Dave, Ellis and I headed upto Dunkeld on Sunday for another day of interesting climbing and banter, with the promise of Neil and Phil making an appearance sometime later in the day.
First thing first, get Dave on to Hard Severe ground, this time in the form of Beech Wall. He moved up through the first section with no real problems, then got to the crux, a 2.5m high 90 degree corner with a perfect example of a vertical layback crack up its centre line (think El cap in miniature...). The problem being is that someone has wedged a small cam in the only (obvious) handhold, causing the move to feel off balance slightly risky. Add to this, the damp nature of the climb, hidden so effectively from the sun and wind by it's namesake tree, and the crux move is a bit of a mental struggle, relying on trust in your feet, and the presence of good holds at the top of the move.
Dave worked through the problem, and disappeared from sight, moving up and left to the large flake belay at the end of pitch one of Kestrel crack. From here, he progressed up (now in the sunshine!) on to thin ground, with small but useful holds moving through the grassy bay and up to the final 5m of the climb (or so we thought...).
All the while, he was out of sight, and ear shot, so he was relying on the quick view of the guidebook he got down at the belay. Ellis and i began to wonder what was happening, so i moved out to see if i could see him, but his comical big red helmet was nowhere to be seen. After a few more minutes, i decided to make my way to the top to see if things were ok. After a slimy squirm up the descent gully, i made my way up to the belay ledge, only to see no Dave, but his ropes continuing up the hillside for another 10m or so, where i spotted Dave in a comfy little alcove, ready to belay. In his enthusiasm, he had overshot the belay, but made an extension to a nice route, and got a safe belay, so he brought Ellis up. Oh how we all laughed.
Now it was Ellis's turn, with his eyes turning to Carpetbeater, an HVS 5a at the east end of the crag. Once the gear was sorted and we had some grub, Ellis set off, working has way through the grotty start, then onto the airy traverse section, placing gear at regular gaps to ensure the safety of the 2nd (me AND dave this time). Once through the traverse, he worked up to the crux, felt around for the best foot and hand holds, then moved up and placed a stonking size 3.5 cam just a the lip of the crux move. FEW!!! it really is a confidence boost to have that there.
Moving up to check out the holds, and secure the sequence in his head Ellis was concentrating hard, and i grabbed his camera to get a few pics of him pushing through the crux section, with some of them coming out well. A final dusting of the fingers, and Ellis attacked the crux, moving through it with confidence before settling on the slab above the crux. Despite facing away from us, Dave i both knew Ellis would be grinning like the proverbial cheshire cat (and rightly so). From there, the climb degenerates into a vegetated scramble, before reaching a stonking tree belay.
Before we knew it, it was our turn to climb, with Dave going up first, finding the traverse interesting, but with little to trouble him at the crux. Then it was me. I knew the sequence (having done it before), so the traverse posed no real problem apart from retrieving the gear. One climb up to examine the holds and the sequence, then i was up over the crux and scrambling through the brambles to the top.
After some more food and a move along the crag, i felt i needed to crack another 3 star classic, this time 'The Groove', a VS 5a. It looks intimidating, but is a well balanced and interesting climb. Once at the first overhang, it's a bit of a challenging and intimidating move up and over to the in situ peg, before heading up the crackline to a patch of grass. From here i progressed left on small hand holds, but reasuring foot holds for 5m, all the while with out any serious means of protecting a fall.
From a position of comfort, i was forced upwards and even further from protection to the next decent nut placement. Few... moving up and right, the move seems off balance, and with a questionable right hand crimp, i forced my feet to stick to the rock, allowing me to reach out right for a lovely but distant flake. Few, again...
From this point, the climb changes completely, relying on discrete but secure flake pockets, presenting comfortable and highly enjoyable climbing right to the top, before a long stretch to the final hold, a dreaded sloper, fortunately accompanied by a nice ledge to the side. WOW, what an interesting climb!
Once the belay was up and running, Ellis zoomed up it, having lead it clean onsight a few months ago. I tied him off on the edge of the cliff so he could get some pics with his papparazzi-esque telephoto lense. Dave started up the climb, moving up through the first overhang, with Ellis ready to catch the moment he appeared, only to witness his camera die the death of a low battery. Dam it!!! Poor Dave would have no photos of him on the best route of the crag. I felt a bit guilty as i had taken loads of photos of Ellis on Carpetbeater, hence the wasted battery....
No matter, Dave made his way up and was at the top in no time, only to be greeted by two crazed and smiling wooly jumper wearing trad monsters. Poor guy, he has to deal with me and Ellis's obsession with 'real' climbing, but it's all in the best possible of taste :o)
We caught up with Neil and his mate Dave, and found out Neil had bagged an HVS called Poison Ivy. He really is a dark horse!
Off to the pub for a drink, where we were enjoying a pint of our summer tipple (Five pints of tuborg Barkeep!), before the quiet was ruined by a loud crash. It was only a bloody road accident, 15yds from our table!!! A young lad had jumped out into the road on his bike in front of a touring van. Thankfully the driver had sharp reflexes, and slammed on the breaks, only hitting the rear end of the bike, but with enough force to throw the boy onto the bonnet then to the ground.
Despite this, he got straight up and was ok, just a few grazes. We went back to our beers and hoped he realised how lucky he was!
Neil and Dave (his mate) left to go home, and me and Ellis and Dave P got a chippy and sat spinning the shit on the banks of the silvery tay for half an hour before going home. All in all, a really great day, one that i will remember for a while.