Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Seems like spring is here at last. Actually, it's arrived pretty quickly this year, with very little snow left on the tops already and lots of plants emerging and migrant birdies arriving for their summer holidays. Today I heard my first cuckoo through the dawn mirk in Strathconon, the welcome springtime alarm melding with the distant bubbling of a black grouse lek I was there to track down. Later, back by the road, I heard my first wood warbler of the year calling through the emerging birch, and yesterday morning we started our survey in Strathbran to the chirruping of the year's first grasshopper warbler. The swallows, swifts and house martins are yet to arrive in decent numbers to Strathspey, but it won't be long now.
It's in the warm, dry spells at this time of year that I should be pouncing on the Highland trad routes, before midges and summer rain write them off. Before the onslaught really begins I'm keen to climb the wondrous Mactalla at Goat Crag. It's a route I've known about for ages and had a few quick goes at when it's been dry over the last couple of years but never spent enough time on to get stuck in. It's a fairly sustained wall, so if I can get up it I'm hoping that means I'll have a bit of fitness in the arms. A few weekends back I had my first proper session, falling from the second to last clip on the first go. I was so surprised to be there that I failed to stop at the rest, pressed on and promptly dropped off. Oops. After that it got very hot and slimy so I didn't make any more progress. Now it feels like it's just a matter of getting stuck in. Excited.
On the trad front, I've only had a quick evening session at the mighty Huntly's Cave, climbing the cruxy Diagonal Direct, one of the last of the routes that I've got to do there before having to really pull my socks up. One night last week I met Richie for some Strathnairn bouldering esoterica followed by a wee line at Pinnacle Crag, Duntelchaig. This last weekend the Tollaidh Triathlon got in the way of other climbing. It's such a great wee event, but I'd forgotten quite how uncomfortable cycling is, especially uphill into a headwind. Other than this it's been bouldering, trying to catch up on sleep, wrangling with the lack of climbing partners in Aviemore and working at silly o-clock in the morning. Hard times.