I'd told myself that after doing Firestone I'd give the slabs a rest for a bit and climb some steeper rock. Bad weather and bruised feet kept me away from the hills for July, silencing the call of Cairngorm granite.
Time passed, my feet got better and the amount of sun started to eclipse the amount of rain. Then I heard from Jules, the undisputed king of Cairngorm slabs. "Yeah man, nice one on the Lower Slab. You should get yourself on some of those other routes on Hell's Lum, you'll love 'em".
A quick squizz in the guidebook reveals a few more of Jules' lines scattered around the slabby pillars and buttress' beneath Hell's Lum crag proper, so I head out for a recce.
Just being back in the cauldron of the Loch Avon Basin feels good. Strolling down Coire Domhain: the epic scene of rock, water and air. It's nice to be back. Standing beneath Firestone I trace the line and wonder what the hell possessed me to climb it. I gird my loins and solo Mars further left on the Lower Slab.
Back under the main crag I spy a route of Jules' called Devils Advocate. Perfect friction padding, and it even musters some protection. I'll return soon with a belayer.
To: Mark C
Yo, there's a route on hells lum i'm pretty psyched to try to onsight, would you be able to belay me one night this week? I'll owe you lots of drinks or belays or summat. Gaz
As ever, Mark's psyched so we meet up after work and crush the walk-in. Cool and dry, it's perfect for frictional endeavors. I'm feeling relaxed and ready, though I'm not sure why: this could end in another big ride.
Committing to the crux, nothing to do but climb.
On the crux, high enough to hurt, still a way before the gear arrives, it's time to convert brain function from hope to trust. Hands sweep the grey pink rock, hunting greedily for a weakness, a fingertip ripple for balance. Flashes of yellow crustose lichen dapple the way ahead, runway lanterns. Don't think, don't hope: know. There comes a point where I realise there's nothing for it, no other way, empty the mind and climb.
Later, higher, happier, I shake Mark's hand and we start to walk home, one route closer to knowing.