Monday, February 20, 2006

The "Motherlode," Scotland

Miners talk about the "Motherlode," the place where all the gold comes from. We just found that place in Norway. Today I saw a dozen ice routes between 3 and 15 pitches long, none more than an hour from the road, and none reportedly climbed. Yep, I'm totally floored. Stellar blue ice, that wild yellish stuff, ice everywhere. It's insane. Spak got a tip on this place a week ago from a friend, he (and I) owe that guy a bottle of fine Scotch at a minimum. There are simply too many routes to even think of climbing in the four days that we have. I always wondered about finding a place like this, where the challenge is to figure out what to climb first... Not to gloat, but goddamn am I psyched!

It's all ice. No mixed, just ice everywhere. I'm often quoted as saying, "fat ice is boring," and while I did say that I've since refined the idea a bit. I said that when I was primarily interested in horrendous technical gymnastic difficulty, which ice does not offer. Ice climbing is more like surfing--it's a style sport, about doing something fun and very engaging with the medium, grooving on the positition and the ride more than the physical desperate pump (although that can be found, if you're stupid over-trained it's unlikely). Surfing also has areas that aren't novice friendly, meaning big waves and serious reef breaks, same as ice climbing... I now climb ice because I just like doing it, it's not about the hardest or the steepest but climbing the coolest thing I can see. This new place offers that in unbelievable quantities, from 2,000 foot lower angle rigs that would be insane classics back home in Canada to skinny pencils only Guy Lacelle would even think of trying, and combinations of both that I have never seen anywhere in the world. And I'm typing this at a frigging hotel less than 15 minutes from the climbs, I thought I'd find this place in Mongolia or something, nope, it's right beside the road!! So game on for the morning, Andreas has even agreed to get up early, that's how good this stuff is.


The more I think about Scotland the more I realize that it's a special place. The freeze/thaw conditions and wild rime snow just aren't found any other place I've ever climbed. It's a bit like gritstone, with ethics that may seem bizzare to an outsider but grew on an isolated island and make sense there. In the Rockies our problem is too much climbing for too few climbers, in Britain it's more about loads of climbers making the most of what they have. If every line were bolted on either rock or winter lines then the country would sink under the weight of the metal... Dave Macleod's ethics and the Scottish scene also inspired me in a different way, I've always put routes up with the idea of making them fun for those that follow, but there are many kinds of "fun," some of which would seem a sure path to the mental hospital to the outsider. Regardless of the ethics, the Scottish mountains are a special place, and I definitely want to return one day for either rock or mixed. The light and space of the mountains there is different and worthy to see again, I could see getting addicted to it.

Time for bed, there's climbs to be done in the morning!

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