Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Reiff Encounter

Myself on Mac's Route (HVS 5a), Pinnacle Area, Reiff
All photos: Sarah Jones

More dodgy weather forecasts, more indecision. This time round Saturday was spent hanging ten up at Jones’ pad in Munlochy. In terms of activity the highlight was sending my long-standing project - the obvious traverse between the lounge door-frame and the ledge above the stairs. It’s difficult to grade. At this level it’s all just theory, until some-one comes along and onsights it. Good luck to them. The next best thing was discovering Leaky’s in Inverness. It’s a huge second-hand book shop in an old church with a wee cafĂ© upstairs. Sometimes I wish I had a bit of spare cash to splash out on old books and fine food, but, hell, I’m 23, there’s time.

More dodgy weather forecasts, more cups of tea. I felt bad about bailing on Chris on Sunday, he’d hoped to come up and climb on the Shelterstone - I had too - but common sense prevailed after some serious webcam checking and thorough forecast reading. What to do now?

One of the best things about Jones’ base on the Black Isle is it’s proximity to the North West. We made a last minute plan and decided that Reiff would be the best option - quick drying, low-altitude, accessible, and in this case, away from the inland showers (apparently). The other benefit is that it’s Reiff. No trip up to Coigach or Assynt is wasted, like heading into the Loch Avon Basin, they instinctively feel like the right places to be. It was Jones’s first trip up that way too, and the excitement written on her face when Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Cul Mor and Cul Beag rumbled into view was like seeing a toddler at Christmas.

The promised land: Coigach slumbers under the clouds

Our only problem was that Reiff is quite extensive, and I had left the guidebook back at Abernerthy. Balls. With the route list and memory from a previous visit this obstacle was overcome. Naturally, we were confined to the Pinnacle Area, because that’s the only section close to the car park that I’ve been to before, and we only had route names rather than descriptions, but we had a good day none the less.

The latest SMC Northern Highlands North Guidebook

Jones lead Moonjelly (VDiff**) and Edge of the Sea (Diff*), I did Midreiff (Severe*), Skel (Severe), Mac’s Route (HVS 5a*), Jellyfish Slab (Diff*), soloed Puckered Wall (VS 4b*) and landed in the rockpool under Earth Shaker (E2 6a**) a few times before deciding that it was clearly a silly route. Without a guide we decided that quantity was better than quality, and with a few passing showers it wasn’t really a day for engaging with fear.

Jones high on Moonjelly (VDiff), The Pinnacle

Jones 'laying one on' on Mac's Route (HVS 5a)

Just one of the many benefits of Highland living.

On Monday night I met with Jones again, this time at Cummingston, and we had a pleasant evening’s cragging. After climbing Left (VS 5a**), we headed round to Gutbuster Bay. I was in the mood for a fight, and promptly got stuck into Gutbuster (E2 5c**), literally. I’ll tell you now, I failed on this monster, and at the time I felt a little disappointed with myself. However, on reflection I’m not disappointed, I‘m pleased that I had a go. The route starts up a well protected overhanging wave-smoothed off-width groove-come-crack, before finishing up a wall to a good looking arete. No points for guessing where I failed. “Was it the overhanging wave-smoothed off-width groove-come-crack?” I hear you ask. Yes. Yes, it was. Having udged, jammed, cammed, reached, bled and grunted, I just don’t understand how one climbs this kind of thing. Not having had a ’gritstone apprenticeship’, as all those smug troglodytes would no-doubt call it, means that I’m stuck when it comes to grievous bodily harm in a leaning chimney. Bollocks to them. However, I down-climbed, rather than lowered off gear, so my ground-up ascent is still in tact, and it is an inviting line. Maybe one day.

Afterwards I blew away the black cloud created by Gutbuster by soloing Flakey Wall (E1 5a*) and soon felt a bit better about the world. Jones then climbed Rice Crispie Wall (Diff) as the light began to fade over the Moray Firth, and that was that.

Another summer week ticks by, another weekend’s cragging. However, with a great forecast for this week, maybe the coming weekend will enable some classic mountain rock activity. Check back in a week’s time to find out…….

1 comment:

Konrad said...

Hello gaz,

How are things. If you do fancy heading for the shelterstone, always feel free to let me know. I'm stuck in edinburgh getting annoying alps txt messages every now and again so always keen to get out.
On a different note though, you & Duncan doing the KIMM this year?