We got up unreasonably early the next morning and trekked up to the cliffs opposite the Old Man, then picked our way delicately down the Gogarthian approach path to the base of the stack. The crux pitch looked hard and wide and pitches 3 and 4 looked very green. I was suitably intimidated. I nearly just ceded the crux to James, but managed to man up enough to toss a coin for it. I was secretly slightly relieved to lose, racked up and bambered up the first pitch. James led through, traversing over into the main crack and was soon out of sight round an overhang, leaving me to guess how he was getting on. He took quite a while, but eventually I heard some muffled shouts and the rope came tight, so I set off. I had heard that the rock was softer than the Torridonian sandstone on the west coast, so I was expecting scrittly rock. I was rather surprised, therefore, to find perfectly good, solid rock that somebody had tipped a sandpit down. Excavating the holds took a while, but the climbing was amenable up to a large roof, where James had abandoned his belay jacket on the understanding that he would buy me a pint by way of recompense for my bringing it up with me. Getting through the roof involved a hilarious sequence of contortions (including spending a long time waving a foot at a crucial ledge that I couldn't see but knew was somewhere behind me) and some quality udging, but the sand wasn't really an issue.
|James starting up the crux pitch of the Old Man|
The next morning we high-tailed it off Orkney on the 6:30am ferry and paid the conglomerate weirdness of Sarclet a visit. It was pretty awesome. I led a brilliant VS called Groove Armada, which must be up there with the best single pitch routes at its grade in the country, and then the wonderfully titled Sarclet Pimpernel, a classic E0 romp. James' 3 star E1 lead then turned out to be a bit midgy and not very hard, so we ran away, but I'd be keen for a return visit. The first time I've climbed on conglomerate without spending the whole time worrying about the temporaryness of all of the holds.
|Sarclet - The Sarclet Pimpernel takes the right arete|
|The marvellous top pitch of Jack The Ripper|