Monday, 21 March 2016
First ascent of Ice Burn E8 6c, on the Ice Wall, Kintra, Isle of Mull. Photo Chris Prescott
I was all geared up for some winter projects when the Scottish weather, as always, changed the plan. I’m certainly not complaining. The weather turned amazing for all things rock climbing. Bouldering, sport, trad - all in top condition, no rain, no midge. I tried to keep calm and not go headless chicken.
Within an evening I'd settled on a plan of heading to Mull to look at a granite crack project Michael Tweedley had told me about for years. The whole coastline at Kintra has many unexplored trad and bouldering possibilities. I jumped in the car with Claire, Freida and Michael and was later joined by Chris Prescott, Natalie Berry and some more family for a right old gathering on the coast.
I started trying the crack which was amazing. I’m not really a crack person, so it felt like 8a+ to me and would definitely be a good sustained fight. None of the individual moves were that hard but I could just tell the last few metres would be exciting after very sustained climbing and placing all those cams.
Although I had several days in hand, I was anxious as always to get my chance to try it. The perfect week of weather had unfortunately proved not quite perfect - under the thin layer of inversion cloud, some drizzle was forecast. And one stubbornly seeping hold in the crack looked like it could scupper the whole thing unless it got sun and wind on it.
On the first day Chris and Nat joined us, the hold was too wet and we explored the bouldering instead. Both Natalie and I flashed Greg Chapman’s Roughcut Reality 7C+, feeling it was a bit easier than the given grade. Next door I started looking at the project sit start Greg had mentioned on a big prow. It looked a perfect line, but surely at least 8a+. But once the beta was unlocked I got it in about 15 minutes or so. High Heidyin, 7C. A bit too good a line to be considered a salvage of the day!
First ascent of High Heidyin 7C, Kintra, Isle of Mull. Photo Chris Prescott
The next day I scrutinised the wind forecast. A burst of strong northerlies was due to reach it’s peak at 6pm. So I waited until 4 and walked out. A bit of frantic hold drying and I realised it was a great opportunity to do the project.
So I tied right in and got started. It was freezing and the granite was definitely grippy. I told myself two things before starting - the cams will inevitably take that couple of seconds longer than you’d like to place and clip them, and that no matter how well it goes, I’ll need to be ready for a fight at the last five metres. I think it was good advice.
I did indeed arrive at the last few metres a bit more pumped than I would like from the extra effort of arranging the cams. At the last cam, my right arm was burning. But I actually felt like I had enough strength to deal with it and was able to step up a gear and bear down on the final crimps. With a shout I leapt for the top of the crag and there was no way I was letting go.
First trad route of the year, and a belter it was too. Ice Burn, E8 6c. Tomorrow I have one more day to look at another hard sounding trad project before it’s back to bouldering mode. I have three Scottish bouldering projects I want to try in the next two weeks. One 8A+ and two 8Bs, and then it will be time for me to drive to CH.
First ascent of Grasas Saturadas E6 6b on The Barriga de Cerveza, Isle of Mull last night. Photo: Chris Prescott I almost fell off because my fingers were freezing. Thanks to Michael for pointing me at this great route.