August in the 'gorms

After exploring the pathless expanse of bog lying slightly above the glenmore treeline (intentionally and without the aid of a map, of course..) Marcus and I packed our camping gear and pitched ourselves at Ryvoan bothy. Maell a Bhuachaille made a good evening's ride, with sections of the new path providing steep steps and smooth gravel singletrack. The waterbars were a perfectly 'hoppable' height compared with recent additions in the Cairngorms; often closely spaced and distressingly high -  extended lifespan, plyometric trainer or dare i say it, mountain bike deterrent?! A quick dip in the Green Loch was followed by far too much free bothy tea and an inevitable 4am bladder relief/midge slaughtering.

Swimming with the midges, leeches, and Marcus.

 We set off the next morning with the intention of riding a loop  up and over Braeriach, but quickly convinced each other that the cloud was marginally low and that the sun in the Aviemore basin would make a second breakfast rather more enjoyable. Rory and Sinclair met us at Tesco and, after picking up Stevie who had fallen asleep on his train, we headed for Creag Dubh. 

Creag Dub. 

The imposing walls comprise some of the best schist around - despite lacking in protection, the climbing is secure and postive, following horizontal breaks and 
thin crack's. Fortunatly the intense sun meant it was a bit sweaty so bold, harder routes were avoided.  We spent the day enjoying the vista of pine and dappled sunlight and left later that evening for the elusive 'A9 bothy'.
King Bee direct. I thought the second pitch was rubbish.

I pretended to sleep for another half an hour before stumbling out of my sleeping bag and heating up some stodgy, reduced price soup. Rory had set off for the car while i finished gulping my potato chunks and by 8.30am we were pounding the track into Coire an t'Sneachda - tops off! The hot morning sun illimunated the dewy heather and the tumbling streams were  a glittering silver. Wisps of cloud flickered in and out of Coire Etchachan, and were simultaneously repelled by the streaming sun.The warm, windless plateau had a cool alpine feel.  How often was this boggy, rock tundra so quiet and warm?  

I had visited the Avon basin as a detour on a lonesome bike trip last summer. After dragging my bike along the loch side and up the loose gravel path, outraged at the rough, unridable terrain, i caught glimpses of the beastly crag and shuddered at the thought of climbing its steep faces. Dropping down the newly built path that morning with a pack full of climbing gear felt a little surreal.
Bike trip Sept 11. My helmet neatly cuts off the crag.

The climbing was consistently interesting, with a crux pitch on the lower slabby sections providing the most strenuous part of the day (minus the approach). I was glad Rory had  lead the steep and exposed 4th pitch and the crack for thin fingers was awesome, if a little short lived. We soaked up the panorama of Loch Avon, and the odd looking encampment of the path builders. It seemed we could see 6 parties of Afterthought Arete, including Iain and Gemma from Aberdeen. Reaching rory below pitch 7 and having only led 4b pitches, i felt keen for something more testing. Rory kindly lead through to the base of the needle crack, where i started up the prominent off width corner feature, becoming gradually aware of the intense exposure! 

Me enjoying myself/getting scared on the needle crack. 
Taken from within the needle crack. Note the little encampment by the loch.

The climbing was delicate and well, protected and i felt relieved, having pushed on  through the most exciting mountain pitch i’ve done. After squeezing through the chimney and ‘threading the needle’, i was delighted to see rory’s big grin and sit down on the warm granite. Hungry, and eager to get back to the car, i finished off  my bourbon scraps and banana (could i have taken any less food for a day on the hill?). We were no sooner dispatching a fish supper in Aviemore, parting ways for climbing and in my case, a weekend of retail doom.

Seemed a good idea at the time. Rory said the block moved ...YOLO?

Moray Roast

We left the veil of sea mist behind us as we drove north towards Fraserburgh and the square cut cliffs of Rosehearty. This section of the Moray coast gives a sense of exposure that is less prominent in the hidden inlets south of Aberdeen - the expansive fields meet the cliffs at right angles and the bays are wide and sweeping. 
The only drawback (apart from the drive) is that Roserhearty takes a few days of sun to vapourise the sea grease on its lower sections. We started on the south faces where Callum cruised his 3rd trad route and I lead Nitrox.  We then moved to the smooth, steep seaward faces. Rory had an epic battle on Shapeshifter - having used his only useful gear in the lower section he slowly pushed on with forearms like the incredible hulk and unable to respond to me telling him he'd clipped the wrong rope. The grease eventually got to his head and instead of finishing up on the jugs in front of him he showed us his clock impersonation with a big pendulum - it was awesome on second! Tactfully I had chalked up the lower holds of Afterglow earlier, making the bouldery start marginally less slippy. The climbing was superb, with as much overhead gear as you could want, consistent powerful moves and a vocal commentary from myself - certainly the best route iv'e done in the NE.
Rory trying to rest on Shapeshifter
Me on Afterglow