Tuesday, 3 May 2011


It must be a middle age thing. I'm developing a growing frustration every time I see French names misspelled.

So this post is for any English speaker who attempts to write about Font.

Copy/paste the spelling below whenever you need it (Select the text with your mouse and use Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to insert the name in your word file/blog/facebook/twitter or whatever support you are using:


Or in lower caps :


And if you really, really, really, really, really, really cannot be arsed, then (by all means) stick to the usual English spelling - use "Font".It's perfectly fine. Everyone knows it and this way, you won't be polluting the Internet.

Finally, for those who don't understand texts that don't contain smiley punctuation, I want to stress that the tone of this post is not angry. The aim of this post is  to help you, genuinely. 

Friday, 18 March 2011


Bouldering near Edinburgh, Wester Craiglockhart Hill

1. Shark, 4. Sit start at the left corner by the tree. Go straight up on the fin and finish on the high and sharp jaw.

2. Hung Per Lament, 6a. A very nice problem. Sit start on an obvious flake in the centre of the wall. A technical sequence leads to hidden holds at the high break. Finish traversing left and descent on  Shark (if you don't feel like jumping).

3. Hung Parliament, 6a+. Sit start under the bulge. Pull hard on crimps and sloper to reach the only jug of the wall. Traverse left and finish as for previous.

4. The Power of balance, 6c+. Technical L-R traverse. Finish at the scoopish sloper by the ivy.

5. The harder R-L traverse is Balance of Power, 6c+.

6. Link the last two and you get Full Frontal, 7a+. The LH must hold the flat diagonal side pull before reversing the traverse.

The rock is a soft basalt, so please keep it in good conditions for anyone who may come after you. Wirebrushing is forbidden. If you don't like the place, just walk away.

According to the Lothian and Borders RIGS Group of the Edinburgh Geological Society, you can spot some well formed columnar basalt on the crag to the left. This type of columnar structure is prone to toppling over after wet periods, hence the catcher wires in place, so let's be clear: the crag is not safe for climbing (remember, bouldering is inherently dangerous and potentially deadly).

This outcrop is on private land. It's a golf course and the area is a designated SSSI. I've never been told anything by the golfers - apart from a nice bunch of old ladies who got puzzled by my description of a bouldering mat as a love bed. Keep a low profile and it will remain as it is.

You can also take a nice walk up to the remains of a ring fort at top of the hill. From there, you'll enjoy stunning views over Edinburgh.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Grading traverses II

Bouldering grade maths - adding grades

So with Full Frontal sent, I'm scratching my head again with traverse grades.

The problem with traverses is their hybridal status. The number of moves is usually way beyond what's in your average boulder problem. Indeed, I've counted 24 hand moves for Full Frontal - 64 moves if I include foot placements.

The fontainebleau approach is to use sports grade for traverse, e.g. if the hardest move is 6c, the traverse would be worth 7a+. The problem with such system is that there is no difference between a 7a+ traverse of 10 moves and a 7a+ traverse of 40 moves, not to mention the fact that traverses are still boulder lines and their grades should not take into account any other factor than technique, which is not the case for sports routes.

Another solution is to break the traverse into boulder problems, then grade these problems and use a logical rule to add the grades. Here's the Australian Bouldering proposal for instance:

"The rule of thumb that we use at AB.C is this: the addition of two boulder problems of the same grade equates to one boulder problem of the grade +2. So a V9 into a V9 should produce a V11. Everything else works around that premise. The following examples (based on V9) should help convey the idea:

V9 + V6 = V9,
V9 + V7 = V10,
V9 + V8 = V10,
V9 + V9 = V11,
V9 + V10 = V11,
V9 + V11 = V12,
V9 + V12 = V12"

Whatever system I choose though, one may argue that I won't really be objective because I have been trying that line for nearly two years.

I had done the R-L and L-R traverses last year and started to try and link them during last summer. Back from Galicia in September, I had to rework the sequence because it had become much harder after I broke a key crimp

Then November arrived with its usual rainy days. Then came December with its unusual 40 cm of pow. Work picked up. Life got busy. I was close but I needed more time.

So when I finally sent it two weeks ago, I felt like if I had climbed something really hard for my standards. But none of the moves is harder than 6b+/c and when I try to be objective, I must admit that it is simply of matter of stamina.

This and the fact that I never really enjoyed this type of climbing - lots of moves on small edges on a nearly vertical rock - made me wonder about the grade. Should I actually knock down a couple of grades because it does not suit me?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Full Frontal

Bouldering in Edinburgh, Wester Craiglockhart hill

Latest project completed: Full Frontal is a reverse traverse of about 25 crimpy moves on a slightly overhanging wall - which makes it possible to climb even in the rain (when it's not too windy).

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


Sigmund Freud is supposed to have said that the Irish are one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever. This quote is invented, I checked. But it became famous with the release of a brilliant film by Scorsese, The Departed.

The fact is that to analyse people, you must let them talk about their feelings. This is something that the Irish are certainly not prepared to do.

My wife, who’s an Irish academic, sometimes complains about the fact that American and UK researchers always introduce themselves by stating how great they are. While she knows she should do the same if she wants to stay in the race, she finds the procedure extremely hard because pride is not something people easily express in her own culture.

I have seen this attitude in many areas of Irish life, and climbing is no exception. Grades, which are always a matter of heated discussions, no matter which country we are talking about, are usually contemplated with a fainted disdain in Ireland. Irish climber Dave Ayton regularly underlines this fact on his blog. In his latest post, he notes that in Irish climbing circles, grades don’t matter, and that “Grade Whore seems to be the phrase of choice at the moment back home”.

The fact is that talking about your achievement is expressing your pride, and pride is a feeling. Since the Irish are brought up not to express their feelings, they regard most expressions of pride with disdain, climbing achievements included.

But this attitude conflicts with national pride, because national pride is vital to Ireland unity. National pride is what allows any people to express a sense of identity, especially if we are talking about the most famous emigrating people!

And so, while the Irish do as if they disregard the importance of grades, they are desperate to make Irish climbers’ achievements more visible. This is probably why the Irish are often seen as a friendly bunch, because they manage to express national pride without the arrogance of self esteem.

Pretty much the contrary of the French!

My first E10

I never climbed harder than E1 in trad, but yesterday I got my copy of Dave Flanagan's guide book and discovered that I climbed an E10 in 2004.

I had originally graded 6a what was possibly the first ascent of An Taobh Tuathail, but it looks like Dave thought the line was even more lunatic that Lán Mara  and Lag Mara.

Okay, it is a bit reachy, fair enough. But the landing is fine (at high tide that is).