Wednesday 5 December 2012

Hung Drawn and Quartered!

Suddenly it was looking rather promising for the weekend ahead. The hallowed hills of north west Scotland were teasing, tantalising and, now, flaunting as first-hand accounts filtered through.  I haven't yet secured a partner. It's the SMC dinner and other "regulars" are already committed or out of action.

I'd met Ross a week earlier at Newtyle and, having exchanged numbers, it was with relief that his tentative response became certain. I had now secured a partner. Typically another offer came through shortly after which I had to decline. Sorry Roger, I'm sure you would have done the same!

Plan A was quickly shelved on learning of rain at 600m near Applecross. And, then, a text from Pete Macpherson suggested "Hung Drawn and Quartered". Rather than striking the fear of god into me I was inspired. Before now I had not had the opportunity to climb on Skye (summer or winter) and I vividly recalled Pete's photographs and tales from the second ascent of this fiercely overhanging crack-line, with Ian Parnell, in 2010. "The best Grade 8!" Pete enthused.  He would be prospecting a new route on Am Basteir with Martin Moran and we could join the party. Incidentally (or should that be coincidentally) it was Martin who grabbed the first ascent of this plum line in 2008, so we would be in perfect company.

Basteir Tooth (Photo - Pete Macpherson)
The walk in was a joy, if a bit icy underfoot, as the crisp dawn revealed the most stunning alpenglow over the Cuillin Ridge. The true extent of this spectacle was largely lost on me at the time as Ross and I geared-up close to King's Chimney, but Pete Macpherson's excellent photographs captured the moment. We couldn't have chosen a better day for my first route on Skye!

But was I fit enough, strong enough, brave enough?

Rather than give a blow by blow account of the route itself I will simply say that it was st-e-e-p, hard, intimidating and utterly brilliant. My arms surrendered in the final few feet of the third pitch, resulting in an impromptu belay and Ross leading through to complete the pitch in style. With the hardest climbing now behind us, I led the way to the top.

The line is kind of obvious! (Photo Pete Macpherson)
Many will sit in their comfy chairs in front of their PC and say that my ascent was flawed (Ross's most certainly wasn't) and, yes, I cannot claim a clean ascent. Failure? No, I won't accept that. At least I had the balls to try. I gave it absolutely everything and in the process I had an amazing day. True failure would have been not trying at all.

Did I say it was steep? (Photo - Pete Macpherson)
Nearing the end of Pitch 1 (Photo - Pete Macpherson)

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