Since my last post I’ve developed something of a writer’s block regarding my blog…no actually make that plain laziness. Compounding this little niggle was also some kind of motivational come-down after onsighting The Clown. Climbing E7 in this style has been a goal of mine for so long that I didn’t regard what I was going to do afterwards. I know that there are loads of E7s out there still waiting to be onsighted, but even now for me the distance between E6 and E7 still feels like a gap that I will only be able to step across occasionally.
So as it’s been nearly three months since I did The Clown, maybe I should have a quick run through what I’ve been up to:
Deep Water Soloing
Straight after The Clown, on the same trip, Andy and I carried on down the Welsh coast to Pembroke for the Deep Water Soloing Festival. Unfortunately it was pretty “moist” weather, to say the least. But this being Britain, everyone carried on stubbornly in the rain, the speed comp being particularly entertaining as a result. And despite nearly 9 hours of solid rain, the outdoor party continued on late into the night with the same spirit (well, only until the police turned up at 3am…).
A couple of weeks later, the Aberdeen DWS “festival” was on, so keen to get a bit more experience of this great sub sport, Emma and myself headed up. This time I managed to get more routes in before the rain started again, suitably fuelled by the burgers from the barbecue. Highlights of the day included War of Tears 7b with its heel hookery rock over funkiness but the lowpoint has to be getting stuck on the slimy top section of Hell and High Water 7a for 10 minute whilst the drizzle started.
War Without Tears 7b (photo: S.Stronach)
I’d really like to do more of this kind of climbing, as it seems to combine the best of climbing routes but without all the faff of ropes and quickdraws and nuts and cams and all that jazz whilst still retaining that element of boldness high up. So Mr Lines, how about a mass assault on the Red Tower next year?
. Red Meat 7a, DWS Maestro, Julian Lines watching (Photo: S.Stronach)
Developing a New Crag in Arrochar
In between flitting up and down the country to climb up cliffs and lob into the sea, I have also been visiting the Arrochar area with Tom Charles Edward, following up on a tip-off about an undeveloped crag from one of my spies (thanks Ian!). Coilessan Crag on the west bank of Loch Long, as mentioned elsewhere, really is the most glaringly undeveloped crag in the country. It can be seen as the distinctive prow high up on the hillside whilst looking southward from the Cobbler Car park at Arrochar. Less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow and a mere 45 minutes walk in brings you to a steep buttress scored through with many deep cracks just begging to be climbed.
. Coilessan Crag
The first line to fall so far is Ajare which takes the “slabbiest” but equally stunning line on the main crag, the vertical arête of the southern edge of the crag. I have to admit, though, to inspecting the line twice (because I forgot my brush the first time) before the first ascent, a bit of a departure from the whole ground-up onsight ethos that I favour. From my own experience, virgin mica-schist can be very lichenous with loose blocks and plate-like wafers and flakes also have a tendency to snap so a good clean is usually necessary.
. High up on Ajare (Photo: J.Watson)
The “interesting” bit of Ajare is the run out section in the middle; moving from a resting niche onto a wall and then back to the arête where some sequential moves lead to the pod/break; a long way from the last piece of gear with a real danger of smacking off the ledge below.
The first time I climbed this route, I used a small flake high up on the arête which I felt to be br6b, so this combined with the potential nastiness of a fall, it seemed logical to give the route E7 6b. Unfortunately, when Tom followed up afterwards he snapped the flake off but managed to find another sequence up this section- don’t worry potential onsighters, I am not giving anything away!
A week later, I repeated the route for the camera using the new sequence, and it actually felt easier although may possibly be harder to read….hence why I am now confused as to whether the route now warrants E6 or E7, especially considering the fact that I had pre-inspected the line and had full awareness of the terrain ahead. Nevertheless, a 3 star route with a mind-blowing top-out…
. The "interesting" bit of Ajare (photo: J.Watson)
Headpointing routes has never really interested me, but on this crag, I finally discovered the line that will really turn me to the Dark Side…take a 15 metre finger crack, tilt it at 40 degrees, throw a roof in the middle, make the crack flared at it’s steepest section and you’ve got some idea of how impressive (and desperate) this project looks. So far it’s taken me two days to clean it and another day of aiding up it (with about twenty bits of gear) to play with the moves. It’s going to be hard work but I am absolutely smitten. Unfortunately, it’s been a month since I was last on it and the weather is starting to turn so it could be next year before I am back on it.
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