Tuesday, 9 October 2007


You could never say that the weather up here isn't varied.

As promised I took myself out and ran the Ring of Steall on saturday and couldn't see a thing. It was cold, wet, windy and the cloud was down to about 600m. Oddly, no photos were taken. I felt pretty good though, doing the round from the car and back in about 4 hours, and much of the ground isn't good for running. The compass came out a few times to make sure I didn't do anything daft and all in all it went smoothly. The initial ascent up An Gearanach felt good, despite going on a bit.

I'd been meaning to do the Ring of Steall since moving up here (it is pretty much on my door step) so it was cool to see it off. Mind you, it was fairly dissapointing since it's well known for its exposed ridges and good views and I could see dick all, and its not actually that far so I didn't get much of a working. I'll just have to go back on a good day and do it twice.

Getting an early start meant getting back to Banff Crescent in time to see England beat the Aussies in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals. A turn up for the books for sure. Come on my son and all that. Jones was up for the weekend and had been for a descent sized run too and was looking snug and smug when I arrived as the whistle blew for kick off.

In stark contrast, Sunday was a truly georgeous day. The early(ish) morning mist was just hanging in the glen above Loch Linnhe and from our eyrie in Banff Crescent we looked down on it as it swirled and spiralled out towards the sea. After a very leaisurely start Blair picked Jones and I up and we headed to Tunnel Wall on the Buachaille. He had been working on Fated Path, a classic, long F7c+, earlier in the week and was stoked for another go. I was just along for the ride as belayer as I was fairly certain that with the easiest route being F7b there was nothing for me. However, the Fyffester put a rope up most of Uncertain Emotions (F7b) and I got involved. There is a lower-off about three quarters of the way up the route so he clipped in there, telling me that if I was getting there with ease I shouldn't worry too much about the top section. Hmm.

Looking West from Tunnel Wall, Buachaille Etive Beag and the Aenoch Eagach
The outlook from Tunnel Wall is absolutely spectacular, looking down into the mouth of Glencoe to one side and across to the back of Rannoch Moor to the other, and Sunday was one of those amazingly clear days that you only seem to get when its cold and fresh. And did I mention the rock? Shit. It's not actually as steep as I had expected, being either dead vertical or just over, with bulges, small roofs and thin grooves. Eveything about it is subtle. There are no wild overhangs, no big corners, no ledges, no big cracks. Its just a big expanse of rock covered with lots of little edges. From my one afternoon of experience, the climbing is subtle too. Its about precision and technique, not about burling your way from jug to jug.

Looking along Tunnel Wall

These routes are BIG: Blair on the lead

Blair put a rope up Fated Path, top-roped it once and played on the moves a few times, ensuring they were all there, then was ready for the lead, or as he put it "I guess at some point I'll have to tie in to the wrong end".

I'd never belayed someone on a hard route before and was a little nervous of getting in the way or not giving enough slack or too much, but it went without a hitch. He made it look like a breeze. F7c+. Nice one Mr Blair. There was one moment when he gave a power grunt, but he never looked like coming off. Respec.


Between Blair's goes on his route I had a couple of goes on Uncertain Emotions (with a tight top-rope of course). I surprised myself by being able to do all the moves. Linking them all was a different story though. However on the second go I was linking bigger sections. Maybe all this bouldering down the Glen is getting me stronger. Or maybe I've just never really pushed myself to try harder routes so don't know what I can do. Probably a bit of both. Its gonna be a long time until I'll be able to lead the route, but it felt good to know that one day it could be possible.

The only other sport route that I've seriously thought about red-pointing is Fogtown, a F7a at North Berwick. Over the summer I'd top-roped it with just one rest and felt that if I'd carried on I'd get it done one day. Uncertain Emotions felt about the same difficulty as Fogtown did then, though Uncertain Emotions is supposed to be no gift at 7b. Can't help but think that I should get down and get dirty on Fogtown. The only problem is that North Berwick Law is a bit of a shit hole and Tunnel Wall is about as georgeous as crags get. Oh well, nothing like a spanking for ones ego, as it were.

At the 3/4-way lower off after a fight

Midnight update: I'm still falling off the end of Midnight In a Perfect World but have got two (count them) two foot moves further. Wahoo!


Stevious said...

Man, that looks like a quality day out.

Good to see your blog maturing a wee bit now - it's definitely a better read than when it first started.

sam loveday said...

You patronising f*cker steve!

Stevious said...

Knob off Loveday, it's a genuine compliment.