Andy is away in Sardinia at the moment and Chris and I used the time to catch up for a climb. The plan had hopefully been for a weekend away doing a mountain route, camping, then cragging but the forecast ruled that out!
A last minute decision saw us decide to head up to Cummingston for the day, with the Moray coast getting the best of the Scottish weather as it often does.
John that we went down to Northumbria with at the end of last summer was out too, as was Mel, who I met up in Polldubh a few years ago. We know a few of the same folk and had chatted down at AVW over the years and had swapped emails of late, so it was nice to finally climb together, and also nice to climb with another woman again.
John and Chris partnered up and went over to the Prophet Walls and Mel and I warmed up on some easier stuff on the Cornflake Walls. I've gotten quite into having the 1st lead of the day so I can get my head into the right place straight away and the anticipation doesn't build up too much and have me a nervous wreck! Mel did her SPA training (Single Pitch Award) at Cummingston back in March and was telling me about a nice Severe that goes up a chimney and then over a roof. I'm not entirely sure I did the Severe variation as that seems to go left over the roof, whereas I went right over the roof onto the top of Doddle Deidre which I think is the V.Diff way, but never mind, it was a nice route and a good one to warm up on.
Mel led Doddle Deidre next, cruising up it no problem at all and that was my 3rd time climbing that route, am going to have to warm up on different Severes next time!
The tide had been coming in when Mel was leading and when we got back down it was about 1foot away from the base of the cliff and moving in fast! But I was desperate to lead Stegosaurus, a 2** VS4c as I had spotted photos of it on UKC and it looked nice and my type of route. Mel was dubious about us managing to get it done in time, with the water approaching nearer and nearer. But she was fantastic! She perched up into the chimney of the V.Diff I had done earlier and flaked the ropes over a pedestal inside the chimney, made herself a hanging belay and made herself as comfy as could be. All the while the waves were starting to splash up and I had to climb up onto the bottom of the cliff to keep my feet dry whilst Mel got me on belay! It was all quite exciting!
The initial moves were easy enough and then I did a cliched thing and faffed getting in a bit of gear whilst in a fairly awkward position, only to make one small move after and find a huge jug in complete balance from where I could have placed my gear in a much comfier position!
Climbed up higher and managed to place a small but good nut in a crack and contemplate the crux above. I could see a big juggy pocket, but it was too far away to reach and it took me a minute or two to find a good intermediate hold, work out where to put my feet and then push up for the better hold. Once I had the pocket, it was just a case of moving feet a bit higher, moving up and grabbing a big spiky jug, ooooooooh yes! I faffed a bit trying to get a sling off my shoulder, flung that round the spike and then it was a steep and bulgy, jug pulling fest right to the top, hurrah, give a few whoops and then top out into the sand! Mel zoomed up on second in no time at all, and we agreed it was quite soft for VS4c. Our ropes were dry, our feet were dry and no epics had ensued.
Next we went over to join Chris and John, where John was climbing the awkward and hard E2, The Prophet. He was trying to figure out the crux moves when we got there, and after a few moves up and down he finally sussed it, and grunted his way in good style over the roof. I was impressed that he was managing to hold on for so long, remembering how awkward and strenuous that route is and how I fell off shortly after not being quick enough to suss the crux and not having the strength to try again.
After a bite to eat, Mel led Centre, sussing the move past the nose without any hassles and then we all sat on the beach for more to eat, and sat......and sat............and sat.............
It was most enjoyable just sitting and relaxing and blethering away about this, that and the next thing and we all started to feel just a bit demotivated to climb, just happy to sit and chill. But that was no good at all, these routes weren't gonna climb themselves!
I was feeling nervous about leading Left and I don't know why seen as I'd found it easy last time. I didn't really want to do it, but felt I should do it, simply *because* I didn't want to do it, how daft is that!!!? I should have jumped straight on it after Mel led Centre because I messed up the crux! There is a jug at the bottom of the crack and after placing a bit of gear, I began to doubt that I had the jug with the correct hand, so I moved that hand up to a smaller jug above and used the lower jug with the other hand, then moved my higher hand even higher into the small crack. But that didn't feel right at all, and I started to doubt was I doing was in any way correct, as using the right wall, then back stepping onto the left wall, like I did it before, just didn't feel right this time at all! So, I moved back down, panicked a little when I couldn't find my foothold, but I was getting more and more pumped, from having too long a break and getting cold, so I shouted 'take' and that was that. I rested on gear for the 1st time ever on a route! I tried to feel positive about it and not see it as a failure, negative thinking never being a good thing! I've never had to rest on my gear before, and even though I should have just gone for the moves, it is good to know that my gear placements are good enough for me to hang off and do the job of protecting me (not quite the same as falling on gear, but still enough to make me more confident of my placements)
And it didn't really matter anyway, because I had just cruised up this route a few weeks before and ticked the onsight, me resting on the gear this time round just meant other factors were at play tiring me out, and not that I couldn't do it. Mel flew up and I asked her how she did the crux moves, as everyone seems to do that bit differently! She uses both her feet at the bottom of the crack before bridging, where as I start bridging straight away, lifting my right foot quite high, probably making it more awkward for myself, but it seems to work for me (well, it did the 1st time when things were flowing better!)
We both decided against the HVS, although I've spotted an amazing looking HVS called The Gripper, what an exciting sounding name! The top out goes over a roof with an 'intriguingly awkward finish!' And I think this route looks much nicer than Right, and more my style. I'll see if I can't get Andy to lead it next time we are there. I might toy with leading an HVS once I've got a few more VS's under my belt, but not quite ready for onsighting one yet!
Wandered back over to the Doubt Wall area, Chris was at the crux on Stegosaurus, the tide going back out again (so I could have left it till later, but glad I did it when i had as it made it more spicy!) Then John tried Deidre of Double Doubt on lead at E2, but didn't make it, so finished off on an HVS instead.
Mel decided on Green Crack. I'd kinda hoped she would lead Old Peg Groove so I could get the lead of Green Crack, but it was her go and I didn't want to quibble as she obviously liked the look of Green Crack better too!
Mel thought it looked quite pumpy though and I toyed with pulling the ropes through after she'd led it, so I could lead it too, but said I'd see how she found it first. If Mel found it pumpy, then I'd just second it as she is stronger than me and it was too late in the day for pumpy for me.
I could tell straight away that Mel *was* finding it pumpy, by the way she was shaking out every so often, saying, 'woooooooo, pumpy!' and when I came to second it, was impressed that she'd held on to rounded holds on such steep ground for long enough to place the gear she did, as it certainly wasn't a restful position! It was a nice route, and a good lead. Solid VS, quite high in the grade I think actually and I enjoyed it enough to want to lead next time, good to have things to go back for!
The wind was picking up and there was a horrible threatening cloud moving in from the West, time for one more quick route! I flew up a severe called Staircase Crack which the guide has as being unpleasant, but which I found nice enough. It was starting to spitter by the time I got to the top and by the time Mel was up, it was raining heavily. We quickly got the ropes together, rushed back down, all got our stuff together and called it a day.
Mel was going to Meikle Partans on the Sunday and invited me along, but after thinking about it, I decided against it, finding the sea cliffs there a bit hit or miss as to whether I'm going to have a good day or not and didn't want the other's to see me at my worst when I'm having a shit day because of the sea. It's quite easy now, just to decide not to bother with the Aberdeen coast and do something else instead.
It was too late when I got home and organised to try finding other folk to climb with, and after initially deciding to go hillwalking up Glen Lyon, I changed my mind with low freezing levels in the morning and rain showers in the afternoon as I was really after a sunny hill day! Will go for a run up Glen Dye tomorrow and potter in the garden and do some studying.
Fingers crossed for a decent forecast next weekend so Chris and I can go play in the mountains.