Monday, 28 July 2014

Chumps on Tour - The Scottish Odyssey

Through sheer luck a 4 day climbing holiday happened to coincide with the one of the driest summers to impact upon western Scotland. The usual promise of poor weather and tennis ball sized midges were blown out of the sky by the gift of high pressure. Clearly somebody wasn't doing their job right in the Met Office!

Day 1 - Centurion, Carn Dearg, Ben Nevis

The route we opted for was Centurion. So called because of the way the huge overlapping slabs resemble the armour plate of a Roman Centurion is a classic to end all classics. We left the car at 8 and with light legs we raced up to the CIC and then on to Carn Dearg in just over an hour however to our despair we still found somebody else at the base. A bunch of lads from Dundee University had beaten us to it but no worries - being British we joined the que and took an enforced lounge in the sun.

Carn Dearg on Ben Nevis, Centurion (HVS 5a) follows
the obvious central crackline for a full 200m

Rafe Topping out on the sensational second pitch

The thrutchy traverse on pitch 3 out above the void

Rafe breezing up Pitch 4 towards the sunshine

Half way up... Still a long way to go though!

The view accross to Tower Ridge from a chilly Carn Dearg

Rafe finding an intricate line towards the roofs 

The final overhanging wall that forms the last pitch

Classic one slain by the chumps.. Worth every star!

Nigel leading the final pitch though the overhangs

The route had everything from steep cracks to delicate slab climbing. We swapped leads the entire way hoping the route would never end! After several hours we reached where it terminates at ledge route. Regardless of the weather the rest of the trip, this one route had made the boys holiday a success!

We followed up our victory with drinking pints until close in the Clachaig then thanking there resilience of putting up with our bad odour by camping in their beer garden.

Day 2 - Unicorn, Stob Corie Nan Lochan

Undoubtedly the hardest walk-in was made no easier by an apparent lack of wind and an abundance of 30 degree heat. After sweating away we eventually reach the corie and got our first glimpse of the route.

Tramping it chump style and getting geared up for another epic day!

The mighty south buttress of Stob Corie Nan Lochan, Unicorn (E1 5b) climbs directly
up the obvious central chimney

No expense was spared fuelling the boys
 First climbed by the death seeking legend thats Jimmy Marshall in the 60s, the huge vertical corner dissects the whole of the south buttress and has to be one of the greatest natural lines anywhere. The big problem is getting to the base of the route! A precursor to the route is to 'scramble' up hanging gardens up crumbling rock and would probably be an 'earthy' VS if it were in Wales.

Rafe being baked on the thrutchy first pitch. 
Rafe led up the first 5b pitch which was a 'delicate-thrutch' or however that works. From there an invisible foot ledge is reached where a hanging belay is held before the outstanding second pitch. More jamming than a Bob Marley gig. The third pitch is the closest you'll ever get to climbing a Jenga tower but is wickedly exposed and super steep.

Usually you have to bust open the ice before you can swim in a river
in Glen Coe
After a massive walk out a swim in the river was the only option (if nothing else just to relive the smell). End another 12 hour day.

Day 3 - Bludgers Revelation, Slime Wall, The Buachaille

The face of Slime Wall, high on the side of Buachallie plays host to some of the Glen's most formidable climbs such as Shibboleth (E2 5c) and also Raven's Gully (HVS 5a - apparently the hardest gully in the UK!). Being slightly hungover we settled with the all time classic Bludgers Revelation HVS 5a.

Slime Wall on the side of Buachille Etive Mor in Glen Coe,
a week into a drought and its still moist!
Another classic route crafted by Jimmy Marshall from two previous routes by Walsh and made famous by the BBC series 'The Edge' menacing route climbs a genius line through some seriously impressive territory and is no place for clowns but we thought we'd give it a bash anyway.

The approach to this climb is even harder than the previous days. To get to the base first you have to climb to just below the final towers of Great Gully Ridge. After that a loose traverse must be made into upper Great Gully then up steep and loose ground the base of Raven's Gully. The hangover had defiantly be sweated out by the time we were stood at the bottom.

Exposed climbing on the upper pitches of Bludgers Revelations (HVS 5a)
with a party on Shibboleth behind.

The first pitch breaks out across the face and above the ever-growing void to a neat belay below by some blocks. The second pitch is up the steep, wet crack. Its hard but is probably the best protected pitch on the whole route. The 'link' pitch then herds you up some steep slabs around a corner past a few holds which need probably need trundling.

Rafe at the top with the whole world at his feet
Some confusion regarding correct belay position left Rafe stranded high but with the execution of some beyond-the-average-clown ropework he got to the right place safety. The graduation from chumps to clowns was almost complete. The next pitch is a total sandbag at 4c and traverses straight out across the void on flat holds with very spaced gear. Eventually the big hollow flake of revelation is reached which allows for enough relaxation to realize you have indeed shit yourself but thoughts like that can wait for the belay..

Climbers on the final exposed pitch of Shibboleth (E2 5c), truly the greatest
rock climb on the planet!
The next and final pitch has a few short lived hard moves above the biggest drop you've ever seen but easy ground is soon reached. We got down too late to find food so we drank beer and ate cake before we pitched tent in the pub beer garden for the 3rd night running.

Day 4 - The Hammer, Glen Etive Slabs

Could it really happen? Could we really have a good day on what's rumoured to be the most fickle venue in Scotland?! Well we got there in bright sunny haze, with not a midge to be found anywhere.

Looking up Etive Slabs. The huge swathe of compact slabs
lie at a mere 40 degree angle but the odd overlap provide some entertainment 
 Even with high psyche, the weight of heavy gear, tired legs and 3 days worth of drinking and poor diet meant we were reduced to a crawl to the coffin stone at the base of the crag.

Looking down the crux pitch as the rain moves in.. Time to get the hell off! 
The crag is very confusing to start with - the routes appear to start about a pitch of the ground which we thought just wouldn't happen somewhere like The Grit..

Friction climbing on granite slabs in the rain.. Sod that! Bail time!
After an interesting downwards traverse across gearless slabs yarding on hanging gardens we got to the base and nipped up the first pitch. Still dry. Still no midges. Rafe led the second pitch and found loads of gear. We must have been on the wrong crag - What were all these punters moaning about?! I geared up for the next pitch. 5a moves miles above gear. Starts to rain as I get committed. No way i'm downclimbing so bash on to the belay - absolute downpour. Shit. Bail on rusting pegs. Midges. Still smiling! We'll be back! Favour was no longer smiling on the boys. So we left. But we havn't forgotten!

Thanks Rafe for coming to visit. The chumps from Aberystwyth came, saw and conquered. If you want adventure, look no further than north of the boarder!

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