Wednesday 4 October 2017


On the headwall of Testify 8b, Loch Maree Supercrag last weekend. Yesterday, on the first ascent, these lovely rough Gneiss crimps were a wee bit wet in the pouring rain, but they are incut enough I could get past them. Photo: Chris Prescott/Dark Sky Media

In May I got a chance to visit the brilliant new sport crag at Loch Maree - beautiful setting, excellent crag, mostly waterproof routes. Thanks to the NW usual suspects for putting a huge amount of effort into developing it (or anyone who opens new sport crags anywhere!). On my spring visits I ticked the 8as already established and completed an 8a+ extension which was 50m long (The Circus). I couldn’t help eyeing up the  unclimbed terrain to the right and figured there would be at least one great route to be done here.

Approaching 1/3 height on Testify 8b. It's massive! Photo: Dark Sky Media

As soon as my recovering shoulder was up to it, I packed my Hilti and my titanium glue-in bolts (to last many decades in the maritime environment) and drove north west. I bolted a line right of The Circus that splits in two at 25 metres (halfway). The right hand version looked around 8b with an easier but exhilaratingly exposed upper half. The harder version has a brilliant but desperate boulder problem at 45m.

Last week I got stuck into the easier version. The tech crux is actually low down and is a fingery cross-through move - pretty much the only move that still hurts my recovering AC joint. I knew it would take a couple of sessions to get used to moving dynamically on this move, and it did. But yesterday I got through it and the sustained section above. But with numb hands I slipped off near the end of the crux section and split my ring fingertip which bled everywhere and seemed to indicate the end of my session.

It was the first cold day of the autumn and I’m not up to speed with my cold weather tactics yet. Next try, I spent a few minutes moving large rocks around at the base to improve the sloping gully ledge at the foot of the route, but more importantly to get muscles up to temperature for the next blast. It worked a treat and I felt way stronger and found myself on the brilliant easier middle section of the route. I checked my finger, which was only bleeding a little and so was fine to go for the top. The previous week of heavy rain had some serious waterfall action fringing off the top of the crag and unfortunately was catching four of the crimps near the last bolt. But this section is not that hard so I was pretty determined to make it through. It was just too good not to! Of course I didn’t let go and was delighted to clip the anchor on my first new route since the shoulder injury.

I would say that this closes a chapter on the shoulder injury story for me, but not the book. I am obviously beyond the sufferfest stage of climbing withdrawal, but I have a bit to go to feel my right arm is really strong again. For that I have the harder line to focus my efforts. Given the encroaching cold weather, this is most likely a spring project for me, but I’ll give it some goes and this can direct some winter training for it. I think the boulder at the end is in the V10 range, and on some really tiny edges. It’s going to be hard to pull on these after so much climbing below. Exactly the sort of project to fire up a winter’s training.