Strath-nairn and Gairloch


Fell running and mountain biking
E2 5b's in the sun, then going swimming because it's too hot
Reading on the train 
Pale ale
The Beatles
Envisaging climbing a 16 pitch slab and bolted ice routes
Swimming, swimming and wine
Did I include mountain biking?


Back home on some proper rock and feeling reaffirmed in my trad, and appetite. Rob and I solo'd a bunch of routes at Strath-nairns infamous pinnacle crag - apparently lost to the present generation and a consequently a little dirty. We climbed a cool arrete too. V4/5 ish. 

The arrete at Pinnacle Crag - Duntelchaig

The next day we dithered about going for a mega hill run. 
'It's 26 miles up and down Wyvis from the East'
Having run up Wyvis on monday and biked my local moor hill in the morning, i really couldn't be less bothered - and Rob was especially easy to convince! Better save running for wet days anway.

A few cups of tea and a slap on the acoustic later and we still hadnt decided. Infact we drove west and didnt decide until the junction. We found ourselves in Gairloch Cafe, leaving with a couple of new books. Next stop Tollaidh Crags. 

Robs line took the curving crack on the right, mine went up the middle, slightly left of Rob.

Home to utterly brilliant single pitch slab and face routes as well as a number of steep testpieces, Loch Tollaidh is one of many close-to-the-road Gairloch delights. Rob had done quite a lot, and so we arrived at a  slightly dirty, lichenous wall. Hold poppy with lovely downward stratified rock and sidey-ways holds, it took a bit of appreciation. Rob did a pumpy rising traverse at E2. I laughed when I encounter his original, fully rigid friend stuffed in a slot.

Rob on a fairly commiting E2. Could do with a clean and some more traffic.

I took the direct 5c up the face and through a wee roof which  was lovely sustained, resty, thinky, fiddly and altogether enjoyable and remarkably non-stressful - the essential gairloch experience i think! The stress of climbing without gear is certainly remediated by the vast blanket bog lining the crags..

Then the midges came out.

I mustnt complain, though iv'e been climbing rock in Alpine Scotland for the past 4 months and its the first encounter i've had yet. Glad i'm off to the Alp's though, I remind Rob  ..hehehe

Sitting in the breeze, admirning the mottled vista, Rob and I engaged in some metaphysical climbing chat. Climbing chat is great, so long as nobody else is around.Pint. Massive burger in the Inn. A civilised day on the West Coast. Swooping under the battements of Slioch and Rob bangin' on about New Order.

To ensure I meet my weekly train quota, i'm  travelling back to Aberdeen tommorow morning. I'm going to Shetland to slice fish and weigh their balls for a uni course. I'm going to run around the stormy wee coastlines like  the skinny elvish bandit that i am. Maybe i'l scream in Norwegi-Highlander-Jibberish too. Maybe naked. Going to finish my George Mackay Brown novel while i'm there. 

After Shetland i'm meeting the family for a few days in the Cairngorms and
from there on it's straight down to Edinburgh and the beginning of the Alpine Extreme Suffer Extreme XS trip with Sinclair - all round badman and satirical jester. Together we shall make quite a pair. Pete, Boss Colin and Rob have been psyching me up and telling me where to go. It should be awesome!

Mum and I did Wyvis and Stac Pollaidh as a midweek camping trip.

Mum on Staccy P

Summer has arrived!

Since the Highlander, university kept me close to Aberdeen and her mighty sea cliffs. Afternoons cragging have been a mixed bag as usual but it always feels good to be out during exam time. I've been mountain biking a bit more again too - finding Aberdeen-shire has a lot to offer for enduro style riding and am feeling freshly psyched for getting fit and back into some hill running!

After exams, Sinclar, Rory, Marcus and I spent a few days down south. We went climbing at Limekilns and Cambusbarron quarries which were fun. I did a cool smearing slab arete called Spanking the Monkey and a few polished classics. It was my 20th birthday too, so we went for a few in the culture capital.

Back in Inverness, I met up with Callum, Ryan and Appleby and we formulated a plan for a few days on the West Coast.

Appleby and Callum on the second belay - Cioch Nose

On thursday evening we set off for the Bealach na Ba, where we dropped down to the A'Cioch ridge for the essential Lairig/Patey classic - Cioch Nose. After completing the rock pitches without much difficulty, we found ourselves faced with a  rather imposing steep ridge under imminent darkness.

Callum @ last belay - Cioch Nose

 Despite it's grim appearance, the ridge succumbed to some tactful route finding and upon reaching the first nipple, we were treated with a perfect cloud inversion to the North-West. We reached the car at 12.30 and bivvied in the car park.

Summit car park Bealach na Ba - Skye ridge in background

The next day we set off for northern Skye and the apparently less frequented cliffs of the Rubha Hunish peninsula - Skye's most northerly point. The 'difficulties' first arose on stepping out of the car. It mist cleared and the sun arked perfectly up into a matte blue sky. Our pale skins craved the warmth and we essentially spent the trip sunbathing and swimming.. 

After some well earned rest, Appleby and I dropped down to 'Master of Morgana', an 80m HVS following a chimney, cracks and an offwidth up the right arete of the cliff. The route was impressive and rather intimidating for the grade. Some loose rock and an awkward chimney saw me on to delicate collumnar slabs and the first belay among a lovely little flower garden. Appleby belayed half way up the second, after running out out of useful gear, leaving me the awkward 25m offwidth - but thankfully the finest rock! The lack of gear turned out to be a non-issue as i spent the time stuffing the only large cam we had into the depths of a crack, and threading a few dubious chockstones. It's always a little disheartening to climb a well protected route with little of the correct gear.. An awkward overhanging 'au cheval' slot marked the final few metres and another sunny belay. I spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering the around the cliffs, napping some more and taking pictures. The harder lines could wait... That night we stayed in the renovated RAF shelter on the summit of the cliff plateau. It had a 180 panorama of the NW coast and Islands.

One of the spectabular cliffs on Rubha Hunish 

Applebby following me up the final offwidth

Applebby topping out of the strenuous au cheval finish

Looking NW from Rubha Hunish

Ryan and Callum on the VS arrete

The peninsula was plastered in lovely little flowers

On saturday we neglected the idea of climbing and spent the day in Portree and the Fairy Pools - the perfect tourist day out! I had arranged to meet Rob, Alli and Fin at the Glen Brittle campsite where we would set off for the south end of the Cuillin ridge and bivvy that evening, taking some of Fin's kit back for him.

A long walk in to Garbh Bheinn, above a stunning island panorama eventually saw us on the most southerly point of the ridge and our bivvy spots. It was serene. Fin planned to run at 4am and we picked up his kit when he left off. It was my first time on the ridge and i was totally stunned by it's beauty and enticing objective - which has since consumed me! I had of course hoped my first attempt would be as a full traverse - but the arrangement was relaxed and alli wasn't feeling super fit. He has a bad shoulder injury preventing him from climbing for very long and only a handful of hill days in the past year too, so did impressively well to maintain a decent pace. 

Alli on the Garbh Bheinn approach - looking South to Rum

Looking south from the approach

Fin and Alli on the Southernmost top of the ridge

Bla Bheinn from the bivvy

Looking west over Sgurr Alasdair and Mhic Coinnich

My suffer bivvy spot..

This is mind, we set off at 5am, relaxed and enjoying the situation in the warm morning sun. We reached Coire Laggan at 9 and with Allis shoulder hurting and the sun already beating down, Rob and I popped up to solo the In Pin then met him down in Coire Laggan for a sun session.

 It did feel a little odd to be retreating mid-morning - with lots of water and food left, but we knew to avoid the baking sun at midday we would have to had been further along at that point. Regardless, it was a brilliant morning and we had the day ahead of us to enjoy the weather. Finlay unsurprisingly met us on the way down from Coire Laggan - having run the ridge rather quickly and cycled back down Glen Brittle. We set off back to Inverness after chips in Kyle. 

Me on the most awkward severe going.. - TD gap

Rob and Alli on Mhic Coinnich

Rob approaching Mhic Coinnich

Me after a free solo on-sight ascent of the In Pin 

..and some pasty punters on the Coire Laggan boiler plates - Alli doesn't believe in sun cream