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ARTICLE: Doris Dreaming

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 UKC Articles 28 Oct 2021

Nick Bullock writes about years of misadventures on Gwynedd's infamous crag Craig Doris, culminating in climbing War and Peace, an adventurous 16-pitch traverse on loose and friable rock...

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 Mick Ward 28 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

The horror. Brilliant!

'Dreams are the things that motivate us; they keep us going, they keep us young and excited, they stir the imagination...'

Absolutely. As you rightly say, once accomplished, those dreams become cherished memories. And so, on to the next dream. And the one after.

It's not over until it's finally over.

Mick

1
In reply to Mick Ward:

I go with “ loose your dreams and you’ll loose your mind”!

In reply to Stephen R Young:

Did you mean "lose" or "loose"? Nevermind, it sort of works either way!

 Michael Gordon 28 Oct 2021
In reply to Stephen R Young:

Ruby Tuesday?

 john arran 28 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

What a thoroughly excellent write-up of what sounds like a thoroughly 'character-building' climb!

 McHeath 28 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

One of the best articles I've ever read. Captures the essence, with impressive understatement and beautiful attention to all the details: both of nature and of the psychological self-wrestling involved, which must be just as hard as the physical challenge. Many thanks for this brilliantly written non-recommendation of what is obviously a unique and horrifying undertaking! 

Post edited at 22:08
 Dave Ferguson 28 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

great read and well done on giving Leigh and Chris a shout out for their attempt, I remember Leigh's thousand yard stare when he got back.

 henwardian 29 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great article. Very enjoyable read.

I think the single statement that truly brought home how much of a deviant you have to be to get on a route like this was, without a doubt, "I love fulmars".

1
In reply to henwardian:

> I think the single statement that truly brought home how much of a deviant you have to be to get on a route like this was, without a doubt, "I love fulmars".

Oh dear, bit close to home 😁

I don't love them, but I do love watching them, especially from somewhere on a sunny sea cliff. They sometimes appear to be flying "patterns" just because they enjoy it and because they can.

With respect to deviancy, although this route is way above my abilities, my first thought on finishing reading the article was "I wonder if anyone's tried reversing the whole route?".

Great article, as usual Nick's words do a great job of conveying the experience.

 john arran 29 Oct 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

> With respect to deviancy, although this route is way above my abilities, my first thought on finishing reading the article was "I wonder if anyone's tried reversing the whole route?".

Clearly Nick and Mick must have done that; how else do you think they got off it? You can't just abseil a traverse, you know!

😉

 henwardian 29 Oct 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

> Oh dear, bit close to home 😁

Let me put it this way: There are two main things that are prone to vomit on you and the other one is a LOT easier to wash off and has at least got the ability to give you a belay when it gets older!

I can get a lot of satisfaction out of watching birds soaring while I'm climbing but every other species I've encountered manages to achieve this feat without feeling the need to share its lunch with me.

Fulmars, in short, get a spot on my git species list alongside the likes of midges, mosquitos, nettles and Torys.

2
 Michael Gordon 29 Oct 2021
In reply to henwardian:

I would say worse than midges, not as bad as ticks.

In reply to henwardian:

I don't think I've ever had to climb past a fulmar, plenty of gulls, which eventually take off and do some shit dive bombing but that's easy to clean off.

Obviously never been to the right sea cliff at the right time 😊

 MisterPiggy 29 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

Super. Very evocative. And having our avian friends along for the adventure gave it all a special flavour.

Now I'll spend the weekend reading through all his other UKC articles.

Thank you Nick for sharing.

 henwardian 29 Oct 2021
In reply to Michael Hood:

In that case I strongly suggest you partake in the delicacies of anything on Hoy any time between about late May and August, in fact, pretty much anything on Orkney should give you a good chance of a second hand fish supper!

I'm sure Shetland is the same, not climbed there though. 

1
In reply to henwardian:

> In that case I strongly suggest you partake in the delicacies of anything on Hoy any time between about late May and August, in fact, pretty much anything on Orkney should give you a good chance of a second hand fish supper!

> I'm sure Shetland is the same, not climbed there though. 

From my own experience I think you are hugely overstating the issue of fulmars in the Northern Isles or elsewhere in Scotland. As daft advice as the hilarious "don't go to Scotland any time between May and September if you don't like midges". Anyway, I too love fulmars - the joy of watching them flying far outweighs the vomit problem. I think they should officially become our National Bird; what could be more fitting for an island nation.

 Wicamoi 29 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

No, no, no. I love fulmars as much as the next climber, but the national bird of the British Isles is surely the Boo Boo Bird

youtube.com/watch?v=6h9nKTssx6Y&

(Very fine article btw UKC).

 McHeath 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Wicamoi:

I don't think any climbing forum in the world except UKC could derail the discussion about an article like this one onto a discussion about seabirds in 12 posts, and then turn them into the main subject... It's why we're here... 

In reply to UKC Articles:

Fantastic article. My favourite quote: ‘I looked at the pipit, feeling envious of its wings. The pipit looked at me, not envious of anything.’ 

Feel like that totally sums up adventure climbing. Also really love the poignant last line. Top effort!

 henwardian 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I think they should officially become our National Bird;

Oh, I'm right on board with that idea. Even if our national "animal" wasn't a unicorn, I'd still pick an ironic choice for national bird!

I mean, if I got to make the decisions we'd have "the big cheese" rather than "first minister" and vehicles would only be road legal if they were tie-dyed.

In reply to henwardian:

> > I think they should officially become our National Bird;

> Oh, I'm right on board with that idea. Even if our national "animal" wasn't a unicorn, I'd still pick an ironic choice for national bird!

I'm entirely serious. I'd have the sea otter as out National Animal. Still working on an insect.

 flaneur 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Nick Bullock:

Really enjoyed this.

> ...accepting it was soon to be a fading memory in a fading life.

Neil Young was wrong, not better to burn out.  

In reply to Robert Durran:

> Still working on an insect.

I think we all know the answer to this!

 henwardian 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I'm entirely serious.

I know you are

Maybe the best thing about the fulmar is that it could both an ironic and serious national bird. How about a manticore as national insect?

In reply to henwardian:

Shetland is fine for seabirds - I spent a month climbiong there in May 2017 and very few (documented) cliffs had any notable actuvity on them. Ness of Sound being the only exception that we found.

Anyways, this article has reignited my ambition to do some of the easier (sub - E4) lines on here over the next couple of years. Gardener's Questing Time has always fascinated me and the fact that Nick won't do it makes it all the more enticing...

 Drexciyan 30 Oct 2021
In reply to henwardian:

If the fulmar was coming into your home and vomiting on you I might sympathise but no, you clamber right into their personal space (i.e. their home), making them feel threatened enough to discharge their hard earned lunch (which I'm sure they'd rather not have to replenish) and then ironically whinge about it like a Tory whinges about others less fortunate because they can't see past their own nose.

4
 john arran 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

>  Still working on an insect.

Surely it would have to be the midge!

 henwardian 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Drexciyan:

Hahahaha, I think you might be anthropomorphising a little too much :P

1
 henwardian 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> Shetland is fine for seabirds - I spent a month climbiong there in May 2017 and very few (documented) cliffs had any notable actuvity on them. Ness of Sound being the only exception that we found.

Oh, that's good to know. I wonder if there is a lack of fulmars or if they just nest a little later as it's a bit further North than Orkney. I really do need to get up there at some point, especially now that there's a really good local guide of all the crags.

In reply to henwardian:

> I know you are

>  How about a manticore as national insect?

Given that it's named after a route on Lochnagar, I think it is a great choice.

In reply to Frank the Husky:

> Shetland is fine for seabirds - I spent a month climbiong there in May 2017 and very few (documented) cliffs had any notable actuvity on them. Ness of Sound being the only exception that we found.

Yes, I was on Shetland this summer and we had very few problems. One did puke on my ankle when I was looking for an anchor though. 

 Ian Parsons 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> One did puke on my ankle when I was looking for an anchor though. 

Perhaps you'd encountered one of the basically helpful but slightly deaf ones, Robert. Had you just shouted "I'm looking for an anchor"?

 john arran 30 Oct 2021
In reply to Ian Parsons:

I've tried reasoning with them; talking calmly and letting them know that I just need to pass by their recessed hideout, had no intention of reaching in, and would be as quick as I could. But did they listen?

The ensuing vomit speed and accuracy was truly Olympic, and to this day it's the only substance I've ever known to survive, disgusting odour intact, despite multiple washes at all sorts of temperatures. Discardable clothing essential!

In reply to McHeath:

> I don't think any climbing forum in the world except UKC could derail the discussion about an article like this one onto a discussion about seabirds in 12 posts, and then turn them into the main subject... It's why we're here... 

And the good thing is that it is stopping this brilliant article scrolling off the bottom of everyone's screens so more people are probably reading it🙂

In reply to john arran:

> >  Still working on an insect.

> Surely it would have to be the midge!

But, on balance, the midge is rather unloved.

Beetles are cool. How about this one: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2017/september/new-native-british-beetle-found-in-ancient-scottish-forests.html

 Nick Bullock 31 Oct 2021
In reply to everyone:

Thanks very much everyone for the love shown towards this piece, much appreciated. I spent long hours working on it, so it's wonderful to have such positive feedback. Also, a big thank you to Natalie for the editing, UKC for publishing, and Ray Wood and Jethro Kiernan for the fantastic pics. And thanks to Paul for filming and not becoming raven fodder!

The fulmar discussion is great also, I'm really pleased to raise awareness and stimulate discussion. I obviously disagree with Henwardian, (although I think his original comment was a tad tongue in cheek, and it did make me laugh) the solution to not being vomited on is don't climb near nesting fulmars, or on cliffs you suspect them to be nesting, especially if you don't like the possibility of smelling of fish. It's a person's choice, they have made a conscious decision to climb on a cliff at a time of year when they know there is a chance to meet a fulmar face to face, and receive the known defence mechanism. Fulmars are only protecting themselves and their chance of raising their offspring. Can you blame them for using their only defence against something that they perceive as a threat? And as quoted in the piece, they are in serious decline, so, if at all possible, shouldn't we try to help them in some small way by not disturbing them too much?

On the national insect for Scotland discussion, how about this, an Emperor Moth, what a fantastic insect!  https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/outdoors/these-are-10-of-the-most-spectacular-species-of-scottish-moth-3323848

Cheers and thanks again,

Nick

Post edited at 11:55
 Michael Gordon 31 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> But, on balance, the midge is rather unloved.

Nah, it really has to be the mighty Midge!

I can only assume some of the professed love for fulmars is tongue in cheek. They are certainly very well named. The only positive I can think of is that they definitely add to a cliff's feeling of wildness/inaccessibility. You see them and think "no, I don't really want to go there"!

1
In reply to Michael Gordon

> I can only assume some of the professed love for fulmars is tongue in cheek.

No, few things more wonderful than sitting on a cliff top belay watching their effortless flight.

> You see them and think "no, I don't really want to go there"!

No, I just envy them.

Bonxies, on the other hand, really are evil. They would kill you just for fun.


1
 65 31 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

> I'm entirely serious. I'd have the sea otter as out National Animal. Still working on an insect.

Fulmar is a good shout but we don't have sea otters, only the otter (Lutra lutra) which inhabits coasts as much as inland waterways, and is often to be found in the sea. Proper sea otters are found only around the North Pacific coasts and are alarmingly huge. 

The insect is obvious, the midge. True monarchs of the glen. I'd have the midge as our national animal. Maybe the cleg should be considered too.

 Ian Parsons 31 Oct 2021
In reply to 65:

 

> The insect is obvious, the midge. True monarchs of the glen.

I'd have thought that would have to be the stag beetle.

 Michael Gordon 31 Oct 2021
In reply to Robert Durran:

I admire bonxies. That's one species guaranteed not to die out! Much cooler than the fulmar.

 Misha 31 Oct 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

Brilliant! Not sure about fading life though, not yet…

 Paddy_nolan 03 Nov 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

So good! Really enjoyed this

 Adam Long 03 Nov 2021
In reply to Nick Bullock:

Great piece, I don't get there enough.

>And as quoted in the piece, they are in serious decline

Some detail if anyone is interested.

From a summary of the JNCC Seabird Population Trends and Causes of Change: 1986–2019 Report (https://jncc.gov.uk/our-work/smp-report-1986-2019/):

between 2000 and 2018, these key species have been estimated to have declined at a UK level by more than 30%: The Arctic skua by 70%, the Northern fulmar by 36%, the black-legged kittiwake by 50%, the Herring gull (natural nesters only) by 47% and the Lesser black-backed gull (natural nesters only) by 73%.

However, the Razorbill, Black-headed gull and Northern gannet have all increased in breeding abundance by more than 30% at a UK level.

There is a lot to be concerned about in seabird population trends. The graceful Arctic skua (not the same species as bonxie) were a highlight of a climbing trip I made to Shetland, and it's painful to think that if current trends continue there may be none left by the time my son is old enough to want to visit. Skua are parasitic on other seabirds, so are affected by the same crash in sandeel numbers that has affected Auks, Terns and Kittiwakes. This is largely attributed to climate change, as is the steady increase in southern species and those such as Gannet that feed on larger fish.

However in the Fulmar's case recent declines have to be weighed against the 'spectacular growth' in numbers and distribution over the last 150 years. Prior to 1878 Fulmars were rare birds only known to breed on St Kilda, with 1878 marking the start of an expansion with a second colony on Foula. A century later they were ubiquitous around the British coast with numbers estimated in excess of 500,000. This increase and recent decline are generally attributed to the abundance of offal and discards produced by commercial fishing. So it may be that as we clean up our act we see population declines in those species who have benefited from our mess.

That's not to suggest your attitude is pointless or misguided. If more climbers had your knowledge and respect we might have less need of formal bans. But finding space in a piece like this shows things are moving in the right direction.

Adam Nicolson's book The Seabird's Cry is a great read for anyone interested. The Fulmar is one of 10 species featured, and the stories of how researchers untangled some of the mysteries of their lives are as fascinating as the lives themselves.

 Lhod 05 Nov 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

I loved this article, so evocative of days spent on sea cliffs. Thanks for taking the time to write and share your thoughts Nick. 

 Olaf Prot 05 Nov 2021
In reply to UKC Articles:

To quote a mate of mine from way back (describing another location but fits these well) "huge sea cliffs with "f*** off" written all over them"!


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