I sent a message off to my folks at 4.30am. ‘Uisdean, Iain and I are off to Meggy to try Extasy. Will be off the hill late’. What does that mean to the non climber?! I was half expecting a reply of disgust and disownment from my Mother. Instead, I got the reply at a reasonable hour, ‘Enjoy!’….Ok, I will!
So Extasy, what’s it all about? I don’t know really. It’s had 3 ascents. It’s a grade VIII you can’t fall off. It’s on Creag Meagaidh. After a tip off from Blair regarding the ice forming on the Pinnacle face, Iain was rather excited. The only thing that stood between us and the route was the depth of snow we would be wading through to get there. Time marches on, we trundle up and down ‘The Ben’ track, the snow melts, consolidates, ask Blair, I don’t know. It all happened a bit quick. The bottom line was, Uisdean, Iain and I would do something on Friday. Conveniently for me Iain, Blair and Uisdean went in and did the Fly Direct on Thursday. Inspecting the condition of Extasy, they stashed the kit. (Note: All day on Thursday I was suffering majorly from FOMO. I’m still scarred a bit…)
|The Pinnacle Face|
Trying to keep up with Uisdean on the walk in was a bloody nightmare. When I say, the kit was stashed, I still had to carry my rope and sandwiches. All he had to carry was his sandwiches. And for Iain, he was somewhere behind. I’ve noticed this with Tony Stone as well. Every stride they take seems to be with 100% power. They are not taking any more strides than me, just more powerful ones. Oh well. Maybe I need to supplement my oatcakes and Mackerel with a big bag of chips to give me a bit of energy? Talking of raw power, we happened to meet Dave Evans and his friend at the rescue box. They were off to try the Fly Direct. Another thing that wound me up was gearing up. So, we gathered the rack and other rope and set off up Raeburns Gully. I had disappeared for a shit so obviously Iain and Uisdean were up ahead. I met them at the stance they had cut out the previous day. Now, Uisdean obviously got the best part and so did Iain. I was left with this tiny sloping foot ledge. Before Iain opened his mouth, I knew that was Blairs contribution. Then as I arrived, Iain said, ‘You can have Blairs part…’ Useless! How he has his winter ML certificate, I don’t know.
The belay. Iain tapped in a peg. It must have gone in about 1/3 maybe 1/2? Tied it off. That was it. Having only done a few classic routes here, I didn’t really know what I was letting myself in for with regards to the mixed climbs. Suddenly the fear hit. Beinn Bhan I can cope with. It’s in the North West on home turf. Creag Meagaidh however is a big scary mountain with a lot of compact rock. So does this peg indicate the kit on the route? Uisdean set off linking pitches one and two. I slipped away to get photo’s of the pantomime that was going on next door. The Evans was clearly not a happy bunny with the thin ice and shit gear on The Fly. I don’t blame him. It looked pretty thin. He made the wise choice to live his life rather than end it so backed off. I think the boys the previous day were lucky to have Iain providing a top rope.
|Dave Evans having a look at The Fly Direct|
|Sociable day to start.|
Arriving at Uisdean’s belay, he was grinning from ear to ear. He had done his lead for the day so felt happy to be strapped in for the rest of the journey. Iain despatched pitch 2 easily. Some thin bold moves to gain the icy ramp and off he went. Now, what lay above was a steep mixed corner. My lead. Gauging by how much gear there was in the previous 2 pitches, I was definitely feeling a bit intimidated. To be fair, the pitch had kit in it. How good it was in amongst the cracked blocks and stuff, I don’t know. This pitch involved turf, ice and rock which required strength, balance, stamina and a good head to mix it all together. Somehow I manage to come up with the goods. It was mixed climbing at its best. I would even go as far as saying I actually enjoyed climbing it. Very engaging and maybe one of the best pitches I’ve climbed this winter.
|A happy Lad!|
|Iain on the ramp pitch|
|Me starting up the mixed corner pitch|
Back to Uisdean’s lead. This pitch was meant to be easy up to a thread belay. Instead he faffed about hunting. As much as it runs through your mind as a belayer, ‘what the f*ck are you doing?’ we have all been in that position as a leader on easy ground but not able to establish a belay. He did a fine job in keeping us safe and building something good. It’s just part of the game we play.
|Uisdean questioning his ability to deal with grade II ground|
Iain climbed the next pitch which was pleasantly easier than he thought. Uisdean and I climbed together to the top dragging Iain up behind us. The walk out. Uisdean set the pace, I gasped with air trying to keep up but not show any sign of struggling. Iain’s head torch faded behind.
My phone chirped. Tess Mob: ‘Do you fancy going to Goat Crag tomorrow? I couldn’t reply quick enough ‘Yes’.
Hanging out with Tess and Mhairi in the sunshine, I was too hot in my down jacket. I was reduced to climbing in a t-shirt! Somehow I managed to wing my way up the classics; Hydrotherapy, Mactalla, Prow Left Hand, Prow Direct, Leaning Wall and a final lap of the Prow Left Hand. Clearly I was cheating. There was a mint easterly breeze creating velcro as friction.
|Too warm :-)|
|Me starting up the Prow. Bliss|
|Beinn a'Chaidheimh, Beinn Dearg Mor and Beinn Dearg Beag|