Monday, 28 July 2008

Culicoides impunctatus rides again

Liathach looms above Glen Torridon

As an ecologist, I’m often asked “what’s the point of the humble midge”. The notion that an organism’s existence has a purpose is a little outdated, by, well, science. Ignoring this minor detail, however, I don’t really know much about them, but I guess birds and fish eat them. But what do they eat? I’ll tell you. Me. They eat me. They eat you. They eat us. They eat everything. Flesh. Blood. Swarming. Biting. Landing. Tickling. Itching. Scratching. Bastards. Bastards. Bastards. Bastards

And so it came to pass that Blair, Jenny and myself found ourselves the victims of many-a-midge this weekend. It all started so well. We were at Loch Tollaidh Crags, a fine collection of gneiss outcrops between Gairloch and Poolewe in the North-West. I had warmed up on In The Pink (HVS 5b**), and was then pointed over to Buena Vista (E2 5b***). Daunted, dry-mouthed and clammy-palmed I looked up from below the line. It looked long, sustained and steep, or more simply, proper climbing, and the kind of thing that I’ve got away without climbing much of. Was I about to be discovered for the fraud I felt like? Check out the photo in the SMC Scottish Rock Climbs guide for a look at the line - my photographer fell asleep. Fortunately, I managed to wiggle and shake my way from the bottom to the top without peeling off, and felt pretty pleased with myself.

Loch Tollaidh Crags from the road - they're much bigger when you get there.

Me on In The Pink (HVS 5b**)

Now it was time for someone else’s lead, and I was ready for some chilling. But our old friend Culicoides impunctatus had other plans, and started to appear in industrial strength. There was nothing to do but cut and run, and that was that. Coffee at the Bridge Cottage café in Poolewe followed by getting midged off the Ship boulder in Torridon were all we managed before heading for the Ling Hut for the night. It was even midgey in there.

Jenny's midge-proof chic

A breeze stirred the heather the next morning so we sweated up to Seanna Mhealan, only to find the midges had followed us. Blair climbed The Deerstalker (VS 4c**) and we followed in our midge-nets. As the day warmed up the midges got better, so Blair climbed A Touch Too Much (E3 5c***). I just about got up it cleanly, but can safely say that it’ll be a while before I’m leading that one – there’s nae grips. As the temperature soared I climbed Rowan Tree Crack (HVS 5a**), for some reason actively seeking out a wide crack, and then we bailed. It was just too hot, so we cooled off in the river and hit the road.

Be prepared: Blair ready for the midge on The Deerstalker (VS 4c**), Seanna Mhealan

Blair on the second crux of A Touch Too Much (E3 5c***)

Two days climbing cut short. Five routes, two hundred miles. Not the best ratio, but what can you do? It’s the Highlands. It’s pretty rare that all the factors come together at the same time, but when they do, I can tell you, its' worth all the false starts, midge bites, blood, sweat and tears.

1 comment:

CHONA said...

Wow what a fascinating view!!! I like this kind of environment. What country is this?

Visit my blog also.