Tuesday, 2 January 2018


It's the final day of the festive holidays: the visitors have all gone, the decorations are coming down, the mountain of chocolates is slowly eroding.  I always feel a tinge of ennui at this time of year - the fun is over, the excitement and promise has come and gone, normality resumes.  It's was a lovely Christmas this year, wee Ben's first, (although at 14 weeks he's not really shown much interest) and as a gift to his parents he had his best ever night of sleep on Christmas Eve. It returned to crap shortly afterwards, naturally.

Before the first day back at work tomorrow it seems a fitting time to reflect on the last year one more time, so here are my monthy climbing highlights from 2017:

January: Routeburn & Caples Tracks, New Zealand
We spent most of January in New Zealand so I didn't do much climbing, so this month's highlight is the next closest thing. Four days of our trip were spent 'tramping' in the hills of the South Island, linking huts on these two famous tracks.  It was great to see such big forests growing up to the natural tree line - something we totally lack in Scotland.

February: Tia Maria, 7A, Torridon
Back to business.  This Mike Lee classic is such an obvious line standing over the lower tier at Torridon. Despite a few attempts it had evaded me for a long time and I only really managed it this time round after Peter Herd unlocked some beta that worked for me.

March: Super-Pittance, E6 6b, Torridon
I'd seconded Ian T on the F.A. of this back in 2016 so it was always in my head as a possible headpoint.  I'd not headpointed a route for a few years, but I liked the idea of climbing a route at a place I normally associate with bouldering: a new dimension to the Torridon experience.  I had a few sessions on a shunt before Lawrence dropped by at the end of a day that formed part of his Annatomist Saga, captured brilliantly in Eadan Cunningham's great film 'The Mission'.

April: Fly Tip Link, 7A+, Scatwell
Somewhat telling of my climbing these days, the April highlight was repeating something I'd first done in March.  Scatwell is one of my locals so it's only natural that I've started making link-ups of some of the original problems. I started trying to link Fly Tip Lip into Alcove Lefthand back in late 2016 but spent five or more session powering out on the last long move, until finally sticking it in a cold March lamp session.  On my next visit in April it went down easily on the first go. Funny how things click sometimes.

May: Steeple, E2, Shelterstone
I did quite a bit in May, but a glorious day in the Cairngorms stands out as the highlight. I'd wanted to do Steeple for years and was really lucky that Mhairi was happy for me to do almost all the leading.  That corner pitch!
June: Ring of Bright Water, 6b DWS, Erraid
A week on Mull wouldn't be complete without a trip over the sands to Erraid.  I did the original sea-level traverse with Jules' additional finish looping back over itself to add a bit of spice. Blue skies, turquoise sea, golden sand: cliche ahoy!

July: Primo, 7c, Am Fasgadh
As previously written about on this blog, as a grade-whore I'd wanted to redpoint a 7c sport route before the arrival of Ben in the Autumn.  A combination of lucky conditions, patient belayers and a forgiving wife lined up over consecutive weekends to allow me to eventually climb Primo at Am Fasgadh. I'm not sure if it really counts as I'd already done the 7b+ lower half as Curving Crack back in 2014, but it fed the rat and allowed me to take it a bit easier and just boulder for the rest of the year.

August: His Imminence, 6A+, Torridon
As the baby's due date approached I decided to jack in climbing routes and to just boulder.  It was partly because I didn't want to be strapped to a crag in the back of beyond when Sarah needed me, but also because I didn't want to let down partners with last minute bail outs.  August isn't exactly renowned for good bouldering conditions in the north of Scotland but I scraped a few things together, including finally getting back to finish off this easy but high slab in the glen, seven years after first seeing it.

September: Blue Fish Prow, 7A, Primrose Bay
A couple of weekends before Ben arrived, a heavily pregnant Sarah and I spent an afternoon on the beach at Primrose Bay on the Moray Coast. As she snoozed I pottered about bouldering and was pleased to come away with this fun little problem.
Primrose Bay

October: The Day Before, 6Cish, Inchbae
The day before Ben was born I was out looking for new boulders at Inchbae and came across a cool granite block with a few obvious problems on it.  I gave them a scrub but didn't have any climbing kit with me so vowed to return.  A few sleep deprived weeks later I was back and did a couple of them, including this one, a nice thin wall on flakes and crimps.  It's probably been done before, but until I get the retroclaim I'm calling it The Day Before.

November: There's Something About Diana, 6C, Cummingston
Most of the Moray coast bouldering comprises lowball traverses or jump-off-at-a-jug type finishes, which can be really useful when looking for places to climb in crap weather but isn't very satisfying.  This problem is totally different, combining a proper top-out with a spicy height. More like this please!

December: My board
Fatherhood, work and weather meant that getting out in December was pretty non-existent, but I've been on the board a fair bit and it's been keeping me sane and I can see slow gains creeping in.

Roll on some better weather in 2018, I've got projects to climb...