The weekend following my deck-out Liam, Rachel and I headed to the Cairngorms. After too little sleep in Glasgow we drove up to Aviemore and met up with Mike. 2.5 hours of trekking later we ditched the 25kg sacks and sorted gear. The crag looked amazing, like a mini El Cap, with a long nose feature and quality granite.
Rachel and I headed up to do The Needle, classic 9 pitch E1. I was probably ill, I put it down to not enough sleep. I couldn’t focus the rock and my brain was scrambled. Bumbled up the first pitch, almost fell asleep while belaying. Second pitch was the crux, super long, technical and bold Rachel did a good job leading it, I would’ve cried. Took a long time to climb, felt super rough by the end. Contemplated bailing out, settled for Rachel leading the rest of the way (7 pitches)
2 pitches later I was nestled in a corner under a large roof, Rachel was working her way up the fourth pitch. A group of birds looked really strange, they started making strange noises, dub dub dub like an old car engine warming up. They came flying passed super fast, we realised they were actually falling rocks which exploded when they hit the slabs at the bottom. The same place we would have been if we had decided to abb off. A little shaken we carried on.
Bumped into Rachels Glasgow acquaintances on the intersection with The Steeple. I was coaxed into leading the ‘crack for thin fingers pitch’, residual fear and fuzzy eyesight made it feel quite challenging for 5a. The final challenge of the route was the Needle Crack, a 5a chimney, I was glad it fell on Rachel lead. She reached the belay much earlier than I expected. She’d ran out of gear, got scared of the chimney, crawled into the back of it, stood on a chockstone and belayed there….. I arrived and Rachel asked “please don’t make me lead the rest of it.” With a pounding head ache I led through, only a couple more chimney moves before a nice hand crack in the right wall.
On reflection it was an excellent climb with brilliant exposure in a wild place. The walk down took us passed an awesome burn, with water crashing over granite slabs and down a steep V groove.
We got down set up the tent, cooked up some instant pasta and crashed out.
Next morning Liam and Mike set off to do Haystack the big E3. Rachel and I planned for a more relaxing day after Saturdays draining experience. Slowly packed the tent and walked over to Corrie An’t Schnechda. Magic Crack looked incredible so we headed straight for it. As a classic winter line, many of the holds are obviously marked by crampon scratches, unsightly but pretty cool that people can climb this with axes and crampons under a coating of snow and ice! The first two pitches were nice, although the run out rambling made me nervous. The main event is the third and final pitch; an awesome finger crack that would fit in well in Squamish. The most nervous I’ve been on a HVS in a while, but the gear was good and the crux never really appeared. The quality of climbing was excellent and after 35m of finger locking I topped out happy. An abseil descent saved our tired legs. A large snowfield at the base of the route gave a cool alpine feel and a fun jump across the ‘bergschrund’ to finish the abseil.
Spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing in the amazing alpine setting of the cairngorms
I was happy that my fall hadn’t dampened my pyche too much, sadly my climbing confidence had been knocked and even on the first easy pitch I felt nervous and panicky. Even on good footholds my mind imagined the rubber of my shoes creeping slowly off the hold. I realised how much confidence plays a part in climbing ability, I still had the physical and technical abilities I had while climbing well at Cloggy but now everything felt harder and more tiring.