Simon saw the Cioch on Coast last year and wanted a bit of that action. Closer investigation revealed a serious sense of adventure so I suggested some fast-tracking into a rock climbing career; “if Cioch West doesn’t float your boat nothing will!”
Classic Misty Isle weather just now and the Cioch loomed out above our heads just to add to Simon’s “experience”.
Yesterday’s heavy rain left some damp streaks but nothing to worry us and it was good to see Simon’s brain grasp all of the technicalities needed to follow without getting tangled or stuck
Out onto Arrow Route was a no-brainer with 200 foot of beautiful dry slab.
The obligatory Sean Connery-style sword fight (new swords this week, who does take them away?)out on the Cioch rounded off the ascent before my favoured descent down Eastern Gully.
A great few days of rock climbing recently with my good friend Lucy back again to add any keenness I may be lacking!
Thursday started with a sunny walk up into Coire Lagan with the students of Landmark College.
After cooling the feet back in Loch Brittle we set back off up and one of the hottest walk-ins that I can ever remember. The target was a direct finish to Techno Snob- that Malcy & I climbed in 2012.
All the effort was worthwhile as we were rewarded with an evening of climbing on glorious clean hot rock. The Oldest Raver on Skye finish was even good enough to be considerably easier (E1 5b) than the parent route with the crux being the stiff rockover move off the ground. A word of warning to aspirants is that the best gear on this move is very high, too high for me, so Lucy stood on my shoulders to place it!
On Friday three Mikes and a Lucy headed to Kilt rock and a race to climb as much as possible before the rain arrived. Clandestine (VS) and Secret Service (HVS) were topped off with ascents of the uber classic Grey Panther. With a full ropelength of superb climbing on a plumb vertical fault this is a strong contender for the best E1 in the UK.
Saturday was as wet as predicted but Sunday was forecast as wall to wall sunshine. The 2 Mikes had been reading up on the Girdle Traverse of Sron na Ciche in the guidebook and Lucy and I agreed it would make a great team climb. 3 years ago we’d taken 5 hours in perfect conditions but JEB Wright, a guide back in the 1920′s recorded climbing it with parties of 4, 5 and 6 in all sorts of conditions and never in more than 6 hours.
The clear tops sank back into the mist as we arrived and a cold wind nipped at the fingers as we geared up. 2nd time around and with a quality team we made good progress to the Serpentine Chimney. Lucy & I felt we had cheated last time by abseiling the downclimbs but our attempt to mirror them failed at the first hurdle with a long damp move at the foot of the climb.
Things warmed up after Eastern Gully as we sped past a continuous series of old classic routes; the Cioch, down to the Terrace and Doom Walls, another abseil, over the Hexagon Block and across Amphitheatre Arete. Gaining entry to Trap Face Route once again proved awkward and needed a few runners to keep us safe before following the trap right out to overlook Western Gully and some welcome sunshine and lunch.
We’d made it in under 4 hours this time and Mr JEB Wright now seems a little less superhuman. His first effort took only 2.5 hours though so we’ve a way to go to still!
The Kings Martin & Deidrie took me off for a great road tour around the north of Scotland last week and the weather treated us handsomely. The Old Men of Hoy & Stoer were major highlights supplemented by Vlad the Impaler on Stac Pollaidh and Sword of Gideon near Applecross. Fantastic trip thanks guys; superbly climbed and great company too.
It was a pleasure to help Lorraine McCall on her way by lending her a bike for the short ride between Sligachan and Portree today.
Lorraine is raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support while attempting the first continuous round of Corbetts (Scottish peaks between 2500 and 3000feet). Since April 8th she has managed the awkward first 54 with only 167 left to go! Key to the islands part of the project is the beautiful Iona of Clyde, chartered from Gairloch and skippered by Graham. Over the past 2 weeks they’ve been to Arran, Mull, Jura, Rum and Skye and are off to Harris in the morning!
There are loads of people in the support team and half of them spent today fixing the boat after storm force winds nearly ended badly right in the harbour yesterday when fishing rope got caught in the propeller. The same winds had a similarly dramatic effect on the hill as Lorraine descended Garbh Bheinn with John and Caz. A gust picked Caz up and ditched rudely and painfully into the rocks. Very glad to report that she was well enough to join the team still today despite the souvenir
All best wishes for a safe and successful trip ahead over the coming months to all the team. Follow her blog here
Francis inspired Lou and me to join him and explore what the guidebook calls “terrain adventure, steep & exciting” on the upper cliff at Duncraig, just across the water near Plockton. The book took a bit of deciphering but we were rewarded with 3 pitches of really good climbing. Our “combo” had Francis warm us up rapidly on Brigadier Braggart’s Little Secret, E3 5c. The obvious line above was eventually identified as Easy Rider, HVS 5a. This gave Lou a great curving crack pitch and then a very adventurous finish for me with route finding and vegetation adding extra spice to the high quality climbing.
Francis eyeing up the crux
Set above Plockton bay with the Torridonian sandstone mountains behind the crag really is in a phenomenal position. Our adventure ended with yet more exploration as we took faith in the guidebook and abseiled back over the edge from the trees. The heavy rain had arrived but we really didn’t mind one bit.
Set above Plockton bay with the Torridonian sandstone mountains behind the crag really is in a phenomenal position.
Had a fun & exciting day out with Elaine & Kerrin in the sun on Tuesday. They’re making high quality travel apps which is a hightec Lonely Planet using videos for those struggling to suss what that means. See this link to Humanity TV for a fantastic trailer featuring Iceland. Scotland was high on their list to cover in the next issue and I was recommended to them by the Skye based artist Julie Brook
The guys were a pleasure to work with, filming didn’t interfere with the climbing, the weather was perfect, eagles came out to play and both Elaine & Kerrin had monstrous grins as they revelled in the excitement of climbing the Cioch. Good luck with the enterprise!
I never use the same route twice and we found some delightful clean ribs well to the left hand side as we approached the abseil from Dubh Beag.
Great excitement for me was finding a huge cave feature that I’d never even spotted. Somebody has even smoothed out the base to make it comfy enough to lie down in.
Paul climbed very well and we even had time for a look into the TD Gap which was horribly cold and greasy.
The final part of the plan was meeting Ian and Jon and take their car back out of Glen Brittle. They started their Traverse by heading up to spend the night in Coire a’ Ghrunnda before a long & successful day next day.
Francis & Ulrich were also successful. A seasoned alpinist Ulrich came round to visit me the next day. He had very kind words about Francis being amongst the best guides he has ever used. He was equally complimentary about the Traverse. It was far, far bigger than he expected and bigger than most alpine outings. For reference the timings for this Traverse, in good conditions, were 2 hours ascent, 17 hours of climbing from one end to the other (with a bivouac as well) and 3 hours to descend; a total of 35 hours from start to finish.
Overnight mists are taking a while to clear through the days recently but gving some wonderful effects.
Next day the mists were slower to clear but we still stayed largely dry as Stuart, Sheena & Lorrimer completed their Skye Munros on Mhadaidh & Ghreadaidh. Antje and Ian just weren’t taking things seriously….
There are some parties tackling the northern Cuillin without crampons or axes at the moment but the consequences of a slip wouldn’t be pretty. With the right kit it made our approach to Bealach a’ Bhasteir far more pleasant than the normal scree treadmill.
Sue suffers from a condition known as acrophobia , an irrational fear of heights even when not at height. The Wikipedia definition also talks about the overuse of the word Vertigo, all making for intesting reading in my line of work! Anyway Sue harnessed her thoughts and determination for our run to the top of Am Basteir and shot up there in no time at all.
More challenging were the very exposed manouvres around the pinnacles as we started up Sgurr nan Gillean. I’d planned to avoid this by climbing Tooth Chimney but a big chunk of snow barred our way into that. Even Steve called for a rope halfway through. A quick pose for pics coming through the Window and then we were on top.
Sue sounded like she was looking forward to watching her old man eating some humble pie for mocking her ambitions nearly as much as a chinese takeout to celebrate!
With our wonderful weather due to break over the weekend I was keen to get another Cuillin rock route done. Francis is right in the groove just now so we agreed to meet up once I’d finished guiding Colin on a round of Coire Lagan.
Overnight frost made things cool but perfect for scrambling and the rocks were bone dry as Colin and I zoomed around from the Pinn to Alasdair and down to the lochan in about 7 hours. Francis was waiting at the loch and we discussed the cold and lack of sunshine but decided to stick to our original ambition.
Temerity gains then tackles a wonderful looking arete hgh above Eastern Gully. I’d eyed it up for years but was beaten to it by Ian Taylor & Tess Fryer in 2009 who gave it a grade of E4 6a. More intimidating for me was mention of a “long” move on the first pitch whcih I was happy to leave for Francis
With just a couple of micros and a shallow rock 6 placement Francis justifiably took his time working out the “long” move. Climbing back down and balancing out left he got a bomb-proof nut that I could tell was going to be great fun for me to retrieve! Another good nut appeared in a horizontal break and suddenly Francis made the long move with apparent ease. I could see the holds he’d reached were big but didn’t appreciate quite how steep the wall below was. Mr Muscle hung in for ages arranging 2 big cams before finally moving out to the arete. Around the corner the ancient rusting peg had disappeared and the small friend placement didn’t inspire so Francis continued boldly up the arete to finally reach a decent anchor 20m higher.
No amount of arm-swinging or thrusting hands into pockets could bring my frozen fingers back to life so my climbing involved a scary approach into the groove followed by blatent hauling and hanging on the gear. A few tears were shed as my fingers pulsated back into life on the belay. I was finally able to appreciate the position & enjoy the final 20m of delicate slabby climbing as the sunlight reflected off the Minch. Temerity (def. reckless with a disregard for safety) is a very fine climb but I’ll wait for a warmer day to have another go!