RB exceeded all expectations over the past few days!
She'd been at me for the past year to let her do some proper trad lead climbing, without a safety rope or without someone soloing or shunting up beside her. I'd always been far too nervous of the prospect however, she's far too young, it's too hard, what if her gear is crap, what if she hurts herself???
All these thoughts and fears were still present, but having had a year to think it over I could see no harm in letting her try a few Mods or Diffs on lead. We'd need to find a cliff that had billions of good and easy to place gear. A place with a reasonable approach and descent. A place where she could get well back from the edge of the cliff after leading, get herself safe and where I could go round to the top easily and check her belay anchors were solid.
Reiff seemed like a good bet.
So we'd planned 5 days away and prayed for weeks that the weather would be kind. For the past 2 summers, the North West of Scotland has seen wonderful sunshine whilst the rest of the country has been drowning in rain! But unfortunately this trend wasn't to continue. The original plan of Applecross/Reiff/Torridon with a stay in the Ling Hut had to get scrapped. Gutting because I was eager to show Reiff to RB, think she'd love it there!
Instead, Mon was spent driving up to Logie Head on the Moray Coast with an uncertain forecast. Well, the forecast was for showers but I thought we'd risk it as the showers often fall well inland there. Not that day though!
We stopped off at Portsoy for some of their famous homemade icecream, just in time for the heavens to open! Rats! Carried on regardless, just a passing shower, the cliff will be dry. Walking in to the crag was minging! Never seen Logie like that before. The path was like mud and the bracken by the path had us soaked in seconds and RB covered in mud after slipping on the path. Not off to a good start! We persevered however and RB spent the first half hour to an hour messing about with the rack and placing as many bits of gear as she could along the bottom of the cliff. While she was doing that, I went up to the top and set up a belay, checking all her gear when I got back down. The descent scramble was pretty slippy so I decided I'd just lower RB off the routes rather than risk her slip.
Her gear was all good, she seems to have a good grasp on how it all works, so I could see no reason for me to delay her any longer. We hung about waiting for another shower to pass and the rock seemed dry enough for her to give it a go, so she started off up Sea Link, a V.Diff. I've never seen so much gear go in that route before! I'm quite impressed that she managed to find so many placements! All in all, she managed to place all of her 9 quickdraws! All good gear placing practise. And she had to suffer a heavy rain shower as she was nearing the top! She got herself safe and I came round to the top, only to realise that I'd set up the belay for her in completely the wrong place! So, I got her to move well back and had to shift things around a bit, get her back on the belay anchors and comfy, explaining the whole process to her, get myself back down to the bottom of the cliff and climb the damn thing!
Gah though! My arm is damn sore! It's hurting quite badly after my day at Hawkcraig. I'm unsure whether I've got a dose of Tennis Elbow, or damaged by biceps, or whether the pain is coming from my Triceps. But I'm kidding myself I reckon, I know it's my neck. There is definite elbow pain at the epicondyle but the pain around it is that weird kind of nerve pain where I poke at the muscle body only to find the pain has moved! There are darts of pain down my forearm and into my fingers and after driving, because my elbow has been bent, I can barely straighten my arm out, it feels so weak and ineffective. So, that's that! This is exactly the same thing that happened to my other arm last year, that the Doc, Physio and Chiro all said was coming from my neck and certainly with all the bouts of neck pain I've been having, particularly the falling off the slackline incident, it seems the most likely reason for my arm pain now. My muscles seem more susceptable to damage because of the nervy stuff going on, bugger!
Anyway, I lowered RB off the route after and the rain was getting heavier and it was getting pretty cold so we decided to pack it in for the day. Only one route done, but better than expected considering the rain!
The forecast for Tuesday wasn't great again, and the Moray Coast had the best again, so we headed off to Cummingston for the day. I wasn't too sure about this being a great place for RB to learn to lead as the gear can be hard and fiddly to place, but it turned out to be an excellent venue for her! She absolutely loved it! And again, she seems to have a good nose for hunting out gear placements and I was amazed by the bits of gear she found where I looked up and thought she'd struggle! She started off on the Diff on the Stack called Flying Buttress, Right Side, finding it tricky for a Diff (it is!) but still finding loads of good gear, then doing an abseil protected with a prussic. She then liked the look of the Diff called Snotty Nose and protected that very well too! This route hurt my arm! Very frustrating to be unable to climb even Diffs without pain! It's Northumbria all over again! She then had a go on Blockbuster, the V.Diff that goes up to the wee roof on jugs and thought that was fun, followed by the Severe next door, Doddle Diedre. I was nervous of her leading this one, as I find it awkward to climb and the gear placements not brilliant at all. The guide has it as well protected but everyone I know who has done it, find the gear a bit dubious. RB's gear was ok, bar the cams which weren't hot! But as best as anyone could get I think. She certainly wasn't in any danger anyway. And she was calm and collected when climbing and didn't find the route troublesome at all, apart from the sand! That was us for the day, I'd necked some painkillers to help me be able to climb, and Andy had toprope soloed some HVS and E1 a billion times!
Wed, I was gagging to get up the hills! The forecast hadn't been great the day before, with showers forecast, but I thought if the showers were much like they were on Monday, then it should be okay to go into Sneachda and do something like Pygmy Ridge. The forecast said much the same the following morning, even if the weather out the window said different! It was pretty windy and more of a constant drizzle at the car park, rather than a passing shower! RB was still keen however, thinking she'd be happy enough if the rain stayed light and showery.
The showers came and went on the approach, but after leaving the 1st aid box, the rain became more persistent. I really didn't have my hill head screwed on at all that morning and had forgotten waterproof trousers for both RB and I, and we had no hat or gloves to keep warm either! By the time we were nearing the scramble up, I could see that RB was wet and cold and not that happy. She keeps things to herself though. I can tell when she's unhappy and I like her to be able to feel she can say she doesn't want to do something, without feeling like she is letting anyone else down or feeling pressurised by group pressure into doing something she doesn't want to do. This can happen only too easily and though I was happy for her to carry on if she was really keen, I could see quite plainly she wasn't happy, and I know Andy would be raring to go and dismissive of any thoughts of not carrying on. I wasn't having that however! I'll not have her pressurised full stop! Especially not by some Diff, that Andy has probably done a billion times and that I know for a fact she would enjoy much, much more on a dry day! I've no interest in that carry on regardless attitude. The route will be there for us to do any time and her comfort and enjoyment is my main concern. Oh boy, was Andy pissed off though! I discussed with RB the possibility of either going to Huntly's or going to Aviemore Wall, but Andy wasn't up for discussion and stomped off in a huff. We didn't speak to him, nor see him until we got back to the car. I could feel my temper simmering on the surface, if he just dares to mention one word about turning back or make me feel like shit for my decision, word will be spoken! And words were spoken! I'd had enough! It was like having to cater for another child!!! And I felt guilty and torn because I have to be the bad one in the middle that makes a decision that's going to make someone unhappy whatever way I decide. But fact is, RB is a child and she comes first.
That temper was still simmering and you could have cut the tension in the car with a knife on the way back! I was ready to pack our bags and bugger off to Reiff for the rest of the week, not having this carry on ruin the rest of RB's holiday. Dunno what Andy was thinking, but he seemed to switch off his huff and become happy again and want to go to Huntly's. This settled my mood and we were all good again.
RB enjoyed Huntly's, particularly the free hanging abseil! Ugh! I was nervous as hell for her doing the abseil, but she loved it! Where I'm birling round feeling sick and not enjoying it, she's going, 'haha, this is fun!' Worry for nothing!
RB led a V.Diff called Right Hand Groove, which I found a total sandbag for V.Diff! Really strenuous and mega reachy at the top! There is a tree above a chimney and neither of us could reach it to use it as a hold. Andy had to put a sling round it for RB to use as a runner, so she was well protected as she figured a way to reach. And I was squeaking at Andy to help RB with the dead end of the rope when she was belaying me up, so convinced I was going to fall off! Think I need to get RB to take my weight on the rope when she's belaying from above, to ascertain that she can hold a fall that way, or take my weight at least. I'd had enough. Tired, arm sore, more painkillers and a flat feeling that feels oh so familiar!
Andy finished off the day by leading RB up Cave Route at HS and then Diagonal at VS, both of which she flew up and enjoyed!
Thursday, I'd hoped the forecast would be good enough for Reiff, but last minute changes showed showers in the west again, with Moray as usual getting the only good weather. Back to Cummingston! RB was happy and planning the days routes before we even got there! First off she wanted to do one of the routes on the Cornflake Wall that she couldn't do the other day due to groups toproping. Then she wanted to do the V.Diff on the Stack, then she wanted to do another Severe. She got her 1st route, Shredded Wheat at V.Diff. Very aptly named! The route was one of the sandiest I've done at Cummingston! RB found it rather disgusting. Andy was leading today and did Coach Bolt Crack on the stack, named so because of a big rusty old peg thing in the crack from way back when. RB found this a bit awkward but seconded it cleanly. She then decided against leading the V.Diff on the Stack, wanting to jump on a Severe straight away. She liked the look of Staircase Crack, but the showers had left it a bit streaky with wet, so she led Doubtless Wall instead. I was nervous of her doing this one as I recalled it being steep, with not much gear. Andy showed her a different way of starting the route and pointed out a bomber hex placement (so obvious when you see it!) and again my fears were unfounded as she totaly cruised it, and said it was her most enjoyable route yet!
We then went over to the Prophet Walls and Andy led Right at HVS 5b, which RB cruised on second, just lingering a moment to figure out the crux. The wee monkey then decided she wanted to try Centre. In most guides this is down as MVS 4b, but recently downgraded to HS 4b. Andy reckoned it would be MVS in the SMC guide, if they did that grade. Aaaaaarg, more nerves!!!! I'm worried she won't be able to reach the nose, or if she does reach it, she'll get stuck by being unable to reach the next holds! She's going far too wall for that though! And she's loving it! Finding it easy enough to hang off the nose and pose for the camera! She's so calm and collected, her emotions never once betraying her. At the top, she admitted to feeling a bit scared on the 1st corner above the nose, because she had to do a really high step and she said it felt really committing. This is now her favourite route and she was bubbling with enthusiasm for it!
John and Ryan appeared as RB was leading Centre, having been rained off down in Wales and both commented on how at ease she seemed up there. High compliments from the lads! These guys are going really well just now, both of them having led their 1st E3's.
Andy and RB then toproped The Prophet at E2 5c, and I Ching at E3 5c. RB cruised up these!!! Bloody hell!! She's so strong for her height and weight, flexible and she just really, really knows how to shift her body weight and position to really get the moves. It seems to come naturally to her, wish I could get some of that!
Fri, the weather is still crap up North and too far to drive up there and back home in a day anyway! Back to Logie Head again. A good choice as the weather was gorgeous there today. RB started off on the Severe, Bladderwrack, not having any difficulty with the trickier start at all. Then she seconded Cullenary Delight at VS 5a, no problemo! She then led Sea Urchin at HS 4b where I thought she might struggle with a fiddly bit of gear in the roof. Posed no problems at all, and she wondered what I was on about when I said the gear was awkward to place there! Andy then led Sunnyside Up at HVS 5a and RB seconded this cleanly again.
Andy and I had discussed the possibility of RB trying Poacher on lead, the night before. I was very hesitant though. Andy was convinced she would manage but I was a bit freaked at the thought of her pushing herself too much too soon! What if her gear wasn't good enough? The gear on Poacher's is excellent, none of the moves too hard or strenuous, but the route is very sustained with no opportunity to rest! We didn't mentioned it to her though. She looked at the route and asked herself what it was and seemed quite surprised when Andy suggested she could lead it if I would let her. Aaaaaaaaarg!!! She was keen to give it a go, and we'd seen that her gear was all good, bar a couple of iffy cam placements, but poachers can be protected with nuts and hexes. And 75% of her cam placements had been good enough. I agreed she could give it a go. I didn't want to belay though. Far, far too nervous! Half of me wants to belay so I can be there for her, but I'm so full off the things that could go wrong, don't want to affect her with my worry and negative vibes. After getting nervous about some passing grey cloud, convinced she's going to get rained on and get into an epic, I shut my mouth and let them get on with it! I'm not happy until she's well off the ground and placed her first few bits of gear, knowing now that if she falls she's well protected. She's cruising it though!! That's my wee girl up there, looking quite the climber!! She's calm, she moves well and thoughtfully as ever, always in total control, nothing phasing her! I meet her at the top to make sure her belay is good and we discuss the route. She found it different to Centre she said. With the routes at Cummingston, you have to think about the moves. On Poacher, she said, the moves were all easy and obvious but she kept thinking, oh my arms are tired, next move, oh my arms are tired. I laugh at her perfect description of a sustained route!
More comments from other climbers about how in control and confident she is, and I'm beaming with pride and RB is bubbling with happiness, saying this has been a fab climbing holiday!
To finish the week, Andy leads 2x HVS's on the Pinnacle, Material Advantage and Hanging Pawn. Pumpy, pumpy! RB cruised the first route and shouts, aaaaaaaarg my arms are falling off on the 2nd! They both then toprope Mating Net (E1 5c as they started right at the bottom of the crack) This is a jamming crack and Andy laughs that it will sort out RB! And sort her out it does! She's not done any jamming before, bar the odd foot jam and she struggles with it, the crack spitting her off again and again, before sheer determination makes her figure the moves and get to the top.
That was fun she says!