Two contrasting evenings’ ‘climbing’ to report:
On Tuesday I was back on the Buachaille with Jamie Bankhead to climb the uber-classic V Diff Agag’s Groove, which I really should have done at some stage over the past 25 years but had somehow slipped the net. And it’s an absolute belter of a route, taking a steep, exposed and stunningly natural line up the Rannoch Wall while simultaneously being easy enough to really enjoy without being overburdened by technicalities or trepidation. So Jamie, having done it often enough before, led the first two pitches (rolling them into one on my 60m single) to leave me the spectacular third and delightful fourth, after which we took the scrambling traverse off Crowberry Ridge for yet another descent of Curved Ridge. And, despite the ‘lowly’ grade, it just doesn’t get much better than this!
Last night saw us back at Polldubh for the Club meet and heading for Secretaries’ Buttress with Twitch still the magnet for me and the VS lead of Jamie’s choice on any neighbouring crag the agreed price for that indulgence. So it’s an unprotectable E1 5b slab and I can count the number of E1s I’ve done on the fingers of one hand (for those who know me, even my left hand!), but I’d shunted it clean first go a few weeks back, love slab climbing and, while you’d be correct in surmising that I wouldn’t just go jumping on any old E1, saw this one as carefully chosen to play to my strengths. Now, just exactly how hard could it be?
Well, having considered and rejected the possibility of side runners in Secretaries’ Direct and/or Super Direct, the only available gear would be below my feet before even stepping onto the slab. And it’s thin. Really thin! As in (bar a pair of little crimpy things to get you started) virtually devoid of anything you might consider ‘holds’ for the hands or feet over the first few metres, and steep enough to make pure padding a daunting proposition. So I placed a nut and a micro cam (‘it’ll pull if I fall but it’s a slow-me-down rather than stop-me piece’) below my feet, thought hard about things and stepped onto the slab for a go. Sounding out the next move up but sensing things weren’t quite right, I started to downclimb, took a controlled slip and landed OK (‘so you can fall off this’) before repeating that whole procedure. Allowing myself one more go, I stepped up, continued up and was surely close to the point of no return as well as cracking the whole pitch when I finally fell off properly while still moving upwards, and this time came bouncing down the slab and ledges below to land considerably more awkwardly several feet below my starting point. So the nut held and the slow-me-down cam pulled, but the ropes were barely weighted because my limbs took most of the impact. The net result being a swollen, grazed right forearm, lesser grazing to left forearm and shin, bruised left heel and somewhat swollen left ankle. And, not surprisingly, the decision that that was that for the night (and possibly even the year) as far as Twitch was concerned. It’s E1 for a reason (IMHO harder than anything on The Pause) and will keep for another time. Although I’d have to say that what happened is the one thing I didn’t expect to happen, because I basically saw myself either doing it or deciding (not for the first time) not to take it on. Not taking it on and falling, because it’s just not the sort of route you’d want to fall off…
Anyway, I was a bit bashed up, but not too badly to head for High Crag and let Jamie lead yet another ascent of Enigma in a hopeful (but ludicrously misguided) attempt to escape the midges, which were starting to top even last week’s on the unbearability scale. And, having knocked out my left contact (despite never having lost a lens climbing before) with a fistful of wires at the top of the route last week, I proceeded to top that by knocking out my right with a fistful of midges at the bottom of it this week. So had to follow Jamie with one blurry eye, which proved to be even more of a liability when we attempted to follow the John Muir Sheep Trail back down instead of the ‘regular’ descent past Secretaries’, After Crag and Dundee Buttress. And had to chuck my clothes straight in the washing machine after removing a dozen or so still crawling ticks between the pub and getting home. By which time I’d long since sworn not to climb at Polldubh next Wednesday if it’s going to be so severely compromised by ticks, midges or any other nasty little biting beasties! :-/