Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Classic Caithness Coolness.

Yay! Back to Caithness at last. Somewhere that always inspired me from reading about it in guidebooks and magazines (I wonder if Duncan Disorderly knows I pinched his OTE with the Caithness special a few years ago??), and somewhere that has proved to be worth that inspiration on initial and subsequent visits. My visits now total 3, which I hoped would be enough (not least because of a certain tedium with the neverending Inverness > Wick finale of the 5+ hour drive), but will likely require at least one more, as this trip was 66% rather than 100% successful...

Much Climbing at Mid Clyth
Yay! For Mid Clyth. A brief initial visit merely sampled the compact and heavily starred Stack area, this substantial return visit confirmed the validity of those stars in an orgy of steep wall climbing. Yes, it really is as good as the guidebook (the definitive, not the less reliable selected guide which criminally misses out this fine crag) says, with a veritable plethora of minor classics crowded side by side above the most convenient (abseil descent aside) of flat platforms. More than you can shake a stick at....or even a seal. Verily the seals were out in force, lowing and mooing and staring quizzically at our bizarrely non-aqueous antics. Those antics simply included a lot of great climbing....and that was that.

Showers at Scarlet
Since the weather forecast predicted 3 unbroken dry days, the rain had the decency to wait until midway through the second day. Oh what courtesy. Before this meterological blip, the mighty Sarclet was the natural choice for the day. Sarclet is somewhat more adventurous, although the main adventure involved trying to construct a vaguely comfortable two man survival shelter out of a ropebag, a rucsac, a small rockshelf with a good RP above it, and a few badly tensioned and even worse placed anchors. This sufficed - barely - for early showers, thus allowing us to snatch a couple of warm-up routes. However the last route was led in light drizzle and seconded in substantial rain. After a soggy and swearful retreat, the sun came out at the car. Arse and double arse.

Evening Esoterica
After an emergency - and pleasingly free - weather check at the Wick library, there was enough promise for the 3rd day....and the 2nd evening. The showers had scarcely tickled Wick nor the coast further North, so we tried Auckengill, lured by the dubious promise of easily accessible 3 star 8m routes. Hmmmm. Well apart from obviously not being 3 star routes, it was pretty cool. A charmingly relaxed location above an arguably even more convenient platform. The couple of chosen routes were definitely short but also distinctly steep, providing some good value. Not nearly as steep as a final digestif route at The South Head Of Wick....an alleged E2 5b with a hard 5c/6a crank above just adequate wires, hard to place amongst severely overhanging climbing the whole of it's brief and brutal way. This required enough up and downclimbing to get a Munro tick, yet was still fun enough climbing to make a perky E3/4 despite such dicking around.

Slipperiness at Sarclet
Thanks to the still dry forecast, the day dawned drizzly on the campsite. Back to the ever-useful library and the promise of a dry afternoon to be worth a morning caffeinating (Morag's Cafe being surprisingly good in this regard), perusing the vast array of tractor magazines (10 different ones in total, I was struggling to decided between Vintage Tractor, Old Tractor, and Classic Tractors) and general faffing (like I need any practise). Heading out to finish the job at Sarclet once more, the brightening day and freshning breeze promised the elusive sending conditions. However my befuddlement about onshore and offshore breezes and sea-cliff conditions was at the fore again. After following the mighty Pimpernel and doing a brief warm up, my chosen inspiration, despite looking reassuringly welcoming from a pert wee belay ledge, was greasier than a whore's fuckflaps. Thus escape was made, and there was little more to be done.

A rather good trip but a couple of Sarclet classics still remaine...so close....yet not close enough...

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