Rachel phoned on Thursday and told me to take Monday off work or she wouldn’t see me on my birthday weekend. I got mad at this command. I asked my boss he said yes.
Liam picked me up on Friday and we drove to Glasgow, the car sounded like there were stones in the engine. My eardrums got damaged. We slept on the floor in the kitchen of Rachel’s new flat. We started driving at 6am, got the ferry at lunch time from Scrabster (lovely name) to Stromness (on Orkney) we left the car on the mainland. The boat sailed passed the Old Man of Hoy. It looked scary. We went to the pub then got the last ferry from Orkney to Hoy and caught a Taxi across the Island to Rackwick. The Taxi man was nice he had a Whiskey Nose.
We camped at a very cool Bothy next to the beach, we ate some food and walked around a bit. There were some local’ish lads having a wee get together, they were nice, their accent sounded more Welsh than Scottish. Some other climbers arrived, we had met one of them at Gimmer, Rachel had taken pics of him and put them on UKC, he’s called Fraser. We went to bed early.
Got up early and opted to only take one bag in case it rained (?!). Liam ended up carrying most of the stuff. The stack appeared suddenly when we rounded a corner, with its head in the cloud it looked amazing – and massive! Liam started running.
Rachel set up the tripod and camera, on the mainland, to take a timelapse of us climbing. Liam went the wrong way on the descent, I found the path.
I was nervous and pessimistic, apparently I had the crux pitch because it was my birthday (?). Rachel led the first easy pitch. All too soon it was much turn. Glad I brought the hexes. Lots of exposure. Slung some in-situ wooden chocks – sketchy. I got to the crux section and shouted watch me, from around the corner I got the reply “Off Belay!” I freaked out, crawled back in the chimney, screamed, shouted and wailed that I was still f*cking climbing! It took me ages but I got to the top. Only the birdy stuff left to go.
Rachel led through. Ledge shuffling past fulmars; meaning foul gul in old Norse, they eject vile fishy stomach oil at potential threats. She got vommed on a lot. Standing there screaming, some got in her mouth. She moved quicker after the first bombardment. Their stomachs were empty as Liam and I hesitantly came passed.
Liam split his Final pitch in two. Too many old knackered belays made it a little confusing. The final corner was actually quite OK climbing. We topped out, cheered a little but I was still worried about the descent and my caution dampened the mood apparently. We signed the summit book and took a few photo’s before the first of two abseils. Liam did a great job leading the abbs, he hadn’t brought a prusik but luckily found one on the way up. The final abb was super long and required us to clip into a directional fixed rope to make it back to the bags. Rachel didn’t clip in and almost ended up in a tricky situation. I got vomit on my leg on the final abseil, gutting.
We walked back happy and with plenty of time to catch the last ferry. Yay. Non of us had much of an appetite though, the lingering smell of fish oil was a bit off putting.
Back on Orkney we had a lovely pub dinner in Stromness, celebrated the climb and my birthday. We set an alarm for 5am, having to pack the tent and walk the 20 mins to the ferry terminal by 5:40am. Liam woke at 5:20. The alarm hadn’t gone off. We speed packed, somehow working as a silent and perfectly co-ordinated team the bags were packed and we were running by 5:27. I felt like an old struggling steam train attempting to run with 25kgs. I laughed at my reflection in the shop windows, lungs were working at max capacity.
Sat on the ferry with lungs burning, tried to go back to sleep. At least we didn’t have to pay for the campsite. The car was loud and the journey was long. Rachel got dropped off at 7pm ish and I got back to York about 11pm. A whole lot of travelling for one chossy route and a huge bag of adventure. The weather was awesome, the scenery magnificent and adventure was one I will never forget!