Top tip for new dads struggling to get out climbing: bundle your wife and kid off to Kenya (n.b. it might help if your wife is Kenyan and has family there). Well it worked for PJ so we could get a fairly sustained period of climbing in, including Little O Wall (good new Aberdeen trad venue - no spurious jumping for the bolt gun up here), Brin Rock sport crag (I've now completed the triptych of the finest mid-grade challenges at Brin: Gold Digger on the trad, Brin Done Before on the blocs, and The One And Only on the bolts. TOAO required me to do a full on lunge for a good hold from a slopey pinch with the bolt quite beneath my feet, a somewhat miraculous feat for me), Long Slough to get full appreciation of the coast being too greasy to climb, and The Mound to ensure we just missed the last ferry to Orkney.
Thankfully an early ferry the next day got us to the mist-blanketed archipelago and started a mini-adventure that sated one of my minor desires for this year, exploring Orkney. The first day in the grey gloom at Yesnaby was an eerie and bleak experience, and battling tides and imminent sea-smeg slightly subdued the otherwise fine and convenient climbing. A lie-in during the next rainy morning started a planned rest day to recover syke before two glorious and rewarding days. A return visit to Yesnaby started omniously with Phil battling the hardest sandbag I've ever seen while I planked and squirmed on the hanging belay to only just avoid the incoming swell. Even on second I needed a lie down afterwards. But the day got better and better through realistically graded routes, steep cracks and grooves, mellow evening sun on dry rock and a lovely delicate arete to finish in the sunset.
Since we were there and had another dry day and needed a rest from proper climbing (technical single pitches) at Yesnaby, it seemed fair enough to do the Old Man Of Hoy. But not, of course, by the tedious polished trade route of The Original Route, strictly the preserve of tourists, munro-baggers and other such riff-raff. Instead we stepped out onto the South Face for a jolly jaunt which involved "rock" that evolved from very sandy to fragile plates and bulges to hanging death blocks, obscure route-finding up indeterminate shelves and hanging chimneys, the obligatory fulmars to weave around, and a nice grass slab too. I can't recall there being ANY good climbing on the route, but it was a good adventure. We got away scott-free with only the tiniest of fulmar droplets on my adidas trackies, but then again a massive graze inside my armpit from catching myself when a foothold broke. The much-publicised abseils back down went very smoothly and quickly, the walk out up to the mainland was utterly murderous on my legs, and the stomp back over just got us to the last ferry to Orkney and the relaxed and comfy charms of Brown's Hostel.
Yeah well, go fuck YOUR face.
And the next day we did the Old Man Of Moy on the way back to Aberdeen.