Monday, 14 June 2010


The beggining...
It’s coming back again and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. It just keeps happening: a great big grin is creasing it’s way across my face. It’s the strangest thing, but ever since I left Aviemore last Friday and started the long journey westwards I’ve been breaking into impromptu fits of smiling and general merriment.

Exactly when the first one arrived I don’t recall. It might have been as the ferry set off from Oban, or perhaps it was as we put in to Castlebay on Barra under a perfect cloudless Hebridean sky. I’m sure by the time we met Donald the boatman the next morning I was already in the grip of the affliction and grinning relentlessly, and as we shuttled loads up to the campsite on Pabbay I knew I was done for. From then on, the whole week was a shambles of laughter and fun.

Rob and Helena 'balooning around' (his quote) on the juggy Sea An-enema in The Bay, Pabbay.

Topping out on Corncrakes for Breakfast on that first sunny evening as the seals sang across the waves and the lactic acid in my arms started to dissipate: that was a definite moment I recall it happening; climbing with Rob on the Banded Wall too. Then there was the day Alex, Rich and I were swallowed by the Grey Wall Recess twice and still came out laughing.

George having Corncrakes for Breakfast

The sensory overload of big sea-cliffs definitely seems to bring out the worst of this condition. The longer and more free-hanging the abseil; the more my mouth dries and hands tremble; the hotter the belay device at the bottom of the rope. The noisier and smellier the fulmars and razorbills and guillemots and shags; the closer the sea laps below and the bonxies swoop above; the bigger the yawning abyss below our feet and the steeper the ancient gneiss above: the bigger the smile at the end of it all.
Rich starting Sula on Dun Mingulay
The Puffin Burrow Hex

The harsh realities of island life: Espresso in bed and a terrible view.

Then on to Mingulay and it just got worse. A giant basking shark seen from the top of one of the most impressive cliffs in the country: Dun Mingulay. Outrageously big holds on an outrageously big cliff: Sula; a route I’d dreamed of for a long time. Even when ranks of nesting guillemots scuppered some of our plans, escaping up a VDiff above rough green seas and leaping white horses fed the fever.

Iain treading carefully on Road to Ixtlan, Mingulay

And it wasn’t just me, we all seemed to be suffering. The look on Blair’s face after conquering Ship of Fools, Rob extolling Fulmar Squaw's virtues, Sam wooping and hollering on the way down to The Boulevard and on the way back up Lost Souls. In the end, as we watched the locals descend into drunkenness in the traditional Saturday night knees-up in the Castlebay Bar we all seemed to be sharing the same condition: browned, sun-baked and wind-swept, greasy-haired and bloody knuckled, and grinning from ear to ear.

Until next time...

1 comment:

Stevious said...

Looks totally shit. Not jealous.