Saturday, 11 May 2013

Ebony Face Beyond Communication

The cold-blooded moon.
The captain waits above the celebration
Sending his thoughts to a beloved maid
Whose ebony face is beyond communication.
The captain is down but still believing that his love will be repaid.

Projects: aren't they great? What I like about projects is the journey. From what first is often an exploratory peek, a non-committal feel of the holds, through the stages of working out what will actually work. Doing some moves; the realisation, "this might go." Doing some short links; the realisation, "this will go." To the final successful ascent when everything is put together. 

I have just completed a wee bouldering project of mine. 

The Ruthven Stane is on the south side of Loch Ness, about 55 miles from Fort William. It is a nice spot and I have bouldered there on or off for almost ten years. A long time ago my friend Trev had mentioned something about doing a traverse in, then finishing up the classic Font 7a of the Stane; The Big Lebowski. A few years later, after staring from progressively further left, I did this from the big jug at the left hand side of the main face. Project complete, or so I thought at the time. 

Fast forward a few years, I was again pottering about up at the Stane and started wondering about a traverse rightwards from the Big Lebowski. There are a few crimps here and there, and after a bit of brushing I could just about move between a few of them. Another project, another year. Sporadic attempts, half remembered sequences. I finally gave it a bit of conserted effort and got it done. 

The obvious challange then was to link the two problems to create a long traverse problem. Again over the next couple of years I tried this on and off, but jobs, weather and moving to Wales all got in the way. The years were ticking by and it wanted to get it done, so this year with little current employment, I decided it was time to put some effort in rather than just dablling with the project.

After numerous trips over this spring, each time with my fitness and knowledge of the sutblties of the moves increasing, I finally managed to get it done.

I think what I particularly enjoyed about this problem was it is essentially a route, except one where you are not (other than the final easy top out) more than a couple of feet off the ground. It is about 20 metres long, quite sustained and contains lots of interesting and varied moves. If it were a sport route, I reckon it would be f8b. It felt harder than Stolen at Steall Hut Crag, which I did a few years ago. Having said that I have been on a couple of f8a's recently which have felt harder than Stolen. Anyway, it is not a sport route, it is a boulder problem, and is perhaps Font 7C. However, I am not really sure, and have not done much at that grade. Perhaps someone who is stronger than me (Dave Mac?) would like to go and give it a go.

I hope someone does go and do it. It climbs from a natural starting jug, to a natural top out. A sitting start could be added, or it would be possible (but hard) to extend it at either end. I will have a closer look at those options next time I am pottering about up that way, perhaps the project is not quite over for me yet.....

However, I think what I climbed is worthy of a name, and have called it Ebony Face Beyond Communication. This is what I have known it as, in my head, for years. There is no particular deep meaning behind this name, just a couple of nice lines from Dylan's song Changing of the Guards.

Note: The photos are old ones, I broke my camera the other day, and have yet to get it fixed. Until I do so however, there might be a lack of nice new pictures on my blog.

Ebony Face Beyond Communication. Font 7C? *** A big long traverse that stays relatively low. All the holds can be reached from the ground. Start on the big jug just right of Barry Manilow, and traverse right to a triangular block, then across and down slightly to the ramp of The Big Lebowski. From the end of this make a long move round the arete to some crimps. Continue along a thin crack to two horizontal cracks. Continue round the corner into an overhung bay, to finally top out via a good crack in the slab on the right. Yeah! 

Start at the big jug (difficult to see) on the very left of the picture. Traverse right past the figure to the right arete.
Continue round the corner, and along parallel cracks and into the overhung scope. Top out via a crack in the slab on the right. If you do all this without falling off it will make you happy and weary. That is certainly the effect it had on me.