Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pigs of Orchy

Had a great wee day out climbing on Beinn Udlaidh on Thursday 14th March with Gary Gray and Dafydd Morris.
Daf had been out solo'ing on Beinn an Dothaidh the day before and reported good ice on Taxus and Cirrus. With the low temps this last week Udlaidh might be in?

Driving down Glen Orchy we caught sight of the crags. Unfortunately, it all looked very thin and grey (rather than the solid white of good ice). Some of the classics like Peter Pan were obviously incomplete- so we had to summon all our reserves of psyche to decide to head up.

Udlaidh has one of the easiest crag approaches in Scotland so we weren't expecting to have to put in much effort on the walk- in. However, when we crossed the fence this was all to change- thanks to a large pig. We weren't sure if the huge porker's intentions were amorous or vicious and we were soon at full Olympic power walking pace (and occasional jogging) trying to keep away from it. I don't know what aftershave Daf was wearing but it seemed to quite fancy him. Gary and I made the effort to keep ahead of Daf- he's pretty skinny but if the pig wanted Welsh meat it could have him! This specimen had the legs to keep up through 2 fields despite our attempts to fend it off with walking poles. Top tip- it's not ideal to be carrying a sack full of Winter gear when trying to evade large livestock.

Climbing the final stile to safety we bumped into the charming farmer's wife coming back down the fire road with her pack of dugs. She denied anyone had ever been eaten by her swine and also confirmed that the ice was indeed thin up in them thar hills...  : (

Gary on the traverse of Cut It (IV,5)
In the end we did 2 good routes- salvaging what initially looked like a miserable day -

First up was South Gully of the Black Wall (IV,4). Ironically enough, the nick on this was excellent. Daf set off up the intro chimney. It was thickly iced and he was delighted to find chewy, first time axe placements from the start. Gary got the crux top pitch and made a good job of dealing with the drier, featured ice and steep steps. It was the second time I've done this route and I really enjoyed it again. Brilliant!

Back down, finding Quartzvein occupied by a Plas y Brenin guide and client, we got on Dave MacLeod's Cut It (at the guidebook grade of IV,4).

Me on the second pitch of Cut It (IV,5)- photo Gary Gray
This takes an obvious left to right ascending traverse from near the start of Quartzvein to arrive at the half- way belay of the Croc. It then takes the steep second pitch of the Croc (V,5) to top out.

The lower pitch of the Croc was non- existent (as was the main fall of Peter Pan to its right) but the Croc's upper pitch looked fat. Daf led out on the easy grade II ledge traverse to belay after 40m. I got the steep upper section. This pitch is very exposed and steep for 30m and it seemed a bit hard for a IV. Maybe a touch of the MacLeod sandbag here (a la Glasgow No more at Auchinstarry)? We felt tech 5 was more like it- and maybe even V,5.

Regardless, after having ribbed Gary for his liberal use of screws on his lead of South Gully I had to eat my words. I stitched my pitch to the hilt!

Pigs of Orchy from Davie Crawford on Vimeo.

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