FAO: Corporal P. King.
Warning: This document contains highly sensitive information and should be destroyed after reading. If there is a risk of a security compromise, it should be destroyed before reading.
Report of crag surveillance 13:30 - 15:30, 13/04/2006, by Agent Fiend.
Refer to attached images.
County: Dumfries and Galloway
Summer 2005 - I can't walk, let alone climb. A very slowly healing broken foot is not conducive to the best climbing summer ever. On a visit to Scotland, I resort to going for a leisurely drive around the area, a small pleasure due to the clear fast roads. I detour into Glen Trool and admire the scenery - I may not have a climber's foot but I have climbers' eyes, and spot some potential outcrops, albeit well out of hobbling range.
Spring 2006 - I can climb! Another visit to Scotland is sandwiched between inspirational trips to Pembroke and Northumberland. This time I stagger up to check out the buttresses - the tussocky terrain isn't easy even with two working feet, but neither is it that far. Most pieces of rock look insignificant, but one particular wall reveals itself from behind a small ridge, and is immediately the target. A small amount of seepage and moss can't obscure the rock quality, nor does it's diminutive size mask the sheerness.
So! It exists. There is something there and it must be climbed. Obviously I need a partner to do this with. But whom?? Secrecy is paramount, so it must be someone maverick and mysterious, someone with unusual social graces and a generally belligerent approach to the climbing community. There could be only one man: The Pylon King.
Hence the email above. Shortly followed by the email and picture below:
Lines as marked on the diagram, colour-coded for expected difficulty:
A - Rambly cracked area, V Diff?
Thus, it begins:
Spring 2007: Shoulder injuries, lack of motivations, increasingly deteriorating weather, etc etc. Regardless. The King is in The Lakes, juggling his usual oddball collection of climbing partners. Eventually a plan is made, I drive up a day early and get cleaning, a necessary act before our new-routing blitz. The walk-in is tolerable and the face is dry. Several hours scrubbing later, and it's in a pretty climbable condition. The base rock quality is good and solid, although it doesn't look to be giving much away - the holds look smaller and the cracks look thinner than my first impression. I mentally revise all the grades upwards by one step.
The King joins me, and we have a day relaxing before our attack begins. On the walk-in we are, unsurprisingly, surrounded by midges and flies. As soon as we arrive and use a little midge repellent they all disappear. The King switches on his portable radio... "And did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England's mountains green?". It is an auspicious and inspiring start! The weather looked glorious and the view magnificent. We started.
We climbed, we cleaned more, we tried things and failed and tried again. We abandoned some lines and made up others. The face might be small but it is good. Even The King - a hoary old hill walker at heart - has no complaints about the outcropesque climbing. If it was tagged onto the end of Burbage or Ramshaw, it would easily hold it's own - after all, Long Tall Sally gets 3 stars! Of particular interest was how the grades turned out (all estimates due to our abseil cleaning) - they had to be revised upwards AGAIN from my second estimates. The end results are shown in the list below.
At one point during the day I was belaying on top when I started to hear an incoming roaring sound. Nothing unusual, RAF jets regularly fly over the hills, and I find the spectacle rather entertaining. Except, I looked around and there was no jet. Suddenly, a greater spectacle appeared: slicing through the air with no less vigour than our human aviatory monsters, two Peregrines shot past, the roaring coming from their high speed acrobatics. I later read that they can reach speeds over 100mph. Faster than I drive to the crag, even. An essential part of the day out, crag wildlife. They were far too fast for photos, of course.
To finish, we stroll down and soothe various limbs in a nearby stream. As we reach the car the midges return in full effect, we've obviously timed it right. One last important item on the agenda, we reach a quiet local pub well after last food orders....but the friendly bar owner perhaps senses we've earnt our refreshment, has an enthusiastic word with the kitchen, and we round off the evening with suitably full bellies.
A final thought: We're just ordinary climbers, and we still managed to find several good new routes on solid rock with a reasonable walk-in. It didn't take epic descents into terminally adventurous sea-cliffs, nor massive walk-ins to obscure Highland hills, nor squeezing in random eliminates to esoteric quarries. What it did take was looking at the fringes of climbing areas, keeping an eye out for rock that lurks just beneath the radar that picks up the more obvious and evident. There IS that sort of rock out there, I've seen more in other places, and it's not that difficult to find - go explore.
1. Ball Ache E2 5b (estimated at: HVS)
2. Fiend's Folly E1 5b ** (estimated at: VS/HVS)
3. Stolen Dreams E3 5c *** (estimated at: E2)
P. Project E5 6b? ***? (estimated at: E2)
4. The Slither HVS 5b * (estimated at: HS-VS)
5. Pylon King Crack VS 4c ** (estimated at: Sev)
6. Seal Photo Liberation Front HVS 5b ** (estimated at: HS-VS)
7. Of The Capsule We Are, Lord HVS 5a * (estimated at: Severe)
Addendum 1: I submitted the crag details to Lake District and Galloway guru Stephen Reid, who sent an acknowledgement back with an admission that he'd seen the area but hadn't managed to get up there yet, and we'd pipped him to the post - an accolade indeed!
Addendum 2: The King and I have just returned from another May trip to Scotland, this time to the classic Torridon cragging arena. Even in that better known area, we managed to find an accessible new grit-style craglet, and climbed several short and sweet new routes on good Torridonian sandstone. Details to be posted soon. Did I mention something about exploring and keeping an eye out....?
About the Author:
Mr Smooth himself, pimping away at Caley...
Photo: Some climber
The ever mysterious and mad-cap Fiend has "been climbing for quite a few years and likes exploring different areas..."
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