Wake up, Rack up, Man up
As if I needed reminding, that's what I read on Justin's van, written on the plywood panel, whilst sipping my cup of tea. Wake up. Rack up. Man up. A sharp reminder of what climbing is all about. Apparently he adopted it from a rock graffiti in some dossing spot in the slate quarries, a proof of the 80's golden trad era in Llanberis. Justin has been in a similar journey into trad like myself, getting into it quite late in life, and going through similar vertical struggles. We both need to borrow some of that magic psyche from the 80's to get up good stuff where your life depends on bits of wedged metal. Last time I jiggled with a trad rack was roughly 8 months ago in the glorious Ozzie sandstone. Jack of trades, master of none, the story of my life. Sport, Trad, Ice, Mixed, Drytooling… each discipline keeping me away from each other, but supplying a very colourful climbing life. After a few months of sport climbing with mixed results, it was now time to dust off the double ropes and head down to Pembroke with our newly acquired cranking van. I tried to live up to the motto, but things felt hard, the machine was well and truly out of tune.
On our last day we were blessed by an impromptu sunset by about 11pm once the sun dipped below the clouds. We both had just battled our way up some fierce E4's and that was a magical way to finish our stay in Sheigra.
The original plan was to head up to Skye and then hop to Harris and Lewis, and then down to Oban, ferry to Barra and fishing boat to Pabbay. But the day before leaving I sent a cheeky email to connoisseur Steve Crowe, having seen him and Karin have done lots up there. He came up trumps and send him a very comprehensive list of top advice. As you imagine, we never made it to Harris and Lewis, or Skye, such was the good quality of the climbing in Sheigra and Reiff. These crags were Steve's recomendations, and trusting his knowledge that's what we did and filled our boots with 4 starred routes in remote and desolate crags.
After a few days of isolation in NW Scotland, we joined the rest of our group to head to Pabbay and Mingulay on Donald's fishing boat, the Boy James.
We then moved onto Pabbay and Mingulay. There was a bit of an explosion of visitors to the islands this year. The funny thing is that I knew lots of teams going there already way before the UKC article came out, so the secret was bound to be come out regardless. But to be honest, I don't see Scotland becoming the next Pembroke any time soon. The long boggy approaches, the scary 100mts free-hanging abseils, the bird infested cliffs, vomiting Fulmars and attacking Bonxies are not for everyone. But if adventure is your ticket, and you gotta go with it, Scotland in summer is one hell of an adventure.
Ed was great fun to hang out and kept the crag colourful. Here he's on The Raven E5. This was my first E5 on the islands as it was top of my list. I almost blew it going the wrong way past the roof refusing the offer of beta, I much rather fallen off. But perseverance (and endurance!) payed off at the end. Thanks to Adam for letting me have the softer of the two E5's.
The Alpkit Zhota at camp. There were certainly quite a lot of climbers on the islands, but I didn't really mind. It was fun to hang out at camp with the lot, generally getting psyched about climbing...
Read and check out plenty more images from the trip across on my blog.