Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Final Selection

 Soloing "Final Selection" (Difficult****), Stag Rocks.

It has taken quite a while to get my head into the right place to be ready to on-sight solo "Final Selection". It is well-known for its sustained steepness and as being one of the best routes of the grade in Britain. The fact that it is on Cairngorm granite, a rock-type that I don't find naturally easy to climb, was always enough to stop me from attempting it.

In the last few weeks I've walked or climbed past it a few times and always given it a good look. Two things would always strike me…it looked steep, and it looked brilliant.

The great slab of Final Selection. The route starts up the right hand edge then breaks left directly up the slab.

I guess it is the Cairngorm's equivalent of "Quiver Rib" in Glencoe. The idea of soloing it intimidated me for a while and I rejected it as a bad idea a few times, but I wanted it badly enough that it was probably inevitable that one day I'd do it. Of course the trick with soloing is to be able to recognise when the time is right, to be able to distinguish possible blind ambition from genuine preparedness. 

Recent temperatures in the Cairngorms have reached 30 degrees.

Scorching skies in Rothiemurchus Forest

The Garbh Uisge Mor snowfields resisting the hot temperatures.

This morning I stood at the base of Final Selection and felt totally composed. When I looked up I felt excitement, not nerves, at its continuous steepness and exposure. I had climbed a lot on Cairngorm granite in the last few weeks and the cliffs couldn't have been any drier after such a long heatwave. I was in no doubt that the time was right, so I started climbing.

Starting up the right hand edge.

Final Selection climbs the slab left of the central sun-lit edge.

It's a great feeling when you have thought so much about soloing a route, and then you feel to be calmly floating up it once you start climbing. I loved every moment of it, and the airy and exposed crux crack and mantleshelf was pure enjoyment, not the stress that I'd imagined on negative days when I'd thought about soloing this climb.

Perfect rock throughout. Looking up towards the crux crack, which leads to underneath the prominent roof.
Looking down the crux crack. A great set of moves finishing with an exposed mantleshelf.

From the location amongst the stupendous Loch Avon Basin to the sublime quality of the rock and line of the route, I think Final Selection is one of the best routes I've ever soloed. I can't think of much better way to finish my run of routes during this amazing heat-wave which is now coming to an end.


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