Sunday, 23 October 2016

Patience...It's not over yet!

Shaking out above the crux of ‘Ride the Wild Surf‘ E4 6a, I took a moment to absorb my surroundings. Autumn had certainly arrived in North Wales. The wonderful burnt colour of the hillside reflecting the light from the low setting sun was magical.  A few moments later, I had the pleasure of topping out from another cool slate route.  With it being so dry (Ride… tends to seap), it was an opportunity for the visiting Murdoch not to miss.  Another ‘North Wales Rock’ green guidebook route ticked.

After returning from Squamish, I was welcomed back by the midges and rain.  Mhairi and I got a soaking in Beinn Eighe when we attempted Sumo E3 6a.  Continuing was out of the question.  I thought the midges were bad when I got back to the Corie Dubh Mor car park, then I saw Ian and Tony’s photo from the Shelterstone!  A week later, the rain washed Iain and I off the Central slabs.  They will need to wait till next year.

A welcome home from the little shits.

Yes, I look twit.  But very practical. (Photo: Ian Taylor)

Iain Small as per usual has been operating under the radar this summer, opening up some hard new routes.  This year, Binnean Shaus seemed the most appropriate venue; southerly aspect, exposed and quick drying.  I was keen to repeat his new route, ‘Icinglas’ E7 6c.  This takes the cool ramp system, to the left of Ardenfreaky E3 5c.  With gear knowledge, I went for the flash.  All I will say is make sure you have two DMM size 1 wall nuts.  One heavily used and worn, the other, fairly used.  It was the difference between fitting and not fitting in these subtle slots! 

Round 1. I was spat off on the initial crux bulge.  Down, ropes pulled and I was back on.  What felt like 5 minutes, but more likely an hour plus later, I found myself boxed attempting to shake out below the final crux at the top of the crag; a slab.  Below me was steep burly climbing.  Now I was faced with throwing for a sloper then holding tiny crozzly crimps and balancing my way up to the vertical heather.  A heart breaker finish.

I fell off. 

Similar to my experience on ‘Dusk till Dawn’ E7 6b in the Lakes last year, the end of the day was reached.  It was getting dull with a cold wind and passing showers.  Most people would be home by now.  Iain had read my mind and had the ropes uncoiled at the base of the route.  I ran up the route in a fraction of the time compared with earlier.  But this time, the slab was soaking wet.  I chucked at the sloper, but was airborne again. 

Round 2.  The forecast was wrong.  It rained, rained, then stopped raining, then rained…… F*ck sake.

Round 3.  The forecast was correct.  But this time the warm sun was shining bright and Cubby was out taking photo’s.  Thankfully a fresh breeze kept things fresh, and Cubby kept himself discrete. 

Me on 'Icinglas' E7 6c (Photo Iain Small)

A repeat from Iain of his own new route (the big wall right of Delayed Attack) was very impressive.  This repeat was just so he could add a top pitch (on significantly easier ground!).  Strong ethics which I admire.  The flakes are thin and very friable on pitch 1.  Combined with hard climbing and not much solid gear, it was slightly stressful belaying.  But by 2/3rd height, he was on safe ground.  I could breathe again.  

Iain on his new line.

Since then, Scotland was proving tricky for myself in getting anymore trad done.  So I found myself bouldering, clipping bolts and running in the hills more.  I was beginning to lose faith about the autumnal high pressure.  A day guiding An Teallach in the driving rain, gale force winds and snow on Bidean confirmed that winter was on its way.  3 days later I ran An Teallach for myself and it was the polar opposite.  Calm, blue sky and warm! 

An Teallach

Looking west along Foinaven.

Mhairi adding 'The reverse traverse' at Ruthven.  A tricky F7a+

Andy Inglis and I planned a Uk rock trip for the second week of October.  Risky business, but it coincided a spell of settled weather.  Pembroke attracted us both.  The sound of steep chalked up trad routes with good kit along with a Tony Stone tick list was an ideal venue for a holiday.  Pembroke came up with the goods.  The Trevallen E5’s gave some good mileage, Huntsman’s Leap gave a unique Pembroke experience and Stennis Ford put me to the test. ‘From A Distance’ E7 6c was my highlight.  I fell on the onsight low down.  A bit frustrating.  It went ground up second go.  The pressure of fading light definitely helped speed me up!  I’m sure if I had the chance, I would have spent twice as long on it. An engaging lead to say the least.

Stennis Ford all chalked up.  Cheating really, but i'm on holiday.
Huntsman's Leap.

Andy rallied us up to North Wales for the final 2 days of our trip.  With ambitious objectives out on the coast, we reached Tremadog.  His patience with Welsh roads was wearing rather thin.  My stomach was in bits and I felt ill.  I was quite happy to sit back whilst Andy dragged me up the perfect ‘Cream’ E4 6a.  Hanging at the final belay, the memories of my time living and working here filled my mind.  I was beginning to question myself for living in the Highlands.  The Great Orme emptied the energy reserves in our arms on our final day.  Ward 10 E6 6b caught my eye several years ago.  Finally the opportunity to get on it arose.  Noticing it was low in the grade list, I assumed it was going to be piss.  It’s not in my opinion.  I never fell off.  How?  I do not know.  Thanks to Andy for a great trip.

Andy on 'Cream' E4 6a

Traversing Liathach today with Mhairi reminded me why I live in the Highlands.  But I still have some North Wales FOMO to get out of my system.  Maybe another year living there would do me some good…

Beinn Alligan

I see Loch Maree Crag is open for the season.  Good prep for Chulilla next month ;-)

I better not forget my wellies for Loch Maree (Photo: Ian Taylor)