There was more success for me on Thursday at the Lochailort Slab, which has possibly become my favourite place to climb. I was there with Conor, Mark and Kev all keen for some action whether that be climbing or shooting some film.
Lochailort Slab is a small but sheer piece of rock, constructed of very rough gneiss set in a spectacular surroundings just off the road to Mallaig. Most of the routes here were recorded early into the turn of the century by Donald King and Mike Pescod, but as it has yet to be included in a guide book its seen very few visitors over the last ten years. I’ve climbed most of the established routes here and added a small selection myself: last year I put up Stand Fast (E3,6a) and now The Young Pretender (E4,6a/6b) and Jacobite Rising (HVS,5a).
The Young Pretender is a girdle traverse of the crag and produced some amazing climbing, easily two stars if not more. I had a brief play on it last year but suffered with numb hands which prevented progress. On Thursday I linked it first time on top rope so went once more to see what gear it would take. I refrained from working the route or tagging any key holds through the crux as I wanted to keep an element of surprise (fear) for the lead. As it happened I stalled at the crux and hung onto tiny crimps for what felt like an hour to get my head together. A few quiet words later and one last look at the two micro wires that would supposedly take my fall I was off and through the crux, but it wasn’t over yet. With a skyhook placed on the line of Frustration, I felt a long way from safety until pulling into the rest at Buried Treasure. This was the point to change to feet in crack, past Skyfall and Milky Way on good holds to finish up the wide flake on (what felt like) jugs – another top route in the bag.
45m. The Young Pretender (E4,6a/6b) **
A girdle traverse from left to right. Start beneath a wide broken crack blocked by two protruding rocks. Climb easily through these and rightwards towards the thin horizontal crack that runs the entire length of the crag. Traverse athletically with hands in crack using sharp crimps, quartz crystals and just enough protection until Skyfall, then feet in crack thereafter. Finish up the wide flake and slab to the left.
On the left wall of the main crag there is scope for further development. Mark had his eye on a line and started to work it throughout the day. Just down from this I spotted another potential route which produced a nice HVS, 5a which I climbed onsight and was then followed clean by Mark. This was a nice little addition to a crag that holds mainly mid to high ‘E’ numbered routes.
15m. Jacobite Rising (HVS, 5a)
On the left wall of the main crag two meters up from the right hand edge is a clean rough slab. Climb this direct on very sharp edges to a ledge at mid height. Climb boldly to the top on large holds.
Kev was working Skyfall again but didn’t feel the ‘need’ to lead it today, maybe a route that just doesn’t justify the risk for him. Mark made good progress on a project of his own that looks like its going to be a nice line and Conor from Type Two Films did plenty of filming to catch all the action on camera – I look forward to seeing the footage!