Sunday, 28 April 2013

Challenge #2 - Smith's Arete.

I'm dispensing with the alliteration for now, which is probably a relief. I've got a few more challenging inspirations for Scottish climbing this spring/summer and I guess I've already started with them. Cleopatra's Asp at Reiff would count as #1. 4 weeks later my minced hands have just about recovered, just a few small scabs left.

So Smith's Arete at Ballater is #2. The most distinguished line of the crag on the cleanest, if smallest, buttress. I'd already muffed the grim and sketchy Peel's Wall so this was the last thing I really wanted to do at Ballater - now I have and I don't have to go back again ;). I've learnt to be wary of the conditions on the shiny, slopey granite, so made good use of yesterday's fresh and cool weather on a 5 hour round trip to Ballater. Warmed up on Blutered and Larup Head, both good. Ate an obligatory egg sandwich, rested, faffed around a lot and did Smith's.

It was a bit different to I expected - rather than being quite sketchy and serious above the skyhook, it was surprisingly brutal and reachy getting to the hook, then surprisingly reasonable past that.  Due to the style of the route I bouldered out the start, partly to re-warm-up, partly to get that part on auto-pilot so I could focus on the scary bit past the hook, partly to get the hook in place and tensioned off well, and partly because it was pretty damn hard! At the time I found this style a bit dissatisfying (and it did feel an adjectival grade easier), as well as uncomfortable landing like a sack of spuds on my "bouldering hoodie", but in retrospect I think it is okay for this sort of route - especially getting the crucial hook tensioned down. Without a gri-gri to hand, hanging around while the belayer tries to tension a clove-hitch on his own while belaying at the same time would be unpleasant. Anyway with the faff out of the way it was very enjoyable - cool, switchy arete moves past the hook, bomber gear at the break, and the delicate finish as a bonus.

Now the weather is showery bollox again, and although I'd be up for the mighty R for some falling practice, in the absence of any offers I'll probably just go the gym and rest my tweaky A2s. I still feel fairly confident about more quick hit challenges though.

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