After the sunshine at Reiff the forecast was a bit dodgier, with gale force winds promised, but we reasoned that might keep the midges at bay at least and headed for Diabaig. I'd heard nothing but good things about the place, and once we'd negotiated the tortuous windy road from Torridon we were rewarded with a view of The Pillar looking all ace. We were both dead keen to lead this, but there was somebody on it so we wandered past to the Main Wall, where there was a four star HVS to warm up on. There were no gales, but there was just enough breeze rolling around to keep us safe, and the climbing was outstanding; long pitches on beautiful rough Gneiss, with brilliant gear and cool moves. Route Two was amazing, as was The Black Streak, so we wandered back down to the foot of The Pillar, which looked even acer at close quarters. James ran off to get some water from the car, and the second he left the breeze dropped and the midges swarmed. I spent some of the least pleasant minutes of my life lying in the long grass with my trousers tucked into my socks and a waterproof on, sweating like I was in a Turkish bath and feeling generally miserable about the unfairness of it all. Guttingly the wind didn't return, so as soon as James got back we ran away.
|Contemplating the crux of The Black Streak|
After rendezvousing with Matt and spending a night in the ridiculously expensive campsite in Poolewe we had a slow start and needed some caffeine and a giant scone in the frankly awesome Mountain Cafe in Gairloch to get us going. We then decided to brave the gales and pay the craglets around Loch Tollaidh a visit. They were ace (actually I'd been before, but I'd forgotten my rock shoes that time and had to lead a couple of VDiffs in Alistair's giant clown shoes) and much fun was had by all. James in particular had a good day, leading Buena Vista a brilliant E2 slab.
|Some pleasant HVS at Loch Tollaidh|
Afterwards, whilst bathing in the warm glow of self-awesomeness, I tried to egg Oswald into tackling one of the other major E1/2 cracks, but he was afraid. Instead we ticked off a pair of three star routes in the descent gully, an HVS and a VS, which were both pretty stout at their respective grades. This wasn't the spur that the youth needed to get on harder things, so we left and paid a visit to Flodigarry. After hacking over the tedious heather for an age we reached the top of the crag. James had idea that he might try an E2, but we couldn't pick out the line, so we agreed that he should lead the three star HVS I'd been keen on, and then we could run away for a cup of tea, dinner, and the pint that he owed me. The route, Lucy In The Sky, was a little gem, taking a slabby crack with sustained mild interest right to the top.
The forecast the next day seemed more stable, with clear skies in prospect, so we took a gamble on being able to find something out of the wind in Coire Lagan. Our first objective, The Klondyker, seemed to be just about out of the gusts, so we set off. James lucked out and got the two good pitches, whilst I had the easy link pitches, but the route was ace. The crux pitch was a long, sustained 5a wall, with a touch of rather 5b-ish spice thrown in pulling round a small roof. The gear was excellent, but it felt worthy of an E-point. This was later confirmed when we bumped into Mike Lates, who literally wrote the guide but admitted to never having done the route, and he told us he'd heard from reliable sources it was worth an upgrade. The route wasn't over after the second pitch though, with the fourth offering "Space walking on buckets". We had harboured ideas of climbing Vulcan Wall afterwards, but by the time we'd made it back to our bags we were pooped, so we scuttled off to the Sligachan in time for a few (very incompetent) games of pool.
|The spacewalk on The Klondyker|
After that I couldn't take any more, and it was getting on a bit, so we jumped in the car and motored over to the CC hut in Roybridge, where we availed ourselves of the delights of an oven, and comfy beds. Whoop. The next day was showery, so we took a punt on the "Lethal when wet" but allegedly quick drying Creag Dubh (also known, ominously, as Crag Death). Sitting at the bottom of it eating our lunch it was clearly going to need a bit more time to dry off, so I persuaded James that a visit to the distillery at Dalwhinnie was in order. On our return to the crag it was actually dry, so I racked up to have a bash at Inbred, a steep HVS and apparently Dougal Haston's finest new route. It didn't take too many brief ventures onto the holds to decide that there was the potential to get myself into a dangerous position, as the moves were steep and the gear fiddly, so I handed the baton over and belayed James. He made it look fairly easy, and the moves were OK on second. Not that I regretted backing off for a second, especially since as I was part way up the pitch a rain shower started looming ominously. I just managed to beach myself on the belay ledge when the heavens opened and the rock turned to soap. So we sacrificed my sling of irritating shortness and beat a hasty retreat.
The next day found us climbing at Dunkeld. I did a spot of VS bambering and James led another E2 through some roofs. The climbing wasn't too hard, but the gear for the first roof was pumpy to place, and for the second was a bit weird and uninspiring, so it was just about worth E2. After enjoying my Aunt's hospitality we spent the last day of the holiday climbing at Auchinstarry - Scotland's answer to a Lancashire quarry. It wasn't actually that bad, although my three star VS was a bit underwhelming, and the 2 star VS 4b arete I soloed was quite terrifyingly sandy. And then after one more route it was over and we had to drive back south again. In the rain. Bah. Still, it was an awesome fortnight, we got loads done, and saw loads more that I want to go back for (especially The Pillar). Next on the agenda is Lundy in September. Bring it on...
|Promontory Direct at Auchinstarry - A refugee from Wilton in the central belt|