Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sea Stack Sickness

Sea stack climbing is a branch of climbing entirely devoted to the surmounting of rock plinths isolated from the main land by the sea - not to be confused with rock pinnacles which are attached to land such as Napes Needle or the Bell Tower outside the Aber Uni Student Union. Its probably considered by many to be a bit of an esoteric outing where loose rock, sketchy abseils and guano is all part of the package and where failure will result not only the dampening of dignity but also a soggy chalk ball.

The Old Man of Stoer is one of Scotlands most iconic sea stacks, The original route climbs up the middle from the base up to the right flank then onto the top and its only VS!
England and Wales have there fair share of stacks such as the Devil's Chimney on Lundy or the great red sandstone towers of Ladram Bay however, its no secret that the best stacks are in Scotland. With over 245 recorded stacks out of the ~300 recorded in total for the UK, Scotland is definitely the hub for this masochistic sport. And like all sports, sea stack climbing has its hero. Just like Gandhi was the hero for peace and Nigel Farage was the hero for nutters, Dr Tom Patey was the hero for Sea Stacks.

Often refereed to as Doctor Stack, Tom Patey climbed many of the Scottish stacks by their most popular routes during the late 60s and even made a televised ascent of The Old Man of Hoy (not technically a sea stack but we'll let this one slide..) with Bonners in 1966. Apparently his ascents were often famous for being characterized by lengthy swims, massive hang overs and usually finishing by abseiling down an accordion.

Nowdays many of these stacks have multiple routes on right through the grade range all the way to E6 6a and beyond. The tale of John Arran and Dave Turnbull driving the bold and terrifying line of The Orkneying Saga up the Old Man of Hoy is a great read and reminds me why I'll never bother to climb E6!

The crux 5a moves on Original Route involve jaming, yarding, grunting - everything you'd expect really for a Scottish VS!

Having completed 2 stacks now I feel like I have definitely caught some kind of Sea Stack Sickness. Its seems that Doctor Stack took the cure to his grave but I'm sure I'll have fun trying to find out more for myself on all of the other aquatically isolated esoteric outings around our coastline!

Getting down is certainly the easy bit

Its getting there and back which is the hard bit!
A few of these photos are Rafe's so thanks for letting me use them! 

Monday, 21 September 2015

Alpine Foray

Managed to squeeze in some 'alpism' this summer with a quick trip over to Chamonix Mont Blanc. An early attempt on anything out the Cosmiques Refuge was thwarted by some summer storms resulting in a rapid retreat down the midi lift. Later that week the weather stabled up and with a fresh sprinkling of snow we went back up the mountain to find calm, blue skies.

Looking down into the gloom. Emma still managing a smile though!!

Looking up the snow arete towards the midi station with the weather closing in

After catching the first lift and seeing such fantastic conditions we opted for the Pointe Lachenal Traverse (AD) which is a small, mildly technical ridge that sits below the impressive Triangle du Tucal Face in the Mont Blanc Massif. There was a bit of fresh snow which added to the excitement and meant there was actually some patches of ice in the 4a chimney but otherwise was a grand expedition!

Even though it took the three of us a while to do the route we made it to the base of the route 45 minutes faster than the guide time and got back to the midi even quicker. Celebratory beers were well deserved!

Dad and Jed walking in perfect conditions on the upper Valley Blanche. The lower peaks on the left side of the image is the Pointe Lachenal Traverse

Looking along the ridge of the lower peak of Point Lachenal with the Grandes Jorasses in the backdrop

Dad scrambling up the final section of the mixed 4a chimney up to the main summit

Looking at the ques back along the traverse. Good thing we got the first lift up!