I’ve always kept this blog for mountaineering topics but the importance of the upcoming vote justifies breaking the mould. The final catalyst to speak up has been the defection today of Tory MP Douglas Carswell to UKIP.
To me the vote comes down to culture; the social and economic outlook of the people I live with. After 21 years of living north of the border, I like Scotland. I’m sure there are other parts of the UK with an equally good case but Scotland has an opportunity to do something about it.
Political change is a natural, inevitable cycle in human nature and today’s political event, to me, summed up why I want my future to be in the hands of those closer to home. Right-wing tories moving further right to UKIP (BNP_in_disguise?) reflects a political direction as far from my own as imaginable in the UK. In a referendum on whether to stay in the EU a 100%, 4 million person, Scottish vote for staying in Europe wouldn’t scratch the surface of the UK result and yet only one seat was won by UKIP in the whole of Scotland in recent local elections.
In order to understand why there is so much conflicting information remember that a huge amount of negotiation is going to happen after the vote before full independence in 2016. This is a referendum on where the cards are going to sit at the table. At this moment both sides are in full political mode with the main game being to undermine the other; that’s what politicians do. I’ve tried to bypass the mire and stick to some logical truths.
Oil & other assetts
We’ve just gone to war in Iraq and Afganistan fundamentally over oil. Eastern Europe is unstable and I can only see the value of safe Scottish oil increasing and every last drop being extracted. Scotland also has a wealth of other assets to sell. I can only comment with any authority on tourism and whisky but both are industries on a major upsurge.
Negotiations at all levels will be intense with both sides wanting the best deal. What I am convinced about is that rUK does not want a 3rd world economy next door so I don’t fear impending poverty. I also know who I would back in a poker game between Salmond & Cameron.
If the banks & goverment in rUK create problems with Scotland keeping the pound it would be economic vandalism against their own biggest (2nd?) trading nation with stupid repurcusions at home. Darling dropped a clanger by admitting there was nothing to stop it in the last debate. What is interesting is that we would be tied to the success or failure of the pound and rUK. The only conclusion I can make is that this common interest should act as a stabaliser between the countries.
Part of how I will measure wealth on my death bed will be the richness of far more than money. I want health, education and damn good facilities at the retirement home! I do expect to pay more tax to get what I want but the levels we pay will be more fairly balanced between rich & poor.
Can it work?
We have an enviable infrastructure in place already and many assetts to generate income. Maintaining this and budgeting for alterations in spending are all part of the negotiations that have yet to take place. Undoubtedly there will be highs and lows in the years to come but the risks are no greater than staying put in the UK and the potential benefits are far greater.
I’ve long thought that “letting our boys join the British Army” is one of the concessions Salmond may make. Too simplistic possibly but fundamentally I still see there being Scottish soldiers, sailors & airforce personnel in Scotland and overseas. Trident could be a huge problem to sort out and 5.5 years (currently proposed schedule) may well turn out to be 20 but it is far less likely that a new era of nuclear weapons will end up in Scotland and even less likley to be out of the Scottish budget.
So far the best thing I’ve witnessed is that the referendum has created conversation and debate. For over 2 years visitors have been shaken by the intensity of discussion going on in all circles of Scottish life. People young and old are interested in politics again. Modern life had become increasingly antisocial with opinions being shaped & formed by whatever the powers decided to release to our mobiles and laptops; Big brother’s perfect scenario. Whatever Scots vote for they will have chosen based on talking with those around them at least as much as what they have heard through the media. That interest in politics won’t subside quickly and the future of Scottish politics is bright.
South of the Border
The implications for rUK are big and I’m sure there will be political activity sparked as a result. I hope the result will be a similar rise in interest and political direction, inspired by a Scottish example that things can change. Talk of passports and borders is the worst spin from the No camp of the whole campaign. Its not just for currency reasons that Scotland will still retain a major interest in getting on well with its neighbours.
We hear about fighting for independence every day in the news but peacefully negotiated independence from a sovereign state is a privelege that incredibly few people in this world will ever get. You only get one life, seize your chance to do something positive about it. Bring the decisions made closer to home, to the people around you. Most importantly make sure you get out and vote but, on a personal note, please vote Yes.
With so much work going on this summer regulars will have noticed that blogging has dropped in the priorities. One important one I should have done at the time was with the Young family who, in addition to having fun, are training daughter Nina for an ambitious plan to cross Antarctica when she is 18. She hopes to raise a huge amount of money for the Teapot Trust. Details are explained in a letter from dad John below.
Much fun & many good lessons were learnt by the whole family over a couple of days, finishing with a full team ascent of the Inaccessible Pinnacle. Well done to John, Laura, Nina and Isla and every bit of luck with the Teapot Trust.
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….