Sunday, 29 June 2008

1st VS lead :o)

Well, what a week I've had!

Monday saw me going out for my interval run of 400m fast/200m recovery and at long last I made my goal of running a mile in 7minutes. In fact, I managed a mile in 6mins and 34 secs, doing 5.2km in bang on 21mins. It's taken me 5 months to get there, but not bad considering that at this time last year I couldn't even walk.

Bolt clipping got rained off this Tuesday so Jon, RB and I went down to the wall. I'm forever amazed at RB's climbing. She's not climbed for a couple of weeks due to various factors and neither of us have climbed indoors for ages, yet she managed to onsight a 6b+ on the slab at Avertical World and also got to the top of the featured arete at 6c with just one rest at the crux. I need to feed her up so she's heavy enough to belay me, get her out trad climbing, and have my own wee rope gun!

So, the VS. This is my 3rd season of rock climbing, with the 1st year spent seconding, learning about gear placements and belays etc, leading a load of V.Diffs and my 1st Severe. 2nd year was spent leading lots of Severes and a few Hard Severes. Then it all went pear shaped when my L5/S1 disc ruptured and damaged the nerves in my lower spine right down to the tip of my wee toe. Spinal surgery and 2 summers later sees me really keen to lead my 1st VS. I've never been the most confident and bold rock climber, just taking my merry old time working my way up harder things and to be honest I think I could have happily tootled away on V.Diffs and Severes for a long time, but it's really quite limiting in where you can go and there are so many inspiring routes and venues where being able to lead VS is a must. The route that inspires me to consolidate VS climbing on lead is a 100m route called The Sword of Gideon, on Sgurr A' Chaorachain, in the Applecross Peninsula.

After a monster thread on UK Climbing I decided that Saturday was the day for my 1st VS lead. I had previously led a route graded VS4c, called Gneisser on the Triangular Slab up on Gruinard road side crags but there is no way in hell that route should have this grade as it more like HS4a, so I never really felt it to be my 1st VS lead. Saturday so me up at the Pass of Ballater climbing with Neil, who I had climbed with only in winter before. This was his 1st time out rock climbing and he managed very well to second me and it was my first experience of being the stronger leader in a partnership! Warmed up on Jumbled Block Crack, a V.Diff I've done so many times now that I could probably do it blind folded! Next I wanted to give Neil a taste of chimney climbing on Lime Chimney but there was a wasps nest at the bottom of the route and hmmm, being stung by angry wasps isn't what you want on lead (or 2nd!) So we did Ping Pong instead, a nice wee severe with a tricky start and a fantastically exposed step across near the top. Then it was time for my VS. I had a look at Razor's Crack, at VS4c as it was recommended to me as an over graded soft touch. I was dubious, I've seconded it and didn't recall it being *that* easy! Very steep start (well protected) but would involve me moving up overhanging ground on a hand jam (ugh!) to place a crucial bit of gear to pull over the hard move. I decided against it, the VS 4b called Giant Flake Route seemed a much better choice!

It's a fantastic route. Starts off with me having to go right onto the very tips of my toes to reach up for a good hold that I can only just get my fingers round. I have one hand on this and the other hand palmed against the blank wall below, whilst I get my left foot very high onto a wee ledge to the left. I think most folk just walk their feet up the blank wall, but I can't do it this way as I'm too stretched out to smear my feet. After getting my foot on the ledge, I then get my right foot onto a tiny wee edge on the blank wall, swap feet on this, then get my right foot high onto a ledge on the right, lock off on the hand hold, and snatch for another good hand hold higher up. Then I've cracked the unprotected start of the route and the hardest part :o)
When I had done the route on 2nd I remembered the next bit being straight forward but it felt really awkward and a bit unbalanced to lead! Que me getting in 3 bomber bits of gear! An awkward move sees you being able to reach up for a jugtastic hold and once you've got that, the route is in the bag really. Another move or two sees you onto a big detached block which you have to climb over and down the other side of, then it's a rising traverse rightwards over big blocks with nice big holds.
Poor Neil though! I didn't give it a thought that he would find the route tough but he pumped his arms trying to haul himself up the initial moves. Luckily, Chris, my usual partner of late, had arrived with his partner for the day, Paul, and he was able to second the route for me to remove the gear. It would have been a total nightmare having to 'ab for the gear. It would have involved an initial abseil to get the last bits of gear, then having to traverse across back to the 1st big block, to set up a 2nd abseil and a slip of the foot would have seen me taking a massive swing. We called it a day after that, it was getting on and I felt quite mentally drained, but buzzing and high as a kite! So much so, that I just couldn't stop thinking about the lead on the way home in the car and kept forgetting that I was *actually* supposed to be concentrating on driving!

Sunday, Chris and I went to Clova and got rained on, so went up the coast to Soutar Head instead. Aberdeen sea cliffs, ugh! But I had only been here once before so decided to give it another try. Ugh! Led a pre 1930's Diff chimney called Slab Top Chimney, which involves getting right into the chimney and some awkward and committing moves above small gear. The crux is getting out of the constricted chimney at the top and I really struggled here as the crucial foot holds were at almost shoulder height for me and it was impossible to lift my foot that high as I was wedged in the chimney. There was no way in hell I was being beaten by a Diff though!!! I ended up using a flat hold outside the chimney, layed my body away off that, putting myself into a fabulous position with only a no1 nut by my waist to hold a fall. Then I had to use a tiny edge of nothingness for my feet and just trust my foot to stick whilst I udged up for the better foot hold and a good flake hand hold inside the chimney. Then you could reach outside again, for a fantastic 'thank feck' jug and that's you done it. Fantastic wee route!! And damn good value for a Diff!!! I've never done a Diff that's made me work so much for it!

Chris twisted his back on the route, aggravating a previous injury so he was pretty sore but refused to call it a day without leading something himself. There was a Severe called Overhanging Crack that he hadn't done before so he wanted to do that. I wasn't convinced that climbing overhangs would be great for a pulled muscle in his back but I loaded him with codeine to take the edge off and he went for it in good style. It's quite a committing move to start off and you have to throw your leg up and over pretty high, but there is a fab and juggy flake to use. Another awkward move follows to move up a groove and then it's nice and steady climbing to the top. Lovely route, and one I'd like to go back and lead sometime (if I can bear the blasted seacliffs!)
No VS today for either of us though, and the rain had started anyway.

Friday, 20 June 2008

'Spent' ticked - 19th June '08

At last I have managed to cleanly lead my 1st F6a outdoors, it's been a long time coming! Just a bit miffed at myself for forgetting my camera again!
Tuesday's usual session was cancelled, due to Jon's family commitments and me just starting school and having a big backlog of work to catch up on (long story!) so we arranged to climb yesterday instead. It had been showering on and off throughout the day, but by 2pm it was looking ok (ish) Fair bit of blue skies, still a good bit of dark and angry cloud about though which made the pair of us very indescisive about going to the quarry to climb or down to Avertical World in Dundee. Outdoors won in the end of course, hey how many times have I climbed in the rain or on damp/wet rock so far this year, a wee shower isn't going to put me off!
Ditched the F3+ warm up and jumped straight on an F4+. I always feel stiff and awkward on my 1st couple of climbs and usually start questioning why I'm even climbing in the 1st place, 'I'm crap, this is too hard, this is too scary' blah blah blah. Tried a new F5 right over on the left hand side of the wall, but I just couldn't commit to doing a very reachy (for me) move on not very positive holds, a long way above my 1st bolt. Backed off, Jon had a look without the rope on just to see what it was like and agreed that if I couldn't reach up to the better hold then it would be a lot scarier! Led the 5+ beside it instead which was a lot easier, but I still felt stiff. My back and pelvis really needs a good massage and manipulation now, it just isn't loosening off at all!
Jonathon jumped straight on to a 6a+ he hadn't done before, ended up missing a good hold and rested on the rope (he'll get that no probs next time) RB tried it on toprope but it proved far too reachy for her, frustrating as hell, but atleast she will grow! Jonathon also did his 1st 6b on lead and did it cleanly 1st go (with one toprope practise the last time we were out there) Pretty impressive seen as he only started climbing outdoors at the beginning of the summer! I tried it on toprope but the start was just far too thin for me. You have to use a wee slopery slit in the rock as a side pull for your left hand and a fingertip crimp for your right hand to hold yourself in balance. Now, if you are tall, it's a matter of just quickly getting your balance sussed and reaching up for the next hold which is a really good one. But.........if you are a short ass, then you have to actually use the crimp and side pull to move your feet higher before you can reach the better hold. Unfortunately, my skills just don't enable me to use fingertip crimps!!!!! And of course, RB struggled on the move also, with neither her or myself making any progress.
Dusk was setting in, it was getting late so we hurried round the corner for my attempt on the 6a I've been working on.
Got up to the crux, 'shit, do I use the crap hold and move my feet up before getting the good hold, or do I get the good hold then move my feet up!?' Feet feet feet!!!! Now the 2nd move of the crux. I've got the good hold, swap my hands on it so I now have 2 good holds, look down at my feet, move them up higher, then move the right one into a wee tiny groove just a bit lower then the toe tip pocket, left foot up really high, get my whole foot onto the ledge and roooooooooooooooockover, FUCKING YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO! Now that felt damn damn good!!! I tell you, all the days I have where my head just won't work (which are many,) that I climb like a numpty and feel I should just give it up, it's moments like these that make it all worth the fear and effort :o)
Yes, I'm still buzzing and happy! Next goal, 6a onsight!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Rubha Mor Peninsula - 14th June '08

Mad morning rush and dash up to Chris' for 6am again saw us driving up to the North West of Scotland to the Rubha Mor Peninsula near to the Gruinard/Gairloch area. The forecast was pretty dire for the mountains this weekend with cloud, rain and snow showers on the highest summits! I had tried unsucessfully to persuade Chris that going to Ardgour and Garbh Beinn was a good wet and cold weather option, but rightfully so he was adamant about staying low. Choices were to drive about all over the shop on Saturday looking for dry weather and escaping the showers (I couldn't be bothered with that!) or head to Ardnamurchan Point or up to Rubha Mor, with the latter two being supposed good wet weather options, often being dry and sunny there when there is rain elsewhere.
From the word go there was grey cloud and showers of rain, were we being far too optimistic in thinking we could find dry rock. Inverness, wet, Garve wet, Gruinard wet, mood and optimism sinking. Stopped at a wee garage at Laide and what should happen? Oh yes, the clouds parted, out peeped the sun and started drying away the rain! Took us a wee whiley to find the cliffs we were after at the Slaggan area. The other cliffs in this area are all tidal and I wanted non-tidal thank you, esp seen as the guide mentioned big swells! I am convinced that the writers of SMC guidebooks are deliberately vague and obscure when it comes to approach descriptions, particularly on sea cliffs! Mind you, searching for cliffs and turning obvious chimneys into grooves and triangular niches into square cut blocks is all part of the experience I reckon.

Approaching the Gob Geo we decided that even though it was non-tidal the swell of the sea was pretty mental, so carried on to the Atlantic Avenue area which had a nice large platform well away from the sea. God, I love Sandstone, just love it! Such a funky looking and beautiful rock to climb. The cliffs here are pretty clean and very much life Rieff in style, just not as much of it. If only the cliffs were larger though, the routes are very short! I started off on a V.Diff called Munich Man which in no way, shape or form felt like a V.Diff, certainly the easiest V.Diff I've ever done anyway!! Then Chris did a Severe called Heron Crack which was up a curving crack and over all too soon. Then I did a fantastic Severe called Nuptial Flight which went up a slab, over a block, up to a ledge and over a steep wall at the top. The top out was a bit scary and me being as wee as, I really struggled with a high step above my gear, and was thinking, 'oh c'mon leg, c'mon leg, get up there, get up there, ggrrrrrhaarrrhh!!' Chris did a Severe called Lunar Dance after that which was well hard! I've done VS's which felt easier, dunno if it was my height letting me down again though, but Chris did find it pretty tough too. Sometimes being short is a real disadvantage and I don't care whether folk like Lynn Hill or John Dunne are short, they may be short but they are also shit hot climbers, I'm not!!! Next was the route of the day, both of us thought it was fantastic! Twinkle Toes, a one star Severe, deserves 3*** in my book, it was an utterly, utterly glorious route, up a fantastic line! Up a really really thin and delicate slab onto a tiny wee ledge, grab hold of a good flake, lean off the flake putting you into a fabulous position! Then move up very awkwardly indeed into a niche, high step onto a block above the niche and up a steep wall above. The route is imprinted in my memory, truly one of the best wee Severes ever!

The weather had been very kind to us as regards the rain. We had a couple of tiny showers that never amounted too much, and although it could have done with being warmer, the wind was serving to keep any midges away and to quickly dry off any damp from the showers. We decided to move on after this and go check out the small crag further down the coast near a curious wee place called Mellon Charles, on the shore of Loch Ewe. This is one of several croft communities in this area and used to be a gathering place during WWII for shipping convoys carrying supplies.

We only did a couple of routes here. It was getting a bit windier, getting late and we were quite tired too. I backed off from leading a short Severe called Jetsam that went up a slightly overhanging wide crack. I had loads of gear in the crack, a couple of nuts and a cam! But I was up and down like a yo-yo unable to commit to doing the moves! I wasn't entirely sure exactly *how* to do it. Moving up the steep ground didn't bring any nice positive holds that I was hoping for, so I climbed back down and passed the rope to Chris. He bounded up no problems whatsoever, but I found it tough, reachy and horrible even on second! I decided just to do another V.Diff to round off the day and that went up a wee corner and onto a ledge. The next move was ace for a V.Diff and deserved a star just for that move! You had to step off the ledge and onto a hanging arete via a lovely big juggy flake, the position was lovely and the climbing easy and flowing. A nice wee finish to the day.

We camped for the night down in a wee hidden bay that had been shown to me a few years previously. It's fairly secluded from the road, has lovely views and there was enough of a breeze to keep the midges away. The approach did involve a path through neck high bracken which was a bit worrying after the amount of ticks I had on me last week! But I remembered to tuck my trousers into my socks and I had no ticks this time. Just as we finished eating, three deer scampered out of the bracken and onto the beach beside us, trotting along and kicking their legs up into the air in joyful glee! It was one of those amazing and privileged moments. The carried on scampering across the beach across the shallow water and then spotted us, stopping dead in their tracks. The stood stock still for quite a few moments, I think we had nicked their evening grazing spot, ooops! Then they darted off, but not before I took a few photos.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A testing couple of days!

My climbing has been crap, my running has been crap :o(

Monday night saw me unable to sleep due to my back and pelvis giving me the most grief it's done in quite some time. Dunno if it's a mix of an increase in running miles and increase in long days with heavy sack, combined with good 'ole hormonal fluid retention causing some swelling. Was up half the night anway tossing and turning, heating hot water bottle, before finally relenting and necking some pain killers and muscle relaxants.

Was due to climb with Jonathon at 10am at Kirrie on the Tues morning and didn't want to cancel seen as I cancelled last week to save pennies for fuel to Glencoe etc. So I dragged my tired ass and sore back along to the quarry. My climbing was terrible, I was too tired to lead, too tired to even climb well at all and my back was twinging. Ended up taking more painkillers and that perked me up enough to toprope Dogmatic (6a+) a really sustained route, that just doesn't let up until about half way up and then with a wonderful balancey move to the lower off. I had climbed this pre surgery last year and really struggled my way up it, pretty much dogging every move! Managed it better this time, with only one wee rest due to a missed foot hold (I blame the lack of sleep, lol!) Decided, 'to hell with it, I'm gonna go for the clean lead of Spent.' Bad idea! I was awful! I couldn't even seem to get off the ground, just stared blankly at the rock unable to read it at all (not a good start) Eventually made it up to the move before the crux, completely fluffed up my feet and fell off! I was furious! Utterly, utterly furious! The climbers round the corner had left thankfully, as my fiery temper broke the afternoon's peace and quiet. So so angry at myself, I really need to chill out, lol!

Wed, my day for a long run. Pah! I managed a mere 4 miles and each stride was torture, physicaly and mentaly. My legs were tight, my back was tight, twinging in my pelvis. It's funny how, when the joints between your pelvis and spine seize up, it really affects your movement. It's like your centre/core is stiff and you really notice how usually a good flowing movement comes from this area (or should do, lol!) And eejit that I am, my appointment with Mark, the Chiropracter was supposed to be today, whereas I thought it was next Wednesday. He would have loosened things off a treat. The pain has gone now, as it always does, but I feel and am moving like an auld wifey!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Crypt, take 2!

Thurs 5th June '08 - Really can't quite believe I'm going to try this route again, but my curiosity has gotten the better of me and the chance to climb with an amazingly experienced and knowledgeable climber! Drove up to Glencoe to meet Andy at 10am and we set off up the familiar path up to Coire nam Beith. Once up there, we clambered up the scree/boulder slope and dumped our sacks at the bottom of the chossy gully. I wasn't too sure about leaving them up there instead of down below, but Andy didn't want to take his boots with him and was sure we could 'ab off afterwards. Andy led the 1st pitch and I followed a lot quicker than the 1st time round, now knowing where everything was, seemed a lot easier! I led the 2nd bit, up to the point where Chris and I were unsure of the time before. Andy took one look at the cleft that Chris had been trying and thought it looked dubious, so off he went for a look at the wee hole instead. It wasn't long before he was asking for slack, and then I was having to take in as he had to come back down. The upper 'squeeze' through the hole was far too tight for him to wear any gear whatsoever, or his helmet!! Not too long and it was my turn. The initial block, crack and chimney to get up to the stance where the hole is, was utterly desperate. At one point I had my right foot up high on a wee block jammed into a offwidthy/cracky bit, and my left thigh totally jammed into a crack on the other side of a larger block that I was trying to get past and over. I just couldn't figure out how to move any higher and frustration was getting the better of me! My memory is a bit hazy but I think I finally managed to move up by jamming a leg either side of the block and hugging it and just slowly udging upwards. By the time I got to the top, I was utterly knackered and my leg was feeling a tad bruised for my efforts! Andy had left all the gear and his helmet and torch on a wee ledge, and I was able to peer up through the tiny tunnel and hole and see him almost looking to be suspended in mid air by the belay, like a wee grinning, bearded gnome! He lowered a sling and krab to me and slowly I attached all his stuff, plus my stuff up through the tunnel and hole. Then it was my turn.................It was utterly hilarious! That one section of the climb, made the whole effort 2x over completely worth it! You had to go sideyways, facing the right, with both arms outstretched above you to squeeze up the tunnel and through the hole. Once your shoulders were through the hole, it was a case of blindly finding wee bits on the side wall to push yourself up with your feet. Slowly, slowly inching outwards, fantastic! Onto a big huge ledge back out on the open cliff face. Not over yet though! The next bit was supposed to be moderate climbing. In retrospect I guess it was pretty moderate-ish, but just damn awkward! Another udge needed! Then a very exposed indeed 'bad step' across a block and onto the supposed crux of the route, Raeburn's Chimney, a short pitch of severe (in the wet) shared with Flake Route. This chimney was pretty wet (it had been a drizzly morning and the clag had been down) It didn't feel like severe climbing though, in fact there was only one wee awkward move, but the holds were big all the way and it was quite nice and thoughtful. Then it was time for the abseil................................................Aaaaaaaaaaaarg, I do hate abseiling so!!! Andy had found a pinnacle of rock to abseil from, which I was rather dubious about at first, but, 'c'mon eh Sonya,' I kept telling myself, 'here is a man with over 30 years of mountaineering experience, and not just at a mediocre level either! You need to trust his judgement' Still dubious and having mental arguments with myself though, 'maybe I'll just refuse to 'ab, oh but then poor Andy will have to walk all the way back in his rockshoes. Hmmm, maybe he can 'ab and I can walk down' Oh FFS Sonj, get a grip woman and get on with damn abseil so we can get off the bloomin cliff!' lol! Usual mental chitchat over, we ab down. Andy goes 1st and then I follow. Near to the bottom and into the gully, I move over to the other side of Andy, but I swing too hard on the rope and dislodge a huge block, bout one and half times the size of my head. It partly boshes my hand, then bounces off my leg before dropping down into the gully below. 'Aaaaaaaaah ya B*ST*RD!!! f*ck f*ck f*ck, that was bloody sore!!!' My leg immediately begins to throb and then go numb. I get down into the gully, and weight my leg, it feels damn painful, but I can weight it, it's not broken, thank god!! So, we're both down in the gully now, in a small berschgrund, but it's steep, it's loose and it's slippy, just the kind of place I hate! Andy belays me to on top of the snow, across the snow slope and into the other side of the gully and then I belay him across. I get lowered down the snow slope and Andy scrambles down whilst I set up another abseil for the steep step in the lower gully. Back to the sacks, down the boulder/scree slope and back down to the car for about 9ish and off to crash in the Lagangarbh hut. Didn't find Chris' sling and my krab that we left a few weeks ago, someone else had been in to do the route and taken them, but they did leave a different sling lower down with a snap gate and I also found a lovely big daddy hex in the gully, fab gear find! Unfortunately it would seem that the block that fell whilst I was ab'ing, also hit my rope and it got cut through to the core, with a few of the core strands utterly torn through too. One of my 60m ropes is now a 45m rope :o( I daren't bare to think about what might have happened if the rope had been cut all the way through! A lesson learned to be more careful when traversing across during an abseil!

Fri 6th June - My hand feels pretty sore in the morning and I can't close my fist properly and there is swelling around where the fallen rock cut it but sure enough it loosens off enough to climb once I'm up and about. My leg still feels sore but not as bad as yesterday, though it's looking a lovely fetching colour of blue! Matches perfectly the bruising on my other leg thanks to yesterdays thrutching, lol! Andy has managed to persuade me to have a go on Spartan Slab down on Etive Slabs. I've always been wary of multipitch routes above severe, thinking I just won't have the stamina to keep climbing VS for that long, but I remind myself that it's not continuous 4c climbing all the way and that if I can manage to climb several VS single pitches in a day, then there is no reason why I can't climb several VS pitches on a multipitch route! And there is only 2 pitches out of the 5 that are 4c and 5a. It is utterly boiling during the walk up to the slabs and I'm tired on the walk in, hate the heat! Hoping that there is enough wind to keep the midgies at bay, thinking I should maybe tuck my trouser legs into my socks to keep off ticks, but can't be bothered. Finally we are there, this looks fun! I hmmm a little over the 1st pitch, it looks a wee bitty harder than 4a to me and I decide to give the rope to Andy to lead it. If it feels ok, I will lead the 2nd pitch. Kinda glad I didn't as the traverse on the 1st pitch was a bit hairy and def not 4a! There was nothing memorable about the 2nd pitch, and the 3rd pitch is the crux with the 5a overlap. Now that was hard!! Andy uses a knee, but still seems as calm and nonchalant as ever. Me? I have to aid the move, pah! It's bloody awkward as anything when you are 5 foot nothing and not flexible enough to lift your foot to above your shoulder! If I get right into the corner then I can reach up and jam into the crack with my right hand, but then I'm far too squeezed in to throw my leg up and over. I try to twist my hip in to give me more reach with my left hand but my elbow bashes against the other wall and I can't bend my left arm the wrong way at the elbow to reach the crack! I need to lean out to get my leg over, but when I lean out, I simply can't reach the crack with my hand, aaaaaaaarg!!!!!! There is an ominous looking cloud over the valley and the wind is picking up a little, signalling to me that it may start raining soon. Clip a sling into the gear above me, foot in the sling, stand up, pull on the gear and heave my leg over the overlap. It's still bloody hard work, even aiding the move!! The next belay is fabulous! A nice comfy(ish) ledge right on the edge of the slab, pretty exposed, nice! And the next pitch is fantastic! A wee traverse, then up a very delicate and just in balance slab and then up a thin crack, and just when the crack runs out, and you are balanced tenuously on pretty much nothing, a thank feck jug appears to the left, ace! Then it's over another wee step (easy) and onto the next belay. Another wee slabby bit and a wee scramble to the top. A diff (ish) step to downclimb (still on the rope thankyou, but it's fine) and it's a walk back to our sacks. My toes hurt so I walk the majority in ma socks! Back to water and chocolate and home made flapjack, mmm mmm mmm! Both of us forgot to take a camera so nae photos today. Drive up to Inverness (with a 20minute snooze stop outside Fort Augustus, I'm knackered!) to doss at Morven's house where I find I have managed to pick up 12 ticks!!!!! Little b*st*rds!! My legs look awful, covered in bruises and bites :o(

Sat 7th June - Up and away for a hill walk. We wanted to do the Five Sisters down Glen Sheil as neither of us had 'bagged' them but we wanted clear weather and views for these 2 munros. So, the plan was, if the weather was clear we'd go up them, but if it wasn't clear and the clag was down then we would do either A' Chralaig and Mullach Fraoch-choire, or Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaorainn. Approaching Cluanie, the clag was down but there was smidgens of blue sky. We hmmd and hahed for a wee while but then decided to keep the 5 sisters for a day when it was guaranteed perfect weather and to go up Carn Ghluasaid and co, as they were the nearest. Half an hour into the walk up the hill, the clag lifted and the sun came up, blimmin typical! But we'd started now, and the 5sisters will be there for another day. Nice enough hills, will lovely views of the South Sheil ridge, over to Forcan ridge and the 5sisters. We could see the Ben away in the distance too, and across to the Glen Affric hills the other way. These are lovely hills. They all seem so close together so give the appearance of being quite mountainous. We did the 1st 2 hills, ditched our sacks, did the 3rd hill, came back to the sacks, traversed around the 2nd hill and back down to the car. 7 hrs on the hill, with lots of stops to admire the weather and views, munch grub and take photos.

A braw few days on the hill :o)

Sunday, 1 June 2008


Up at ridiculous o'clock to drive up to Chris' hoose for 6am (yawn!) and then off to Aviemore. Plan was to walk over to the Loch Avon Basin and do a route there and then drop down into Coire an Lochain and hopefully do Savage Slit, another route high on my 'tick' list. Arrived at the carpark to find it pretty much deserted, where were all the keen climbers I had been expecting? Brill for us though and a change of plan saw us walking in to do Savage Slit 1st. Like last weekend there was still a fair bit of snow around the base of the cliff. There was a huge headwall of snow above the Great Slab (how amazing would it be to see the whole slab go?(from a distance!)) Big huuuuuuuuuge blocks of old avalanche debris at the bottom of the slab. Chris had a rummage about for gear and found a screwgate, no axes though, lol! We scrambled up to the right of the snow, crossed the wee snow patch on the right and got up to the bottom of the cliff without any difficulty. Wow, looked amazing and not as steep as I had thought. I led the 1st bitty, and found the moderate section to the bottom of the corner a bitty on the awkward side (not used to the Cairngorm granite at all!) Nice climbing up the 1st proper pitch, lots of bridging, pretty thuggy and sustained but with very good rests between each bit. We had a couple behind us but it was all pretty relaxed (though they did look a bitty cold waiting for me to set up the belay, and for Chris leading off) Next, the crack widens into a cleft (aaaaarg, more cleftyness!) Chris had placed a bit of gear in the cleft and my sack was preventing me from getting in, but after going in frontways I managed a very secure hip jam to get the gear out. An awkward udge and a good rest, then an utterly sensational move onto the top of the crack with the whole of the route underneath my legs, fantastic! Then it was up a bit of a chossy gully, a wee bulgy wall to pull over and job done :o) Bite to eat and then a walk along to the descent down to the Loch Avon Basin. We didn't really have time to do the route I wanted to do, a V.Diff called Tennements on Stag Rocks so went down to Stac an Faraidh instead to look at the shorter slab routes there. The descent had a snowy headwall, hmmm, looked a bit dodgy, so we scrambled down and round the side of that, through steep grass and heather and down to the bottom of the slabs. Here were all the other climbers! Seemed to be a few parties out on the VS's to the left. We found the two, 2 pitch severes and the Diff and decided on a 2star severe called Linden. The other severe looked to be too wet and seepy but our route looked to avoid all the wet patches. Did I want to lead the 1st pitch? Hmmm, friction climbing? Nae gear, hmmm????? Ach stop thinking too much and just get on the damn thing!! Well, after a spot of gardening, I managed to get in a bit of gear in the crack to the right of the arete at the start of the route. Next came the pure friction climbing bit, oh feck that gear is miles away now, concentrate, get your balance right, look there's a wee crystal you can weight that fine and I'm up onto a wee ledge, woohoo! Next bit is easy and then I'm up and below a steeper section and oh arse, it's wet!!! Manage to get a bit of gear in here thankfully, clean up shoes and hands as best I can and go for it, nae probs, a bit more easy angled slab padding and I'm at the belay. The next pitch looks grim and I don't envy Chris! He groans when he sees what is next. What we thought was dry, in reality wasn't, far from it! There was a massive wet streak running down the layback flake/crack that formed the start of the next pitch. Nothing to do though but go for it! I'm very impressed with Chris, he threw gear in the crack and made his way up with just a wee heart stopping moment when his foot slipped a little! But next was the crux, pulling over onto a block, then up a very steep crack and corner. Shouldn't really pose much of a problem apart from the fact that it is utterly soaking and the crack is oozing out green,wet slime!!! Chris takes his time over this bit, gets a couple bits of good gear in, takes an age to go for it but eventually gets up there, only to realise it aint over yet!! More slimey slab to get up and over but the angle has eased off and he can traverse round the worst of it. Out of my sight now and he's taking an age to set up a belay and I'm getting paranoid that the belay is gonna be crap, I'm gonna fall, we're gonna get hurt bad, blah blah you get the picture! 'Safe' eventually! and it's my turn, eeeeek! The layback crack is fine, and even in the wet the friction of the granite crystals is sufficient enough for me (easy to say that with a rope above though!) But my god, the top crack is minging, utterly utterly minging! The water soaks my rockshoes, it runs down my sleeve as I try to get out gear!!! I can't reach the fecking hex placement and have to sit on the rope to get it out and even more water runs down my sleeve to the point where my jacket arms are soaked! Bugger this for a malarky I think, and ethics and style forgotten I pull on the bit of gear, aiding over the bulge and land with a graceful (not) belly flop onto the sloping ledge above, completely soaking my trousers! After much gurning and skin scraping udges I manage to get back on my feet and lots of swearing ensues!! The slabby bit seems a relief after that, but not as much of a relief to be at the top and off the damn route, which has to be the most evil route I've ever had the (dis)pleasure to do! (but it's all character building right??) The walk back up to Fiacaill Coire Cas seems to take forever, uphill at this stage in the game is just not on! Then it's downhill to the car. 14hrs on the hill and I'm gubbed!! Find a spot to camp just off the side of the road down in the valley, bite to eat and I'm out for the count! Up at 6.30am the next day and a drive down the Morray Coast to Redhythe Point where neither of us have climbed before, and neither of us probably ever will after finding it pretty uninspiring. Back in the car and down to Meikle Partans. Where is the sun? The haar is in and it's cold and windy and neither of us feels very motivated to climb afters yesterdays adventure! But........we feel like we have to do something seen as we are here, so I lead a V.Diff I've never done called The Riff, no stars but I felt it deserved one! It's got a pretty awkard and steep start for a V.Diff and I really enjoyed it, one of the nicest V.Diffs I've done infact! Then Chris led Constellation which is one of the nicest severes on the coast I reckon and then we called it a day, knackered but happy.