Tuesday 2 October 2012

Autumn weekend.

Autumn is in the air in the Highlands. This has the advantage that the midges are dead, but the disadvantage that the nights are drawing in, and the weather is getting wetter. However, sometimes, as was the case a couple of weekends ago, you can get the best of both worlds with dry midge free crags.

Dave at Steall Hut Crag, not a bad place to climb. Unfortunately a bit midgey in the summer and a bit damp in the winter.
On the Friday afternoon I went up to Steall Hut crag to try Leopole 8a. The crux moves of this route had always felt absolutely desperate to me. However, a a bit of extra strength since I had previously tried it, and the discovery of a cunning toe hook,  meant it suddenly felt like a feasible project for the autumn. After a couple of sessions playing on the crux, it was time to jump in the car and head North to meet up with Iain Small.

On the Saturday we went up to Super Crag near Lochinver. Since being announced to the world back in May, the crag has become quite popular, and now probabley contains highest concentrations high quality hard routes on a mainland Scottish sea cliff. Iain typically had, over the course of a few weekends during the summer, pretty much ticked the crag. I warmed up on Ramp It Up, a nice E3, one of the few routes that Iain had not done. It was then Iain's turn, and after an abseil inspection he did a new E7, 6b, his second route of that grade at the crag. I managed to second it cleanly, but only just. With some hard bold climbing, and specific gear knowledge, it certainly felt worth the grade. I think he was planning to call it The Assynt of Man.

Iain routes took a while, and after that I had time for one of the shorter E4's on the side wall in the gathering gloom, before we had to head back to the Elphin hut.

Iain on this new route The Assynt of Man, which goes up the wall above him trending slightly left.

On the Sunday we headed South to Dome Crag in Gruinard Bay. It was Iains turn to do the warm up route, and he did Call of the Wild with the left hand start (E4). Seconding this after previous couple of days climbing, felt a bit more than a warm up. Iain then persuaded me to give Major Domo a go. This is the classic E6 of the crag, a well protected but pumpy crag line. I had heard of the route for a long time, but given the number of much better climbers than me who had fallen off it, I assumed that I would not be able to flash it  However, I somehow managed to keep on battling upwards to the top.
Lots of gear but the holds are just about to all go a bit rounded and slopy, and it's steeper that it looks. Myself flashing Major Domo.

However, my effort was yhen somewhat overshadowed by Iain, who after an abseil inspection, flashed Ali Coull's route Welcome to the TerrorDome, E8. I am not sure what Iain thought to the grade, but he did say the the quality of the climbing was very good. This route goes up the wall to the left of Major Domo, and looks like hard physical climbing, with good but spaced gear. I didn't second it as it was getting pretty late, but it is a route that I am inspired to return to.
Iain flashing Welcome to the Terror Dome, which goes pretty much straight up the wall above.  A nae bad effort.

The following week I was keen to get back on Leopole. However, I was quite busy at work, and only managed one mid week session which went well until darkness stopped play. I returned last Sunday. Unfortunately the West Coast autumn monsoon had kicked in by then and I found the crag to be pretty wet, with a waterfall pouring off the top of the route. Although the holds on the crux were dry, other holds were wet and I was getting dripped on in the knee bar just before the crux. Although I got some climbing, it all felt a bit like hard work.
With only one more weekend before I head off on a Spanish sports climbing trip, it feels like it is just about the Scottish rock season is just about over for me this year.