Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Mac the Chisel

Fortune, as Blackadder would say, vomits on my eiderdown. Or perhaps it was always to be expected that plans made in the heady days of spring’s early blossoming should come to nowt once the Scottish weather returned to its grim unpredictability.
So I’m left high and dry, with a week off and no-one to climb with, and though it was a complex series of events that led to it, it feels like I only have myself to blame.
I’d been looking forward to the chance to get up to some of the more exciting crags for months, carefully trying to bottle my enthusiasm but allowing some release because if not I knew I’d explode, and of course by last week my mind has been on nothing except the rock, the rock. How it haunts me still.
That said, as I write this I’m happy because I had a great day’s climbing on Saturday, and that goes a long way.
I didn’t quite get up to the wild lands of the north, but I did find my way to Cambusbarron quarry, which has some pretty good climbing in it. It’s also quite a friendly venue to kick off the trad season proper, which I did by bagging a naughty little route called The Chisel.
According to the guide book, this manufactured line up a fine slabby wall was first climbed as late as 1993, although whether that was when it was chipped the manual does not record. If so, it seems strange that use of the eponymous instrument should still have been considered acceptable in the year that my own climbing career made a tentative start.
Indeed, use of the chisel seems to have been fairly commonplace in central Scotland at a certain time, and wielded by some fine craftsmen at that – I’ve already enjoyed some excellent cranking at North Berwick Law where the quarrymen’s rough work has been finished by the delicate hand of someone who enjoys a good lock off.
But The Chisel itself, well that’s something else, because the handiwork of these stonemason-climbers surrounds what would be one of the finest finger cracks in Scotland, had it been left alone.
Still, that was but a passing thought as I got on the route, the first really testing climbing I’d been on for more than six months. Even with the ‘extra’ holds, the climbing around the crack at the start is the hardest bit and had me desperately scrabbling to get gear in as my toes, of all things, suffered from a flash pump. I guess I hadn’t been training the little buggers hard enough.
Once I’d got two pieces of gear in, I suddenly felt comfortable, realising I was basically on a slab and could chill out there for as long as needed – a sure sign of early-season nerves, because I should have known.
The Chisel really does have some very fine climbing, with a bottle testing move higher up that actually left me wanting a second pitch. At least there were plenty of other good routes to tick, and a thoroughly good day was had.
On the food front, I haven’t quite managed to get my supply lines as short, or as much to my satisfaction, as they were in Devon. And realistically, there’s nowhere for my neighbours to keep pigs, so it’s not going to happen.
What I have got on my doorstep is a plentiful supply of gorse, so there’s a batch of wine flavoured with the scent of Holyrood Park fermenting away in the spare room. Gorse seems to be one thing Scotland can produce in abundance.

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