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Crag Notes: Ninety-Five Minutes

© Dave Cuthbertson

Climber and author Julian Lines describes a sun-kissed solo ascent of Coire an t'Sneachda's Magic Crack...

IN THE DISTANCE, there they lie under the canopy of an oven baked sky; quite content like family pets sleeping in front of an open hearth. How their moods change from day to day, season to season, for these passive summery souls can turn dark and cold, barren and evil.

Coire an t'Sneachda  © Dave Cuthbertson
Coire an t'Sneachda
© Dave Cuthbertson

In search of space, ptarmigan and granite cheek, the roof of the country draws with invisible appeal. Far above the valley, the tree line recedes in tune to the tarred-turns and the rising contours. Rapid elevation exhilarates and the air smells so very pure at two thousand feet.

With boots stuffed in my chalk bag I run towards the mountain in haste. It appears ahead, slowly growing; sweat drizzles from my skin, both cooling and annoying. The colours intrigue and change; mosses of green, rust browns, white granite, pink granite, green lichens and black burbling echoes of hidden springs.

Halfway; stepping stones, I kneel to the stream towards my mecca, taking on water. Refreshed and with renewed speed I pass through a shimmering haze into the base of the coire, skimming over the boulders in a crude game of hopscotch.

Scott Muir on Pitch 2 of Magic Crack (Jo George belaying)   © Dave Cuthbertson
Scott Muir on Pitch 2 of Magic Crack (Jo George belaying)
© Dave Cuthbertson

Scott Muir on Direct continuation above the crack  © Dave Cuthbertson
Scott Muir on Direct continuation above the crack
© Dave Cuthbertson

With the route lying before me, I change shoes; the sun toasts the rock, my holds, my life. I grab on and up I go, riding my self-absorbed elevator into the sky. At 200ft, a perfect crack slices away with an epee kiss, smooth locks and positive edge congeal into a dream state; not Colorado or Utah, but beautiful, romantic - Scotland at its best.

At 300ft, the fear has long gone, an overlap arrives and along with it a purring heart. Realisation soon submits, there is no more. Euphoria turns to sorrow as clattering stones rumble underfoot in the shades of the couloir.

Back in the bosom of the coire a rock pool mirrors the windless mountain. I dive into its purification, it is little warmer than ice. I sit bare for a while fusing body and mind to such magical moments. Some hill-goers stare, but I'm without care, this is my land, our land, freedom has no price. Soon the femoral pistons are working hard once more, the mountain behind diminishes with ease. Finally, up ahead, there she sits.

I check the time. How wonderful, how sad, how stupid, how free…how long to solo the Magic Crack?

Julian Lines  © Dave Cuthbertson
Julian Lines
© Dave Cuthbertson

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19 Nov, 2020

Does anyone recognise the shoes Scott Muir is wearing in the photos on Magic Crack? I think they look quite practical for long mountain routes but I don't know what they are.

19 Nov, 2020

scarpa marathons - discontinued.

19 Nov, 2020

What a stunning piece of writing - really captures what it's all about <3

I couldn't agree more. It made me delve back into his book, Tears of the Dawn, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.

On that note, it'd probably be rude not to give it a plug, as it's available once-again courtesy of Scottish Mountaineering Press: https://scottishmountaineeringpress.com/product/tears-of-the-dawn/

19 Nov, 2020


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