Monday, 30 May 2011

Meeting Marlene

Oh, Marlene, Marlene! Or is it Marlina? It’s never a good idea to cry out for another woman in your sleep, but that’s probably what I’ve been doing because I’m obsessed.
Not that my other half is likely to worry – she knows were my guilty pleasures lie.
Anyway, after weeks of weather induced frustration I decided it was time to make a start on the list come what may and even found someone else crazy and optimistic enough to drive me an hour north through vicious rain and wild wind to Dunkeld and go searching on a wooded hillside for Upper Cave Crag, and the fabled Marlene.
Happily, the rock was as dry as we’d hoped. Astonishingly, not a single hold was damp on the 50 feet of climbing to the chain, and despite regular showers throughout the day, Kris and I set about besieging her.
One thing was apparent from the start – the wonderful schist was riddled with holds but not many were particularly good or facing the right way, making for an excessive number of possibilities. If we were to bag this route in a day, it would be a case of getting a sequence quick and going with it.
Unfortunately, the second thing that became apparent was that Marlene was no woman of easy virtue. In fact, 7c seems to be a consensus grade, not 7b+ as I’d thought, so I was also going to need a large dollop of luck.
When I lowered off after my first bolt-to-bolting, I was pumped and felt I’d learned nothing, but watching Kris gave me a few more ideas and on top rope I managed to start working things out. I knew were I was going through the steepness, but the route then dog-legs to follow a crack – scarcely more than vertical, but more tenuous and tricksome in nature. I diligently worked out a sequence along those final 15 feet of the route, but in the back of my mind I knew I was just going through the motions, on the very bit where I had to be most certain.
I decided to give it one redpoint attempt, knowing it was an outside chance. The start is bouldery and I managed it more smoothly that before, with the second half of the steepness easing somewhat. My forearms were feeling it after ten feet but I kept going, aiming for good holds at the junction with the crack. I stretched and got them, keeping things smooth and allowing myself a quick shake of the arms. Then it’s up and into a powerful cross over and...
I can’t reach the hold. I can. I tickle it. I can reach it but I’m knackered and I can’t twist my body back to face the other way and use it. I can’t even remember how I did that. Balls. I’m off.
I just wasn’t prepared enough and now I’m really blasted. I can barely batman up the rope. I get a rest and work the crack, bit by bit, and when I finish, I still don’t have a sequence.
I know when I’m spanked, and I guess Kris does too, so we head off, stop for tea, have a drink and get some nosh. We forget about Marlene.
Except now she’s come back to haunt me and I know there’s only one way to lay her to rest. My attempts to write an article about the Royal Bank of Scotland’s Chinese joint venture flounder amid thoughts of tactics, training, and ways to do that crack, especially when I Google her and find an excellent blog giving detailed beta for Marlene. It’s good to know someone shares my obsession, and good to know you should milk that shakeout. I could do that. And good to have a different sequence to try on the top crack, even if I’m not quite sure if the footholds I’m thinking of are too high or too low.
Maybe they’re perfect. I’ll be back to find out.

Reviews: Paramo Mountain Vent Pull On and Torres Sleeves

When I asked Paramo for some more kit to review, I was really hoping they would offer the Mountain Vent. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s basically a sweatshirt but is just made of wonderful stuff, hard wearing and warm. It’s also a perfect cut and a great cobalt blue colour, and has some very useful zips.
The Vent is so named for the under-arm zips that can be opened to give your armpits an airing and thus cool you down. These are probably the least useful zips on it, but are still a handy thing to have. Even better is the nice big neck zip, which can let lots of heat out or trap the warmth in, as the Vent has a high neck almost like a scarf. Finally, there’s a very handy chest pocket, ideal for your keys, card and cash.
The Vent is reversible, but I’ve never seen much need for reversing (and it’s not always all that practical to do so either). If you want to feel cooler, much better to roll up the sleeves, which have a button that means they’ll stay were you want them to. This garment was designed to go under one of Paramo’s waterproof jackets but I find it a bit heavy for that, and prefer to use it on its own in all but the coldest conditions.
The Vent takes some beating as a thing to wear, being very versatile for comfort in the ever changing British weather, and has become my climbing and bouldering staple.
Now, for those of you who think I only give nice reviews and therefore that one was meaningless, let’s move on to the Sleeves. When I asked Paramo for some kit to review, I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t send the Torres Sleeves. Basically they just seemed silly, and they’ve done little to change that impression in the last six months.
The Sleeves are exactly that, a pair of sleeves you can pop on quickly over whatever you’re wearing for a bit of extra warmth. Paramo says warming the arms alone is a “speedy and hassle free” way of warming the whole body and especially keeping dexterity in the fingers, and it should be said that the Sleeves are made of absolutely lovely material – very light and very warm.
However, I’ve taken them out in a number of conditions ranging from the chilly to the downright cold, and I’ve always wished I had the whole jacket, or even better, a snuggle suit made out of this wonderful insulator. Basically, if I’m feeling cold enough to want to put an extra garment on, I’m ready for the whole thing. Like fingerless gloves, the Sleeves just make your back and chest feel all the more exposed. If you’re cold when resting or belaying, you might as well put a nice big coat on. I tried bouldering in the Sleves and whereas they did no harm, I can’t really say they did anything for me. It would seem to be a product for those who like a very nuanced control of their temperature. Also, you will have to be prepared to explain what you’re wearing to quite a few people – and you might find yourself struggling to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment