West is Best

The 5 of us left Inverness for Torridon in regular style - cramped, late and slightly hungover -  and after setting up base in the Youth Hostel campsite, we made light work of the notorious vertical bog and were soon stood at the mighty Seanna Mheallain terrace. After a glance at the guidebook, I lead the awesome Seems Obvious, and Rory dispatched the ultra-classic-bridge-fest  - The Torridonian (with a little grunting of course). Rory then suggested I try Crack of Ages as 'one of his first E2's that was well pumpy'. So i ambled up, and  despite the route living up to his description, I sat on the square cut ledge 15 minutes later, delighted with having fought my way up my first E2.   I lapped up the vista of the west while the sun set between the tiered sandstone hulks and was soon joined by Marcus and Rory.

Crack of Ages

The Torridonian

We went to bed content, although admittedly anxious on my part after realising I had forgotten my sleeping bag. Wednesday brought showers to Torridon so we drove to Shieldaig where me and Rory spent a few hours on our debut spearfishing/snorkelling venture. We swam among the vast seaweed forests and fretted about picking up little crabs, but left empty handed without sighting our 12 ft salmon. At lunch time, we decided on the buttress of Sgurr a' Chaorachain  in Applecross and a classic Patey route - Sword of Gideon - a suitably traditional choice for 5 Aberdeen University students - especially in the rain. Marcus and I made up the second team - content that the Sally, Rosy and Rory would plaster it with enough chalk to negate the effects of the steady showers. Marcus ran pitch 2 and 3 together which made for some consistently good climbing at the grade. Although it wasnt that enjoyable in the wet - we were happy we hadnt chosen it for the better forecast the following day, and we set our sights on the less frequented Rolling Wall on the Diabaig penisula. 

Psyched for a seafood bonanza (note the pro counterweight rock bag)

Rolling wall basked in sunlight

Intent on getting a better sleep, the majority of the trips alcohol was consumed that night, which made for a 'treasure hunt' style approach to the hidden crag in the morning. This was made only more difficult by conflicting premonitions about the guidebook description and we eventually turned up at the crag well warmed up and psyched for some gneiss!

Me on Brave New World

Rory on Aquamarine

The crag was stunning in the late morning sun. Perfectly placed - south facing, low lying and isolated with was a steady sea breeze to perfect our little paradise. After an hour soaking up the sun on the warm rock, Rory lead The Ice Bulge, a little bold in the grade for our weary limbs and in need of a clean but enjoyable none the less. We wandered around the summit knoll, soloing some perfect cracked slabs and wondering about the limitless potential of this Scottish gem. Brave New World, the striking  crack up the center of the bulged face had been my ambition as far as trad was concerned since i began last year and, after a little whining about my hydration levels, I set off up the friendly cracks. The route was superb - featuring a delicate traverse, strenuous cracks  and a satisfying crux just metres from the top. As Rory topped out - we gazed west and spotted a massive white bellied beast flop across the sea (maybe an orca)  - awesome!! Rory started up  Aquamarine while the  contrasting striped rock lit up in the late afternoon sun. He made a valiant effort on the bouldery start but struggled to get established in the impending steep crack,  taking a reasonable fall and managing to finish up after a rest. I shied away from seconding the route and we finished the day on some of the splendid shorter routes while Marcus lay around commentating in the sun. Rosy and Sally climbed some longer routes on the far sides of the crag and Sally managed her first E1 as the sun began to sink into the sea.

Rosy and Sally on the Epsilon, Gamma, Delta wall

 On Friday we began the drive east, where we stopped at Moy for a wee sport session. The west had fairly spent us but we had  fun and having now done my first sport route, i feel a little less bitter about the concept of having to participate once or twice a year. Unfortunately, only 20 miles from Inverness, the car decided to kick the bucket with an apocolyptic electrical fault, and no less than 6 hours later, we all rocked up at my house for dinner and a well earned rest. 

Me and Sally at Moy

Pictures by Marcus and Rory Brown

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