Highland Outcrops

There are certain ideas that stay in your brain for a while. I didnt start trad climbing until i went to university, but at the age of 18 i was well aware of a wealth of climbing possibilities close to home. Some only a 20 minute cycle. Visiting these places became a mild obsession. Duntelchaig, Tynrich, Brin. Ticking away in my brain. I rarely got a chance to go because we were always driving through Inverness to go to the coast. At home there are rarely people to climb with. Partly because i didnt learnt to climb here but predominantly because the scene is a quiet and small despite the location.

Back home i started climbing on Tom Riach,  a warty grey lump of conglomerate that most 'boulderers' might consider just that. But for me it became something more. I could cycle there without a pad and strengthen my arms. It took a a long time but i eventually managed to traverse the NW face. I was delighted.  Last week i went back for a couple sessions, along with Murdo, Nick and Gaz. Tom Riach seems to have had it's renaissance now that the trees have been chopped. The new Parisella's Cave.

This april the weather on the west coast has been typically damp. Sinclair needed little convincing. My idea of a Highland Outcrops whistle stop tour came to fruition and Sinclair and I had a jolly time.

Creag Dubh doesnt need much of an introduction. I've never been particularly inspired by the place. I'd like to do The Hill one day but everything was ridden with puddly pockets. We climbed the classic HVS's. After i abbed i pulled the rope right into a big hanging tree so Sinclair ended up inside it and we both thought it was funny. We met Mick Tighe and his wife and he showed us some primitive gear from back when he were a lad. He was taking photos of it for the Scottish Mountain Heritage Collection. I asked him if he was going to climb with it but he said no.

Ashie Fort, with it's own charming topo and spattering of stars from the local SMC, looked to be interesting venture. South facing, short routes, tree belays. Conglomerate trad... It was an enjoyable day, but i won't be returning because there are only a handful of worthwhile routes. Even for the in situ gear.

Finally Duntelchaig. The classic of the old school Invernesian. Yesterday the rain abated by mid day and the sun arced round to warm up the rock strewn hillside above the loch. Theres lots of good climbing at most grades.   Slings, E1, was one of the best at the grade i had climbed and for a pitch of 20m it is well worth an evening hit. Sinclair lead the eponymous, Misty Crack and Razor Flake.

I had to try Dracula, providing it was dry. With the sun bearing down upon the 3D obelisk of Dracula buttress, we had a doze in the 25 degree heat and started up the corners. Overhanging jam cracks are, as Sinclair pointed out, probably not the forte of a wiry slab lover and so it was with the weight of this test and the aura of  it's 'classic' status that i set off  with my belt of cams to do battle with the beast.

I rammed in a high cam. 'Keep climbing' said Sinclair, - the goding encouragment  worked and my hands jammed in a few more times. Unexpected and ferocious disco leg happened. I think i must have looked funny.   I didnt stick around and gunned it toward the top. Heaving myself over the finishing jugs, I was totally out of breath and had to lie on the slab to clear my head and throbbing forearms.

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