Petestack Blog

21 July 2011

The Autobahnausfahrt Enigma

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 11:11 am

So yesterday might have been Wednesday (who knows when you’re on holiday?) but, graced by the fine evening which Tuesday lacked, it made a good surrogate Tuesday for the Polldubh Club at (guess where?) Polldubh. And I climbed the first three pitches of Autobahnausfahrt on High Crag with Noel, finding them dirty and feeling harder than their given grades of 4a, —, 4b, with the route apparently needing more traffic to keep it ‘nice’ (NB we’d both soloed it before, but not for many years and neither of us would have done last night!). So it came as no surprise this morning to discover a note (re. the middle tier of High Crag) in Gary Latter’s Scottish Rock stating that:

The routes are a little bit dirtier than the more popular shorter routes lower down, but not unduly so.

However, this post is not so much about Autobahnausfahrt as Enigma (a fine Sullivan/Clough route on the cleaner upper tier of High Crag), which searching this blog should tell you I’ve climbed far more often. But it’s also a route that appears to have been accidentally ‘airbrushed’ from the history of Polldubh climbing and (through cumulative misreading of something started with the best of intentions) completely swallowed up by Autobahnausfahrt. So let’s take a look at the strange history of the ‘Autobahnausfahrt Enigma’…

  • Enigma was climbed at Hard Severe by Terry Sullivan and Ian Clough on 11 April 1959, with Enigma Direct (the better way) added by Clough in 1962 and described in the 1970 Schwartz/Wright guide (the only place noting the distinction?).
  • Autobahnausfahrt was climbed at VS (with combined tactics and a point of aid over the upper tier roof) by Klaus Schwartz and Brian Chambers on 2 September 1969 and again described in the 1970 Schwartz/Wright guide (possibly also the only place with a clear description of the third pitch).
  • With the aid being removed from the upper tier roof of Autobahnausfahrt by Kenny Spence and Rab Anderson in 1981 to produce the much harder Auto Roof, Autobahnausfahrt is described (to produce a consistently-graded combo) in the 1985 Grindley guide as finishing up Enigma. But, with the note explaining this unfortunately not on the same page as the route description, the accidental elimination of Enigma has begun…
  • Skip forward another five years to Kev Howett’s Rock climbing in Scotland (1990) and we find a Kinloss Grooves/Autobahnausfahrt combo that’s actually a Kinloss Grooves/Enigma combo, with first ascents credited to Clough/Sullivan and Schwartz/Chambers when they should be Clough/Sullivan and Sullivan/Clough!
  • Forward again to the SMC’s Highland Outcrops (1998) and the Autobahnausfahrt description gives the unacknowledged Autobahnausfahrt/Enigma combo, where looking up 1969 in the separate first ascent list will tell you that the FFA of pitch 4 (as Auto Roof) was by Spence and Anderson, but not that pitches 4 and 5 are actually Enigma. And yet the information is buried there (where no-one not in the know will be looking for it) under 1959, where you’ll find the solitary reference to Enigma in the whole book (it’s neither listed as a route in the main text nor mentioned in the Autobahnausfahrt description) as ‘now included as the second last pitch of Autobahnausfahrt.’
  • Forward again to the SMC’s Scottish Rock Climbs (2005) and Latter’s Scottish Rock (2008) and you’ll find both describing the whole combo as Autobahnausfahrt (credited to Schwartz and Chambers), with Enigma conspicuous by its absence and the accidental ‘airbrushing’ complete.

So does it matter? Well, I say yes! Both Sullivan/Clough and Schwartz/Chambers partnerships are important to the history of Polldubh, but Enigma’s a great little route in its own right (the best and cleanest part of the new ‘Autobahnausfahrt’) and deserves to be recorded properly. So (making an open plea to future guidebook writers here) please can we have Enigma back?

11 June 2009

Climbing, falling and biting beasties

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 7:21 pm

Two contrasting evenings’ ‘climbing’ to report:

On Tuesday I was back on the Buachaille with Jamie Bankhead to climb the uber-classic V Diff Agag’s Groove, which I really should have done at some stage over the past 25 years but had somehow slipped the net. And it’s an absolute belter of a route, taking a steep, exposed and stunningly natural line up the Rannoch Wall while simultaneously being easy enough to really enjoy without being overburdened by technicalities or trepidation. So Jamie, having done it often enough before, led the first two pitches (rolling them into one on my 60m single) to leave me the spectacular third and delightful fourth, after which we took the scrambling traverse off Crowberry Ridge for yet another descent of Curved Ridge. And, despite the ‘lowly’ grade, it just doesn’t get much better than this!

Last night saw us back at Polldubh for the Club meet and heading for Secretaries’ Buttress with Twitch still the magnet for me and the VS lead of Jamie’s choice on any neighbouring crag the agreed price for that indulgence. So it’s an unprotectable E1 5b slab and I can count the number of E1s I’ve done on the fingers of one hand (for those who know me, even my left hand!), but I’d shunted it clean first go a few weeks back, love slab climbing and, while you’d be correct in surmising that I wouldn’t just go jumping on any old E1, saw this one as carefully chosen to play to my strengths. Now, just exactly how hard could it be?

Well, having considered and rejected the possibility of side runners in Secretaries’ Direct and/or Super Direct, the only available gear would be below my feet before even stepping onto the slab. And it’s thin. Really thin! As in (bar a pair of little crimpy things to get you started) virtually devoid of anything you might consider ‘holds’ for the hands or feet over the first few metres, and steep enough to make pure padding a daunting proposition. So I placed a nut and a micro cam (‘it’ll pull if I fall but it’s a slow-me-down rather than stop-me piece’) below my feet, thought hard about things and stepped onto the slab for a go. Sounding out the next move up but sensing things weren’t quite right, I started to downclimb, took a controlled slip and landed OK (‘so you can fall off this’) before repeating that whole procedure. Allowing myself one more go, I stepped up, continued up and was surely close to the point of no return as well as cracking the whole pitch when I finally fell off properly while still moving upwards, and this time came bouncing down the slab and ledges below to land considerably more awkwardly several feet below my starting point. So the nut held and the slow-me-down cam pulled, but the ropes were barely weighted because my limbs took most of the impact. The net result being a swollen, grazed right forearm, lesser grazing to left forearm and shin, bruised left heel and somewhat swollen left ankle. And, not surprisingly, the decision that that was that for the night (and possibly even the year) as far as Twitch was concerned. It’s E1 for a reason (IMHO harder than anything on The Pause) and will keep for another time. Although I’d have to say that what happened is the one thing I didn’t expect to happen, because I basically saw myself either doing it or deciding (not for the first time) not to take it on. Not taking it on and falling, because it’s just not the sort of route you’d want to fall off…

Anyway, I was a bit bashed up, but not too badly to head for High Crag and let Jamie lead yet another ascent of Enigma in a hopeful (but ludicrously misguided) attempt to escape the midges, which were starting to top even last week’s on the unbearability scale. And, having knocked out my left contact (despite never having lost a lens climbing before) with a fistful of wires at the top of the route last week, I proceeded to top that by knocking out my right with a fistful of midges at the bottom of it this week. So had to follow Jamie with one blurry eye, which proved to be even more of a liability when we attempted to follow the John Muir Sheep Trail back down instead of the ‘regular’ descent past Secretaries’, After Crag and Dundee Buttress. And had to chuck my clothes straight in the washing machine after removing a dozen or so still crawling ticks between the pub and getting home. By which time I’d long since sworn not to climb at Polldubh next Wednesday if it’s going to be so severely compromised by ticks, midges or any other nasty little biting beasties! :-/

5 June 2009

Midge hell and hot aches

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 8:55 pm

While Wednesday evening looked perfect for Polldubh, it was set to be ruined by negligible breeze to keep the midges at bay. But we didn’t know that when we set out, so Daniel, Kenny Wright, Mark from Florida and I headed up to Secretaries’ Buttress with its open, sunny aspect and a bone dry Twitch (E1) featuring in my thoughts. Half a pitch of the Direct (Severe) and much cursing and swearing later, the agenda had changed to finishing that route as quickly as possible, after which I optimistically managed to persuade the team that Enigma (Hard Severe) on High Crag might still be tolerably clear of the little b*gg*rs. Half a pitch of Enigma and much cursing and swearing later, the agenda had changed again to getting the hell out as quickly as possible, although the loss of a contact lens through knocking my left eye with a fistful of nuts while setting up the top belay proved to quite some handicap on the subsequent descent to pick up the sacks at the ever more midge-ridden hell below Secretaries’…

With last night still promising fine conditions before some cooler (and probably wetter) conditions set in, I joined Bob, Cynth and Steve for a trip to the Buachaille. While there was some talk of Revelation (HVS) on Slime Wall, we finally went for the North-East Face of Crowberry Ridge, where Bob and I climbed Fracture Route (VS) and Steve and Cynth the neighbouring corner of Dingle (HVS). No midges this time thanks to the surprisingly cool breeze that followed a sweaty approach but, getting really quite cold by the time Bob had led up our steep first pitch, it took some degree of faith to trust my thawing fingertips on some exciting moves and I found myself with full-blown hot aches (in June!) at the first stance and needing a few minutes to recover before leading through. Two enjoyably easier pitches and a scramble later, we left the crest of Crowberry Ridge to descend Curved Ridge and made the road in fading light, well pleased with our night’s work but just too late for the pub.

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21 May 2009

Crybaby and more miserable May

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 4:37 pm

So perhaps I regard myself as a solid VS leader these days, but occasionally (currently just twice in eighteen years!) one bites back and last night it was Crybaby…

While getting out for our midweek Polldubh Club meet seemed improbable for much of another uncharacteristically miserable May day, we managed to snatch a reasonably dry evening from the rain and Geoff, Wesley, Random Jon and I found ourselves splitting into two pairs and gearing up for Knucklebuster (Severe) and Crybaby (VS) respectively up at Black’s Buttress. But the Knucklebuster team retreated on failing to find sufficient protection for the still slightly greasy conditions, and I have to admit that the start of Crybaby also rather got the better of me as I struggled to match my damp soles to the demands of the delicate footwork required. So I’m afraid I dogged it by taking one small fall as I tried to reverse a sequence back to a low runner and two more tiny slips from just below the triangular niche, but completed most of the route clean and would say that it’s spot on at VS 4c (feeling a grade easier than Shergar on the same buttress) and should be very pleasant when completely dry.

Meanwhile Geoff and Wesley had set up a top-rope on Shergar, and Jon might have joined them but wanted to lead something. So we set off (at nearly 9:00pm!) towards High Crag with Enigma in mind, but ended up skirting its base to Secretaries’ Buttress for a quick ascent of the Direct (Severe) in fading light. And Jon led the first two pitches comfortably in good time before I led through to romp up the easy ridge above, and we were done by about 10:20pm and back to the road (just as the rain came on) about twenty minutes later.

And it’s been chucking it down again for much of today!

12 April 2009

Shunting and Soloing

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 9:34 pm

Have to say that the Polldubh 50th Anniversary Game took a bit of a nosedive yesterday with a nice morning developing into a wet afternoon just when I was about to go out (meaning that I had to go running instead!), but I still took myself up there today and did two of the four Sullivan/Clough routes ‘scheduled’ for yesterday. Started by shunting Iche (I swear that overlap’s easier than Damnation’s!) and soloing Pine Wall before heading up to Secretaries’ Buttress to shunt Twitch (John Cunningham’s brilliant little pitch of Etive-style padding) and finishing by soloing Enigma on High Crag.

So Iche and Enigma might strictly have been a day too late for the ‘game’, but it was a nice, sunny day (odd spits of rain just as I finished rigging Twitch, then some more as I drove past Corran Ferry on the way home) and I got my first 5a and 5b pitches of the season, so it was definitely worth the trip. And it’s still game on AFAIC, because at least I made the effort! :-)

5 April 2009

Resurrection at 50

Filed under: Climbing — admin @ 10:34 pm

Today I climbed Styx Right Wall (V Diff), Resurrection (VS) and Three Pines (Severe) at Polldubh with Angus, 50 years to the day after Resurrection’s first ascent by Clough and Lakin. Have already posted an account to the UKC Forums (under the title of The Polldubh 50th Anniversary Game), so quoting that here:

Something I’d noted last autumn and kept in mind for some motivation to get back onto rock when the ice starts to melt (as it’s being doing for the past week) is the number of Polldubh routes from the great days of Ian Clough and Terry Sullivan coming up for their 50th birthdays this spring. So the first one I had in my diary (yes, really!) was the beautiful slabby ramp of Resurrection, but never expected to get it today after yesterday’s rain and a miserable forecast. However, we woke to something (sunshine!) far more attractive than expected, checked another couple of forecasts, thought a drying Polldubh more enticing than melting ice or pulling plastic and headed up. Got there about 11:00, had to wait an hour or two for a 10ft weep down the crux narrows to dry up, so popped up Styx Right Wall and grabbed a quick bite to pass the time before deciding things looked good enough. And they were, with just a few damp spots at the narrows and some more obstinate wetness to make the chimney fault above a little more awkward than usual, and we did it…

A very special ascent of one of my favourite climbs by a climber whose story continues to interest me, and all the more satisfying for being accompanied by my brother on what I think might be his first VS. Have uploaded a photo here and will be back to link it in or link to same on my site if I get today blogged before the photo gets approved.

So what of the ’50th Anniversary Game’? Don’t have all the dates to hand because (shock, horror!) I don’t have ‘Highland Outcrops’, but know we’re looking at:

Iche, Fidelity, Enigma and Kinloss Grooves on 11 April (this Saturday)
Pandora on 20 April
Vampire and Secretaries’ Direct on 21 April
Wanderlust on 22 April
Storm, Flying Dutchman and Phantom Slab on 3 May (a Sunday)
Heatwave on 22 May
Spike Wall on 28 June

(NB Three Pines and Crag Lough Grooves were both 50 this March, so too late to include in the ‘game’.)

So did anyone else do Resurrection today and, weather permitting, who wants to play? Haven’t ever done Iche, but took a look today and think 11 April looks like a good day out if it’s dry! :-)

Might add that I never used my chalk bag because it wasn’t warm enough to need it before we left, but did make use of modern rock shoes and protection! Also have to say I found the final groove of Three Pines (which I last did in 1990) polished to ******* (supply your own adjective!), but it’s still a fine little climb.

2009-04-05resurrection1 2009-04-05resurrection2

2009-04-05threepines1 2009-04-05threepines2

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