Monday, 19 July 2010

A Light in the Dark

A glimmer of light has flickered in the darkness of this wet July.

The wetness has continued and the only dry climbing I’ve found has been either up at the Camel or on the new Inverness centre of gnarl, the Bettsmaker.
The Bettsmaker (Photo: Richie Betts)

After getting psyched for the pump-fest of Paralysis by Analysis at the Camel two weekends back I’ve been back up a few times. One quick trip after work with Dunc in a rainstorm, one with Richie under a curtain of drips. On both trips I was agonizingly close to the top, either fumbling the last clip or not catching the winner flake and flailing for nothing. Then on Saturday I went up with Jones for a quick try before hitting the bright lights of Inverness. Armed with all the lessons from my previous tries I eventually found myself at the anchor, so pumped I could barely hold the rope to clip the lower-off but grinning like a madman. Perseverance pays off once again.

Counting down to failure on an earlier try on Paralysis by Analysis at The Camel

Sunday was even drier so the trad rack was dusted off and I headed north to meet Richie and find Invrness’ crag of the moment: Scatwell River Slabs. This impressive schist slab hangs above a swirling silt-dark pool in the river Conon, south facing and compact. It’s an unusual place to climb, in a way more reminiscent of sea-cliff climbing than a Highland outcrop as the routes require abseil access and the water gently laps away below as you teeter upwards. The only problem is that dirt and leaves collect on the slab and build up into a layer of slimy filth, under which it has languished for years. Then, up steps Ray Wilby with a wire brush and a whole lot of keenness and hey presto, there are some clean lines and even a new route to go on. We climbed The Tilting Yard (why are slabby corners so awkward?), The Joust (possibly the best route here?) and Ray’s new addition The Lance, then headed over to finish off on the Scatwell Boulder.

The Tilting Yard, Scatwell River Slabs (Photo: Ian Taylor)

There we have it, some dry rock, some trad climbing and a ticked project, not too bad for a July weekend in the Highlands.

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