While the discussion settings (those relating to posting comments) for this blog were set up with pretty tight spam controls and I’m still deleting enough rubbish from the moderation queue to be cagey about opening things up too much, it’s a pity that my original 14 day comment window was too severe to let Richie comment this morning on my recent ‘running books’ post. So I’ve doubled the allowable window to 28 days (might yet increase that further, but not keen to encourage comments on ancient posts!) and am also now allowing comments from authors with previously approved comments to go straight through without being held for moderation.
Now let’s see how things go. :-)
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With the weather continuing to be unsettled and frustratingly unpredictable after Monday’s amazing day on Shangri-la, I’m afraid that nothing from the remaining days of Angus’s ‘climbing’ holiday was going to come close to that particular highlight. But we did manage two more hill days of a ‘not quite climbing’ nature with a wet traverse of Meall Cumhann in Glen Nevis on Wednesday and ascent of Garbh Bheinn of Ardgour on Thursday…
Having long been aware that the traverse of Meall Cumhann promised a great little expedition but never actually done it, it’s pleasing to be able to report that it is indeed a little gem with the perfect location, height and character for an enjoyable short day in stunning surroundings. So perhaps the soggy conditions forced us to take the line of least resistance rather than enjoying completely unfettered scrambling, but I’d guess that it’s all right on the button at Grade 2 when dry.
Since Thursday was Angus’s last full day we’d hoped to do something special, but were frustrated again by weather initially forecast to be good just about everywhere, then poor, and eventually starting poorly before improving just when we’d expected it to be deteriorating again. So we headed for Garbh Bheinn intent on climbing the classic Great Ridge (where I’d hoped we could swing leads), but skipped the Direct Start because it was minging wet and spent far too long on a diversion too far up an even more minging ‘slabby gully’ (ignore the description under ‘Great Ridge’ in the 2001 SMC Glen Coe guide, take note of the ‘perhaps best missed out’ warning under ‘South-East Chimney’ and be aware that the early exit right necessary for Great Ridge is no more obviously attractive than continuing up!) before abseiling 20m or so from a grotty cul-de-sac (and anchor that I wouldn’t have used on steeper ground) to escape left and up via a grass terrace. After which we toyed with the idea of climbing an almost-dry Sgian Dubh before rejecting it on account of one minging wall in the initial chimney and continued uncertainty over whether conditions were improving or deteriorating. So perhaps our simple ascent of the mountain was ultimately something of a consolation prize, but still a good day out. Which, given everything we managed to get done despite the weather over the past ten days or so, still has to be a source of some satisfaction.
I’ve got my brother Angus here at the moment to do some climbing and, in spite of having to work round some pretty uncooperative weather, we’ve managed to get some good stuff done.
Last Tuesday we bought him some new rock shoes because he’s recovering from a nasty cut to his heel (of which more anon) and the pair he bought at Easter left no room for dressings and tape. So, after a quick trial at the Ice Factor that day, we headed for Aonach Dubh on Wednesday with thoughts of Eve’s Arete and Quiver Rib, but finally did Lower Bow and Quiver Rib (a slower repeat of my July solo expedition) after finding both Eve’s Arete and Rowan Tree Wall too wet to appeal as attractive routes to the Terrace.
With Thursday’s forecast looking much better, we planned to do Spartan Slab on the Etive Slabs, but nearly lost the chance after an unexpectedly rainy morning. However, it brightened up eventually and we thought it worth a look, so set off in the afternoon. A good call, because the main sweep of slabs was mostly dry (although the lower right-hand slabs were soaking) and we had the crag to ourselves. Have to say I found the overlap harder than I remembered from having led it twice before many years ago, and poor Angus had to finish that third pitch in a shower that had us briefly thinking we’d have to be abbing off, but the rain relented again and we were able to complete the climb with no further ‘moments’ beyond crossing a treacherous weep on the fifth pitch. All in all, a great day snatched from the weather (carpe diem) and a fitting route for Angus’s birthday!
A curious Friday afternoon of sunshine and occasional showers saw us at Polldubh, where Angus led the Gutter (his first lead on rock) and my headache (maybe dehydration-induced?) and general lack of enthusiasm saw me fail to tackle anything. But Saturday was properly wet, and a planned ascent of Observatory Ridge on Ben Nevis with Rich and Jamie H turned into an almost viewless ascent of Ledge Route and traverse of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete. So that’s the second time Angus has done Ledge Route (we did it together in March 2000), the second time he’s summited the Ben and the second time he’s seen sod all from the top. However, the saga of his troubling heel took an interesting turn for the better on Sunday morning when he pulled a 10mm sliver of glass (which had been there for three weeks and missed by two doctors) from the cut!
After a quiet Sunday at home when it rained, we got some stuff done about the house, lifted the mast down from the boat and discovered that the inside of said boat was in a terrible state, we headed for Skye early yesterday morning in the hope that the apparent agreement of several forecasts showing a good day in the North-West might actually mean something. So it was a gamble, with the Cuillin still invisible in cloud as we arrived and Sron na Ciche visibly drying before our eyes as the cloud cleared and we started up the crag, but a gamble worth taking as we had a great day on the great classic VS Shangri-la, which has been near the top of my ‘hit list’ for a *long* time. And I’d have to say I thought it was quite hard (although some short sections were also still quite wet) and fully agree with everyone who’s said the final pitch is ‘nails’ for the grade (on which note I’d say go expecting steep, strenuous 5a and regard it as a bonus if you find it easier). We met just one other pair of climbers (who topped out almost simultaneously from Integrity after approaching it via Cioch West and Cioch Nose) but probably had the cliff to ourselves apart from that. And, with spectacular views to the Small Isles and Outer Isles in glowing evening sunlight as we descended south-west from Sron na Ciche to pick up the path from Coir a’ Ghrunnda to Glen Brittle, it was worth all the effort of a long, long day from Kinlochleven (where it’s raining again on Tuesday!).
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Having a certain amount of time to kill with some rainy summer holiday days and an increasingly tidy house, I’ve got through three recently published and purchased running books over the past week.
The first, Running for My Life by Ray Zahab (published 2007), is a simple autobiographical account of one man’s journey from smoking and drinking youth to accomplished ultra runner, and makes a pleasant day’s read in a more humble Ultramarathon Man sort of way. Since finishing it, I’ve also watched a TV interview with Ray Zahab on the web and have to say that he comes across as a nice, unpretentious guy with laudable zeal to bring meaningful adventure to young people.
The second, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (published 2009), is a gripping blend of natural history (humans evolving ‘to go running’?) and building action story (long distance racing with the Tarahumara) that’s closer to what’s possibly been my favourite running book of all (the hitherto incomparable Why We Run by Bernd Heinrich) than anything else I’ve read. So, despite the odd statement leaping out at me as needing checking (Peters ‘ten minutes under his own world-record pace’ after ten miles of the 1952 Olympic marathon?), I’d have to rate this alongside the Heinrich as fascinating, revelatory and uncommonly absorbing.
The third book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (published in Japanese in 2007 and English in 2008), is another personal memoir, but (as you’d expect of a celebrated novelist) given a more poetic twist than the Ray Zahab book. Which is not to say that it’s ‘better’, but just that Murakami’s writing not surprisingly comes across as more accomplished and polished.
Regardless of literary merit, however, where all three books ultimately work together is in stressing what a natural thing it is to run and making me just want to get out and run. Which has to be a good thing. :-)