Saturday 12 July 2014

The End of Innocence

The line, with belays marked as circles. Iain can be made out cleaning the crux pitch.

On the 28th of June 1914 there was a mistake, a change of itinerary. A line of cars had gone the wrong way, and were turning round in a side street. One of them stalled.  A 19 year old lad, seeing his opportunity, walked across the street and shot the occupants, the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofia. 

It is funny the way things work out. After that once incident events started spiraling out of control, and eventually led to the first world war. Over 4 years of mechanical warfare, 9 million dead, the map of western Europe re-drawn, and the world changed forever. The world was a more violent place in those days with wars being  a common thing. However technological ability to supply huge armies in a trench warfare setting, and the refinement of various methods of mechanical slaughter such as gas, high explosive, and machine guns meant this war was unlike anything ever seen before. It could be said that the an age of innocence had ended.

Myself on the first pitch, an existing route call Celtic Dawn E5 6a. Good climbing, but not super well protected.

A hundred years to the day after that fateful event I found myself at the bottom of the Creag a'Bhancair with Iain Small. Again it felt funny how things had turned out, but this time in a more positive manner. The story had started rain, dampness and sports climbing on the Tunnel Wall, then had progressed through an ascent of Romantic Reality described in my last blog post, and came to this, an attempt at a new line. 

When cleaning Romantic Reality, Iain had seen a flake line to the left.  He had returned and spent a good couple of days cleaning it. The first pitch was an existing E5 6a called Celtic Dawn, which is now cleaned and worth doing as a single pitch (there is an in-situ lower off at the top of this pitch). This looked really bold from the ground, so I have to admit I did have a wee play on it on a shunt while Iain giving the crux pitch a final brush. It turned out to be okay once the holds had been located with the weight mostly on the feet. After my sneeky peak I was soon at the belay on the Carnivore ledge. 

Iain leading the crux pitch. He is past the bold bit, has got some good cams in and just about to the first of the three really technical sections.

Iain's pitch loomed above. After a few easier move above the belay, the holds and runners started to run out. A sky hook on the left was placed, a long move, some more strenuous climbing, led up to an overlap. Numerous cams were shoved in, The scary bit complete, it now became hard but safe. 
The next section involved a strenuous and technical traverse right along some undercuts with little for the feet. Iain stopped, started muttering, starting shaking, the snatched for the flake, just catching it. Some easier moves and good gear, the flake line proved a good place to enjoy the position. 

 Iain at the shake out before the last hard move. 

More hard and technical moves up and right, again I through Iain might be off, but he held it together, and made it to the next roof and some more good cams.  Above lay the crux, or what we had assumed would be the crux from the abseil. I was quite nervous by now, having put all that effort in would Iain fall now. He moved left on to the small hold, and grabbed the jug in a surprisingly casual manner. The angle eased, and the belay was soon reached.
I managed to second the pitch cleanly, but only just. Above the belay, another pleasant 5b pitch lead to the top of the crag. Although I did not lead the crux pitch, it felt like the hardest and one of the best new rock route that I have been involved in. The next weekend Niall MacNair came up and repeated the route, **** he thought. Pretty high praise. Funny the way things turn out. 

The view from the belay, not too bad. Those are crepuscular rays apparently, crepuscular being the favourite word of the second ascensionist I am told. 

 The End of Innocence   90m    E7  ****. 
 This route climbs Celtic Dawn then takes the steep grey wall to the left of Romantic reality. 

1. 20m 6a. Climb Celtic Dawn (E5).
2. 35m 6b/c. Climb the grey wall above the belay (small wires), trending leftwards to a good jug, good sky-hook on another jug 1m up and left of this jug. Step right and make a dynamic move up to a good hold and move R to a crimpy break (small cam) then up to a long thin roof Make a strenuous and technical traverse right on undercuts to gain a flake line. Climbing this for a few metres, before more hard moves up and right gain another small roof (more moderate to large cams). Make more hard moves left and up to gain better holds and a slight easing of the angle. Continue up and left to belay on a grassy ledge.
3. 35m 5b. Continue up easier ground to the top. 

The next day we went to Yosemite walls. Iain on a new link up of Sweet disregard for the truth and Battle my Glorious Youth. 


  1. Dystopian, stentorian and crepuscular. Those are some of my favourite words. Similar to my principles; if you dont like like these, I have others.
    Niall McNair (note the spelling, please)

  2. Those are some fine words. My favourite word at the moment is zeitgeist.
    Sorry I spelt your name wrong, I have corrected it.

  3. Cheers mate. BTW, I have no hesitation in suggesting 4* for the route. Iain should be proud of himself for climbing what i think is one of the best hard routes in Scotland, a modern classic indeed :) .
    Might I suggest that the start of the route description be a bit more detailed due to the slightly serious nature? For example:
    "Climb the grey wall above the belay (small wires), trending leftwards to a good jug, good sky-hook on another jug 1m up and left of this jug. Step R and make a dynamic move up to a good hold and move R to a crimpy break (small cam) then up to a long thin roof"
    Cheers, niall