Sunday, 20 April 2008

North West is Best

Another good week of looking for grouse in the mornings and pulling on small holds in the afternoons has passed. It's been pretty successful on both counts. I spent a few sessions in the glen, looking for a new project to fill the gap left by Killer Instinct. After a spanking from the walk up to the Sky Pilot area with a bouldering pad, and then a spanking from the steep problems up there, I've settled on lower altitude problems. I did Inspector Clueso (Font 6c, apparently) on the Cameron Stone after a few tries, so think I'll see how I get on with the sitting start, called The Right To Silence (Font 7b/V8). A very long term project me-thinks.

On Thursday Rob, Jenny and I headed up to Tunnel Wall on Creag A' Bhanchair and we all received the customary spanking from Uncertain Emotions (F7b). In truth, the cruxes felt easier than they have done in the past, but linking them is still a very long term goal. Bring it on.

So next came the weekend, and Jones and I ventured to pastures new. I've drooled over Torridon's Seanna Mhealan crags in the guidebook a few times, so with good weather forecast we decided that it was as fine a time as any to explore. We weren't disappointed. The Western Sector provides shorter and sunnier routes than the main cliff, and with more lines in the lower grade range, we made a bee-line for it.

West over Loch Torridon towards a distant Skye

It's hard to do the crag justice, but picture this. A flat, grassy terrace backed by pink Torridonian Sandstone walls looks out over Loch Torridon. The clearest, tropical blue waters wink and shimmer under the cloudless skies, giving way to the Diabeg peninsular and Skye beyond. Across the glen, Liathach is starting to shed it's winter coat, white giving way to grey. Visions of paradise come rarely, but climbing in Scotland seems to provide them all too often.

To get used to the rock we started on the Quartz Slab, an easy angled slab speckled with quartz chicken heads, seams and rails topped by a vertical headwall. Quartz Warts (Severe*) was followed by Off With Her Head (VS 4b**), both contrasting gentle rock-overs and smears with steep jug-hauling at the top. Marvellous.

Jones starting up Off With Her Head (VS 4b**) on the Quartz Slab

Next up I decided to see how things were progressing and got on Bleached Whale (E2 5c**). On paper it sounds like my nightmare, a roof and a finger crack, but being very well protected I figured there was little to lose and got busy. Annoyingly, I had to rest on the rope going through the roof, but got it clean on the third go, once I'd found the good hold that was staring right at me. Balls. With over-head gear the whole way it was a real delight to climb - no fear at all, just a shame about the 'route reading'.

Above the roof on Bleached Whale (E2 5c**)
(Photo: Sarah Jones)

Despite not getting Bleached Whale on the first go I definitely felt positive about it so jumped straight on it's neighbour, a vertical right-angled corner called Dolphin Friendly (E1 5b**). This was 10 joyous metres of very well protected smeary bridging. In fact, I think I clipped about 7 bits of gear!
Count the runners: Me nearing the end of Dolphin Friendly (E1 5b**)

It's pretty good to feel like I'm climbing better than I have ever done, both physically and psychologically. I've currently got the time and the access to work on some great boulders, and am 'sending' harder problems than ever. And as a fairly regular boulderer, Ive known for a long time that I should be able to lead routes much harder than I currently do, but having the balls to step up and get out of my comfort zone has always been my problem. However, it's early season, the sun is shining and I'm feeling positive about getting deep down and dirty. Will this be the summer when it all kicks off? Lets hope so.

1 comment:

Tony said...

Souynds like you're having a ball oop North Gaz. Am quite [read: extremely] envious. All in due course I'm sure...