Who forgets their rock shoes? I mean they’re a fairly essential bit of rock climbing equipment. In fact you could argue that after your fingers they are at number one on the list.
Well I forgot mine the other day. I did the whole harness on, rack up and at the last minute realised that my shoes were missing. I frantically searched my bag for them swearing at myself as I did. My swearing didn’t help; they weren’t there. Now I wasn’t at Tramadog where if you leave your shoes in the van your mate could throw them from the car park to the base of the crag. I was at Carnmor Crag.
Carnmor Crag is twenty Kilometers from the road. It sits above the Fisherfield lochs, inland from the village of Poolewe in the North West of Scotland. It’s vertical walls face south looking into the vast wilderness. We had mountain-biked the 20 km inland that morning, well 16 km for Dad and I until we both got punctures going over the same drain. Callum who is considerable better at biking seemed to avoid it. None of us had a repair kit, so Dad and I ditched the bikes and ran beside Callum for the last 4 km, trying not to think about how long the return journey would feel.
Of all the days to forget my rock shoes this was a bad one. The day I had planned in my head was quickly catching fire and going up in smoke. I had heard about Carnmor for years… the big classic of Dragon, Gob, Wilderness and The Orange Bow, particularly The Orange Bow an E5,6a, that takes the soaring arête to the right of Carnmor corner. Above all else this route was the real reason I had come and now I was here on a sunny day with no midges and I had forgotten my shoes.Finally accepting my mistake we decided to do Gob as planned. Dad would leave after it as he needed to be back early anyway; he could leave his big banana shoes with me.
I had accepted that I would probably spend the day seconding Callum, with even worse foot work than usual. After a pleasant ascent of Gob in my trainers, Dad left and I tried his shoes on to discover that if I wore socks they weren’t outrageously big. By the time we got to the base of the crag I had rightly or wrongly decided to just give The Orange Bow a go. Callum very kindly let me go first and after a nervous start and lots of flapping up and down I got through the crux and up to the rest on the arête. Standing on the arête, knowing you’re past the hardest section, breath taking views all round was, for me, an extremely satisfying feeling. I stood there for a good amount of time enjoying every second. Callum led the route after making it look a lot easier than I had done.
It was now after 6pm. Being young, keen and foolish we decided to do Wilderness, a three pitch E4. All was well until the point that Callum was leading on the crux second pitch when a sound of movement below us made us whip our heads round to see Callum’s bag rolling off down the hill. As it began to pick up speed, tumbling over and over, heading towards the 80m cliff of the lower tier, we shouted at it to stop as if it was a bad dog. It didn’t stop! It disappeared over the edge and left a deep silence over the crag. Callum expelled a few choice words at this point but did a very good job leading the rest of the pitch. I secretly thought ‘well better his than mine’ but this day was fast turning into an epic - it was now after 8pm, we still had a pitch to climb, a rucksack and all its contents to find and a 20 km cycle out.
Amazingly we found the bag and all the contents minus a walking pole and a cracked phone screen. It was 9:45pm by the time we left the cliff, Callum cycling and me running with full climbing bags along the narrow trail west into the last rays of sun. At this point I was enjoying myself, despite dreading this slog all day. Then after about 3km I remembered about my bike. The trail was less than a foot wide and pushing a bike along this was not going to be fun! In fact it was going to be miserable… the sound of the flat tyre continually drilling into my head and the pedal hitting my shin every two steps. I spent the next kilometre trying to get my head in a good place for the next slow arduous 16km.
Just before we arrived at my bike I stopped for drink at a burn. Callum caught up and got off his new bike that he had been so carefully looking after. He crossed the burn and threw his new bike to the ground with a very tired look on his face. It took all my energy not to laugh but I thought I better not as very shortly I was likely to be the one throwing my bike around.
I trudged up the hill, out of the burn and along to where I had left my bike. It wasn’t quite where I had left it. In the gloom from three meters away the tyre looked inflated and normal. “Don’t even wish that, don’t get your hopes up” I said to myself as I stepped forward and kicked the tyre. My foot bounced of it. “Callum! It’s fixed! It’s fixed! You dancer!”
Wondering if I was hallucinating, I picked it up sat on it and with a feeling to match standing on the arête of The Orange Bow, I began to roll gloriously downhill into the dusk and towards Poolewe.
On the way into Carnmor
The Barn at Carnmor
Carnmor Crag The Orange Bow takes the arete high in the center of the photo.
Callum at the beginning of the heather basing to avoid the lower tier.
Dad seconding Gob
Dad seconding the last pitch of Gob
Me on The Orange Bow
The last rays of sun bouncing off the loch.
*** Dad had met to very nice mountain bikers, who had a repair kit and helped dad repair both the bikes.
A massive thank you to Brain Fraser & Ryan Manson.
The 3 weeks following that day have been amazing mainly due to the fact the weather has been brilliant so here are some of my highlights in pictures.
New Testament E4,6a on Slime Wall in Glen Coe.
Dougie following yet another full value (dave cuthbertson) E4 pitch.
Dougie leading yet another full value (dave cuthbertson) E4 pitch.
Dad on the crux pitch of The Bat E2,5b amazing but more like E3,6a.
Lea on Westering Home HVS,5a at Reiff.
Iain on Stairway To Heaven E5,6a
Iain on Spock E3,5c
Morning in Skye, sunny again and no midges = perfect.
Iain on Temerity E4,6a only gets 2 ** in the guide but well worth doing!
Adam on Northern Exposure E5,6b one of the best routes at the grade anywhere. 100m of perfect E5 climbing.
Nick on The Complete Scream.
Mike on Equinox E2,5b
Dougie taking air on Halloween Arete.
Team Scotland having a rest afternoon, we all did one route and decided it was to hot to climb.