Scottish Indoor Dry Tooling Competition

By Pete Rhodes

Scottish Tooling Series Round 1 in Glasgow: Feel the adrenaline as climbers tackle challenging routes.

Saturday 9th saw the opening round of the 2010 Scottish Tooling Series get underway and we were lucky enough to get Pete Rhodes kindly donning a Alpkit/Figfour t-shirt for us. The results are now in and Pete gives his run down of the round. It was the start of a good weekend for him and you can continue reading about his exploits on the Ben at his Blog

Last Wednesday I recieved a pair of FigFours from AlpKit to help with my training for the Scottish Tooling Series which started on Saturday. I took them down to Ratho Thursday night for a few routes with them and discovered that they are so much fun its not true. I guess perhaps its the hundreds of hours of aid climbing that does it but the binary feeling of on or off really makes you think and move so very diferently. Nothing better than putting the hook on there, deciding its solid and then just getting on with it! They also give you a mind bending pump by the top of the harder pitches which is fantastic!

So after a total of about 4 sessions on the circuit of wooden blocks on the new wall (current record is 2.3 laps but I’m going to beat that his week for sure!) Saturday dawned with a 6am start for work on the road bridge which is about the worst preparation that you can get for a competition due to finish at 10pm! Work passed gently as ever tho and after a quick nap I was off to Glasgow.

I haven’t done anything properly competitive for years so I was apprehensive as to what to expect to say the least! On initial inspection I thought the holds looked tiny and all to easy to fall off so once we got underway I made sure to let someone go before me on every line just so I could get the gist. Sneaky perhaps but it helped.

I blew a tool on the third route we tried which helped relax things a bit. The flash pressure is pretty tough to deal with. However three more flashes came on problems which I thought were the tough looking ones! This put the pressure back on as the thought of doing OK began to fill my head! An easy flash on a problem with two suspended telegraph poles and then a hard fought battle for one of only two flashes on the chain problem (a free section of chain free hanging from an overhang needing about 10 figure 4s to climb!) and it was all going far too well! All the straight up problems felt pretty steady and after a very unfortunate slip on a traverse the final problem was a caving ladder hung horizontally that you had to figure 4 the whole way along. In a nutshell – DENIED. I’ll be fitter next time though!

So after all that they read out the scores and kept going until they called second, which was ME! Very psyched on the result and the fact I was only 10 off first. All the points I missed were easy enough to pick up so I’m am holding (no doubt soon to be crushed) high hopes for the rest of the events.

Adult Male.
1. Steve Johnstone 134
2. Pete Rhodes 124
3. Jim Higgins 113

Adult Female.
1. Karen McIntyre 89
2. Gillian Culshaw 70
3. Kirstin Carmouche 48

Junior Male – up to 17 years
1. Gregor Macgillvory 101
2. Calum Irvine 91

Senior Male – 40 years plus
1. Steve lynch 102
2. Thomas Buggy 71
3. Ian Dempster 70

Round 2 Glenmore Lodge

News from the Scottish Tooling Series. Pete Rhodes podiums again in the second round at Glenmore Lodge

The second round of the Scottish Tooling Series was held at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore. Having definitely impressed myself with my performance in Glasgow a fortnight before I was certainly hoping that it wasn’t a fluke event and that another high finish was due. However sleeping in the back of the van for the previous week was not the best preparation and thus on the morning of the competition the standard set of nerves were in full attendance. My newly Alpkit-supplied super-light boots and the couple of Figfour sessions I’d slotted in through the week though easily overcame any frugality induced sleepiness!

Arriving at the site with my wife Kate and friend Dave we signed in and chatted to some of the many people we knew. Dave, having bean a key staff member of the Glenmore lodge for the previous 18 months had an excellent and in-depth knowledge of the granite towers where the problems had been set and proved exceptionally useful! These were the key feature of the comp with 11 of the 14 problems being set outside on the granite and requiring the use of crampons.

The first problem is always a little shaky. We began on a very slabby problem which required alot of balance in order to not be lying on the wall! As was expected getting the feel of crampons again after 8 months off them made this first problem a little slow, but we soon got into our rhythm getting through all the ‘standard’ problems outdoors and the two easier problems indoors with little fuss. As the day progressed Dave and I came closer to having completed the 12 more straightforward problems without dropping a single point. This lead to a final few jitters up an arete problem before we had 120 points in the bag and were very satisfied with our work.

And so we approached the last two routes. One a set of figure-fours through a cave and one a set of hanging logs and with these two problems came the mistakes. On the cave route I found that my new sticky gloves may well adhere to the shaft of the tool well but that they are all too easy to fall out of which spit me off the last move. On the hanging logs I think I must have blacked out for a minute as my first swing into the log I somehow missed the log and proceeded to follow through by throwing my axe to the ground. Gutted.

We knew there were a lot of strong people at the competition and so weren’t holding our breath too hard. As the results were announced Dave had managed a great fifth place and I scraped into the final in equal third. Despite being psyched to qualify I was exhausted and not sure i had much left in me! The route we were shown looked tough but doable if you had enough power left but after only a 2 minute inspection we were swept away to isolation to await our fate!

Isolation is an odd pursuit and I am very impressed now by any competition climber who can stay clam back there. I mostly passed the time with three nervous pees and attempting to sharpen my tools. Once my name was called I tied in, set my axes and gave the belayer the nod. The initial massive span from the upright to the wall had scuppered every one of the seniors but I managed to reach my toe across and plant what felt like a solid stein-pull under the initial hold. Feeling solid I attempted to set the next hold which seemed fine and while looking up at the next hold I fell squarely on my bum. All that for 3 moves. C’est la vie.

Scott Muir was out next and showed and incredible performance as did the eventual winner Ash Dean. They both missed teh move out that scuppered my attempt by a very impressive reach. Reading that sequence was the tactic I was missing and I know next time more about what moves are possible.

All in all it was a great day out. The fact that neither me nor Dave dropped a single point on the more ‘realistic’ problems has us so psyched for the ensuing winter its almost painful and that is definately something to be happy about! Another podium has me in the lead in the series but this is mostly just through good attendance so we’ll see what happens in the next few! A swift mention to all the organisers and the free whisky tasting after party have to slot in here, they were both tremendous!

For more information on the series check out Scottish Tooling Series

Adult Male.
1. Ashley Dean
2. Scott Muir
3. Pete Rhodes

Adult Female.
1. Anna Wells
2. Megan Beaumont
3. Deziree Wilson

Junior Male – up to 17 years
1. Dylan Mackenzie
2. Calum Irvine
3. Gregor MacGillvrey

Senior Male – 40 years plus
1. Steve lynch
2. George McEwan
3. Thomas Buggy

Round 3 Transition Extreme

Pete Rhodes was back in dry tooling action again just a week after the last round. Here’s his run down of the latest round of the Scottish Tooling Series up in Aberdeen.

Only a week had passed since the Glenmore Round of the Scottish Tooling Series as we arrived bright and early (though not as early as we left Edinburgh!) at the Transition Extreme Wall in Aberdeen. As soon as we got in the door we realised something. This was going to be tough. We saw the tell-tale carpet pads behind the holds spread over the full height of the wall, up to 20m! This would be a massive change from the 6 to 8 metre problems we’d experienced at the last two rounds. On top of that wherever you looked you couldn’t help but see a stein pull, upside down jugs covered the walls and most people were nervous!

The initial butterflies haven’t abated yet and on the first problem I blew all my points and by some grace of god caught my tool on a jug mid fall! An awfully shaky start which was followed by two silly slips on the next two problems which dropped me 6 points. This may have sucked but it loosened me up a bit. Knowing only your best three results count for the series and with a trailing excuse of a massive week of work and driving I had myself covered if it went badly and boy was it about to! The next problem started with a slightly silly Bachar-ladder-esque scramble to get to your tools hung on the wall. From there a thin set of moves led up the vertical wall and I was pretty pleased with how they were going until SMASH. My right tool popped and hit me square in my nose at full speed. Still hanging from my other tool but slightly dizzy I tried to re-goup but the capacity wasn’t there and my left tool slipped and I was off. On the ground I was amazed to see a complete lack of blood and took five to recoup my losses.

The day was in danger of slipping from bad to worse and so I manage to will myself towards a change of pace and headed for the four boulder problems. All of these were super steep and were some of the obvious test pieces. The ubiquitous figure of four problem on hanging chains went surprisingly easily as did the other two steep problems. A quick traverse and before I knew it I’d just bagged 37 out of 40 of the hardest points and was super psyched again! Off the back of this the remaining 6 problems went without a hitch and I ended up qualifying in a clear second place and was very glad to have regained some control.

Pre-final isolation was a little more fun than last week and the route looked like a real cool set of features with logs, chains, huge reaches and a very forgiving crowd. We’d also be leading which was much more exciting! The series is starting to give me a satisfying confidence in my abilities with tools at the moment and I was very keen to get on the route. Walking out and tying in I felt calm and ready to give my all. The first half of the route leading to the chain was reasonably steady and I recovered before reaching out and hooking the bottom of the chain. Rather than swinging around on tenuous feet I went straight into figure fours in order to get this pumpy section dealt with quickly. Above the chain a large roof loomed and despite feeling solid as I swung up the clock was ticking in my forearms. I did manage a sneaky look down to take in the spotlit climbing above the crowd which was pretty awesome. Skipping a chance to make another clip I steeled myself and lunged over the lip of the roof to a good ledge but as my tool got level with it I was out of juice and flying down onto the rope.

After all that I was third on the podium again! The chap in second got to the same hold as me but made the clip instead of trying to go higher and thus just pipped ahead of me. The series is getting very close and I’m keen to get training to put in an even better result at Kinlochleven in a fortnight. If I can succeed in this then the Ratho final will be very exciting!

For more information on the series check out Scottish Tooling Series

Adult Male.
1. Steve Johnstone
2. Ashley Dean
3. Pete Rhodes

Adult Female.
1. Fiona Murray
2. Anna Wells
3. Dorota Bankowska

Junior Male – up to 17 years
1. Dylan Mackenzie
2. Gregor MacGillvrey
3. Rory Cargill

Junior Female – up to 17 years
1. Sophie Harper
2. Amy Ryan
3. Sophie Hvide

Senior Male – 40 years plus
1. Steve lynch
2. Craig Harper
3. Paul Prentice

Round 4 Ice Factor

Pete was back in action again at the Ice Factor, this leaves him with just the final at Ratho to come! Get up there on the 27th!

The tooling series is becoming a very enjoyable part of this autumn. This being the fourth event I feel like I’ve gotten to know a great set of really cool and fun people and so arriving at the events has become a much more entertaining and less stressful event than the first. Everybody seemed to be excited for the change of weather and as the rain poured outside there was a lot of talk of conditions on the hills and plans being formed for the rest of the weekend. This was my first time at the Ice Factor and first go at indoor ice climbing. Its a seriously impressive facility and it looked like it was going to be another exciting day.

Starting off in the freezer we hoped we might get on the ice routes before they had been completely pulverised by the passage of slightly over-zealous competitors seeking a solid placement. The lines were fun to climb but not too tricky which made for a good fun warm up. We got back into the warm in good time and dried our boots off for the harder problems that were to come.

All the routes were really interesting with some very clever setting and interesting moves. After a few steady traverses We got on the top ropes and all three of us (my good friends Dave and George) promptly got spat off a pumpy and wild line when we were least expecting it. A slight bummer for sure but it always helps to get the first dropped points out of the way. I got back on it and battled to the top. The expected ‘figure-of-four-up-a-chain’ problem went by with the required red mist and I managed to hang onto the other problems with almost no other issues, save for coming off the last hold of the longest route - rubbish.

A score of 136 had me qualified in solid second. The chap in first had a full 150 but has climbed M14 so we forgave him! The wait for the final dragged on for nearly two hours and despite feeling really good straight after the qualifying finished something seemed to eb away during the wait. I knew I had every chance of getting a great result and the route was entirely my style apart from one crucial aspect - the second hold was a stein pull. I held a few fine in qualifying while I was super psyched but there is something about this techniques that scares the life out of me. Having sat in isolation for a very long time I strode out still feeling relaxed but as I pulled on and turned my tool over something drained straight out of me. I tried with all I had to get the tool to sit deep in the undercut but as much as I wanted to I couldn’t trust it and before I knew it I was sat on the floor in front of the very forgiving crowd.

So another third after such a good qualifying so I have to take the positives again. I am very keen to put this new found consistency and strength to use out in these cold conditions that seem to be coming in. The final at Ratho in a fortnight should be a great finale and anyone who has a chance should definitely come give it a try.

Adult Male.
1. Malcolm Kent
2. Jim Higgins
3. Pete Rhodes

Adult Female.
1. Fiona Murray
2. Siobhan Miller
3. Karen McIntyre

Junior Male – up to 17 years
1. Dylan Mackenzie
2. Gregor MacGillvrey
3. Rory Cargill

Junior Female – up to 17 years
1. Sophie Harper

Senior Male – 40 years plus
1. Steve lynch
2. George McEwan
3. Jock Calcut

Round 5 Edinburgh Ratho Climbing Centre

The final round of the Scottish Tooling Series arrived at the grand arena of Ratho. Here Pete gives his run down of final proceedings.

Ratho was the perfect setting for the final of a mixed climbing event. Partly for its massive plastic walls, partly for the real rock routes, but mostly for that fact that it didn’t get above freezing all day! How do we know? Well, snow on the roofs of the camper-vans that had been driven into the arena didn’t melt all day. Now thats cold for an ‘indoor’ event. Needless to say spirits were high and everyone was keen to get to work on what looked like a great set of problems. The slight tension surrounding the overall series rankings were further heightened as some very strong climbers from the international ice circuit were visiting, meaning that we were all scrapping for the lower rankings.

The great feature of this round were the higher number of more accessible routes, a feature that some of the other events had been lacking. This meant that lots of people were flashing lots of routes and getting great scores. After warming up on a few of the slabbier routes and a silly slip from a pretty steady arete problem due to early jitters we cranked on to some of the steeper lines to keep the blood moving. For some reason I was low on fight and got spat off the two hanging log problems with hardly a look in - very disappointing.

With the knowledge that I’d got three good results in the bag from the previous round I managed to relax a little and flashed the rest of the problems save for one and ended up with a respectable if not earth shattering score. As it turned out I was only one point (out of 150) behind all my closest competitors for the series. However thanks to the impressive performances of the Europeans this would be the first chance I would have to sit back and watch the finals - what a treat, or so I thought. As soon as the finals kicked off I was taken aside with Stevie Johnson by one of the organisers to say that we were tied for the series lead and would be climbing head-to-head in a super-final.

Now if I’m honest this prospect didn’t fill me with joy. The final route was a wickedly steep line across the competition wall with the crux being the transition between two hanging logs - the things that I’d been struggling with all day! All I wanted to do was put on a good show . In two of the three finals I’ve fallen off the second move and I was not looking to repeat this performance. After trying to stay warm and a very brief isolation I walked out to route feeling confident enough that I would reach the logs but very unsure after that. The first four clips went well and I spent the extra time to search for the dill hole on the first log to get a good start. I made the clip at the top of this and spanned out to the base of the second. Finding the hook just in time my feet popped and I was suspended between the two. With my forearm clock running down the only option was figure fours. All that garage training had paid off at last! I started throwing my picks at the wood and committing to them with all the abandon I could muster. The screams became much more required as I reached the top of the log but that was all I could give and with the cargo net and easier climbing tantalisingly close I took a healthy fully inverted fall much to the disappointment of my nether regions!

After all that I was very pleased with the outcome. From having never tried anything like this two months ago I had managed to climb better than ever and reach further within my reserves than I ever have. I got second on the series podium while Stevie won with a very impressive fight to the top of the route.

I am very excited now to take this newly gained strength and commitment out into the real world and apply it to some impressive routes just as soon as all this snow clears a little! I’d like to thank the guys who were running the STS for such a great set of events and all the friends that I got to climb with over the weekends, and finally to the guys at Alpkit for all their help with great kit and of course the wicked training aids that are the FigFours!

See you on the hill (or in the garage if it keeps snowing)!

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