Monday, 13 July 2009

The Scene...

Blair Fyffe deep water soloing in Glen Nevis

I had a brief flashback to the halcyon days of Fort William living this weekend. Tempted west with the promise of sun-kissed schist and beer, it was great to be back in the old fold.

Down the years I’ve heard many legends of the infamous Fort William doss-houses – hovels where skint climbers would cram themselves and their wet and smelly kit for the few hours of the week that they weren’t on the hill or out on the piss. Weird and wonderful stories about bronchial infections from damp buildings, starting fights with Mallaig fishermen, trying to bed local lasses and hiding behind the sofa when their mothers come round to beat them up, and, not infrequently, climbing hard.

Those days have sadly/gladly passed, and it’s now an era of relative health and respectability in the Fort, but the climbing hard continues. The mantle of ‘Crucible of Psyche’ remains at my old residence, 55 Banff Crescent, and despite Tony ‘the savior of Scottish winter climbing’ Stone having now moved out, Blair and newest recruit Kev Shields are keeping the cranking level high, not to mention Dave Macleod stationed in his new training facility just out of town and numerous other strong folk kicking about the hills.

Most of these climbers are very modest and won’t blow their trumpets, and I know climbing hard isn't the be all and end all, but I think it’s worth noting that there’s a fair amount of gnarl going down in the Highlands at the moment. Kev has soloed his first E5 and E6 and is now on the trail of his first E7 (pretty good for someone missing a hand!), Blair made the second ascent (?) of Trojan’s Pillar (E6) on Ben Nevis with Iain Small the day after doing The Clearances (E4) in Glen Coe with Guy Robertson, and among other things, Dave has climbed Profit of Purism (E6), Firestone (E7), and Chiaroscuro (E7), not to mention three new E8s and an E9. Johan headpointed Jahu (E6), and Tony onsight soloed The Steeple (E2) after climbing The Spire (E4) on The Shelterstone with Blair (an easy day because he was ‘weak’ after a month in Alaska). Amongst these routes I’m sure there are loads that I don’t know about, and I find it really heartening to know that even in the quieter areas of the UK climbing scene there’s still a lot going on. Big up Fort Bill!

So, this weekend I managed to drag myself up the brilliant Fang on Cavalry Crack Buttress in Glen Nevis, before we all decided it was far too hot for any more serious climbing and retired to the leafy shade of the River Nevis. Here Blair showed us the local's secret crags, hanging above a beautiful deep sun-dappled pool. The climbing was superb but no-one fell in, so we had to go for a swim afterwards. Life's a bitch.

Here's a short video of Blair cleaning and climbing this fine arete:

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