Sunday, 19 January 2014

Ticking Along

Cummingston, that slippery little minx.  On the face of it, what's not to love?  Wave sculpted golden sandstone, pocketed pillars and caves.  The sea lapping on the beach, the fulmars chuntering away on their ledges.  On a clear winter day the white pyramid of Morven stands out across the Moray Firth in Caithness. The problem? There's always a problem. The coastal humidity, and the north-facing beach of rocky nooks and crannies is often sheltered from a drying wind.  I've been burnt too many times: arriving to find a coat of sea smeg on everything.  So, pick your conditions wisely.  Falling temperatures, a brisk westerly and low tide in the early afternoon, and you should have a day of it.

Last weekend the stars aligned and I had a rare chance to do the oft-damp Gorilla, a funky 7A prow of heels and slaps (and one of the few at the grade that go up rather than sideways!).  After knackering myself working out how to do it I spent the rest of Saturday failing. Knowing how rare it is to have it dry I had an express re-match on Sunday and did it 1st go.  The importance of rest.

Cummingston's Gorrilla 

This weekend it was back to Torridon for the first forays of 2014.  Friday's highlight was doing the full version of a brilliant wall of Rich's called Indian Winter. When he originally did it he must have been feeling strong because he gave it 6B (the Betts 'go-to' grade), but then couldn't repeat the sit start when he showed it to me back in October!  The stand start is a brilliant 6A on it's own, on some of Torridon's best rock, but there are obvious good holds for a low start so a sit makes sense. I had a try a few weeks later and got no-where, but this time a little more perseverance and sensible rest saw me through.  There was some magical winter light when I was trying it so the camera came out:

Indian Winter - Torridon from Gareth Marshall on Vimeo.

And finally, the line of the season so far.  On one of my first ever visits to Torridon I watched heart in mouth as Murdo repeated Rich's uber-highball Vapour Trail.  I was impressed.  It's not really that hard, 6C in the guide and with the crux throw at the start, but it is pretty tall, and with a few blocks in the potential fall zone. It's more of a grit route than your typical boulder. It's a proper striking line though, and perhaps for that reason alone it was always on the to-do list, but I've always had a soft-spot that psychological realm where boulders meet routes. Realistically though, I never knew when I'd ever feel ready.  I'm still not sure what changed this year, perhaps becoming better acquainted with the place, perhaps feeling a bit stronger and more confident.  Regardless, I tentatively tried the start back in November and did it quickly.  Game on. Now I just needed a crew with a big stack of pads.  Oddly, this isn't something that happens much in the Highlands, so I had a go on my own with my three but just couldn't bring myself to commit.  I gave up and held out for another day.  Today I went back out with Rich, padded the landing and offending leg snapping blocks and strapped it on.  So good.

Photo: Anne Falconer

Having it.


sherlock said...

Nice one Gaz - impressed with how quickly you've sorted Vapour Trail out.

moleo said...

Vapour Trail looks shitscary. Think that would be a psychological E5 for me, pads or no.

Gaz Marshall said...

Cheers Anne/Nige. Big crew out in the rain yesterday. Where were you?!

Hi Andy, aye it's pretty high but steady away up there. Its easy to say that now though! It definitely got under my skin a bit over Xmas when I knew I had to go back and finish it. Good distraction from the Malc's siege. ..