17 March 2010

Reward v Effort

During the last few days Malcolm, Lukasz (LWimages) and I have been on a tour of Scottish cafes and I have had a lot of time to sit and ponder the relative merits of different climbing locations. The plan had been to go and tick a few good routes but the shite Scottish conditions stopped that (or maybe the routes would have been too hard?). During the spare time I have developed an equation to calculate where the best climbing can be found but more of that later.

First up was The Hurting located high up on a buttress in Corie an t-Sneachda, not the most inspiring line sadly. When we arrived a coating of rime completely covered the top four fifths of the route. Despite the rime one of our team attempted an onsight but got stopped by conditions and a lack of the correct gear then down climbed. Taking the easy option I had a go at toproping the lower 6m of the route. The climbing was balancy and tenuous partly due to not being able to see rock or fully use poor snow ice in the shallow crack. I reached the high point and made another couple of moves but found no jugs or additional gear, not wanting to test the un-inspiring gear I down climbed to the ground.

Next day we tried a line that was in nick but due to the normal logistical irregularities when attempting a line for the first time we ran out of daylight. I onsighted pitch one then we abseiled off the first belay vowing to return and try and complete the route. The next day we took a rest, possibly this was a mistake but it felt necessary and the weather forecast was just about ok for the next few days.

When we returned everything seemed acceptable, there was ice at the parking but there was a problem with the air; it was moving really quickly unlike anywhere else I had climbed in the previous three months. Deterred we carried on, arriving at the route exactly as planned (despite me having to sprint uphill wearing crampons to harpoon a jacket dropped by someone I wont name). Lukasz had taken a few images during the short approach while the weather was ok but now the clouds engulfed the crag and it started to snow.  Despite falling snow the rock was blacker than 48 hours earlier so Malcolm and I had a discussion about ethics (partly to delay having to leave our gearing up shelter). A few moves in to in to pitch 1 it was clear what a waste of time the day had become, the rock was running with water from what was now sleet. Time to bugger off for more coffee, and the forecast? rain level somewhere above the summit of Ben Nevis.

So back to my equation to calculate the quality of a route, here it is:

Reward/Effort = Quality

To derive the Reward value (out of 10) consider factors such as:
- Quality of climbing
- Difficulty of climbing
- Difficulty of protection
- Aesthetics of the route
- Exposure

And for Effort (out of 10) the following should be taken in to account:
- Reliability of conditions
- Snow wetness coefficient (go to the cafe if balling plates are needed)
- Elbow wetness coefficient (running water or chimneys on the route??)
- Length of approach (gradient, path or uneven slush/ice)
- Probability of destroying picks/jacket/camera
- Reliability of conditions

Hmmmmm..... it's not looking good for Scotland as a mixed climbing venue!! The problem is during the tiny bit of climbing I have done there this year I loved sketching about on blobs of frozen moss and delaminated ice with protection that I found difficult to place and difficult to trust. I just hope good conditions return sometime and I'm about to enjoy them.

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