Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fourth Wall, Cir Mhor

A lovely day today, and a day off for both of us so we headed in to Glen Rosa and had a look at Fourth Wall (Severe 4b) on the West Face of Cir Mhor. Wally led it in three pitches.  The first one takes the first couple of pitches of Souwester slabs.

The start to Fourth Wall and Souwester Slabs
The angle eases for the second pitch, and being classic Arran granite, there is lots of friction climbing to enjoy and rough flakes to grapple with.  After a full 60m rope length, Wally belayed beneath a menacing looking chimney. This is Variation A of Fourth Wall- the "chimney direct" and the most natural line for the route.  It's described on the web as being unprotectable, but in true Wally style he filled the bottom two thirds with good gear, although the final moves out of the chimney must have felt pretty heady and a long way above his last runner.

Wally at the base of the scary chimney.
It has swallowed him.
It is a scary looking chimney!

Monday, 20 April 2015

#4 Paragliding

Fly like a bird!  What a dream.  I've always wanted to know what it feels like to be that raven, swooping on the breeze- playing with the updrafts and teasing the earthbound creatures below.
Wally gave me a voucher for a funday with Flying Fever for my birthday.  Now I was one step closer to the dream.

The weather on Arran is beautiful just now, so a quick message to paraglinding school instructor Zabdi Keen last night, and the plan was made...

Zabdi Keen coaching my first faltering steps
We headed to Bennan Head in the Southend with Zabdi and her partner Maurice, and fellow student Malcolm.  There were gorgeous views out to sea, wall to wall sunshine, and a subtle breeze, but it was never going to be quite right for a tandem flight, so instead I got the chance to learn the lines, quite literally, with my own wing for the day. It was hard work, lots to learn, tons of safety chat, and just getting to grips with handling the paraglider on the ground and feeling it testing the wind.

Even in a light wind the thing has some power!
 These baby steps were great for me, I needed to be led, slowly and gently, towards a point where I felt ok about running helter skelter down the hill.  Finally I felt a lift, a small hop, skip and a bounce,  and my feet were scuttering over the tops of the reeds. I managed to scoot above the ground a couple of times, and it was good to learn that I could brake and pull the air out of the wing whenever I wanted.  I'm still a long way from feeling like a bird- it turns out that this is one step on a journey, not the destination, and I'm looking forward to finding my way.

Bigger steps, running down the hill, almost a moonwalk

Tickling the tops of the reeds.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Bright and beautiful Arran hills

The weather is simply wonderful.  Today I was working in the hills with clients Constança and her cousin Mariana. We enjoyed stunning views and lots of good conversation as we went.  Constança is a marine biologist who is leading a European citizen science project to help monitor litter in our seas and on our beaches, so there was  plenty of interesting stuff us to talk about!  Her team have developed an app for recording marine litter that will help lobby policy makers and big business to get them to clean up their act. Android users can download the app here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.litterwatch&hl=en

Our route took us up Glen Rosa and over Cir Mhor and Caisteal Abhail.  We lingered late and enjoyed the evening sunlight.  

Glen Rosa and Cir Mhor

Enjoying views out west to Ireland and Jura

Cir Mhor and Goatfell

On the summit of Caisteal Abhail

Friday, 17 April 2015

#1 and #3 plus some climbing.

Last week we headed south on a mission to catch up with friends, do some cycling, and for Wally to do his Cytech Level 2 Bike mechanic's assessment (he passed- well done Wally!).
We stopped off at Stanage for some climbing on our way to Cambridge to see my best mate from school.

Wally on Castle Crack HS 4B, Stanage Edge
Taffeta was my partner in crime when we were growing up, and I hadn't seen her in years.  She is also one half of the wonderful Scrimshaw's Guerilla Kitchen so I was fed very well during my stay.  Seeing both Taff and my other close pal Aileen (from my uni days) was number three on my list of 41 things for this year. Although years have passed, our friendships have endured, with some humungous gaps between visits, but once together, with either of these two lovely women, its as if time hasn't passed at all.  I won't leave it so long next time.

Myrtle the Turtle, where incredible asian street food is prepared.
 A couple of days later, Wally returned, beaming and happy,  from his Cytech assessment. We loaded our bikes and took the train to Kings Lynn. From here we rode off on a three day tour that took us through varied landscapes of fen, dune and woodland, giving the lie to the assumption that East Anglia is flat and boring. Following Sustrans routes, we wiggled our way across country, up hill (yes, hills) and down dale, and even found ourselves riding off road at times. The final day was brutal- with a strong headwind on the nose for most of the day.  We were relieved when we finally arrived back in Cambridge to a warm welcome and dinner with Taffeta and her lovely family.

Country lanes

Sunset at Wells next the Sea

Roughing it

Roadside nap

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Some winter left on Goatfell

Wally and I headed up in to Coire Lan today to have a look at Stacach Gully. We didn't like the look of it unfortunately- we broke trail on the approach slopes through a layer of windslab over graupel, which poured down the mountainside as we released it from under the firm layer above.  A quick dig about, and we established that the endless hailstorms that have hammered Lamlash this week, have unsurprisingly dumped plenty in the hill too.

Stacach Gully is the dogleg gully in the middle of the picture

Plan B was a good option, we headed on to the NE slopes of Goatfell, where ice covered slabs sit in shade. We spent a happy time fossicking our way up through ribs and gullies, and eventually gained the ridge. It was strange to be wearing crampons and to see folk enjoying a sunny Easter day in shorts.  The short wearers are definitely a bit premature, although we didn't need the crampons on the ridge today.  The rock is bone dry and the snow mostly softening where exposed to the sun, but winter is still hanging on up high.