boulder problems at the bottom of the main wall. I managed to tick Law of Gravity SS (font 6b+) and I Fought the Law (font 6c+).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Black Wall

The weather was nice this afternoon so once I finished uni I headed up to the crags for a boulder. It was threatening to rain all the way there, and did at times, although the weather held out and I had a nice afternoon working some problems.
My main aim was the Black Wall Traverse (font 6c+). I have tried it before but always came off the crux. I had a couple of attempts to get through the lay back moves, which didn't feel too bad today. I was finding transfering my weight onto the large foot hold past the side pulls hard and came unstuck from here a number of times. I kept on persevering and in the end I managed to tick Edinburghs classic bouldering test piece.
There was a little sunlight left so I played around on a few problems round the corner including reccess traverse (font 6a) and overhang problem (font 6a).