Sometimes, it's just great. Sometimes a climb transcends the organisation, faff, logistical nonsense, massive amounts of driving, conditions, weather, midges, fear, doubt, uncertainty, and effort with such unarguable conviction, that it seems the quality of the climbing experience and the validity climbing lifestyle should never be doubted again (until it rains or one gets injured or plans fall through or.....).
Lorelei was one of those such climbs. A slab at the end of the Loch Tollaidh agglomeration of humps, domes, buttress and crags, it wasn't what I was in the area for, and all I knew was: Stripteaser on the same slab had been good, if fiddly and bold; the guidebook said it was good but protection took some hunting (not true); it had had a couple of ascents recently (hmmm what did I expect, chalked holds and worn gear slots?), and it was in the shade most of the morning (crucial when the mini-heat wave made even lounging around in the sun exhausting, let alone trying to climb). So I went over and gave it a look...
Despite being in the shade I was a hot sweaty mess just from 5 minutes walk over from the first buttresses. It looked lovely but all I could think of was sweaty fingers sliding off slopers and swollen feet cramping up on smears. Loch Tollaidh is often in "good nick" so why not leave it for a cooler, fresher day when I could enjoy it rather than just get up it?? To delay the decision further, Steve fancied the rarely climbed E1 to the left, but the book had said it tended to be dirty so I offered to lead up, ab down, and scrub the holds and gear cracks to get it in more acceptable condition. A short while later and it was a relatively pristine E2 5b sandbag with some tricky moves and a hair-raising wee runout in the middle. Armed with a more accurate assessment, Steve went for it anyway, fought hard whilst I muttered encouragement down below whilst eyeing up my running belay flight path (steep and boggy) and got to the top with a fine effort.
Partly morally inspired and partly figuring I'd used up quite a bit of nervous energy on that attentive belay, I decided "just to give it a look", which usually ends up with me being so engrossed in the climbing process that the look becomes a committed involvement and actually climbing the damn thing. That wasn't really the conscious plan this time but of course it happened anyway.
I stepped up into the initial scoop, steady moves luring me up and left into less steady moves to exit the scoop. I took heed of the "protection takes some hunting" and stretched out to get a tiny flared offset out right, instructing Steve to perch as far right as possible so that when it inevitably ripped it would take a little bit of the force out of the bouncing groundfall rather than none at all. Luckily although continuing up left required some slopey stretches, I could see good holds so I just had to crank hard and knew I'd make it to respite and some better gear, well a tiny peenut in a hollowish jug, anyway. So far, so fairly serious, but with great rock and great slab climbing.
A pause for thought had me furtling around in a seam above, resulting in a classic "cluster of bollox" ((c) Pylon King 2004): RP1 slid in the back and held in place by smooth lichen (bollox), super shallow camalot resting on a quartz lip at the front (bollox), 00 C3 crammed and wedged behind some crystals (a bit bollox but took so much fiddling it should bloody stay in), and a 1 C3 in a slot that was actually, completely normal and decent (woot!). As predicted I ended up a hot sweaty mess from locking off and faffing around but this is the benefit of slabs with holds in hot weather, I could cool down enough to realise that with that much gear, I had better climb the damn thing now.
More excellent and elegant moves, a perfect combination of positivity AND friction had me standing above the break, and a final crank had me on a decent hold. This led to another vintage trad moment of faffing in more gear in a hollow undercut above before making the obligatory "one VS move" to a perfect seam and gear so deep it was half-way back to Loch Maree. The usual slab pump (?) was mounting at this point but with gear and holds getting better and better I just aimed upwards, pulled and rocked over and suddenly was in the blazing sunshine at the top.
What had gone from a definite abandonment, to a postphonement, to a tentantive attempt, had turned into a steady ascent that was pure pleasure from the start to finish. That was enough justification and enough effort for the day so after a couple more belays it was time to chill out:
Of course, I don't have any climbing photos, so here are some cows lounging on a beach:
I'm quite glad it's cooled down now. I'm sure the cows are happy either way, though.