Sunday, 12 June 2016


I think most of us would agree, our weather over the last few weeks has been pretty good.  My trad climbing this year has had a bit of a slow start.  After returning from a great trip to St Leger in the south of France, I just assumed I would get straight back into trad climbing.  However, I received a text message from Ian Taylor.  It said, ‘I have two words for you.  Loch Maree’.  There is a new crag that received super crag status.  Loch Maree crag.  But I am not talking about the trad crag (which only gets ‘pretty good crag’ status), but the trad crags steep, long and bloody impressive side wall.  To cut a long story short, this has recently been developed by Ian as a sport climbing venue.  Ian has put in a great effort with a few epic stories.  I concluded that visitors like me have it easy.  Climbing the routes is the easy bit.  For those keen, you will need to wait till the autumn till he brings a topo out.  The crag is closed now due to the midges.  I guess you could visit the crag out of season, but you do so at your own risk. 

Loch Maree Super Crag is the extensive right wall.  (Photo: Ian Taylor)

Crag guardian 

Whilst the weather was becoming warmer at the start of May, everyone was out fiddling with their wires.  Meanwhile, Ian, Calum, Mhairi and myself were greasing off and getting attacked by birch flies at Loch Maree.  I saw sense that week and made my annual visit to Caithness to climb on the sea cliffs there.  Simon Nadin introduced me to a new gem of his, I might need to make another trip up.

Simons Crag.  Somewhere between Tain and Wick.

The forecast showed the return of Northelies accompanied by showers.  I sensed frustration amongst the trad climbers.  Deep down I was relieved.  Ian very kindly offered me to try a bolted line of his.  Knowing that time was ticking, the midge was waiting, summer was approaching, the door was closing, I had to get back to Loch Maree.  Hafgufa 8a/+ dispatched on the 15th May.

Me on Hafgufa (Photo: Ian Taylor)

Now I can focus on my summer trad.  But stupidly I opened an account with a Richie Betts classic,‘The Scientist’ f7B at Brin with Gaz.  What the hell are you doing Murdoch?!! But I can't leave it.  Gaz went back a dispatched.  The fresh Easterlies created a paradise in the west.  However, it was cool, overcast and breezy in the east.   Again, deep down I was secretly relieved.  I nipped up after work one day and dispatched.  Knowing Iain Small was cragging in Glen Nevis gave me FOMO, but I couldn’t keep the account open.  Walking away content, Sussirus f7C caught my eye.  It would have been rude not to give it a shot.  Hoping I would find the campus move desperate at the end, this would mean no account could be opened.  With no expectations, I did the last few moves of this inspiring problem.  For Fuck Sake!  I lost myself for the rest of the day under the roof.  The line got drawn and I saw sense.  I will return in the autumn…

Me demonstrating wrong beta (Photo: Mhairi Stewart)

But you will be glad to know, I still am a trad climber.  A big black line had been drawn through my work diary for the last few days of May and the first week of June.  Iain Small had been penned in.  By now, the ground in the west is crisp.  North By North West E7 6b escaped my 2014 list.  So it was first up.  Having never seen a second ascent, I shat my pants as I left the belay.  Another Storky E7.  After a flash pump, a few lobs I reached the top.  Iain onsighted it on my gear then I went and made a clean ascent with my gear in place.  What a wall!  I was glad to hear from Rick Campbell after.  He mentioned Storky did that ground up without abseil inspection.  Very impressive.

Iain E7 ledge shuffling on North By North West.

Me on North By North West (Photo: Iain Small)

Guy Robertson announced his new crag last year, ‘The Skull’ on Quinag.  I had the pleasure of holding the ropes of Iain Small who made a very impressive onsight of ‘Land of Lost and Found’E7.  I benefited from his chalk and gear knowledge and flashed it after.

Someone must have been dry tooling here ;-)

It's all about equalising the system.

Me on pitch 1 of Land of Loast and Found.  (Photo: Iain Small)

More E7 ledge shuffling

Iain on pitch 2 of Land of Lost and Found

The Stork trail was picked up again when we made a visit to Binnean Shaus.  Greatness and Perfection E7 6c.  Iain had cleaned the route earlier in the year.  Cleaned is maybe an understatement.  He unearthed the route might be more appropriate.  The top crack was choked with earth and vegetation.  Iain climbed it earlier in the year and described it to me as being ‘fucking wild’.  I had to get on it.  I had the gear beta and went for it.  The fierce 6c crux spat me off at the top.  A complete pain, but I need to remember 6c is hard for the week like me.  A quick look at the move, I lowered off, pulled the ropes and climbed it next go.  I would agree with Iain, it is ‘Fucking Wild’!  Whilst all this faffing is going on, Iain is silently under the Radar opening up new cool lines.  Someone said to me recently that the UK was climbed out.  I'm sure Iain would have a little chuckle

Greatness and Perfection (Photo: Iain Small)

Lowering off after a failed first go (Photo: Iain Small)

Over the crux (Photo: Iain Small)

Ben Nevis was paid a visit where we climbed ‘Boadicea’ E4 6a and a line of Iain and Tony’s. The wall right for Sassenach.  Immaculate climbing on immaculate rock.  I highly recommended route for anyone operating at that grade of E6. 

Carn Dearg Buttress

Gaz Lead me up 'Jack The Ripper' E1 5b on Stac Polly.  A superb route on a superb cliff.  Ian Taylor dragged himself away from Loch Maree and established another pitch of climbing to the left of Walking on Air.  He gave me the details and we repeated it.  We confirmed its about E5 6a.  So, for those who have ticked the wall, but avoiding Fear of Flying, this is another enjoyable pitch to do.

Gaz on Jack the Ripper

Stac Pollaidh

In amongst all that numerous other routes were done.  A fight with greasy Culach E5 gave an uncalled for workout on a cool down route.  How I never fell off it but more the fact that Mhairi never slapped me for taking ages, I do not know.  Whimpering, whinging, grumbling.  It was all occurring.  Delayed Attack E3 6a reminded me that my 3 week holiday to Squamish will be shit in August.

It’s raining today in Inverness.  Its dry and breezy in the far north West.  I have FOMO but need a rest. 

Tomorrow, play will be resumed.

And if you forget your wellies...

Photo: Ian Taylor