High and Dry

Last Sunday morning was perhaps the wettest of the year. Unable to face doing anything particularly active, I had a lazy day sorting through old CDs. I came across one or two that made me sit awhile, remembering long summer days, high and dry in the Highlands...
Just over six years ago, Paul and I made the long drive north, heading for Poolewe and the long walk in, to Carnmore. It was a trip that had been planned for sometime and the excitement was palpable; not least because the rear offside door of Paul's car (a real 'climber's car - i.e. worth significantly less than his rack,) could not be closed securely. I spent much of the journey holding onto our gear strewn across the seats, preventing it from spilling out onto the M74...
The walk in, all eleven miles of it, this being one of the more remote UK crags, started fine and we followed the winding track along the river before breaking out onto the wild moorland...
...after which the rain accompanied us all the way to the causeway separating Fionn Loch from Dubh Loch. Unable to climb that afternoon we passed the afternoon in the bothy.
By evening the rain and mists cleared and for the first time we studied the crag, rising majestically above the lodge and bothy. The line of Gob, the route we had come to climb, and its unequalled traverse, being clearly visible as a white scar beneath the overhang in the centre of the headwall of Carmore, the buttress in the left of this image.
I forget the name of the route we climbed to reach the Central Bay, two thirds of the way up the crag, a VS I think, which was not without excitement. Arriving at the bay, a large area of steep heather and broken rock, we climbed to the start of Gob in three easy but unprotected pitches.
Only then, after 11 miles of walking, 3 pitches on the lower wall and an interesting scramble, could we begin the route proper. It did not disappoint.
The line is a classic, the route of least resistance, all in balance and taking the climber into outrageous positions almost from the start. Having led the first pitch, I brought Paul up to my belay, from which was an intimidating view of the traverse: possibly the most exposed traverse of any route at this grade (HVS). The image above was used in a subsequent SMC guide book, and for me captures all the things that inspired us to climb here: the immense exposure, the void sucking at the climber's feet, the overhang rearing above, the huge scale of the clean walls of Lewisian Gneiss.
I followed, carrying the pack we shared for the climb. It was one of the most exhilarating pitches I ever climbed; superb holds, empty space below, perfectly balanced moves...
The third pitch and its direct finish added by Pete Rowat was no anticlimax, a few steep moves to pass a glacis and then out onto the face and up, the final holds the sharp lip at the very top of the crag, a perfect mantel to finish.
We walked out that evening, the sun setting beyond The Minch, our thoughts were already focused on The Old Man of Stoer, our next climb, but turning once or twice to take a last look at Carmore, I think I knew then, I had completed what was probably the best route of my climbing career.

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