Thursday, 14 May 2009

Grade-pushing at Polldubh

With more sunny (but windy) weather, Isi and I decided to spend the morning at Polldubh with the mission of pushing our grade a little. We had previously climbed one Hard Severe together at Reiff, the corner route Meikle Neuk (Isi's lead). Today we went to the delightful little crag SW Buttress, about 45 feet high with excellent belays at the top, and after soloing the Diff line we had a look at some of the slightly harder routes.

The first (Fred's Delight, Mild Severe) did not follow an obvious line and Isi tried out various options on lead, including a difficult move over an overlap that turned out to be the crux move of an E2 5c route--we didn't know this at the time! Isi finished the route proper, but on second I resolved to try what I believed to be the 'true line'. Unfortunately the rope was pulling me to one side, which would have resulted in a hefty swing, so I didn't commit to the 5c move; however if I'd have had a top rope above me I might well have given it a proper go. All goes to show how much our perception of whether or not a move is possible is influenced by the given grade.

Just for a laugh, I had a go at soloing the Hard Very Severe line on the crack, a technical diagonal traverse. I found the first four or five moves okay, but after that the footholds ran out and I wussed out! It wasn't a serious attempt, but it's amusing to say that I had a crack at soloing an HVS.

Our next route was Tear, a one-star Hard Severe, my lead (and my first at the grade). The lower crack was easy, and after placing an obscene amount of good gear in the crack beneath the overlap I tested out the awkward layback crux move. It took a few goes to get the sequence right and the move was very committing, although the gear was so good there was no risk from a fall. The upper moves also weren't easy, but all in all I found the route entertaining and technical without being worrying.

After that, we went over to do Pine Wall, a route we have both wanted to do for some time. Isi lead it; it turned out to be surprisingly easy, albeit very run-out and obviously serious. I can see why (as Peter says) it was VDiff at one point. It is now graded Hard Severe but based on our experience of Severe-graded routes, we reckoned it was more typical of a Mild Severe route in terms of technical difficulty.

It's strange to think that we can now look back on a Hard Severe and think it straightforward. A couple of months ago we never would have contemplated attempting the route at all. Makes me wonder what will be possible by the end of the summer ... I am pretty confident we will be trying our first Very Severe before too long.


  1. Climbing heaven for you. Snow clad faces one week and sun bathed cliffs the next :)