After my Friday evening bouldering sesh of trashing my arms on overhanging V3's I drove up to Andy's where he suggested going to do an HVS on Creag Ghlas up in Strathconon. It took a wee bitty of convincing me, what with it being an HVS *and* a slab! I can't understand why Andy keeps picking slabby routes, when I keep insisting that I don't like slabs! But with more chat about it, I started warming to the idea and even suggesting that I lead the 1st pitch!
Come morning time though the radars said it had been raining in that area and was still raining in that area so that plan got binned! A shame as after my initial hesitation, I was quite psyched for going there. So, we went for the fall back plan of Logie Head. I'd not climbed there since last summer and was keen to try out my new found VS leading skills on Poacher and maybe one of the other VS's there and also to do a Hard Severe called Fisherman's Tail which I had backed off from a few years ago.
I was nervous about doing Poacher's as I've always found it really pumpy and was worried I wouldn't have the stamina to hold on, place gear *and* climb the damn thing too!
Warmed up on the Severe to the left, then Andy led Culinary Delight at VS5a, a route I always seem to struggle on with this time not being an exception! Then I led Fisherman's and laid that old ghost to rest. It was a doddle, funny how a few years can make such a big improvement in performance! Andy led an HVS, but I wanted to save my arms for Poacher so he ab'd for the gear whilst I soloed up the V.Diff to the left of Poacher.
Then did it not start to rain! Aaaaaaaarg, not fair! I REALLY wanted to lead Poacher but I REALLY did not want to lead in when wet! I deliberated for ages and the rain got heavier but not pouring down, so I decided to go for it! If it got soaked I could always lower off, not like I was going to get the onsight anyway, having seconded it a few times before. It's nothing like I remembered it, just a tiny little bit pumpy and I managed to stop and place gear no problem at all. Was really chuffed when I got to the top!
We wanted to get across to the tidal area before the tide came right in and blocked off access. As it was, we ended up having to climb up onto the cliff a little bit to traverse across but I managed it without too much drama! The sea was really calm, the rain had gone and the sun was back out again, so it didn't feel intimidating.
Andy led the HVS beside Moray Eel, the name of which escapes me and I seem to left my NE Outcrops guidebook at his place (I hope!) That was really strenuous and I got Andy to lower me off at the top so I could get back down to lead Fallen Star which I thought looked nicer than Moray Eel.
It felt a bit bold to start but the start was dead easy, then what Andy said was the crux felt really easy, and I thought the top was harder. The moves keep pushing you out on nearer and nearer to the left edge and arete of the cliff face and it becomes more and more exposed, great fun! We lowered again and called it a day (me keeping Moray Eel for next time) then soloed up a Diff called the Black Hole which is basically a hole in the cliff face that you squeeze through onto the other side of the cliff face, which is a promontory out to sea. From the other side you can climb up onto the crest and walk back along to the landward side.
Andy wanted to do a quick couple of routes on the Pinnacle further west but I was knackered now, but happy to belay. He started off on the most amazing looking HVS that looked so good I just had to run back up for my rock shoes to give it a go. It's PUMPTASTIC! Overhanging move after move after move, every hold is good but the moves are big too! I had to rest near the top as my hands were just peeling off by this point, but it was fun!
Andy led the next HVS along, ab'd for the gear, then we called it a day (calling in for some ice cream on the way home of course!)
On Sunday we had been planning to go down to Ballater but Andy had been talking a bit about Creag Dubh. I've always been wary of going here as there isn't much below VS and I assumed easier stuff would be vegetated yuck and the cliff has a reputation for bold and intimidating climbing! In fact climbers nick name it 'Creag Don't' instead of Creag Do, and some even call it Creag Death in reference to the fact that the gear is a bit sparse on some of the routes, with potential for massive falls!
Looking through the guidebook it seemed there *were* a good few easier routes I could try and lead but Andy thought the VS's were quite serious and maybe not suitable for one just breaking into VS and I agreed!
There is a starred Severe called TreeHee but Andy reckoned with the recent rainfall and forecast showers it might be too wet, but the steeper routes aren't much affected by the rain (due to them being steep!) Looking at how bold the start to the other starred severe was (Mirador) I bottled leading it and asked Andy to lead it for a warm up. As he was gearing up, I had all my usual mental arguments and came to the conclusion that it was *only* severe, and it was bound to have *some* gear in it, and I had just soloed a V.Diff which is just one grade easier, the day before, so surely I could cope?'
We swapped the gear over. The starting moves are tough for severe, very steep! But juggy holds when you can reach them, I had to get my feet high so I could avoid using horrible slopey holds and move up for the good ones. But where is the gear?
No gear here, no gear there, 'oh shit!'
'Right Sonya, you can't afford to panic here, you are high up enough now to hurt yourself if you lose it and fall off, keep it together!'
I thoughtfully and carefully move up a couple of moves and finally get some gear in, phew! It's not the bomber placement I would have liked but it was better than nothing. Moving onto the arete was committing and scary but once on it the holds are good and all in balance. Again the gear is sparse though and I wibbled my way up the whole route, thinking
'VS, nae chance!'
Andy decided to lead an HVS 4c, seen as it was next door. I was nervous as hell belaying him on this, it a VERY serious route with potential to deck out if you fluff the moves near the top! Thankfully Andy was fine, I had to remind myself that even though it was HVS, the moves were only 4c so well within Andy's capabilities and within mine to second so I wouldn't get too pumped having not warmed up sufficiently, however exciting the severe had been!
It was a lovely route, brilliant climbing and worthy of more than 1 star I think, but many folk probably don't do it as it's so serious! The ab down was hilarious too! You generally ab off all the routes on Creag Dubh as the top pitches are loose and vegetated and there are loads of trees with insitu tat and mallions etc to ab from. To the left of Fiorella (the HVS) there is a huge Ivy bush that spans nearly the length of the whole pitch and when you ab over a roof there is nothing to use for your feet to keep you away from the Ivy, so you have to abseil through the Ivy and I couldn't stop laughing!
We walked along to the Great Wall next, wanting to do King Bee but there were already folk on it. There were folk on Brute too (another good VS) but they were higher up and the second was just tackling the crux. I watched him rest on the rope, unable to make the moves and thought,
'Hmmm, if he can't get up what chance do I have?!' It never crosses my mind to think, that maybe I'm a better climber so will manage just fine!
The first bit is 4c and trickier than it looks and before you know it you are underneath a big roof which takes a moment or too to figure out, but the holds are good. It's a really thrutchy move but with a bit of heaving and grunting I was over and up to Andy, where we ab'd off.
I'd been eyeing up the 1st pitch of King Bee, thinking it looked really, really nice and just my style of climbing and didn't look too scary, so I decided to lead it. Of course, it *is* 4c climbing so it wasn't as simple as it looked!
There is a move above gear where you have to go out left to below a big tree, and it took me ages to figure out this move. Thankfully, even though the gear was a move below my feet at this point, it was in a restful position so you weren't having to hang on getting pumped while you figure it. It was just a matter of reach and balance for me and I sussed it eventually, giving a whoop as I got up to the tree. Next was the crux of the pitch, but I found this easier than below (but just as committing! With potential of a good fall and swing back to the tree if you come off) Again it's a big reach for good holds and I had to use intermediate ones but sussed a way to do it without the bulging roof throwing me off. Another whoop later and I was at the belay ledge.
Andy led the 5a pitch above, where the climbing was delicate and very exposed but the gear much better than below. It took me a while to figure out the crux, which seemed highly unlikely, but fine once you do it and again well protected. We decided to ab off at this point, the first two pitches done being the best ones. Andy just lowered me down, which was more scary than climbing the route! As a lot of it is free hanging, as the ab is down a very steep E2 route and even though Andy promised me there was enough rope for me to reach the bottom, I was a tad scared when the rope stopped moving, with me dangling in the air, still about 20m from the ground! The rope was caught on something and Andy needed to free it, but before long my feet were safely on the ground and I was chatting to some dude who also goes to the wall at Dundee.
We'd also met a guy called Ken that used to climb with my ex Pete, it's a small world!
I was supposed to being going bouldering at Muchall's with Bekah today, but the forecast was a bit iffy and RB's mate had asked her to go to the pictures, so she did that instead. I was thankful as my arms are needing a rest now, and I'm coming down with a sore throat, feel achy and headachy (hope I'm not growing pig ears, lol!)