Monday, 15 July 2013

Slabs and Paths.

Glen Nevis, the true home of Scottish slab climbing. North West slabs are too easy and too scattered, Creag Ghlas is too singular and too far to walk, the Cairngorms are pretty much Alpine to get to, and as for the Etive Slabs, that's not proper slab climbing or proper climbing at all, any more than a cat skating up and down a tiled roof would be. Proper slab climbing involves crimps and rockovers as well as smears. So, Glen Nevis then - coarse, flakey, textured schist, from roadside to 30mins walk, in a sunny and beautiful glen (albeit with Cafe Beag serving the worst coffee I've encountered in a decade - AVOID). The path of Glen Nevis slab righteousness (not all pure slabs but with signficant slabby or off-vertical climbing) could look like this:

Rubberface - easy and pleasant

Twitch - (not done)

Bewsey Crack - tricky and varied.

Liquidator - [attempted - crack is unclimbably filthy]

Fang - (not done yet)

Plague Of Blazes - classic bold slab, does exactly what it promises

Slatehead Slab -  (not done)

Quadrode - (not done yet)  

Cathode Smiles - (not done yet)  

Double Or Quits Direct - eliminate but nice rock

Reptile - good and varied on funky rock

Earthstrip - classic line, tricky in places

Diode - brilliant route, perfect thin crack/slab, underrated

Kaos - quite tricky and good value

Travelling Man - awkward and unnerving but good

Ground Zero - serious and bold, good rock and good line

Land Ahoy - mostly protectionless but somehow quite brilliant

Vincent (?) -  (not done yet, might not be slabby enough?)

Crackattack - tricky but good the easier way, perhaps a bit steep

Edgehog - polished chalky trade route, but a classic

Mutant - [had a brief look while on Reptile, line is quite obscure]

Savage Cabbage - (not done yet)

Risque Grapefruit - (not done yet)  

Walter Wall - great route with a lovely runout and good climbing

Sweet Little Mystery - [had a play on this, far too dangerous a solo]

Aquarian Rebels - [had a look at this, a bit dirty and looks desperate]

Freddie Across The Mersey - (not done yet)

On Some Beach - (not done yet) 

Triode - (not done yet)  

(I've left out some of the right-hand routes on Wave Buttress because although they look great, I'm pretty sure they will be unclimbably filthy too.)

In the context of this list of justice, my progression throughout has been....okay so far. But it's the last few on the list, especially the last two, that particularly fascinate me. Steep bold slab climbing with BIG but potentially safe run-outs above decent gear. The sort of inspiration that got me to do Poetry Pink after 10 years of desire, and will hopefully get me to do a couple of those routes after a mere 3 years of similar desire. Of course for something "beyond" my limits, I need to get everything right - motivation, confidence, tactics, and especially weather - the sunniest crags in Scotland in the wettest, midgiest area in Scotland beneath the biggest fucking mountain in Scotland makes good conditions surprisingly elusive for somewhere so accessible.

This last Sunday the ridiculous heat had finally fucked off and the breeze had kicked off (it was much cooler at Sunday lunchtime than it was late Friday night). I'd taken it steady on the Wave walk-in by stopping off in the Gorge, warmed up on the rather scary Ground Zero (E3 5b??) and was feeling ready to give On Some Beach a go.... But....


I definitely had the right trousers (cheap Adidas from Sport's Direct, well insulated from the breeze and with the orange stripes nicely matching my orange vest), but the wrong shoes. I'd overestimated how smeary Wave was (not very) and underestimated how edgy it was (quite a bit on the coarse grains and nobbles), and had brought my well-worn soft shoes, good for sensitivity and smearing, but less good for support and toe-power. Even on GZ I felt I wasn't able to dig in hard enough on the nubbins, and I just didn't trust myself to try OSB with that odd stacked against me. Two trips to Wave I've been syked but it's got too hot, one trip I've been syked but wrong shoes....another stroll down through the Gorge path without the experience of that mega-challenge.

Talking of paths...

Another lesson learnt this weekend was to be wary of straying off the beaten path. Even in the super-accessible and well-renowned Glen, it seems anything less than the Scottish Rock (SMC, not Gary's!) trade routes can be scarcely climbable. The day before we went to Creag Am Fithich to take advantage of a brief afternoon and low-ish river wade. Well the river wade was the highlight of the day, as Caterpillar had a fairly filthy finish, and Steerpike had a too-dangerous-to-abseil hollow tree after the actual climbing, and a quite unbelievable grovel up vertical moss. Then en-route back from Wave, Aquarian Rebels had a thin veneer of lichen that made it look even more impossible than it's initial "flared fingertip seam in an utterly blank slab" appearances, and I had to aid the easy escape route of Liquidator as it's crack was utterly full of moss - a pity as the starting moves above the river and the situation are both very fun, and the finish is easy to return to dry land. Opposite on the Gorge Wall, Chimera and Easy Pickings look just as good lines as when I had a brief play on the former 3 years ago, and even dirtier and mossier.

Have any of these routes had ascents this decade?

Was it really a good idea for Gary to directly copy descriptions out of Highland Outcrops without checking if these routes are climbable?

Why on earth is Edgehog so bleached with chalk and wear you can see it from the carpark, but more accessible routes are just walked past?

Is it because of Extreme-bloody-rock?? All Ken's fault?

Or is it because trad climbing is dying in Scotland whilst dogging up Dunkeld and days out at Angus shit-holes are flourishing?? In which case maybe we need Ken more than ever?

Is there any point me straying off the beaten path in the Glen again?

No probably not...

Going to take both pairs of shoes next time though...

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